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Powerful voices added to growing calls for expanded playoff

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If your part of the chorus calling for an expanded College Football Playoff, a couple of powerful voices have donned their robes and taken a seat in the choir.

Currently, four schools qualify for the postseason tournament that crowns a national champion at season’s end.  This year, with Notre Dame qualifying, it means that two Power Five conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12) are sitting on the sidelines; last year, with the SEC landing two spots, it was the same P5 conferences on the outside of the playoff looking in.

Add in unbeaten UCF, undefeated a second straight season, and there are a growing number of voices calling for playoff expansion when the current 12-year contract expires in 2026 — if not sooner in many cases.  A couple of those voices happens to be Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, with the former telling Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic that expansion — specifically a move to eight teams — is “an appropriate thing to begin thinking about.”

All three of the P5 leagues that have missed the playoffs on more than one occasion, the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, play nine conference games; the ACC and SEC, which have either qualified in each of the five years of the playoff as is the case of the latter or in four of five for the former, play just eight.  Because of that imbalance, many are hoping — or pushing — for an expansion to be not a matter of if but when.

“Everyone has the same feeling; expansion is inevitable,” Alvarez, a former CFP selection committee member, told Auerbach. “When you can do it, and I think we need to serve more people. I think four was the right way to get started. In my opinion, we need to take a look of adding more teams into the Playoff, giving more opportunities. …

“I don’t know whether we’re serving all of our people now, when you have some leagues — our league (the Big Ten) as an example. Two years in a row, we don’t have anyone represented. The Big 12’s been the same way. The Pac-12’s been the same way.”

From Auerbach’s report:

There have been a number of informal conversations involving college football’s most important power brokers in recent weeks and months. The growing concern is that a system designed to nationalize the sport of college football — including a championship game that is played at different venues and will be held in the Bay Area for the first time this season — is being undermined and regionalized with teams from the Southeast regularly playing each other.

“The Playoff enjoys a level of support that I think is rather extraordinary,” Bowlsby said. “Would that (approval rating) go up if there are more teams involved? Probably. Does that mean it would avoid controversies? No, because you’ll always have arguments about the ninth and 10th spots. …

“Then, there’s the matter of how you do it. The devil’s always in the details.”

At least initially, you can forget about a 32- or even a 16-team playoff, with eight being the only number that most anyone of influence would be willing to consider.  One of the biggest questions when it comes to expansion might be what to do with conference championship games — keep them and push a potential schedule to 16 games for two teams or get rid of them and keep that ceiling at 15.  There’s very little question that the SEC, in particular, would balk at tossing aside its league title game for adding another round to the playoffs.

Of course, moving from a 12-game regular season schedule to one that consists of 11 games would allow championship games to continue on with an expanded playoff, but that won’t happen.  Ever.  Start the season a week earlier and hold the championship games the last weekend of November?  Certainly a possibility.

And, if another round is added, how do you fit them in?  Play them on the higher seed’s campus?  At neutral sites?  Again, more details to be worked out, although they shouldn’t be as hard to resolve as some would make it seem.

If all of the devils in the sport can somehow work out all of the details, the most popular model to replace the current one is this: each Power Five conference champion qualifies, as does the highest-rated champion of a Group of Five league.  The remaining two “wildcard” spots would go to the two highest-rated teams in the CFP rankings that didn’t win their conference.

Such a format this season would’ve left the field looking thusly:

  • No. 1 Alabama (SEC champ) vs. No. 8 Washington (Pac-12 champ, ranked No. 9 in CFP Top 25)
  • No. 2 Clemson (ACC champ) vs. No. 7 UCF (No. 8, highest-ranked G5 team)
  • No. 3 Notre Dame (No. 3, highest-ranked non-conference champ) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (Big Ten champ)
  • No. 4 Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. No. 5 Georgia (second-highest-ranked non-conference champ)

In that format, Michigan, which was seventh in the last CFP Top 25, would be left out as they would’ve been leapfrogged by a pair of conference champions in Washington and UCF.

Some would also call for the same 5-1-2 model, but would seed the conference champs ahead of the two “wildcards.” This year, or any other year they qualify for that matter, that would leave football independent Notre Dame playing a road game if the quarterfinals were played at on-campus sites.

Then again, while Bowlsby is certainly a powerful voice in the sport, he’s just one of five Power Five conference commissioners.  Late last month, the SEC’s Greg Sankey stated that expansion hasn’t even been discussed.  And there’s the ACC’s John Swofford.

“I don’t think there’s a great shift in momentum to expand the playoffs,” the commissioner told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in late November. “I’m not suggesting that it will never happen. You never say never.

“I don’t think that’s something that’s imminent right now.”

Even the Big Ten’s Jim Delany didn’t seem too concerned when he saw his conference champion not make the playoff for the third straight year.

The moral of the story, expansion proponents?  While it’s nice there’s some chatter among those that can help prompt change, don’t hold your breath for an eight-team playoff anytime soon.

Both of Nebraska’s primary kickers in 2019 have now left the Cornhuskers, with one leaving to focus on… club soccer?

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It was quite the day on the kicking front for the Nebraska football program. And not in a good way.  At all.

