The powers that be must have read my complaint about last year’s Week 1 schedule because there are a lot of big games kicking off the 2018 campaign. Here’s what you should know about each one going in:
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Alabama.
Ok, maybe I made up that third one but since Nick Saban took over you can basically pencil the Crimson Tide into one of the top couple spots in the polls. Saban already has his team locked into the number one spot in the polls and everyone else is right on their heels… right?
The entire offseason has been filled with stories about how great other teams were going to be. That Texas was back (they aren’t) and that Josh Allen is the next big thing at quarterback (not so far).
So I guess that leaves us with the question… who’s actually any good? Three weeks in and I’m really not sure who’s any good. I know who I’m being told is good or going to be good but so far, the game has told another story.
Let’s start at the top of the polls.
You’ve got Alabama who took apart Florida State in week one. It’s hard to read into what they did against Fresno State and Colorado State too much but this is the one team in the polls that I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to. Why only Alabama? Well, because more than anyone, the Tide have a recent track record of excellence. Not a good few years in a row or a couple good years in the last decade, basically a decade of domination. There’s a reason you always see “We Want Bama” signs.
Clemson is the only other team you can maybe convince me right now is any good after beating Louisville but dial it back a week and the Tigers only managed two touchdowns against Auburn. Auburn doesn’t seem to be very good (Sorry Bird) after only scoring 24 points against Mercer and turning the ball over five times. Louisville is a good win but the rest of the resume is lacking.
Then we’ve got the Sooners. How much can we read into the win over Ohio State? Everyone but Urban Meyer is calling for a quarterback change due to an anemic offense but Ohio State does have a good defense. We’re not going to find out if Oklahoma is any good until week nine when they play in-state rival Oklahoma State who is currently ranked sixth. The Cowboys have the offense but haven’t faced a dominant defense. That showdown is going to tell us a lot about both teams.
I know that I’m supposed to be the Big Ten guy but of the four Big Ten teams in the top ten, three of them are frauds. Both Michigan and Ohio State are downright anemic on offense. Wisconsin is only this high because of favorable preseason ranking and a weak schedule. Sure, the Badgers beat BYU but BYU is bad so all they’ve got is a name now. They’ve got a favorable schedule in their favor and at some point, Michigan’s defense isn’t going to be able to bail out the offense.
Penn State is the only legitimate Big Ten school in the polls. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley are absolute studs and the Nittany Lions return almost everyone from their Big Ten Championship season. I’m betting on Penn State until proven otherwise.
I actually forgot Washington was in the top ten. I’m not even kidding, I didn’t realize it because they’ve done absolutely nothing of note. Washington is that team that’s ranked highly because of achievements in the previous season. What happened when Washington played a good team last season? Alabama did what they do to everyone.
Then we’ve got what could turn out to be the most over-hyped team in the preseason in USC. All I heard was that USC was “back” and that quarterback Sam Darnold had already won the Heisman and put his team in the playoffs. Instead, they struggled with Western Michigan in their season opener and then had to use double overtime to beat what is not a good Texas team. Darnold doesn’t look like he’s holding up to the expectations either as he’s thrown seven touchdowns to six interceptions. I don’t care that the Trojans beat Stanford, right now this is not a good football team.
Who else is even left?
Georgia? The Bulldogs will start hot until their running back has a catastrophic knee injury like always.
Florida? They had a great hail mary win last week but we all know they’re bad.
Miami? Maybe, but that team has only played one game. There’s no way to tell.
Virginia Tech? I like what Justin Fuente did last season and so far but the Hokies only have a win over West Virginia. Going to need to see more than that.
Mississippi State? Don’t make me laugh. Dan Mullins’ team beat an LSU team with one good player in Derrius Guice.
Where’s this leave us then? Is anyone actually any good? Well at the moment, no.
