Bucks and Ducks Battle Tonight for the NCAA Football Title

Mariota
Mariota
Marcus Mariota's legs may be more important than his arms tonight.

You’ve probably heard this little trivia tidbit by now but in case you haven’t here it is… Following the first-ever NCAA Basketball Tournament in 1939, the two teams that met for the title were Oregon and Ohio State. The Ducks would claim their one and only national championship in men’s basketball.

Now, these same two universities meet in the first-ever college football playoff title game and again, the Ducks enter having won zero national championships in football. Both teams enter at 13-1 and both won their respective conference titles.

Each school offers intriguing storylines as the game kicks off tonight. Who do I like and why? Read on.

College Football National Championship

Ohio State (+7) vs Oregon (O/U 75)

By the Numbers: Points per game Ohio State 45.2, Oregon 46.3… Points allowed per game Ohio State 21.2, Oregon 22.5

Jones
The Ducks will look to frustrate Cardale Jones early tonight in Dallas.

Why Ohio State Wins: As good as Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich has been, Urban Meyer is a master game-planner who rarely is out-prepared by his opponent. Meyer’s experience heading into this game is significant as well and should be an advantage to the Buckeyes.

The defensive line for OSU has been dominant all season and eventually overwhelmed the Alabama offensive line. The Oregon offensive line is very good and is more aggressive than they are given credit for so this should be an excellent match-up.

I think the Buckeyes defensively have recognized the fact they will give up yards to Oregon but can they limit the Ducks in the red zone where Oregon has had some struggles? I think the Buckeyes can also bank on the fact that they aren’t going to turn the ball over as many times as Florida State did and that’s important for their confidence.

Why Oregon Wins: There is going to be no secret as to what the Ducks are going to do. They will go at a high rate of speed and they will not relent. If they can find some success early running the football against a good OSU defense then that will make Marcus Mariota all the more dangerous.

The loss of wide receiver Darren Carrington due to suspension is going to hurt a lot but if the Ducks can find someone to step up that isn’t necessarily expected to then the Ducks will be fine. That’s a tall order however and I’m worried about this situation which is why I think they look to the ground game even more often.

Defensively, the Ducks must stop the run and force the game into the hands of Cardale Jones. Alabama was unable to do that and what was even worse is that the Tide weren’t able to contain Jones when he ran either. If Oregon can force Jones into some early mistakes and force him to play from behind then things can swing in their favor dramatically.

Trends: Ohio State is 5-0 straight up in their last five games… Oregon is 5-0 SU in their last five games… The total has gone OVER in 12 of Ohio State’s last 13 games… The only common opponent for each team is Michigan State and both trailed by at least a touchdown before coming back to win by double digits.

Key Injuries: OSU QBs Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett/OUT, Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu/OUT

The Pick: I was liking the Buckeyes all week but now I like them even more with Carrington out for Oregon. Don’t be surprised to see a defensive game for most of the first half before the offenses settle in but either way I love Ohio State and the UNDER.

Saturday Bullets for the First Weekend of 2015

Bryant
Bryant
Kobe Bryant's comments about AAU basketball are accurate and need to be heard.

How in the world do I settle on just one or two topics with so much going on? My bullets are back and it’s time to pull the trigger!

-Kobe Bryant recently ripped on the AAU basketball program saying that European players are more skillful than are kids who come from the American feeder system. “Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of,” he said. “That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction,” said Bryant. I could not agree more.

-Rajon Rondo returned to Boston for the first time since being traded to Dallas. He tossed in 29 points in the Mavs’ 119-101 win over the Celtics.

Kelly
Chip Kelly has more control of his players in a shake-up in Philadelphia.

-Following the Philadelphia Eagles’ late-season collapse, the team has re-structured the front office with Head Coach Chip Kelly gaining control of player personnel and General Manager Howie Roseman has been elevated to Executive Vice-President of Football Operations. Rarely do these situations work well when a coach is given so much power. Wonder if the team has an Assistant to the Traveling Secretary?

-As of right now, Oregon is a seven-point favorite over Ohio State in the National Championship Game and I like the Buckeyes getting those points. I just don’t see the Buckeyes making the same mistakes that Florida State did in the Rose Bowl and I think the OSU offense can be more dynamic than the Seminoles.’

