Was Week 1 a step toward an eight-team playoff?

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Ask anyone associated with the College Football Playoff and they undoubtedly tell you the playoff field will remain four teams for the duration of the current contract, which expires at the end of the 2025 season. It is up to you to decide whether you accept that statement at face value or remain skeptical. The precedent for changing the stance from the playoff has already been made after just two years with the decision to alter its scheduling to be more accommodating for fans and, more importantly, their television partner ESPN. So what is it going to take for the College Football Playoff to expand the playoff beyond four teams before the culmination of the inaugural contract?

There are a couple scenarios that are likely to lead to the playoff to fell the pressure to expand on an accelerated timeline. The first would be one conference getting two teams into the College Football Playoff, thus ensuring two power conferences are left out entirely, as opposed to the one guaranteed to be left out as currently structured. The Pac-12 missed out last season while it was the Big 12 left locked out in the first year. Another worst-case scenario would involve Notre Dame or a Group of Five conference champion making the playoff, again presenting the scenario in which a second power conference loses out on the playoff.

One development from this past weekend was the emergence of Houston. The Cougars of the American Athletic Conference pulled away from Big 12 favorite Oklahoma, presenting quite an interesting debate down the line if the season plays out as Houston fans expect. If the committee is faced with deciding on a playoff spot between an undefeated Houston (including wins vs. Oklahoma and Louisville) and a one-loss Big 12 champion, Houston has to get the nod, no? Well, that depends. Is it a one-loss Texas or a one-loss Oklahoma? If it is a one-loss Oklahoma, the value of a head-to-head win will be weighed heavily by the selection committee, and it should favor Houston. But a one-loss Texas? That’s a different story. Did Texas lose to Oklahoma? If yes, then give the nod to the Cougars. If not, do the Longhorns get the benefit of playing in power conference where Houston does not?

One variable that may have already been wiped out by the Longhorns is the Notre Dame scenario. The Irish are independent so will never have a conference championship to put on their playoff application. This gives Notre Dame a small margin for error compared to most others. An 11-1 Notre Dame is hard to overlook though, and a 12-0 Irish team brings a pot of gold to the postseason tournament. Despite losing to Texas in the opener, Notre Dame can still cause a problem for the College Football Playoff’s foundation. An 11-1 Notre Dame would likely take the Pac-12 out once again as it would mean having wins against Stanford and USC. Don’t count out the Irish just yet, although they have some concerns to sort through (getting Brian Kelly to stick with Deshone Kizer, for starters, as well as defense).

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on Tuesday he believes it is “probably inevitable” the playoff is expanded to eight teams while making a guest appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, although he says it will happen at the end of the current contract.

“As you know, money drives this whole thing,” Herbstreit said. “At some point somebody’s going to say ‘You know it would be really nice if we opened this thing up to more teams and give more teams a chance.’ I like four. I think it still gives us that urgency.”

That’s fair. With only four spots available, the weekly mission to impress the selection committee is real. The argument against expansion suggests moving to an eight-team model eliminates such a possibility. Herbstreit suggests the urgency would still be there with an eight-team playoff model, and that may very well be true depending upon how the playoff system is then constructed. Would eight spots be up for grabs? If so, then the wide-open race would likely keep the games most interesting. One possibility for an eight-team playoff would reserve one spot for each power conference championship game. What to do with the three remaining spots is up for debate.

For the record, my eight-team playoff model is as follows;

  • One guaranteed spot for conference champion from ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.
  • One guaranteed spot for highest-ranked champion from AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt
  • Two at-large bids to be determined by selection committee
  • Selection committee ranks all eight playoff teams from 1 through 8.
  • Top four teams host first round of playoff on campus.
  • Second round continues to be played in New Years Six rotation, championship game continues to be up for bid by cities.

If you want the playoff to be expanded before the current contract is set to expire in 2025, then here is what you need to root for this season;

  • Houston goes undefeated (13-0), Oklahoma goes 11-1 and wins the Big 12. Big 12 misses playoff for second time.
  • Notre Dame goes 11-1, knocking out the Pac-12 champion along the way if possible (Stanford?). Pac-12 champ goes 11-2 to miss playoff for second straight season
  • Someone other than Alabama goes 12-1 and wins the SEC, handing Alabama their only loss of the season. Both teams get in the playoff.
  • Boise State or San Diego State goes undefeated (13-0) and gets left out (Sorry Boise State fans, you know I love you)
  • BYU goes undefeated, or 11-1 perhaps (BYU plays Boise State).
  • The selection committee is dared to leave out a one-loss Ohio State (for a second season in a row) or a one-loss Michigan. One of them is guaranteed to lose, of course.

Welcome to Team Chaos.

Ankle injury will cost Kentucky’s Dorian Baker ‘significant time’

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Unfortunately for Kentucky’s passing game, the speculation has come to fruition.

