Tag Archives: College Football Playoff

A Surprise To Playoff Contender Status

Last week I wrote a piece declaring that Wisconsin was the Big Ten’s one hope of making the College Football Playoff. I was pretty confident in that statement too. The Badgers hadn’t really played anyone of note at the time but given their undefeated record and where the other teams in the conference stood, it seems highly plausible.

Well, some things happened in week 11 of the season.

Ninth-ranked Washington chalked up a second loss to unranked Stanford. Auburn trucked number one Georgia and I don’t have a strong enough word to describe what Miami did to number three Notre Dame. Wisconsin still won the game against the 20th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes but something else happened.

Number 13 Ohio State but a 45-point beatdown on number 12 Michigan State. Suddenly Ohio State is back to the offensive powerhouse that put up more than 30 points against everyone but Iowa and Oklahoma. That loss against Iowa still doesn’t look very good but that loss to Oklahoma is looking better and better each week. The Sooners have dropped 50+ points on three different teams now.

So now we’ve got Ohio State occupying the ninth spot.

It’s not a great spot with only two weeks left in the season but suddenly, there is a path for the Buckeyes to get into the College Football Playoff. It’s a bit of a murky path but let’s take it.

Obviously, Ohio State needs to win both their upcoming games against Illinois and Michigan. If they lose either of those, the jig is up and we can forget about everything after this sentence. So the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume they win both of those. Illinois is a gimmie but Michigan could put up a fight but the Buckeyes should win.

So let’s look at the eight teams ahead of Ohio State right now:

Alabama

Clemson

Miami

Oklahoma

Wisconsin

Auburn

Georgia

Notre Dame

Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

Notre Dame is basically done. Games against Navy and Stanford are left but what of the Fighting Irish’s spirit? Even with two wins, Notre Dame isn’t likely to move up much.

Georgia has only one shot: win the SEC title game. If the Bulldogs don’t bounce back against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, it’s all moot and can only help Ohio State. No matter what Georgia does, it helps clear the path for the Buckeyes.

Auburn’s basically in the same boat as Georgia. Ironically, it’s Alabama standing the ways of both of them. Win out and it’s even better for Ohio State.

Wisconsin is the most interesting of the remaining teams. Ohio State fans need to root for Wisconsin to win their remaining games but not by much. Michigan either needs to keep the game close or win it at the last second. Both scenarios should keep Wisconsin and Michigan ranked but the former will make Wisconsin an even more impressive conquest.

In the Big Ten Championship game, Ohio State will need to do what it did the last time the two teams met. I was actually there and man, it got boring watching them smack Wisconsin all over the field. Trounce an undefeated or one-loss Wisconsin and Ohio State should see a good jump in the rankings.

Not a whole lot can be done about Oklahoma. The Sooners are tearing it up but every win by them makes their defeat of Ohio State more reasonable.

Thankfully Miami and Clemson are right next to each other because they’re going to take care of each other. They’re going to meet on December 2nd and only one will survive. You can already cross one of them off the list already.

Last but not least, there’s Alabama. They haven’t been super impressive but they’re most likely going to win out. As long as they don’t lose close in the SEC title game, they’re either in or out.

Lots going on here but that works in favor of Ohio State. Only one or two things need to go right and Ohio State to win out and suddenly we’ve got a different Big Ten team into the playoffs.

Considering the ups and downs of the Buckeye season, credit has to be given to Urban Meyer and his staff. It’d be the second time he’d suffered what should’ve been a season-crippling loss and still made the playoff.

And that’s why college football is the best.

Email Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

Image courtesy Flickr

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

Help Us Wisconsin, You’re Our Only Hope

I don’t think people realize it but 2017 is the most Big Ten year in quite a while. Recently we’ve had years with multiple teams losing only one or two games and usually to each other. Now we’re back in the good old days when suddenly everyone’s got at least one or two losses and a lot of them from unexpected teams.

No one expected Michigan State to be taken out by Northwestern, let alone Iowa taking down not one but two top ten teams. Of course, no one expected the Hawkeyes to absolutely manhandle Ohio State that way either. So now what was perceived as Big Ten’s best two chances to make the College Football Playoffs in Penn State and Ohio State now both have two losses.

But what about Wisconsin?

To be honest, no one really likes to talk about the Big Ten West because it’s not very good. Only Wisconsin and Northwestern having winning conference records and Iowa joining them with overall winning records. When people talk about powerhouse Big Ten teams, they usually aren’t referring to this division.

However, Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team without a loss and currently occupying the number eight spot in the playoff rankings. Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State are lurking in the background at spots 12, 13, 14 but can they catapult themselves back into the race? Michigan State and Ohio State still have to play each other so one of them is for sure out. Penn State has a cakewalk left so not really any chance to impress the playoff committee.

What it boils down to is that as it stands right now, Wisconsin is currently the best chance has to make the College Football Playoffs.

But can they get there?

In terms of getting to the Big Ten Championship, that’s almost a lock. Technically the Badgers only need to win one out of the remaining three games to get to Indianapolis but if only one game is won, this whole thing is probably moot.

Here’s the problem with Wisconsin: the Badgers have beaten no one.

Iowa comes to visit this Saturday and it will be the first ranked team that Wisconsin plays all season, possibly the only ranked team. That’s going to be Wisconsin’s biggest issue. Even if Michigan crawls back into the rankings somehow, the Wolverines are not going to crack the top 20. As of this moment, Wisconsin’s marquee win is Northwestern which will most likely be replaced by a home win against Iowa.

Presumably, the Badgers will make it to the Big Ten Championship but in what shape is their opponent going to be? No one is really quite sure of what to make of the three most likely opponents in Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State. Best case scenario is a 10-2 Michigan State that’s going to have wins over what will now be a devalued Ohio State and Penn State. Will a win over the Big Ten East Champion really carry a ton of weight?

The committee has already shown that undefeated records don’t mean much if you don’t beat anyone. That’s no more obvious than when you take note that there are three teams in the top ten, ahead of Wisconsin, with one loss. There are actually three teams in the top 25 with three losses right now. Three losses!

Right now… I don’t think Wisconsin can make it in and that means the Big Ten is going to get shut out for the first time.

Be honest with yourself for just a moment. Picture Wisconsin in your mind on a neutral field. Now imagine the Badgers playing against Georgia. Or Notre Dame. Or Oklahoma. How many teams in the top ten or even 15 can you look at and go “Yeah, Wisconsin will rough them up.” I personally would say none of them. The Badgers don’t really seem to have that desire or ability to crush those who stand in their path like say a TCU or Oklahoma. Wisconsin is solid but not fantastic.

And to go to the playoffs, let alone win, solid isn’t enough.

Email Tim at tim [dot] bach [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

Image courtesy Flickr

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

The College Football Playoff Is Not Going To Expand

Jim Harbaugh appeared on a morning sports talk radio and had some interesting opinions on things. I’m not talking about who’s going to be the starting quarterback at Michigan because no one cares, that season is over. What I’m referring to is Harbaugh’s opinion on the College Football Playoff.

The Michigan head coach thinks that the playoff field should be expanded from the current four teams. That’s not a surprise, a lot of people want that. What is a surprise is how many teams Harbaugh thinks should be allowed in. Harbaugh doesn’t want six or even eight. He wants 16 or at the very least, 12.

I’ve got two arguments against why he’s not talking any sense. One of them is why it’s a bad idea and the other is why it’s never going to happen. Neither of them has to do with Harbaugh only wanting it because it looks like that might actually be his best shot to win a title while at Michigan.

There’s a lot of arguments against why a larger playoff field is a bad idea but most of them aren’t taking into account a 16 team field. They’re more based on the argument for the six or eight-team expansions. Those expansions would be fine in my opinion but the double-digit field takes away the one thing that separates college football from every other sport: the regular season.

The regular season in college football is unlike any other sport, both professionally and collegiate. A team’s season lives and dies with every single game every single week. You lose in Week 7? Well, you’re probably screwed. Lose in Week 3? You might be able to recover yet. Compare that to college or pro basketball for a second. Their regular seasons are pointless, especially college basketball when 68 teams get to go to the postseason. You see teams without winning records go to the postseason a fair amount in all sports.

Except for college football.

The regular season means everything and if the field expands to 16 teams, the sport loses that sense of urgency to win every game. Take last season for instance. The Michigan-Ohio State game that went to double overtime in 2016 wouldn’t have mattered because both of them and Penn State would already be going to the playoff. Would players have played as hard if there was nothing on the line? Probably not.

So that’s why playoff expansion is a bad idea but let me tell you why it’s not going to happen.

