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Will Championship Saturday make that much of a difference when it comes to the College Football Playoff field?

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Yes, there are myriad things at stake on Championship Saturday, especially for those conferences (I see you, Group of Five) that have no shot whatsoever (again) of earning one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff. Yes, conference championships, even for those with the larger postseason prize in their collective sights, still mean something. It still means something to proclaim yourself as the champion of your conference. Bragging rights and all.

It also still means something for whichever Group of Five school claims the New Year’s Six berth, which will be earned on the field Saturday by either Memphis, Cincinnati or Boise State — or even Appalachian State.

That said, how much of a difference will it all really make when it comes to the playoffs?

Sitting at the desk in my mom’s basement (she’s dead but it’s still hers when it comes to my job description), the following alert from ESPN came across my phone sometime Thursday afternoon: “Ranking the conference championship games by CFP impact.” That got me thinking, which is dangerous in and of itself: Should I upgrade my iPhone to one of the new 11 models or just keep my current XS?

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A short time later, I actually started thinking about the question posed to me by the World Wide Leader. So, I figured I’d sketch something out in my own head — again, a frightening proposition — and this is how it started, ranking the conference championship games when it comes to playoff importance, from most to least.

PAC-12
No. 5 Utah (11-1) vs. No. 13 Oregon (10-2)
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
In the five-year history of the CFP, the Pac-12 has qualified exactly twice — the inaugural year in 2014 with Oregon and in 2016 with Washington. That’s the fewest number of appearances among the Power Five conferences. Coincidentally or not, the reputation of the Pac-12, at least when it comes to football, is significantly lower than the other P5s, even as the Big Ten (three) and Big 12 (three) only have one more CFP appearance than the Left Coast league.

That’s why the Pac-12 is desperate for three things to go down this weekend, one Friday night and two the next day. One, Utah beats Oregon, and beats them impressively. Two, LSU beats Georgia in some form or fashion, regardless of how impressive. Three, Baylor beats Oklahoma.

To paraphrase the great Adrian Cronauer, the Pac-12 is in more desperate need of a playoff appearance than any white man in history.

BIG 12
No. 7 Baylor (11-1) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma (11-1)
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex.
By the time Baylor and Oklahoma take the field at Jerry’s World early Saturday afternoon, both schools will have a better idea where they fit in the playoff picture. If Utah beats Oregon the night before, they both know they’ll need to be impressive in a win (to go along with an LSU win over Georgia later on in the afternoon) to get in. If Oregon beats Utah, both teams will know that they merely need a win by any means necessary (to go along with an LSU win over Georgia later on in the afternoon) to earn a spot.

One potential fly in the ointment: The committee hasn’t thought much of Baylor for most of the season. There are some who believe that a 12-1 Baylor could lose a playoff berth to an 11-2 Oregon; I can’t see that, but it’s something to keep in mind.

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Then I got to thinking some more and, after taking a couple of Aleves because the process of thinking ofttimes hurts, dove further down the postseason rabbit hole and came up with exactly how to arrange the next tier of conference championship games as they pertain to playoff relevance:

  • AAC
    No. 20 Cincinnati (10-2) at No. 17 Memphis (11-1)
    Liberty Bowl Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.
  • MWC
    Hawaii (9-4) at No. 19 Boise State (11-1)
    Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
  • Conference USA
    UAB (9-3) at Florida Atlantic (9-3)
    FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.
  • MAC
    Miami (OH) (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (8-4)
    Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
  • Sun Belt
    Louisiana (10-2) at No. 21 Appalachian State (11-1)
    Kid Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC
  • ACC
    No. 23 Virginia (9-3) vs. No. 3 Clemson (12-0)
    Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
  • SEC
    No. 4 Georgia (11-1) vs. No. 2 LSU (12-0)
    Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
  • Big Ten
    No. 1 Ohio State (12-0) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (10-2)
    Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

Get the point?