But they will be. There’s a lot of good coaches out there in Harbaugh, Meyer, and Jimbo Fisher. At some point, one of these teams is going to start showing us that they belong up at the top with Alabama and probably Clemson. Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll get a hilarious year like 2007 where teams like Missouri, Kansas, and Hawaii were routinely seen near the top of the polls.
I don’t think we will but it’s something that college football could use. We’re so entrenched in the idea that there are basically only 25 or so programs that are actually any good according to the polls. Washington broke the mold last season but we need more of that. There’s more than these 25 to 30 out of over 100 programs that are good at football but because they don’t have the right name, they never even get considered.
But let’s be honest: 2017 is Nick Saban and Alabama’s season. We’re all just waiting for them to be crowned at this point unless something unexpected happens.
E-mail Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.
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I just completed reading an article written by my friend, and co-host of the SEC 411 podcast, Seth Merenbloom. Seth is also an editor here at Campus Pressbox. I have a great deal of respect for his opinions on sports, in general, and on the SEC, in particular.
But I am going to have to part ways with my colleague on this one. He is of the opinion that Auburn is overrated. This piece from SEC Country deals with the Sports Illustrated prediction of Auburn as the number 10 team in the country. The column also mentions the Tigers as CBS Sports’ pick as number nine in the preseason.
The only poll we have at this point belongs to the coaches. Auburn ranks 13th there.
Let’s pause for a moment and reconsider the fact that all of this is merely talk, opinion, conjecture. Teams have begun practice all across the land but no one has played a single game just yet.
But talk is what we rabid fans do this time of year in the dog days of summer. The actual games begin on August 26th and the first game in the SEC, Florida A&M at Arkansas, follows on August 31st.
Back to Auburn and my take on the matter. I am with CBS Sports. I would put Auburn in the number nine slot. Also, I would precede my Tigers with 1. Clemson (I am of the old school opinion that the number one team from the previous year remains numero uno until/if they are defeated during the upcoming campaign. See September 9, Auburn at Clemson) 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Washington 5. Florida State 6. Penn State 7. Oklahoma 8. Southern Cal.
I would put Michigan at 10.
And I do my rankings based on how strong I foresee teams. I don’t take into account schedules, conferences, etc. I ask myself, “How good is this team in relation to the other teams in the FBS? How strong are they overall? What if this team played ‘X’ on a neutral field?”
Now, here is my reasoning on Auburn’s ranking as a top ten team.
Auburn returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including its three top tacklers. Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams must be replaced but there is a ton of talent to go around on this surly defense.
Marlon Davidson is a beast and with help from the likes of Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Tre Williams, Darrell Williams, DeShaun Davis, Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews, to name just a few, the D is stacked with top line SEC talent. There is also enough quality depth to make this unit as good or better than the 2016 group. And Kevin Steele is back as the coordinator. That’s big.
The offense should be lethal. We all know about Jarrett Stidham but the Tigers are three deep at quarterback with Sean White and Malik Willis. Running back? Loaded. Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, Malik Miller, and C.J Tolbert give Auburn a stable of horses second to none in the conference.
The offensive line is more talented and deep than it has been in years. Pat Dye thinks they have the potential to be as good as any since he began coaching at Auburn in 1981.
Wide receivers? Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Will Hastings, Ryan Davis, Marquis McClain and, now, John Franklin, will give Auburn very good talent and depth here.
Also, the tight end position should be much improved with Jalen Harris returning and transfer Sal Cannella, and his excellent hands, making this a position of strength.
Oh! Auburn has the best placekicker in the country in Daniel Carlson, as well.
The talent, experience, and depth is all in place down on the Plains. And, I think, Gus Malzahn has put together the complete and cohesive staff he has been looking for since he took over in 2013.
When you mix all of these ingredients together along with a great team chemistry and a hunger to win, I think you might be looking at a very special season down in the Loveliest Village.
I don’t think I can “Curb My Enthusiasm.”
