Tag Archives: Big 12

Ohio State Lost and It Doesn’t Matter

The Ohio State Buckeyes were served a cold dish of revenge by Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners this past Saturday night.  The offense found the end zone just once.  The defense gave up 28 points in the second half, including 21 unanswered which turned a three-point lead into a three-score deficit.

They were bottled up by a Big 12 defense and exposed by a playmaking quarterback, at home, under the lights, in front of a national audience.  After the game, Mayfield decided to take a victory lap that ended with him planting the OU flag right in the middle of Ohio Stadium.

As a Michigan fan surrounded by Buckeye nuts at the time, I absolutely loved it.  Really though, it’s not going to end up meaning much when it comes to the playoff picture.  Sure, there will be an effect on the team.  Of course, this will go a long way in molding them for the rest of the season.  All of a sudden, the sense of urgency has skyrocketed.  It will feel like every game could be, in essence, the last one that truly matters for this program that sets its bar so high.

Things will seem much different after suffering this crushing blow.  In reality, however, this season started with that heightened sense of urgency for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.  We know what happened last year.  tOSU snuck into the final four despite not winning its conference (or even its division, for that matter).  It was the first time in the College Football Playoff’s short history that had been done.  Considering the way the Buckeyes rewarded the committee for that decision, it may very well be the last time it happens, too.

So, you come into the 2017 season, if you’re the Buckeyes, knowing that you must win your conference championship game to earn a spot in the top four.  The definition of insanity is yadda, yadda, and you can’t expect the committee to give you the same chance when you squandered it so spectacularly the last go around.  Still, win the Big Ten and you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the dance.

Here’s the thing: losing to Oklahoma, even if it was by a wide margin, in your own barn, in primetime, in front of the whole country, doesn’t do a damn thing to harm your original goal of winning the Big Ten.  In fact, I would argue that taking such a big L actually motivates, and ends up helping what is still a relatively young squad.

Ohio State fell all the way to number eight in this week’s updated AP Top 25.  That’s still well within striking distance.  Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland, and Nebraska are the competition awaiting the Buckeyes the next five weeks.  Then they have a bye week to prepare a little revenge of their own against Penn State.  Please forgive me for not worrying about where their record will stand when they welcome in the Nittany Lions on October 28.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from Saturday night’s failure.  If there’s one man who’s going to teach his players how to correct their mistakes, it’s Urban Meyer.  The man’s made a career out of paying special attention to the tiny details and making the necessary adjustments for his team.  I have no doubt he will do the same here, and the Buckeyes will waltz through the next month and a half ahead of the showdown with Penn State.

Ohio State fans are upset.  I get that.  Nobody likes getting beat by two scores on their own turf, at night, with everyone else at home watching.  And they’re really not used to getting bullied in the ‘Shoe.  Still, I don’t see how dropping this game amounts to anything more than a bruised ego and an extra chip on the old shoulder.

Scheduling these massive early season clashes against other national championship contenders does nothing but help nowadays.  Win and you’ve got an impressive, pearly white feather in your cap.  The Buckeyes had just that last fall.  Lose and, really, nothing happens.  You only narrow your focus to what you set out to do anyway, taking home a conference championship.

The rest of the Big Ten had better watch out.  Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners just pissed off the baddest dude on their playground.

E-mail Mitch at mitch.gatzke@campuspressbox.com and follow him on twitter @GreatGatzke.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

New Year’s Six Preview: Sugar Bowl

If I’m being totally honest, the Sugar Bowl is the least interesting of this year’s New Year’s Six matchups. It features two teams who, despite being highly ranked, failed to ever truly contend for the College Football Playoff. Neither the Auburn Tigers nor the Oklahoma Sooners had any type of eye-catching season, and this game just seems, frankly, boring to me. It’s the last of the New Year’s Six games this year, and I would be unsurprised if it receives the lowest TV ratings of the bunch.

There is no point walking around it, so let’s just cut right to the chase. This game really shouldn’t be close. I can’t say that it won’t be, because you never know how hard teams will come out and play for a bowl game, but it really shouldn’t be much of a game. Auburn is severely outclassed. While Oklahoma did drop a few embarrassing games to Houston and Ohio State, Auburn really hasn’t shown me a single bit of proof that it can beat a team like Oklahoma.

Against good teams, the Tigers have struggled mightily to score, and I seem the same thing transpiring in New Orleans this year. Let’s not forget that Auburn lost to Georgia in November! The fact that this team is in the New Year’s Six at all is baffling. It points toward a huge issue with conference bids to bowl games of such large magnitude. The SEC had the automatic bid for the Sugar Bowl, but the SEC was so uncharacteristically awful (apart from Alabama, obviously) that it almost seemed like no one actually wanted to go to the Sugar Bowl. Auburn won only 66% percent of its games this season. Yet, here the Tigers are, somehow, in the Sugar Bowl.