A loss — close or near-blowout — in their respective games Saturday will not knock either Ohio State or LSU out of the playoffs. An absolute evisceration?  Potentially.  The selection committee has made it clear that those two teams are head and shoulders above everybody else in the field except for Clemson, and they’re probably still only a half-head or so above the defending national champions, who will ride a 27-game winning streak into the weekend.

A close loss will not knock Clemson out, either. A blowout? Possibly, but, still, you put a 12-1 Clemson’s résumé up against a 12-1 conference champion Oklahoma/Baylor or a 12-1 conference champion Utah, and my guess is the committee opts for the non-conference champion Tigers — especially if the Big 12 and/or Pac-12 title games are close and/or sloppy affairs.

Such a gridiron Armageddon as laid out above, though, seems highly unlikely, at least when it comes to the oddsmakers.  Clemson and Ohio State are both significant double-digit favorites — the Tigers are currently at -28½, the Buckeyes at -15½ — while LSU is a solid touchdown favorite.

So, getting back to the original premise: Yes, Championship Saturday still matters greatly — except, by and large, when it comes to the playoffs. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong that. At all.

Now, with that decided, let’s move on to the matter of getting rid of the conference championship games — and divisions in every league — altogether and use this weekend as the opening round of a 16-team playoff…

Duke hires Chris Hampton as CBs coach

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David Cutcliffe‘s Duke football coaching staff is whole once again.

Friday, the Blue Devils announced the hiring of Chris Hampton as part of Cutcliffe’s 10-man on-field staff. Hampton will serve as the ACC program’s cornerbacks coach.

The newest assistant will replace Derek Jones, who left Duke earlier this month after a dozen seasons to take over as secondary coach/co-defensive coordinator/associate head coach at Texas Tech.

“We are excited for Coach Hampton to join us here at Duke,” the Duke football head coach said in a statement. “His experience both as a student-athlete and coach will pay immediate dividends within our program. Coach Hampton has earned the respect of many coaches and administrators within the coaching industry and I’m confident he will make a smooth transition into our defensive staff room.”

Hampton spent the past four seasons as the defensive backs/secondary coach at Tulane. That was Hampton’s first on-field job at the FBS level.

The opportunity with the Blue Devil will, obviously, serve as Hampton’s first on-field role at a Power Five school.

“I’m both honored and excited to be joining the Duke football family,” the newest Duke football assistant said in his statement. “I’m extremely thankful that Coach Cutcliffe has given me this opportunity and I’m looking forward to learning under him. I can’t wait to get to work with our current players as well start recruiting future Blue Devils.”

During his coaching career, Hampton has also served in stops at:

  • Arkansas State, 2008 (graduate assistant)
  • Georgia Tech, 2009-10 (graduate assistant)
  • Central Arkansas, 2011 (safeties coach)
  • McNeese State, 2012-15 (defensive backs coach)

Dismissed Ohio State DBs indicted by grand jury on felony rape, kidnapping charges

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There’s been a significant development involving two former members of the Ohio State football program.

Late last week, Franklin County (Ohio) prosecutor Ron O’Brien announced that Amir I. Riep, 21, and Jahsen L. Wint, also 21, have each been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of rape and one count of kidnapping. All of those charges are first-degree felonies.

“If convicted on these charges, both men face a maximum consecutive term of 33 years of incarceration as well as registration as sex offenders,” O’Brien stated.

The details of the alleged rapes earlier this year are disturbing, to say the least.

At approximately 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 4, the two Ohio State players “forced vaginal intercourse with another … by purposely compelling said victim to submit by force,” according to a complaint filed on Tuesday by the alleged victim against Riep and Wint.

Riep, according to the complaint, “held the victim in place, restraining the liberty of another,” and pushed the victim “down by the neck then held her in place with his hands and body, with the purpose to engage in sexual activity with and against the will of said victim.”

Wint, according to the complaint, physically held the victim “by the face” and prevented the victim from “getting away or getting his penis out of her mouth, with the purpose to engage in sexual activity with and against the will of said victim.”