Oregon hired Willie Taggart to replace Mark Helfrich as head coach. Helfrich went 37-16 in Eugene. When his teams were good, they were really good having played in the 2014 national championship game. And when Helfrich’s teams were bad, they were bad. His final season was a 4-8 debacle. I wasn’t convinced that Helfrich should have been fired, but can’t fault athletic director Rob Mullens for making a bold decision.
The hiring of Taggart to replace Helfrich wasn’t a choice that blew me away. While I don’t believe Taggart will have long term success at Oregon, I do believe that his 2017 team will win the Pac-12 North. Call it the Muschamp Effect. Take over a program that has talent, win with it, and proceed to fall in a pit when the program is completely your own. That’s what I expect from Taggart. But for 2017, Taggart will look like a masterful hire.
Even with the dismissal of wide receiver Darren Carrington II, Oregon returns plenty of fire power on the offensive side of the ball. The Ducks return quarterback Justin Herbert, the top three rushers, one of the top two receivers, and, perhaps most importantly, five offensive linemen. Oregon will also play a schedule that will test them early. I like the Ducks’ nonconference games against Nebraska and on the road at Wyoming more than Washington’s trip to Rutgers or games against Montana, and Fresno State. Granted Oregon has to actually win those games.
Defensively, things couldn’t be much worse than they were last year. Now departed defensive coordinator Brady Hoke was replaced with Jim Leavitt. While Hoke’s Oregon defense ranked 119th in the nation, Leavitt’s Colorado defensive unit ranked 12th in the country. And the defense that Leavitt inherited at Colorado had ranked 109th in the country prior to Leavitt taking over.
Taggart will be the beneficiary of being at the right place at the right time when it comes to the offense that he will have at Oregon. Defensively he should get all of the credit for prying Leavitt away from Colorado. And Oregon should feel secure with Leavitt provided that Kansas State’s Bill Snyder doesn’t finally decide to retire.
Washington is the trendy pick to win the Pac-12 North. It’s a pick that makes sense. And because it makes sense, it’s also the easy pick. The Huskies have one of the more underrated head coaches in Chris Peterson, have what many consider to be an easy schedule, and return quarterback Jake Browning to go along with a plethora of returning talent on the offensive side of the ball.
While Oregon welcomes Leavitt to Eugene, Washington has a top tier defensive coordinator of its own in Pete Kwiatkowski. The Husky defense gave up a league low 248 points in 2016 conference play. This was due in large part to extraordinary secondary play from Budda Baker, Kevin King, and Sidney Jones. That secondary trio were all selected in the NFL draft.
Crazy stuff seems to happen every year in the Pac-12. Pac-12 After Dark is a real thing. With a sketchy schedule to go along with a revamped secondary, it’s tough for me to be confident in picking Washington to withstand the rigors of the Pac-12 After Dark. I do, however, expect Oregon to be flying high after I’m fast asleep.
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E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
There were a lot of praise-worthy moments during the 2016 Pac 12 campaign. And in the same breath, I can say with 100% certainty, there were equally plenty of cringe-worthy moments as well. In my opinion, I would say that the Pac 12 took a step back this year. There were some teams that performed extremely well (Pac 12 Champion Washington Huskies) and some teams that stumbled out of the gate, fell, face-planted, and remained on the ground for 12 weeks or so (Arizona, Oregon, Cal, take your pick).
Amongst the peaks and valleys this past season, there were some teams that represented the very best of the Pac 12 and what this conference has to offer to college football. Conversely, there are some teams that flat out stunk and left an ‘un-Febreze-able’ odor, stinging the nostrils of hapless fans up and down the Pacific coast. Depending on your perspective, some of these teams are interchangeable. In the end, we know good football when we see it, straight up. No exceptions. Looking back on this past season, here are my takes on the best and worst of the Pac 12.
