Toledo’s Tuesday night big MAC challenge: Northern Illinois

2 Comments

When it comes to the Group of Five conversation this season, the American Athletic Conference has continued to take the lead with three teams currently ranked in the top 25 (Memphis, Houston, Temple) and another suffering just one loss (Navy). With the Mountain West Conference slipping this fall, the American has taken advantage and pushed to the front of the line. There is one potential obstacle beyond the control of the AAC though; Toledo.

The MAC frontrunners are off to a solid 7-0 start this season, which includes a victory on the road at Arkansas and a home win against Iowa State. For a while the win against the Razorbacks was the top Group of Five performance of the season, but Memphis has since taken that title with a win against Ole Miss. Still, Toledo has a chance to run the table this season and add a MAC championship that would see a 13-0 program be up for strong consideration for the New Years Six bowl reservation awarded to the top-ranked Group of Five conference champion. If that ends up being the case, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell will have some interesting job offers come his way this coaching carousel cycle (he has already been a trendy name for some coaching stories this season). There is still business to attend to for Toledo before we can dive head first into those debates and discussions about where the Rockets stand against other contenders like Memphis, Houston or perhaps still Temple and Navy. First up is Northern Illinois.

Toledo takes on Northern Illinois tonight in a Tuesday night MACtion special. This may not be a dominant NIU team, but it is still a scary one when it is rolling. The Huskies have scored at least 45 points in each of their last three games to rebound from a three-game losing streak that included a good scare for the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. No team should be aware of how dangerous NIU can be than Toledo though. The Huskies have been a bit of a nemesis for the Rockets lately, with NIU claiming victory in each of the past five meetings. The Huskies took last year’s game, 27-24. In 2011 these two combined for 123 points in a 63-60 shootout. If Toledo is going to make a run at the MAC, shaking off the ghosts of Northern Illinois is a huge step forward in that pursuit. That may not be easy.

NIU will bring the MAC’s top running game to Toledo, averaging 217.5 rushing yards per game and a conference-leading 24 rushing touchdowns, 14 by junior running back Joel Bouagnon. Toledo is no slouch running he football with Kareem Hunt warming up and Terry Swanson and Damion Jones-Moore leading the charge for the MAC’s second-leading rushing offense. Toledo has allowed just five rushing touchdowns all season, so they will be put to the test tonight. For Toledo, the key will be to force fumbles, which NIU has been prone to do this season despite the big running numbers. NIU has lost nine fumbles this year, more than any other MAC program.

A win by Toledo will keep them in the thick of the Group of Five discussion, but the more important goal for the Rockets right now is simply winning the MAC. Toledo has not played in the MAC Championship Game since 2004, so it has been a long time coming. Northern Illinois and Central Michigan have dominated the appearances from the MAC West since Toledo’s last appearance in the game. After NIU tonight, Toledo will get a crack at CMU on the road next Tuesday night before playing in what could be a MAC Championship Game Preview against Bowling Green on November 17.

Toledo has some land mines to tiptoe by. If they manage to do so, the Rockets will have a decent argument at the end of the year.

In case you missed it…

Toledo is the big headline in the MAC right now, deservingly so, but Toledo is currently tied for first place in the MAC West with Western Michigan. The Broncos have somewhat quietly played their way into a good spot in the division race. P.J. Fleck‘s program got off to a rough 1-3 start with losses against the top two programs in the Big Ten (Michigan State and Ohio State) and a road loss at Georgia Southern (a blowout 43-17 setback). Things did not look great for Western Michigan, but in conference play the Broncos appear to have flipped a switch.

After clipping Central Michigan 41-39 in their MAC opener, Western Michigan has won each of the next three games on its schedule by a minimum of 22 points. Two of those wins have come against Miami-Ohio and Eastern Michigan, who are a combined 2-16 this season, but Western Michigan should not have to apologize for that. Western Michigan’s challenging schedule in MAC play is about to commence. On Thursday, they host Ball State, but after that they host MAC East-leading Bowling Green on a Wednesday night next week (a short week), and then visit Northern Illinois the following Wednesday.

If you are looking ahead, Western Michigan wraps up the regular season on the road against Toledo on November 27.

CFP chair confirms debate for No. 4 was between Oklahoma and Georgia

Getty Images
4 Comments

Let’s be honest, there was no debating the College Football Playoff this season. You want to try to stir things up and say that Ohio State and not LSU should have been No. 1? Fine.

But those top four teams? That seemed set in stone from the moment Utah fell flat on its face in the Pac-12 title game against Oregon. It was always going to be the Buckeyes, Tigers, Clemson and the Sooners after they beat Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game.

For formality sake though, the Selection Committee still had to go through the motions and tick off all the boxes in the process. That included, as chairman Rob Mullens told ESPN, discussing final spot in the field between OU and what he revealed to be the No. 5 team in the rankings: Georgia.

“That conference championship win against Baylor moved (Oklahoma) to the No. 4 spot. Wd did spend some time talking about Oklahoma and Georgia but in the end, it was a solid selection for Oklahoma in the No. 4 spot,” said Mullens. “We put them on the board because we want to be thorough and we want to make sure that we consider everything. So we did have Oklahoma and Georgia on the board and Oklahoma was the number four team.”

