Big 12’s strength needs to show to silence championship game criticism

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The Big 12 should either be forced to play a conference championship or every other conference should quit feeling threatened by the conference’s lack of a championship game, depending on whom you ask. The debate is one that may not have a definitive answer and should be one to pay attention to during the dawn of the College Football Playoff era.

Since dropping in membership from 12 to 10 after multiple realignment changes in recent years, the conference lost the ability to play a conference championship game under NCAA guidelines. The conference’s membership has been in unison in its stance by saying the Big 12 is perfectly fine not playing a conference championship game and selling the idea of a true conference champion with a nine-game conference schedule that pits every school against one another. While the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will host conference championship games this season, the Big 12 is hoping the overall quality of depth in the conference will be enough to convince the playoff’s selection committee to strongly consider the Big 12 champion for the four-team playoff.

“The only thing that you really have to do after adopting ‘One True Champion’ as your moniker is you have to go out and win some games,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a story from the Associated Press. “We want to win national championships.”

Will the non-existence of a conference championship game continue in the Big 12 in the long run? Odds are it will change at some point, whether by expansion or receiving permission from the NCAA to hold a game with 10 members. The idea has been discussed and once it is determined having a championship game gives playoff candidates an edge over a Big 12 contender, the push from the Big 12 membership to return to a championship game will be vocal. I have thought that for a while, and Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com today agreed with that premise in his mailbag post today.

“Certainly if that happens you can count on the Big 12 bringing back its championship game as soon as possible,” Mandel said when asked about this very topic.

If you are wondering just how much of a big deal this conversation can be, you need to look back to the end of the wild 2007 season.

Ohio State, in 2007, ended its regular season ranked fifth in the country after beating rival No. 24 Michigan 14-3 in the final game of the season. With no conference championship game at the time, Ohio State was sitting on the outside looking in on the BCS Championship race with no more opportunities to make a dent. As it turned out, not having to play a 13th game may have served Ohio State well. In the time since Ohio State wrapped up its 2007 regular season, everything that needed to happen for the Buckeyes to play for the BCS championship seemed to fall into place.

A week after Ohio State edged Michigan, top-ranked LSU lost a shootout against Arkansas, knocking the Tigers out of the pole position for the BCS Championship Game. West Virginia, the following week needing a win to likely clinch a spot in the BCS Championship Game, was upset by Backyard Brawl rival Pittsburgh, 13-9. That same day saw Missouri playing for the Big 12 championship needing a win to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship game. The Tigers lost to Oklahoma. In the SEC Championship Game, LSU was given a chance to get back in the hunt with a win against Tennessee. Ranked fifth in the AP poll, LSU beat the Vols by a touchdown. LSU and Ohio State advanced to the BCS Championship Game as a result of all of this madness.On this day the college football world saw the benefits and risks of playing a conference championship game, as well as the benefit of not playing one (Ohio State).

Should the Big 12 bring back a conference championship game? Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments below.

Colorado State adds Rice grad transfer V.J. Banks

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Rice’s loss has turned into a fellow Group of Five football program’s gain.

Saturday, Colorado State announced that V.J. Banks has transferred to the university and will play for Mike Bobo‘s Rams. As the cornerback will be coming to Fort Collins as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2018. The upcoming season will serve as Banks’ final year of eligibility.

Banks had announced on Twitter in late January that he had decided to transfer from the Owls.

Banks started 22 of the 36 games in which he played for the Owls, including 11 starts in 2016 and nine in 2015. The defensive back started the first two games of the 2017 season before an unspecified leg injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.

For the Rice portion of his collegiate playing career, Banks totaled 75 tackles (one for loss), seven passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He also returned seven punts for 30 yards (4.3 yards per return).

NC State board approves new deal for Dave Doeren

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In late November, after rejecting overtures from Tennessee in order to remain at North Carolina State, Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract with the university, pending the board rubber-stamping the agreement. This past week, that rubber met the stamp.

NC State confirmed that, on Thursday, the system’s Board of Trustees formally approved the new five-year deal for Doeren. The head coach’s new contract will now keep him with the Wolfpack through Dec. 31, 2022.