Over the weekend, Dorian Baker sustained an injury to his left leg during a scrimmage.  The initial talk had it as a rather significant injury; Monday, the Wildcats confirmed that the senior wide receiver suffered a fracture-dislocation in his left ankle.

As a result, Baker will, at bare minimum, miss what the school described as “significant time” to, potentially, the entire 2017 season.

“We’re very disappointed for Dorian, as he had a good offseason and was helping lead our receivers during preseason camp,” head coach Mike Stoops said in a statement. “However, we are hopeful for a full recovery and look forward to his eventual return to the field.”

If there’s a silver lining amidst the injury clouds it’s that Baker has a redshirt at his disposal, which would allow him to return for the 2018 season should the injury sideline him for all of this year.

In three seasons with the Wildcats, Baker has totaled 88 receptions for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns.  In 2015, Baker’s 55 catches and three receiving touchdowns led the team.  Last season, after overcoming an early-season hamstring issue, he caught 14 passes for 208 yards a pair of touchdowns.

Reigning national champ Clemson officially names Deshaun Watson successor

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The man charged with the unenviable task of trying to replace one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in college football history has officially been identified.

Upon the completion of spring practice earlier this year, Dabo Swinney stated that, if Clemson “played a game today, Kelly (Bryant) would be the” starting quarterback.  Fast-forward a little over four months, and Bryant is indeed the guy who will replace Deshaun Watson under center for the reigning national champions.

The announcement from the Tigers is the culmination of what had been a three-way fight for the job, but the head coach also seemingly left the door slightly ajar for the competition to, at least, bleed into the early part of the 2017 season.

“He has earned it and I am proud of him. It has been a great competition, but this part is over,” Swinney said in quotes distributed by the team. “[Redshirt freshman] Zerrick Cooper is the number-two quarterback, but [freshman] Hunter Johnson is right there. We hope to get all three quarterbacks experience in the first part of the season.”

A junior, Bryant has played in 12 games and exactly 100 snaps.  In that time, he has completed 13-of-18 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He’s added 35 carries for 178 yards and another three scores.

Redshirt sophomore Tucker Israel, who wasn’t even a part of the unofficial competition, is the only other quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass at the collegiate level (four attempts last season).

Essentially a three-year starter, Watson was responsible for 8,702 of the 9,382 yards and 76 of the 80 touchdown passes for the Tigers the past two season.  He was the winner of the 2016 Heisman Trophy after finishing third in the voting the year before.

Clemson will kick off defense of its national championship Sept. 2 at home against Kent State.  They’ll begin ACC play two weeks later on the road against Louisville.

Ex-Louisville QB Kyle Bolin named starter at Rutgers

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Four months ago today, Kyle Bolin wasn’t even a member of the Rutgers football program.  With the start of a new season less than two weeks away, Bolin is officially the triggerman at the most important position in the sport.

Monday, the Scarlet Knights announced Monday that Bolin has been named as the team’s starting quarterback.  Bolin had been involved in what was ostensibly a three-way competition with Giovanni Rescigno, the starter to close out the 2016 season and presumptive front-runner to maintain the job exiting spring, as well as touted 2017 signee Johnathan Lewis.

“Really happy with the leadership that Kyle has brought to our football team,” head coach Chris Ash said. “He’s a really mature individual. Well-trained, well-coached in his past and just has got a wealth of experience and we’re really excited about what he’s going to bring to our offense.”

Despite his short time with the program, the move is not exactly a surprise as, one, Bolin has already been named a team captain and, two, he’s been taking more and more snaps with the first-team offense over the last couple of weeks.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

In early April of this year, Bolin opted to leave the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.  Less than a month later, he landed with the Scarlet Knights.

Boston College hands kickoff duties to German soccer player

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Turns out they breed dudes in sports other than football.

Boston College head coach Steve Addazio revealed Monday that Max Schulze-Geisthovel (not pictured) will handle kickoff duties for the Eagles this fall. Schulze-Geisthovel is no ordinary new addition; he is a German native that currently plays for BC’s men’s soccer team.

“Guy is going to really help us on kickoffs,” said Addazio. “He’s got a strong, live leg. He’s working on his field goals. But I know right now he’s going to help us on kickoff. He puts it high and deep and pretty consistently. He’s as strong a leg as I’ve seen here.  So that’s a good thing. We’ll see how he does on the field goal part. Every once in a while, you get a little something. We don’t have a huge walk-on population, nature of the place. A lot of state schools have things like that pop up a little easier. But this is great. Nice little gift there.”

A 6-foot-2, 190-pound midfielder from Drensteinfurt, Germany, Schulze-Geisthovel appeared in 19 games as a senior last fall and led the club with seven goals.

Mike Kroll handled kickoffs and place-kicking duties for the Eagles last fall, averaging 61 yards on 55 kickoffs while hitting 12-of-14 field goals. As a team, Boston College ranked 69th nationally in kickoff average.