Saturday, December 16, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Bowl Special

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BOWL DRAFT

This is becoming an annual Rant come Bowl Season as I continue to feed ESPN ideas on how to #MakeBowlSeasonGreatAgain.  My format remains the similar to years passed, which you can find HERE from last year when we revisited this idea.  Basically, because Bowl Season has become maybe 4 or 5 decent games outside the CFB Playoff and a bunch of garbage due to the conference affiliations with the bowls, we have a draft to pick the games.  I mean, who doesn’t love a draft???
The draft order goes by the bowl payouts from the previous bowl season.  These would be sealed bids, and the dollar figures would not be announced the bowls are announced.  This would make it, so no bowls could get an advantage over others.  It would also allow a bowl to make a play for a big game with better opponents if they were willing to pay a premium.  Here is the Draft Order based on the 2016 Bowl Season payouts: (Note: All New Year’s 6 Bowls are protected in the Top 6 spots, but conference affiliation is no longer a part of the bowl selection process)
CFB Playoff Sites:
1. Rose Bowl
2. Sugar Bowl
Remaining New Year’s 6 Bowls:
3. Peach Bowl
4. Orange Bowl
5. Fiesta Bowl
6. Cotton Bowl
All Other Bowls:
7. Citrus Bowl ($8,500,000)
8. Alamo Bowl ($7,775,000)
9. Outback Bowl ($6,308,560)
10. Texas Bowl ($6,200,000)
11. Holiday Bowl ($5,930,000)
12. Camping World Bowl ($5,800,000)
13. Music City Bowl ($5,787,500)
14. Liberty Bowl ($4,800,000)
15. Belk Bowl ($4,623,123)
16. Pinstripe Bowl ($4,200,000)
17. Foster Farms Bowl ($3,600,000)
18. Sun Bowl ($3,447,568)
19. TaxSlayer Bowl ($3,116,429)
20. Las Vegas ($2,800,000)
21. Military Bowl ($2,066,990)
22. Birmingham Bowl ($2,050,000)
23. Quick Lane Bowl ($1,800,000)
24. Cactus Bowl ($1,750,000)
25. Heart of Dallas ($1,667,000)
26. Armed Forces Bowl ($1,557,500)
27. Dollar General Bowl ($1,500,000)
28. Independence Bowl ($1,486,200)
29. Hawaii Bowl ($1,200,000)
30. Idaho Potato Bowl ($1,050,000)
31. New Mexico ($1,050,000)
32. Gasparilla Bowl ($1,000,000)
33. New Orleans Bowl ($925,000)
34. Boca Raton Bowl ($850,000)
35. Cure Bowl ($802,000)
36. Arizona Bowl ($556,840)
37. Camellia Bowl ($500,000)
38. Bahamas Bowl ($450,000)
39. Frisco Bowl ($200,000)

THE DRAFT:
The Draft would be simple, there is no conference affiliation, no automatic bids and no side table negotiations, just each bowl picking their teams, with a just a few rules.

*Bowls will select in order with a pool of 10 teams to choose from.  For instance, the Peach Bowl would have the 1st choice after the CFB Playoff Committee selects their 4 playoff teams.  The Peach Bowl would then have the next 10 teams in the rankings available to pick from (Ideally the Committee would rank all bowl eligible teams, not just a Top 25.  For this exercise I am using the Massey Ratings Index, which does rank all 130 FBC teams.)  With each bowl selections, two more teams come available for the next bowl to choose from.

*No team can drop more than six bowl games.  Meaning that once you show up in the selection pool, if you are not picked by the 1st five bowls you were made available to, you are automatically assigned to the next bowl.

There is no chance that ESPN couldn’t and wouldn’t sell the hell out of this.  Can you imagine a 4-hour show unveiling the 4 Playoff teams, plus a live draft for the remaining bowls?  They could have a greenroom with 72 different coaches/AD’s from all the bowl eligible schools and a “War Room” like the NFL Draft of all the bowl committees.  Every 5 minutes a new bowl representative comes on stage to make their pick followed by team reps coming out on stage for a quick photo op.  Then back to the set and that bowl gets the attention of Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and Kirk Herbstreit for the next 5 minutes while waiting on the next selection.  Let’s not forget about the rankings continuously being unveiled with two more eligible teams for the next bowl to select from.  It would be College Football’s version of the Royal Rumble as everyone waits to see who is next!  Think about it, every bowl gets their individual time in the national spotlight, the coaches get some face time and the network gets millions of eyeballs, EVERYBODY WINS!

Another benefit from this format is avoid the repetition we see every bowl season with the same schools going back to the same bowls due to conference affiliations.  Bowl attendance has been way down recently, and you’d have to imagine it has to do with fans not wanting to go back to the same location every few years.  The current format has teams limited to only a few locations based on their conference tie-ins, this format would make any bowl a possibility for any team and give the bowl the decision to not pick the same teams they have had in recent years.

So, without further ado…

THE 2017 SELECTIONS: (My Mock Fake Bowl Draft)
PEACH BOWL – #5 Ohio State vs #9 Notre Dame
ORANGE BOWL - # 7 Penn State vs #8 Auburn
FIESTA BOWL - #6 Wisconsin vs #14 USC
COTTON BOWL - #19 Michigan vs #13 Oklahoma State
CITRUS BOWL - #10 UCF vs #12 Miami
ALAMO BOWL - #11 TCU (Mandatory Pick) vs #22 LSU
OUTBACK BOWL - #15 Virginia Tech (Mandatory Pick) vs #16 Michigan State (Mandatory Pick)
TEXAS BOWL - #17 Northwestern (Mandatory Pick) vs #18 Washington (Mandatory Pick)
HOLIDAY BOWL - #20 NC State (Mandatory Pick) vs #26 Stanford
CAMPING WORLD BOWL - #21 Louisville (Mandatory Pick) vs #23 Iowa (Mandatory Pick To Avoid Rematch)
MUSIC CITY BOWL - #24 Iowa State (Mandatory Pick) vs #29 Florida State
LIBERTY BOWL - #25 Boston College (Mandatory Pick) vs #30 Texas
BELK BOWL - #27 Wake Forest (Mandatory Pick) vs #28 Mississippi State (Mandatory Pick)
PINSTRIPE BOWL - #32 West Virginia  vs #36 Purdue
FOSTER FARMS BOWL - #31 Washington State (Mandatory Pick) vs #37 Texas Tech
SUN BOWL - #33 Kansas State (Mandatory Pick ) vs #34 Memphis (Mandatory Pick)
TAXSLAYER BOWL - #35 South Carolina (Mandatory Pick) vs #40 South Florida
LAS VEGAS BOWL - #38 Toledo (Mandatory Pick) vs #43 Texas A&M
MILITARY BOWL - #39 Boise State (Mandatory Pick) vs #48 Virginia
BIRMINGHAM BOWL - #41 Duke (Mandatory Pick) vs #42 San Diego State (Mandatory Pick)
QUICK LANE BOWL - #44 Missouri (Mandatory Pick) vs #46 Oregon
CACTUS BOWL - #45 Arizona State (Mandatory Pick) vs #51 Kentucky
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL - #47 Florida Atlantic (Mandatory Pick) vs #49 Houston
ARMED FORCES BOWL - #50 UCLA (Mandatory Pick) vs #54 Army
DOLLAR GENERAL BOWL - #52 Utah (Mandatory Pick) vs #56 Troy
INDEPENDENCE BOWL - #53 Arizona (Mandatory Pick) vs #59 SMU
HAWAII BOWL - #55 Fresno State (Mandatory Pick) vs #58 Navy
IDAHO POTATO BOWL - #57 N. Illinois (Mandatory Pick) vs #66 Colorado State
NEW MEXICO BOWL - #59 Central Michigan (Mandatory Pick) vs #70 Utah State
GASPARILLA BOWL - #61 Ohio (Mandatory Pick) vs #62 Temple (Mandatory Pick)
NEW ORLEANS BOWL - #63 North Texas (Mandatory Pick) vs #64 W. Michigan (Mandatory Pick)
BOCA RATON BOWL - #65 Appalachian State (Mandatory Pick) vs #67 Akron (Mandatory Pick To Avoid Conference Opponent)
CURE BOWL - #68 Buffalo (Mandatory Pick) vs #73 Florida International
ARIZONA BOWL – #69 Wyoming (Mandatory Pick) vs #78 UT-San Antonio
CAMELLIA BOWL - #71 Marshall (Mandatory Pick) vs #72 Arkansas State (Mandatory Pick)
BAHAMAS BOWL - #74 Southern Miss. (Mandatory Pick) vs #80 New Mexico State
FRISCO BOWL - #75 Middle Tenn State (mandatory Pick) vs #81 Georgia State

Change is good.