Slowly but surely, non-Power Five schools have been creeping into the AP and College Football Playoff polls. Houston, Western Michigan, Temple, and more have all made appearances in the last few years. The Houston Cougars even finished 2015 ranked inside the top ten. That’s a trend that despite the reluctance to let go of the traditional “blue blood” programs that have the name recognition, people have started to realize that these teams can be and are pretty good.

What’s this got to do with the College Football Playoff expanding?

Glad you asked.

If the playoff field expands at some point a non-Power Five school is going to make it in. Suppose Boise State gets in and are set to face the USC Trojans. During the first quarter of the game, the starting quarterback for USC tears his ACL and Boise State wins that game. Suppose they come out firing on all cylinders and take down a Michigan State team that just can’t get in sync. The Boise State Broncos manage to run the table and are unexpectedly crowned the champions of college football.

Seems like it’d be pretty cool, right?

Not unless you’re a Power Five commissioner and you like money.

Per Forbes, a team makes their conference $6 million just by simply appearing in the College Football Playoff. That’s chump change when you consider what conferences can make from all the bowl games. Check this out: the Big Ten made $132.5 million from postseason bowl games last season.

$55 million base payout.

$6 million for Ohio State’s berth in the Fiesta Bowl which is a College Football Playoff game.

$4 million for Wisconsin’s berth in the Cotton Bowl.

$40 million for Penn State’s berth in the Rose Bowl.

$27.5 million for Michigan’s berth in the Orange Bowl.

All those major bowl games are out the window with an expanded playoff field so the Big Ten has 132.5 million reasons to not want expansion. Let’s all be honest with each other for a moment: money talks. Everything is driven by what makes someone money and postseason play is an absolute cash cow for these conferences.

College athletes can’t get paid and you think these conferences are going to share their money with even more teams and conferences that get into the College Football Playoff?

The University of Memphis has a better shot at making the playoff this year than we do at seeing a 16 team playoff so just go ahead, get comfy, and get used to a four-team College Football Playoff.

Email Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

Image courtesy Flickr

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

When Does Coaching Cross The Line?

Following a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff, it was clear the Ohio State Buckeyes needed a change so on January 10th former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson was hired to be co-offensive coordinator with Ryan Day.

As many of you may already know, Wilson was fired by Indiana on December 1, 2016 due to “philosophical differences” with athletic director Fred Glass. In addition, it was revealed that during the two weeks leading up to Wilson’s departure a former Hoosier player and at least five then-current Indiana players were interviewed about his treatment of players with athletic department officials and university lawyers. There was no wrongdoing proven to have taken place but from what I saw, some of the tweets, even from players who supported him, were disturbing. For example, Cleveland Browns center Gabe Ikard, who played for Wilson at Oklahoma, tweeted:

With regards to these comments, my editor Seth Merenbloom gave his opinion on the matter and felt that while Indiana had no choice other than fire Wilson, it’s unclear if he ever violated any rules other than rub some players the wrong way.

To me, that doesn’t seem to be normal coaching behavior and made me think of the age-old dilemma in sports which is when does a coach cross the line and do the end results justify the means?

(I am not accusing Wilson of doing anything wrong because at the end of the day, these are just allegations and he should be treated as innocent until proven guilty.)

Coaches carry a lot of power and great power comes with great responsibility. Not only do coaches have to satisfy the university, its donors and fans but they are tasked with educating, motivating and protecting its student-athletes. Yet, in a society that places so much emphasis on winning, there have undoubtedly been times when the welfare and well-being of the athlete has been neglected by the coach in the name of winning. Furthermore, if the coach is highly successful, his questionable methods will be seen as effective and the proper way to teach the athletes. No one dares to question him because he clearly gets the most out of his players and they in turn tolerate and accept his actions even if they are borderline abusive since they want to win.

Now, there is nothing wrong with winning itself. Not only do athletes and coaches feel the satisfaction of achieving a goal after putting in hard work but become personally empowered and build confidence in themselves. It also brings pride and happiness to the university and its fans.

However, my belief has been that if an athlete is hurting in some way or another, whether physically or mentally, due to a coach’s actions, it needs to stop, even if it costs you a win. Yet, what constitutes as excessive and abusive can be subjective and differ from person to person. Plus, there are a plethora of negative emotions that have nothing to do with abuse that can be connected to personal mistakes or lack of playing time in sports. The coach may also yell and even get angry with a player but is doing it because he cares deeply for them. For me, the line is clearly crossed if a coach puts his hands on an athlete and gets physical, which is what allegedly happened to Ikard.

