Tag Archives: Orange Bowl

New Year’s Six Preview: Orange Bowl

The first of the New Year’s Six bowl games this season, the 83rd Orange Bowl, will also be the only game of the Six played on New Year’s Eve-Eve, or December 30. Luckily for the Orange Bowl, it just might happen to have the best matchup of all the non-College Football Playoff games. On paper, as well as from a marketing standpoint, it is hard to beat a matchup between the University of Michigan and Florida State. The Seminoles will have, unsurprisingly, the home field advantage this time around. While Tallahassee may not be super close to Miami, is sure is a hell of a lot closer than Ann Arbor is.

However, home field is where the Seminoles’ advantages over the Wolverines end. While one can point to the Seminoles offense and simply state that it is “better” than the Michigan offense, that really is not what matters. What matters is how the FSU offense matches up against Michigan’s defense, which is statistically the second best defense in the nation behind Alabama, but most people would agree that the Wolverines’ defense is probably the top dog. The key for the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl this year will be finding a way to beat the Michigan defense.

While the game’s focus will be on the matchup between the FSU offense and the Michigan Defense, the final score will probably come down to the other side of the ball. It seems pretty obvious that Michigan, with its goliath of a defense, will be able to greatly hinder the FSU offense and keep the Seminoles score low. The real question is can the Seminoles defense do the same? If Michigan gets more than 20 points, I think it is extremely likely that it comes out on top. While the Seminoles will break at least a few plays open, I just find it unlikely that it will be enough.

Analytics aside, my opinion is this game is going to be a very one-sided affair. Comparing the two teams, I just fail to see a way that Florida State can break through the juggernaut Wolverine defense enough to win the game. We all talk about the Michigan defense, but so many forget the preposterous numbers that the Wolverines offense has put up at times this season. The Orange Bowl’s final score probably won’t be as one-sided as the game will look, but Michigan should easily win this matchup by about two or three scores.

 

Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 28, Florida State Seminoles 10

 

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Photo: Pixabay

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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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Predicted: New Year’s Six and the College Football Playoff National Championship

This is the third and final part of my 2016 College Football Preview. The picks in this article directly reflect my first and second article, so check those out before reading this one.

Orange Bowl (ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND) 12/31/16

Miami (9-4) vs. LSU (10-2)

The Matchup: Miami will get the automatic ACC bid, as the Hurricanes are the best ACC team not in the CFP. LSU squeezes its way into the New Year’s Six over the likes of Notre Dame, the second team in line who just misses the New Year’s Six due to their indecisiveness at the QB position early in the season, which cost a few games. Other teams who are in the hunt for the Tigers’ Orange Bowl spot are Michigan State, Ole Miss and Arkansas, but none of them finish over 9-3.

The Game: This is Leonard Fournette’s final game in an LSU jersey. He will eat up the Miami defense, which will have to deal with a bit of Les Miles madness. LSU will come out passing early and often, as the Miami defense gets weaker the further away from the line of scrimmage you go. Once the Tigers expose Miami’s pass defense, LSU will catch the Hurricanes on their heels by simply letting Fournette run over the competition. Fournette’s early season injury may keep him out of the Heisman Race, but he will sure look like a Heisman winner after this game is all said and done. LSU will simply put up too many points for the Hurricanes to keep up with.

Final Score: LSU Tigers 38 – Miami Hurricanes 20

Cotton Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large) 1/2/17

Michigan (11-1) vs. UH (12-1)

The Matchup: Michigan is not happy to be here. The Wolverines believe that it belongs in the CFP. However, it ends up playing in Dallas facing off against a Houston Cougars squad whose excitement to be in this spotlight inversely mirrors the Wolverines.

The Game: The team’s respective enthusiasm for this particular game reflects into the matchup’s first half to a large degree. Michigan comes out uninterested and sluggish, which a Greg Ward, AAC player of the Year, powered Cougar offense heavily exploits. The First Half ends with the Cougars up 14-10. The Wolverines swing back in the second half, and take a three-point lead over UH with just over a minute left in the game. Greg Ward leads a final charge down the field into the red zone with time winding down. However, after two incomplete passes, Jabrill Peppers fools Ward, after Peppers fakes a blitz before dropping back into coverage. The strong Wolverine defensive line forces Ward to rush a decision, and he overlooks Peppers before throwing a pass which Peppers intercepts.

Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 41 – Houston Cougars 38

Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) 1/2/17

Iowa (9-4) vs. Stanford (11-2)

The Matchup: Iowa, who lost the Big Ten championship to Ohio State, gets the automatic Rose Bowl bid. Stanford, meanwhile, wins the Pac-12 and because no Pac-12 team gets into the CFP, are the other automatic bid, which makes the 2017 Rose Bowl an identical matchup to the 2016 game.

The Game:  This game will have a similar outcome as the matchup the previous year. Stanford will let Christian McCaffrey run free, and he will single-handedly slaughter Iowa. Iowa, in all honesty, does not belong in the Rose Bowl, and once again, the game’s result shows that. This one is not even close.

Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 31 – Iowa Hawkeyes 6

Sugar Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC) 1/2/17

TCU (10-2) vs. Tennessee (10-3)

The Matchup: I’m going to be honest. Even though I picked them to be here, I would be surprised if Tennessee can win the SEC East and get the automatic bowl berth. The Volunteers’ inconsistency over the last several years makes I hard to believe that it can string together a solid season and take the East over Georgia and Florida. But, that’s what my mind believed when I wrote last week’s prediction article, so here we are. If the Volunteers manage to make it to the Sugar Bowl, it will face off against TCU, winners of the lackluster Big 12.

The Game: Despite the fact that I don’t think it will make it to this game, I think the SEC will prove too much for TCU. Tennessee, behind powerhouse running back Jalen Hurd and a Joshua Dobbs who develops into a great passer throughout the season, are able to out muster the Horned Frogs offensively. Tennessee’ defense, which nine starters, will shut down the Horned Frogs’ offense. This will be a defensive battle between these two teams, but the Volunteers prevail.

Final Score: Tennessee Volunteers 24 – TCU Horned Frogs 17

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal)  12/31/16

#1 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #4 FSU (11-1)

The Matchup: Ohio State, still riding off “The Game of the Century” Part 2, in which the Buckeyes beat #2 ranked Michigan, gets the #1 overall seed for the third annual College Football Playoff. FSU, meanwhile, campaigns hard for its spot, which the Seminoles fight Michigan, Stanford, TCU and Houston for. However, dominating wins late in the season after a close defeat to Clemson allow FSU to squeeze into its second College Football Playoff appearance.