Such a debate may not have lasted much more than 30 seconds but there you go Bulldogs fans, at least there was some consideration for your team.

Perhaps more notable is the fact that Mullens all but confirmed UGA was the No. 5 team in the full rankings released later on Sunday, which means they’ll be put in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor.

The College Football Playoff is set: No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma

Getty Images
26 Comments

The 2019-2020 College Football Playoff field is set.

Thanks largely to a drama-free and fairly straightforward conference championship weekend, the CFP Selection Committee made the easy choice of the four teams who will play for this season’s national championship: SEC champion LSU at No. 1 in the Peach Bowl semifinal against No. 4 Oklahoma and recently crowned Big Ten champ Ohio State at No. 2 in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal against reigning champions and No. 3 Clemson.

“You’ve got two complete teams, obviously. They’ve both had a conference championship and when we’re comparing schedule strength, you’ve got LSU 4-0 against teams in the top 13, Ohio State 5-0 against teams in the top 21,” committee chairman Rob Mullens said on ESPN of the only debate that existed on the top seeds. “It was really close, I mean we’ve spent the entire ranking season, six weeks of just, you know, one going above the other one just by a tick.

“We saw the last couple of weeks an LSU defense that’s healthy and playing better, continued quality play out of Joe Burrow at the quarterback position so this week we just felt that LSU deserve that number one seed going into the playoffs.”

The Peach Bowl in Atlanta will kickoff first on Saturday, December 28 at 4 p.m. ET and be followed by the Fiesta Bowl at roughly 8 p.m. ET with both games broadcasted on ESPN.

Perhaps most notable regarding this year’s final four is who’s not involved as this will be the very first College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014 without Alabama and Nick Saban. Two-loss Pac-12 champion Oregon was also not involved in the discussions for postseason tournament either as the conference has missed out on the CFP for the third straight year.

This will be the Sooners’ fourth appearance and first trip to the Peach Bowl in the current setup, having posted an 0-3 mark in their previous semifinals. The Buckeyes are on their third selection, having won the first Playoff altogether while also getting shutout by Clemson in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl.

The newbie of the group? That would be Ed Orgeron’s Tigers, who are the first SEC team other than Georgia and the Crimson Tide to make it in. The site of this season’s National Championship Game is at the Superdome in New Orleans — notable since LSU’s past two titles were won there.

The Selection Committee’s full top 25 and the rest of the New Year’s Six matchups will be announced later on Sunday but for now, let the discussion over this year’s Playoff begin.

LSU No. 1 in final regular season AP Poll too, Pac-12 champ Oregon behind pair of two-loss SEC teams

Getty Images
8 Comments

LSU is tops in both polls after being named the No. 1 team in the final regular season AP Poll on Sunday afternoon.

The Tigers edged No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma in what is expected to be the same order of teams in this year’s final four to play for the national title.

While that was no surprise, Pac-12 fans may take an exception to voters putting No. 7 Oregon behind a pair of SEC teams with similar records in No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 Florida. Despite a title game loss, Baylor remained at No. 8 while Utah fell from No. 5 to No. 12 after falling to the Ducks. Wisconsin slipped just one place after getting beat by the Buckeyes in Indianapolis.

The full AP top 25 for the final weekend of the regular season:

  1. LSU
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Florida
  7. Oregon
  8. Baylor
  9. Alabama
  10. Auburn
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Utah
  13. Penn State
  14. Notre Dame
  15. Memphis
  16. Minnesota
  17. Michigan
  18. Boise State
  19. Iowa
  20. Appalachian State
  21. Navy
  22. USC
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Air Force
  25. Oklahoma State

LSU edges Ohio State for No. 1 in final Coaches Poll of the regular season

Getty Images
6 Comments

The College Football Playoff rankings matter just a bit more to both teams but in the first early indication of which way the Selection Committee might be leaning, LSU edged out Ohio State for the No. 1 spot in the final Coaches’ Poll of the regular season on Sunday.

As expected, Clemson was set at No. 3 and Big 12 champion Oklahoma occupied the No. 4 spot. SEC title game loser Georgia stayed in the top five ahead of No. 6 Oregon. While the Bulldogs fell only one spot, Utah was dropped quite a bit after losing to the Ducks on Friday and wound up down five spots to No. 10.

AAC champion Memphis were up to No. 15 as the highest ranked Group of Five team, softening the blow somewhat of losing head coach Mike Norvell on the same day. Also notable is Virginia was not penalized for getting blown out by Clemson in the ACC championship game and saying in the top 25.

The full Coaches Poll following conference championship weekend:

  1. LSU (46 first place votes)
  2. Ohio State (14)
  3. Clemson (5)
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Oregon
  7. Florida
  8. Baylor
  9. Alabama
  10. Utah
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Penn State
  13. Auburn
  14. Notre Dame
  15. Memphis
  16. Minnesota
  17. Michigan
  18. Boise State
  19. Iowa
  20. Appalachian State
  21. Navy
  22. Cincinnati
  23. USC
  24. Air Force
  25. Virginia