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.

Mike Leach downplays rumors that have him following Bill Moos to Nebraska

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Sunday, it was confirmed that Bill Moos was leaving his job as athletic director at Washington State to take the same position at Nebraska.  It didn’t take long after the official announcement of the move for the speculation to commence.

A home loss to Northern Illinois was the football program’s first-ever to a MAC school and its first home loss to a Group of Five team since 2004, sparking talk as to how much longer Mike Riley could last as the Cornhuskers’ head coach.  Losses by a combined 63 points the last two weeks to Wisconsin and Ohio State did nothing to alleviate those concerns.

Enter Moos, whose last football hire at Wazzu has turned into a very significant upgrade for that program.  Taking over a team that won a combined nine games the four years before he was hired by Moos, Mike Leach guided the Cougars to 12 wins his first three years after being hired in 2012.  The past two seasons have turned into breakout ones of sort for the Cougars as they won nine games in 2015 (most since 2003) and eight in 2016.  They were off to a 6-0 start this season before Cal stunned them in Week 7.

Add Riley’s struggles to Leach’s successes and mix in Moos’ departure Pullman for Lincoln, and the recipe was there for Leach-to-‘Huskers talk.  Monday, the coach downplayed such a possibility.

“I don’t have any plans to do that and then they already have a head coach there and he’s a pretty good one, Mike Riley,” Leach said according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “Wish Bill the best and we just move forward.”

Leach did, though, have high praise for his now-former boss.  Extremely high praise.

“He’s the best AD that I’ve ever met,” Leach said. “Everything from active to retired to dead. Bill’s the best AD I’ve ever even met. …

“Bill’s a very honest, straightforward guy and he was a guy you could count on, who you knew had your best interest.”

Alabama settling in as five-touchdown favorite over Tennessee

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Five-touchdown, not five-point.  The Butch Jones Era, ladies and gentlemen.

In the wake of yet another crippling, emasculating loss for the Tennessee football program, Butch Jones again pulled fired up his verbal backhoe and further buried his coaching tenure on Rocky Top.  There’s little doubt Jones’ time as the Volunteers will expire at some point between now and shortly after the end of UT’s season; there’s exactly zero doubt that, outside of Knoxville — and probably inside, to be blunt — the perception of the program under Jones is at its lowest in decades.

The latest case in the latter point?  Wagering establishments.

Sunday afternoon, UT will enter the not-so-friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for the 100th edition of its annual rivalry game against top-ranked Alabama.  Over the weekend, the Vols opened as anywhere from a 33- to 34.5-point undergo.  As we head toward midweek, it’s crept a bit upward according to Bovada.lv.

Bovada tells CFT that, over the last 31 years, the Vols have never been as large of an underdog as they are right now.  Prior to a 23-13 loss, they were 30- point underdogs to Florida in 2009.  In 2011 and 2013, they were 29- and 28-point underdogs, respectively, to Alabama.  They ended up losing both contests, 37-6 in the former and 45-10 in the latter.

In the previous 99 meetings between the rival programs, the Vols have lost by 35 or more points exactly four times. The first came in 1906 (51-0), the second in 1963 (35-0).  The last two times?  The 2013 game mentioned above and 2016 (49-10).

Ahead of last year’s game in Knoxville, the Crimson Tide was in the neighborhood of a seven-point favorite.

Cal loses leading tackler to season-ending injury

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Cal’s stunning upset in Week 7 came with a very steep price tag on the defensive side of the ball.

In the second half of Cal’s upending of then-No. 8 Washington State Friday night, Devante Downs went down with an unspecified injury.  Three days later, the football program confirmed that the inside linebacker would miss the remainder of the 2017 season because of it.

Other than lower body, the specific nature of the injury wasn’t detailed.

Regardless of what exactly is sidelining Downs, it’s a very significant blow to a Golden Bears defense that’s currently tied for 67th in scoring after finishing the past four seasons 125th, 123rd, 108th and 125th in the same category.

Through seven games, Downs is far and away Cal’s leading tackler with 65.  Next closest?  Ra Davison‘s 43.  He also leads the team in sacks (three), quarterback hits (four) and forced fumbles (two), while he’s tied for the lead in interceptions (two) and fumble recoveries (two).  The 5.5 tackles for loss for which he’s been credited are tied for second.

Urban Meyer’s wife apologizes after taking Twitter shot at Colin Kaepernick’s choices

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The wife of one of the top head coaches in college football dipped her toes into an ongoing national controversy — and not long after attempted to un-dip them.

In reaction to news that Colin Kaepernick, who kick-started the anthem kneeling controversy last season, had filed a grievance claiming that NFL owners colluded to keep him out of the league, Shelley Meyer tweeted “What-ever, he made his choices.”  The tweet from the personal Twitter account of the wife of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was quickly deleted.

She also tweeted, in response to one of her followers stating that “I would take Tim Tebow over him any day,” “A million times. No comparison.”

The original tweet gained enough traction pre-deletion, however, that Kaepernick’s mother used the same social media website to chide Mrs. Meyer.

Less than 24 hours after the mini social media maelstrom erupted, Mrs. Meyer offered up somewhat of an apology/further explanation for her original tweet.