Change is needed.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 15

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY RANT

BREAKING DOWN THE COMMITTEE’S SELECTION PROCESS
It has taken four years, but the CFB Playoff Selection Committee finally has me baffled as to the criteria they are looking for to select their playoff teams.
In 2014 the committee put so much stock in Conference Champions that they dropped TCU from #3 to #6 after they beat Iowa State 55-3 in the season finale because they were declared Co-Champions of the Big XII.  The conference would not declare a specific winner.  This left the Big XII out of the 1st playoff as Baylor finished 5th in the final rankings, 1 spot ahead of TCU, both with an 8-1 conference record.
In 2015 it was “Top 25 Wins” that the committee preached about during the selection process.  That helped Oklahoma jump from 15th in the original rankings to 12th, to 7th and finally to 3rd in consecutive weeks as they beat 3 Top 25 opponents during that 4-week span.  OU then dropped from 3rd to 4th in the last rankings while not playing on the final week of the season.
In 2016 it was “big wins matter, bad losses don’t”.  In Week 11 last season Clemson and Michigan both lost to unranked teams on last second field goals.  Clemson dropped from #2 to #4, Michigan remained at #3.  #4 Washington also lost that week, they dropped from #4 to #6.  Despite those losses, all 3 teams remained very much alive for a playoff position.
This season, the message received by the committee was “don’t lose”.  This advice is important in all sports, but has the potential to be very damning to the landscape of college football.
In 2017 the committee went against their policy of making Conference Championship’s important, by keeping the Big Ten Champ out for the 2nd consecutive year.  The PAC 12 Champ was also left out this season.  However, for a 2nd straight year, a team that didn’t even play for a conference championship was selected.
The committee also threw out the idea of Top 25 wins being important this year, when they selected Alabama over teams like Ohio State and USC.  Leading up to the final rankings the committee said publicly that teams 5-8 (Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Ohio St) were all very close in consideration.  Ohio State proceeded to beat an undefeated Wisconsin team that ranked #4 going into the game, but remained behind Alabama, who did not play.  Remember Oklahoma falling in the rankings when they didn’t play the final week of 2015? Alabama moved UP this year by doing the same!  Alabama finished the regular season with just 2 wins over teams in the Final Top 25 (#17 LSU & #23 Miss St.)  Ohio State had 3 such wins and all 3 were against teams ranked higher than either of those 2 from Alabama (#6 Wisconsin, #9 Penn State & #16 Michigan State).  USC entered the week at #10 and beat #13 Stanford for the 2nd time this season.  Maybe it is fitting that Ohio State and USC will be playing each other in the Cotton Bowl this season.
When it came to “good losses” or “bad losses” this year the committee was very inconsistent.  When Clemson lost to a Syracuse team that finished 4-8 on the year, the committee pointed to the fact that Clemson’s QB entered the game with a nagging ankle injury and ended up leaving the game for good in the 2nd Q with a concussion.  The committee basically gave Clemson a pass due to injuries, which can be a slippery slope considering the nature of the game and the fact that every team is battling injuries every week.  At the same time, the committee seems to have penalized Oklahoma for their home loss to Iowa State, who had a QB making his 1st career start.  That Iowa State went on to have a much better season than Syracuse.  The Cyclones finished 7-5 and are heading to a bowl game. 
As I mentioned before, the biggest takeaway coming from the committee this year was simple, “don’t lose.”  And just like that we are back to the BCS Era.
Looking at solely the loss column is not an effective way to judge football teams and it is an awful message to send to teams, coaches and AD’s who schedule football games.  As I say almost every week in my Rant Rankings, I try to ignore how many losses a team has when I evaluate them.  You certainly have to consider the final result of a game, but you also have to take into consideration the opponents, the situations that may take place in a game, the scheduling (USC’s playoff hopes were killed by its own conference scheduling) and how teams have played since those losses.  By selecting Alabama, who had just 1 loss, the committee overlooked that they didn’t challenge themselves with their non-conference schedule.  Alabama has not played a true non-conference road game since 2011.  They also have played an FCS opponent in 9 straight seasons, all those games coming in November, when most other teams are playing conference games.
Some of the best games in the college football season are in the opening few weeks of the season when you get Power 5 teams going out of conference to face other Power 5 teams.  If teams take note of Alabama’s scheduling and try to mimic it, it will be the fans that lose out.  Auburn played Clemson the past two years, losing both games.  Ohio State and Oklahoma also have played each other the past two seasons, the visiting team winning both games.  USC went on the road and played Notre Dame in a rivalry game this season, they lost.  You have to wonder to yourself, if Auburn had scheduled a Sun Belt opponent instead of Clemson this year would they be in playoff?  An 11-2, SEC West Champ that beat Alabama head -to-head would have probably made the playoff instead of Bama this season.  What about Ohio State, what if they play Bowling Green and beat them by 70 this season instead of challenging themselves by playing a team like Oklahoma?  12-1 Big Ten Champs, yep they are probably in over Alabama too.  If USC plays San Jose instead of Notre Dame, is a 1-loss PAC 12 Champ in the playoff instead of Alabama?  Probably.
The Committee needs to be much more transparent with their selection process in the future to allow teams to enter the season, knowing what they will and will not be judge by.
And by the way, all the people out there saying this season is why they should expand the CFB Playoff to 8 teams, STOP IT.  There weren’t 4 teams deserving this year and now we want to try to find 8 deserving teams? NO!

Just for reference, in case you are interested, here is the official protocol used by the selection committee, or at least they claim it to be…

Friday, December 1, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 14

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY RANT

JUST SAY NO TO ALABAMA

I believe that to get a spot in the College Football Playoff you should have to earn it.  How do you earn it?  You beat good football teams.  Anybody can go 12-0 or 11-1 or 10-2 and beat a bunch of nobodies in the process.  Honestly getting double digit wins is something to hang your hat on, but it doesn’t prove you are the best.  Penn State is 10-2 this season, they are 0-2 against teams in the Top 20.  Good season?  YES!  Should they be considered one of the best teams in the country? NO WAY!
This brings me to Alabama.  This is not your daddy’s Alabama football team, and this has not been your daddy’s SEC this season.  Alabama has been pushed around in the trenches in ways we haven’t see in Tuscaloosa since Nick Saban arrived.  The SEC is ridiculously top heavy this year too.  There are a lot of not good football teams playing in that conference this season.  Including Alabama, there are 3 teams of note in the SEC.  Alabama has only played 1 of the other two this season and was dominated.  This happened last week in the Iron Bowl against rival Auburn.  What exactly has Alabama done this season to earn that #5 ranking in the newest CFB Playoff Rankings? 
Consider this, Alabama’s best wins are against #17 (AP) LSU and #24 Mississippi State.  Another 11-win team has wins over the #16 and #23 teams in the AP and they are ranked 9 spots behind Alabama in the CFB Playoff Rankings.  Oh yea, and UCF has ZERO losses!
Do I think UCF should be in the playoff? No.  And neither should Alabama.  They had their chance to prove their worth last week and came up empty.
Every team that is playing this weekend has a chance to get that big win on their resume that they might be lacking.  They also have the opportunity to claim a conference championship.  Both things that Alabama does not have this year and won’t get, as they are sitting at home watching football this Saturday. 
The College Football Playoff Committee needs to do the right thing, JUST SAY NO TO ALABAMA!  

