[B][I]Miami and Wisconsin to meet in Orange
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
MIAMI LAKES, Fla. (AP) Miami has thrived when playing before its home crowd all season. Wisconsin has gone onto to opponent’s fields five times and posted five easy wins.
That alone means this could be a classic Orange Bowl.
A pair of teams with College Football Playoff aspirations for much of the season – and who saw those hopes end with losses in conference championship games this weekend – will meet in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes’ home field.
”More important than where it is, it’s the opportunity,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. ”It’s an opportunity to play against a great Miami team. And so our kids will be excited. They know it’s going to be a challenge. To play in and be part of the Orange Bowl, that’s a big deal.”
No. 11 Miami (10-2, No. 10 CFP) is going to the Orange for the 10th time. It’s the first Orange Bowl for No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1, No. 6 CFP).
Miami went 7-0 at home – and will stay there, since this technically is a neutral-site game. Wisconsin went 5-0 in true road games, winning by an average of 25.6 points.
”We’re playing in one of the best bowl games against a great team,” Chryst said. ”That’s enough to get your kids excited.”
Miami coach Mark Richt, like Chryst, was out recruiting Sunday. The Hurricanes are getting a much-needed break for the next few days, after playing 11 straight weeks after their schedule was readjusted because of many complications statewide caused by Hurricane Irma hitting in September.
”I know for our players, it’s got to be a welcome relief for them physically and mentally and maybe spiritually as well,” Richt said. ”I know for me and the coaching staff – just like Paul’s on the road right now, we’re on the road as well – it does give you a little bit of a break of the gameplanning and all the things that have to be done to prepare week-by-week.”
The Hurricanes and Badgers last played in 2009 at the Champs Sports Bowl. Both have strong defenses, with Wisconsin’s ranking No. 1 nationally in yards allowed in No. 2 in points allowed.
And even though the Badgers missed the CFP, players say sending the seniors out winners will remain a priority.
”They deserve to go out with a win,” Badgers offensive lineman Michael Deiter said. ”The things they’ve done for this program and this football team, they deserve to go out and win a bowl game and go out the right way.”
Miami is just the third team to go to the Orange Bowl while on a two-game losing streak. The others were both LSU teams, in the 1943 and 1973 seasons.
”It’s a home game,” Miami receiver Braxton Berrios said. ”I think that will be really exciting for the team.”
[B]Here’s some of what to know about the Orange Bowl matchup:
HOME, SORT OF: Miami will be the designated home team for the game. But it will technically be called a neutral-site game, and the Hurricanes likely won’t get to use their usual locker room. Past ”home” teams for the Orange Bowl have used the Miami Dolphins’ locker room on game night.
UNCOMMON OPPONENTS: There’s no common opponent between Wisconsin and Miami this season, and it’s only the fifth time that the Badgers and Hurricanes will meet. They’ve split four previous matchups.
BADGERS CHASING HISTORY: Wisconsin gets a second chance at recording win No. 13, which would be a single-season record at a school that started playing football in 1889. Wisconsin was 12-1 in 2006, the first year that former coach Bret Bielema was running things in Madison.
ORANGE SUCCESS: Miami is 6-3 in previous trips to the Orange Bowl, with the Hurricanes’ last time in South Florida’s showcase bowl game coming when they topped Florida State 16-14 on Jan. 1, 2004. Until now, that 2003 season was Miami’s last 10-win campaign.
FAMILIAR GROUND: Wisconsin has nine players from the state of Florida, including five from the Miami area and one – wide receiver Paul Jackson, who hasn’t recorded any stats this season – who lists Miami Gardens as his hometown. Miami Gardens is the city where Hard Rock Stadium is located. There are no Wisconsin natives on the Miami roster.[/B]
[B][I]Coaches hot topics at Peach Bowl
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
Auburn took away some of the distractions out of the Distraction Bowl.
The Peach Bowl looked like a matchup with a pair of coaches in Central Florida’s Scott Frost and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn whose futures were in the spotlight. However, late Sunday, a person familiar with the situation told the AP that Malzahn has agreed to a new seven-year deal to remain at the school.
The person spoke of the deal on condition of anonymity Sunday because it hadn’t been officially announced.
That should end any ongoing debate about Malzahn, who faced questions about whether he’d stay with the Tigers or move on to Arkansas where he was considered a target for that job. The questions for Frost, introduced as Nebraska’s new coach Sunday, and his bowl role with the Knights will continue.
The undefeated, 10th-ranked Knights (12-0, No. 12 College Football Playoffs) will play No. 7 Auburn (10-3, No. 7 CFP), the Southeastern Conference runner-up, on Jan. 1.
Frost was hired by Nebraska shortly after UCF won a 62-55, double overtime shootout with Memphis to capture the American Athletic Conference. Frost was introduced Sunday as Cornhuskers coach and reiterated that he would coach the Knights in the bowl game. ”I don’t want to leave the players down there without a coach,” he said. ”They deserve to have the best chance they possibly can, especially in a bowl game they qualified for.”
Malzahn’s team fell to playoff-bound Georgia in the SEC title game Saturday and there were plenty of postgame questions about his plans.
Malzahn was steadfast and firm that he would stay at Auburn. ”That’s where I want to be,” he reiterated Sunday.
Malzahn has done well keeping outside talk away from the Tigers, said Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson.
”If you know Gus, he doesn’t even look at outside noise,” Johnson said after Georgia’s 28-7 victory. ”He’s about as one-tracked minded as it gets. That man was focused on winning the SEC championship.”
Frost, the former Nebraska quarterback, couldn’t hide his decision from his players, and the team tweeted a celebration photo after its AAC title win with the caption: ”Good luck back home, Coach.”
UCF interim coach Troy Walters said Saturday was an emotional day, one of great joy with the championship win and sadness after learning of Frost’s departure. ”It was a whirlwind,” Walters said.
But the players gathered Sunday to watch the selection show and were re-energized, Walters said, with the Peach Bowl selection.
”This team is resilient,” Walters said. ”We’re not going to make any excuses.”
Athletic director Danny White said Saturday night that Frost and his staff are committed to the team. ”And we’ll figure out what that means later this week,” White said during a news conference Saturday night.
[B]Here’s some of what to know about the Peach Bowl matchup:
TOUGH STRETCH: Including UCF, Auburn’s most recent three opponents in Alabama, Georgia and the Knights have a combined mark of 35-2.