The Game: Lead by recently crowned Heisman Trophy winner, J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes get off to a quick start, scoring quickly on a pass over the middle against the weakest part of the Seminole defense. However, the Buckeyes’ inexperienced defense will struggle to do anything to stop the Dalvin Cook Seminole offense, and FSU goes up by 10 heading into halftime. Coming out of the half, Dontre Wilson brings the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, making the Buckeyes deficit only three. Both defenses then hunker down, with the likes of Raekwon McMillan and DeMarcus Walker dominating for the Buckeyes and Seminoles respectively. Late in the 4th, J.T. Barrett leads Ohio State down the field, but Urban Meyer has to settle for a field goal. However, with two minutes to work with, Dalvin Cook is able to take his time and rush the Seminoles into Field Goal position with only a few ticks left. Ricky Aguayo gets a perfect hold ad knocks home a 52-yard field goal as time expires to allow the Seminoles to win.

Final Score: Florida State Seminoles 23 – Ohio State Buckeyes 20

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal) 12/31/16

#2 Clemson (13-0) vs. #3 Alabama (12-1)

The Matchup: Winners of the ACC and SEC respectively, Clemson and Alabama both come off monster season to qualify as the middle seeds for the College Football Playoff. Heisman runner-up Deshaun Watson, Clemson finished undefeated, while Alabama’s only loss came to Ole Miss early in the season.

The Game: This game will ultimately come down to Clemson’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense. The Alabama offense will struggle with Cooper Bateman at the helm, but Clemson’s defense will not be nearly as dominant as years past, allowing the Crimson Tide to find holes to score both on the ground and in the air. However, the issue for Alabama is that Clemson’s offense simply has too many pieces, as if the passing game to wide outs Mike Williams and Artavis Scott struggles, Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, both of whom were 1000 yard rushers in 2015, can simply push Alabama back behind the Tigers’ O-Line. Though Alabama remains in the game in the first half, Clemson comes out firing in the second and breaks the game wide open. Alabama, though talented, won’t have an answer for Clemson, and the Tigers win the game by a fairly wide margin. The Crimson Tide’s shot at returning to the College Football National Championship is cut one game short.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 45 – Alabama Crimson Tide 24

 College Football Playoff National Championship 1/9/16 (Tampa, FL)

#2 Clemson Tigers (14-0) vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles (12-1)

The Game: This game is going to be a rematch of possibly the best offensive matchup of the 2016 season. Earlier, Clemson beat out FSU in Tallahassee, and that is why the Tigers remained undefeated the entire year. The National Championship, featuring two teams less located less than 600 miles from the game’s location, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, will be an offensive bout the likes of which we haven’t seen in man years. While both teams have competent defenses, Clemson and FSU will look to win the National Championship with offensive firepower. This game will actually not be as much of a nail-biter as their first matchup, as Deshaun Watson, in his second straight title game, will come out firing on all cylinders. FSU will stay in the game, but the Clemson offense will prove to be too much, and keep a constant lead over the Seminoles the entire game. The Clemson Tigers will have its first National Title since 1981.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 48 – Florida State 35

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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Grateful, But Not Dead Yet

Well folks, 2015 is in our rear-view mirror and 2016 is upon us. As the Grateful Dead ponders the passage of time in their song, Uncle John’s Band, “Oh, oh but I want to know, where does the time go?”

Beats me. And when you’re well to the north side of of six decades on this spinning blue marble, that line rings ever so true. I’m running as fast as I can, but I often feel like I can’t keep up. ZOOOOOOMMMMM!!! Collecting Social Security? WHOOOOSSSSHHHH!!! Looking down the barrel of  sixty-five turns-around-the-horn in a mere twenty months?

Wot hoppened?

Life did, that’s what. Fine. Carpe diem! Rock ‘N Roll, Mick! I’ve tried to enjoy every minute of it and I plan to keep on doing just that!

Now, let’s take a quick glance back at 2015, and Auburn, before we turn the page to 2016.DSC02296

It truly does seem like yesterday that we were about to make our way to Tampa for the Outback Bowl between Auburn and Wisconsin. Auburn was flush with promise. Will Muschamp had just been hired as the defensive coordinator on The Plains and things were looking up.

That bowl game, in hindsight, was a portent of things to come. Daniel Carlson, a superb placekicker, bounced a field goal attempt off the goalpost, at Raymond James Stadium in overtime, and the Tigers found itself on the losing end of its first bowl game of 2015. They will play their SECOND bowl game of the year in the Birmingham Bowl. The opponent is the Memphis Tigers. That game is either in progress, or has been completed, by the time you read this.

Then came recruiting. Gus and company landed an excellent class. Check it out!

The A-Day game, in mid-April, gave Auburn fans more reason to hope as Jeremy Johnson, Sean White, Duke Williams, Roc Thomas, and company lit it up! Woo Hooo!

SEC Media Days ushered in a blast of unabated enthusiasm for Auburn Tiger fans all across this spinning globe. They were picked, by the media, to win the SEC and advance to the College Football Playoff. I was, and many of you were, so stoked by this time that we could hardly contain ourselves. Auburn’s in the top five and Jeremy Johnson is getting Heisman hype!

GULP! We know, all too well, what transpired next and continued throughout the entire autumn.

Mediocrity. In spades.

65098088_f133306ab5_bSo, where does that leave us? In Birmingham, that’s where.

I was once told, by an attendant at what was the old Gulf station at College and Glenn, in Auburn, when my old Pontiac Astre broke down, “You have a blew gasket.” That was, of course, spoken to me. I knew my gasket wasn’t the color blue. I knew it was busted, broken, kaput.

And as I peer at 2016 through my orange and blue crystal ball, I’m hoping this thing ain’t “blew”.

I believe Gus will get his bus up and running MUCH more smoothly than it ran in 2015, when it sputtered and spewed and belched forth six regular season wins.

I think he will locate a very good defensive coordinator that will, hopefully, give us the continuity and stability he is looking for.

