I will continue with the weekly wrap-up. Primarily because the playoff committee continues to make bad choices in their ranking system as we enter Week 12. Next week is the last week for completely regular competition. Week 14 will have a mix of regular games and championship games depending on what conference [ or independent ] a team is in. The last regular season game will be the artificial Week 15 with Army vs. Navy.
But also I want to comment on the results of the weekend that might affect the playoff. There were big doings this past weekend. Doing it as a whole is much simpler for me. Plus there is a lot of crossover that is more appropriate in a singular post forum.
The highest ranked egregious error was from the PAC12. Utah has been considered the darling of the season. Getting up to #3 on Week 8. But since the loss to USC; their chances have become slimmer as time goes by. A loss to an unranked Arizona last week and now an unranked UCLA; that is making it harder and harder for the Utes. This 17 – 9 loss to the Bruins is going to hurt the Utes chances.
As of now; the Utes are tied for 1st in the PAC12 South. The problem with that is; UCLA is also tied for first. Assuming the tiebreaker is head-to-head; Utah will find itself on the outside. Right now the Utes are 23rd to the Bruins 22.
Assuming Stanford maintains no matter what its result with the upcoming game against Notre Dame; it looks like the Bruins vs. the Cardinal in Santa Clara. But things can still change. UCLA has its own battle against USC this weekend. I believe a Trojan win could make a three-way tie for the South and USC I believe comes out on top of that one. Shall see.
The other two appalling losses happen in the very competitive American Athletic Conference. The highest ranked was Houston losing to UConn. The Huskies eeked out this win like mouse squeezing through a small hole. Huskies only put 20 against the Cougars 17. Slim win.
The Cougars first loss this season makes their chances of getting into the AAC Championship Game much more difficult. They were the frontrunners to host the game. But Navy is undefeated in the conference going to their game with Cougars Friday. I believe that makes the Midshipmen the frontrunner to host the championship game if they win.
With the loss, Houston went from 19 to nothing. The Cougars are now out of the top 25. The Midshipmen moved up from 16 to 15. Because the committee seems to move erratically, the Cougars would probably be back and the Midshipmen out depending on this weekend. But for now; the committee seems to be saying the Cougars have little chance at that. Shall see.
The last significant loss was by Memphis. The Tigers 21st ranking was much better than Temple who have slipped from the charts the last few weeks. But the Owls came up big with a 31 – 12 win. That was a solid win for the Owls, one of many this season.
That got the Owls back into the top 25 this week but only barely at 25. They are on top in the AAC North. Solid path to the championship with only one game against UConn left. But the Owls lost to South Florida; the second ranked team in the North. The Bulls have a decided easier game against the winless Central Florida.
I do applaud the AAC for having a championship game that generate revenues for the top ranked team. Moves like this could move the needle. The book Death To The BCS advocated that the first round of a 16 team playoff be hosted by the higher ranked team. AAC, Conference USA, Mountain West hold the playoff game at the higher ranked team based on either the committee’s ranking or best conference results.
Conferences with neutral site games : MAC, SEC, Big 10, PAC 12, ACC. The local area is basically giving away money to a big city. The service industry (hotels, restaurants, t-shirt vendors and others) in those potential host campuses are losing out. So if the conferences talk about what they don’t have; the first reply should be; “change the conference to a hosted championship to make revenue and then we can talk” is a relevant retort.
Big 12, Sun Belt hold no championship game. Why? I don’t know. I assume they don’t like this thing we call American dollars. I am sure that there is a better rational. I just do not know what it is. They have said it is “One True Champion”. Ironically last year the Big 12 had co-champs that the committee felt free to leave both teams out of the playoff. This is something that a better system could ensure would not happen.
I am not assaulting the committee’s rankings when I mention these next games. But this Week 12 had a big affect on the potential playoff competitors. There were a bunch of tricky games that don’t meet my criteria of inexcusable. These games still warrant mention though. The first is the most obvious game, Michigan State beating Ohio State 17 – 14. But for the loss against Nebraska; the Spartans would be much higher ranked probably top 5. This is probably still two of the top 5 teams in the country. They are the cream of the crop.
The Spartans are a very good team. Their backup QB got this win; that shows that they are a next man up type quality team. They are matched against an unimpressive Nittany Lion team this weekend.