Anyway, my prediction is simple. This is a landslide. Baker Mayfield gets going early, and the Sooners cruise throughout the majority of the second half of this bowl game. There is a chance that Auburn could make a game of it, but I just don’t see it happening. Look for the Sooners to go back home happy.


Final Score: Oklahoma Sooners 38, Auburn Tigers 17


Email Cooper at cooper.goetz@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Photo: Pixabay

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Big 12 Schedule Changes Fall Flat

The Big 12 took another step in its continual pursuit of the rest of the college football world this week when it released the conference schedule for next season.  The biggest change of all, of course, is the addition of the conference championship game.  Finally, this sad group of little houses on the prairies can feel like the Power 5 conference that it is, or is supposed to be.

As you may recall, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding the Big 12 in the past 18 months or so.  For a while there during the summer, when we really had nothing better to talk about, it seemed each week there was a new school rumored to be joining the conference to help boost its membership to 12.  As it turned out, there was no expansion after all.  We didn’t really believe all that meaningless talk anyway, did we?

No, the Wild West, where little to no defense is ever played, remains the Power 5 least common denominator, both in numbers and in quality.  That’s why these minor changes are considered such big news for them.  But hey, they’ve got a championship game now.  And that, with just a 10-team league, actually creates an interesting dynamic.

The one thing I do respect the Big 12 for is the fact that each team plays every other team in the conference.  There’s no hiding from the big boys in the other division (looking directly at you, Penn State, you fake champion, you).  This round-robin model of conference play has severely hurt the Big 12 in the recent past.

History Lesson Learned

Fans of TCU and that Baptist school in Waco, Texas will remember a mid-October, 2014 game with a ridiculous 61-58 final score.  The Bears won but would lose their next game and finish essentially tied with the Horned Frogs in the final College Football Playoff rankings.  The indecisive shootout dragged both out of the top four.  The Buckeyes wanted me to make sure to say, “Thank you very much,” by the way.

For whatever it’s worth to them now, TCU proved to be the better team in the bowl season.  The Horned Frogs mollywhopped the Ole Miss Rebels, 42-3, while the Bears were outscored 21-0 in the fourth, losing to Michigan State in one of the greatest comebacks we’ll ever see.

One Truly True Champion

Anyway, with a conference championship game in place, the nightmare of having two good teams both get shut out of the Playoff isn’t really a possibility anymore.  If you run into a similar situation, two one-loss teams having played a very close game two months ago, you now have a legitimate tiebreaker.  There really will be “one true champion,” truly!

Nothing is more American than a do-over and if you can’t step up and beat your opponent when they call for a re-do, then you don’t deserved a spot in the running for that hideous trophy anyway.

So, here’s to the Big 12.  Welcome to modern college football, we’re all hoping this means you can start contributing significantly now.

Let’s take a look a few of the big money matchups we have to look forward to in 2017:

September 23

Oklahoma visits that Baptist school in Waco, Texas in the premier matchup of the first week of conference play.

September 30

Texas heads to Iowa State for its first Big 12 game under new head coach Tom Herman.  I’m willing to bet they lose that bad boy.  Any takers?

October 14

The Red River Shootout, Rivalry, or whatever they’re calling it now, takes over Dallas.

October 28

Kansas State and Kansas… Nah, I’m just kidding.

November 4

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Bedlam will be a bit earlier than we’re used to next fall.

December 2

The long-awaited, much-anticipated, hotly-debated inaugural Big 12 Championship Game.  Where else but Jerry World?  Maybe they can find a couple of teams that actually deserve to be there.

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

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It’s All About Texas

It’s all about Texas. It’s always been all about Texas in the Big 12. And this isn’t a good thing. This isn’t a good thing because it is to the detriment of the rest of the conference. When it comes right down to it, this is something that everyone, including the leadership at Texas, has always known.

This Texas-centric attitude was on full display as the conference decided not to expand. As the news broke about the Big 12 remaining at 10 teams, Oklahoma’s David Boren took the lead as he spouted the contrived rhetoric that is considered to be the conference’s most up-to-date position. But make no mistake, this is about what’s best for Texas. It’s always been about what’s best for Texas.

If there is any doubt about the role that Texas has played in all of this, please read what Gabe DeArmond wrote at Power Mizzou. DeArmond takes us on a journey that can best be described as Back To The Future. Texas was, is and will always be the bully.

Roy Thrilliams wrote a stunning article of his own at Burnt Orange Nation. In his article, Thrilliams attempts to make the case for Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 in favor of the SEC. Thrilliams clearly states that the Big 12 is dying and Texas must get out while it can. 

