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CFT Predicts: The College Football Playoff

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The match-ups are set. Now it’s time to get down to what’s really important: our predictions for said match-ups.

For the second consecutive year, the CFT staff has predicted the CFP semifinals and finals. Here’s hoping this year’s effort goes better than our maiden voyage, when not one of us had Ohio State beating Alabama and claiming the crown.

John (@CFTalk)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 34-24
COTTON BOWL: Michigan State over Alabama, 31-30
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Michigan State, 48-24
BOTTOM LINE: Ohio State rolled to a national championship as a No. 4 seed in the first year of the College Football Playoff; it’s lather, rinse, repeat in 2015 as Oklahoma, the best team in college football over the last two months — sound familiar, OSU fans? — carries the momentum from the regular season on into the postseason and gives No. 4 seeds back-to-back titles.  Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (41 total touchdowns in 13 games) will certainly prove to be a stiff test for OU, but Baker Mayfield (42 total touchdowns in 12 games) has the offensive firepower to match, plus a defense that was 21st in points allowed (20.8 ppg) in the offensive-centric Big 12 (the Tigers were 18th at 20.2 ppg).  Michigan State’s resume is superior to that of Alabama’s, and the Spartans have arguably been the second-best team in college football over the last month and a half (three wins over teams ranked in the CFP top 14 in that span). The Spartans will find their Waterloo in the title game, however, as the Sooners are too good, too balanced to be denied. In the end, Bob Stoops channels his inner “Big Game” moniker and his Sooners will bring the hardware back to Norman.

Zach (@zach_barnett)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 41-38
COTTON BOWL: Alabama over Michigan State, 24-20
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Alabama, 35-24
BOTTOM LINE: I may be the dumbest person on Earth, but I’m picking Mark Dantonio and Michigan State to lose a close game to a top-5 opponent. The Spartans will be well prepared for Derrick Henry and Alabama’s ferocious front seven, but a Cyrus Jones punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter proves to be the difference. Oklahoma and Clemson stage an absolute fire-breathing classic in the Orange Bowl that sees Deshaun Watson vault his Tigers to the lead with 1:45 remaining, only to see Baker Mayfield find Sterling Shepard in the back of the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 7-yard line with 18 seconds left to play. The title game proves what many of us think as the ball drops on 2016 as Oklahoma and Clemson appear to be a cut above the rest when the Sooners rally from a 17-14 halftime deficit to put the game away with three unanswered touchdowns over the course of the second half. A Henry breakaway touchdown with two minutes to play touches up the final score but cannot mask the fact that, for the second consecutive year, the committee didn’t get the seeding right on the outset.

Kevin (@KevinOnCFB)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 38-36
COTTON BOWL: Michigan State over Alabama, 23-20
TITLE GAME: Michigan State over Oklahoma, 31-20
BOTTOM LINE: In what should be an offensive shootout, Clemson should once again flex enough muscle against Oklahoma by the time the clock hits triple zeroes. Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield make for a great QB matchup, but Oklahoma’s ability to run the football with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon is what gives the Sooners a slight edge. Oklahoma’s revenge tour of 2015 wraps up with a wild win. Both Michigan State and Alabama will bring plenty of defense to make this a low-scoring affair. Michigan State will be put to the test trying to slow down Derrick Henry, but these Spartans do not back down against any body under Mark Dantonio. Michigan State has the decisive edge at quarterback with Connor Cook if he is healthy. If he is, Michigan State will win a second Cotton Bowl this calendar year and hand Alabama a second straight early exit against a Big Ten team. Michigan State will continue to play good, strong defense, but now they will be asked to stop two strong running backs. That could pose a problem a week after a grueling contest with Alabama. The travel may also come into play as Oklahoma looks to open things up in Lincoln Riley’s offense. Michigan State’s defense this a wall, but Cook has a winning recipe and Dantonio finally reaches the top of the college football world to further validate Michigan State’s place among college football powers, and the Big Ten wins a second straight national title.

J.J. (@JJStankevitz)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 37-35
COTTON BOWL: Alabama over Michigan State, 28-13
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Alabama, 41-31
BOTTOM LINE: A healthy Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine are enough to get the Sooners into the title game in what should be a high-scoring affair in South Florida. Derrick Henry wins the day as Michigan State’s offense sputters against a ‘Bama defense that should do well in facing a pro-style attack. I’m buying Lincoln Riley‘s spread over Kirby Smart‘s blitzes here. Mayfield has a big game to lead Oklahoma to the Big 12’s first title in a decade.

Jon Runyan Jr. expected to play for Michigan this weekend at Wisconsin

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The Michigan Wolverines may have one of their best offensive linemen on the field this weekend when they hit the road to play at Wisconsin. Jon Runyan Jr. will make his season debut on Saturday against Wisconsin, according to Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

“We’ve had two weeks to work him through, so he’ll be ready to go,” Warinner said, according to MLive.com. “Jon will be excited to get some action.”

Runyan is a starting offensive lineman, although Warinner didn’t specifically say Runyan will get the start against the Badgers. However, that would be a safe assumption if Runyan is ready to get back on the field. Warinner did say Runyan will play left tackle. This will help solidify the left side of the offensive line as the Wolverines try to get their offense on track. The new-look Michigan offense hasn’t quite gotten going as hyped heading into the season, although the absence of Runyan is not believed to have been a major reason for the mild offensive struggles.