Yet, it’s hard for players to say something for fear they’ll be seen as cowards and traitors by their peers and fans. The counter-argument is players have become too sensitive and cry wolf whenever their feelings are hurt. Toughness needs to be instilled somehow so there’s nothing wrong with a coach wanting to be aggressive, physical and old-school. And as aforementioned, if the team is winning, the coach must be doing something right and the players buy in. It’s the whole mindset if I can withstand the pain, then I can conquer anything and whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

I don’t know how it’s gotten to the point where it seems that bringing people down and potentially hurting them is seen as acceptable. To me, being an uplifting, positive role model can be just as powerful and yet that seems to be exceptionally rare rather than the norm.

Numerous pundits like my fellow writer Mark Silverman praised Ohio State for their great hire and for Wilson’s great offensive mind. On the football field, no one can question Wilson’s ability to transform lackadaisical offenses into juggernauts as his track record clearly shows. I’m not saying Wilson is guilty of anything as these are all alleged events and he should be considered innocent but if there is any truth to this, I have lost respect for him.

Bottom line is that abuse has no place in sports and shouldn’t be seen as good coaching even if it results in winning.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia 

Is J.T. Barrett Good Enough to Win the Buckeyes a National Championship?

When you’re playing for Ohio State, being simply “good” is not enough. The expectations are to be great, and win national championships. With that being said, does J.T. Barrett truly have what it takes to lead the Buckeyes back to a national championship?

Barrett will leave Columbus owning most, if not every quarterback record in the Ohio State record book, but after the Ohio State offense failed to score a single point during its national semifinal game against Clemson, one has to wonder if the two-time Big Ten quarterback of the year can take his team where it expects to go.

It’s a conversation that will most likely take place all off-season, with Barrett deciding to return next season as a redshirt senior.  If you were to look strictly at the numbers, one could say Ohio State was equipped with one of the better returning quarterbacks in the country.

Barrett truly was one the nation’s best during his redshirt freshman season, (his first as a starter) completing a career best 64.6% of his passes, throwing for 2,834 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. A stat that was very underrated during that season, was the fact that Barrett averaged 9.0 yards a pass attempt, also a career high to this point. The yards per attempt stat shows how effective Barrett was getting the ball down the field during that season, and gives you some hope that with Kevin Wilson taking over, J.T. can once again play at that high level.

The biggest difference between the play of Barrett during that 2014 season and the two seasons that followed in the eyes of most, is the fact that Barrett was under the tutelage of new Texas head coach Tom Herman. Herman has quickly become one of the better offense minds in college football over the past few seasons, and many believe he was a big reason J.T. Barrett, as well as Cardale Jones, played so well during 2014.

The two seasons after saw Barrett splitting time with the aforementioned Jones during 2015, and having a pretty good 2016 regular season only to have everything crash and burn on offense against Clemson in the playoff.

Barrett threw for 2,555 yards during the 2016 campaign with 24 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. He also added 845 yards rushing and 9 more touchdowns on the ground. A big difference from Barrett’s 2014 season is that during the 2016 season he averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt. Sure, a 2.3 yards per attempt dip doesn’t seem like much, but it shows the issues the Buckeyes had stretching the field and getting chunk plays. There are plenty of schools who would love to have a quarterback with those numbers, but at Ohio State expectations are a little different.

Yes, with a 26-4 career record as a starter and a 3-0 record against archrival Michigan, maybe Buckeye faithful should have a little more faith in the quarterback who has accounted for more total touchdowns that any player in Ohio State history. But those numbers are irrelevant if they aren’t accompanied by playoff wins and national championships.

Top-rated 2016 Under Armor All-American Dwayne Haskins has a chance to be a great player for Ohio State one day, and with his upside, a good off-season and more shaky play from Barrett could see the ultra-talented Haskins get his number called sooner rather than later. If Haskins can do the job just as good or better than Barrett and has more upside for the future, why not make his time now?

Whether he has been affected by poor coaching, (which has been addressed in the form of hiring a new offensive mind in Kevin Wilson) way below average play at receiver, or simply the fact that he hasn’t improved from year to year, Barrett will definitely feel the pressure to perform this upcoming season.

E-mail Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_woods21.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Pixabay

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts

Is the Big Ten Better Than the SEC Right Now?

