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.

Reports: Maryland OC Walt Bell to take same job at Florida State

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Willie Taggart has found himself someone to (help) guide his first offense at Florida State.

While there’s nothing official yet from the football program, 247Sports.com was among the first to report that Maryland’s Walt Bell is set to be named as FSU’s offensive coordinator. Bell is also expected to serve as FSU’s quarterbacks coach.

ESPN.com subsequently confirmed the initial reports.

The 33-year-old Bell spent the past two seasons as the coordinator at Maryland.  Prior to that, he held the same job, along with quarterbacks coach responsibility, at Arkansas State from 2014-15.

While Bell called plays during his stint with the Terrapins, it’s expected Taggart will have play-calling responsibilities with the Seminoles.

Wazzu statement: ‘The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinksi is devastating to all’

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Tuesday night, the Pullman Police Department confirmed that 21-year-old Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead in his apartment of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  Very early Wednesday morning, the football program and athletic department released statements addressing the devastating developments.

HEAD FOOTBALL COACH MIKE LEACH
We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing. He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it. The entire WSU community mourns as thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

INTERIM ATHLETIC DIRECTOR John Johnson
The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinski is devastating to all. Tyler was a tremendous individual, great friend and teammate, and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.

Earlier tonight, the football team was brought together and informed of the tragedy. There, they were met by campus and department counseling and psychological services, including athletics’ on-staff clinical psychologist and a licensed mental health counselor, along with WSU Athletics medical team. The university will continue to coordinate and provide ongoing counseling care for all student-athletes as long as needed.

Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski found dead in apparent suicide

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There is utterly tragic and horrific news coming out of Pullman Tuesday night.

According to the Pullman Police Department, Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead at his apartment late Tuesday afternoon of what was described as an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. “A rifle was discovered next to Hilinski and a suicide note was found,” the police stated in a release.

Police officers were called to the residence at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:40 p.m. local time) for a wellness check after the redshirt sophomore failed to show up for a team activity earlier in the day.

Hilinski was just 21 years old.

As of this posting, there’s been no official response from the football program regarding the passing of Hilinski.  Wednesday, the university had been expected to announce the new athletic director replacing Bill Moos, Florida Atlantic’s Pat Chun; because of the football player’s death, that press conference will be rescheduled for a later date.

In place of Luke Falk, Hilinski started Wazzu’s Holiday Bowl loss to Michigan State.  With Falk off to the NFL, Hilinski was expected to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback in 2018.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Hilinski’s way-too-early passing.

Former Nebraska OL coach Mike Cavanaugh hired by Syracuse

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Dino Babers has added a very experienced trenchman to his Syracuse coaching staff.

The school confirmed Tuesday that Babers has hired Mike Cavanaugh as his next offensive line coach. In a coaching career that spans 32 seasons, Cavanaugh has been a line coach in some form or fashion for 31 of them.

“Mike has an outstanding track record of teaching and developing quality offensive linemen,” Babers said in a statement. “He’s done it successfully at every level in college as well as the pros. This was an opportunity to add someone whose knowledge and experience will greatly enhance our staff and benefit our players.”

The past three seasons, Cavanaugh was the line coach at Nebraska. At the FBS level, he’s also served as a line coach at Oregon State (2005-14) and Hawaii (1999-2004).

From 1997-98, Cavanaugh was the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

“I’d like to thank Coach Babers for this opportunity and for welcoming me into the Syracuse family,” Cavanaugh said. “He and his staff have coached some of the most prolific offenses in college football. I’m excited to learn from them and to be part of the championship-caliber program they are building at Syracuse.”

The 2018 season will mark the first time since 2004 Cavanaugh is not a part of a Mike Riley-coached staff.