The Big 12 is bringing back the conference championship game this season for the first time since being reduced in size to 10 members. Once the NCAA decided it was OK for conferences with fewer than 12 members to hold a championship game, it was only a matter of time before the Big 12 brought the money-making game 13th data point back to the table for its top playoff and conference championship contenders.
Of course, with the return of the championship game and the start of a new season brings a brand new slogan for the Big 12. As College Football Talk contributor Zach Barnett shows us, the new slogan is a neat little play on words, and may take a jab at its predecessor in the process.
The Big 12 has abandoned the “One True Champion” fiasco, which was doomed from the start, and replaced it with a bonafide guarantee that the Big 12 will once and for all be able to declare an unquestionable conference champion. The top two teams in the Big 12 will square off for the Big 12 championship this season, with the hope that the conference title game will help give a playoff contender one final push to get into the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 has been left out of the playoff mix two out of the first three years of the new national championship model. The Big 12 was ultimately passed over by the College Football Playoff selection committee, and this indecisiveness was believed to have hurt the Big 12’s chances (even though Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State had more than fair reasons for being included in the playoff that first year).
In 2015, Baylor and TCU tied for the conference championship. Despite Baylor winning the head-to-head matchup with the Horned Frogs, the Big 12 chose to award a split Big 12 title, thus making a mockery of the conference’s slogan of “One True Champion,” which was built on the emphasis that the Big 12 was the only power conference to play a full conference schedule where every team plays through the entire conference.
Last year, the Big 12 had Oklahoma go 9-0 in conference play to end the season as one of the hottest teams in the country, but two non-conference losses made it a tough uphill battle for the eventual Big 12 champions to get in (especially since one loss came against a playoff participant, one-loss Ohio State).
So here we are in 2017. The Big 12 held off on expanding the conference but is bringing the conference championship game back into the schedule. We will indeed get a guaranteed undisputed champion in the Big 12, but the Big 12 is guaranteed to be setup for a setback if a viable playoff contender is upset in a rematch in the Big 12 championship game.
A potentially serious issue has arisen at Tennessee as starting offensive lineman Trey Smith is out indefinitely with a “medical issue.” While the nature of the issue was not disclosed, Smith will miss at least the the first portion of spring practice, but his absence could linger much longer than just spring ball.
Smith is reportedly seeking further medical evaluations. Wes Rucker of GoVols247 reported there is no timetable for Smith’s return, but VolQuest, citing sources close to Smith, reported he is expected to return in time for the 2018 season.
One of the lone bright spots in Butch Jones‘s final season, Smith, a 5-star recruit from Jackson, Tenn., became the first Tennessee true freshman to start at left tackle in over 30 years. Smith was a Day 1 starter for the Vols, starting at right guard for a season-opening win over Georgia Tech.
He led the club with 41 knockdowns on the year, including eight against Alabama.
He was a consensus Freshman All-American in 2017 and was rated by PFF College as the No. 1 offensive linemen among all freshmen and the No. 7 overall freshman in 2017.
Former Stanford and Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was detained and questioned by authorities on Friday after a social media post contained a vague threat to a school shooting, but that wasn’t the only such incident involving a former football player and a possible school shooting to emerge on Friday.
Former Arizona State defensive back Edward “Robbie” Robinson was arrested Friday night after making “terroristic threats” against students and staff at ASU after a social media account purporting to be his said he was trying to buy a gun to “spray the stadium up.”
Here is the tweet in question.
In another post, Robinson’s account posted a screenshot of a text message exchange with someone claiming to be an Arizona State police detective saying, “You’re not in trouble. We just want to talk to you.”
ASU police notified the campus after receiving word of “threats of violence against members of the Sun Devil athletics community,” according to the Arizona Republic.
Robinson (left, No. 6) was a 3-star recruit out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hampton, Va., who signed with the Sun Devils as part of their 2016 class. He has not been enrolled in school for more than a year, according to the Republic.
Bond for Robinson was set at $50,000, and a GoFundMe account had raised just over $1,500 toward that number at press time. However, Robinson was still tweeting as of Saturday evening.
Michigan wideout Drake Harris announced in November he’s leaving Ann Arbor for his final season of college football. On Saturday, we learned Harris is heading west. But not that far west.
Harris revealed in an Instagram post he will enroll at Western Michigan as a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately for the Broncos. “I’m happy to announce that I will be playing my last year of eligibility at Western Michigan University, while pursuing a masters degree. Excited to get working with Coach Lester and the rest of the coaching staff for a great year next season. Go Broncos,” he wrote.
Harris was one of the prized members of Brady Hoke‘s final recruiting class, but never found his footing as a Wolverine. In 25 career games, Harris caught nine passes for 60 yards.
He’ll join a receiving corps that returns intact but could use help. Western Michigan returns all eight wide receivers who caught a pass in 2017, but none of them snagged more than 30 receptions. WMU ranked 111th in completions and 116th in passing en route to a 6-6 finish in Tim Lester‘s first season as head coach.
Harris will face Syracuse in his first game as a Bronco — Aug. 31 in Kalamazoo — before returning to a familiar place for Game No. 2. Western Michigan visits the Big House on Sept. 8.
If there was one thing that really seemed to put Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat during his time at Texas A&M, it was the Aggies seemingly annual collapse in the second half of the season and inability to finish games they had the potential to win. That explains some of the reason why the school ponied up to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State in a $75 million hire late last year.
While most of the outside focus on Fisher’s move to College Station has been centered on that humongous contract, there’s little question that hiring a national title-winning coach was a coup for the team. That subject was brought up again on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show Friday evening and ESPN college football analyst Booger McFarland relayed a rather interesting conversation he had with the coach earlier this year in which Fisher said something you typically don’t hear made public. You can head to the 8:18 mark (or there abouts) for the interview.
“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta. I told Jimbo point-blank — the same thing I told you guys about Texas A&M the last several years — A&M is a soft program,” McFarland said. “Jimbo looked me in the eye and was like, ‘You know what, you’re damn right. We are soft, but I’m going to change that.’”
Something says that Fisher and the Aggies strength coaches are going to use the comments as a bit of a challenge in the weight room and during spring practice over the coming months as they lay the groundwork for the 2018 season. Even the most ardent maroon and white supporters would probably agree with the sentiment that the team went a little soft toward the end of Sumlin’s tenure but it’s not everyday you see a coach call out his new program quite like that.
Maybe it’s something in the water down there in College Station though, judging by some other comments by the school’s athletic director, but one thing is for certain — things are going to be very different at Texas A&M going forward.