BIG TURNAROUND: The Knights have gone from bowl wannabes to part of the New Year’s Six during Frost’s tenure. The second-year coach took over an 0-12 program and won six games his first year. This season, UCF has been one of college football’s biggest surprises.
SERIES EDGE: Auburn is 3-0 against UCF with all three wins coming between 1997 and 1999.
RETURNING TO MERCEDES: The Tigers will finish their season with a second straight game in Atlanta’s new Mercedes Benz Stadium, where they lost to Georgia 28-7 in the SEC title game. Malzahn said his team will focus on playing better there against UCF then they did against the Bulldogs.
IN THE MIX: UCF interim coach Troy Walters said he hopes to be among candidates to replace Frost. Walters joined the program two seasons ago as offensive coordinator and receivers coach. He’s also coached at Colorado, North Carolina State and Texas A&M. Walters, though, had faith in athletic director Danny White to make the right hire to keep the Knights moving forward.[/B]
[B][I]Saban looking ahead as ‘Bama gets CFP nod
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — While everyone in the college football world was glued to a television, Alabama coach Nick Saban was out doing one of his favorite things: recruiting.
It was announced Sunday that Alabama earned the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide will face No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl semifinal on Jan. 1.
During his appearance on ESPN, Saban revealed how he learned of Alabama’s playoff fate.
“I hate to admit that we had recruits in for official visits this weekend,” Saban said. “I was actually bringing one of those recruits to my office so I was in the car and kind of missed it. So, when I got here, everybody was waiting for me, and it was really exciting. We’re very pleased and proud and happy. I’m sorry I missed you guys, but we found out another way.”
Alabama, which had one loss and didn’t win its conference championship, earned the nod over two-loss, Big Ten champion Ohio State. While Ohio State had better wins, the selection committee wasn’t able to get past the Buckeyes’ 31-point loss to Iowa this season.
Alabama and Clemson have met the last two years in the title game with both contests being decided by less than five points.
Alabama won a 45-40 thriller in 2015. Last season, Clemson defeated the Crimson Tide 35-31 on a last-second touchdown. While it won’t be for the title, this is the rubber match many college football fans wanted.
“I certainly believed and trusted in the integrity of the committee that they would do their very best to put the best teams in,” Saban said. “A lot of good teams. I’d like to congratulate the other teams that got in, and some of the other teams that got strong consideration. But I really do believe based on the total body of work, our team really deserved the opportunity to be in. We’re very pleased and happy that they did.”
The winner of the matchup between Alabama and Clemson will meet the winner of the contest matching the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners and the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs, who will play in the CFP Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. The 2018 CFP National Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, January 8, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
From an injury standpoint, Alabama should be healthy by game time. Saban said the Crimson Tide’s linebackers — Mack Wilson, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis — who have been banged up will be back for the game.
Alabama will be without starting safety Hootie Jones, whom Saban said suffered a knee injury against Auburn.
“I’m really happy and excited for my team,” Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. “I think we deserved it.”
[B][I]Clemson-Alabama set for Sugar Bowl
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
The Clemson-Alabama playoff rivalry is back on college football’s main stage.
The Tigers and Crimson Tide will meet in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in the College Football Playoff’s national semifinals. The previous two meetings between these powerhouse programs were for the national championship – Alabama won two years ago and Clemson won last year.
This time, the winner will earn the right to play for another title in Atlanta.
”I think it’s only fitting that to have a chance to advance to Atlanta, you’ve got a heavyweight matchup here with Clemson and Alabama,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Alabama edged out Ohio State for the final spot in the four-team College Football Playoff field. The Crimson Tide’s reward is a playoff rematch against the defending national champion.
Clemson’s inclusion as the top seed in New Orleans was expected. The Tigers (12-1) were No. 1 in the previous CFP rankings and then routed Miami 38-3 in the ACC title game on Saturday.
The inclusion of Alabama (11-1) was much more contentious. Fourth-seeded Alabama didn’t play for the Southeastern Conference championship after coming short in its division after losing to Auburn in its final game of the regular season, but was impressive until that loss.
”I really do believe that based on the total body of work, that our team really deserved the opportunity to be in,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ”We’re very pleased and happy.”
Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said the ”trilogy” between the Tide and Tigers is something to savor.
”They have great athletes over there,” Fitzpatrick said. ”Great offense, great defense, great coaching.”
Clemson beat Alabama 35-31 in the last national championship game. The Tigers have made it back to the CFP with a dominant defense and the emergence of junior quarterback Kelly Bryant.
Alabama returns with sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has had another solid season. The defense has been slowed by injuries, especially at linebacker, but expects to be much healthier by the time the Crimson Tide faces Clemson.
[B]Some other things to watch when Clemson faces Alabama in New Orleans:
TIGERS PLAYING WELL: Clemson has played some of its best football during the final few weeks of the season. The Tigers went on the road and easily beat improved rival South Carolina 34-10 on Nov. 25. Then on Saturday, Clemson left no doubt about who was the best team in the ACC, dominating Miami from start to finish in the 38-3 win. Clemson’s defense held Miami to just 214 total yards.
ALABAMA GETTING HEALTHY: The Crimson Tide figures to be healthier on defense than it has been since the season opener. Three Alabama linebackers returned from injury against Auburn, but have more time to recover now. Mack Wilson (foot), Terrell Lewis (elbow) and Christian Miller (biceps) all got onto the field for the Tide in the Iron Bowl. Lewis and Miller hadn’t played since the season opener against Florida State.
MORE OFFENSE? Alabama and Clemson take pride in their defense, but there have been a lot of points scored in the previous two meetings between these two teams. Clemson scored a touchdown in the final seconds last season to beat Alabama 35-31. The Crimson Tide won 45-40 two years ago in a game that featured 40 combined points in the fourth quarter.
TIME TO PREPARE: Alabama and Clemson should certainly be prepared by the time they play on Jan. 1. In the previous playoff meetings between the schools, they had a little more than a week to prepare after winning their semifinal games. This time, Saban and Swinney will have nearly a month to size each other up.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: Clemson is the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, which means it gets to go to the Sugar Bowl instead of flying cross-country to play in the Rose Bowl. It’s a solid locale for Tigers fans, but it’s even better for the Tide. Much of Alabama’s fan base is a short drive from New Orleans, and there will surely be plenty of crimson around Bourbon Street.[/B]
[B][I]OU, Georgia headed to Rose Bowl
December 3, 2017
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Oklahoma and Georgia are headed out west to play their College Football Playoff semifinal in the 104th Rose Bowl.
