Oklahoma State Cowboys

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Power Five conference races beginning to come into focus

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As we get set to embark on Week 8 of the 2016 college football season, we’re officially beyond the halfway point and closer to championship weekend than we are to opening weekend. And, with that, the Power Five conference races are starting to come into focus — but are far from finished.

This weekend, though, there are a handful of key matchups that could offer further clarity across the major conferences, although most, if not all, are still weeks away from being decided.

That said, here’s a look at where the Power Five conferences and, in four of the five cases, how their respective divisions stand before the eighth weekend of the regular season kicks off.

At 4-0, Clemson currently controls its own destiny in the division courtesy of the Oct. 1 win over 3-1 Louisville.  The U of L will be desperately rooting for Florida State, at 2-2 with one of those league losses coming at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the middle of last month, to knock off Clemson next Saturday as well as the Tigers tripping up in one of their other three remaining conference games (Syracuse, Pitt, at Wake Forest) while also holding serve through the remainder of their slate.  FSU, with league losses to the U of L and North Carolina, will need a minor miracle to get back to the conference championship game.

Technically, 2-2 Wake Forest remains in contention, and still has games against Clemson and Louisville.  Then again, they’re Wake.

In all likelihood, the Coastal will come down to a three-team race: 3-1 North Carolina, 3-1 Virginia Tech and 2-1 Pittsburgh.  Tech has already beaten UNC, and will face Pitt next weekend.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, own a win over the Panthers to go along with the loss to the Hokies.  Simply put, if Tech wins out (at Pitt, at Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia), they will claim the division and represent the Coastal against their Atlantic counterparts.

As you know, though, this division very rarely plays to the form it presents halfway through the conference season.

With all due respect to 2-1 Penn State, 3-0 Michigan and 3-0 Ohio State are on a collision course for an epic edition of the greatest rivalry in all of college football that will likely not only impact the division and the conference race but the College Football Playoff as well.  PSU could make me eat my words almost immediately as they play host to OSU in the always-dangerous white-out game later tonight; that said, if the Buckeyes can get past the Nittany Lions, they’ll have to traverse home games against Northwestern and Nebraska as well as road trips to Maryland and an abruptly vulnerable Michigan State before hosting UM.  The Wolverines get to host Illinois, Maryland and Indiana along with visits to rival Michigan State and Iowa before The Game.

Like the ACC Coastal, this division’s winner will very (?) likely come from a trio of teams: 3-0 Nebraska, 3-1 Iowa, 2-1 Northwestern.  The Cornhuskers already have a win over the Wildcats, while the Wildcats beat the Hawkeyes on the road the first weekend of this month.  Nebraska will close out the season against Iowa, while the latter has one sizable advantage over the other two as they avoid Ohio State completely while the others will face the Buckeyes in Weeks 9 (Wildcats) and 10 (Cornhuskers).  Both of those games, incidentally, are in Columbus.

There’s a potential wrench that could be tossed into the race, it should be noted, as 1-2 Wisconsin still has games remaining against all three of the West teams mentioned above.  Sweep those and get a little additional help, and the Badgers could be right back in the discussion by the end of the regular season.

BIG 12
Next season, this conference’s champion will be decided by a league title game.  This season, the standard round-robin format will determine the champion, and, because of that and the way the schedule is constructed, this league is as convoluted as any in the sport.

Three members are undefeated at the moment in Baylor and Oklahoma at 3-0, West Virginia at 2-0.  Two others are 2-1 — Oklahoma State and TCU.  How convoluted is the current state of the Big 12 race?  Just two games have been played between those five teams thus far: Baylor beating Oklahoma State and Oklahoma beating TCU.  A third will be played this weekend as the Horned Frogs will travel to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers in a contest that will allow a little — little — clarity when it comes to the conference race.

This could be the most simplistic of all the P5 divisions: barring something extraordinary taking place, the winner of this division will be decided in the Apple Cup between a 3-0 Washington and a 3-0 Washington State.  Or, at the very least, the winner will play in that rivalry game.  And, of all the developments thus far this season, that may be the most stunning.  To put a finer point on this divisional race, the team currently in third place at 2-2, 2015 Pac-12 champion Stanford, lost to both UW and Wazzu by a combined score of 86-22.

