Cavalcade of Whimsy: Lessons From The College Football Playoff Committee. What Did We Learn?
What lessons did we learn from the College Football Playoff committee? Bowl thoughts, Leonard Fournette, and more, in a very special Cavalcade of Whimsy.
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Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …
However, according to Gus Johnson, it’s welcoming you back to Camelot, Everything is healing now because it won a football game.
In honor of that honoring thing of Joe Paterno
On the one hand, Penn State is the champion of the best conference in college football.
Penn State finished the season on a nine-game winning streak, beating six bowl bound teams during the run, destroying the same Iowa team that beat Michigan, obliterating the same Michigan State team that came within a two-point conversion of beating Ohio State a week earlier, and roaring back to get by an impenetrable Wisconsin defense for the Big Ten title.
Penn State might have been blown out by Michigan, but it improved by leaps and bounds as the season went on – this isn’t anywhere near the same team it was back in September.
Penn State might have lost to Pitt, but that Panther team is the only one in college football with wins over two Power Five conference champs.
Penn State managed to beat two conference champions – that Temple win looks a whole lot better now – and, oh yeah, it actually beat Ohio State in the head-to-head matchup.
Penn State vs. Ohio State – you can argue about the best-team-theory all you want, but based on nothing else other than this debate, the Buckeyes don’t have a case.
Penn State is totally justified if it believes it was unfairly left out of the College Football Playoff, because no matter how you want to argue it, spin it, or explain it, it was.
But on the other hand, it’s Penn State.
Bowl Season Thought For A Brave New World, Part One
Here’s the other problem with Ohio State getting into the College Football Playoff like it did – it got a risk-free week off. Clemson had to get out there and play an extra game. So did Alabama. So did Washington. Urban Meyer caught a massive break, and he knows it. No one is better at preparing his team for the long, long grind of a potential run into early January. Yeah, the Fiesta Bowl is a month away for Clemson, too, but that one extra week still matters.
”This is the Voice of Doom speaking! Special bulletin! Flash! The sky is falling! A piece of it just hit you on the head! Now be calm. Don’t get panicky. Run for your life!”
Before diving into it, two problems: 1) College football is still determining its playoff format on opinions and judges. 2) The College Football Playoff committee did exactly what it told us it would do, and we didn’t believe it.
There wasn’t any chaos. There wasn’t anything wacky. There wasn’t some Navy blowout over Temple, or a 45-point Penn State win, or a Virginia Tech comeback over Clemson, or a Colorado whitewash of Washington.
The CFP said it liked Ohio State a lot, but after two years of it being all about the conference championships, did we believe the committee? Sort of.
So, maybe this is the beginning of transparency. There wasn’t a 2014 TCU thing happening here with an unfair drop after doing everything right the week after being ranked third.
But there’s still too much ambiguity.
Six teams. All Power Five conference champs, one catch-all.
But until that time …
”And it’s a blessing/So listen to the lesson I preach/I talk sense condensed into the form of a poem/ Full of knowledge from my toes to the top of my dome”
Okay, so what did the 2016 College Football Playoff committee tell us? What can we take from this – along with what came out of the first two playoff final fours – to use for next year and beyond?
Lesson 1: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever schedule anyone good in non-conference play
No, Baylor didn’t get left out of the 2014-2015 College Football Playoff because it played SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo in non-conference action. It didn’t get in because it lost to an okay West Virginia team by 15, the Big 12 stunk, and Ohio State was killing everyone late in the year. Had the Bears beaten the Mountaineers, they would’ve been in.
2016 Ohio State was helped by beating Oklahoma on the road, but it also beat Wisconsin in Madison, got by No. 3 Michigan, and ended up beating eight bowl teams in all including annihilations of Maryland and Nebraska by a combined score of 124-6.
Now, the Oklahoma win helped, but that’s a crazy and unnecessary chance to take. Lose a game like that, and as Oklahoma proved, there’s no margin for error in the other 11 games.
