Tag Archives: Power 5

The Group of 5 Does Not Need its Own College Football Playoff

The debate that has been raging since the inception of the College Football Playoff is whether or not four teams are enough. Some say that four teams are enough. Others say, “not so fast,” we need more than four participants. And there is yet a third opinionated group of voices that tells us that a playoff isn’t needed regardless of the number of teams participating.

And now there is a fourth voice in the argument and its proposal would be the most disruptive of all. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier is leading the charge for the Group of 5 to have its own college football playoff.

Schools that compete in the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences feel like they’re living on the Island of Misfit Toys. The reason that these conferences feel this way is justified, but it’s also not unfair.

Even when schools like Houston and Western Michigan have magical years, they don’t get into the playoff. Houston proved with its 2015 Peach Bowl victory over Florida State that it could not only compete with but beat a Power 5 school. The Cougars followed that up with a 2016 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. Then, as the season progressed, things went down hill for Houston.

As Tom Herman led the Cougars into the October 8 game against Navy, Houston was sitting at 5-0. That unblemished record was highlighted with the win over the Sooners. The team had positioned itself well for playoff consideration. And then Houston lost to Navy. But that wasn’t Houston’s only loss. The Cougars then lost to SMU and Memphis. Game over. Playoff consideration was off the table and rightfully so.

But being shunned by the playoff committee was not the fault of the playoff committee. It was Houston’s fault. Houston took care of Oklahoma but then couldn’t take care of its AAC business. Too bad. Go back to the Island of Misfit Toys.

Having a separate playoff for the Group of 5 will not solve this problem because there isn’t a problem to be solved. All that this proposed second tier playoff will do is create a larger divide between the Group of 5 and Power 5 schools. The perceived difference in quality will grow at an exponential rate.

Frazier believes that the current playoff system is designed to crown a Power 5 champion. He believes that the Group of 5 is being held down and left out at a systemic level. Frazier wants us all to ignore the fact that the highest-ranked Group of 5 team is guaranteed a spot in one of the New Year’s 6 bowls. That isn’t the definition of being left out. That isn’t being confined to the Island of Misfit toys no matter what your teams do.

Western Michigan is the 2016 version of the 2015 Houston program. P.J. Fleck and his Broncos rowed the boat all the way to a 13-0 season. The reward is a trip to the Cotton Bowl where the opponent will be the Wisconsin Badgers. Western Michigan had a great season, but don’t be fooled, all 13-0 seasons are not created equal. The Broncos, much to Frazier’s assumed chagrin, do not belong in the playoff. Western Michigan didn’t have its “rightful” spot in the playoff stolen.

P.J. Fleck did go undefeated against the Big Ten this season, but those wins came against a 7-6 Northwestern team and a 3-9 Illinois team. Nope. Sorry/not sorry. The Broncos don’t belong in the playoff. And to be honest, the Broncos are lucky to be in the Cotton Bowl. Thank goodness for negotiated contractual clauses.

2017 has the potential to be an interesting year in terms of playoff consideration if, and only if, Western Michigan can upset Wisconsin. If Western Michigan can manage to do that, it will surely start 2017 off with a high preseason ranking. Package that potential ranking with road games against Southern Cal and Michigan State and the Broncos could be in consideration for the 2017 playoff. But even if the Broncos knock-off Wisconsin, Southern Cal and Michigan State, Fleck will still have to go undefeated in the Mid-American Conference. Sound easy? Just ask Houston about beating schools from the Power 5 only to screw it all up by struggling against its Group of 5 competition.

The Group of 5 is what it is. It’s a collection of good, but not great football programs. There are teams like Houston and Western Michigan that have the potential to be in the same conversation as the Power 5 schools, but teams like the Cougars and Broncos have to build up to a playoff run over the course of multiple seasons. Unlike a Power 5 school, it can’t be done during a single season. Creating a Group of 5 playoff won’t solve this non-problem. If anything, it will be perceived as the Group of 5 creating its own participation trophy.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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I’m Your College Football Commissioner

Recently, more and more people have been stating their case for or against implementing a college football commissioner.  The debate about the need for a commissioner is far from over and I’m not here to end it.

There are plenty who say we should not have a commissioner, that it wouldn’t solve anything.  They’re just no fun.  Some have proposed possible candidates to fill the position.  Well, if none of those distinguished gentlemen are going to step up then I will.  I’m going to work under the assumption that we do have a commish and it’s me.

Before I really get started, I want to make it clear that my position is in no way associated with the sham of an organization that is the National Collegiate Athletics Association.  I am the College Football Commissioner and I will not answer to the NCAA.  It will answer to me, as will its member colleges and universities.

That’s important to note because a lot of what I’m going to propose here will not be popular in those circles.  Frankly, I don’t give a damn.  It is past time the NCAA and its member schools make some sacrifices for the benefit of others.

I’m looking long-term here.  Those who are strictly after more money immediately can’t see that far down the road.  Here are your binoculars.

Joel Klatt’s Issues

Over the summer, Fox college football analyst Joel Klatt launched into his elevator speech highlighting the reasons why college football needs a commissioner.

Scheduling – This is an easy one.  Scheduling consistency is a necessity in the Playoff era.  Constantly comparing and contrasting the value of wins undermines the Playoff by questioning the strength of the selected teams.  Put everyone on a more level playing field and enhance the debate in the process.

Staff size – Klatt doesn’t like the way Nick Saban stashes coaches on his staff by calling them “analysts.”  It got him fired up enough to make another appeal in favor of installing a commish.  To a degree, Klatt is right about this.  It is unfair for the big boys to gobble up the best coaches just because there are virtually no restrictions on how many employees a program can have.

Player conduct – Right now, player discipline decisions are made by the head coaches themselves.  If that’s not a conflict of interest then they need to redefine what that phrase means.  Again, this is an easy fix.

Recruiting rules – This past summer, Jim Harbaugh showed us that the recruiting trail really is the Wild West.  It’s hard to regulate because so much of it occurs in the shadows.  I would appoint a Director of Recruiting to establish and enforce guidelines that prevent the big programs from abusing their power without preventing coaches from separating themselves from others.