I have news for Thrilliams. Texas is not a casualty of the unstable conference. The Longhorns are the reason for the unstable conference and I’m sure the SEC is well aware of that fact.

As DeArmond reported in his article, Missouri athletics director Mike Alden considered the Big 12 doomed from the start.

Added Alden: “The structure of the Big 12, the way it was originated, in my opinion, that league was set up to fail. I do believe that if it would have been set up differently, it could have been one of the greatest leagues ever. When you set it up and you had favoritism toward one institution and then everybody else, it’s not going to work.”

The “one institution” that Alden was referring to is Texas.

Missouri has always been blamed for the Big 12 collapsing, but a factual look at the history of the conference tells an entirely different story. Nobody trusted Texas from day one so when the Big Ten expressed interest in expansion, Missouri listened.

And if we’re talking about which schools were the first to have a wandering eye, again, look no further than Texas. The Pac-12 was prepared to add Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. R. Bowen Loftin, who was at Texas A&M at the time, questioned Larry Scott about the terms of the invitation to join the Pac-12. Loftin didn’t believe that the terms would be agreeable to Texas. But to his credit, Scott said that was how it would have to be. Texas could take it or leave it. We all know how that ended.

Texas was the source of the unstable conference, but Longhorn athletics director Deloss Dodds continued to paint other schools as the bad guy. Dodds knew that he was shopping Texas to the Pac-12 and had at least one foot out the door, but that didn’t stop him from cussing out the Missouri leadership during a Big 12 meeting.

When all this was going on, there was one athletic director in particular, I can’t remember what school it was, but it’s in Austin. Anyhow, I heard a guy in that chair, he just started flipping out—flipping out is probably too strong a term, but he got pretty agitated, this person—and started dropping expletives about this and firing them kind of at us, at Mizzou, because Mizzou was rumored maybe the Big Ten is looking. And I was trying to be very professional.

Texas is Texas. I get it. But no other conference wants to touch it because the Longhorn program considers itself above every other program. And one of the things that DeArmond proved in his expose was that Texas is a phony, backstabbing program.

Yes, geographically Texas makes sense for the SEC. But Texas is a toxic program even with all of its financial clout. The SEC has 14 members that all get along so why would that conference risk that stability all for Texas? I don’t see it happening.

I am of the opinion that every school not named Texas should be looking for an exit strategy from the Big 12. Yes, there is a Grant Of Rights clause that forces the Big 12 to remain intact until 2025, but schools can make their intentions known before the GOR expires.

Based on what we’ve witnessed from the Big 12 and from Texas, I find it highly unlikely that schools like Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State aren’t actively shopping for another conference. Here’s how I view the Big 12 – Texas has to live with its ex-wife until she finds someplace else to live. 

But Thrilliams still considers Texas to be too good for any conference, including the SEC, to pass up. Nevermind that the Pac-12 already told Texas, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And I’ve got more news for Thrilliams, it’s not ignorant to think that the SEC would turn its back on Texas.

The SEC operates without a GOR, because, well, it’s the SEC. And by operating without a GOR, the SEC has told its members that it trusts them. If Texas was brought in, that trust among the schools would evaporate. I mean think about it. Who in their right mind would expect Missouri or Texas A&M to give Texas a glowing recommendation? Nobody. That’s who.

It’s also important to remember that Texas has to be the center of attention. Does anyone honestly believe that the SEC football programs are going to take a step back at the negotiation table for Texas? Again, there’s no way that happens.

The SEC is king of the college football world. And as magnificent as Texas believes its football heritage to be, it pales in comparison to Alabama’s. Alabama wouldn’t lick Texas’ boots and shouldn’t be expected to. That submissive role in the SEC is not something the Texas ego could stomach.

Thrilliams and everyone else who bows before Bevo needs a reality check. Texas isn’t the innocent conference bride that its made itself out to be. The Pac-12 realized that early on and there’s no way that the SEC will fall for Texas’ act of innocence.


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

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The Big 12 is the Epitome of Dysfunction

Another day brings another Big 12 expansion story. Or should I say rumor? Let’s go with rumor since none of the information about Big 12 expansion can really be considered credible even when it comes from the conference office. It’s all crazy posturing that results in wild speculation.

Is Houston being invited to the join the conference? Is Cincinnati going to be the program to save this clown show of a conference? We just don’t know. The latest rumor in this soap opera comes to us from Tim Montemayor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Why would any school choose to leave a conference only to go back to that conference years later? It’s crazy, but that’s precisely what Montemayor is floating about Nebraska.