Washington played Idaho, Portland State, and Rutgers in its non-conference schedule. Penn State and Oklahoma would be preparing for the College Football Playoff right now if it played those three out of conference. Which leads to …
Lesson 2: Don’t … lose … two … games
In the 12 available spots in the College Football Playoff era, none have gone to a two-loss team.
At the end of the day, it was really a Washington vs. Penn State argument, not an Ohio State vs. Penn State conversation.
The committee chose the 12-1 team with a miserable non-conference slate, and a championship in an okay league full of mediocrity, over an 11-2 team that won the best conference in college football, but lost in a shootout to Pitt.
They had to debate this.
They had to sit in that room and argue Washington or Penn State, and they decided that one team was 11-2, the other was 12-1 – let’s go with the 12-1. Ohio State was 11-1. Oklahoma was 10-2. Michigan was 10-2. Which leads to …
Lesson 3: Win your Power Five conference championship AND finish with one loss, and you’ll get in
It was the analysis from the start three years ago, and it still holds true.
2014 was a total aberration in the history of college football – it never, ever happens that there isn’t a Power Five champion with two losses or more. The best path to getting in is still to win the conference championship. Do that, lose just once along the way – NOT TWICE – and you’re in.
Lesson 4: You need more teams, Big 12
Big 12 heads spent the last few days talking about “mixed messages” from the committee after Baylor and TCU missed out in 2014 and Oklahoma didn’t get in this year. But if Oklahoma would’ve gone 12-0, it would’ve been in.
If Oklahoma would’ve gone 11-1 with win over Houston, it wouldn’t have been in because it lost to Ohio State. However, it would’ve probably been in at 11-1 with a loss to anyone other than the Buckeyes, because – forget the No. 3 OSU ranking – the committee would’ve looked at the teams differently if there were four one-loss Power Five champs.
And it wouldn’t have been in at 11-2 with a Big 12 championship game repeat win over Oklahoma State – like the 2017 set-up would have – because Penn State would’ve been ranked higher.
And that’s going to be the problem next year, Big 12.
I’m telling you this now – unless the Big 12 champ is amazing, a repeat win in a title game isn’t going to be looked at all that kindly. A revenge win – like if TCU beat Baylor back in 2014 – would matter, but not a second Sooner over Cowboy victory.
You need more teams. You need to expand. You need more options for the committee to factor in.
Bowl Season Thought For A Brave New World, Part Two
How much does it suck for Idaho to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl? It was supposed to be the MAC vs. the Mountain West, but that got flipped to have the Idaho in Idaho angle for the 25th anniversary of the game.
“Yay!!! It stinks that we’re getting kicked out of the Sun Belt and FBS world, but at least we get to go out with a bowl game! Where do we go? Tucson, for the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl? How about Orlando in December for the Cure Bowl! No? We’re going to … Boise? Oooooh, maybe we’ll get potatoes. Score!!!”
Please turn pro already, because autocorrect just kills your first name
Without revealing anything about my vote, here was my problem as a 2016 Heisman voter: who’s the signature star of the season AND the true MVP when it came to the overall outcome of the year?
Lamar Jackson had a special season despite the losses and mistakes against Houston and Kentucky, but Louisville stopped being a thing.
The 3,390 passing yards, 30 touchdown passes, 1,538 rushing yards and 21 scores – along with this electrifying play – will get him the Heisman, but to show how hard it is to be a finalist, much less win the thing, take the example of an all-timer of a year that got totally ignored.
What else could Texas RB D’Onta Foreman have done?
Again, the problem is the signature star factor – Foreman just wasn’t a big enough national figure this year – but he ran for 124 yards or more in every game he played. He sat out the UTEP game hurt – which would’ve been a monstrous yardage performance had he played – but he still finished with 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns in 11 games.
How much did he try to carry the offense? He ran the ball 30 times or more in six of the last seven games with 51 in the backbreaking loss to Kansas.
Jalen Hurts, Dalvin Cook, Jake Browning, J.T. Barrett and Jonathan Allen were all deserving, too, along with the five finalists who got the nod – Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Jabrill Peppers, Deshaun Watson and Dede Westbrook – but they didn’t get the ticket to NYC.