I think that makes the Spartans path to playing Iowa in the championship pretty clear. Sparty is at home as the Nittany Lions travel in. The Hawkeyes are traveling to Lincoln where the Cornhuskers beat the Spartans two weeks ago. So things are not written in stone just yet.
The Buckeyes played poorly and out of character. They face a very good Michigan team that is still hungry. The Wolverines are looking to make a statement. Their coach Jim Harbaugh played in this game as the starter for the Wolverines. There is plenty of emotion as the Buckeyes travel to “the Big House”.
The Big Ten Championship will likely feature 2 top 10 teams. I think that the winner will go on to the playoff. Though you can never truly know what the committee will do. The loser will go to some bowl that someone will say makes a difference. But only the alumni will actually be watching. The loser of even the playoff games last year will probably let you know how little being outside the playoff means.
Another loss in Week 12 that can be chalked up to competition was Baylor beating Oklahoma State 45 – 35. The Bears are also not just functioning but thriving with a back up QB. The Bears are doing more than making do. They are showing that competitive spirit they thought would get them into the playoff last year.
There is a possibility that they have played the Cowboys and the Big 12 out of the championship. But there is still a lot at stake with their remaining games. The Bears have TCU this weekend and the Longhorns the weekend after that. Without a championship game; the Bears have to hope they emerge as the “One True Champion”. But this is the finale for a very banged up TCU. The 2 loss Horned Frogs have lost not just a QB but over 10 other starters. But the Bears can count on the Horned Frogs best on Friday.
Oklahoma just barely beat TCU 30 – 29. That shows there is plenty left in the tank for the Horned Frogs. They will not go away quietly. So the Bears have to be wary. Same with the Cowboys since the Sooners have been rolling since their Red River loss.
Bedlam will make another possible “One True Champion”. The Cowboys and Sooners are both one loss teams. This is a finale for both. So the winner may emerge as the frontrunner for the Big 12 title. Will the Sooners lose both their “named games”?
The Big 12 commissioner has had a lot to say about all this. Talking about not making a conference championship game here : http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/big12/2015/05/05/for-big-12-football-championship-the-right-move-is-no-move/26940997/ and here : http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/college-sports/headlines/20151123-big-12-commissioner-on-sportsday-podcast-big-12-s-balance-from-top-to-bottom-is-better-than-sec-anybody-else.ece . But this gem about Notre Dame : http://espn.go.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/121120/bob-bowlsby-big-12-champion-can-still-surpass-notre-dame is my favorite. I am not sure if it is true or not. Particularly because it goes against logic. Why would the committee rank a team that can’t get in? But I will do my research. But the Big 12 has to have done its own research. I am sure they have lawyers and MBAs looking into this. It makes the Irish’s position tenuous at best. Of course, Notre Dame probably has lawyers and MBAs doing the counter-work as well. I am not sure who wins that battle though. Hopefully the players do to the greater benefit of the fans that get to see the best games.
Speaking of which, Notre Dame squeaked a 3 point win out against unranked Boston College. The Irish barely beat quite a few of their ACC opponents. And of course; they lost to Clemson.
So what does that say about the ACC? Notre Dame is ACC in every other sport. They play Virginia, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and now Boston College all had opportunities to win in the fourth quarter vs. the Irish. Since Clemson plays a full ACC schedule and had 9 of 12 ACC opponent. Norte Dame played a half ACC schedule and 6 of their 12 opponents are ACC. Both teams are in the top 5 currently. Doesn’t that mean the ACC is actually a good conference?
Personally I disagree with the committee. I have more respect for the ACC though. I don’t think they are a bunch of “cupcakes”. This is a good league with good teams. Those teams I mentioned above that played tough, the Cavaliers, Yellow Jackets, Panthers and Eagles are all good teams. There record does not reflect how hard they play week in and week out.
Clemson are the Atlantic champs. Even if the Tigers lose to a chaotic South Carolina team; Clemson will still play in the championship game. I think the Tigers are in a good position to make it into the playoff as well. There play has been solid all season. Dabo Sweeney is a focused and passionate coach. He has his team playing great this season. There record reflects both talent and passion on the field.
The North Carolina Tarheels are the Coastal champs this year. They close out the regular season against in state rivals North Carolina State. No matter the result, the Tarheels will move on against the Tigers for the title. I think the Tarheels would have a tougher time moving from number 14 into the playoff. But the Tarheels have moved up steadily in the polls from unranked Week 9, to 23rd on Week 10, to 17th on Week 11, to 14th now. Let’s see what happens.