I think he will come up with an exciting dual threat quarterback, John Franklin?, that will get the offense back in the mode Gus has become known for with his HUNH.

The Tigers have a good nucleus of returning players to build around in 2016. They include Braden Smith, Alex Kozan, Austin Golson, Robert Leff, and Kaleb Kim on the O line. Will Shon Coleman and Avery Young go pro?

The D line should return Carl Lawson (PLEASE!), Gimel President, Raashed Kennion, Maurice Swain, Dontavius Russell, Devaroe Lawrence, and Price Tega Wanogho, among others.

Linebackers? Tre’ Williams, Deshaun Davis, Jeff Holland, and Cameron Toney will make up the core.

How about the secondary? Carlton Davis (BOOM!), T.J. Davis, Josh Holsey, Stephen Roberts, Nick Ruffin, Johnathan “Rudy” Ford, Tim Irvin, Tray Matthews, and Montavious Atkinson.

And back to the offense. The aforementioned John Franklin, Tyler Queen, Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and, the incoming Woody Barrett, are all potential starters at quarterback.

The running back position looks great with Jovon Robinson, Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas, and Kerryon Johnson helping to make up that group.

Jason Smith, Tony Stevens, Stanton Truitt, Marcus Davis, Darius Slayton, Ryan Davis, and Gray King will return at wide receiver.

The kicking duties are in excellent hands (or legs?) with Daniel Carlson and Kevin Phillips coming back.

I expect the tight end and H-back/fullback roles to perform much better with some experience and added talent.

All the guys, just mentioned, were known quantities, for the most part. There are redshirt and incoming freshman that will bolster the talent levels, as well.

What else do the last couple of days in 2015 and the New Year of 2016 hold for those of us who are rabid college football fans.

I have Alabama over Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and Oklahoma over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

What will happen in Glendale? Will Nick Saban win one more Natty at Alabama and depart T-Town? Or maybe retire? Possibly?

Who will be the early favorites for the 2016 crown? Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Notre Dame, it appears.

The SEC West? That has to be Bama. The SEC East? I like Tennessee.

Ohio State should get a strong challenge from Michigan and, especially, Michigan State in the Big 10.

Florida State looks set for the long haul in the ACC, after Clemson.

You have to stay with Okie State, TCU, and Baylor to continue to be strong in the Big 12.

The PAC-12? Wide open. USC, Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, and, my dark horse, the Washington Huskies, should all contend.

A fly-in-the-ointment? Houston? Boise State?

And what about the Auburn Tigers? You’ve been given a look at some solid returning talent and there are some studs in the 2016 signing class. Only time will tell. But, playing in the SEC West is absolutely brutal.

Where do we find victories on that next schedule?

The Tigers open with my pre-season numero uno, Clemson… in Auburn…on my birthday. I’m not of the mind to pencil that one in as a win.

Let’s go with victories over Arkansas State, Texas A&M, LA-Monroe, Mississippi State (bye, Dak), Vanderbilt, and Alabama A&M. That’s six. I have LSU (in Auburn), and Arkansas (also in Auburn) as, at least, 50/50 shots. Clemson, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama? You simply cannot pencil wins in for any of those tough ones. But, I do believe Auburn will have a chance to win any game they play in, with an 8-4 record a good possibility. Anything else will be gravy. Well, bring on the turkey and dressing ’cause we have that gravy awaiting on The Plains.

Happy New Year and War Damn Eagle!

More Than A Friday: Nothing Has Mattered In College Football Until Now

Every game counts, except for the ones we determine don’t matter, under the guise of not evaluating losses.  The end of the College Football season has always had its ways of frustrating us on one level or another.  Bowl games were set up in a weird way, where the best teams didn’t necessarily play each other, and everyone was proud to play on January 1st.

I know, I know.  This New Years Eve is going to be so awesome, watching College Football through confetti…but really, is it?  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back to the old days of split-titles and what-not, but the more we try to solve the problem, the more we realize there’s no perfect solution.  I mean, it’s nice.  We reward four regular season achievers with a playoff, distinguish four other games as very important, and spend our December and early January evenings watching games of waning importance that feature slightly above average to fairly good teams.

That seems cool, but the undercard action is borderline fatiguing, and there’s such a gap between the motivation you’re going to have for a National Semifinal versus an “Access Bowl”.  Ask Nick Saban about his Alabama team sleepwalking into those consultation games.  There’s gap between the Access Bowls and kicking off in Orlando at 11 AM on the first day of the year, but being left out of the Peach Bowl isn’t quite the same as being five and wondering why a committee thought four was better than you.

That might be a problem.  For the second year in a row, I’d have to assume we’re going to see some sort of subjective cut line, and there will be a solid argument for a team playing in Pasadena1Or one of those other prestigious non-championship participating games.  I’m assuming a Big Ten team or Stanford to be competing for a title.  Ohio State and Notre Dame have only lost close games to top opponents, Stanford dropped one to an Oregon team that’s much better than their record and one hard-to-forgive road contest at Northwestern, and North Carolina is begging forgiveness for their season opening loss to South Carolina and the Ole Ball Coach2That’s Steve Spurrier, who resigned in-season this year..

There’s a few ways to look at this.  Chalk makes it easy and chaos makes it chaotic.

ACC Championship

It’s undefeated Clemson and once-defeated North Carolina.  Clemson finally cleared the hurdles created by Florida State and South Carolina in the past, and find themselves in the ACC Championship game for the first time in a while.  Quarterback DeShaun Watson will take the stage with an outside chance at the Heisman Trophy, so head coach Dabo Swinney will set him up to shine.  North Carolina has Marquis Williams, and he’s been nothing short of sensational behind center for Larry Fedora’s team, who enters the weekend on an 11-game winning streak of their own.

Chalk: Clemson wins and they’re in.  Wins over Notre Dame, Florida State, and North Carolina will make the fact they schedule Wofford as meaningless as Alabama’s loss at home to Ole Miss.

Chaos: North Carolina wins, and you start comparing them to teams on the couch this weekend.  Ohio State was underwhelming, despite holding the top spot until we recognized the committee’s rankings over the AP’s.  The Tar Heels didn’t play Florida State this season, and schedule two FCS opponents.  This might come down to style points, and while most would have to think simply taking down Clemson would do the trick, we know the aforementioned Buckeyes made an “All Sales Final” pitch to the committee in the Big Ten title game a year ago.