“Fumbled” satellite camp vote – When it becomes painfully obvious that the conferences are voting not necessarily in their own best interests, but to harm the others, it’s time to switch things up.  The satellite camp debate that raged throughout the summer was an eye-opener indeed.  Let’s get some rules agreed upon and take the enforcement of them out of the hands of each self-serving conference.

Transfer rules – Sometimes, kids decide they want to go to a different school.  They shouldn’t be punished for that.

“Checkered past” transfers – Klatt mentions “checkered past” transfers, in obvious reference to what went on at that Baptist school in Waco, Texas.  Generally, these are not good human beings, but they’ve got skill so coaches are willing to take the chance.  In this situation, we need to raise the stakes for coaches and schools so they’re not endangering campuses by bringing in convicts.

Graduate transfers – These are college football’s free agents and I’m a huge fan.  If anything, we should be making it easier for guys to take full advantage of their eligibility while pursuing an even higher degree.

Officiating – Klatt is totally right about this.  Get all the officials under one umbrella so that everyone’s on the same page.  That way we won’t have to listen to fans whine and complain about an opposing conference’s officials playing favorites.  It’s a ridiculous notion and it’s easily fixed by unifying all the men and women in stripes.

Klatt says we need an adult in the room.  I totally agree with him there.  Here’s what the adult in the room has decided:

Problems Solved

Each Power 5 team will play at least two other Power 5 teams – one at home, one on the road – by the end of Week 3.  Each Power 5 team will play at least one Group of 5 team – on the road at least once every four years – before the end of Week 3.  These three games will compose the non-conference portion of the schedules

In Week 4, conference play starts, continuing through Week 13.  Each team will play nine conference games and get a bye week at some point during the conference schedule.  Week 14 is reserved for the conference championship games, which are now mandatory.

All football programs may only have a certain number of employees.  This includes coaches, trainers, “analysts,” everybody.  I won’t get too specific here.  How could I even hazard a worthwhile guess at such a number?  I’ll let my Compliance Director handle it.

All player conduct issues will be handled by the Commissioner’s office.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Roger Goodell and start making these decisions on my own.  As you see, I’ve got many other things to do.  I’ll hire someone to review cases and suspend players as they see fit.  You can think of them as the Dean of Discipline.  No prior punishment will come into consideration as precedent.  We’re starting over.

We will have no more verbal commitments from recruits.  It’s unnecessary and it gets confusing when a guy decides he doesn’t want to go to that school after all.  We can all wait until national signing day.  I’ll save the countless intricacies that go into this process for my Director of Recruiting.

Satellite camps are not only legal, they are encouraged.  If you can spare however many of your allotted employees then you can take your show anywhere on the road your please.  We will establish guidelines before spring recruiting picks up.  There will be strict parameters as to how many employees a program can send.  All camps must be made open for all other schools to send representation.

There are only a couple transfer rules that I will concern myself with.  The first is the rule we all know.  When a player transfers schools they must sit out a season before playing at their new school.  Yeah, that’s gone.  I’ll let you transfer and play immediately, but you can only do it once while you’re still taking undergrad classes.  Once you graduate, you may transfer again, if you’d like.

As for the guys Klatt refers to as “checkered past” individuals, like I mentioned earlier, the stakes need to be higher for the coaches and schools bringing these guys in.  You want to take a chance that’s fine, but you will be fined if that chance you took turns out to be a bad one.  Taking money away is the most effective way I know to keep people in line.  Financial sanctions will dictate more careful decision making and I’ll bet we see a drastic dip in these “checkered past” transfers causing more problems.

All officials will be trained, employed, and monitored by the Officiating Director.  Repeated poor performance will be punished with demotions to lower profile games.  At some point though, fans are going to have to realize the refs do not have it out for their team.

Now I can get into the exciting part.  The College Football Playoff is now expanded to eight teams.  Each Power 5 conference champion will automatically qualify.  The committee will select at least one team from a Group of 5 conference, as well.  The final two spots are completely at-large.

So, does the committee go with a conference championship game loser, another small conference champ, or a runner-up from a tough division?  I don’t know, but as Commissioner, I’m intent on finding out.

The opening round quarterfinal games will be played on college campuses, with the higher-seeded team hosting.  This is one of the few things that the schools might actually like to hear.  Imagine a Playoff game at any one of the dozens of iconic college football venues.  Unlike most of what I’ve said here, this is not a hard sell.

Now Accepting Applications

As your new College Football Commissioner, I would like to officially offer you a chance to apply for employment in our office.  We’re going to take college football into a new era and we’d love to have your help in doing it.  Join now because what I say goes and it’s going to be fun.

E-mail Mitch at mitch.gatzke@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke

Photo: Flickr user Elvert Barnes

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Realigning into 16-Team Power Conferences

So much has been said about conference realignment in the last few years that we’ve become numb to it.  We recognize that the motive behind all of it is money, and that, understandably, turns many of us off to the whole idea.

I haven’t seen anybody try to turn this sensitive issue into something fun though.  Obviously, this is a complicated case with a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous.  We don’t need to get into all of that.  It’s been done before.  It’ll be done again.  So, forget all that and proceed with an open mind.

Let’s just stuff 16 teams into each of the Power 5 conferences and see what that looks like.

First of all, logistically speaking, adding teams gives us an opportunity to level the playing field a bit.  16-team conferences break down nicely into four divisions of four and that allows me to mandate schedule changes.

Every team will play 12 games in a regular season, three non-conference contests against other Power 5 teams and nine within the conference.  Teams will play their three divisional foes every season.  They’ll also annually rotate playing one entire division within their conference.  This leaves two more games, filled by one team from each of the remaining divisions in the conference.  Those, too, will rotate yearly.

From there, division winners will be pitted against each other in a two-week long playoff to determine a conference champion.  The five conference champs will receive automatic bids to the College Football Playoff with three more bids going to the most deserving at-large teams.  Oh yeah, we’re expanding the Playoff too, but that’s another column for a different time.

Enough introduction, let’s realign.