The Sooners (12-1) were the second seed in the four-team field announced by the selection committee on Sunday, while the Bulldogs (12-1) were third.
The Rose Bowl will be played without a team from either of its traditional Pac-12 or Big Ten conferences for the first time since Jan. 3, 2002.
Top-seeded Clemson gets the geographical advantage of playing in New Orleans, so fans of Oklahoma and Georgia will go to the West Coast and the historic Pasadena stadium to play for a spot in the national championship game.
”I think it’s awesome that it’s in the Rose Bowl, so that you get to go out to the Granddaddy of Them All and play in a venue that a lot of these kids in the southeast don’t get an opportunity to go to,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
While the college football world argued about the committee’s decision on the fourth team in the playoff, nobody doubts the credentials of the two stellar programs getting together in this matchup. The winner goes to the title game Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Georgia earned a spot with its first SEC title since 2005 under Smart, its second-year coach. The Bulldogs beat Auburn 28-7 in the conference championship game on Saturday. After claiming their 13th SEC crown, they’re chasing their first national championship since 1980.
”I’ve been able to keep up with them a little bit throughout the year, and Coach Smart’s done obviously a tremendous job with that group in such a short amount of time,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. ”Have a ton of respect for him, the coach he is, the team that they have. Know it’ll be a great challenge for us.”
Oklahoma won its third consecutive Big 12 title on Saturday with a 41-17 victory over TCU, punctuating an incredible debut season for Riley, the youngest coach in the FBS at 34 years old. The Sooners have won eight consecutive games, including six straight by double digits.
The Sooners will be led by fleet-footed quarterback Baker Mayfield, the likely Heisman Trophy winner going against Georgia’s physical defense.
”He’s just such a good athlete,” Smart said. ”He stretches and extends plays, extremely explosive, not afraid to make any throws. It’s really almost like when you watch Brett Favre back in the day.”
Oklahoma is in the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years after losing the Orange Bowl semifinal to Clemson in 2015.
These two teams were very nearly perfect. The only blemish on the Sooners’ record was a 38-31 loss to a solid Iowa State team on Oct. 7.
Auburn was responsible for Georgia’s only loss, a 40-17 defeat on Nov. 11, but the Bulldogs avenged it in the SEC title game.
Either a Pac-12 or Big Ten team had appeared in every edition of the Rose Bowl for the past half-century since the formation of the then-Pacific-8 Conference – except after the 2001 season, when the Rose Bowl became the BCS national championship game for a year. Miami won the national title in that memorable edition with a 37-14 victory over Nebraska, which was in the Big 12 at the time.
”I can always remember watching it, hearing Keith Jackson call it, and it seems like it was always a great game,” said Riley, who is from Texas. ”That was just kind of always one of those places that you kind of put on the bucket list as far as, want to go to that game one day, be involved in that game one day. Kind of seemed like a dream, kind of out there a little bit.”
Oklahoma played in the Rose Bowl once before – on Jan. 1, 2003, beating Washington State 34-14. The Sooners got into the game because Big Ten champion Ohio State earned a spot in the national title game.
Georgia also has made one previous appearance in the Rose Bowl, beating UCLA 9-0 on Jan. 1, 1943.
When Smart was an assistant at Alabama, the Crimson Tide beat Texas in the BCS championship game in January 2010. That game was at the Rose Bowl, although it wasn’t the official Rose Bowl game, which was between Ohio State and Oregon that season.
[B][I]Georgia’s stout defense faces major playoff test
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
You want a contrast in styles? The Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff is just for you.
Led by Heisman Trophy frontrunner Baker Mayfield, who has completed 262 of 369 passes for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns with just five interceptions, the Sooners lead the country in total offense with 583.3 yards per game. They are seventh in passing (367.4) and 45th in rushing (215.9).
“He’s entertaining to watch. He’s unbelievably talented; he’s got great athletic ability. It seems like he’s been playing forever, and he’s what college football is all about. He embraces it, he loves it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
“I love the way the guy plays the game. He plays with talent and passion and he’s a phenomenal player that we’ll get to see and have a lot of sleepless nights over the next 30 days.”
Georgia, meanwhile, is one of the nation’s top defensive teams.
The SEC champion Bulldogs rank 12th nationally in rushing defense (112.6 yards per game), but more importantly — and perhaps more pertinent — are second in pass defense, allowing just 158.3 yards per contest.
Georgia and Big 12 champ Oklahoma (12-1) will be meeting for the first time, while the Bulldogs’ Rose Bowl appearance will be the program’s first since 1943, a 9-0 win over UCLA.
“I couldn’t be more excited for our team and especially our seniors with the selection of our team to participate in the College Football Playoff,” Smart said. “Playing in a venue with such rich tradition will be a rewarding experience and it represents another step for our team and program.”
Like Oklahoma, Georgia (12-1) comes in on a roll, having defeated Auburn 28-7 to win the SEC Championship and move up to the third seed in the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma is seeded second.
The Sooners — who have had defensive issues at times this year — will have to deal with a powerful Bulldogs ground game, which ranks 17th nationally with 263.5 rushing yards per game, led by the three-headed monster of Nick Chubb (1,175 yards), Sony Michel (948 yards) and freshman D’Andre Swift (597 yards).
“I don’t know if we’ve seen anybody with the caliber of the backs that they have there,” said Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley. “Ohio State had two pretty good backs and ended up having good years, but the two backs or really the three backs they have there are all tremendous. …
“That’s definitely going to be a challenge. We’ve been lucky enough here over the last few years to have some great backs of our own. You realize how special those guys are and how difficult they can make it to defend.”
Oklahoma can’t overlook freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who has completed 145 of 230 passes for 2,173 yards with 21 touchdowns, a Georgia record for freshmen.
[B][I]Playing in Rose Bowl a bonus for playoff-bound Oklahoma
December 3, 2017
NORMAN, Okla. — There was no massive watch party for Oklahoma heading into the College Football Playoff announcement on Sunday.
The Sooners knew they were in after Saturday afternoon’s 41-17 win over TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game. The only question was where and against which team.
So first-year Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley watched in his office with assistant coach Cale Gundy, athletic director Joe Castiglione and a few OU administrators.
“Seeing us come across there with a chance to go to the Rose Bowl was a great feeling,” Riley said after the second-seeded Sooners were announced in the game, where they will play No. 3 Georgia.