The victim began to have consensual sex with Riep before she stopped and moved away from him, telling him that she “did not want to continue,” per the summary statement of facts in a Franklin County Municipal Court affidavit in support of probable cause. Wint then entered the room, and Riep asked if he could join before forcing her to have non-consensual sex, per the affidavit. Riep then held her in place while Wint forced oral sex on the victim, according to the summary statement of facts.

The Ohio State football program initially suspended the defensive backs. A day after arrest warrants were issued, the Buckeyes dismissed both players.

Riep (pictured) and Wint, who, through their attornies, have maintained their innocence, will be arraigned March 6.

Riep, a cornerback, appeared in 37 games during his time in the Ohio State football program. Wint, a safety, saw action in 35 games. Both players would’ve been entering their senior seasons with the Buckeyes.

Colorado confirms hiring of Karl Dorrell as head coach

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Courtesy of Colorado football, we officially have the most unexpected hiring of the 2019-20 coaching carousel.

To the surprise of most of the free world, word began to circulate Saturday that Karl Dorrell was the front-runner to replace Mel Tucker as the Colorado football head coach.  Sunday evening, the Buffaloes confirmed that Dorrell has indeed been named as the 27th full-time head coach in the program’s history.

The hiring serves as a reunion of sorts as Dorrell has twice spent time on staffs at Colorado football.  From 1995-98, Dorrell was CU’s offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.  Prior to that, he was the Buffs’ receivers coach in  1992-93.

“I’m excited to be back, it’s like coming home,” the new Colorado football head coach said in a statement. “The thing that excited me about this job is that my experience in the past here for the most part has been very successful. We had a lot of good teams, went to a lot of good bowl games. It’s a top-caliber program that has a lot of potential, and I’m excited to return it to that level.”

After being fired as the coordinator at Vanderbilt in December of 2014, Dorrell has spent the past five seasons in the NFL.  The California native was the receivers coach for the New York Jets from 2015-18.  This past season, he served in that same role with the Miami Dolphins.  He also held the title of assistant head coach with that organization.

Dorrell was also the head coach at UCLA for five seasons (2003-07).  He won either six or seven games in four of those five years.  The lone exception was a 10-win campaign in 2005.

Overall, he went 35-27 with the Bruins overall and 24-18 in Pac-12 play.

“I am excited that Karl Dorrell has agreed to become our head football coach,” athletic director Rick George said in his statement. “Karl has had great success as a college coach, both as a head coach and an assistant, and he knows the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast well. It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously. Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.”

According to the school, Dorell, upon approval of the university’s Board of Regents, will sign a five-year contract worth “$18 million, in which the first-year salary would be $3.2 million and then increase by $200,000 annually.” In his final season in Boulder, Tucker was paid $2.4 million in guaranteed compensation.

By moving to Michigan State, Tucker more than doubled what he would’ve made as the Colorado football head coach in 2020.

NC State lands Penn State grad transfer DL Daniel Joseph

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The Wolfpack at NC State has grown by one.

In a tweet posted on Sunday, defensive end Daniel Joseph confirmed he would be transferring to Raleigh for the 2020 season. He’ll be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

Once upon a time a four-star recruit out of Illinois, Joseph announced he was leaving Penn State back in late January. He made it into 33 games for the Nittany Lions, mostly as a backup. All told he’ll leave Happy Valley with a grand total of 29 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery over three seasons.

While playing time likely was a big motivator, position coach Sean Spencer leaving for the NFL may also have contributed to the decision to head south.

Still, NC State landed a nice reinforcement in the trenches. The team struggled up front last season and have to hope some re-tooling will help going into 2020. Coastal Carolina DE transfer Jeffrey Gunter was expected to play a big role but he has found himself back in the transfer portal. It seems Joseph could be potentially taking his place.

Either way, the move comes just in the nick of time for Dave Doeren and company. The program starts spring practice on February 27.