ACC pushing for conference championship game changes; Big 12 listening

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Ask anyone who follows ACC football who the best two teams in the conference were in 2013 and the response would likely be Florida State and Clemson. both went on to play in BCS bowl games, Florida State winning the BCS National Championship and Clemson winning the Orange Bowl,but it was Duke that played the Seminoles in the ACC Conference Championship Game in Charlotte last season. Florida State and Clemson were the best two teams in the conference in 2012 as well, but Florida State was paired up with Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game despite the Yellow Jackets actually being the third best option out of their own division (Miami voluntarily sat out of the postseason and North Carolina was on a postseason ban). If the ACC gets its way, the two best teams in the conference regardless of division affiliation will get a chance to compete for the conference championship in the future.

According to a report by Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, the ACC is asking for a deregulation of football conference championship games. If approved by the NCAA, conferences will be permitted to establish the rules and guidelines for their respective conference championship games instead of following the mandated NCAA blueprint that requires two division champions to face off even if potentially more worthy teams are available. If approved, the Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West Conference could do the same. The American could follow suit when Navy joins the conference and a championship game is introduced in 2015. And yes, even the Big 12 could revisit the idea of a conference championship game.

The Big 12 has had to put their conference championship game on ice in after the previous rounds of realignment reduced the conference to a 12-member league to 10. Texas A&M and Missouri left for the SEC, the pioneer conference of the championship game. Nebraska joined the Big Ten, allowing that conference to form two divisions and create a conference championship game. Colorado left to join the Pac 10 along with Utah from the Mountain West Conference. That allowed the Pac 10 to rebrand to the Pac 12 and start their championship game as well. The Big 12 has since added West Virginia and TCU, but has been sitting on 10 members for the past few years. Although the Big 12 could have applied for a waiver to approve a conference championship game — any conference below 12 members is allowed to ask — the Big 12 has settled on life without a conference championship game. But how long will that last?

“You wouldn’t any longer have to have 12 (teams),” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in Dodd’s report. “You wouldn’t any longer have to play a full round-robin in your subdivision. That would actually afford us the opportunity to have a playoff between two selected teams by whatever process we would want to select. I doubt we’re going to do that but we would likely have the prerogative.”

With conference media rights packages continuing to draw big bucks, the demand for more attractive match-ups is rising and television partners are more than willing to give a nudge when needed. If the Big 12 does not want to be left behind, returning to a conference championship game might be a good idea. The best part is it would help the Big 12 stay at 10 members because the need to expand will no longer be there for the conference. If the NCAA allows for a deregulation of the conference championship games, getting to 12 teams becomes less of a priority. The problem the Big 12 faced once losing Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado and adding West Virginia and TCU is there was a lack of attractive expansion candidates that would boost the membership to 12 schools. The BYU talk has been sitting in a corner waiting for a reason to pull up a seat to the table, but without a 12th member that made any sense for the Big 12, nothing really developed.

The Big 12 has the perfect setting just waiting for the championship game to make a return in Arlington. The television partners with the conference, ESPN and FOX, surely would jump at the opportunity to add another championship game to the line-up as well. The pieces are just about all in place for the Big 12. Somebody just needs to put them all together.

Potential 2013 Conference Championship Match-ups with Deregulation
(using BCS standings for placement)

So what would the conference championships have looked like in 2013 if there was a deregulation of the championship game rules in 2013? Honestly, perhaps not all that much different. The Big Ten and Pac 12 would have had the same match-ups, but the match-ups may have been different in the ACC and SEC, where an Iron Bowl rematch would have taken place one week after that memorable finish. The Big 12 may have given Oklahoma State a Mulligan for a loss in the Bedlam game to Oklahoma if using BCS standings, but the Sooners finished second in the conference standings. One of them would have faced Baylor, who won the Big 12 title last fall.