It’ll be Oklahoma’s second appearance in the Rose Bowl. In 2003, the Sooners beat Washington State, 34-14.
“Probably the one, honestly just personally for me, I was kind of deep down hoping that some year we’d get a chance to play in,” Riley said. “That’s always been the one that, kind of looking from afar, that I haven’t gotten a chance to be a part of yet that I was always hoping to get a chance to be in.”
The Sooners have won eight consecutive games since losing to Iowa State in early October and have beaten their past six opponents by double figures, scoring at least 38 points in all but one game during the winning streak.
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield has vaulted past Heisman contender status and into the position of being a near lock for the award.
The Sooners’ offense has been the nation’s best for much of the season.
In Georgia, though, they will face a defense that is among the nation’s best.
The Bulldogs have held 10 of their 13 opponents to 14 points or fewer.
“Obviously they’re really, really good defensively,” Riley said. “It doesn’t take long to figure that out.”
While Riley didn’t think he had ever met Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart face to face — though the two have spoken on the phone several times — Georgia’s offensive staff did spend a day in Norman during the spring.
“We just kind of generically shot some ideas,” Riley said. “So hopefully I gave them some really, really terrible stuff.”
Former Sooners coach Bob Stoops, whose retirement in June opened the way for Riley’s ascension, visited Georgia earlier this season and spoke to the Bulldogs. Stoops has remained a frequent face around Norman and celebrated on the field with OU after the conference championship win.
[B][I]Clemson’s Swinney: ‘Fitting’ to play Alabama in playoff[/I][/B]
It’s going to be Clemson vs. Alabama, Part III.
Top-ranked Clemson was paired with No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl when the College Football Playoff semifinalists were announced Sunday, marking the third time in three years that the Tigers and Crimson Tide will meet in the postseason.
Alabama defeated the Tigers 45-40 in the National Championship Game in 2015, then Clemson returned the favor last year, knocking off Alabama 35-31 in the title game to win its first national championship since 1981.
“Obviously they (the playoff selection committee) had a lot to consider, but they put the four best teams in there,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “Alabama has been the standard for a long time. We’ve had a couple of huge battles with them.
“It’s only fitting that to have a chance to advance to Atlanta, you’ve got to win a heavyweight matchup.”
The Tigers (12-1) will play Alabama (11-1) on Jan. 1. The winner will advance to the title game against the winner of the Rose Bowl, which pits No. 2 Oklahoma against No. 3 Georgia.
Clemson, which is making a playoff appearance for a third straight year, clinched its postseason fate Saturday night by cruising past No. 7 Miami 38-3 in the ACC Championship Game.
The Tigers were dominant against the Hurricanes, jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead and turning things over to a stingy defense that allowed only 214 total yards.
“Clemson is the measuring stick in the ACC and we didn’t measure up,” Miami coach Mark Richt said.
With the victory, Clemson’s senior class earned its 50th win in the last four years, becoming the first team in ACC history to accomplish that.
Clemson has been to 41 bowls, but this will be just the second Sugar Bowl trip for the Tigers, who last played in the bowl in 1958, losing a 7-0 decision against LSU.
Swinney was a wide receiver on the 1992 Alabama team that defeated Miami for the national title at the Sugar Bowl. Now he’s getting another shot at his alma mater in what amounts to the end of the Alabama-Clemson trilogy.
“There’s changes on both sides,” Swinney said. “And we’ve been playing them in the national championship game and this is a semifinal, so both teams will have more time to get ready for each other. It’s going to be a heck of a game.”
[B][I]5 reasons why Clemson can win it all
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
Clemson, making its third consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff, is the defending national champion.
“No, we’re the attacking champs,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’re attacking for another one.”
No. 1 seed Clemson and No. 4 Alabama, after meeting in the championship game in each of the past two years — with Clemson winning last season — will play in a semifinal game in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
The winner faces Oklahoma or Georgia on Jan. 8 in Atlanta for the national title.
[B]Here are five reasons why the Tigers can win it all:
1. The defensive line is the best in the country.
The 2017 Clemson defensive line is the 2016 Alabama defensive line. Maybe better.
The Tigers’ collection of future first-round picks includes a trio of first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference players — sophomore end Clelin Ferrell, sophomore tackle Dexter Lawrence and junior tackle Christian Wilkins. The “little brother” of the group — junior end Austin Bryant — was the top vote-getter on the second team.
So, Clemson has four of the top five defensive linemen in the ACC.
If anybody is going to slow down a powerful Alabama running game, it is these guys.
2. Kelly Bryant can move.[/B]
To beat Alabama, you must possess a quarterback who can improvise, create plays with his legs and make something out of nothing. That’s Clemson QB Kelly Bryant.
He has rushed for 646 yards in his first season as the starter, replacing first-round pick Deshaun Watson.
Bryant is a better runner than Watson, although not as accomplished as a passer. Bryant, however, riddled Miami in the ACC title-game rout, completing 23 of 29 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown en route to the game’s Most Valuable Player honor.
“He had all this hype, now he’s proven he can play, and he hasn’t let that go to his head,” Wilkins said of his quarterback. “He’s still the same goofy Kelly.”
3. Hunter Renfrow is still on the team.
Renfrow, a former walk-on, has 14 career touchdown receptions, including six in the postseason. Two of those came last season against Alabama, as the 5-foot-10 Renfrow caught the game-winner with one second remaining.
“He’s just a baller, man. He’s a football player,” Swinney said.
“That’s what makes this game great. He don’t really look like a football player, but football players come in all shapes and sizes, man, and boy, his heart is 6-4, 250.”
[B]4. Clemson has multiple weapons[/B]
Can’t be one-dimensional against Alabama’s defense. Not only does Bryant have individual versatility, but he has a great supporting cast that includes one of the best receiving groups in the country, with Renfrow, speedy Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud, as well as emerging 6-5 freshman Tee Higgins.
“He can create some matchup problems,” Swinney recently said about Higgins. “He’s 6-5 and can run, and now he’s gaining confidence.”
5. The offensive line can win in the trenches, too.[/B]
Clemson doesn’t face a deficit up front, no matter the opponent. The Tigers’ offensive line features three players who were named first-team All-ACC — tackle Mitch Hyatt, guard Tyrone Crowder and center Justin Falcinelli.
That is one reason why Clemson’s rushing attack is more prolific than last season, allowing the Tigers to grind out games as needed.
[B][I]5 reasons why Alabama can win it all
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
Alabama snuck into the College Football Playoff, somewhat controversially over Ohio State, but that is now old news.