Runyan had been out for the start of the season due to an undisclosed injury. He was dressed for Michigan’s game against Army, but he was held out as a precaution. Michigan had a bye week last week, allowing more time to get ready for a game that should be quite a battle on the line of scrimmage against Wisconsin this weekend.

Bill proposed in New York aims to share college athletics revenue directly with student-athletes

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As the state of California moves forward with a push adopt a law that would allow student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name and likeness, a new bill proposed in New York aims to go one step farther. Senator Kevin Parker has proposed a bill that would allow student-athletes to be compensated directly from the school’s annual revenue.

As written, Senate Bill S6722A in New York seeks to allow student-athletes (including college football players) to be able to receive compensation for the use of their name, likeness or image; the ability to hire an agent; and to receive an even distribution directly from the school from the university’s athletics revenue. The bill intends to require schools to set aside 15 percent of revenue earned from ticket sales and distribute that evenly among every student-athlete at the school.

This could impact three FBS schools in New York; Syracuse, Buffalo, and Army. New York also has a handful of FCS programs as well, including Fordham, Stony Brook, and Colgate. If the bill gains any traction, it would impact each school differently due to the range in ticket revenue generated by each school. The proposed bill currently sits in committee right now and has not been scheduled for a date on the Senate floor in New York.

The NCAA will frown upon this bill, just as it has in California, and it would be expected schools in New York would not be in favor of such a bill. The NCAA has already threatened the state of California with potentially removing all championship events organized by the NCAA from the state. A similar threat to New York would be the typical response if needed. That may not impact the college football world much, although it could mean no NCAA basketball tournament games being played in New York, a state that has routinely hosted NCAA basketball tournament games across the state. The Pinstripe Bowl should be safe because it is not run by the NCAA (although the NCAA could refuse to certify the Pinstripe Bowl if it really wanted). But we are far from the point to have that discussion.

The Fair Pay for Play bill in California, which is currently waiting to be signed into law or vetoed by the state’s governor, merely allows student-athletes to seek representation and receive compensation for the use of their name, likeness, or image. This trend is certainly picking up steam, and it would not be a surprise to see other states attempt to challenge the NCAA’s model of amateurism.

Iowa and Iowa State release joint statement asking fans to treat the marching bands better

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Whatever happened to the Iowa marching band on Saturday at Iowa State must have crossed a fine line, because on Wednesday both Iowa and Iowa State released a statement addressing the concern.

“Both the University of Iowa and Iowa State University are committed to providing a safe environment for everyone attending events on their respective campuses. This includes members of the school’s marching bands,” the joint statement from Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said. “Unfortunately, both the Hawkeye and Cyclone marching bands have been the target of unacceptable behavior at football games in Iowa City and Ames in recent years. Some of the conduct directed at the students in our respective marching bands recently has been rude, vulgar, and in some cases, violent.”

Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for visiting marching bands to be harassed by hostile fans around the country. Sometimes, those shameful acts by fans of teams cause some bands to decide never to make the trip to a specific stadium ever again. Fortunately, it does appear Iowa and Iowa State are committed to ensuring the bands of both schools are treated respectfully in each other’s stadiums, as should always be the case for visiting bands, fans, and players.

“We should all feel embarrassed when students in the bands don’t feel safe when performing at an away game,” the joint statement continued. “Each of our athletics departments is committed to doing whatever is necessary to improve the environment for visiting school marching bands in the future. A significant part of the solution is insisting our fans help address this issue by showing more respect to our visitors. We owe it to these hardworking performers to have a safe stage on which they can showcase their spirit and talent.”

Make all the jokes you want, but a college band is part of what makes the college football atmosphere enjoyable and more authentic. It would be a shame to lose some of the sounds of the crowd because some idiots decided to be a bunch of jerks.

Former USC coach Pete Carroll never thought players needed to get paid

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The state of California recently passed a law that would allow college athletes to hire agents and be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness if they desire. The NCAA, naturally, has weighed in to protest the law and is hoping the governor of California decided to hear their case and not sign the bill into law. Former USC head coach Pete Carroll, now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL with a Super Bowl championship to his name, was asked for his opinion on the developments in California. Perhaps not surprisingly, Carroll came on the side of the conversation which suggests players do not need any additional compensation beyond what is provided by a scholarship.

“I’ve never been of the thought that players need to get paid,” Carroll said, according to Joe Fann, Seattle Seahawks insider for NBC Sports Northwest.

Of course, nobody needs to be reminded Carroll was the head coach of former USC running back Reggie Bush (Ok, I guess I just reminded you anyway).The NCAA found Bush had received improper gifts from an agent, which ultimately dropped a series of sanctions on USC including four years of probation, forced the Trojans to vacate a national championship and the entire 2005 season. USC was also placed on a two-year postseason ban and was stripped of 30 scholarships over a period of three years. The Heisman Trust also vacated Bush’s Heisman Trophy from the record book, and USC has removed any ties and references to Bush from the program. USC was handed their sanctions after the 2009 season, at which time Carroll left the Trojans to coach in the NFL with Seattle.

Carroll’s thoughts on the idea of players receiving compensation (legally, of course) are not too surprising, and they are common thoughts expressed by other college football coaches who make millions. In 2009, it was reported Carroll was paid $4.4 million for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, four times as much as USC President Steven B. Sample at the time.

Carroll isn’t the only coach chiming in on the subject. Washington State head coach Mike Leach thinks California has some other issues to be concerned about.