It’s the age-old question that college football fans from the North and South love to quibble over because who doesn’t want to have bragging rights that their conference is undisputedly, top-to-bottom the best college football has to offer? Some say it’s still the SEC because Alabama won the national title this past season and is in prime position to claim it again in January. They also point to the depth and competitive balance of the conference and say its teams as a collective whole are a better product. At least they don’t have Rutgers or Maryland. Sigh. Fair enough.

However, others believe there’s been a shift in conference supremacy and that the Big Ten has surpassed the SEC with its coaching and quarterbacks.

Back in 2010, Auburn became the fourth SEC school to win a national title in five seasons and the league featured five national championship-winning coaches in Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier and Gene Chizik. In addition, James Franklin arrived at Vanderbilt, Mark Richt had won two league titles at Georgia and Bobby Petrino led a solid Arkansas program. Fast forward to the end of the 2016 season. Out of those eight coaches, Saban is the only one who remains and the SEC athletic directors have replaced those championship-caliber coaches with unproven leaders who have struggled.

Now, it’s the Big Ten that’s filled with solid coaching commodities, from Meyer building a powerhouse at Ohio State to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, and Franklin at Penn State. Moreover, Mark Dantonio, Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald have been fixtures of stability at their respective programs. And don’t forget in the only regular Big Ten-SEC matchup this season, even with lesser talent and by far, much less expectations, Wisconsin led by Chryst in just his second year, outcoached an LSU team that had national title aspirations and was headed by the SEC’s second-best coach, Les Miles.

In terms of quarterbacks, I think it’s safe to say this year, the Big Ten’s signal callers were better. While he wasn’t Heisman Trophy-caliber worthy as once expected, J.T. Barrett was still really solid, as well as Trace McSorley, Wilton Speight and Clayton Thorson. However, for the SEC, with its consistent misses under center, more of its teams have been searching for the easy fix, courting junior college players and graduate transfers hoping to get a Russell Wilson. But instead, they’ve found John Franklin III and Greyson Lambert. The number of transfers being used at SEC schools is incredible. I find it even more ironic that the SEC gets all the high-profile, five-star quarterback recruits and are using Purdue rejects at flagship schools. Danny Etling won the LSU job and Austin Appleby guided Florida.

There are valid points to the argument the Big Ten is better than the SEC, and depending on how you look at it, the conference just may be better. But as much as it pains me to say it as I’m a staunch Big Ten supporter, I find it hard to make an argument that our conference is clearly above-and-beyond better than the SEC. Right now while there is more parity in the Big Ten at the top and it has more high-ranked teams than the SEC with four teams finishing in the top eight of the final College Football Playoff rankings, the bottom half of the conference really brings down the Big Ten compared to the SEC and hurts the Big Ten’s depth.

Bottom line is the SEC as of today owns the national title and to me, it’s all about the hardware. Could that change in a few weeks? Absolutely. But as for now, as of today, I’d give the edge to the SEC…just barely.

E-mail Mike at  or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Referees Could Be An Asset To Ohio State

Even though this is a Big Ten column, we’re going to start off talking about the Big 12 for a quick second. It was announced which conferences would be sending officiating crews to which games of the College Football Playoff. It looks like the Big 12 finally got to the championship game! Hey-oh!

Ok, that was mean.

I understand the premise of having refs from a difference conference ref a game between foes from opposing conferences but let’s not forget one thing: these are still groups of people. People, no matter what their job is, are going to have opinions and allegiances to certain things. It’s only natural for people to start developing connections to the groups that they spend the most time with.

And that’s good news for Ohio State.

They’ve got the Pac-12 officiating their game which is hopefully a wash but over in the Peach Bowl… there’s a Big Ten crew.

Now I’m not going to say that they’re Big Ten homers because I don’t know them. I’ve only known one collegiate official and he taught me sociology in college so I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on them. What I do know is that people tend to have vested rooting interests, no matter what’s going on.

Maybe these officials aren’t homers. Maybe they do like being on television. Maybe they really like being on ESPN on national broadcasts. Maybe it really helps them meet people in bars. Know what’s going to help them get a better audience?

A Big Ten champion.

And that’s why it’s good news for Ohio State.

In the back of their minds, or maybe in the front, they know that the best matchup for Ohio State is going to be Washington. Quite frankly, no one wants to play Alabama. So what happens when there’s a real close call? Something like the legendary “Fail Mary” in the NFL? Could their connection and probably some kind of allegiance to the Big Ten sway them to rule in favor of Washington?