This was a weird year, and the final tally will be interesting. Heisman voters aren’t allowed to reveal anything until after the announcement, but I can’t wait to dive into the thought process behind the vote.
Bowl Season Thought For A Brave New World, Part Three
One thing to watch out for – how hot will tickets be for the Playstation Fiesta Bowl?
Clemson fans just went to Glendale for the national title last year. Just like Florida State fans were less than enthused to go back to Pasadena in the 2015 Rose Bowl after winning the BCS Championship there the year before – and Oregon gobbled up most of the tickets – the Tiger faithful might be waiting for Tampa. And the same goes for Ohio State fans who might be putting their eggs in the national title basket, too.
The one thing the CFPers really, REALLY don’t want is a half-empty stadium. That’s not going to happen, but they also don’t want a storyline to be about how you can get a ticket to the game for a bag of Fritos.
And this goes for Myles Garrett, Dalvin Cook, Jabrill Peppers, and everyone not in the College Football Playoff
Jeff Brohm left Western Kentucky for the Purdue job? Of course. That’s what a coach has to do to get his recruiting class in place, get settled in, and do the million things he needs to do to get the transition team ready (insert your own joke here, depending on which side of the aisle you live on).
He won’t get to coach in his team vs. Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl, but that’s fine, it’s just a fun reward for a good season. It’s not like it’s the playoff or anything.
Leonard Fournette announced he’s going to turn pro after LSU’s final game against Louisville in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. But if he dared to pull a Charles Walker and say he was sitting out so he could get healthy and prepare for his career …
QUITTER!!! HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO YOUR TEAMMATES!!! You’re selfish, Leonard Fournette, SELFISH. Of course it’s all about YOU, YOU, YOU and MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. I’m going to boo you now. (Clearing throat) BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (breath) BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Bowl Season Thought For A Brave New World, Part Four
Huge, giant win, Washington fans who like to par-tay. Yeah, your team plays on New Year’s Eve, but if you’re not going to Atlanta, the game starts at noon in Seattle. So for all the whining out there about the games being played on December 31st, most of the country will have no problems getting its groove on.
This week’s reason why the Big 12 should’ve considered me for expansion …
(Rehash of an earlier one, but now it really works.) I’m going to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the College Football Playoff National Championship, partly because I didn’t schedule Houston and Ohio State.
The sure-thing, 100%, rock-solid lock, sell the house, sell the kids, no doubt about it picks of the century for this week
You know what – I’ll take it. I went big, picking every game last week, and I went 8-8 against the spread, closing the season out at a solid clip that most investors could only dream of.
Yeah, I got the Wisconsin over Penn State thing wrong, and New Mexico State totally screwed the world with that late score against South Alabama, but nailed the Kansas State straight up win over TCU with ease, and knocked out Temple over Navy without breathing hard.
Straight Up: 36-21, Against the Spread: 35-21-1
Army +7.5 over Navy
It’s time, Navy.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item …
The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Art Briles
Underrated: Houston sending out a statement basically saying, “thank you … no.”
2) Overrated: $7 million to keep Carrier in Indiana
Underrated: $400 million to keep Bryce Harper in Washington
3) Overrated: Focusing on, and coverage of, Cam Newton missing one play
Underrated: Seattle 40, Carolina 7
4) Overrated: The final results from the workout kick to drop the football season five, starting tomorrow
Underrated: A $3 million bra
5) Overrated: 9-3 Trojans
Underrated: The USC heads not noticing that six of the eight wins during this stretch came against teams not going bowling
Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault …
I’ll show ‘em. I’ll show ‘em all. I’m leaving this column and Alabama for the Houston job. No, the Baylor job. Oh, Mike Gundy’s taking that. Oklahoma State might be open? Do I have to grow a mullet? Wait, that rumor might not be real – stupid, sexy click-bait writers … No, South Florida is definitely it – but Willie Taggart has to go to Oregon. Or not. What? Cincinnati is available? Maybe Indiana … no, it’s Houston. Or what about … ack. Sorry!!!!! Adding the Splenda and 1% now, Coach Saban. Be there in a jiff!