In Montemayor’s defense, he’s not the first person to suggest that some of the teams that left the Big 12 are having buyer’s remorse with membership in their new conferences. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder honestly believes this as well.

But since Montemayor specifically singled out Nebraska, let’s focus on the Cornhuskers.

Nebraska football was a beast while members of the Big Eight. The Cornhuskers won 20 conference titles to go along with four national championships. Needless to say, life was good for Nebraska as members of the Big Eight. And then the Southwest Conference and the Big Eight merged and things quickly changed.

Now stop me if you’ve heard this next part before. Texas exerted its influence on the newly formed Big 12 and allegedly made every attempt to hold down the once proud Cornhusker program. Texas expected its new conference comrades to lick Bevo’s ass and Nebraska was no exception.

And now we’re expected to believe that Nebraska misses that strained, submissive relationship that Texas expects from the rest of its conference? No way. Sorry. I’m just not believing it.

Even after Missouri, Texas A&M, Colorado and Nebraska all left the Big 12, the conference remains as dysfunctional as ever. T. Boone Pickens is attacking his own head coach, Oklahoma’s David Boren can’t make up his mind about where he stands on expansion, and Texas seems to continue calling all of the shots.

If you’re part of the Cornhusker administration and you’re looking at all of this, what makes you think that your program would be better off in the conference that you bolted from? It’s not like anything has changed in the Big 12. The conference is still as dysfunctional as ever and the Cornhusker program will be made to bow down to Bevo.

It’s time for the Big 12 to make up its mind about what it wants to do. Will the conference expand? If so, will the Big 12 add two schools? Four schools? Six Schools? The conference is basically hosting a reality show to make the decision.

Or, the Big 12 could do what only it could do. The Big 12 could decide against expansion. 

Nebraska is just fine in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers would also be fine in the SEC, the ACC, the Pac-12, or even the MAC. The program would be fine in any conference not named the Big 12.

That much I’m certain of.

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

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Sorry Oklahoma State, You Can’t Stop the MACtion

Last Saturday, Mid-American Conference officials took a major step forward in the effort to Make the MAC Great Again by literally handing a game to Central Michigan.

Fantastic play. There’s only one problem: it never should’ve happened. After Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph purposely incurred an intentional grounding penalty as time expired, the game’s MAC officiating crew awarded Central Michigan an untimed down. Although, as they later discovered, that’s not how football works.

This quickly prompted outrage around college football circles, forcing many (including Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder) to ask the unthinkable. Should the result of a college football game be reversed?

I learned a valuable piece of life advice from the movie Ghostbusters. Don’t cross the streams. It may seem tempting to balance the scales and restore justice to Oklahoma State’s promising season, but that would be an awful idea. Here’s four reasons why.

#1: Reversing a Game Opens Pandora’s Box

This is probably the most obvious point, but it’s an important one. If the NCAA or its officials overturn the result of this game, as easy as it may be, that leaves the door open for botched officiating to jeopardize the results of every game from here on out.

Fans may not like to hear it, especially when their team is involved, but the human element is involved in nearly every aspect of football. Your defensive tackle jumps offsides on a 4th and Goal? Whoops. Your quarterback’s helmet pops off before the last play of the game? Sorry. Your headgear malfunctions on the sideline? Tough luck. If any of those things happen over the course of a football game, the onus is on you to overcome them.

An officiating error is no different. If we set a precedent in allowing officiating error to affect the final score of a football game, every single call can now be grounds to delegitimize a team’s victory. Coaches and fan bases gripe enough about penalties already. Imagine if we gave them a reason to claim that they actually won the game if not for those penalties?

It may seem reasonable to excuse this particular instance because of the special circumstances it presents. It was the last play, an untimed down, and a ridiculous Hail Mary. But the truth is, a football game’s first play is no more or less important than its last, and allowing CMU’s last play to distort the equity and fairness of the game is corrupted form.

#2: Oklahoma State Earned the L

Accept it Cowboys fans. You lost to a MAC team. And, even if the world burns and you somehow get your three-point win, you still lost in spirit. There’s no excuse for a ranked Big 12 school to lose to an above average MAC team. There’s no excuse. This just further cements what I’ve been saying for a while now: the Big 12 sucks.

Okay, maybe this is just a matter of personal annoyance, but I adamantly refuse to allow Oklahoma State to use officiating to shield an underperforming team from the criticism it rightfully deserves. Sure it’s a tough loss, but everybody understands the circumstances. Which leads into a surprisingly forgotten point…

#3: We Have This Thing Called the Playoff Committee

Man, if only college football entrusted its evaluation process to actual human beings who could decide on Oklahoma State’s fate beyond their simple win or loss ranking. Wouldn’t that be great?