Refs are typically vilified by, well everyone, but they’re supposed to be on the level and make solid judgments. I think this is a bit of a different situation and they probably know it. They’ll be focused on making the absolute perfect call but way back in their minds is going to be that Big Ten logo. It’s not unheard of for refs to have some bias after all.

Now really, there’s an easy way to even avoid this situation. If something like this does happen you just know that the SEC and ESPN will never let it alone. Only after whoever wins victory is  so completely tarnished will it be abandoned. So let’s just skip it avoid that chance altogether.

The simple fix? Get non-Power Five conference referees.

Sure they’re not always perfect but you know what? They don’t have an ax to grind or a possible desire to help their home conference because they hate everyone. They hate that their conferences are always left out of the big games so they’ve got no reason to help out either team no matter who they might play.

That would make a lot of sense but unfortunately, it would require the Power Five to be nice to those other conferences which we know is hard for them. They went kicking and screaming into the 21st century, only acknowledging that maybe those other conferences can play after Boise State kept knocking off people and Western Michigan had more Big Ten wins this season than some Big Ten teams. Hopefully, at some point, they’ll get included in the Playoff too and we’ll have to have this conversation all over again.

E-mail Tim at .

Image courtesy Flickr via the Creative Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

Thankful Ohio State Is In The College Football Playoff

After an epic 38-31 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that the Penn State Nittany Lions were headed to the College Football Playoffs. After all, they were the only team to defeat Ohio State, fluke or not and just added a conference title so I was initially shocked when the playoff committee decided to choose the Buckeyes over Penn State. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked their selection of the Silver Bullets and as the title obviously suggests, I am thankful the committee put them in the field.

If you’re still saying, this is completely unfair, I hear you. I agree with my fellow colleague, Tim Bach, it’s  unfair in every way and I’d be pissed off if I was a Penn State fan.  As a Wisconsin fan, I hate the Buckeyes but I take pride in my conference and as a Big Ten fan, I admit that Ohio State gives us the best chance at a national title for the second time in three years.

Think about it. As hot as Penn State has been, is there anyone out there who believes the Nittany Lions can stand next to Alabama and knock them off? I certainly don’t believe so and I‘d be hard pressed to find anyone else who does. However, the Buckeyes are the team in my opinion that poses the biggest threat to the Crimson Tide.

Now I know what you might be saying. Hasn’t J.T. Barrett struggled as of late (86 yards versus Michigan State, 124 yards versus Michigan) and inconsistent passing been a problem this whole season? Shouldn’t an offensive line as talented as theirs be better in protection (59th, 25 sacks allowed) and be more disciplined (64th in fewest penalties allowed)? Didn’t this team lose to Penn State, barely beat the Spartans and need two overtimes to defeat Michigan? Isn’t this team very young and inexperienced?

I concede that all those points are accurate but you have to admit, though this team has faced adversity, they still have come out on top even when nothing has gone right. It’s dangerous to live on the edge but there is something to be said about a battle-tested team that can make crucial plays in crunch-time.

Remember in 2014, the Buckeyes had a very young roster with a loss to Virginia Tech but still crashed the College Football Playoff and came away with the title over the favored Crimson Tide.

Another point to keep in mind is unlike 2014, this isn’t uncharted territory for head coach Urban Meyer and it’s intimidating to think what kind of game plan he devises given nearly a month to prepare. Next to Nick Saban, he has one of the brightest minds in the game.

Before Alabama, however, the Buckeyes need to take care of business against a highly motivated Clemson team. Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson showed little signs of wear-and-tear from last season as his stats are practically identical but even so, only two quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions than his 15, which plays right into the strength of this Ohio State team. The stingy, ball-hawking secondary nabbed 19 interceptions and their pass efficiency defense (91.43 rating for opposing quarterbacks) leads the nation.

On the other hand, the way to hurt the Buckeyes is to pressure Barrett and Clemson features a fearsome defensive line led by Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and ACC defensive rookie of the year Dexter Lawrence that can dominate Ohio State’s porous offensive line.

I believe it will be a closely contested game and both defenses will force each quarterback to throw the ball so it comes down to who’s more efficient and less turnover prone. In my mind, I’d have to lean towards the Buckeyes as they hold onto win 31-28.

So how does Ohio State defeat the Crimson Tide?

Besides the aforementioned prowess of Meyer and the strong defense, the Buckeyes have a dual-threat signal caller in Barrett and Alabama’s defense struggled against other mobile quarterbacks like Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Clemson’s Watson in 2015.