WHAT I LEARNED IN WEEK 13
*Upsets Makes College Football Great.  Pitt beats an undefeated Miami team to shake up the rankings almost 10 years to the week of them doing the same thing to #2 West Virginia.  Both wins came in down years for Pitt, 4-7 going into both games., and both wins knocking the #2 team in the country out of National Championship contention.  Miami has an opportunity to get themselves back in contention by beating Clemson this Saturday in the ACC Championship Game.  West Virginia didn’t have that luxury.
*Rivalry Games Make College Football Great Too.  Obviously, the Iron Bowl was the biggest rivalry game on the schedule, but The Game between Michigan and Ohio State was good too, until the Buckeyes realized that Michigan didn’t belong on the same field as them.  You also hated great annual rivalry games like Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, the actual name of the game between Georgia and Georgia Tech.  The Apple Cup, which helped decide the PAC 12 North.  All of these games and many more rivalry games are just one of the things that make college football and all of college sports so much fun.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
*Quality Championship Games. We have a great lineup of games this weekend, beginning with the PAC12 Championship on Friday night.  It isn’t just limited to the Power 5 conference championships either.  Lane Kiffin, in his first year at FAU, has the Owls playing the C-USA Title game.  Scott Frost, in possibly his last game at UCF, is trying to remain perfect on the season and win the AAC Championship.  Oh yeah, the Saturday schedule of those Power 5 games is pretty great too.  All 4 games on Saturday will have major impact on the final CFB Playoff Rankings that will come out on Sunday.  I do wish that they would do a better job at staggering the starts of these games.  Both the Big XII (12:30p) and the SEC (4p) will have all eyes on them, while the ACC and Big Ten both kick off at 8p, meaning viewers will be giving their remote controls a workout Saturday night.  To me, playing those games at 12p, 3p, 6p, 8p makes a lot of sense, but whatever.  Enjoy the games!
*Rankings.  This year has been so unpredictable, why would the final week be any different?  I am now hoping the Top 4 just win on Saturday and they remain the same for the final rankings.  I don’t think Alabama or Ohio State deserve a shot in the playoff, so the best way to keep them both out is for the Top 4 to win.  That said, I will be very interested in seeing how the committee adjusts if there are upsets on Saturday.

COACHING CAROUSEL
WOW…  Where to begin?
As I sit hear writing this late Thursday night, I feel like no matter what I write in this section pertaining to Tennessee will be outdated by the time most of you read it, but at the same time it is something that must be discussed.  If that is the case, I will do my best to keep this updated.  Let’s get to the other schools that have hired coaches already first however.
UCLA Bruins – As I wrote last week, UCLA had 1 target in mind and it was the Big Fish in this year’s coaching pool, Chip Kelly.  The Bruins reeled him in.  This is a great hire by UCLA.  It brings Kelly back to the PAC 12 and to a program desperate for success.  In Southern California Kelly should have a field day recruiting the type of players he needs to run his exciting offense.  Being in LA it also gives the Bruins a Face of the Program, while also allowing Kelly to not have media barring down on him 100% of the time, like it would have been had he taken one of the SEC job.  This was a great job by UCLA and is a perfect fit for Kelly.  It won’t happen next year, because the roster is going to need turned over to fit his style, but Kelly will have the Bruins competing for the PAC12 South Title soon!
Florida Gators – The Gators lost out on the Chip Kelly Sweepstakes and chose not to wait around for Scott Frost and UCF to play this weekend in the AAC Championship Game, so they moved ahead and swiped away former Gator assistant and current Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.  Mullen has been in the SEC for the past 13 seasons, starting at Florida when Urban Meyer took over the Gators job.  Mullen had been with Meyer at his two previous stops as well, Bowling Green and Utah.  Mullen was a good hire and a safe hire by the Gators, which might be exactly what they needed.  Florida has been looking for stability at the position since Meyer retired in 2010.  I still believe waiting for Scott Frost would have been a more dynamic hire and certainly one that would have re-energized the fan base.  I also think that Willie Taggart would have been a great hire at UF had Mullen decided to stay at Mississippi State.
Mississippi State Bulldogs – Speaking of… I love the hire by Mississippi State to replace Mullen with Joe Moorhead.  Moorhead, a Pittsburgh native, was the offensive coordinator at Penn State the last two seasons and the brains behind the dynamic offense that gave scoreboard operators nightmares.  Moorhead, like Mullen when he was hired at Miss St, is a younger up and coming offensive coordinator that was on a lot of AD’s radars this year.  Credit the Bulldogs for wasting no time and getting their man.  A bonus on Moorhead is that he even comes with a head coaching background.  Moorhead inherited a 1-11 Fordham team and in 4 years went 38-13, never having a losing season.
Oregon State Beavers – Scott Barnes at work ladies and gentlemen… It was believed last week that Barnes had lined Beau Baldwin lined up to be the next head coach at Oregon State.  Baldwin is the Associate Head Coach at Cal this year and was a widely successful Head Coach at both Central Washington and Eastern Washington, who he turned into an FCS powerhouse.  Baldwin has tons of recruiting ties in the Pacific-Northwest and was a slam dunk hire.  He was also recommended by the Reitmeyer Coaching Search Firm (check my twitter for other recommendations).  Then Scott Barnes happened.  Barnes, paying nearly $200K to the same search firm that helped him hire Kevin Stallings at Pitt, did a complete 180 as he backed away from Baldwin to hire Jonathan Smith.  I’ll give you a few minutes to Google him to find out who the heck he is… Smith is a former Beavers QB and was the OC at Washington, one most UW fans are thrilled to see go (sound like Stallings leaving Vanderbilt).  The only thing that makes me understand this hire is that Scott Barnes made it.
Mississippi Rebels – Without much room to bargain for any head coach the Rebels did the wise thing and named interim Head Coach Matt Luke the new Head Coach.  Luke is a Mississippi native and played for the Rebels.  He is well aware of the pending NCAA sanctions set to come down any day and is willing to be the guy to battle through the sanctions and try to rebuild Ole Miss.  By the way, Mississippi spent $137K for a search firm to tell them to hire the guy they already had!
Nebraska Cornhuskers – Although I don’t get it at all, it seems that Nebraska is going to get their Golden Boy Scott Frost to come home and attempt to save the dumpster fire known as Nebraska Football.  Nebraska was willing to do what Florida wasn’t, which was just simply WAIT.  Frost wasn’t doing anything before the AAC Championship Game and Nebraska was fine with that.  I think Frost could have (and still could) do much better than Nebraska, but this seems like a done deal after reports came out this week that Nebraska Legend Tom Osbourne called Frost and told him that it was time to come home.  This is a great hire by Nebraska, I will just never understand why Frost would take this job at this point in his career.
Texas A&M Aggies – Speaking of better jobs that Scott Frost is passing over for Nebraska… Texas A&M.  The Aggies are all-in right now on Jimbo Fisher and it looks like it might payoff. Reports are out there that they are willing to pay $75M over 10 years for the current FSU head coach.  The bad news is that if Fisher backs out and stays at Florida State, the Aggies could have a huge drop off in options. (UPDATE: Jimbo Fisher has resigned from FSU and will be the next head coach at Texas A&M.  We will include Florida State is next week’s addition of the carousel.)
Arizona State Sun Devils – All reports currently have the Sun Devils playing to win everygame next season and hiring former NFL head coach Herm Edwards.  Nothing shady about this possible hire, as the current ASU AD is the former agent of Edwards, hmm.  Edwards hasn’t coached college football since he was the DB Coach at San Jose State in 1989.  Another hire, if it happens, that makes no sense.
Arkansas Razorbacks – The Arkansas search has been oddly quiet for as long as it has been going on.  It seems like there is no one that actually knows what is going on there.  They are also in need of an AD.  Reports earlier in the week had big money boosters reaching out to agents and even directly to coaches, while the school, with their interim AD conduct their own search.  If Tennessee wasn’t the mess that it is, I have a feeling a lot more people would be talking about the bizarre search going on at Arkansas.
Tennessee Volunteers – AND HERE IT IS…  The worst coaching search in the history of all coaching searches… The 2017 Tennessee Volunteers.
We all laughed when they thought Jon Gruden was going to Knoxville and when he turned them down, it was expected.  What wasn’t expected was the list of other candidates they would miss on.  Here is the complete list (as of Thursday Night).
Jon Gruden
Dan Mullen
Scott Frost
Greg Schiano (a whole other disaster)
Jeff Brohm
David Cutcliffe
Jim Bob Cooter (no, I did not make up that name just to see if you were paying attention. He is a former Vol and current OC with the Detroit Lions.)
Mike Gundy
Dave Doeren
Kevin Sumlin
Lane Kiffin (not officially pursued, but he has made it clear via social media that he has no interest and is actually enjoying the mess going on in Knoxville.)
Tennessee never even considered the coaches that were recommended by the Reitmeyer Coaching Search Firm, although none of the coaches I mentioned (James Franklin, Justin Fuentes & Dana Holgerson) would go near that mess at this point.   Who knows where Tennessee turns next.  (UPDATE:  As if this couldn’t get any worse, Tennessee has fired their AD John Currie, who had been on the job for 8 months.  This was apparently done while Currie was meeting with Mike Leach about the position.  And to top it off, reports have former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer sabotaging the entire coaching search from the start because he wants the AD job.  WOW!!!) (UPDATE #2: It worked… Phil Fulmer is the new AD at Tennessee, unreal!)