Washington made good on their preseason picks to represent the Pac 12 and possibly crack the top four in the College Football Playoff. With an impressive 12-2 (8-1) record, the Huskies punished would-be opponents en route to the Pac 12 championship. It was their first since 2000. Led by sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, The Huskies jumped out of the gate winning their first nine games before falling to eventual Rose Bowl Champion, USC. However, despite the loss, U Dub was able to regroup after the loss, win the Pac 12 Championship and face Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Though the Huskies were put down 24-7, they showed no quit and scrapped it out until the very end.
The Trojans stumbled out of the gate, losing three of their first four games. They were beyond cross road status. They were picking out a plot and resting in shame for the rest of the season. But, somehow, some way, they picked themselves up by their bootstraps and forged ahead to what was a turnaround of all turnarounds. After a 31-27 defeat to the Utes (Utah), USC went on a torrid win streak (eight straight) and displayed why they are perennial favorites to compete and win the Pac 12 year in and year out. And the ultimate cherry on top, you ask? It was an ‘instant classic’ of a game as you can imagine with an improbable come-from-behind Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten Champ, Penn State 52-49.
No, this isn’t a typo. I meant it. Yes, I certainly wasn’t a believer for this pick, but I had to really sit down and catch a few games. And to my surprise, the Buffs were quite good this season. They finished 10-4 (8-1). I think Colorado would have given eventual champion Washington a bit more competition in the conference championship had Sefo Liufao not injured his ankle early in the game. That’s my opinion. But we’ll never know. It’s remarkable what Colorado could do in a course of two seasons. Talk about a serious 180 degree turn around from last season where they went 4-9 (1-8). It’s incredible, especially since it’s with the same group of players. Just goes to show you what continuity can do for a team. Unfortunately, the Buffs had to come crashing back to Earth from a 38-8 smack down at the hands of Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Despite the loss, this was an impressive campaign and their heads should be held high.
A very popular acronym comes to mind when I think of the Ducks: W.T.F? To those not up on current social terminology, let’s just say that it’s a serious inquisition into understanding the unlikeliest of outcomes. Going into the season, there were some question marks regarding the quarterback situation. Graduate transfer Dakota Prukop didn’t quite live up to the hype and his position was given to true freshman, Justin Herbert midway through the season. The issues didn’t just end there. Their porous defense was atrocious. During the October 8th game against Washington, the Ducks surrendered 70, that’s right 70 points and a whopping 682 yards of total offense! To complement a passive defense, All Pac 12 running back, Royce Freeman battled injuries throughout the season and wasn’t even close to being a factor. All totaled, the Ducks finished 4-8 (2-7). Subsequently, Mark Helfrich was relieved of his duties at season’s end. His replacement, former University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart assumed the position and is looking to retool a once proud and dominant program. One notable bright spot is that running back Royce Freeman will return for his senior season.
Injuries to quarterback Josh Rosen quickly derailed what would be been a championship campaign for the Bruins. Without the sophomore quarterback, UCLA stumbled and bumbled to a 4-8 (2-7) record. Despite the record, the Bruins’ defense kept them in most of their games. Unfortunately, the offense could not drum up enough of a rhythm to keep the defense off the field for extended periods of time. The Bruins look to have Josh Rosen back for his junior season. Hopefully, he will be healthy and the defense, though losing some key playmakers, can resume consistent, strong play.
Cal Golden Bears
Oh, this pains me so! There is no way I can’t say that this season was an absolute disappointment. Early predictions had Cal contending for the Pac 12 North division title – key word, early predictions. When news that Cal had landed graduate transfer Davis Webb from Texas Tech, it seemed that the Golden Bears’ prayers had been answered as far as a replacement for former signal caller, Jared Goff. Statistically, Webb performed well above expectations- throwing for 4,295 yards with 37 TD’s versus 12 picks. Of course the other side of the coin reveals a much darker, bleaker situation. Cal’s defense, which showed some improvement last season, seemed to have left that improvement somewhere in 2015. Cal’s defense ranked at or near the bottom in several defensive statistical categories. It was a hot mess of a dumpster fire. However, the defensive highlight of the season and a moment which I figured would turn Cal’s season around was the epic goal line stand against then #4 Utah. It was the type of stand that sets the tone for the rest of the season. Alas, it was only good enough to get the win and nothing more. Sadly, it would be only one of two wins to come in the final seven games of the season. The blaze that was the 2016 season saw coaching casualties in Defensive Coordinator Art Kaufman and Head Coach Sonny Dykes. With a new regime taking place in Strawberry Canyon, first-time head coach Justin Wilcox is poised to right a ship that has been astray for some time.