ACC

We’ll start out with the easy one.  The Atlantic Coast Conference already has 14 teams and it’s a basketball league anyway.  It shouldn’t be hard to add two schools that’ll make the East Coasters happy.

Additions: Memphis and Temple

The Tigers and the Owls both had surprisingly solid seasons in the American Athletic Conference in 2015.  Timing might have a lot to do with this but it seems like they’d be the best fits for right now.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

Clemson                    Florida State            Louisville                    Boston College

North Carolina         Miami                       Virginia Tech              Pittsburgh

NC State                    Georgia Tech            Virginia                       Syracuse

Wake Forest              Duke                          Memphis                     Temple

The problem with the ACC is there aren’t many schools you know you can count on to field a solid football team every year.  That made splitting them up evenly a bit more challenging and I think these combinations are as fair as you’re going to get.

To clarify the schedule reconstruction from earlier, let’s use Clemson as an example.  The Tigers would play UNC, NC State and Wake Forest every year going forward.  In 2016, they’d play every team in “Div. 2” and one team from “Div. 3” and “Div. 4”.  I think that shakes out to be a much better schedule than anything we see under the current system.

Of course, you’d rotate home and away to prevent Clemson from rarely leaving Death Valley, but breaking all that down would be delving into details that are not the aim of this column.  Again, we can do that some other time.

Big 12

Yee-haw!  Here’s where the real fun is to be had.  The Big 12 needs six teams to get itself up to code.  There’s been a whole lot of talk coming out of the Wild West, but it seems everyone is too afraid to pull the trigger on any real moves.  Let’s make it easy for them.

Additions: Houston, Cincinnati, BYU, Boise State, Arkansas State, North Dakota State

With so many spots to fill, this was the toughest conference to add to.  Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and Boise State all belong in the Big 12 for real and I figured why not throw in Arkansas State and FCS-powerhouse North Dakota State for fun.  All of these teams would run the Kansas Jayhawks out of the building so I’m not worried about having to dig a deeper basement.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                         Div. 3                          Div. 4

Oklahoma                  Texas                        Houston                    West Virginia

Oklahoma State        Baylor                      Boise State                Iowa State

Kansas State              TCU                         BYU                             Cincinnati

Kansas                        Texas Tech            North Dakota State   Arkansas State

Look, I know this isn’t perfect, but like the ACC, the Big 12 isn’t giving me much to work with.  It’s a conference dominated by its haves and embarrassed of its have nots.  I’ve almost made it into a coast-to-coast league by adding Boise State (that’s a long way from Morgantown, West Virginia) but the conference itself didn’t seem too bothered by that when it added the Mountaineers in the first place.

I tried to keep as many rivalries alive as I could without severely crippling any one of the divisions.  Who knows what to expect from “Div. 3” with all newcomers, or “Div. 4” with West Virginia at the top.  There’s a lot going on in the Big 12 and frankly, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it on a regular basis.  Sorry, Courtney McCrary.

Big Ten

Welcome to Big Ten country, where football is just better.  Sure, we’ve recently added a couple ridiculous East Coast members in Maryland and Rutgers, but they do serve nicely as automatic wins for our real teams.  Just two additions needed here.

Additions: Notre Dame and Ohio

Now that I know I’ve scared away all the Golden Domers, I can just come right out and say that it’s utterly ridiculous for Notre Dame to be playing half of an ACC schedule.  The Irish belong in the Big Ten.  We all know it.  They all know it.  The only reason they’re not, you guessed it: money.

Also, welcome the Ohio Bobcats whose campus is absolutely beautiful (and great fun on Saturday nights).  Maybe now people will realize there is, after all, another school besides THE one in Columbus.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

Ohio State                Michigan                    Nortre Dame            Wisconsin

Penn State                Michigan State         Iowa                            Minnesota

Maryland                  Indiana                      Northwestern            Nebraska

Ohio                           Rutgers                       Purdue                        Illinois

Truthfully, I would love to boot Maryland and Rutgers, make them go play in the ACC and add a couple more MAC schools.  Northern Illinois, Toledo, Central and Western Michigan would all suffice, but for the purpose of this column I’m simply working with what’s already there.

Notre Dame gets to play schools it can start, or continue, a legitimate rivalry with.  They’ll have to play those fake rivalries they’ve got on both coasts on their own time.  The Buckeyes will have to play the Bobcats every year because I know that scares them.  As far as “The Game” is concerned, like our own Damien Bowman says, Michigan vs. Ohio State would be an even bigger game if it wasn’t played annually.

SEC

I know I angered many of you from the Southland with that wise crack about football being better up north.  We all know where the best football is played.  It’s just that people are tired of hearing about it.  The best conference in college football also needs just two teams to fill itself out.

Additions: Western Kentucky and Southern Mississippi

You’re the best, right?  Well, then you shouldn’t need any more help proving it.  Take these two C-USA teams (last year’s division winners), and consider them replacements for those mid-season walk-throughs y’all like to schedule against FCS schools.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

Alabama                    Florida                       LSU                             Ole Miss

Auburn                      Georgia                      Arkansas                     Tennessee

Texas A&M               Kentucky                    Missouri                     Mississippi State

South Carolina        Western Kentucky    Vanderbilt                  Southern Mississippi

There are so many rivalries down south it’s impossible to keep them all intact.  This divisional split preserves many of the big games while setting up some intriguing new ones.  This shakeup seems perfect to me, particularly for this coming season, but I’m sure some of you have one or two issues with it.  I’m curious what our SEC guys (and gals), Bird LeCroy, Seth Merenbloom and Kristen Botica, think about this.

Pac-12

Fifth and finally, that wacky conference out west that loves to put up points.  Unfortunately, picking last and being on the West Coast severely limits the options here.  With four spots to fill, this is going to be a tough one.

Additions: Utah State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Nevada

Basically, the Pac-12 absorbed the best available teams from the Mountain West and banished the rest of them to whatever level we’re setting up underneath the Power 5.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

USC                            Stanford                    Oregon                         Utah

Arizona                      UCLA                         Washington                Colorado

Arizona State            California                  Washington State      Colorado State

San Diego State       Nevada                      Oregon State               Utah State

Dividing this group of teams was even more difficult than finding which ones to add to it.  I wanted to keep USC and UCLA together, but doing so makes all the other divisions look much less formidable.  The door does seem wide open for Oregon and Utah in this setup.  I tried to put the Ducks and the Utes together but, again, the repercussions make things worse than they stand now.  What say you, Mike Wilson?