ACC: Florida State vs. Clemson

American: UCF vs. Louisville

Big 12: Oklahoma State vs. Baylor

Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Michigan State

Pac 12: Stanford vs. Arizona State

SEC: Auburn vs. Alabama

Conference USA: Marshall vs. Rice (although a Marshall vs. East Carolina rematch may have come in to play if going off expanded BCS standings)

MAC: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

Mountain West: Fresno State vs. Utah State

Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Arkansas State

Drew O’Bryan leaves Western Kentucky, drops down to FCS level

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Another day, another FBS player has transitioned away from his first college football home.

On his personal Twitter account recently, Drew O’Bryan acknowledged his decision to transfer from Western Kentucky. Additionally, he announced his next destination for good measure — Eastern Kentucky.

The linebacker said he made the decision “[a]fter talking with my family and many prayers.”

As EKU plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level, O’Bryan will be eligible to play immediately for the Colonels in 2017.

O’Bryan was a two-star member of WKU’s 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Kentucky. He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.

SEC commissioner hints at review of rules regarding alcohol sales in football stadiums

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The prohibition of alcohol at football stadiums has undergone one interesting about-face in college athletics the past 15 years or so. While various suite levels at stadiums across the country have generally had access to a few adult beverages, there’s been some very large programs that have opened up the taps in the general seating areas the last few years.

From West Virginia to Texas to Ohio State, more and more programs are selling beer and/or liquor across the board and raking in hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in added revenue while doing so. One conference that isn’t jumping in on that trend however has been the SEC, which has numerous restrictions on where those types of beverages can be sold. That may be about to change in the near future however according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

“At some point, I’m relatively certain, there will be further review of the prohibition,” said Sankey on Monday, per The Tuscaloosa News. “That doesn’t predict any outcome.”

While you may think that the league is close to opening the floodgates on alcohol being served at stadiums across the conference, you probably shouldn’t jump to any conclusions on the matter as Sankey seemed to hold his ground and stand firm on keeping things as is right now.

“The conference has a policy that says that we’re not selling alcohol in the general seating area,” he added. “Now, you can agree or disagree with that policy, but that’s the policy. The basis for changing that or maintaining it is one that’s developed in the conversation.

“I think we were at like 98 percent ticket sales in football… So is that one-percent margin a trade that we’re going to make?”

It’s no secret that of-age fans can easily find a few beverages at SEC tailgates prior to games nowadays but it seems momentum is slowing building in the conference to allow fans to buy some during a game. It might not happen anytime in the very near future but the conversation is certainly going to keep popping up each year with many more schools across the country jumping in on this trend.

QB Malik Zaire reportedly sets timetable for transfer decision while adding Harvard to the mix

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While we don’t yet know where former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is transferring to, we might have an idea of when he plans on making a move this offseason.

Per Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the signal-caller has zeroed in on the end of May for an announcement on his new school in a timetable that coincides with the Irish’s graduation ceremonies. Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that there may also be a new school in the mix and it’s known for being a powerhouse of a different kind away from the gridiron.

“In addition, I was told a new school is in the mix. Zaire is still considering Texas, Wisconsin and Florida, and the grad transfer quarterback has added Harvard to his short list. It remains unclear how serious Zaire is about playing Ivy League football. If he does go that route, Harvard would be his landing spot.”

The Ivy League power is an interesting new destination for Zaire and could be a pretty good backup option given what’s going on at his other finalists.

While Texas and Wisconsin are both on his shortlist, both the Longhorns and Badgers return their starting quarterbacks from last season in Shane Buechele and Alex Hornibrook. Richardson reports that Zaire wants to start in 2017 and not hold a clipboard but he is still keeping his options opens when it comes to the thin depth charts at the position in both Austin and Madison.

Complicating things is Florida, which should be a prime landing spot for Zaire were it not for an SEC rule passed last year that is preventing him from transferring him there this offseason. The league is set to talk about changes to that rule at their spring meetings in Destin, Fla. but it remains unclear if the QB will wait and see before making a decision (and it’s entirely possible the SEC keeps things as they are).

Either way, the former Irish starter does not appear to be lacking options when it comes to the graduate transfer market.