PLAYOFF PICKS
I now release my RantRankings the day prior to the CFB Playoff selection releasing their updated rankings.  Be sure to check that out.

That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Rant Rankings 11-27-17

Only 1 week remaining until the real, official, important rankings come out. Until then however, I’ll continue to act like mine actually matter!

1. Oklahoma Sooners (11-1) Oklahoma has been dominant recently.  They control their own destiny going into the Big XII Championship Game vs TCU (12:30, FOX), but in all honesty, I think the Sooners are deserving of a Top 4 Ranking even if they lose Saturday afternoon.
2. Clemson Tigers (11-1) Clemson, like Oklahoma can still get into the playoff even with a loss in the ACC Championship Game to Miami (8pm, ABC).  Clemson has conference wins over Virginia Tech and Louisville and that week 2 win over Auburn keeps looking better and better.
3. Auburn Tigers (10-2) Auburn is on a roll right now.  They are healthy and everything is clicking for their offense.  They dominated Alabama in the trenches last week, something that is not said very often when talking about the Crimson Tide.  Auburn will have to beat Georgia (4pm, CBS) for the 2nd time in 4 weeks if they want into the playoff, otherwise that midseason loss to LSU, which they blew a 20-0 lead could come back to haunt them.
4. Georgia Bulldogs (11-1) Georgia gets Auburn in their backyard this time, in Atlanta.  If the Bulldogs can avenge their only loss of the season, they will make their 1st appearance in the College Football Playoff.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) It actually pains me to put Alabama this high because I don’t think they are actually this good.  They have been vulnerable in the trenches all year and finally played a team that could expose them on Saturday.  Alabama needs help to get into the CFB Playoff, but they are still very much alive.  I don’t like the fact that a team can go without winning their division, let alone conference and make the playoff, but Ohio State set that precedent last year.  Then again, Ohio State had some very nice resume wins last year, Alabama doesn’t.
6. Miami Hurricanes (11-1) As much as I enjoyed it, Miami losing to Pitt last week really screwed things up.  Not only does it really hurt the chances of the ACC getting two teams into the CFB Playoff (still possible, but not likely), but it also opens to door for teams like Ohio State and Alabama to get in.  Neither in my mind is deserving.
7. Wisconsin Badgers (12-0) All the Badgers have done is win every game on their schedule.  It may have been an awful schedule, but they are the lone undefeated Power 5 football team with 1 week left before the playoff committee announces their 4 teams.  If Wisconsin beats Ohio State (8pm, FOX) in the Big Ten Championship Game, it will give them a grand total of 1 impressive win, but that will be enough.
8. TCU Horned Frogs (10-2) I think that TCU is the most underrated team in playoff discussion.  The Horned Frogs play defense in the Big XII.  That alone should make them stand out, but instead people point out that they don’t have a dynamic offense like the rest of their conference.  The other thing that hurts TCU is that they don’t have a dynamic win either.  Their road win against Oklahoma State looked a lot better in September, when it happened, then it does today. Beating OU on Saturday would be a nice feather in their cap however.
9. Central Florida Knights (11-0) The Knights lead the nation in scoring and have only Memphis (NOON, ABC) keeping them from an undefeated regular season.  UCF already beat the Tigers 40-13 this season and will look to duplicate that result on Saturday.
10. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2) Ohio State is the odds on favorite to win the Big Ten (6-6/5 point favorite in Vegas vs Wisconsin), but by no means does that mean they should get into the CFB Playoff.  You have to be held accountable for your losses and the Buckeyes have 2 big ones.  They lost by 15 at home to Oklahoma, their only possible resume-building game in the non-conference portion of their schedule.  Then they went on the road THIS MONTH and lost by 31 to an Iowa team that finished with a losing record in the Big Ten this season.  I’m sorry, but I cannot overlook that loss in particular when selecting my Top 4 teams.
11. USC Trojans (10-2) The schedule has hurt USC repeatedly this season.  Not only did they not get a BYE week until the very last week of the season, they also missed Washington and Oregon on their PAC 12 schedule this season, giving them less of a chance to accrue resume wins.  Now they are looking at a 2nd game against Stanford (8pm FRI, ESPN) in the PAC 12 Championship game instead of possibly revenging a loss to Washington State, a loss that once again, you could blame on the schedule.  USC played Washington State on a short week as the 2nd part of 2 straight road games.  Call it an excuse if you want, but someone making the PAC12 schedule seems to have had it out for USC this season.
12. Stanford Cardinal (9-3) Stanford is out of the playoff discussion (think they would like that Week 3 loss to San Diego State back right now), however they could play spoiler for a 2nd straight week.  USC has a very slim chance at the playoff already, but a Stanford win would completely eliminate that.  Stanford’s win over Notre Dame, eliminated whatever small hope the Irish had at the playoff.
13. Washington Huskies (10-2) A loss to Stanford 3 weeks ago is the only thing keeping Washington out of the playoff conversation.  Had that game gone differently, it would be the 1-loss Huskies taking on USC on Friday night with a chance to go back to the CFB Playoff. 
14. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2) Penn State lost to the good teams on their schedule and beat the bad ones.  That isn’t a bad thing.  There are a lot of teams in the country that wish they had beaten all the bad teams on their schedule.  The problem with this is that Penn State played a lot of bad teams.  I can’t think of a 10-2 team in recent history that was an average as Penn State is this season. 
15. Oklahoma State (9-3) This was supposed to be the year for Oklahoma State.  Mason Rudolph and James Washington both decided to come back and play their senior years together to finally win the Big XII.  Instead, they didn’t even make the conference championship game.  There can be no other way to describe this season for the Cowboys than saying it was a disappointment.
16. LSU Tigers (9-3) LSU started the season out terribly.  The Tigers got blown out by Mississippi State, and then barely beat Syracuse at home, before losing to Troy.  LSU has rattled off 6 of 7 since that point, including a win over Auburn.
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-3) Notre Dame had been living off a close loss to Georgia for the 1st portion of the season, then the Irish came out in back to back weeks and punch USC and NC State in the mouth, with dominating wins.  Unfortunately Miami then did the mouth punching and the Irish haven’t been the same since.  They struggled with Navy at home, then got run over by Stanford last week, knocking them out of playoff talk.
18. Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3)
19. Northwestern Wildcats (9-3) Maybe it was their schedule or maybe it just finally clicked for the 2017 Wildcats, but after losing 3 of their first 5 games, Northwestern has been on a tear.  Winners of 7 straight, Northwestern looks destined for a New Year’s Day Bowl.
19. Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3) November has not been kind to the Hokies this season.  A 2-2 mark, but more importantly the offense went into hibernation.  When you average 15 points in 2 wins, you should consider yourself lucky.
20. Michigan State Spartans (9-3) When Sparty lost to Notre Dame 38-18 in Week 4, I’m sure people were thinking about last season’s 3-9 season all over again.  They righted the ship however, winning 4 in a row before a 3OT road loss to Northwestern.  I’m sure the folks of East Lansing never saw a 9-3 season coming after that ND game.
21. Fresno State Bulldogs (9-3) Talk about a turnaround.  Fresno State didn’t beat an FCS opponent last year.  This year their only losses are to two teams ranked above them (Alabama and Washington on the road) and a conference game vs UNLV.  Fresno St beat Boise State in the season finale on Saturday, but will have to beat them again in the MW Championship Game Saturday night (7:45, ESPN) to claim the conference title.
22. South Florida Bulls (9-2) The Bulls played right with UCF on Saturday in the season finale, with the winner going to the AAC Championship Game, but just fell short.
23. Memphis Tigers (10-1) Memphis will look to avenge their lone loss of the season, a 40-13 blowout to UCF, on Saturday.  If they can, they might also find themselves in a New Year’s 6 Bowl Game.

