Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

What one-loss teams have best chance to make a playoff run?

12 Comments

It was just two seasons ago many around the college football world declared the Big Ten’s playoff hopes dead after just two weeks of college football action. Obviously, that turned out to be false. Ohio State went on a tear and hit a hot streak at the best possible time to sneak into the first College Football Playoff as Big Ten champion, then proceed to take out SEC champion and No. 1 seed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal and then Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Pac-12 champion Oregon for the national championship.

So here we are once again, analyzing the thin ice a number of conferences and perceived playoff contenders continue to march forward on after two weeks of football action. The question remains, what one-loss teams still have a glimmer of hope to make a playoff run? Here are some worth watching, in no particular order.

Oklahoma

The Sooners get a chance to redeem themselves after losing the opener against Houston. Oklahoma hosts Ohio State this weekend in one of the top games of the week. Having already lost once in Week 1, it is pretty safe to suggest Oklahoma has to win this week in order to keep any hope of a second straight playoff berth alive. A win against Ohio State would still probably have to be followed up by an undefeated run through the Big 12, which is no guarantee given that will include games against undefeated West Virginia, Texas and Baylor, not to mention Oklahoma State and TCU. Even if Oklahoma does win all of their remaining games, if it comes down to handing a playoff spot to a one-loss Oklahoma and an undefeated Houston, which way would the selection committee go?

Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have a load of key games that can help generate a playoff push. They get Michigan State this week and still have games against Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech and USC on the schedule to help provide some likely quality wins. A road loss in overtime against Texas may not end up looking too bad if the Longhorns continue to show they are improving. But like any team from the Big 12 playing a 12-game schedule, the margin for error is very thin after taking an early loss for the Golden Domers.

UCLA

When it comes to UCLA being a legitimate playoff contender, I will believe it when I see it. UCLA can keep themselves on the radar this week with a win at BYU to generate some momentum, but losing on the road at Texas A&M and still having games against Stanford, Utah and USC after playing BYU this week means UCLA will have to be on top of its game the rest of the way. The Bruins cannot afford another loss, and running through the Pac-12 without a loss for any team (including Stanford and Washington) is no easy task. Keep in mind, UCLA might be in a position in which it has to defeat Stanford twice, once in the regular season and again in a Pac-12 championship game (or Stanford in the regular season and Oregon or Washington in the championship game). Do you like those odds? Neither do I.

And just to note, I’m taking a hard pass on USC after being obliterated by Alabama and still having to play at Stanford this week and then Oregon later on followed by road trips to Washington and UCLA before hosting Notre Dame. Nope. Not happening.

Ole Miss/LSU

Ole Miss and LSU each lost against power conference opponents away from home in not-so-neutral fields in Week 1, and each still has to play each other and Alabama. If either one of these two can go 2-0 against the other and the Crimson Tide, that is all that will be needed to get back in the playoff hunt. Of course, this is no small feat. Ole Miss gets their first crack to jump back in the fun with a home game against Alabama this week. Win that and then it is on, starting the following week at home against Georgia. Back-to-back road games against Arkansas and LSU later also pose a serious threat to Ole Miss’ playoff hopes if Alabama doesn’t crush them first. LSU has a more favorable path to making a playoff with one loss and has the luxury of getting both Ole Miss and Alabama at home, albeit in back-to-back weeks later on. If LSU has figured out its passing game and Leonard Fournette comes back healthy soon, LSU could enter those two pivotal SEC West matchups with just one loss and have momentum to work with. A road game at Florida should be the only real threat before that.

Purdue

Nah, I’m just kidding.

 

Do you think any other one-loss team through the first two weeks of the season has any real chance to remain in the playoff picture in November, or is all hope already lost?

Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen, Appalachian State’s Clifton Duck named Sun Belt preseason players of the year

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The SEC isn’t the only league in the South to release their preseason all-conference team on Friday as the Sun Belt named Arkansas State QB Justice Hansen and Appalachian State defensive back Clifton Duck as the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year for 2018.

Hansen is looking to repeat as Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year after winning the award at the end of last season after throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and accounting for 44 touchdowns with the Red Wolves. Duck had six interceptions last year to help pace the Mountaineers’ defense and is tied with fellow first-team selection Blace Brown (who plays at Troy) for the most in the nation the past two seasons with 11.

All told though, the Neal Brown’s Trojans had the most selections across the two All-Sun Belt preseason teams with 11 players earning a nod.

The full 2018 Preseason All-Sun Belt team is below:

First Team Offense

QB – Justice Hansen

RB – Jalin Moore (Appalachian State), Warren Wand (Arkansas State)

WR – Justin McInnis (Arkansas State), Penny Hart (Georgia State), Marcus Green (ULM)

TE – Collin Reed (Appalachian State)

OL – Victor Johnson (Appalachian State), Lanard Bonner (Arkansas State), Kevin Dotson (Louisiana), Tristan Crowder (Troy), Deontae Crumitie (Troy) 

First Team Defense

DL – Ronheen Bingham (Arkansas State), Logan Hunt (Georgia Southern), Hunter Reese (Troy), Trevon Sanders (Troy)

LB – Anthony Flory (Appalachian State), Michael Shaw (Georgia State), Tron Folsom (Troy)

DB – Clifton Duck, Justin Clifton (Arkansas State), Monquavion Brinson (Georgia Southern), Blace Brown

First Team Special Teams

K – Gavin Patterson (South Alabama)

P – Corliss Waitman (South Alabama)