Like the Tarheels; there are few teams with a shot to get into the playoff. The field is dwindling. But why? Because it should be. By this point in the season; only a few teams should be left. My main contention is; does the committee get the best teams? Why should they get to say so?
I have mentioned the PAC 12 South. The PAC 12 North champ is Stanford. They have a tough game with Notre Dame on Saturday. The fates of both teams are on the line. In fact, the fate of the PAC 12 might be on the line as well. This is a unique situation for the committee to be in. It is going to test the fabric of football as we know it.
The conferences had to know that one conference champ was going to be on the outside looking in. That fact [and the potential for additional revenue] I believe are why there are still all the additional extraneous bowls hanging around. But Notre Dame’s half in – mostly out status might knock two conferences out this season. What then?
I haven’t mentioned the SEC yet. Their conference championship game is set as well. Alabama vs. Florida. Let’s look at both teams and where they stand.
Alabama beat a complete cupcake in Charleston Southern. I don’t know their mascot, record or any of it. The Tide would have done better to play a scrimmage. But if they take Auburn as light, they may get surprised. Ole Miss, a terrible team, surprised the Tide earlier this season. The Tigers have beaten the Tide in a surprise before. I reference this, one of my favorite endings of any game ever :
I will never get sick of the ending of the 2013 Iron Bowl. This game is a “named game” for a reason. The Tigers have little to loss. The Tide can lose their spot in the SEC championship if they loss. They would have the same record as the abysmal Ole Miss and would lose in the head to head. So the Tide have to mind their P’s & Q’s.
The Gators are left with Florida State this weekend. The Seminoles are not just going to lay down for the Gators. Having beat Miami and South Florida and with Central Florida a very down year; the Seminoles are playing for preeminence in Florida.
The Gators have not been very impressive on their way to the SEC East championship. With gems like 14 – 9 against Kentucky. Or worse; 9 -7 against Vanderbilt. Even the too too close 20 -14 win vs. Florida Atlantic this weekend; the Gators have not had quality wins. Their single loss was against LSU.
Speaking of the Bayou Bengals; LSU has almost completely collapsed since losing to Alabama. Three straight losses including Arkansas and Ole Miss have sunk the Tigers. Les Miles job is in jeopardy. Salvaging one last win against Texas A&M this weekend will be one good thing. Leonard Fournette’s Heisman campaign next season might also help. What the Tigers really need is a good QB and serviceable offense.
I don’t believe Ole Miss is worthy of their current ranking. The committee has ranked them 18 – unranked – 22 – back to 18. Why? I don’t see it. They are a mess.
But my logic conclusion is; if Ole Miss makes it into the SEC Championship; the committee wants a rational reason for having them a ranked team. It would be difficult to take them from unranked to the playoff. But moving them steadily up makes it more plausible.
In fact, Mississippi State is still holding on to the 21st spot. Once again; I am sure their play on the field warrants that rank. I think that being in the SEC and moreover in the SEC West have catapulted them.
I vehemently disagree. Of course; I don’t get a vote. Neither do you though and I don’t think anyone should vote for a champion. I am in favor of making changes that will remove the committee’s indiscriminate [from any other flawed poll] votes based on capricious metrics. I am an advocate of letting the play on the field be the only “vote”.
All my talk is so much bluster. The system I would emplace would not take into account such murky metrics as “quality wins”. Or metrics that I consider arbitrary as margin of victory. The best teams would make it into the postseason. There would be alternatives for different courses that football could take. But it would eliminate the random whims of 13 people telling us who is good and who is not. The play on the field would do that. Teams like Florida would play their way in because of win-loss.
The committee admits their own shortcomings. It is why they have a rotation schedule in place that has gotten rid of a third of the committee from year one to year two. But do they also have a strict number of games they have to watch as well? I personally think this is too important to leave up to part-timers. It is also too important to leave to chance. Play on the field should be the ultimate determining factor.
I would like to establish a system that eradicates the human frailties. A system more durable than the BCS and its unpublished algorithms. A system that is just as good now as it will be 20 years from now.
We are getting closer to having “One True Champion”. But we have to acknowledge the flaws in the system. We have to be dedicated to change. We have to ensure the trophy is won by the best team to take the field over the course of the season.
There is a way.