The argument that Oklahoma State’s loss cripples their championship hopes is ludicrous for two reasons. First, Oklahoma State never had championship hopes. Second, even if they won, members of the Playoff Committee would still be disapproving of the Cowboys’ lackluster performance. Those committee members can decide Oklahoma’s fate as rational human beings if it reaches that point. I’m not holding my breath.

#4: Last but Not Least, the BielemaMeter

Central Michigan’s hard-fought, if fortunate, victory reinforces a halfhearted prediction I didn’t quite make via the BielemaMeter. What’s important is that the MAC reigns once again, and a Power 5 foe joins the ranks of those Bielema’d.

All that matters is that by a MAC miracle of Ben Roethlisberger proportions, CMU claimed its moment in the limelight, and terrible officiating helped to Make the MAC Great Again. Face it Oklahoma State- you just can’t stop the MACtion.

Email Cole at cole.hankins@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy of Reddit – cinciforthewin

I Guess TCU Beats Arkansas, But the Big 12 Still Sucks

Here at Campus Pressbox, my disdain for Bret Bielema is well-documented, as is my complete lack of faith in the Big 12. When faced with two, unsavory options, what is a man to do?

In this weekend’s matchup between Arkansas and #15 TCU, I’m airing on the side of talent. I’m taking the Horned Frogs.

Although, again, I’m not loving my options. Both teams embarrassed themselves last week in spite of earning victories. Arkansas eeked out a one-point victory against Louisiana Tech. TCU allowed 41 points and 461 yards against an FCS squad. Certainly not inspiring performances.

Nevertheless, TCU is still my pick to win the Big 12. That’s contingent upon their defense being able to stop a nosebleed, but hey, fingers crossed. Aside from an 87-yard rush that briefly gave South Dakota State the lead, TCU only allowed 1.8 yards per carry last week. The Horned Frogs’ rushing defense wasn’t the problem, their secondary was. Thankfully, Austin Allen doesn’t look poised for a 300-yard passing day anytime soon. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Austin Allen proves me wrong, but the SEC has failed to do that so far this season.

When TCU has to face Big 12 opponents clinging to the air raid, the Frogs may have a reason for concern. This week, the fans in Fort Worth shouldn’t be concerned. Expect TCU to handcuff the Razorbacks’ developing offensive line and shut down their rushing attack.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s time for the main event: Bielema-bashing.

Let me get this straight. Bret Bielema almost became a victim of the BielemaMeter last week, but this week he’ll rally the troops and defeat a ranked opponent? With an unproven QB incapable of making big plays? With an offensive line that revealed a myriad of flaws against a C-USA team? After a dismal week for the SEC? Count me among the skeptics. Arkansas might be tracking upwards, but the issues they showed against Louisiana Tech aren’t being resolved overnight.

Why Bielema ever accepted the Arkansas job is beyond me. Bielema was 68-24 while coaching in Madison. He could operate his smashmouth offense against the likes of Rutgers and Purdue and still make a Rose Bowl every now and then. Instead, Bielema opted to take over a stalled program in an impossible conference, only now beginning to dig Arkansas out of a years-long slump. The money isn’t any better, and now he’s the fourth or fifth best coach in the SEC rather than the third best coach in the Big 10. Is that relevant to this Saturday’s matchup? Absolutely not. It is, however, an important chapter in the brilliantly confusing, unending book that is Bret Bielema.

So yeah, I’m not crazy about either team. I’m not a Bret Bielema fan. I’m not an Arkansas fan. I’m not a fan of terrible offense. I guess that means I’m picking TCU.

But the Big 12 still sucks.

Photo: Dallas Morning News

Email Cole at cole.hankins@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 1

After an amazing opening weekend of college football, it is really interesting to see how the current top contenders stand in terms of the College Football Playoff. Below, I have ranked my current top 10 teams, which is loosely based off the preseason AP poll (this weeks AP poll is nuts, check it out). This is a feature that I will release every week this season on Tuesday, so be sure to be on the lookout for next week’s rankings.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide had probably the most impressive start among the week 1 top ten teams. It’s deconstruction of the ranked USC squad (to the degree where ‘Bama straight up added another former USC head coach to its staff) tells the whole story. Going into this season, Alabama’s one major question was the quarterback position. To say that the question was answered Saturday night would be an understatement. Jalen Hurts, and to a lesser degree Blake Barnett, removed Bama’s only weakness, and now, especially with the struggles of Tennessee and LSU, the Crimson Tide seem poised to take the West, win the SEC Championship, and make it to the College Football Playoff.