Big Ten Championship

With all due respect to their recent success, it will be a battle of little brothers in Indianapolis to crown a Big Ten Champion.  Iowa is unbeaten, but no one believes they are what it says they are on paper.  They’re hanging their hat on a non-conference win over Pitt and victories over a few decent intra division rivals.  Michigan State, on the other hand, has been the best team on the field in every game they’ve played this season.  They were better than the Cornhuskers, who won on a very controversial play, and they were better than the Buckeyes, who they dominated in their own building, despite the game coming down to a walk-off field goal.

Chalk: The winner goes to the College Football Playoff.  Few would argue that.

Chaos:  Enough people might get it in their head that if Iowa wins, do you automatically deem them better than all of the 1-loss teams.  Undefeated should eliminate that noise.  You could hold the Nebraska loss against Michigan State, but wins at Michigan, Ohio State, and Oregon3You could mitigate this victory a little bit by suggesting they didn’t play the same Oregon that knocked off Stanford, but it was still a good win for Michigan State., not to mention Iowa on the big stage should quiet all of that noise.  The only chaos here would be an ugly game, and an ugly game didn’t keep Texas out of the 2010 BCS Championship, in the era known as that of The BCS.

Pac 12 Championship

USC has four losses, and they fired their head coach earlier this season, but bounced back under interim-turned-full-time head coach Clay Helton.  Stanford has some momentum after the big win in their season finale over Notre Dame, and they’ll be playing close to home this weekend.

Chalk:  I’m not sure it matters, but if Stanford loses, they are out.  If they win, they are scoreboard watching.

Chaos:  The top teams bottom out in their conference championship games, and the committee has three teams locked in, Oklahoma and the champions from the Big Ten and ACC.  Fourth spot is up for grabs, with 2-loss Alabama, 1-loss Ohio State, and the 2-loss Cardinal reaching for it.

SEC Championship

Alabama was able to convincingly beat Wisconsin on a neutral field to start the year and lost early to Ole Miss at home.  They took care of business versus the rest of the SEC, but the jury is really deliberating hard on just how good the conference was in 2015.  Florida has had a good run under first-year coach Jim McElwain, surviving an unexpected year-long suspension for their opening day starting quarterback to win the SEC East, but a poor showing versus Florida State last week does not inspire anyone into believing they’ll best Alabama in Atlanta on Saturday.

Chalk: Alabama is very likely on the top line with a win and all the way out with a loss to the Gators.

Chaos:  There promises to be a lot of Gator fans in Columbus.  Realistically, a Florida win is the only obvious route for Ohio State (or Stanford) to reach the College Football Playoff, but then what do you make of a 2-loss Florida team.

Actual Predictions

Basically, because rarely does anyone ever find themselves held accountable for being wrong, I’m going to take a stab at slotting the Semis and the Access Bowls.

Orange Bowl (National Semifinal)

Michigan State vs. Clemson

Cotton Bowl (National Semifinal)

Oklahoma vs. Alabama

Rose Bowl

Ohio State vs. Stanford

Sugar Bowl

Baylor vs. Florida

Fiesta Bowl

Iowa vs. Notre Dame

Peach Bowl

Houston vs. Florida State

 

   [ + ]

1. Or one of those other prestigious non-championship participating games.  I’m assuming a Big Ten team or Stanford
2. That’s Steve Spurrier, who resigned in-season this year.
3. You could mitigate this victory a little bit by suggesting they didn’t play the same Oregon that knocked off Stanford, but it was still a good win for Michigan State.

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

I have attended twenty-five Auburn-Georgia games. My record is 13-11-1. Saturday, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise (well, the creek HAS risen, but that’s another story), will be number twenty-six for me. And I hope my record improves to 14-11-1. More on that later.

Here is a look back at some of those games I attended which were memorable and had a huge impact.

1968

The 1968 game was the first one I was privileged to view in-person. My father drove me, and my friends Frank McGraw and Mike Collins, to The Plains that rainy November morning. The weather cleared during the game.

Auburn was 6-2 with designs on an Orange Bowl invitation. Those dreams were squashed by a suffocating Bulldog defense which allowed only 3 first quarter points. The visitors scored all 17 of their points in stanza number two. The final tally was 17-3.

The Herschel Years

Herschel Walker, arguably college football’s greatest running back EVER, toted the rock at UGA for three seasons, 1980-82, and Georgia was the victor in all three. The respective scores were 31-21, 24-13, and 19-14.

I was there for all of those losses.

1982

Moral victories (is there really any such thing?) are ultimately hollow, but often provide a ray of hope. That was the case in 1982.

Georgia was undefeated and had their sights set on a second National Championship in a three-year span. They had beaten Notre Dame to accomplish this, behind the running of frosh phenom, Walker, following the 1980 season.

The Dawgs led 13-7 in the fourth quarter when Auburn’s Lionel “Little Train” James fielded a punt at his own 13-yard line and took it to the house. Tigers 14-13!

The number one team in the country responded like the champions they were with an 80-yard march that ended with Walker taking it in from the three. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

The Tigers countered with a desperation drive, engineered beautifully by quarterback Randy Campbell, that fell just short, as Campbell threw into the end zone on fourth down only to have the pass batted away with 47 ticks remaining on the clock. Game over. Georgia, 19-14.

This was the afternoon that legendary Bulldog broadcaster, Larry Munson, screamed, “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky! Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!” as the game concluded, and referencing the, now upcoming, trip to the Sugar Bowl for the SEC Champion Bulldogs.

But… BUT, also as the game concluded, Auburn fans, as often we do, chanted “It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!” over and over and over. And the mood at our, and other’s tailgates, was not one of sadness or despair, but one of optimism and hope.

One game was yet to be played on that 1982 schedule, and the opponent was the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Auburn fans knew, in their heart of hearts, as one, that the nine-game winning streak that the Tide lorded over the Tigers could very well come to an end in two weeks at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

It did! Bo Jackson went “over the top” to give Auburn a 23-22 lead which they did not relinquish. That was Bear Bryant’s last regular season game as head coach at Alabama, and the balance of power, within the state, began to shift.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Another monster game in “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.”

1983

I was NOT in attendance. We were living in Albany, NY and didn’t make the game, but it’s tale is a must tell when one consider’s the enormity of the event.