The Tide is in it to win it.
That’s what Nick Saban has done better than anyone recently, collecting four national titles in the past 10 seasons at Alabama and five overall. His fourth-seeded Crimson Tide will take on top-seeded Clemson in a juicy semifinal matchup in the Sugar Bowl.
[B]Here are five reasons why Alabama can win that one … and go on to win it all:
1. The Tide will be healthier.[/B]
Alabama struggled with health at linebacker all season, losing outside linebackers Christian Miller (biceps) and Terrell Lewis (elbow) in the opener. Each returned to make a brief appearance against Auburn in the regular-season finale and now have another month to get ready, providing a key upgrade to Bama’s pass rush.
Middle linebacker Mack Wilson, who missed two games because of a foot injury, also played some in the Iron Bowl matchup and will benefit from the extra time before the semifinal.
“Getting some of these players back is going to be huge for us,” Saban said on ESPN. “We were so depleted depth-wise because one position sort of got hammered. And you don’t ever have that much depth at one position.”
Alabama will still be without linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (injured vs. LSU) and safety Hootie Jones (injured against Auburn).
[B]2. The Tide doesn’t need anything fancy.[/B]
Alabama can play big-boy football, sending the fresh legs of Damien Harris (906 rushing yards), Bo Scarbrough (549) and Najee Harris (306) into the teeth of any defensive front, all complemented by the nifty feet of quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has rushed for 768 yards.
Even in a loss to Auburn, Alabama ran for 211 yards.
It should be a seismic event when the Tide’s running game meets Clemson’s all-star defensive front.
3. Jalen Hurts is ready.[/B]
He struggled with his passing in the postseason as a true freshman, but Hurts has been more efficient as a sophomore, with 15 touchdown passes and only one interception in 223 pass attempts. Hurts has the supporting weapons — notably wideout Calvin Ridley — to hit deep throws when defenses try to gang up on the run.
[B]4. The defense is still salty.[/B]
The Tide no longer has anyone quite like Jonathan Allen on the defensive line, and the defense lacks an All-America pass rusher, but Alabama is still Alabama. The Tide has ranked in the national top 10 in rushing defense and scoring defense in each of the past nine seasons. Guess what? Alabama is third and first in those categories this season.
5. Did a bunch of people just doubt Alabama?[/B]
Alabama should have even more laser focus (is that humanly possible?) from Saban because of the regular-season-ending loss to Auburn and plenty of folks saying his team doesn’t belong in the playoff. The biggest collection of recruiting talent in the country, the best coach, the best program in America over the past decade, AND a chip on its shoulder? Beware the Tide in early January.
[B][I]5 reasons why Georgia can win it all
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
Georgia is making its first appearance in the College Football Playoff, looking for the school’s first national championship in football since the 1980 season.
The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed, tasked with trying to stop No. 2 Oklahoma, which has a big-play offense and the sure-fire Heisman winner in quarterback Baker Mayfield.
But Georgia is certainly not defenseless and has counter-measures of its own.
[B]Here are five reasons why Georgia can win it all:
1. Defense has been a major key to Georgia’s success.[/B]
The Bulldogs should be up to the test from Oklahoma’s offense in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 and then against Clemson or Alabama in the championship game. The semifinal between Georgia and Oklahoma will be a classic matchup of strength against strength.
The Sooners have the top-ranked offense in the nation and the Bulldogs are 12th nationally in rushing defense (112.6 yards per game) and second in pass defense (158.3 yards per game). Oklahoma didn’t see a defense this good in the Big 12, that’s for sure.
[B]2. Linebacker Roquan Smith is perhaps the best defender in the country.[/B]
Smith was a beast in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn, accumulating 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and two fumble recoveries. His talent is being compared with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Smith is a finalist for two national Defensive Player of the Year Awards, as well as the Butkus Award that goes to the nation’s best linebacker.
Georgia has an all-star cast at linebacker, including Lorenzo Carter, but it’s unclear whether linebacker Natrez Patrick will be available. The Bulldogs’ sixth leading tackler was arrested late Saturday night after the SEC title game for marijuana possession.
3. Georgia can run the ball.
Perhaps no one in the nation has a better combination than Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and freshman D’Andre Swift. Chubb is the second-leading rusher in SEC history, trailing only Herschel Walker, with 4,591 yards. The senior ran for 77 yards on 13 carries against Auburn in the SEC title game.
Michel — also a senior who considered the NFL Draft after last season — left Saturday’s game in the second half with a left knee injury that will bear watching in the pre-bowl prep. Chubb has rushed for 1,203 yards and Michel has 961 rushing yards this season, with each scoring 13 touchdowns.
Swift has 608 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The Dawgs can flat-out wear teams out.
[B]4. Georgia is prepared.[/B]
Georgia played a difficult non-conference schedule (at Notre Dame and at Georgia Tech), coming up with impressive victories in both games. The Bulldogs avenged their only loss — at Auburn — by dominating the Tigers 28-7 in the rematch in the SEC title game. Quarterback Jake Fromm was a true freshman to start the season, but a season’s worth of experience has made him a reliable performer who doesn’t usually make the big mistake.
[B]5. The Bulldogs are experienced and hungry.[/B]
Georgia will be making its 21st straight bowl appearance — the third longest active streak in the country — and 53rd overall. The senior class has a four-year record of 40-12, with wins in each of its bowl games the past three years.
Georgia has the critical ingredients — veteran leadership, powerful running game and top-notch defense — upon which championships are built.
[B][I]5 reasons why Oklahoma can win it all
December 3, 2017[/I][/B]
No. 2 Oklahoma is making its second appearance in the College Football Playoff, set to play Georgia in a semifinal game in the Rose Bowl.
Among the four teams in the playoff, the Sooners have the most prolific, dynamic offensive attack. Is that their only advantage?
Here are five reasons why Oklahoma could win the national title:
1. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is the best player in college football.[/B]
He’s going to win the Heisman Trophy, is brash and confident (planting an Oklahoma flag at the 50-yard line in Ohio Stadium after a win over Ohio State, among other things), and the team reflects his personality.
And it helps that he’s uber-talented, completing 262 of 369 passes for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions this season.
If there is one quarterback who can put his team on his back and carry it across the finish line, it’s Mayfield.