“We are on an exciting upward trajectory in football under the leadership of Coach Doeren,” said NC State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “He has assembled a terrifically talented coaching staff, as well, and that continuity and stability has been important to our current student-athletes and recruits.

“We are pleased that Dave will continue to lead NC State football, playing in one of the most challenging divisions in college football, the Atlantic Division of the ACC.”

In five seasons with the Wolfpack, the 46-year-old Doeren has compiled a 34-30 record, including a 15-25 mark in ACC play. The 2017 season was his best of the five, with a 9-4 overall mark that saw NC State finish in second place in the Atlantic after divisional finishes of seventh, fifth, fourth and tied-fourth the first four.

Under Doeren, the Wolfpack has played in a bowl game each of the last four seasons, posting a 3-1 mark in the postseason.

Nebraska clinches spring game attendance crown, Georgia pushes past Alabama

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Georgia got its revenge on Alabama on Saturday, I guess. Months after letting a lead slip away in the national championship game, Georgia wiggled past Alabama in the spring game attendance standings on Saturday but the Dawgs still had to settle for second place overall. A record crowd at Nebraska led to the Cornhusker faithful having the highest attendance for a spring game this season.

Nebraska set a school record on Saturday with 86,818 fans attending the spring game in Lincoln, the first under new head coach Scott Frost. It was the first time Nebraska recorded a crowd over 80,000 during the past five years. Nebraska surged to the top of the Big Ten spring attendance standings as well, and stayed comfortably ahead after Penn State recorded an estimated 71,000 fans at its spring game on Saturday. Ohio State had led the Big Ten the previous three years but stadium renovations limited Ohio State to 79,000 available seats this year at Ohio Stadium, and weather and schedule adjustments to the spring game resulted in a crowd of 47,803 for Ohio State’s spring game.

The SEC once again dominated spring game attendance numbers this year. With LSU and Mississippi State numbers still pending, the SEC has five schools in the top 10 in spring game attendance as of today; Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Texas A&M. As a conference, the SEC eclipsed the 400,000-fan mark for the fourth time in the last five years. Although the Big Ten is typically the second best conference in cumulative spring game attendance, the conference’s number took a big dip this season thanks to weather issues across the conference. Still, the number pulled in by Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State helped keep the Big Ten in second place ahead of the ACC.

Keep in mind spring game attendance is treated differently by every school, and the numbers often include estimates so the accuracy can be questioned. Even though there are still a handful of spring games left, none will rival the numbers put up today.

The updated top 10 is listed below, and a full database of spring game attendance can be found here (complete with conference breakdowns and a five-year record of spring game attendance figures by school).

2018 Spring Game Attendance Top 10

  1. Nebraska – 86,818
  2. Georgia – 82,184
  3. Alabama – 74,732
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Tennessee – 65,098
  6. Florida State – 60,934
  7. Clemson – 55,000
  8. Florida – 53,015
  9. Oklahoma – 52,102
  10. Texas A&M – 48,129

Jeremy Pruitt felt some Tennessee players ‘flat out quit’ in spring game

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New Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruit has a message to his players and Tennessee fans. If you are going to enter Neyland Stadium, you better be prepared to work.

Following Tennessee’s spring game in Knoxville, Pruitt reflected on his first spring game as head coach with the media and he was not about to let anyone off the hook for a mediocre performance in the spring game. One thing you never want to hear from a head coach is that some of his players seemingly quit. That was the case for Pruitt today, without naming any specific players.

Even fans received some gripes from the new head coach.

Tennessee estimated a total of 65,098 fans came out to watch the Tennessee spring game, which is an impressive total and right around the average Tennessee typically draws for the spring game. But the crowd buzz must not have impressed Pruitt, who could be setting the tone for the fans in the fall in hopes they turn things up a bit once the games actually matter.

The same message is now being sent to the entire team. Pruitt has a high standard in mind, which is to be expected after being an assistant at Alabama. Was Pruitt truly this displeased with his team’s effort in the spring game? Or was he simply trying to play things down in order to let his players know there will be no room for poor efforts?