Auburn had not won an SEC Championship since 1957. Third-year coach Pat Dye brought a determined group of Tigers to play “between the hedges”. They were 8-1 and number 3 in the country. Georgia was undefeated and ranked number 4.

Georgia was looking for its fourth straight league title. The winner of this one would decide who would represent the SEC in New Orleans.

Auburn would, absolutely, not be denied this time. They were in full control of the game, from the beginning, and the 13-7 triumph was not as close as the score indicated.

The twenty-six year conference championship drought came to an end in Athens.

Auburn went on to defeat the Michigan Wolverines, and Bo Schembechler, 9-7, in the Sugar Bowl. They would be crowned National Champions by the New York Times.

Schembechler said Auburn would not be able to run on Michigan. Auburn did, indeed, run on the Wolverines and Bo Jackson was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Fast forward to 2004. I’m back in attendance.

2004

Auburn… #3 and undefeated. Georgia… #5 with one loss.

ESPN College GameDay.

There is only one game in which the atmosphere was more electric on an Auburn football Saturday. That was in 1989 when Alabama came to town for the first time in the history of the series.

Auburn had already clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game and was playing for a, potential, spot in the Orange Bowl in the BCS National Championship Game.

Auburn held Georgia scoreless for 57 minutes and wound up winning by a 24-6 count. It wasn’t that close. They dominated the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball.

Carnell “Cadillac” Williams carried the ball 19 times for 101 yards.

Ronnie Brown ran for 51 yards. He also caught 7 passes for 88 yards.

And how about Jason Campbell? 18 for 22 and 189 yards.

Most of us know the rest of the story.

Auburn went into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama two weeks later. The Tigers should have played Southern Cal for it all. They did not, as the idiots in both the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls kept Oklahoma at number two, and college football fans were robbed of what would, most likely, have been a monumental ‘game for the ages’ in Miami.

Auburn WAS named National Champions by People’s National Champions and the GBE College Football Ratings, among others.

2013

‘Nuff said!!!

And that brings us to…

2015

It’s not 2004, or even 1982, but this year’s contest between Auburn and Georgia is very important. Without rehashing what is going on in Athens, with Mark Richt and his squad, Georgia needs this game… BADLY.

Auburn needs this game.

The Tigers went to to College Station and whipped the Texas A&M Aggies in a most impressive fashion.

The game plans for the offense and defense were excellent and they were well executed.

Jeremy Johnson returned as the starting signal caller and performed extremely well.

Jovon Robinson asserted himself as that ‘go to’ back that Auburn can give the ball to with complete confidence, and he will break a couple of long runs before the season is over.

The Auburn defense nabbed three picks off the arm of dynamic freshman quarterback, Kyler Murray and, very importantly, contained him in the pocket.

In short, the Tigers played Auburn Football, really, for the first time this year. Now it’s time for them to step up and do that consistently.

For the 119th time, Georgia awaits. The series stands at 55-55-8. Think it could get any closer?

There has been turmoil within the Bulldog program and Richt might be coaching for his job in these last two games, but you can believe that he will have his minions ready for Auburn. He always does. The Dawgs have won seven out of the last ten.

The stage is set.

I am of the opinion that Auburn will continue to build on what they have been doing for the past three weeks, the A&M game being their most complete one, and play their best game of the 2015 season. And I will run my record, in games I’ve attended versus Georgia, to 14-11-1.

Auburn 31, Georgia 20

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIU Gambles on Game Out West

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Bet it all on red, or bet it all on black. Either way, it works for Northern Illinois, as they travel west to take on UNLV in non-conference play this weekend. For the Huskies, being undefeated and dismissing any Big Ten foe that dare invite them to play in September has become old hat, but the rules tend to change when they venture into Pacific time.
Never mind a pair of victories in Moscow, Idaho since 2007; traveling west has been a hit and miss deal, at best, since I’ve become acquainted with the Northern Illinois football program over the last decade. They’d just as soon forget about the 37-7 loss to TCU at the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in 2006, but their 7-point loss to Utah State in their return to Qualcomm Stadium for the Poinsettia’s 2014 chapter still has to linger.
After the program’s first undefeated regular season in Division I, only Bowling Green stood between the Huskies and their second consecutive BCS bid last December. Their loss to BG in the conference championship was the letdown, and if you subscribe to the Alabama fan school of thought on bowl defeats, you could mitigate the worse-than-the-final-score-might-indicate loss to Utah State as a game the players couldn’t care enough about. I don’t know if I necessarily buy that, but it does tell you a little bit about where the NIU football program is, and just how far they’ve come in a short period of time.
In 2003, a team that featured future-NFL running back Michael Turner began the season 7-0, with notable wins over Maryland and Alabama. They’d lose to Bowling Green to spoil their perfect season, and then again to Toledo later in the season, but there would be no bowl for this 10-2 team. The next season, Maryland would return the favor, handing the Huskies a 23-20 loss in College Park in the 2004 opener, but Turner and company would survive losses to Iowa State and Toledo (always Toledo!) for a 9-3 finish and a trip to San Jose for the Silicon Valley Classic.
This was a big deal, the school’s first post-season action since their 1983 California Bowl victory over Cal State Fullerton. Especially after being denied a bonus game the previous year, it was something for the student body in DeKalb to be excited about. In a torrential Northern California downpour, one that led to mudslides, they ran away with a win over the Trojans from Troy, an essentially unknown mid-major program from Alabama.
These days, the Huskie faithful are disappointed when their small, yet prominent, teams struggle with Big Ten programs like Purdue and Northwestern. Frankly, they expected a better showing from their eventual Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch and the team in a loss to Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl. It’s worth noting that Florida State team still hasn’t lost a game since before their 31-10 win over the MAC’s only BCS party crasher in 16 seasons.
That brings us to this weekend, where a Runnin’ Rebel program that, to put it bluntly, isn’t very good awaits them. Granted, we only have a small sample size to go on in 2014, but UNLV squeaked by FCS program Northern Colorado at home last week and didn’t appear to be anything special in shellacking at the hands of Arizona in Tucson to start the season.
As it applies to brand name programs, and more specifically brand name conferences, the Mountain West opponent won’t jump off the page when you look at NIU’s 2014 schedule. Considering they took it to the Big Ten a week ago and the SEC awaits them next week, the thought of being dominated by the MWC’s runner-up in a December bowl last year will certainly be overlooked by most. However, in the grand scheme of things, they need to win every week they play, given these new lofty expectations hung on them. Style points shouldn’t matter if you win all of your games, but just “getting by” a weak UNLV program will be frowned upon, should the Huskies be nationally relevant, with a zero in the loss column in December, and perhaps January.
So bet on red or bet on black, but be sure to bet on NIU, even though every week has the potential for a letdown.
 