Utah and Colorado are tied atop this division at 3-1, with 3-2 USC still in the same neighborhood.  The Utes own a win over the Trojans, while the Trojans own one over the Buffs.  Utah and USC still have Washington on their schedule, while Colorado, which avoids UW, has to play a Washington State team that won’t face either of the other.  One date to circle on the calendar: Nov. 26, with the Utes traveling to Boulder to square off with the Buffs in the regular season finale.

A lot like the Big 12, this race likely won’t be decided until we get deep into November.

Despite its loss to 2-2 Tennessee, 3-1 Florida controls its own destiny in this division.  Win out, and the Gators will earn their second consecutive berth in the SEC championship game.  Their remaining league schedule?  The annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party grudge match with Georgia in Jacksonville, and road trips to No. 17 Arkansas and No. 25 LSU sandwiched around a home game against South Carolina.  UT, though, could easily win out as their lone remaining games consist of South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.  While the Gators are currently in control, their path to Atlanta is much steeper than that of the Vols despite currently sitting in the driver’s seat — and knowing full well that that come-from-ahead loss to UT is riding shotgun.

This might be the most fun division in all of college football.  Again.  Alabama and Texas A&M both sit at 4-0, while Auburn and LSU are at 2-1.  The really, really fun part?  Only A&M and Auburn have met already this year, a Sept. 17 win for the Aggies on The Plains.  The Tide and Aggies meet in a critical matchup this afternoon, but several more critical contests await the division in the coming weeks.

In other words, grab your popcorn.  This thing is far from decided — a sentiment that’s far from the exclusive property of this division.

Texas governor: ‘Big 12 owes a lot of people an apology’

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 04:  Texas Governor Greg Abbott is seen on the field prior to the game between the Texas Longhorns and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2016 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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As governor of the state of Texas, Greg Abbott had a very vested interest in the Big 12’s next move when it came to its membership numbers moving forward.  And, like a lot of people, Abbott was left with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Houston was one of a handful of teams under consideration by the Big 12 as the conference flirted with expansion for the past several months.  Abbott has long been a proponent of UH to the Big 12, tweeting back in July that “expansion is a non-starter unless it includes University of Houston.”

Three months later, expansion, period, was a non-starter as the conference opted to stick with its current 10 members, going so far as to not even voting on whether or not to add specific schools even after those universities very publicly made pitches for inclusion.

How the process played out was the (rightly) subject of derision and criticism by those in the media.  It was an embarrassment and black eye for an already battered league, something that Abbott, a University of Texas graduate, was quick to jump on.

Here’s to guessing that, once the Big 12’s grant of rights is up in less than a decade, the conference will cease to exist and those like Abbott may fee a sense of relief those they supported were snubbed in this go ’round.

Houston, BYU, UConn and others release statements on Big 12 non-expansion

PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 14: General view of LaVell Edwards Stadium and the field logo before the game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Brigham Young Cougars on October 14, 2016 in Provo Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The Big 12 officially announced on Monday evening that the league would not be expanding and will not add any universities to the conference.

The news puts an end to a rather lengthy process that involved nearly every school outside of the Power Five in some form or fashion. As the result of the decision, many of those programs rumored to be on the Big 12’s short list released statements on the matter.

Here’s BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe:

“The announcement by the Big 12 Conference against expansion is not unexpected and is indicative of the volatile world of college athletics administration,” UConn president Susan Herbst said in a statement, while also releasing the promotional materials the school used in their pitch to the Big 12. “While I am sure many in our community are nervous about what this means for our future, I am confident that we have put our best foot forward in considerable effort to demonstrate how we currently operate our university and athletics programs at a ‘Power 5’ level and will continue to do so.”

“The Big 12’s decision in no way changes the mission of the University of Houston that began long before there was talk of conference expansion. UH is a diverse Tier One research institution that is on the move,” Cougars president Renu Khator said in a statement. “We remain committed to strengthening our nationally competitive programs in academics and athletics that allow  our student-athletes to compete on a national stage. We are confident that in this competitive athletics landscape, an established program with a history of winning championships and a demonstrated commitment to talent and facilities in the nation’s fourth largest city will find its rightful place. Our destiny belongs to us.”

Even South Florida released a statement on Monday after the Big 12 Board of Directors meeting.

“We are on a path to greatness at USF, reminding everyone in the Bulls Family why we are proud of who we are, how far we have come and what lies ahead,” athletic director Mark Harlan said. “Our student-athletes, coaches, staff, donors, alumni, fans and community members have propelled our program to profound success in recent years in the American Athletic Conference and I am confident that they will continue to do so in the future.”