-Speaking of the College Football Playoff I think there are a couple of important notes coming out of the first-ever semi-final games. The television numbers were outstanding for both games and I’ll get to the point on that in a second, but where the “powers that be” need to focus on is time. The Rose Bowl,which was a blowout, scored better ratings than the Sugar Bowl which was a highly competitive game. What this proves is that people just won’t stay up until 1am Eastern no matter how important or good the game.

-The second part of the CFB Playoff scenario is that it’s popularity across the country means that playoff expansion is coming. I think we are about five or six years away from an expansion to eight teams but the TV numbers were just too good not to discuss it. The one issue here is where to play the games. The Rose Bowl had trouble filling seats and I think an argument could be made to play these games on campus in the first-round at least.

-I had no idea former Buffalo Bills’ coach Doug Marrone was such a hot commodity. Days after opting out of his contract, he’s rumored to a favorite in several cities. His Bills took a step forward by going 9-7 this year behind an aggressive defense but the offense was really flat. Not sure what the draw is here.

-For all the dislike of Jameis Winston because of his off-field problems and immaturity, my concern about his potential pro career is his pocket presence and long delivery. Seems to me that he gets very discombobulated in the pocket when there’s any significant pressure and his throwing motion is not what I’d call “quick and efficient.” Almost reminds me of Byron Leftwich.

-One note on the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic… I think the NHL has to consider moving the game for two reasons. Number one is that it can’t compete if college football continues its’ playoff semi-finals on the same day. Also, the NHL should re-consider the start time as well to get a more optimum viewing audience. I love the Winter Classic but the NHL has to do a better job of making its’ stars available at better times.

Playoff Committee Shows System is Still Flawed

CFP
CFP
The Committee has selected the four teams but the decision does not come without issues.

The College Football Playoff Committee was supposed to clean up most of the problems that haunted the Bowl Championship Series for 17 years. By having a playoff, even just a four-team playoff, was supposed to give us the best teams in the country squaring off for the title on the field.

The committee has failed miserably and frankly it has little to do with whether Ohio State belongs in or not because we could place (Fill in the blank) in this spot and little would change. Let me lay out for you where the committee screwed this up.

1. With the addition of the Buckeyes, the College Football Playoff Committee (CFPC) essentially said that their decision could be determined by just one game. What other reason would they have chosen OSU over TCU or Baylor than based upon the Buckeyes’ 59-0 win over Wisconsin?

Big 12
Being left out in the cold has the Big 12 looking for answers.

2. The committee took the easy way out with Ohio State thus avoiding the conflict over TCU getting ahead of Baylor. With every point the Buckeyes scored on Saturday night, a loud exhale was heard from the CFPC conference room.This was because they knew that they could choose OSU and despite wins on the final day, leave TCU and Baylor out in the cold.

3. Name recognition played a huge part. CFPC Chairman Jeff Long can tell us all day and all night that the name and power of the Ohio State brand had nothing to do with them being selected but I won’t believe him and I’m pretty sure the kids in Fort Worth and Waco feel the same.

They knew full-well that the first playoff needed as much star power as possible. With unbeaten and defending national champ Florida State in, Nick Saban’s dynasty-laden Tide in and Heisman winning Marcus Mariota and Oregon in it only made sense to have one more of college football’s upper echelon teams in the final four.

The Buckeyes travel as well as any team in college football. Baylor and TCU couldn’t have sold even a nugget of the tickets that Ohio State fans will purchase. Truth time; if TCU and Baylor were Oklahoma and Texas don’t you think one of them would have been chosen? The answer there is yes.

4. By selecting a team outside of the top four heading into the final rankings, the CFPC rendered their earlier rankings totally moot. There is absolutely no excuse for the CFPC not to have selected Baylor or TCU based upon this. They did exactly what they needed to do on Saturday and were punished because of OSU’s performance and ultimately strength of schedule.

No one can dispute the fact that Baylor had the least-difficult non-conference schedule in the country but my question then is this; why wasn’t that factored in previously?

This committee was political from the start and then proceeded to grandstand on the final day. The kids at Baylor and TCU were guilty of one thing this past weekend; they didn’t play for bigger name schools.