24. Washington State Cougars (9-3) I went all in with Washington State and got burned.  The Cougars had everything in front of them and even had a chance to sneak into the playoff.  All they had to do was win the Apple Cup.  Instead they laid an egg and Washington won for the 5th straight season.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 13

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2-LOSS ARGUMENTS

We have not seen a 2-loss team make the College Football Playoff in the first three years of its existence.  That may change this year.  There are 11 P5 teams that could finish the season with 2-losses.  Let’s look at each of their cases for a playoff spot (ranking based on most recent CFB Playoff Ranking).

#3 Clemson (10-1) – Clemson can get in as a 2-loss ACC Champ, meaning a loss this week to South Carolina, then beating Miami in the ACC Championship Game.  I don’t think Clemson can afford to lose that game against Miami however, even with a win over South Carolina this week.  Clemson’s “good wins” earlier in the season (Virginia Tech & NC State) have dropped off.  They need a win vs Miami to help bolster their final resume.
#4 Oklahoma (10-1) – The Sooners present a very difficult argument.  A 2-loss OU team, means they lose either at home to WVU this week, or next week in the Big XII Championship Game (most likely vs TCU).  A loss to WVU would not be good, because the committee already is tough on the Sooners for their home loss vs Iowa State, adding a 2nd home loss would be less than ideal.  However, a 2nd home loss plus a 2nd win over TCU might be good enough depending on how other games playout.  Beating WVU, but losing to TCU isn’t the answer either, 2-loss Big XII runner-up is not going to get Oklahoma back into the playoff.  Oklahoma should just handle their own business and win out, just to be safe.
#6 Auburn (9-2) – If Auburn wins out and finishes 11-2 and the SEC Champ, with 2 wins over Georgia and 1 over Alabama, they are in.  No questions asked.  Well, maybe one question… What do you do with a 1-loss Alabama team?
#7 Georgia (10-1) – A 2-loss SEC Champ Georgia team is almost certainly in the playoff.  That means that they either beat the all-powerful Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, or revenged their only loss to this point vs Auburn.  The committee would overlook their loss to Georgia Tech if that happens.  But it is SEC Championship Or Bust for the Bulldogs, they don’t get in to the playoffs without a win over Alabama or Auburn next week.
#8 Notre Dame (9-2) – The Irish need complete chaos to happen for them to get into the playoff at this point.  Even with a win at Stanford on Saturday and a 10-2 record, it won’t be enough for the Irish unless they get lots of help.  Some advice to Notre Dame, JOIN A CONFERENCE!
#9 Ohio State (9-2) – I must be the only person in America that doesn’t understand how Ohio State still has even an inkling of a chance to make the playoff.  Not only do the Buckeyes have by far the worst loss of any team in discussion for a bid (55-24 @ Iowa), they also don’t have any great wins.  Sure, if they win out, that means they beat an undefeated Wisconsin team, but pretty much everyone (including the committee) has questioned how good the Badgers really are.  In my mind the PAC12 Champ could have a better case than the Big Ten Champ (unless it is an unbeaten Wisconsin); Washington State and USC both would have better resumes if they win out.  Oh yeah, the Buckeyes also lost to Oklahoma, a team that could be in this 2-loss discussion.
#10 Penn State (9-2) – I don’t see any path that leads the Nittany Lions to the playoff.  Even in a situation like Notre Dame is rooting for, no way is the 3rd best Big Ten team getting into the playoff.
#11 USC (10-2) – The Trojans will be rooting for Washington State this week in the Apple Cup.  A Washington State win, gives USC a chance to avenge one of their two losses.  It also would give them another resume building win, as Washington State will be no worse than their current #13 ranking if the two were to meet again next week.  The Trojans needs some other outside help too, but not as much as you might think.
#12 TCU (9-2) – This is one of my dark horses in the race.  The Horned Frogs resume took a hit last week after Oklahoma State fell at home to Kansas State, taking the tarnish off TCU’s win in Stillwater earlier in the season.  However, TCU being in this discussion means that they will add a win vs Oklahoma to their resume, as well as a Big XII Championship.  It is a longshot, but not impossible.
#13 Washington State (9-2) – And my biggest dark horse in the race, the Washington State Cougars.  I don’t understand their ranking to this point yet, but they really have a shot to sneak into the playoff.  By winning out, that means the Cougars add a road win over rival Washington (currently #17) as well as a 2nd win over USC on the season.  The Cougars will be rooting for Stanford this week to not only give ND their 3rd loss of the season, but to bolster the Cougars resume after a win in Pullman earlier this month.  And don’t sleep on that Boise State win.  The Broncos are in position to win the Mountain West Conference and possibly gain a NY6 Bowl bid, just another feather in the cap for the Washington State resume.