The news that the Big 12 would not expand is no doubt disappointing for many fans from everywhere from Provo to Storrs to Houston to Tampa.

While administrators had a much more realistic idea of the process and what the eventual outcome was going to be, one thing everybody can agree on is to be thankful that this dog and pony show of Big 12 expansion is finally over.

It’s official: Big 12 unanimously decides not to expand

FILE - In this July 18, 2016, file photo, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees during Big 12 media day in Dallas. The Big 12 board of directors meets Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Dallas and the topic of expansion will be addressed.  Not necessarily decided, but definitely addressed. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
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It’s official.

In a “unanimous” decision, the Big 12 Board of Directors announced on Monday that the conference would not be expanding and adding any new schools to the league.

“We decided after a very thorough discussion to remain at 10 members,” Oklahoma president and board chair David Boren said. “We came to the decision that this is not the right time for expansion.”

Among the other highlights from the league’s press conference in Dallas:

  • There was no discussion of any individual schools getting into the conference
  • There was no vote on any schools or any polls of support for any university
  • The process to expand or not is no longer an agenda item being considered by the Big 12. Both Boren and Bowlsby said “never say never” however.
  • There will be no Big 12 Network at the current moment as the result of “market place forces” but it is not being ruled out completely in the future
  • Extending the conference’s grant of rights did not come up in the board’s discussions
  • The process of holding a conference title game moved forward and further details will be handled by the 10 athletic directors
  • There was no talk about the ESPN/Fox television contracts being renegotiated at this time

“I made one recommendation. We should bring this process to closure,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby added. “We shouldn’t kick the can down the road.”

The news no doubt comes as a blow to schools like Houston, BYU and Cincinnati among others who were hoping the Big 12 would expand by two or four schools and they would be able to join the Power Five as a result.

AFCA retroactively awards its 1945 national title to Oklahoma State

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And here y’all thought the SEC was the sole proprietor of questionable or retroactively-claimed national championships.

Thursday afternoon, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) announced that it has retroactively awarded Oklahoma State, then known as Oklahoma A&M, its 1945 national championship.  This is “officially” the Cowboys’ first national title in football.

In its release, the AFCA explains the whys and the hows of its decision.

At the request of multiple schools, the AFCA established a Blue Ribbon Commission of coaches to retroactively select Coaches’ Trophy winners from 1922 (when the AFCA was founded) up to 1949 (the year before the Coaches’ Poll was first published). That panel of coaches took information submitted by schools who felt they were worthy of consideration and used that data in the research and selection process

“After gathering all the pertinent information and doing our due diligence, it is the pleasure of our Blue Ribbon Commission of coaches to officially recognize Oklahoma State’s 1945 championship season with the AFCA Coaches’ Trophy,” said AFCA executive director Todd Berry.

The Oklahoma State squad of 1945 (then-referred to as Oklahoma A&M) had an average margin of victory of 23.2 points and still hold numerous school records, including fewest points allowed, lowest average points allowed, fewest first downs allowed, fewest rushing yards allowed and fewest yards allowed per game. The 1945 squad also ranks in the top 10 in several more offensive and defensive categories, all of which is remarkable considering that season was played 70 years ago.

There’s one — OK, at least one — problem with this: the 1945 Army team.

That Army squad, which featured the famed duo of Mr. Inside (Doc Blanchard) & Mr. Outside (Glenn Davis), rolled to a 9-0 record that season, winning those games by a combined score of 412-46.  Five of their wins were by shutout, including ones over No. 2 Notre Dame (48-0) and No. 6 Penn (61-0).  They also boasted wins over another pair of ranked teams — No. 9 Michigan (28-7) and No. 19 Duke (48-13).

The “closest” any team came to knocking off was Navy, which lost by 19 in their annual regular-season finale.  And that’s without even mentioning Army, after getting down early, defeating Germany and Italy on the road earlier in the year.

In the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book, The Association recognizes 15 national titles handed out for the 1945 season.  14 of those titles went to Army.  The other?  Unbeaten Alabama.

Leave it to a Crimson Tide beat writer to put this OSU silliness into its proper perspective:

And, yes, they don’t claim ’45 as one of their self-acknowledged 15.