***Photo credit: Chicago Tribune***

Best Experience for the Free Agent College Fan

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Idle hands are the devil’s play-pen, right? I wonder how the devil feels about too much time alone with one’s thoughts. It’s during that time that I start theorizing about going to college, putting aside things like educational value and the social aspect, and wondering which institution would have offered the best four-year experience for the sports fan. This is a thought process that works much better with the advantage of hindsight in my back pocket.

Each July, we get the better part of a week that lacks any sporting event of real consequence. Sure, the Home Run Derby demonstrates might, because chicks dig the long ball. The actual All-Star game despicably determines home-field advantage for the World Series, but even thought I’m a big baseball fan, I find myself less inclined to watch it each year. In fact, I skipped the Mid-Summer Classic this year. A day later, I skipped the ESPY’s, the awards show for sport, which I’m thinking we don’t need, but allows ESPN to fill the void with their own program taking center stage. I checked in on Twitter long enough to see that enough people excitedly tune in, or at least settle for the annual extravaganza. My theory is that in sports, unlike other aspects of entertainment, the games themselves determine the winners and losers, so you really don’t need an academy or committee to determine who deserves the trophies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzMnCOG-C1o#t=470

More so than the nominees and winners, the host seems to be the target of the hoopla, year in and year out. None of them are exactly in the ballpark of Billy Crystal at the Oscar’s, but Norm McDonald had the epic joke about Charles Woodson’s Heisman legacy in 1999 and the rest tend to fall into the Rob Riggle Pantheon of Forgettable Awards Show Hosts. This year, ESPN gave the viewers Drake, the former child actor turned young adult hip-hop artist. The trend seems to be to dislike the guy for a multitude of reasons, but sports fans are quick to point out that the trendy Canadian tends to latch himself to superstars and winners.

For the common man, this is a sports fan sin of the highest order, but if you’re able to laugh off the notion that he should be fiercely loyal to the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors, and no other teams in all of sports, it’s fair to say that Drake is somewhat of a free agent. After spending the better part of my 36 years rooting for the Cleveland teams, I know I don’t have that luxury, but that time alone with my thoughts took me back to a “what if” scenario that allows me to be just that, a free agent fan.

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In reality, I took my talents to Parris Island and the United States Marine Corps out of high school, a school of hard knocks, rather than a traditional place of higher learning. If I’ve learned anything about fans, especially younger ones, over the last decade, it’s that geography and alma mater don’t matter as much as they used to, but when you have those things going for you, it sure justifies your allegiance a lot more. Now, choosing a school based on the games you might attend and the glory you might share with those teams you watch play is foolish, but this was my time alone with my thoughts; I wasn’t considering any real word factors, just trying to have the fun that Drake seems to, without constantly transferring to chase National Championships.

Since I would have first set foot on campus in the Fall of 1997, we’re only considering what I would have been able to see from the 1997 College Football season thru the conclusion of March Madness in 2001. I’m also only weighing the top two college sports, football and men’s basketball; it is tough to say how open-minded I would have been a half a lifetime ago, but I don’t see myself with fond memories of volleyball or women’s hoops under any circumstances in the present tense. I’m also eliminating baseball as part of the criteria, though a trip to Omaha for the World Series would be on my bucket list, if I had one.

I had to consider the champions in football; Michigan and Nebraska in 1997, Tennessee in ’98, Florida State in ’99, and Oklahoma in 2000. Remember, this is a parllel world and it doesn’t matter that 18 year-old me despised Michigan and all of the Ohioans that chose to attend. I don’t quite weigh basketball success evenly, but if you’re going to get a decent seat for a big March Madness game, there is no grey area between the student body and the extraordinarily wealthy; the path of least resistance to those premium seats involves enrolling at a school that’s going to play in those types of games often.

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Oklahoma would have provided a fine conclusion to my final year in 2001, with the upset of Florida State in a sloppy game in Miami to win the Orange Bowl 13-2, which gave them a National Championship. If I consider Oklahoma from a Class of 2001 alumni perspective, there’s no questioning fifteen years of Bob Stoops, a few seasons of Adrian Peterson, a victory in each BCS Bowl game, and four appearances in the title game would have me screaming “Boomer Sooner” from the rooftops, but this is strictly about the four years on campus. That would have meant two seasons of John Blake before Stoops turned things around in 1999; the Sooners were 9-14, good enough for fifth place in the Big 12 South both years. sure, a National Championship washes away those scars, but outside of that 2000 season, they’d have given me three losses in the Red River Shootout and an unremarkable trip to Shreveport for an Independence Bowl loss to Mississippi to end 1999 with a 7-5 record. On the hardwood, Oklahoma made the tournament in all four of my college years, but a Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State in 1999 highlighted those years.

I had a friend from elementary school in Cleveland that actually spent those four years in Tallahasse; he sat on the bench with the Seminoles basketball team as a manager. In what would have been our freshmen year, Steve Robinson led them to a #12 seed in the NCAA tournament. A second round knockout at hands of Valparaiso dropped them 18-14 for the 1997-98 season, and it would be the last post-season action the Class of 2001 would witness in their four years on campus.

Of course, Florida State, under the charge of Bobby Bowden was a football school. It would have taken until the 11th game, the rivalry game in Gainesville on November 22nd, before I’d have seen Bowden lose a football game. Aside from the table in the ACC in ’97, the ‘Noles went to USC and beat the Trojans, slaughtered then-Big East rival Miami at home, and took down Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. If not for the three-point loss to Florida, Peter Warrick and company presented a great argument over Michigan and Nebraska for the title; it leaves me to wonder how the pre-BCS system would have paired the top teams up for the bowls. In ’98, a Week 2 loss at NC State meant they needed help in November to get to Tempe for the inaugural BCS Championship at the Fiesta Bowl, and they got it, so they met Tennessee in the desert.