2. Oklahoma has more than Mayfield.[/B]
The Sooners’ dynamic offense, triggered by Mayfield, will present multiple challenges for Georgia’s rugged defense. The Sooners rank No. 1 nationally in total offense with 583.3 yards per game. They’re No. 1 in passing with 367.4 yards per game and also average 215.9 yards per game on the ground.
Rodney Anderson has averaged 125.4 rushing yards in the past seven games. Mark Andrews leads the country in receiving yards for a tight end with 848.
Wideouts Mykel Jones and Marquise Brown had scoring receptions of 55 and 52, respectively, in the Big 12 championship win over TCU. Brown has six touchdown catches this season.
3. The offensive line is large and in charge.
The big guys provide good protection for Mayfield and open holes for the running game. Orlando Brown was the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and ranks as the eighth-best prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft by NFLDraftScout.com. Brown and Erick Wrenn were first-team all-conference selections, and Ben Powers and Dru Samia made the second team. Oklahoma might be more built to battle in the trenches than you think.
4. First-year coach Lincoln Riley provided a seamless transition.[/B]
Bob Stoops’ sudden retirement during the summer was supposed to be a setback. But Riley has validated Stoops’ trust in him as the hand-picked successor for the high-profile job. The pressure hasn’t seemed to affect Riley at all, and he’s an offensive guru that is the architect for a prolific attack.
At age 34, Riley is young but has a good pulse on his team and relates well to the players. He said Sunday that he’s excited personally about playing in the Rose Bowl and so are his players from the West Coast.
Riley is just the fifth person in FBS history with no head coaching experience to win 12 games in his first season.
[B]5. Oklahoma’s defense is suspect, but it has played well at times.[/B]
In the 41-17 victory in Big 12 championship game against TCU, the Sooners held the Horned Frogs to 95 yards and four first downs after halftime, holding TCU to its second -lowest point total this year.
In Oklahoma’s biggest win of the year, a 31-16 victory at Ohio State in September, the Sooners’ defense neutralized the Buckeyes’ offense and held them to nearly 200 yards below their season average. Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12.
[B][I]Opening Line Report – Bowl Games
December 4, 2017[/I][/B]
When the South Point posted the first College Football Playoff lines in Las Vegas on Sunday, sharp money showed up on Alabama at pick ‘em vs. Clemson in the Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN). Chris Andrews, sports book director at the South Point, was happy to take that action and moved the line to Alabama -1.
Other Vegas books opened Alabama as the slight chalk, the Westgate SuperBook hanging -1 and CG Technology going -2, and the Crimson Tide are now laying points at every shop in town.
Andrews thinks the betting market has it wrong.
“I really thought Clemson should be the favorite, but I opened pick, let them (sharp bettors) take me where they want to go, but I’m comfortable needing Clemson,” Andrews said. “If I go into the game needing them, that’s fine with me.”
There are many observers among the mainstream (non-gambling) college football punditry who questioned the Selection Committee’s decision to invite to Alabama to the playoffs, suggesting the Tide are in the final four because of reputation, not so much their 2017 resume. Andrews offered a similar notion regarding the betting line.
“This is probably one of those situations where we’re thinking of the historic Alabama rather than the current Alabama,” Andrews said. “I just think Clemson’s better than them right now.”
He added, “Alabama’s been exposed a little bit. It’s probably not Nick Saban’s best team. I predicted the Auburn win (over the Tide two weeks ago, 26-14). I just thought they weren’t that great of a team this year. They rely on (quarterback) Jalen Hurts an awful lot, their defense has clusters of injuries in linebacking, and if you look around the pros there’s tons of linebackers for Alabama, so it’s always been a key part of their defense.”
Over at CG Technology, sharp money grabbed Clemson +2, prompting a move to +1.5. But it’s likely that those early bettors were shopping for the best number, rather than expressing an opinion on the game, Jason Simbal, vice president of risk at the sports book operator, said.
Simbal, in fact, said his bookmaking team’s power ratings had Alabama a 3.5-point favorite, but that’s not a number they wanted to offer on a game certain to attract immediate high-volume action, particularly since betting opened Sunday as gamblers lined up to make their NFL wagers.
“In a normal week, where you’re not going to get a ton of attention on the game right away and nobody’s going to really bet it till the day of, you can hang 3 or 3.5 there,” Simbal said. “But in this case, it’s hard to hang that number because so many people are going to be betting this right away, fans and sharps alike, that you have to build in the perception.”
This, of course, is the third season in a row in which Alabama and Clemson will have met in the postseason. Clemson has covered the spread in the previous two meetings, winning outright 35-31 as 6.5-point dogs in last season’s championship game, and cashing as 6-point dogs in a 45-40 loss two years ago.
“I thought Alabama would be a really small favorite, but I’m hesitant to bet against Clemson in a big spot,” Simbal said. “Athletically, they have the ability to keep up with Alabama, one of the few teams that can do that, so we’ll see how they do without Deshaun Watson. If I had to bet that game I’d probably take Clemson.”
[B]Rose Bowl – Georgia vs. Oklahoma (-1)
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
The early Rose Bowl betting sentiment has been on underdog Georgia, as the line opened between Oklahoma -2 and -2.5, before drifting to -1 at most shops and even to pick ‘em at MGM Resorts.
CG opened Oklahoma -2.5 but moved to -1.5 after writing a sharp money-line play on Georgia.
The most appropriate number on this game is Oklahoma -1.5, Andrews believes, although he opened -2.
“If a wiseguy bet me -2, I would have gone right to -3, and conversely, if a wiseguy bet me +2, I would have gone to 1,” Andrews said. “Just in that area off an opening number, you move things a little more quickly.” While no respected money showed up on either side, an abundance of smaller bets on the dog prompted the South Point to move to Oklahoma -1.
“We didn’t have any big bets on the dog, but it was just kind of trickling in,” Andrews said, “so it looked like at this point in time, people were either going to bet Georgia or they were going to pass.”
Simbal, though, expects most casual bettors to back Oklahoma as game day approaches.
“I think we’re going to end up needing Georgia because the public is in love with Oklahoma,” Simbal said. “(Baker) Mayfield is a pretty popular player and they’ve been so hot ever since the Iowa State loss, and in hindsight that Iowa State loss wasn’t as bad as we thought at the time.”
[B]Here’s a peek at some other intriguing bowl matchups:
Cotton Bowl – USC vs. Ohio State (-6.5)
Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
There’s a consensus on the Cotton Bowl, as Ohio State -6.5 is the number being dealt throughout Las Vegas, with no action significant enough for early adjustments.