Reminder

Sports are supposed to be fun.  If they’re not, then what’s the point?  And while I understand this is a serious topic with a lot of money involved, I have a hard time taking it seriously since all anyone wants to do is talk.  Until something real happens, I’ll just keep serving up far-fetched proposals to stir the conversational pot.

I hope you enjoyed reading and I look forward to many of you telling me what I already know, why this won’t work, in the comments section below and on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Bobby Hurley Era Begins at Arizona State

The Bobby Hurley era at Arizona State has begun and it is apparent that there is plenty of work to be done before the program is challenging anybody for the conference title. The Sun Devils lost their home opener on Friday night to Sacramento State 66-63 at Wells Fargo Arena.

Whenever a new coach comes onto the scene for a school there is always a buzz with the program, but when the coach has some name recognition like Bobby Hurley there is something a little extra in the air with fans, players, and coaches.

When Hurley was hired in the off-season it was seen as a move to jump start a program that had been stuck in mediocrity and wasn’t making any inroads to challenge their rival to the south, the Arizona Wildcats, who is a national brand in terms of basketball. Those of us who follow college basketball know the past of Bobby Hurley. The competitive former Duke Blue Devil, who led them to a couple national championships, and basically was a thorn in the side of many teams and their fans.

Hurley not only comes with his Blue Devil pedigree, but he had some good success at the University of Buffalo. Buffalo? Yeah, Buffalo. He was named the head coach at Buffalo in 2013 and immediately made an impact on the program. He guided them to a MAC East Division crown and let people know he could coach. In 2014 he built upon that by guiding Buffalo to their first MAC Championship and their first trip to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With that success he became a hot commodity in college basketball and Arizona State was looking for a new coach, after firing long time coach Herb Sendak. Coach Hurley took the challenge of leading and resurrecting the men’s basketball program at ASU.

What kind of team does Hurley have at Arizona State? Well, he has a bunch a guys that are slender, long, and fairly young. Most of the players range from 6’4”-6’7”, with the only player bigger than that being Eric Jacobsen at 6’10”. The experience factor is really there for his players and that is going to create some issues for Hurley to keep the excitement around the program and to get the players he is going to want to have at Arizona State.

The issues at Arizona State that Bobby Hurley faces are big. A program that hasn’t done anything for years, facilities that are not the greatest, and when you put those two things together, you get a fan base that is luke warm at best. The Sun Devils play in front of a half empty arena every game and that has not gone unnoticed by recruits who want to come to ASU, but want to feel like they are supported by the community. It’s a challenge for the Sun Devils that the only remedy is going to be winning and with the current assembled team that is going to be a tough thing to accomplish.

After his first game on Friday night in which his new Sun Devil team lost 66-63 to an upstart Sacramento State team, it is obvious that there is much work to be done before the Sun Devils will be challenging for anything in the Pac-12.

Even though this is a Power 5 program for Hurley, he has the incredible task of molding the young players that he has and somehow getting them to play bigger than they are. As I stated earlier, they are not incredibly big with only one player over 6’7”, so they are going to have to play some very fundamentally sound basketball. That means, blocking out, using some of their athleticism to get to rim and not letting bigger teams set their defense. If defenses are set when Sun Devils go on offense, I’m not so sure they will be able to win with their outside shooting. Their shooting looked sketchy at best against Sacramento State and with a full tilt of Pac-12 competition coming that does not bode well for them.

For the 2015 season Hurley is going to have to get a couple of good wins to keep the excitement level with the fans going and to keep them coming to Wells Fargo Arena. I see a bottom half of the Pac-12 finish, no NCAA appearance, and major reconstruction of a program happening. It just may be a few years until Hurley gets things turned around. He doesn’t have “that guy” that he can go to in a crunch time situation yet. Can he get those guys to come to Tempe? We just have to wait to find out.

Pac-12 Notebook: Ducks, Utes, Bruins, and Wildcats Tangle in Week 4

Week four of the season is finally here and we all know what that means for us college football fans. Just in case you live underneath a rock or you simply don’t pay attention to this type of stuff, it means that conference play is starting. The Pac-12 will be in full force this weekend with plenty of huge games right out of the gate. These matchups create a lot of buzz for the fans, but behind it all are some issues that these teams must correct or their once hopeful season goes right down the proverbial toilet. Let’s take a look at some of these problems with these teams.

UCLA

If I had to choose a team that could make the college football playoff from the Pac-12 it just may be UCLA, but there are concerns in Westwood. How will “The Chosen” Rosen, Josh Rosen, do against Pac-12 competition? He struggled mightily in the Bruins game with BYU by throwing three interceptions in the first half. Lucky for him, running back Paul Perkins decided to put the team on his back and run for a personal best 219 yards on the ground. Does Josh Rosen play a better game against Arizona? What adjustments do the coaches make to help Rosen? We shall see. The one thing to keep in mind is that Josh Rosen, no matter how fantastic he may be, is still a freshman college football player. He’s going to make mistakes. He could be the next big thing, but he isn’t there just yet. There is a ton that Rosen needs to learn to take it to the next level of play.

Can Paul Perkins become that running back that everybody remembers? He is a household name in Los Angeles but now he needs to become more known a national basis. He is certainly worth any mention he gets. He is a top five running back in the Pac-12 Conference. If Perkins can continue to destroy the opponent’s defenses he will make life for his quarterback much easier and make things for the entire offense much easier. Will he be keyed on by Arizona this weekend? Absolutely. Watch Paul Perkins this weekend and as he goes, so go the UCLA Bruins.

Arizona

My two concerns with the Arizona Wildcats are these: Will the weak competition they have played in their non-conference schedule hurt them against UCLA this weekend? Will the injuries that they have been nursing catch up with them against the stiffer competition?