They lost to a great Volunteers team, but bounced back to take down Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the second BCS title game at the Sugar Bowl. They had to deal with #3 Florida in the swamp first, and came away with a 30-23 win before neutralizing “Beamer Ball” by 17 points in New Orleans. Four years of Bowden Ball ended on a sour note when Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke couldn’t figure out Bob Stoops defense at the Orange Bowl, but if you do the math, 45 wins and 5 losses with a realistic chance at a title on January 1st in each of those seasons, Florida State was’t a bad place to be for that period.

At Tennessee, I’d have gotten Peyton Manning’s senior year. Sure, the guy couldn’t beat Florida and they’d lose to co-National Champion Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, but the 1997 season set the scene for the ’98 season well. With Manning gone, it was up to Tee Martin to take the reigns on offense, doing just enough to let a defense littered with NFL talent win a title. They stormed the field at Rocky Top when the Vols edged the Gators at Neyland in Week 2 and beat four Top 10 teams, including #2 Florida State in the desert for the first BCS Championship. Florida got them in Gainesville the next season, but they took down #10 in consecutive weeks and reached the Fiesta Bowl, where they’d lose to Nebraska. In 2000, they’d suffer their worst season of the four years, going 8-4 with losses to Florida, at LSU, at Georgia, and to Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. For the travel alone, with bowl games in Miami, Tempe twice, and Dallas, this Ohio-born kid would have loved it. Throw in Peyton Manning and a 43-9 for Phil Fullmer, and Tennessee probably didn’t even need the four NCAA tourney appearances in basketball, which included losses to Illinois State, Missouri State, Charlotte, and a Sweet 16 loss to national semi-finalist North Carolina in 2000.

Nebraska and Michigan gave their basketball fans positively nothing in the way of post-season play during the years in question, but it starts with a National Championship where #1 didn’t play #2. Both were unbeaten, Michigan wrapping up their season with Heisman winner Woodson in the Rose Bowl over Ryan Leaf and the 11-1 Washington State Cougars, while Nebraska’s Scott Frost outplayed Peyton Manning in the Cornhuskers’ 42-17 Orange Bowl win over Tennessee. Michigan would go on to defeat rival Ohio State in two of the next three seasons and beat SEC teams from Alabama in January for the next three seasons, Auburn in the 1999 and 2001 Citrus Bowls, and Alabama in a thrilling 2000 Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s bowl travels took them from Miami, for the title, to San Diego, Tempe for a rematch of the 1998 Orange Bowl, and the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. 1997 was the legendary Tom Osborne’s last season coaching the Big Red. Alumni considerations, which again are not a factor, don’t treat either school well.

From 2001 to 2013, Michigan has lost in all but two seasons to Ohio State, and when they’ve been bowl-eligible they haven’t fared well; the exception being a forgettable Sugar Bowl win over an even more forgettable Virginia Tech team in 2012. Things don’t shape up well for Nebraska either; Frank Solich managed to get them to a National Championship after a stunning 62-36 defeat in Boulder which knocked them out of the Big 12 Championship Game, but not out of the BCS Championship at the Rose Bowl, where Miami kicked their asses. Over the next decade, they showed they didn’t belong on the same field with the likes of Big 12 powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas, and went running for the Big Ten in 2011.

Two schools without a title in football or basketball during the alotted time do make a good case for a great fan experience. First, Arizona; they’re a basketball school, but the final years of the Dick Tomey Era in football weren’t awful. They went from 7-5 with a loss to New Mexico on their home field for the Insight Bowl in 1997 to 12-1 season in ’98, the only blemish being a 52-28 home loss to UCLA in a season where the Wildcats handed Washington State their only loss of the year. They would beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, but whiffed considerably in 1999 and 2000, going 11-12 and opening the door for John Mackovic to take over for Tomey in 2001. It would be a while before Lute Olsen and the Arizona basketball program would part ways. They would have a single one-and-done year in the tourney with a 1-point Opening Round loss to Oklahoma in 1999, on the heels of a 12-1 football season, but losses to Utah (’98), Wisconsin (’00), and Duke (’01) on the hardwood should have left Wildcats basketball fans with little to hang their head about. Utah played for the National Championship, Wisconsin reached the Final Four, and the loss to Duke was the National Championship.

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Speaking of Wisconsin, I’m not sure where people in Madison rank that Final Four appearance among the great moments in school history. They are, after all, a football school. They made the tournament in three of these four years, but were 0-for-4 against Michigan State in 1999-2000 and were one-and-done to Missouri State and Georgia State in their other tournament cameos. On the football field, with or without this “what if” scenario, Wisconsin serves as one of the ultimate “what if” teams; what if Michigan didn’t trip them up in their eventual Rose Bowl winning seasons in ’98 and ’99 (they also lost to Cincinnati in 1999)? You may not have anything nice to say about and 1998 Outback Bowl loss to Georgia or their Sun Bowl win over UCLA in 2000, but back-to-back Big Ten Championships and Rose Bowl victories don’t happen very often. If only I could say I was there for it.

In the end, given the choice and the clairvoiance, Tennessee seems like it would have been the best place to spend the time, even though Drake might have had to change into the Florida and Nebraska track suits at halftime on occasion. While Florida is being mentioned, I can’t think of a more choice experience than aligning with the Tebow years in Gainesville; only 2009-2012 Alabama rivals 2006-2010 Florida, but the Gators needed an assist from Billy Donovan, Joakim Noah, and company to lift them to the top.

Where would you spend your college years, strictly from the perspective of a sports fan? Do you think there’s a better four years than any mentioned here? Where do you think you’d see the best teams and the most desirable post-season travel itinerary? I’d love your thoughts, either in e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@JRichRadio); let me know what you think.

BCS Dominance: An Ohio State Love Story

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Thee Ohio State Buckeyes. When you hear these three simple words what comes to your mind? Scarlet and Grey? Archie Griffin? How about Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller, Troy Smith, Eddie George, or how about The Game? Well all of these are great answers but the one thing that comes to my mind is BCS dominance.
Thee Ohio State was the most dominate team during the BCS era appearing in a staggering ten games. Yes they stumbled and were embarrassed in a few of them, cough cough the 2007 National Championship game verse Urban Meyer lead Florida.  Still no team got to the dance more than Ohio State. They always found a way to get a date to prom so to speak.
There were the moments, Maurice Clarett stripping Sean Taylor after an interception in the endzone. Ted Ginn returning the opening kick off of the already mentioned 2007 National Championship. Heck even the Buckeyes making the 2008 National Championship game was a moment. They shouldn’t have had the season they did that year. Then the best moment of them all beating Miami (Fl) in the 2002 National Championship.