[B]Fiesta Bowl – Washington vs. Penn State (-3)
Dec. 30, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN[/B]
Penn State’s been as high as -4.5 and as low as -2 offshore, but the line has settled at a field goal in Vegas.
[B]Orange Bowl – Wisconsin (-6.5) vs. Miami
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN[/B]
Respect for the Big Ten continues, with the Badgers listed as substantial favorites in what’s essentially a home game for Miami.
[B]Outback Bowl – South Carolina vs. Michigan (-10)
Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2[/B]
There’s been a strong early move on Michigan, as the Wolverines opened -7 at the Wynn and have been bet to between -9.5 and -10 around town.
[B]Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – Central Florida vs. Auburn (-10)
Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. , ESPN[/B]
Doubt abounds around unbeaten Central Florida as they take a major step up in class. Auburn can be found for -9.5 at some betting locales.
[B]Citrus Bowl – LSU (-2.5) vs. Notre Dame
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, ABC[/B]
Wiseguys are on LSU early, driving the line at the Wynn to Tigers -2.5 after Notre Dame opened the 1-point chalk. LSU is laying as many as 3 at some shops.
[B][I]Armadillo: Wednesday’s List of 13: A quick scan thru the bowl schedule……. [/I][/B]
13) UCF is getting ten points from Auburn in the Peach Bowl, the same stadium where Auburn just lost the SEC title game. Auburn’s coach just signed a $49M contract to stay on the Plains.
Central Florida is 12-0; two years ago, they were 0-12. Great season, but then their coach took the Nebraska job about 45 seconds after they won the AAC title game. Scott Frost and his staff will still coach their bowl game, but only because he needs the three hours of national TV exposure to remind people he is now the highly-paid coach of Nebraska.
12) Iowa State-Memphis is a good bowl between two upstart teams who had excellent seasons, and surprise!!!— neither coach has bolted yet.
Matt Campbell actually re-upped with the Cyclones, though contracts don’t always mean that much in today’s world. Mike Norvell is in his second year at Memphis; he could still wind up being a candidate at Tennessee, since just about everyone else already has been, but he also signed a contract extension this week to stay at Memphis.
11) Florida State is -15 over Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport; they’re hiring Willie Taggart as coach, but likely he won’t coach the bowl game. Now Derwin James, FSU’s best defensive player, has declared for the NFL Draft and is skipping the bowl game. Lay 15 points here at your own risk.
10) Holiday Bowl has long been the bowl with a tradition of wild, high-scoring games, so fitting that Mike Leach coaches there. Washington State-Michigan State is quite a contrast as far as coaches’ personality, with the offbeat Leach and the gruff Mark D’Antonio matching wits.
When he was at Texas Tech, Leach won ’04 Holiday Bowl 45-31 as an 11-point dog over Cal.
9) Normally, UAB-Ohio U wouldn’t catch my attention, but what a job UAB coach Bill Clark has done. UAB dropped football- they didn’t field a team the last two years, but due to outcry from alumni, they brought the team back this year and now they’re bowling in the Bahamas.
Meanwhile, while Nebraska fired their coach and hired Scott Frost, one of their old coaches, Frank Solich, has gone 88-67 at Ohio U— he went 58-19 as Nebraska’s coach but that wasn’t good enough. Bobcats are only 2-6 in bowls under Solich.
8) Kansas State-UCLA could be Bill Snyder’s last game as coach at K-State. Snyder is 78 and had a cancer scare last year— the job he’s done at K-State (209-110-1) is impossible to overstate.
Before he got to the Little Apple (K-State is in Manhattan, KS), the Wildcats were a joke, going 26-82-3 the previous 11 seasons— they were the welcome mat of college football. Snyder fixed all that, made them respectable, won a lot of games. Their stadium has been named after him for over a decade now.
7) There is a bowl called the “Academy Sports & Outdoors Texas Bowl”; it is played in Houston. Problem is, the Sports & Outdoor Bowl is in a domed stadium, where the Texans play.
Missouri-Texas are playing in the indoor Outdoors Bowl; Mizzou started this season 1-5 but won its last six games. Tigers fired their defensive coordinator during the 1-5 start; their OC just left for another opportunity, which could complicate their bowl preparation.
6) Fresno State went 10-28 the last three years, so they hired former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who was Aaron Rodgers’ college coach. Fresno is 9-4 this season; they get their second trip to Hawai’i in two months when they play Houston in the Hawai’i Bowl on Christmas Eve, after a full day of NFL games. There is no NFL game that night, so hopefully this will be a fun game.
5) New Mexico State is in a bowl game for the first time since 1960— good for them!!! Aggies are playing Utah State (also the Aggies) in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson.
New Mexico State was 11-49 the last five years; great year for coach Doug Martin.
4) SMU won’t have to go too far for their bowl game; Mustangs are playing Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl, being played in the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility, which is roughly 25 miles from the SMU campus.
Louisiana Tech won its last three bowls, scoring 35-47-48 points. SMU is in its first bowl in five years.
3) Since 1999, Utah is 13-1 in bowl games, 9-1 under Kyle Whittingham. Utes lost six of their last eight games this year after a 4-0 start- they head to Dallas to play West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, played in the old Cotton Bowl stadium.
2) Boise State won six of its last eight bowl games, winning the Las Vegas Bowl three years in a row, from 2010-12; Broncos are back in Vegas this year, playing an Oregon team whose coach just jumped ship after one year, for the greener pa$ture$ of Florida $tate. Ducks lost the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8 to BYU.
1) Marshall vs Colorado State in a bowl game in Albuquerque is a little weird; Thundering Herd won its last five bowl games- their last bowl loss was in 2004. Colorado State won 27-24 on this field October 20. Do kids get excited about going to a bowl in Albuquerque?
1a) Which raises the question I raise every year; what is the worst bowl game to go to?
— Pinstripe Bowl, played in the Bronx, where it is almost always damned cold.
— Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, where it often snows.
— Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit can’t be that much fun, but at least the game is indoors.
— Playing Navy in Annapolis probably isn’t that great a trip.
[SIZE=4][COLOR=”#A52A2A”][B]College football bowl schedule: Matchups and betting odds for all of the games[/B][/COLOR][/SIZE]
The college football regular season is over but the FBS bowl season will keep NCAAF bettors busy during the winter holidays. The main course will be the two college football playoff games involving Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia, but there is plenty of college football bowl betting action before we get to the Rose and Sugar Bowl games on New Year’s Day.