In addition, if Ohio State can limit its mistakes, apply pressure on true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, sustain long drives and score before the Crimson Tide can answer, they have a shot at dethroning the champions.

In the end, I think that Alabama still wins the national title in a surprisingly close game, 30-23. Remember I didn’t say Ohio State would win but gave our conference the best chance and I’d rather lose by seven points than get blown out and humiliated.

Yes, it’s unfair but the committee did our conference a huge favor and for that I’m thankful.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Penn State Got Screwed By The Committee

So after weeks of debate and posturing by various coaches and conferences, we got our official final College Football Playoff contenders. Despite all the talk by ESPN, Michigan didn’t get in. Ohio State did even though they didn’t win their division or their conference just like Michigan.

But the Buckeyes won a lot of games over some quality opponents so we can deal with that. No one’s going to debate Alabama and if you do, you have some issues. Clemson is a bit of a fraud if you ask me but they only lost one game. The Washington Huskies grabbed that final spot to give us this conclusion:

Penn State got screwed.

The Penn State Nittany Lions, winners of the Big Ten East division and the Big Ten Championship, were left on the outside looking in. The Nittany Lions made an incredible comeback against the favored Wisconsin Badgers to end the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. Arguably, Penn State was one of if not the hottest team in the nation.

And they got screwed.

The College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt told ESPN that Washington was “playing with a lot of momentum” and had “beaten a lot of good football teams this season.”

That’s a really interesting statement. It’s really interesting because people have been saying that Washington has a weak schedule. Check the date on that video too, it’s from early November. That wasn’t the only time someone questioned the Huskies’ schedule either. It was honestly kind of a common theme.

Suddenly, Washington has beaten a bunch of good teams? There are three teams from the Pac-12 ranked in the top 25. Washington lost to one of them and beat Stanford while they were in a skid not like Stanford at all. The nonconference schedule for the Huskies included Rutgers, the worst Power Five team probably ever, and opponents from the Big Sky and Sun Belt conferences. Big time players there. Also, since when is three consecutive wins considered a lot of momentum?

Meanwhile, Penn State has wins over three teams in the top 25. The only two losses for James Franklin’s team sit at no. six in Michigan and no. 23 in Pitt, who beat Clemson for what it’s worth. Let’s not forget that the Nittany Lions also knocked off the current numbers 24, either and three. That’s one hell of a resume.

Couple all that together and the explanation from the committee is starting to look a little weak. The Big Ten is the best conference in the country and Penn State won the whole thing with a strong nonconference schedule. Washington won a Pac-12 that was treated with little to no respect by the committee all season with a weak nonconference schedule.

So what gives? I’m not the only one who doesn’t get it either. The commissioner of the Big 12 wants some answers too. His conference got burned for poor out of conference scheduling and not having a conference title game. This year the Big 12 and Penn State had both and the Nittany Lions got left out.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Ready for a hot take? If Wisconsin had won the Big Ten Championship, they’d be in the playoff.

I’m sure you took a moment to check the rankings from the previous week and saw that Wisconsin was ranked in front of Penn State by one spot. If not, you’re welcome. Wisconsin had lost to Michigan and Ohio State but beat LSU in nonconference play and beat Michigan State when they were hilariously still ranked and Nebraska. Not nearly as impressive, right?

Why does Wisconsin get in when Penn State doesn’t? Because the committee is exactly that: they are a group of people. No matter what they say or what they think, there’s going to be biases and memories and the desire to do what’s “best” for college football.

You know what a lot of people still think of when they think about Penn State? The Sandusky scandal. That horrific event is still attached to Penn State in the minds of many. I had to write something on it for this very site last summer. The school almost lost its accreditation as a university.

There were plenty of people who were and still are calling for the death penalty to Penn State for what happened. This article is from last year about giving the Nittany Lions the death penalty. Can you imagine the uproar if the university that was home to the biggest scandal since SMU played for the National Championship? Just to be clear, I am not comparing the two scandals. Nothing can compare to child molestation.

So yeah, Penn State had an uphill battle that they weren’t going to win. There’s still some tarnish to their university that’s going to take a few more years to buff out. I hope for their sake that it buffs out quickly because, with the way James Franklin has these kids playing, the committee won’t be able to deny them next year.

 

E-mail Tim at .

Image courtesy Flickr via the Creative Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.