Remember, Scooby Wright is still out with a knee injury that he suffered in week one. We all know that Wright is a big part of their defensive schemes, so having him out for the Bruin game is a major loss if he can’t take the field. The word around Tucson is that Scooby will be testing the knee in practice and that he may be back for this weekend’s game. I would be surprised if he was back for the game because a knee injury is a tricky thing to make a full recovery from in just a few weeks. If he isn’t 100% he could risk damaging the knee again and making the injury worse. It’ll be interesting to see how this injury saga with Wright plays out before Saturday.

The competition that they have played in the non-conference has not been stellar to say the least. They started off with Texas-San Antonio, then the Nevada Wolfpack, and finished up last week with Northern Arizona. These are not teams that strike fear into the hearts of a big Power 5 team and they certainly don’t get you ready for the tough play of the Pac-12 Conference. UCLA will be bigger, stronger, and faster than anything the Wildcats have faced so far. Can they adjust to that? They scored 77 points in their win over Northern Arizona last week and things came easy for them. What happens when things don’t come as easy for them this week? If they struggle to score points, how do they react?

If Arizona starts slow it just may be because of the step up in competition and getting used to having an opponent who can match your speed and athletic ability.

Oregon

The question on everybody’s mind with the Ducks is whether or not graduate transfer Vernon Adams will be healthy enough to play against Utah. Adams sat out last week’s game against Georgia State with a broken index finger on his throwing hand and little is known as to how healthy he is. Head coach Mark Helfrich hasn’t tipped his hand in terms of who is starting against Utah either, but he only has two choices Vernon Adams or his backup Jeff Lockie. With that said, Adams is taking a big portion of the reps in practice which would lead me to believe that he will be “the guy” on Saturday.

“He’s taking a good amount of reps in practice so far,” Helfrich said of Vernon Adams. “It’ll be right up until the end of the week before we make that call.”

I’ll make the call right now. Vernon will be the starter and that is what Utah expects as well.

“We expect Adams to be back, not a 100% positive, but that is our best guess.” Said Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham.

Utah

The Utah Utes are being very coy about their own quarterback issues in preparation for their showdown with the Oregon Ducks in Eugene this weekend. In full disclosure, Utah is my dark horse pick to win the Pac-12 South this season, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns with my pick. Going into this huge game with the Ducks, the Utes have to figure out their quarterback issue.

Travis Wilson who won the starting job during fall camp injured his shoulder last week against Utah State. Wilson was scrambling, got tackled, and ended up spraining his left shoulder. We don’t know if he is going to be healthy enough to play against the Ducks, but even with him in there I’m not really sure he is their best choice to lead the Utes.

Kendal Thompson is the backup quarterback who came in to lead the team to victory over Utah State. He brings another aspect to the office that Wilson doesn’t. Thompson is more athletic than Wilson and can extend plays. Thompson started and finished the game against Fresno State which gives him confidence that he can do the same thing against the Ducks. Plus, he played a great game.

Whoever they choose to go with on Saturday they have to be concerned about the health of either one. Thompson has been injured over the course of his career and as previously stated, Wilson would be coming off his sprained shoulder. In the rough and tumble Pac-12 where quarterbacks do get out and run around, injuries are always a concern with coaches. Right now it’s a concern in Salt Lake City.

The other concern I have for my darkhorse is this: Can they get Devontae Booker going against the Ducks? He hasn’t had the numbers like he had last year just yet. It seems like he’s off to a slower start than anticipated. We know that the Ducks will be keying on him, but it’s up to that big offensive line for the Utes to get their stud on track.

In the end, these four teams will have determined quite a bit in the Pac-12 this weekend, and even nationally. They all have legitimate questions going into conference play. As we all know, the team that makes the corrections to their issues the best is usually the one that wins the ballgame. Here’s to hoping for an exciting beginning weekend of Pac-12 Conference play!

 

 

 

 

Pac-12 Question: Raise to 14 or Stay At 12?

Change is everywhere these days and it can be a difficult thing to deal with, but in the end change is a very good thing most of the time. It helps society evolve and realize that what they were concerned with the change really wasn’t all that big of a deal. Like I said, change is good most of the time, but in the case of college football change can also ruin a good thing. Or can it? With a new season almost upon us there have been whispers of increasing the size of conferences, in particular, the Pac-12. Is this something the Conference of Champions should even consider? Let’s take a look at this idea a little more closely.

The Pac 12, known as the Pac 10 when I was a young kid, started off of as the Pac 8 when my parents and grandparents were young. Change came slow with expansion for the conference for reasons that only the leaders of the conference really know, but one can assume that it had to with getting more money for the league and making sure that they had institutions that matched their academic requirements. To expand just doesn’t mean getting the monetary benefits that come with it, but as many of you may snicker at this, they have to make sure the schools match the academics that the rest of conference has for their student-athletes and entrance into their universities.

In 2011 when the Pac 12 expanded with Utah and Colorado this was seen as a good match for the conference. The schools where in the West, close to the other schools in the conference, so travel would not be too big of an issue, academics matched up with what the Pac 12 wanted, and both schools had solid athletic programs. There had been talk of Texas and Oklahoma, maybe Oklahoma State leaving the Big 12 and coming to the Pac 12. This was seen as a grab of prestige and huge amounts of money. Getting the Longhorns, Sooners, and even the Cowboys back then would have been seen as a coup, but I was not really for it because when I think of the Pac 12 (Pac 10 then), I didn’t think of Texas, Oklahoma, or Oklahoma State. They were teams from the middle of the country, not the West Coast. Call me a traditionalist with this thought, but if you are a conference in the West or East or Mid-West, your teams should reflect that.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it with the prestige or the money aspect, but I like a conference represented by teams in the region. The money that Texas would have brought would have been immense and with the Pac 12 Network beginning back then, the worth of the conference and the Network would have gone up significantly. However, Texas wanted their own network and the Pac 12 wasn’t willing to do that with a team in the conference. The Pac 12 wanted everybody going on the same network and not somebody getting special treatment. The Sooners and Cowboys were kind of brought into the discussion because if Texas would have jumped, those two schools were seen as vulnerable and probably would have jumped with Texas to the Pac 12. In the end, it didn’t happen and I think the Pac 12 have made immense progress in increasing the visibility of the conference. The conversation especially in college football is which conference is the best. The SEC has long been considered the big dog of the Power 5 conferences because of the string of national championships, but to many the Pac 12 has made enough inroads to be considered the best or at least in the conversation of top Power 5 conference. What would push the Pac 12 over the top? For many, it’s expansion. Again.