Email David at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin.
Featured images courtesy of collegeswimming.com
Kim Anderson is by all accounts a great guy. Unfortunately for both him and Missouri basketball, being a great guy doesn’t guarantee professional success. And a record of complete and total ineptitude is what Anderson and his coaching staff brought to Missouri.
I’m not going to pile additional negative criticism upon this all-around great guy. If you want to read my message of fire and brimstone in regards to Anderson, you can find those articles archived on Campus Pressbox.
[Merenbloom – An Athletic Director is a Gambler and Missouri AD Mack Rhoades is Rolling the Dice with Kim Anderson]
Jim Sterk hasn’t fired Anderson, yet. But most Missouri fans consider it only a matter of time. Sterk may consider it a matter of time as well considering the statement he made about the security of Anderson’s job status. Sterk isn’t upset with the state of the Missouri basketball. He’s disappointed.
The Missouri fan base and Sterk may see the glass of disappointment as half-empty, but not Anderson. No, Anderson sees it more as a glass of opportunity that is half-full. Anderson believes that his team “competed” in the non-conference.
“I know people probably don’t want to hear this, but, as you look back at the nonconference, certainly we didn’t accomplish what we would have liked to,” Anderson said. “But I think you could realistically say it wasn’t like we got blown out by 35 points every single game. I think we competed.”
Anderson is correct when saying his team never got blown out by 35 points. But Missouri also lost to North Carolina Central, Eastern Illinois and Lipsomb. All three of those so-called buy-games were home games for Missouri. Those are games that an SEC team wins. Those aren’t games that an SEC team merely competes in. Missouri has become the buy-game for other teams and that’s disappointing.
Writers at other websites won’t venture to guess who athletic director Jim Sterk will attempt to eventually replace Anderson with due to not knowing the budget for the job opening. I, on the other hand, won’t be scared away from suggesting four coaches who I believe would be worth considering.
In all honesty, I hesitate to throw this first name out there, but it has to be done. That’s right. I’m talking about Gregg Marshall. Yes, Missouri did (or didn’t) attempt to wine and dine the Wizard of Wichita State once before, but you know what they say – timing is everything. He’s still a coach worth calling. At least it’s worth calling his agent to gauge his interest. Wichita State pays him just over $3 million.
While that is a dump truck load of money, it shouldn’t scare Sterk away. Sure, when Frank Haith left Missouri, Mike Alden may have been reluctant to pay a basketball coach more than football coach Gary Pinkel. Pinkel achieved enough success at Missouri that some want a statue built for him. But now Barry Odom roams the Missouri sideline and it should be easy to pay a basketball coach more than a first-year head coach who just went 4-8.
This next coach could be a more realistic option and would offer a potential juicy side story. How about University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar? I wouldn’t hate seeing Romar in black and gold. Romar established himself as an ace recruiter in Seattle. The coach has a track record of recruiting coast-to-coast and that includes securing a commitment from Columbia, Missouri native Michael Porter Jr.
Recruiting has never been Romar’s issue. Winning in the NCAA tournament is what’s been the thorn in Romar’s side. And that is what has him on the hot-seat. I believe Romar could make sense at Missouri because he would bring talent to Columbia. Talent is something that Missouri basketball has desperately lacked under Anderson. Once he enticed talented players to wear the Tiger uniform, there is no doubt in my mind that he would win in the SEC. Oh yeah. As for that potential juicy side story? If Romar is the coach to replace Anderson, the telling sign could be whether or not Porter Jr. signs his letter of intent at Washington.