Thursday, it was reported that Barrett Pickering was no longer a part of the Nebraska football team.  The placekicker subsequently confirmed that he was stepping away from the sport because of health concerns.  Pickering will, however, remain on scholarship as a student at the school.  The Alabama native won’t count against the 85-man scholarship limit for Nebraska football.

Not long after the news of Pickering’s decision broke, it was also confirmed that kicker Matt Waldoch will not be returning to the program as well.  The reason?  Club soccer.

The twin departures leave Nebraska football very thin at the position.  At least, experience-wise it does.

As a true freshman in 2018, Pickering served as the primary placekicker for Nebraska football.  That season, he hit on 14 of his 18 field-goal attempts (77.8 percent) and missed just one of his 41 point-after attempts. Pickering did not miss over the final six games, going 25-of-25 on extra points and 9-of-9 on field goals.

During that stretch, he accounted for all nine points (three field goals) in a 9-6 win over Michigan State.  That was the first time Nebraska football won without scoring a touchdown since 1937.

Despite that momentum, Pickering’s 2019 season was essentially a wasted year.  The Alabama native missed the first seven games last season because of an unspecified injury.  When he returned, he went 3-of-5 on field goals and was successful on all 10 extra points.

By the end of the year, though, Waldoch, an in-season tryout player off the club soccer team, had become the Cornhuskers’ primary kicker.

With Pickering exiting the program, Waldoch would’ve entered the spring as the favorite to win the job.  Waldoch didn’t miss a kick this past campaign, connecting on four field-goal and nine point-after tries.

Nebraska football will enter spring practice with three non-scholarship options at the position: redshirt freshman Gabe Heins, junior-college transfer Chase Contreraz and true freshman Tyler Crawford.  Contreraz will head into the spring as the favorite to win the job.

Highest-rated signee in Texas A&M Class of 2018, Leon O’Neal, enters transfer portal

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For nearly the dozenth time this cycle, a Texas A&M football player is looking to leave College Station.  And this one was a huge 2018 get.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Leon O’Neal announced that he has decided to leave the Aggies and continue his playing career elsewhere.  No reason for his decision to enter the NCAA transfer database was given.

“I want to thank Texas A&M for everything,” the defensive back wrote. “Every game was one I’ll never forget. Win, lose or draw The 12th Man never lost [their] spirit. I want to thank my brothers for the love and support. Our bond will last forever.”

A four-star member of the Texas A&M football Class of 2018, O’Neal was the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Texas.  He was also the No. 8 safety in the country.  Most notably, O’Neal was the highest-rated member of the Aggies’ class that year.

O’Neal was part of Jimbo Fisher‘s first recruiting class after taking over as the A&M football head coach in December of 2017.

As a true freshman, O’Neal appeared in all 13 games for Texas A&M football.  Most of that action came on special teams.  This past season, the safety started eight of the 12 games in which he played.

Boise State DB DeAndre Pierce opts to enter transfer portal

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The playing career of one injury-plagued Boise State football player has come to an end.  At least, in Idaho it has.

According to 247Sports.com, DeAndre Pierce has made the decision to move on from the Boise State football program.  A BSU football official subsequently confirmed overnight that the defensive back’s name is listed in the NCAA transfer database.

No specific reason for the parting of ways was given.

If Pierce follows through and transfers away from Boise State football, he would do so as a graduate transfer.  That would allow him to play at another FBS school immediately in 2020.  If that’s the tack he chooses, of course.

Pierce was a three-star member of the Broncos’ Class of 2016.  The California native took a redshirt as a true freshman.  In 2017, Pierce started 11 of the 14 games in which he played.  He earned honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference honors for that season.

Then, the injuries hit.

The safety started four of the first five games in 2018 before a lacerated spleen sidelined him for the rest of the season.  In 2019, Pierce started five games… but missed the other nine because of various injuries.

When healthy, Pierce was credited with 144 tackles, seven tackles for loss, six passed defensed, one sack and one interception.

Even with legal case (mostly) settled, WR Joshua Moore’s status at Texas won’t be determined until closer to start of 2020 season

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Even as the off-field aspect was cleared up for one member of the Texas Longhorns football program, there’s still no clarity as it relates to him getting back onto the field.  And likely won’t be clarified for a few months.

In August, Joshua Moore was arrested on a charge of unlawful carrying of a weapon. Thursday, the wide receiver pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor weapons charge. Moore avoided jail time with the plea, with the Austin American-Statesman writing that “[t]he deferred adjudication agreement states [Judge Nancy] Hohengarten will not enter a guilty finding if Moore stays out of further legal trouble over the next year, completes 60 hours of community service and fulfills any counseling conditions the probation department recommends.”

Because of the off-field situation, Moore was not permitted to play in games for Texas Longhorns football last season. He was, though, allowed to practice with the rest of his UT teammates.

A Texas Longhorns football official stated after the player’s plea that a decision on whether Moore will be permitted to play in games in 2020 won’t be determined until closer to the season kicking off.

A four-star 2018 signee, Moore played in the first six games as a true freshman before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. In that half-season of work, the 6-1, 180-pound receiver totaled 53 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.

If he’s cleared to play in games — the odds are very much in his favor, provided he doesn’t violate the terms of his plea agreement — Moore is expected to take on a bigger role in the Texas Longhorns football passing game in 2020.