WHAT I LEARNED IN WEEK 12
*Baker Mayfield Is A Bad Ass.  Baker Mayfield talks as much trash as anyone in college football, but his actions on the field back it up every time.  He Is confident, high energy and will do anything possible to win.  He is exactly the type of player you want on your team as a leader.  People complaining about his “inappropriate actions” last week against Kansas need to calm down and have a little fun more fun in life.  Kansas refusing to shake his hand before thecoin-toss lit a fuse in him and he went off. The fact that a Kansas player then took liberties against him on thefield with this dirty and deliberatelate hit seem to get overlooked by many, as people race to chastise Mayfield.  All Mayfield did was respond on the field, like he has done repeatedly throughout his career.  Mayfield threw for 257 and 3 scores in just over 3 quarters of work in the Sooners 41-3 win of the Jayhawks.  Some advice to all teams going forward, to poke the bear known as Baker Mayfield.  Some extra advice to Kansas, who are 5-73 in Big XII play over the past 9 seasons, win something before you go and get all chesty again. 
*November Is Not A Good Time For Cupcakes.  Someone needs to let the southern schools know that November is time for pie, not cupcakes.  Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Mincemeat Pie are all great options this time of year.  Mercer, The Citadel, Louisiana Monroe, Delaware State, Western Carolina, Wofford, UAB are not.  I get the fact that schools want an easy game before their rivalry game, but someone needs to put a stop to this.  I don’t mind the FCS games (although I have a better solution), but play them in September or even October, but not in the heat of the playoff and conference races.  After back-to-back great weeks of college football we had a complete dud last week, thanks in part to so many teams playing these cupcake opponents.  Maybe the playoff committee can punish teams for playing these late season games, or at least reward the teams playing conference games at this point in the year.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN WEEK 13
*Rivalry Games.  I miss that Pitt doesn’t have a rival, sorry, I forgot… I miss that Pitt is Unrivaled (that’s what the cool kids in the middle of the state call it!)  I grew up in a household in which Thanksgiving was known more for being the time of year Pitt played Penn State, than it was for having a big family dinner.  Later it became the Backyard Brawl with West Virginia that was annually scheduled for the final week of the season. Now it is … Miami.  Conference realignment hurt a lot of rivalries, including both two that I mentioned.  It is a shame though, because they are great for the sport.  Gone are the days of the Thanksgiving weekend showdowns of Texas/Texas A&M and Nebraska/Colorado.  Props to the SEC, ACC & PAC 12 though for adjusting their schedules accordingly to allow these great rivalry games to still happen, even if that means paying a non-conference game to close the season. 
*Clarity.  I know this won’t happen, but wouldn’t it be great if Wisconsin lost to Minnesota and Michigan beat Ohio State?  How about Washington beating Washington State, while Stanford beat Notre Dame.  Or Georgia Tech beating Georgia.  If these results were to happen, it would seem chaotic as it were happening, but man would it clear up the playoff picture going into conference championship week.  That would put the Iron Bowl winner in, along with the Big XII and ACC Championship game winner, plus 1 more team.  It would then be tween Alabama if they lose the Iron Bowl, and the losers of the Big XII and ACC Championship Games.  Seems pretty simple to me, and the best part about all that, is that they would actually get the best teams in the playoff!

COACHING CAROUSEL
NEW NAMES:
UCLA Bruins – The Bruins cut ties with Jim Mora on Sunday, firing him with 1 game left on the schedule, presumably to be able to get into the Chip Kelly Sweepstakes before Florida can get ink to paper.  UCLA has made it well known that Kelly is Candidate #1 for their job, and honestly, it doesn’t seem like there is a Candidate #2.  The Bruins are paying Mora $12M to go away, after giving him an extension before the 2016 season.  If the Bruins are willing to pay that much to get rid of Mora, you know they aren’t going to just turn around and hire some nobody.  Kelly is the guy they want and if they lose out to Florida it will be a huge failure on the part of the administration at UCLA.  In my mind, Chip Kelly is a perfect fit for UCLA.   It puts him back in the PAC 12, where he was so successful at Oregon.  It puts him in LA, where he had a lot of success recruiting before; now he will just be asking kids to stay home and play for him.  It also allows him to be the alpha dog in LA, compared to Clay Helton at USC.  Maybe the best part of it all for Kelly, it’s not in the SEC.  Yes, UCLA gets attention because it is in LA, but when you have 2 NFL teams, the Dodgers, Lakers and USC also in town, it takes a lot of eyeballs and pressure away from you.
Texas A&M Aggies –  This job isn’t official open yet, but it has been reported by many different accounts that Texas A&M will fire Kevin Sumlin after the Aggies game with LSU on Saturday Night.  This comes to a surprise to nobody, regardless of when it officially is announced by the school.  The Aggies will owe Sumlin $10M as a buyout.  They will then turn to trying to find a replacement.  One name that has been a given in the search will be former Aggie Chad Morris, who is the current Head Coach at SMU.  I think A&M will want someone bigger than Morris though.  We already heard the Jimbo Fisher rumbles about this job, and he is someone that will interesting to watch for this job.  I don’t see why he would leave FSU for A&M, but maybe he just wants a change in environment.  Two other names that make a lot of sense in College Station are Scott Frost and Justin Fuentes.  Both played their college ball and have coached in the Midwest.
UPDATES:
Florida Gators – All along it has seemed like a job with only 3 true candidates, and it still seems that way.  Right now, it looks like the Gators are putting on a full court press for Chip Kelly.  Kelly met with UF administrators over the weekend in his home in New Hampshire before doing the same with UCLA in LA.  The ball is in Kelly’s court right now.  I expect him to decide before most games kickoff on Saturday.  If he does not choose Florida, the Gators will then move to Scott Frost and Dan Mullen.  I still believe that Willie Taggart would be the best choice for the Gators, but it looks like that will not happen at this point, much to the delight of Oregon fans.
Tennessee Volunteers – Tennessee fans still believe that Jon Gruden is a possibility which is hysterical to me.  It has been surprisingly quiet in Knoxville.  The Volunteers are once again playing second fiddle to Florida, possibly having to wait and see what happens with Dan Mullen.  As I said last week, Tennessee is not the job that Volunteer fans believe it is.  That said, it is still a pretty good job.  If I were AD John Currie, Mike Leach at Washington State, James Franklin at Penn State and Justin Fuentes are just a few of the targets I would have on my board while I wait to see if Dan Mullen is still available.

HOT SEAT
HOT SEAT:
Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech) – This is a name I have been struggling with for the past few weeks.  Kingsbury is Texas Tech product and put his name in the record books over and over again during his career there.  When he was hired, alumni were hoping he would bring back some of the high-powered offenses that he played in as well as some wins.  In his 5th year now, Kingsbury is just 29-32 (15-30 in Big XII) with just 2 winnings seasons.  He has gotten the benefit of the doubt in the past because he is one of their own, but that might run out after this season.
SEAT ON FIRE(D):
Bret Bielema (Arkansas) – It is only a matter of time at this point.  Bielema could be unemployed by Saturday.
Mike Riley (Nebraska) – Riley, like Bielema, won’t make it another week as head coach at Nebraska.    

PLAYOFF PICKS
I now release my Rant Rankings the day prior to the CFB Playoff selection releasing their updated rankings.  Be sure to check that out.