Ohio State won the first BCS Nokia Sugar Bowl beating Texas A&M under John Cooper. Yes Cooper took them to a BCS game. Ohio state is the first school to have three coaches take the team to BCS games, the other is Florida (Spurrier, Meyer, and Muschamp). They started the BCS era going 4-0, before losing back-to-back national title games to SEC opponents. They appeared in a BCS game in 6 out of 7 years from 2002-2009, missing the BCS dance in 2004. They also had a staggering 6 “at-large” bids.
It didn’t matter if they had Craig Krenzel, Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor, or Braxton Miller under center. The Buckeyes won and won and found their way to the big pay day of the BCS over and over. No team in the BCS era cashed in as much as the Buckeyes did.

Why We Shouldn't Forget the BCS

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If you were ever a kid who felt the joy of Christmas morning, running downstairs, opening gifts, and realizing you had gotten that shiny new bike, Xbox, or other toy you had wanted all year, then you know the joy spread through the college football world as word came down that the sport had finally rid itself of that pesky BCS. In its place? A brand new four team playoff approved by the NCAA presidents. Just like old toys after every Christmas, the BCS will be pushed out of sight, never to be seen or heard from again. But will the new playoff be everything fans hoped for? In reality, was the BCS all that bad, or was it a necessary evil to get us to this point, deserving of a far better picture than the one history will most certainly paint?
The BCS gave us Ohio St/Miami (Fl.), Texas/USC, and Florida St./Auburn. Unfortunately it also gave us a split national title (2003), an undefeated SEC team being left out of the championship game (Auburn 2004), and 2011’s dud of a rematch between Alabama and LSU. What many don’t remember however, is that before the BCS there was no national championship game. Conference champions and other highly ranked teams generally went to the bowls that their conferences had bowl tie-ins for. Efforts to produce a matchup of the top teams were often derailed by the Rose Bowl’s insistence on getting the Big 10 and Pac 10 champions no matter their rank. The BCS got the Rose Bowl to loosen these reigns, allowing the first guarantee of the #1 and #2 teams playing each other at the end of each season. The disagreement on the merits of those rankings is different issue entirely. The new question isn’t if there will be any large complaints with the new system, but when.
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One clear positive of the playoff is that it appears that the NCAA has nailed the set-up of the new system. The two semi-final games will rotate each year through three pairings of what will be the top six bowls: Rose/Sugar, Fiesta/Peach, and Orange/Cotton. This set-up will allow the bowls to retain their conference tie-ins in years those bowls and respective conference champions are not included in the playoff. Possibly more important for the sport is it will restore some of the luster to these games which were largely over-shadowed by the BCS national championship game. Along those lines, all six of these games will usually be played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, days when many across the country will have off from work. These games will be featured as a triple header each day. This will remove the element of having the major bowl games on various weeknights spread out over the course of a week’s time. With the recent increase in college football’s popularity these triple headers will soon (if not immediately) take over the holiday similar to the way people look forward to the NFL on Thanksgiving.
What isn’t known is what main issue will surface with the playoff system. If you ask me, the details of the four team playoff have created opportunities for problems that aren’t drastically different than the ones people had with the BCS. The main challenge is getting the acceptance that the Selection Committee will be valid and unbiased. Since the release of who the initial members of the committee will be, we’re off to a shaky start. While most of the members are affiliated with college football in some way, their current positions tie them to a particular team or conference. I am skeptical that these members will be able to dedicate the time required to study all of the relevant teams for that particular year, let alone watch a Saturday night Pac-12 tilt that may end after midnight. Additionally, this Selection Committee will be creating their own Top 25 ranking, releasing said rankings at various times during the season with the first installment coming in October. Sound like anything you’ve heard before? While the BCS system had its flaws, 2/3 of the rankings were based off of human polls. I fail to see how the committee’s rankings will be significantly different than the human polls that made up the majority of the BCS rankings. Not only will there be debate over how the teams are selected, I am with many in the line of thinking that four teams are not enough. Six teams would have been a better number, as it allows the two teams who would have been 1st and 2nd in the BCS to receive a bye but also allows four more teams an opportunity. Whether every major conference champion has a season deserving of a top 4 ranking, a four team playoff doesn’t even allow for the possibility of all those teams getting a chance in that scenario. Last year’s end of the regular season rankings had teams 2-6 all with one loss. While the move to a four team playoff is certainly an improvement, there is still a strong likelihood that teams 5 and 6 and possibly 7 and 8 will feel they have a strong case for inclusion. The NCAA didn’t do themselves any favors by signing this new agreement through 2025.

My biggest issue with the playoff, particularly if it expands to 8 or 16 teams in the future, is what it means for the regular season. Call me old-fashioned, but I want every regular season game to mean something. I want to wake up every Saturday morning knowing that if a top 10 team doesn’t bring its ‘A’ game it could cost them a championship. Look at the Alabama/Auburn game from last year. Under this year’s scenario, Alabama likely still gets into the playoff. No doubt the game still had an amazing ending, but it doesn’t go down as the game that ended Bama’s chance at a 3-peat. Alabama could go into the playoff 11-1 and still win the national championship. Would they have been a worthy champion? Absolutely. But they would’ve gone into that Auburn game knowing that even with a loss (albeit against their hated rival) they could go home with everything they worked for still a possibility. Who knows how many of these kind of scenarios there will be, but it’s the type of every-game-counts, season-on-the-line pressure that helps hype up college football Saturdays.
Just like the BCS had its flaws, this system will have its own as well. When you break down the components of the two systems, they’re actually very similar. If you only consider the workings of the systems and not what they are called, this year’s “brand new” playoff system is essentially the BCS with a plus one. The NCAA has distanced itself from the BCS and though it is, and will be looked upon negatively, we should remember that there may have never been a playoff without the BCS. This season’s change in post season play is progress, just as the BCS at one time too was progress. College football gets to show off its new toy a week after Christmas this year, let’s just hope it doesn’t need to use the gift receipt.