Here’s a quick look at all the matchups, dates, times, locations, betting odds for all the bowl games right down to the lesser known goofy-named ones like the Cherlbundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl.
[B]R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Matchup: North Texas Mean Green vs. Troy Trojans[/B]
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana
Date, time & TV: Dec. 16, 1:00 PM ET on ESPN
Pointspread: Troy -6.5
Moneyline: Troy (-270), North Texas (+190)
[B]Autonation Cure Bowl
Matchup: Georgia State Panthers vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers[/B]
Location: Camping World Stadium – Orlando, Florida
Date, time & TV: Dec. 16, 2:30 PM ET on CBSSN
Pointspread: Western Kentucky -5
Moneyline: Western Kentucky (-215), Georgia State (+165)
[B]Las Vegas Bowl
Matchup: Oregon Ducks vs. Boise State Broncos[/B]
Location: Sam Boyd Stadium – Las Vegas, Nevada
Date, time & TV: Dec. 16, 3:30 PM ET on ABC
Pointspread: Oregon -9
Moneyline: Oregon (-365), Boise State (+255)
[B]Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Matchup: Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Colorado State Rams[/B]
Location: Dreamstyle Stadium – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Date, time & TV: Dec. 16, 4:30 PM ET on ESPN
Pointspread: Colorado State -3
Moneyline: Colorado State (-175), Marshall (+135)
[B]Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Matchup: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders[/B]
Location: Cramton Bowl – Montgomery, Alabama
Date, time & TV: Dec. 16, 8 PM ET on ESPN
Pointspread: Arkansas State -3.5
Moneyline: Arkansas State (-175), Middle Tennessee State (+135)
[B]Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl
Matchup: Akron Zips vs. Florida Atlantic Owls[/B]
Location: FAU Stadium – Boca Raton, Florida
Date, time & TV: Dec. 19, 7:00 PM ET on ESPN
[B][I]4-team playoff is fine, but 8 is perfect
December 8, 2017[/I][/B]
ATLANTA (AP) Naturally, the four coaches on the podium were happy with the system the way it is.
They’ve all got a shot at the national championship.
But, as Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Georgia’s Kirby Smart gathered at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, it was clear that others should’ve been up there with them.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, for sure.
Southern Cal’s Clay Helton, too.
Central Florida’s Josh Heupel , as well. (Or Scott Frost , if he had chosen to stay with the Knights a bit longer to take a run at a title.)
The final spot could’ve gone to either Paul Chryst of Wisconsin or Gus Malzahn of Auburn.
More isn’t always better, but in this case it would be.
There’s no good reason not to expand the College Football Playoff to eight teams.
”I’m not opposed to it,” said Swinney, the only one who seemed open to the idea.
But, he quickly added, ”I kind of like what we have.”
An eight-team playoff makes so much sense, we’re likely to go years before the inevitable happens.
But, rest assured, that day is coming.
Might as well get to it.
All five Power Five conference champions should get an automatic spot, which would make every one of their title games a playoff before the actual playoff. That was essentially the case this year, with Clemson (Atlantic Coast), Oklahoma (Big 12) and Georgia (Southeastern) all getting in by winning their respective leagues.
Made for a pretty thrilling day, didn’t it?
But Ohio State (Big Ten) and Southern Cal (Pac-12) were left out. Instead, the selection committee handed the fourth playoff spot went to once-beaten Alabama, which didn’t even win the SEC West.
Now, this isn’t a knock on the Crimson Tide, which has been college football’s dominant program for the past decade and very well could win the fifth national title of the Saban era. Alabama (11-1) was ranked No. 1 all year by The Associated Press – until a 26-14 loss at Auburn in the regular-season finale , which was enough to knock the Tide out of the SEC championship game as well.
On paper, at least, Bama probably deserved the nod over Ohio State (11-2) and certainly Southern Cal (11-2).
But conference titles should be the first point of entry for any playoff system, and that has always been the most glaring flaw with a four-team playoff and five major conferences.
”There’s never going to be a magic number. If we have eight, (Nos.) 9 and 10 are going to be upset. If we have 16, 17 and 18 are going to be upset,” Riley said. ”I think the final four has been great. I think the biggest thing to me is people need to have realistic expectations. You’re not going to go to the playoff every single year. Only four teams can do it.”
But let’s envision how much better an eight-team playoff would be.
The five Power Five champions would be in automatically, seeded 1 through 5. This season, that would’ve been Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State and Southern Cal. The best of the rest, from the so-called Group of Five, would also be guaranteed a berth. What a story that would’ve been with Central Florida (or, as they prefer to be called, UCF), who won the American Athletic Conference with a perfect 12-0 mark just two seasons after going 0-12 .
Wouldn’t it have been great to see the Knights get a shot at the big boys, just like those Cinderella teams that add so much appeal to the NCAA basketball tournament?
That still leaves room for two wild-card berths. Alabama would’ve been an easy choice, and Wisconsin (12-1) likely would’ve gotten the last spot after a perfect regular season was marred only by a loss to Ohio State in a Big Ten title game that went right to the wire.
Auburn (10-3), which had victories over both Georgia and Alabama in the past month, also could’ve made a pretty strong case.
As Riley said, there’s always going to be plenty of room for debate and controversy no matter how many teams you take.
Nothing wrong with that.
”I don’t care if we have 68 teams in it,” Saban said. ”We’ll still have a two-hour show on who shouldn’t have got in it, just like they do in basketball.”
An eight-team playoff would hardly dilute the postseason product, other than making the bowls even more irrelevant than most of them already are. Frankly, we consider that another huge plus (sorry, fans of the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl).
Holding the quarterfinals around Christmas (this year, Dec. 23 would’ve been the date) seems to work just fine within the constraints of the academic calendar, since everyone has completed exams and gone on their holiday break anyway. If an extra round of games is deemed too much to ask of the players (yeah, like that’s ever been a concern), eliminate one of those meaningless regular-season games (Alabama vs. Mercer we could do without).
If the six major bowls – Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Peach and Fiesta – want to have a truly meaningful game every season, they could divvy up the quarterfinals and semifinals instead of settling for a semi once every three years. Or, if three rounds of neutral-site games is deemed unfeasible, hold the quarterfinals at campus sites, with the top four seeds getting home games.
This season, it would’ve looked like this in the opening round: Clemson vs. Central Florida, Oklahoma vs. Wisconsin, Georgia vs. Alabama, and Ohio State vs. Southern Cal.