Expanding the Pac 12 to 14 teams would be something that could push it over the top, but is it necessary at this point? I don’t think it is right now. It may not even be necessary at all because who would the conference try and get? Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or even BYU? The only teams in that mix that they would want to go after would be Texas and Oklahoma. Here’s the thing about expansion with conferences. It’s not about in-state rivalries or even the schools themselves. It’s about revenue and market share possibilities.

For fans, they want the conferences to go for schools that may have rivals within the conference, up and coming schools or even schools that have a tradition of success. However with school presidents and the Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott, it’s about money and market shares. Fans have different wants and needs than the people in charge of the Pac 12. If the fans want a tradition of success, why take Colorado and Utah? The markets for those two schools were big enough to create a viable profit for the other schools within the Pac 12. It’s about getting eyeballs on the television and if the market for that particular school is not what is going to accomplish that, there is no reason to bring that school into the conference. You don’t expand just to expand. If Larry Scott, Pac 12 Commissioner had an idea to expand the field to 14, the university presidents would not care who the name of the school would be or how it would upgrade the talent in the Pac 12. The decision, as with anything, comes down to the almighty dollar. The split of money between the 14 teams would need to be much more than the split that the 12 teams get now to justify expanding to a 14 team conference. Right now, that won’t happen and shouldn’t happen.

In the end, expansion in the Pac 12 shouldn’t happen. There is no need for it right now, maybe in the future if things change significantly in college football, but sometimes the best change you can do in college football, is no change. The conference has become one of THE power conferences in college football and the talent with its players and coaches is obvious, so let’s just keep things the way they are because the Pac 12 brand is extremely good right now and looks like it will only get better. Back the Pac.

Pac-12 vs SEC: The Ongoing Debate

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West Coast against the South or is it the other way around? Is this even a question to fans in the South? Somebody is as good as the SEC? Could it be that the mighty SEC not be as good as they once where? That real possibility exists these days in major college football and the debate is sometimes contentious, sometimes fun, but it is certainly entertaining.

To put it mildly, this is a debate that has become a big part of the college football conversation. What has happened to cause this? Well, the Pac-12 has become a power in college football. The coaching has become much better, they are paying their coaches as well as any other conference, and that means they are paying their coaches like the SEC does. When you can attract top notch coaches to your conference you can attract top notch talent, and that is exactly what has happened.  However, let’s take a look at the numbers and see how they compare.

After the 2014 season, including the bowl season it was obvious to everybody which conference played the best and maybe made the statement as to who is the top Power 5 Conference in the country. The bowl season was great to the Pac-12. They finished the post season 6-3, while the mighty SEC finished a very disappointing 2-5 in the bowls, including 0-4 in the New Year’s Six bowl games. If people want to talk about match ups, whatever, because if you are THAT good as a conference you beat anybody that lines up across from you. Not only did the Pac-12 have the better record than the SEC, they scored eight more points per game than there opposition during the bowls. Oregon, Stanford, and Utah won their games by 24 points. Arizona State, USC, and UCLA won close games. With the final polls, the Pac-12 finished with six teams ranked in the top 25.

In college football, and football in general if you have a quarterback that is steady, consistent and can make plays, you can win more often than not. In the Pac-12 they have had the benefit of having some phenomenal quarterbacks. However, that should not come as a surprise because if you compare the style of play in each conference, quarterbacks are going to thrive more in the wide open style on the West Coast.  Quarterbacks like Sean Mannion, Marcus Mariota, Andrew Luck, Brett Hundley, Mike Bercovici, Anu Solomon, Cody Kessler, Connor Halliday, and Kevin Hogan are just a few that have been taking snaps for Pac-12 teams the past few years. When you have that much talent just at one position you put your conference in a spot where they are going to win a ton of games and bring the profile up of the conference. These quarterbacks have done just that for the Pac-12. It’s a quarterbacks league out here in the West and high school talent has recognized that.

This argument between the fans of both conferences is entertaining to listen to, but me being a West Coast guy and recognizing that the SEC is a conference of teams to be reckoned with it’s a discussion that will continue to heat up as the Pac-12 continues to show that they are worthy of it. I simply believe that from top to bottom the Pac-12 is the best conference. You have Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Utah, Oregon, Stanford, Washington, and don’t sleep on California this year either that can line up against any of those SEC teams and either beat them or give them all they can handle. The SEC just doesn’t show up anymore and intimidate teams. Ask Alabama about Ohio State or Auburn about Wisconsin. You may get some interesting thoughts there from the coaches, players, and fans.

How can we settle this argument once and for all? The obvious answer is by playing each other more often than what the norm as been. Traveling west of Texas for a lot of the SEC is not something that they do to many times. The last time an SEC team came out West was 2013 when Tennessee visited Oregon. However, things are starting to change this year as Arizona State travels to Texas A&M, but compelling match ups are coming in the years to follow. Alabama/USC, LSU/UCLA, Arizona/Mississippi State, LSU/Arizona State, UCLA/LSU, and Georgia/UCLA are coming down the pipeline for college football fans.

I will say this. Some of these match ups don’t happen for 5-8 years which is a crying shame, but it certainly gives us something to talk about in the years to come. I’ve always thought the scheduling for games shouldn’t go so far out in years. To me there is no reason for it. Go like 2-3 years out, and if something comes along that needs changing, then you can change it and get a match up that’ll bring fans to the stadium. Just a thought.  As a fan and writer of college football, I’ll talk any match up that we can get between the two conferences. Beggars can’t be choosers right? With all these match ups coming, here are a few that many fans still clamor for.