That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rant Rankings 11-20-17


These rankings are 100% based on my opinion of where this teams are RIGHT NOW.  I am not projecting how I think teams will finish the season or what I think the committee will do when they release their rankings tomorrow.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0) The Tide have been the most consistent team all season, however the big knock on Alabama is that they don’t have any good wins, and that is a fair argument.  Alabama has the 45th ranked strength of schedule this season, and worst of any Power 5 team in playoff contention.  Yes, their SOS will improve after the Iron Bowl on Saturday, but at that point it becomes a moot point.  If Alabama beats Auburn it would give them their resume building win going into the SEC Championship Game, and if they win that game they are in regardless.  However, if they lose to Auburn, I don’t think a 1-loss Alabama team gets into the playoff.  There will be too many other non conference champions with better resumes.  Saturday is a MUST WIN game for the Tide.
2. Miami Hurricanes (10-0) On paper Miami has been much more impressive than Alabama this season, but on the field the Hurricanes haven’t shown up for all 60 minutes each game (see Saturday vs UVA). Miami closes the season at Pitt, in an environment that could certainly challenge the Canes to get motivated to play in.  They have already also clinched the ACC Coastal, putting them in the ACC Championship Game vs Clemson in 2 weeks.  Miami has a good enough resume, that even with a loss against Clemson, they could still be in the playoff discussion depending on how other things break for them over the next two weeks.  A 12-1 Miami team, with only a close loss to Clemson, would be tough to keep out of the playoff.
3. Oklahoma Sooners (10-1) The Sooners clinched their spot in the Big XII Championship game with an easy win over Kansas on Saturday.  They will face TCU, who they defeated 38-20 in Norman just last week.  If OU wins out they will be in the playoff, just like Alabama and Miami ahead of them.  Even with a loss, the Sooners will remain in the discussion due to the number of impressive wins they have this season, most importantly their road smack down of possible Big Ten Champ Ohio State.
4. Clemson Tigers (10-1) Clemson has by far the best resume of any 1-loss team in the country and you could even argue the best resume of any team in the country.  Clemson has 8 wins over teams in the ESPN FPI Top 50, 2 more than any other team in the country.  They also have five wins over teams with 7 wins (could make that six with a win over South Carolina Saturday).  The only teams to have that many wins over 7-wins teams last year… Clemson and Alabama.  No team with that many wins over 7-wins teams have been left out of the playoff.  The ACC Champ will get into the playoff, but both Miami and Clemson have built good enough resumes that even with a loss in the title game, they will still be in the discussion.
5. Auburn Tigers (9-2) For Auburn it is simple, win-out and you are in.  No way does the committee leave out an SEC Champ with two wins over Georgia and one over Alabama.  A loss to either Alabama in the Iron Bowl or Georgia in the SEC Championship will eliminate the Tigers from playoff contention.
6. Georgia Bulldogs (10-1) Georgia is the only hope for the SEC to possibly get 2 SEC teams into the playoff.  Georgia beating an undefeated Alabama team in the SEC Championship game would give the committee some headaches.  Georgia can’t afford to lose another game after getting blown out last week against Auburn and dropping so far down the rankings.  They just have too much ground to make up at this point.
7. TCU Horned Frogs (9-2) TCU is in a unique spot because not only do they have a chance to win claim a conference championship by beating Oklahoma in the Big XII Title Game, but that win would also avenge one of their losses on the season.  A 2-loss conference champ with wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are better than anything Ohio State could show the playoff committee.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (9-2) Ohio State is the favorite to win the Big Ten Championship at this point and if that happens, I think the Big Ten is left out of the playoff.  Ohio State wouldn’t have near the resume as others.  It will be very interesting to see how/if the committee tries to spin it to get a Big Ten team in regardless of the team.  In the past, they have said that winning a conference championship is important, but last year they had no problem leaving a 2-loss Big Ten champ out of the playoff. For a team with a better resume which included an impressive road non-conference win.  Ohio State doesn’t have that this year.  As a matter of fact, nobody in the Big Ten has that this season. 
9. Wisconsin Badgers (11-0) You can’t argue an undefeated season.  If you don’t lose, you should at least get a chance in the playoff and I think that will happen with Wisconsin.  IF WISCONSIN BEATS OHIO STATE, they will get in the playoff.  A 12-1 Wisconsin team will not.  The Badgers must beat Minnesota this week, followed by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship to secure a playoff spot.
10. Central Florida Knights (10-0) The Catch 22 from Wisconsin… Does an undefeated Group of 5 team also deserve a chance at the playoff?  UCF has their toughest game of the season coming up this week against rival USF.  A win puts them in the AAC Championship Game against Memphis, who they have already beaten this season.  By the way, the answer is no, they won’t get into the playoff undefeated.  They will however, present a very tough challenge in a New Year’s 6 Bowl to one unlucky P5 team.
11. Washington State Cougars (9-2) The Cougars are super intriguing to me, because if my mind they have the best shot of making the playoff of any PAC 12 team.  Most (including myself) have closed the door on a PAC 12 team making the playoff, but check out the resume that Washington State has put together.  They have 5 wins over Massey Top 50 teams this season, with the chance to pick up 2 more in the next two weeks.  They already beat USC once and beat Stanford too.  They have a chance to add Washington and another USC win to that list in the next two weeks.  An 11-2 PAC 12 Champion that has 2 wins over USC as well as 1 over Washington and another over Stanford seems pretty appealing to me.  It would be better than an 11-2 Ohio State team making a playoff claim.
12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-2) As I mentioned in last week’s Weekly Rant, ND not being in a conference really hurt Notre Dame once again from making the playoff.  They play a Power 5 schedule every year, but don’t afford themselves the luxury of a loss on their schedule and certainly not two.  The interesting point this year for Notre Dame is that they will likely keep rival USC out of the playoff too.  If USC wins the PAC 12 Championship, there is no way they get selected in front of a ND team that destroyed them, therefore neither will get in.
13. USC Trojans (9-2) SEE ABOVE!!!  The only way for USC to get into the playoff is for mass chaos to ensue over the next two weekends.  Not only would enough have to happen that gives USC a clear path, but it better be enough for Notre Dame too, because as I mentioned above, USC doesn’t get in ahead of ND.

14. Stanford Cardinals (8-3) You think the Cardinal are regretting that September performance against San Diego State?  That loss gives them 3 on the season and no way do they get in with 3 losses, even if they were to beat Notre Dame next week followed by avenging their regular season loss to USC.

Friday, November 17, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 12

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BRAND BIAS

Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, USC, The SEC and the Big Ten. These names are all iconic brands when it comes to college football.  They are household names nationwide.  They draw eyeballs to TV sets and put butts in stadiums, but they should NOT be the deciding factor in who makes the CFB Playoff.  The fact is they do though.  Just look at the most recent rankings by the CFB Playoff committee, they are blinded by the brand just like you and me.  Let’s do a blind test on the Top 15 teams from the most recent rankings.  Below I have them listed randomly with season stats (Wins/ Wins vs current Top 25/ Strength of Schedule/ Record vs Massey Power Top 50/ Best Win based on ranking of opponent in Massey Power Top 50/ Wins over teams under .500).  Pick who you believe are the Top 4 teams in the country…

TEAM 1: 9 wins. 3 wins vs Top 25, #11 SOS, 6-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #10, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 2: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #83 SOS, 1-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #35, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 3: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #10 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #13, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 4: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #12 SOS, 2-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #8, 5 wins vs teams under.500
TEAM 5: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #20 SOS, 4-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 6: 10 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #36 SOS, 3-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #21, 4 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 7: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #25 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #30, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 8: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #53 SOS, 3-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 9: 10 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #47 SOS, 4-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #22, 6 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 10: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #2 SOS, 8-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #9, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 11: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #3 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 12: 8 wins, 0 wins vs Top 25, #13 SOS, 5-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #20, 4 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 13: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #16 SOS, 6-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 4 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 14: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #19 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #7, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 15: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #31 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #11, 2 wins vs teams under .500

TEAM KEY and link to Massey Top 50 Power Rankings are at the end of the RANT

I still firmly believe that Ohio State was selected over TCU in the 1st ever playoff based on brand recognition alone.  Ohio State went on to win the National Championship making many forget about how shady the rankings changed between the final 2 weeks of the season despite no teams in the top group losing.  I hope that doesn’t happen again this season.