My preference for Missouri basketball would be to lure a current, successful Division-I head coach to Columbia. But sometimes our lives don’t turn out the way we hoped for and we don’t get what we want (see the Kim Anderson hire). There has to be a backup plan that would still leave Missouri fans feeling comfortable. My preferred backup plan includes a less heralded head coach and an assistant coach.
How would Missouri fans feel about Chris Collins leading the charge at Mizzou Arena? For starters, get over the fact that he played at Duke. Not every former Duke assistant is going to sleep with a player’s girlfriend (allegedly) or snort cocaine in the Capital Grille bathroom (allegedly). Collins has been the head coach at Northwestern since 2013 and he’s turned that program into a winner. His Wildcat team won 20 games during the 2015-16 season. That was good enough for 9th place in the Big Ten. But come on. It’s the Big Ten, and unlike the SEC, there is quality basketball being played there.
Do you know who Ron Sanchez is? Probably not. Truth be told, I didn’t know who Ron Sanchez was prior to working on this article. But I’m now a fan of Ron Sanchez. Sanchez is currently an assistant coach at the University of Virginia. Prior to his job with the Cavaliers, he was one of Tony Bennett’s assistants while at Washington State. Here’s what I like about Sanchez. He has been a successful contributor to programs that don’t rely on blue-chip recruits. Sanchez is schooled in implementing a system and recruiting players who will fit into that system. For a school like Missouri that doesn’t have a track record of attracting high-profile recruits, a coach like Sanchez could do well in Columbia.
This isn’t a complete list of coaches who I would be happy seeing at Missouri, but these are four coaches who would give me the hope that Anderson has stripped out of the program. Other coaches who I would like to see considered are Mark Montgomery, Steve Masiello, and Jeff Boals.
There is one coach who would be a big, bold hire for Missouri. As I stated with Marshall, timing is everything and this candidate being a viable candidate would require perfect timing. The coach I am talking about is Fred Hoiberg. He was a terrific coach during his tenure at his alma mater, Iowa State. Hoiberg is in his second season with the Chicago Bulls and his seat grows hotter by the day in the Windy City. When talking with my friends who are Missouri basketball fans, I’ve professed my love for Hoiberg. He would be my top choice if available. Hoiberg’s availability would hinge on when the Bulls decide to cut The Mayor loose. If he is fired mid-season, Sterk needs to put the full-court press on hiring him.
Sterk has a monumental task in front of him. Missouri fans love having a winning football team but I believe what most Tiger fans desire is a winning basketball team. While the legacies of most Power 5 athletic directors ride on their head football coaching hires, Sterk’s legacy may ride on this basketball hire. No pressure, Jim. Just don’t screw it up.
E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Poor Washington. They are literally going to be traveling into the heart of Alabama Crimson Tide country for the Peach Bowl this year. I am fairly certain that the ambiance will be that of a ‘Bama home game back in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban has yet to prove that he is mortal, but maybe, just maybe, Washington is the team destined to prove this fact. Chris Petersen returns to the bowl game spotlight once again as a heavy underdog who no one thinks can do the improbable. Maybe we’re all right and the Huskies don’t stand a chance. But perhaps Chris Petersen has been waiting 10 years just to amaze us all once again.
I fully expect both the Alabama offense and defense to play at Nick Saban levels, so there is little use talking about what they “need to do to win.” Statistically, Washington is in a whole lot of trouble. Alabama has the best defense around, and after seeing Jake Browning struggle a bit with the pressure from Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship, it would be unsurprising to see mistakes from the Washington QB. Washington needs to find a way to have its running back corps break through “The Great Wall of Alabama Defensive Linemen.” Truly, Washington’s offense needs to play at, if not above, its top level in order to win.