The big one would be Alabama against Oregon. These two fan bases have been “quacking” at each other for a few years now and the different style of offenses would be fun to watch. A power offense against the no huddle, spread offense.

Stanford against Auburn would be fun. Auburn has scheduled California for a future home and home, so just go down the road 45 minutes and play the Cardinal. The match up would be great to watch between David Shaw and Gus Malzahn.

Utah against Missouri would be a match up of two teams that don’t get as much credit or respect as maybe they should. Even though these two teams have had some very good success in the past few seasons, they still continue to fight for respect, so to see them battle it out would be phenomenal.

At the end of the day, what do we know? We know that both the Pac-12 and SEC are the two top conferences in the country. Are we splitting hairs trying to figure out who is the best conference? Probably, but it’s so much fun. For me, it’s the Pac-12, they have the talent on the sidelines, the talent on the field, and with their winning in the post season to show me that by a slight margin it’s the Pac-12 who should be atop the mountain in the Power 5 Conferences. Will there be disagreement with this? Yes, but that is what makes college football what it is today. Back the Pac!

Leave a comment below, e-mail Mike at mike.wilson@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter at @pigskinopinion.

Instead of Expanding Conferences, Maybe Eliminate Them Instead

I made the mistake of ignoring college football for about 45 days this year. Some call it a vacation; others call it stupidity. The ignorance wasn’t planned, but life and what we in Ohio like to call Summer – warmer temperatures, but with daily rain – got in the way. I was quickly jarred back into my college football reality when I saw words on Twitter that indicated the Big 12 was in trouble (it isn’t) and that the Pacific-12 is again considering expansion (it shouldn’t).

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: the current conference makeup in college sports is a complete cluster. Almost none of the 2010-2013 moves now make any sense. I know it’s all about money, but you can’t sell me on Missouri in the SEC or Nebraska in the Big Ten.

At the time, the moves made sense because the Big 12 was an absolute joke, and no one had the guts to tell Texas to shut up and fall in line. Don’t forget the Pac-10 wanted to be bigger and there was all this “new” television money.

Blame whomever you want for that round of realignment or deck chair re-arranging, but to put college fans through it again is stupid.

Yes, stupid.

Since I try not to be one to complain about something without a potential solution, I’ll offer one that changes the complete landscape of college football and probably collegiate sports as we know it.

Eliminate the conferences.

Yep, for football, eliminate the Power-5 conferences and construct some type of model where FBS teams are split into two divisions. After you split them into two easy divisions, — sure East and West work — roll the FBS post-season and championship back to the NCAA’s control and have the association become the central schedule maker for FBS football.

Two divisions gives you a few things that fans want to see:

  1. Traditional rivalries every year. Notre Dame/USC, Texas/Texas A&M, Ohio State/Michigan, Oklahoma/Nebraska, etc.
  2. Eliminates bad conference games. Ohio State/Nebraska, Iowa State/Any good team, Colorado/USC, etc.
  3. Eliminate conference championship games. Let’s be 100% real with each other, none of us need to see a Power-5’s conference championship game. If we really want that extra game then convert it to a regular season game.
  4. Eliminates games versus the FCS. Alabama playing Western Carolina, Oregon playing South Dakota or any of those other teams is disrespectful to college football’s most important fans: those who pay for tickets. FBS teams can play FCS teams in the spring if you really need to see Ohio State beat the pants off Youngstown State.
  5. Dynamic and yearly scheduling. College athletic directors have done a great job of selling you on how important it is to schedule games in eight years in advance. The reality is if you told Jerry Jones in February that he could have Ohio State and Notre Dame on opening weekend in September, he’d find a way to make it work. I also have faith that fans from both schools would fill AT&T Stadium with less than a year’s notice. If we can do this for playoff bowl games, we can do it for great regular season games.

I won’t pretend all these ideas are peaches and cream, and yes, some traditional – albeit terrible – rivalries won’t survive, but the truth is that college football is being held back by conferences.

The organization that already funnels significantly more money back to its member schools, the NCAA, is in a better position to manage television contracts on a national level than individual conferences. For those of you that want a 16-team playoff, this is easiest way to get there.

The association can tier television money based on a schools finishing playoff position. The champion and runner-up can have the most, positions three through eight can evenly split another pool; nine through 16 can split a smaller, third pool and everyone else can get the money back they put into participating in football.

It could work like your basketball bracket pool; Bob from accounting is terrible at picking teams, but we’ll give him his $5 back for participating.

This idea is a rough draft, but no, I don’t intend to pay student-athletes unless they’re funding their own education and athletic training, I’ll eliminate probably half the bowl games, and it’s completely fair to reduce the size of FBS by about 20-30%. I propose we only allow FBS expansion once every five years without exception, and new entrants will have to prove their worth against third-tier FBS schools in spring football games.

How crazy – or stupid – is this idea? Are you in favor of additional conference realignment? Leave a comment below or e-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com. Damien is on Twitter @damiEnbowman.

The College Quickie: NCAA Makes Right Choice, Expands College Football Bowl Season

The college football landscape is changing, again. This spring, NCAA officials certified three new bowl games to implement into next year’s postseason. With the newfound bowls, there will be 42 postseason games including the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Among the new bowl game locations are Austin, Texas, Tucson, Arizona, and Orlando, Florida. The addition of these new matchups will create six slots for teams to fill. These games will increase the total number of teams in the postseason to 82 out of 127 Division I programs. For those who like ratios, approximately 64% of NCAA Division I teams will now be allowed into the postseason. Should 64% of teams get to participate in the postseason? That seems like a lot.

The controversy between these new add-ons doesn’t come from money, but rather the idea that the modifying will never stop. Bowl games will continue being added by the NCAA in order to maximize their profit values, but what the NCAA fails to realize is that the saturation of the college football postseason could ruin the game as a whole. Will this come to a point where bowl spots are given out like trophies at a youth t-ball banquet? I sure hope not, because the most vital aspect of college football is the dichotomy between winning and losing. In college football, winning means moving on while losing could end a player’s entire career. Players’ livelihoods are at stake in college football, and taking away those high stakes would reduce the College Football wow factor. If there’s one thing we have learned from the evolution of the college football fan it’s that fans want exciting, nail-biting match-ups that mean something, not a winter full of games that have losing teams participating.

Surprisingly, I fully support this year’s changes to the bowl season. Because the three new bowls will be filled by non-power 5 conferences, I have no problem with the new postseason. If you’re outside the big conferences, teams have a moderate to slim chance of making a bowl game, much less the College Football Playoff. This is mostly due to the schedule they play, and lack of competition throughout many of the less popular leagues. But what types of teams do these non-powerhouse schools schedule? They schedule power 5 teams, which usually end in a blowout. Yeah, these small schools get floated a fairly large amount of money to play these power 5 teams, but is that really enough? The new bowl games give mid-major conferences a chance to put teams in the postseason who have had good years, but a tough record due to the amount of higher echelon teams they play during the regular season. Give the little guy a chance to make a name for himself on national TV.

Now, I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings. I am NOT in favor of expanding the bowl landscape any larger than the NCAA has already chosen to do so this year. Teams with losing records should not be allowed to participate in the postseason, no matter what conference you play in. The bar should still be set at 6-6 in order to qualify. In every sport, the postseason is a privilege to be earned by winning. I know these bowl games are mostly about the money made, but no team should be rewarded for losing games. We have sacrificed the game of football enough already. We don’t need devalue the college football postseason in the name of money or appeasement.

Deregulation and College Football

BIg12

Deregulation. Oh, no. Not that. That word gets mentioned and you can see peoples backsides get a little tighter. Anything goes, a Wild West mentality occurs, the heavens fall, it rains cats and dogs, or the SEC doesn’t win a National Championship. You know, things that JUST don’t happen in the real world. All kidding aside, there is some talk of deregulation and whether it’s a good thing or not. Let’s take a closer look at what is being discussed.

The ACC and the Big 12 Conference have submitted paperwork in the past year to change the rule of how many teams need to be in a conference to qualify it for having a championship game and they want the right to determine who gets into those championship games. The Big 12 motive is very obvious. The conference wants to have a championship game, so they don’t get left out in the cold like they did in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The playoff committee cited one of their reasons for not putting TCU into the playoff was that the Big 12 didn’t have a conference championship game. By deregulating, this would allow the Big 12 to be in the mix for the playoff regardless of how many teams they have in their conference. Which, as it currently stands, is at 10.

The curious aspect of this is the ACC. It’s easy to figure out why the Big 12 is in on this, but why the ACC? Speculation came out of this that the ACC may just go to three divisions. What? Three divisions? Why do that? To me, dividing up into three divisions doesn’t make sense. They have fourteen teams, and have Notre Dame showing loyalty to the ACC, but to think that the Irish want to lose their independent status in football would be a pipe dream in my estimation. Notre Dame joins the conference and they have 15 teams, so the thought of 3 divisions with 5 teams in them comes to mind of the ACC.

The way the ACC has operated over the course of the past decade with their championship game this doesn’t make sense to me for the conference. I know they may want control over who plays in their title game, but it’s worked out well for them. There has only been one time where the ACC hasn’t had two ranked teams playing for the ACC title. The two recent powers in the conference, Florida State and Clemson are in the same division, so that does provide for some intrigue with that division, but let’s face the facts, other than those two teams, the conference is pretty weak. Overall, the conference is considered the weakest out of the Power 5.

There is no indication that this kind of deregulation is going to occur anytime soon. The change in rules would still have to pass through the NCAA Oversight Committee and then voted on and passed by the NCAA Council.

Bob Bowlsby, Commissioner of the Big 12 thought that the ACC may use this opportunity to divide into the three divisions that were mentioned earlier. Granted, he had no other knowledge about what the ACC may do, but was purely speculating.

In a response to this speculation, ACC Commissioner, John Swofford came out and said “We haven’t had any real discussions about a three division ACC. That has never had any legs in our discussions…” Does that mean it won’t ever come up? No, absolutely not, but for the time being that kind of talk is getting any traction with the other members of the ACC. I just don’t see why going to a three team division with 14 teams would be something that they would want to do. The divisions wouldn’t have the same amount of teams and that creates an inherit disadvantage or advantage depending on what team we are talking about. Swofford did follow up his statement about not going to the expanded divisions by saying that the real reason they signed onto this change was a matter of principle. “ I think the fact that we were supporting this in principle and felt it was the right route to go, it gives people the impression that we have a specific direction we would take things in our league that’s different from what we’re currently doing. That’s just not the case.” People may think he is being a bit coy with his answer, but I don’t think he is. If the rest of the ACC Conference does not want to proceed in this manner, then why try and force something through? For right now, this is the best course of action. Once again, does this mean they won’t revisit this scenario? No, but it gives something for the rest of member universities to chew on over the course of the next few years.

There is a part of me that says suck it up Big 12, you didn’t see the issue with not having a title game and how that may play out with the playoff committee. Not very good foresight on your part. The other part says that if this is allowed it will put the Big 12 on equal footing with the rest of the Power 5 Conferences with the College Football playoff and therefore we won’t have to listen to this belly aching from Baylor fans, TCU fans, or any other Big 12 school that may be in the mix for the playoff.

If things can’t get resolved with this, then one way to help the Big 12 out would be to not take into account the other Power 5 Conferences Championship games. Leave that consideration outside the realm of discussion. Now, many people may not like that and may just say like I do “that it’s the Big 12 issue, they need to solve it, and not penalize my conference for having that extra game.” I totally get it. However, that is a legitimate argument for the Big 12 to have. Whatever is decided in the end is going to upset some people, but really, what are we after here? That answer is easy for me. The BEST four teams.

In the end, the Big 12 and the NCAA has to figure this out. Otherwise it’s going to cause some anxious moments for its fan bases, coaches, and athletic departments. I think they need to come up with a championship game, so that they are on the same level as everybody else in the Power 5. The ACC aspect isn’t going anywhere, the discussions haven’t gone anywhere, so if, in the end, this makes the Big 12 develop a plan to have a title game in some way. Then bravo to the Big 12. It just needs to happen. I want the best teams in the playoff, period. Get it done people.