  1. Florida State Seminoles

Florida State’s matchup with Ole Miss on Monday was, as we have become used to with Jimbo Fisher football (who is now 6-1 since 2013 when trailing by 7 or more at the half), a tale of two halves. As long as Francois keeps up his play and the Seminoles find a way to play multiples halves of football in a single game, the Seminoles will be an obvious CFP contenders, pending a huge throw down with Clemson at home, which could very well decide which ACC school makes it to the Playoff.

  1. Clemson Tigers

Speaking of the Tigers, the team that I picked to win the College Football title this year struggled more with a mediocre Auburn squad than most of us thought it would. For that reason, it is much less of a sure thing in my mind that the Tigers beat FSU in Tallahassee. However, this is only week one, and with Heisman hopeful Deshaun Watson at the helm, Clemson should still be expected to be a top tier team with obvious CFP hopes.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Speaking of Heisman, my pick for the award this year, Mr. J.T. Barrett, had himself a day. He had seven total touchdowns, with six through the air. We won’t get to see what the Buckeyes really look like until it squares off against Oklahoma, but when your QB has seven scores, it tends to be a good sign. The Buckeyes have a lot on its plate the rest of the year, but if Ohio State play like it did on Saturday, it is definitely a CFP frontrunner.

  1. Michigan Wolverines

The Big Ten pretty much let its top teams hammer some cupcake squads in week one, and that was very apparent in Michigan’s matchup against the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii. Much like Ohio State, Michigan just swept the floor with its opponent. An impressive win, yes, but much like the Buckeyes, we won’t see the Wolverines’ true abilities until it faces off against a squad more its speed. However, its now 100 percent true that the Wolverines are officially back.

  1. Houston Cougars

The shocker of the weekend for most (for some odd reason, considering how good the Cougars were last year) was Houston’s win over the Oklahoma Sooners. This, in my rankings, rocket propelled UH up nine spots, as not only did Houston win, it beat Oklahoma into the ground. All of a sudden, Houston looks like a possible Group of Five CFP team, as the rest of its schedule is fairly mild. As long as the Cougars can hold off Louisville, and avoid other major upsets, Houston could very well end the season undefeated and crash the party of Power Five teams in the CFP.

  1. Stanford Cardinal

In a victory that was fairly mild, the Stanford Cardinal beat K-State by 13. The rest of the season is fairly simple, as the Pac-12 isn’t what it was a few years ago. Two of Stanford’s toughest opponents, UCLA and Notre Dame, both dropped their Week 1 matchups. The toughest game left for Christian McCaffrey (a clear Heisman candidate) and the Cardinal is the matchup at Washington. The game, which will most likely decide the fate of the Pac-12 North, will be Stanford’s make or break matchup in terms of College Football Playoff hopes.

  1. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU, much like many other teams on this list, played a team well below its own caliber in Week 1. The Horned Frogs, however, struggled heavily, especially on the defensive side, against South Dakota State. Giving up 41 points to a non-FBS school is never a great motivator, and while TCU’s College Football Playoff hopes may be small, the Horned Frogs certainly have a great chance to win the Big 12 with what seems like an Oklahoma team that could struggle throughout the year. TCU will need to watch out for Baylor and Texas as well, but for now, Texas Christian seems like the Big 12 frontrunner.

  1. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers almost blew its opening matchup to Appalachian State. The team looked horrendous for a large part of the game, with particular struggles coming from the Tennessee O-Line. Josh Dobbs struggled mightily as well, and Tennessee needs him to play better if it is to have any hopes of beating Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama in four consecutive weeks. To me, at this point, unless Mighty Mouse becomes as good on the field as he is at blocking twitter accounts, it seems like Tennessee making the College Football Playoff is a long shot.

  1. Michigan State Spartans

The third Big Ten team on this list also had a cupcake matchup in Week 1. However, unlike the Wolverines and Buckeyes, MSU struggled with Furman, a FCS squad. Honestly, the only reason the Spartans make this list after it’s week one struggle is due to all the teams in front of it that lost. MSU has a lot of work to do if it wants to prove that it deserves to make the CFP. Heck, with a crowded Big Ten East division, the Spartans have a lot of work to do to make it to the conference championship.

Honorable Mentions: Washington, Georgia, Iowa, and Wisconsin

E-mail Cooper at cooper [dot] goetz [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
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Image Courtesy of the University of Alabama

Home Sweet Neutral Site?

Opening week of the 2016 season was dubbed to be the best in the history of the sport. It delivered in a way that made the long offseason worth it. Upsets, overtimes, drama.

But, the made-for-TV, neutral site settings must go. They are a blemish on the sport that rob the die-hards from the best of what college football has to offer. While the games in question matched up good programs, the fact they played in an NFL stadium made them less than what they could’ve been.

College football Saturdays produce a mental image of campus, collegiate landmarks, alums coming home and the stadiums, those stadiums. Not the whitewashed, corporate arena that just so happens to host a football game on that particular day.

With the quality of teams on the slate, the probability of good contests was a virtual guarantee. Houston’s convincing upset over Oklahoma, Wisconsin’s slobberknocking win over LSU, Georgia’s rally to top North Carolina, all were competitive games in NFL environments.

Those contests were indeed entertaining, but they didn’t come close to providing the atmosphere that we witnessed during Auburn’s 4th-quarter flurry. Texas A&M and 100,000 strong Aggies welcomed in the new season by downing UCLA in a raucous Kyle Field den. And, was there a more energetic environment than in Austin as Texas knocked off Notre Dame in overtime? All three games were on campus, in front of the student body and die-hards, in those storied stadiums. That’s what we think of when we envision the sport.

With that said, there is a distinct difference between the ones we just watched last weekend and the traditional neutral site games like Florida-Georgia and Army-Navy. When an annual matchup has been played at a neutral site for decades, that’s not a neutral site game. That’s just where the game is played. Ole Miss-Florida State in Orlando is not the same as Oklahoma-Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

All About the Benjamins

Look, I’m not naive. I understand why the bean-counting bureaucrats choose to allow the networks to play the role of love broker. The administrators want to hoard as much money as possible and this approach allows them to do so without having to work at it. In essence, they look to their TV partners as an escort service – no effort to get the desired results.

Just call a TV executive and tell them you want to make some money and you’re willing to play anyone, as long as it’s a one-night stand. The exec then sets out to find an NFL stadium owner who wants to make some dough (hint: all of them). They agree on a catchy game title and then collaborate to lure a corporate sponsor to put their logo on it. Time to leave the money on the nightstand.

Here’s where things get contorted, though. During the constant athletics arms race, it’s difficult to find a school that hasn’t unveiled its pricey facilities upgrades. They are pouring millions of dollars into stadium improvements so fans will want to continue to attend campus home games.

As they expand seating capacity and add video screens the size of a city block, they fill their home non-conference schedules with teams I wouldn’t watch for free even if they played in my front yard. This philosophy reveals their devotion to revenue above all.

What about the customers – the fans?

There’s not a single fan who would attend or watch a game played in a sterile NFL stadium over a showdown on campus. The fan interest generates the existence for this entire spectacle and there is never a single decision made with them in mind. The bureaucrats only think about what they can milk them for.

There’s not an Alabama fan on the planet who wouldn’t have preferred for the Tide to take on USC in Bryant-Denny or the L.A. Coliseum. LSU and Wisconsin fans would rather have played their two-game series in Death Valley and Camp Randall. Georgia fans taking over Chapel Hill? How about a return game of the Heels going between the hedges?

Non-conference matchups provide schools the opportunity to showcase the university and the college town to a national TV audience. Neutral site games are primarily a chance to promote tourism to a big city.

The ones who make the biggest sacrifice are the tens of thousands of devoted fans who aren’t given the thank you of watching a big name opponent in their own stadium – or travel to a unique opposing school’s campus setting.

The Biggest Obstacle

At the heart of this issue is fear. Coaches act like rugged survivalists and are molders of men, but when it comes to scheduling, they are cowards.

For all of their postings of memorable mottos about adversity and perseverance, most coaches instruct their ADs to go out of their way to take the path of least resistance. They schedule as many cupcakes as possible because they’re afraid to face tougher competition and possibly lose. Then, when they do play a worthy opponent, they opt to limit the risk by playing at a neutral site.

Let’s look at Nick Saban, for example. He gets credit for playing Power Five opponents and everyone cheers him and Bama for their willingness to play those games. However, it’s empty praise. He’s only willing to play a Power Five regular season game if it’s a one-time thing at a neutral site. And, it’s always opening weekend, so he has 8 months to prepare his team. That’s a lot of “only ifs” for a guy who touts “the process” and a fan base that proclaims to be the standard.

If coaches demand to their athletic directors that they want to play a home-and-home series with a Power Five team, the ADs will absolutely make it happen. It would be good for the sport if Saban would man up and take that stance.

A Potential Solution

Coaches’ contracts are filled with incentives. Why not take this approach: Incentivize TV deals and/or coaches’ contracts based on the quality of the opponent and the location in which they play.

Schedule a Power 5 non-conference game – get paid. Play it in a campus setting – up the incentive. Make it a home-and-home – max the payout.

The Worst Is Yet to Come

The matchups that the neutral sites produce are better than the alternative of the cupcake non-conference slates that fans are forcefed. So, even though there is a better option for where most of the Week 1 spotlight games were played, at least they’re actually being played.

For as much as I dislike the NFL stadium setting, it’s far better than the stupidity of playing in a NASCAR venue. This week’s Tennessee-Virginia Tech game at Bristol Motor Speedway is even dumber than the games that are played overseas. More isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just more, which is what we’ll have on Saturday.

Labor Day Weekend was all that we envisioned. Competitive matchups between ranked opponents and traditional programs is how it should be. But, because the love of money is at the root, the bureaucrats will continue to give us the table scraps of what should be a gourmet meal.

E-mail Mark at mark[dot]fried[at]campuspressbox[dot]com or follow him on Twitter at @MarkCFried.

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Photo: thatlostdog–/Flickr.


Smackdown Fridays: Houston Dooms Oklahoma’s Playoff Run Far Sooner than Expected

In the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for one Group of 5 team to assert its dominance over a Power 5 foe, rest assured that team will probably be the Houston Cougars. It’s the circle of life. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

After Houston’s comfortable 38-24 victory over #12 Florida State in last season’s Peach Bowl, who’s to say the Cougars can’t hang with the big boys? Critics may cherry-pick their easy schedule or a narrow victory here and there to excuse the program’s 2015 success, but Houston has a prime opportunity to prove those critics wrong. To open the season, the Cougars face Oklahoma.

I have some news for you: Oklahoma is overrated as hell.

Don’t worry, it isn’t just Oklahoma. It’s the entire Big 12. After the conference faithful finally finished whining about being (rightfully) excluded from the College Football Playoff, it seems it’s destined to happen again. The Sooners seem to be the conference’s best bet to clinch a berth, but I have serious concerns.  This Saturday, expect those concerns to become realities. Oklahoma is begging for an upset.

Assuredly, there are Sooner die-hards and Big 12 buffs reading this and foaming at the mouth, fuming over my casual dismissal of one of college football’s premier conferences. Well, the truth is, your conference can’t be premier if the Kansas Jayhawks are in it.

The Big 12 hasn’t claimed a national championship since Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in 2005. These days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vince Young waiting on my table at Sizzler. For their part, Oklahoma hasn’t won a national championship since 2000. That was way back when the BCS was actually hip and cool. My point? Picking against the Big 12- or Oklahoma- doesn’t scare me in the slightest.

So I’m taking the Houston Cougars to upset the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday. And I’m doing so with gusto.

I’ll come out and say something nobody else will say: Tom Herman is currently a better football coach than Bob Stoops. Stoops has seventeen years of head coaching experience and one national championship to show for it. Meanwhile, Herman has been a head coach for all of one season.

Can anybody forget the Ohio State’s offense crumbling after Herman’s departure last season? Second to Urban Meyer, there was nobody more integral to that national championship. Stoops won his championship outright, Herman won his by proxy. Herman also managed to make Braxton Miller, then J.T. Barrett, then Cardale Jones, and now Greg Ward Jr. into Heisman-caliber signal callers. He’s legit. I expect Herman to flash his legit-ness and win the coaching battle in this interstate showdown.

By now, Oklahoma fans are likely loading their muskets and readying their covered wagons to come burn me at the stake, so I’ll go one step further. Greg Ward Jr. will perform better this Saturday than Baker Mayfield. Last season, only two quarterbacks rushed for 1,000 yards and passed for 2,000 yards. One was Greg Ward Jr. The other was Deshaun Watson. You know, the same Deshaun Watson that torched the Sooners 37-17 in the Orange Bowl.

The Sooners will struggle with containing Ward Jr. just as they struggled with containing Watson. The Sooners allowed a ho-hum 161.7 rushing yards per game last season, including 312 yards in the contest against the Tigers. Ward Jr. will be able to make enough big plays to keep momentum in Houston’s favor and the chips in Herman’s hand.

See, Baker Mayfield could throw for 350 yards on the Cougars. And guess what? It wouldn’t matter. Mayfield posted an impressive outing in the Orange Bowl, but even he couldn’t overcome the Sooners’ meager 67 rushing yards. With Houston’s eighth ranked rushing defense returning in full force, don’t expect the Sooners to do much better this time around. Forcing Baker Mayfield to throw might be a major gamble, so they’ll need a fresh secondary to earn their stripes on the largest of stages. Houston proved their resilience thirteen times last season. They can do it again.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard- the Big 12 is probably expanding. Add yet another chip to the underdog’s shoulder. If Houston wins this game, no further proof of their worthiness should be necessary.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean they’ll get in.

You know what? Let Big 12 heavyweights like the Sooners sit back and play politics with the futures of schools like the University of Houston.  Saturday night, Houston has an opportunity to score a larger victory far from the board room: complicate Oklahoma’s playoff bid far Sooner than expected.

E-mail Cole at cole [dot] hankins [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins

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