Though Alabama’s offense isn’t on God tier like its defense, it certainly is in no way, shape, or form, a pushover. Washington’s defense needs to hang on for dear life and hope that the Huskies offense can keep the defense off the field long enough to get a breather. Florida, a team with a superior defense to Washington, did well against Alabama until the offense stopped any and all progress. At that point, the Gator defense simply became too tired to keep up. If this happens to Washington, the game is effectively over.
Nick Saban is going to take the Washington Huskies very seriously. His demeanor, while a serious impact on his players, however, may not rub off on them quite enough. Some, if not many, of the Crimson Tide players are going to come into Atlanta being told by family and friends that this will be an easy win, and the large contingent of Alabama faithful in Atlanta will further this ego among the Alabama players. On the other hand, Washington knows that no one thinks they even have a shot. I think that will motivate each and every player for the Huskies to play above and beyond their potential. I think Washington is going to catch the Alabama players off guard, and this game will be get very interesting. Time will tell if Chris Petersen can do it again, but I’ve been on the Washington Huskies “believer” train all season (if you don’t believe me, check out how highly I’ve ranked Washington all season) and y’know what? I’m not stopping now. Viva la resistance!
Final Score: Washington Huskies 48, Alabama Crimson Tide 47 (OT)
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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.
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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.
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Welcome to the season finale of Campus Pressbox’s official mock playoff committee. Thank you to all the readers who kept up with our weekly rankings. Special thanks to all the wonderful people on this year’s committee. You can view the previous weeks’ results here.
Tim Bach (@Tbach84)
Kristen Botica (@OGKristenB)
Damien Bowman (@damienbowman)
Mitch Gatzke (@GreatGatzke)
Cooper Goetz (@uf_goetz)
John Horlander (@John_Horlander)
Seth Merenbloom (@SethMerenbloom)
Evan Skilliter (@EvanSkilliter)
Ben Belden (@bbelden330), Founding Writer- Golden Domer Daily
Cole Hankins (@Cole_Hankins), Writer- SB Nation
Each week, committee members will submit their top 10 teams and each team will receive points based on their position. The team’s will be ranked 1-10 based on which has the most points. Ties will be broken by which team has the highest votes in a specific position.
Points are assigned as follow: first place – 10, second place – 9, third place – 8, fourth place – 7, fifth place – 6, sixth place – 5, seventh place – 4, eighth place – 3, ninth place – 2, tenth place – 1.
|Place||Team||Points||First Place Votes|
|4||Ohio State (2)||89|
|5||Penn State (7)||73|
|Additional Votes:||Colorado (9)||5|
(#)=last week’s position.
|Peach||No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State|
|Fiesta||No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Washington|
New Year’s Six:
|Orange||Florida State vs. No. 8 Wisconsin||ACC vs. Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC|
|Cotton||No. 9 Western Michigan vs. No. 6 Michigan||At Large vs. At Large|
|Rose||No. 5 Penn State vs. No. 10 USC||Big Ten vs. Pac-12|
|Sugar||No. 7 Oklahoma vs. Auburn||Big 12 vs. SEC|
Notes and Observations:
- It’s official. Alabama has completed a clean sweep of this year’s rankings. The Crimson Tide were the unanimous No. 1 team every week.
- Penn State’s great showing in the Big Ten Championship allowed the Nittany Lions to steal a Playoff spot on many of our committee member’s rankings this week.
- Penn State’s performance is also the reason for Ohio State’s drop from No. 2 to No. 4.
- As Big Ten Champs, the Nittany Lions should absolutely get a bid to this year’s Rose Bowl.
- Ladies and gentlemen, the boat has been rowed. Western Michigan, after being in the honorable mentions for multiple weeks, has at long last broken into the top 10.
- Committee members had the Broncos ranked as high as 7th in the final rankings of the year.
For transparency, here is how each member of the committee voted this week: