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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…

Iowa State QB Re-al Mitchell latest to enter name into transfer portal

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The portal has claimed another name and Iowa State’s quarterback depth will suffer as a result.

Cyclones signal-caller Re-al Mitchell became the latest enter the NCAA Transfer Database this week and confirmed on social media that he was leaving Ames for another opportunity elsewhere.

The move is fairly unsurprising given that Mitchell arrived on campus in the same recruiting class as current starter Brock Purdy. With a pathway to significant playing time blocked by one of the best young QB’s in the sport, a ticket out of town seemed like it was coming sooner or later for the team’s No. 2 on the depth chart.

A dual-threat known for his speed, Mitchell was originally ranked as a three-star prospect coming out of high school who picked ISU over Arizona, Illinois, Kansas State, South Carolina and others. He wound up playing in six games under Matt Campbell over two seasons and threw for an even 100 yards and one touchdown.

A Southern California native, it’s possible a move back West could be in the cards for Mitchell. He appears to be insistent on playing under center but did see spot duty as a wide receiver during his stint in Ames.

Following the departure of Mitchell, Campbell will quite a bit of youth behind Purdy on the team’s depth chart. Freshman Aidan Bouman enrolled early for spring practice while fellow Class of 2020 QB and four-star recruit Hunter Dekkers will arrive later as they battle it out for backup reps. Iowa State opens the season at home against FCS South Dakota before heading to Kinnick Stadium to take on rival Iowa in Week 2.

Texas LB Ayodele Adeoye to miss spring practice with foot injury

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New Texas coordinator Chris Ash’s task at turning around the team’s defense got a tad bit harder on Saturday.

According to a release from the school, linebacker Ayodele Adeoye suffered a foot injury and will undergo surgery to correct it. While he is expected to be back in time for summer workouts, the upcoming trip under the knife will knock him out for all of spring practice in Austin.

Adeoye was a top recruit out of high school in 2018 but played in just four games and redshirted his first year on the Forty Acres. He turned into a regular starter (nine games) last season however and was fifth on the team in tackles (45) while recording an interception and 2.5 sacks.

With the redshirt sophomore out, the Longhorns depth this spring as they re-tool under Ash will certainly be tested. Fellow rising sophomore David Gbenda likely will take on an increased role based on the depth chart — though he might have to earn his way back after being sent home from UT’s Alamo Bowl win over Utah due to a violation of team rules.

Texas opens the 2020 season at home against USF and new head coach Jeff Scott before heading to Baton Rouge for a must-see game against reigning national champion LSU in Week 2.

Miami DL Scott Patchan enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has giveth for Miami football and it’s taken away.

Less than a week after Hurricanes got a big pickup in the form of Temple grad transfer DL Quincy Roche, the program learned that veteran defensive end Scott Patchan had entered his name into the transfer portal via an announcement on social media:

Patchan started six games last season and played in all 13 for Miami in 2019. He recorded 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks while in the lineup but ultimately took a back seat to star pass rusher Greg Rousseau and a host of others.

The loss of Patchan certainly hurts the depth head coach Manny Diaz has to play with but is by no means a killer given what will return in 2020 along the line. In addition to Rousseau (coming off a 15.5 sack campaign) and former AAC Defensive Player of the Year Roche, rising sophomore Jahfari Harvey saw action and former five-star Jaelan Phillips will be eligible after transferring from UCLA.

Patchan, who received a waiver from the NCAA for a sixth-year after injuries hampered his career, will be immediately eligible for his new school.

Miami opens the 2020 season with a game against Temple as part of a three-game homestand against Group of Five opponents before traveling to Michigan State for a big non-conference test.

Buyouts and Chip Kelly’s grocery bill lands UCLA with $18.9 million deficit in 2019

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A difficult year for UCLA on the football field was just as difficult on the balance sheet.

According to details obtained by the San Jose Mercury News, the Bruins reported a shocking $18.9 million deficit for the recent 2018-19 fiscal year. This was the result of $108.4 million in revenue and $127.3 million in outgoing expenses.

“A confluence of events over the past two years led us to this point,” AD Dan Guerrero said in a statement to the paper, “and while it is unusual for us, we expect this shortfall can be mitigated.

“The investments made into our football and men’s basketball programs will pay off, ticket sales will normalize and one-time expenses will be paid.”

Those investments included a nearly 30 percent increase in the football program’s funding since the hire of Chip Kelly in late 2017. While former head coach Jim Mora’s buyout (nearly $12.5 million) was recorded in the previous year’s budget, the effects of it naturally carried over and created an even tricker situation when basketball coach Steve Alford’s buyout was thrown in for 2019.

In addition to buyouts, the grocery bill seemed to play a pretty big factor in the deficit as well. While this doesn’t appear to just be the case of switching from Albertsons to Whole Foods, under Kelly the program’s budget for nutrition ballooned from just a shade under $1 million to nearly $5.4 million last year. Add in decreased ticket sales in football (down $3.5 million from projections) after a disappointing year and increased costs from other places in the department and you can see how UCLA quickly went from being in the black into the red.

Needless to say, that puts even more pressure on Kelly and company to help turn things around in 2020. Things in Westwood haven’t been rosy in some time in the major revenue-producing sports and it seems it’s finally caught up to the folks in powder blue.