WHAT I LEARNED IN WEEK ELEVEN
*Notre Dame Needs To Join A Conference.  Two years ago, we saw a 2-loss Notre Dame team, which lost those two games by a total of 4 points and both to ranked teams, miss out on the CFB Playoff.  This year we will see it again.   Granted a 2-loss team has never made the playoff, but this year that is likely to change and Notre Dame won’t even be in the discussion when it happens.  The Irish have long been an Independent in football, but the game has changed.  ND is at a huge disadvantage now as they are competing for the same prize as every other team in the nation, a National Championship.  The Irish are currently ranked 8th, which is the 2nd highest of any 2-loss team.  However, other 2-loss teams that are behind them in the current rankings like Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma State and even Washington State all have better chances of making the playoff than Notre Dame.  The advantages those teams have are clear.  They all have an opportunity to be named a conference champion and by doing so, beating another highly ranked team in their 13th game of the season.  Notre Dame plays 12 games, not 13.  Notre Dame does not play in a conference, therefore cannot win a conference championship.  Notre Dame will be lacking these points on their CFB Playoff Resume until they make a change, and because of that facing a steep uphill battle.
*A 4-Team Playoff Is Plenty.  You will hear a lot of people in the upcoming weeks claiming that the CFB Playoff needs to expand due to teams being left out.  That is non-sense.  Every team in the nation has 14 weeks to prove their worth to the committee.  The committee then has the job of selecting the 4 teams that are most worthy, based on the regular season and conference championship games.  There are 3 weeks remaining in this college football season and you could argue that 10-12 teams (although the real number is probably 7-8) still have an outside shot at making the 4-team field.  Can you imagine if you double the playoff to 8?  You could have 3-loss teams in the playoff.  When a team can lose a quarter of their games and make the playoffs it devalues the regular season.  The college football regular season is the best in all of sports.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN WEEK TWELVE
*Uniforms. Yes, this week’s schedule is bad enough that I’m looking forward to great uniforms.  The NFL has their Color Rush gimmick for Thursday Night football, college football has UCLA vs. USC.  These two LA-based schools have their annual rivalry game and with it brings the tradition of both teams wearing their home jerseys.  You get the iconic red USC jersey against the light blue and gold of UCLA.  You are in luck too, because even though UCLA is awful this season, the rest of Saturday’s schedule is so bad, that the entire nation can check out these uniforms paired up against each other.  It is the FOX game of the week (ugh!).     
*Week 13.  As I mentioned there are no good football games this week.  The only game between ranked opponents is a match-up between two teams that have combined to beat NOBODY this season, Michigan and Wisconsin.  I’m sure the Big Ten will celebrate a Wisconsin win and try to use it to bump the Badgers up into the Top 4 for the playoff, but spare me.  And if Michigan wins, I’m sure they will jump up into the Top 10-15 in next week’s rankings as the Big Ten Hype Machine will be talking about Ohio State vs Michigan until our ears bleed.  STOP IT!!!

COACHING CAROUSEL
Butch Jones makes #2, with many more coming soon.  
Florida Gators – The Gators have had their opening for about two weeks now and they have made some progress.  Most reports say they have locked in on three candidates and they are the same 3 names I listed as the top candidates when the job became open, Chip Kelly, Scott Frost & Dan Mullen.  I still think that Willie Taggart would be a fantastic hire for the Gators, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point.  With the new Early Signing Day in college football this season, I’d expect the Gators to move fast on this one.  I imagine they will have their guy by the 1st week of December.
Tennessee Volunteers – Butch Jones had lost his last game against each of the 13 other schools in the SEC after last week’s drubbing at the hands of lowly Missouri (50-17).  That was enough for the university to FINALLY part ways with their head coach.  Tennessee had improved each year under Butch Jones, winning 4 games his 1st year, 5 his 2nd and 9 each of the past 2 years.  But even after his 2nd straight 9-win season he entered this season on the hot seat.  After going 4-6 in the team’s first 10 games, it was time to pull the plug.  I don’t have a problem with the Vols firing Jones, but the expectations Vols fans and administration have for their football program are ridiculous.  It has been 17 years since Tennessee finished the season ranked in the AP Top 10 and 11 years since they finished in the Top 20, yet the expectations by their fan base is that they should be competing for the SEC Championship and the National Championship every year.  They haven’t even won the SEC East since 2007.  They haven’t won the SEC title since their National Championship season in 1998.  Tennessee will flash a ton of cash and go after every big name you can think of for this job, but the fact is, Tennessee isn’t a great job.  We already saw on Thursday that Jon Gruden (their pipedream target) wouldn’t even meet with them about the opening.  I expect them to also try to talk to coaches like Jimbo Fisher and Chip Kelly, but neither of those guys will take that job either.  Bottom line is that Tennessee fans will be disappointed by this hire.  In my mind a few calls that I would make if I were AD John Currie are Mike Leach at Washington State, James Franklin at Penn State and Justin Fuentes at Virginia Tech.

HOT SEAT
HOT SEAT:
At this point in the season, I don’t think there is really any “hot seats” any more.  We have a pretty good idea which of the bigger programs are going to be making a change over the next few weeks.
SEAT ON FIRE(D):
Bret Bielema (Arkansas) – The first show dropped in this one on Wednesday when Arkansas fired Bielema’s top ally, AD Jeff Long.  Like Nebraska firing their AD before the inevitable happens with Mike Riley, it looks the same fate will occur at Arkansas with Bielema.  Arkansas plays Mississippi State this week and closes the season next Friday, the 24th, against Missouri.  I expect Bielema to be fired by the 25th.
Jim Mora, Jr. (UCLA) – UCLA is 5-5 which is exactly average.  They could get to 6 or maybe even 7 wins, but that won’t be enough to save Mora’s job.  The Bruins go across town and play rival USC this Saturday in a game that could get really ugly for a UCLA defense that have held just 3 of 10 teams under 30 points this season.  If it gets bad enough, it would not surprise me if the Bruins are being coached by an interim coach in their finale against Cal in 2 weeks.
Mike Riley (Nebraska) – Nebraska just got stomped by a Minnesota team that had just 1 Big Ten win coming into the game.  The Gophers put up 54 points in the game, they had only scored 44 points in their last 3 games combined.  Penn State should be really fun for Mike Riley & Co. this week, we all know that Jams Franklin never misses an opportunity to run up the score.  It looks like Nebraska is going to let (force) Riley to finish out the season, otherwise he would have been gone Sunday morning when the team arrived back from Minnesota.  The Cornhuskers close the season with Iowa. 
Lovie Smith (Illinois) – Smith is only in Year 2 at Illinois, but this experiment is not going well.  Illinois, which plays in the considerably easier side of the Big Ten, has not won a game since September 9th.  They have also been outscored on average 31-14 in their 6 Big Ten games this season, all losses.  And that is without playing Ohio State or Penn State, the two highest scoring teams in the conference.  This week they play Indiana, which seems like their only chance at salvaging a Big Ten win this season.  Indiana is also 0-6 in the Big Ten.
Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) – This is another one that seems like a done deal now.  Sumlin and the Aggies are just 6-4, and unlikely to match his previous low win total of 8.  They close the year with 2 straight road games, Mississippi this weekend and LSU to close the season.  Reports from College Station not only already have Sumlin fired, but also are already naming possible suitors to replace him.  Who will be on the sidelines for the Aggies next year is still a mystery, but it certainly won’t be Kevin Sumlin.
PLAYOFF PICKS
I now release my Rant Rankings the day prior to the CFB Playoff selection releasing their updated rankings.  Be sure to check that out.
That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!
BLIND TEST TEAMS:
TEAM 1: 9 wins. 3 wins vs Top 25, #11 SOS, 6-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #10, 3 wins vs teams under .500 OKLAHOMA
TEAM 2: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #83 SOS, 1-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #35, 3 wins vs teams under .500 UCF
TEAM 3: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #10 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #13, 3 wins vs teams under .500 PENN STATE
TEAM 4: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #12 SOS, 2-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #8, 5 wins vs teams under.500 OHIO STATE
TEAM 5: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #20 SOS, 4-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 3 wins vs teams under .500 GEORGIA
TEAM 6: 10 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #36 SOS, 3-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #21, 4 wins vs teams under .500 ALABAMA
TEAM 7: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #25 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #30, 2 wins vs teams under .500 USC
TEAM 8: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #53 SOS, 3-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 3 wins vs teams under .500 WASHINGTON STATE
TEAM 9: 10 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #47 SOS, 4-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #22, 6 wins vs teams under .500 WISCONSIN
TEAM 10: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #2 SOS, 8-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #9, 2 wins vs teams under .500 CLEMSON
TEAM 11: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #3 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 2 wins vs teams under .500 NOTRE DAME
TEAM 12: 8 wins, 0 wins vs Top 25, #13 SOS, 5-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #20, 4 wins vs teams under .500 OKLAHOMA STATE
TEAM 13: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #16 SOS, 6-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 4 wins vs teams under .500 MIAMI
TEAM 14: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #19 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #7, 2 wins vs teams under .500 AUBURN
TEAM 15: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #31 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #11, 2 wins vs teams under .500 TCU