RS – Marcus Green (ULM)

Second Team Offense

QB – Caleb Evans (ULM)

RB – Wesley Fields (Georgia Southern), Trey Ragas (Louisiana)

WR – RJ Turner (ULM), Jamarius Way (South Alabama), Deondre Douglas (Troy)

TE – Ellis Richardson (Georgia Southern)

OL – Jacob Still (Arkansas State), Curtis Rainey (Georgia Southern), Hunter Atkinson (Georgia State), Shamarious Gilmore (Georgia State), Aaron Brewer (Texas State)

Second Team Defense

DL – Myquon Stout (Appalachian State), Marterious Allen (Georgia State), Tyree Turner (South Alabama), Marcus Webb (Troy)

LB – Silas Kelly (Coastal Carolina), Bull Barge (South Alabama), Bryan London II (Texas State)

DB – Tae Hayes (Appalachian State), BJ Edmonds (Arkansas State), Marcus Jones (Troy), Cedarius Rookard (Troy)

Second Team Special Teams

K – Tyler Bass (Georgia Southern)

P – Cody Grace (Arkansas State)

RS – Marcus Jones (Troy)

Hotels, recruiting trips and meals among the things on the chopping block at New Mexico due to budget cuts

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Operating a Division I athletics program can be tough but few face the inherent hurdles of running a department quite like the two FBS schools in the state of New Mexico. For years the Aggies of New Mexico State have had one of the smallest budgets in the country and their rivals at New Mexico are not immune to the same challenges either. Case in point came this week as the Lobos moved to cut four sports on Thursday by a unanimous vote from the UNM Board of Regents.

While football was not on the chopping block for the school (it’s a required sport to remain in the Mountain West), the program itself is not immune to penny-pinching the department is facing in the near term. According to the Albuquerque Journal, this includes no longer staying at a hotel the nights before home games, a reduction in the recruiting budget for trips and a potential reduction in the number of meals the school provides to players.

“We are talking about football internally,” athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. “Football, as well as every other sport, is going to be held to the same accountability when it comes to managing their budgets.”

According to recent records, the football team spent a reported $8.3 million during the most recent fiscal year and failed to turn a profit. The Lobos will soon be reducing the total number of players on the team from 116 to 113 (there will remain 85 scholarships available) for both budgetary and Title IX reasons as well. While it was certainly not intended, the program did see some additional cost savings earlier this year when they suspended head coach Bob Davie without pay for 30 days.

Still, times are tough in the state and nobody knows that better than the athletic departments who are facing a money-crunch and trying to do what they can to dig themselves out of it.

North Carolina’s self-reported NCAA violations the result of players selling their shoes

Getty Images
1 Comment

We learned two things about the North Carolina football program this week and neither of them are all that great for the Tar Heels or their brand.

The item that generated the most headlines was head coach Larry Fedora discussing his misguided views on CTE at ACC Media Days but in terms of impact, it may very well be the fact that the school self-reported several NCAA violations that could lead to player suspensions this season. Now we know what the whole mess was about and let’s just say that it’s a lot less serious than the last time the school underwent the NCAA microscope.

Per WRAL, the secondary violations that were agreed upon were the result of players “selling university-issued shoes and athletic gear.” Yep, selling shoes.

“It’s disappointing,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham told The News & Observer about the matter. “You know we do a great job. I think our compliance office does a great job with education, and students know the rules, and occasionally we make mistakes. We had a couple of students who made some mistakes, and there’s obviously penalties associated with that.”

Adding a layer to this story is that the school recently switched to the Jordan Brand for their apparel prior to the 2017 season as a nod to the Tar Heels’ most famous alum. As part of a uniform unveil that summer, players were given a free pair of Retro 11s and understandably went nuts upon receiving them. They also received some Air Jordan 3 retros in January. It’s unknown whether those shoes are the ones in question that were sold or if it were some other items that players were given to wear but the bottom line is selling such items is against NCAA rules.

At well over $100 for each pair, the players in question face not only repaying the money to a charity to regain eligibility but also the prospect of several games worth of suspensions. It seems like we’ll find out soon who will be held out and for how long but that trip to face Cal in the season opener could be a lot tougher than Fedora and his staff thought thanks to the latest bit of scandal in Chapel Hill.

Watch list season rolls on with Rimington Trophy latest to release list of 58 (!) centers to keep an eye on

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Are you a center that plays college football? Congrats, there’s a nearly 50% chance that you’re on the latest watch list to be released to the media for a postseason award.

On Friday, the Remington Trophy followed in the footsteps of its counterparts and released the 2018 Fall Watch List featuring centers from all over the country. In total, some 58 (!) players made the cut after getting nominated by their schools. The Pac-12 led the way this season with a full 10 players on the list, followed by the ACC with eight centers and the SEC just behind with seven.

Among those that you could say headline the entire group are Alabama’s Ross Pierschbacher, Georgia’s Lamont Gaillard, Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy, Texas’ Zach Shackelford, Penn State’s Connor McGovern, Florida State’s Alec Eberle and Clemson’s Justin Falcinelli.

You can find the full Remington Trophy watch list here.

And if you’re in the preseason watch list mood… the Doak Walker Award, Mackey Award, Biletnikoff Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Bednarik Award and Maxwell Award have all released their watch lists for various positions as well.

We’re still a month away from the regular season actually starting in college football but media days and award watch lists are a sure sign every summer that the long, long offseason is coming to an end.