Looking Ahead

Florida State (+9) vs Oregon – The Rose Bowl will be filled with green as the Ducks’ faithful roll in. Often overlooked is the Oregon defense which will look forward ot the challenge of stopping Jameis Winston.

Ohio State (+10) vs Alabama – It’s a good thing the Buckeyes travel well because the Tide are playing in their backyard in the Superdome. This game will come down to who can control the trenches.

How the College Football Playoff Selection Unraveled for Me.

Mariota
Mariota
Marcus Mariota helped his Ducks into the playoff and himself into a Heisman Trophy.

By the time you read this, one of two things will be happening; either the College Football Playoff Committee will have chosen its’ four teams for the first-ever playoff or they will be about to do so.

Saturday 12/6/14 10am Eastern

Here’s what we know on the eve of the committee’s final selections. Oregon is in and then some. The Ducks avenged their only loss of the season by whipping Arizona 51-13 to win the Pac-12 Conference Title. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has made his final bid for the Heisman Trophy and along with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Alabama’s Amari Cooper, is headed to New York City for the announcement of the award.

12/6/14 4pm Eastern

As I write this portion just past 1pm Pacific Time, the TCU Horned Frogs are also in the playoff. They made quick work of a pathetic Iowa State team and won going away 55-3. Keep in mind, Baylor plays this evening and knowing what the Frogs have done, the pressure will be on the Bears to not just win, but win convincingly.

Briles
Art Briles' Baylor Bears have staked their claim to a payoff spot. Will the committee finally agree?

What if Baylor does just that though? It’s too late in my opinion. The committee has held TCU in higher regard than Baylor since the initial rankings were announced. It would make absolutely no sense for the committee to flip-flop them now.

12/6/14 815pm Eastern

Alabama has captured the SEC Title with a 42-13 win over Missouri and has punched their ticket into the four-team playoff. The Tigers struggled from the get-go while Alabama took advantage of a struggling Missouri offense.

By my record, three teams that have been in the top four most of the season have now set themselves up well to be in the playoff. As I look up at the television, I see Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor are all underway and looking to make their respective cases.

12/6/14 11pm Eastern

Baylor has taken care of business by defeating K-State 38-27. Let the comparisons begin between the two Big-12 champs… TCU defeated the Wildcats 41-20 and definitely has the better resume in terms of non-conference schedule. The problem is that Baylor won the head-to-head with TCU and that should be the deciding factor.

I think TCU is better overall, but Baylor won when it mattered.

12/7/14 826am Eastern

Well, well, well…. Things are going to be interesting today for the committee as they now have to consider Ohio State and Florida State wins in their respective conference championship games.

The Seminoles survived the the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 37-35 and again the question of whether winning ugly matters as long as you’re winning. My opinion here is that FSU is 13-0 and when you start your season your goal is to win every game. Regardless of how, Florida State has won all of their games and they have done that.

We can’t totally dismiss Ohio State who has finished at 12-1 and a with Big Ten title after destroying Wisconsin 59-0. They accomplished this behind a third-string quarterback and held former Heisman Trophy hopeful Melvin Gordon to 76 yards on 26 carries. I say “former” because that performance all but gives the trophy to Mariota.

While the Buckeyes did everything they could to get into the playoff, they will be hurt by that horrible loss to Virginia Tech and a weak Big Ten.

My Four-Team Playoff is 1. Alabama 2. Oregon 3. Florida State 4. TCU

My prediction for the committee will be 1. Alabama 2. Oregon 3. Florida State 4. Baylor

Let the screaming commence. Oh and it’s 852am Eastern…

 

NCAA Moving in the Right Direction But Still Much to be Done for College Football Playoff

NCAA Football

 

NCAA Football
The NCAA is taking the right steps in getting a more appropriate championship, finally I might add.

Well college football fans, you are at long last finally getting your wish. Although we’ve known the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was a lame duck for several months now, the commissioners of America’s major conferences along with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick finally established a name and site for the new “playoff format.”

While the name, “College Football Playoff” might not exactly make you want to throw a party for its’ creativity, it probably is a solid choice as sometimes simplicity does the trick.

Six bowls, the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A will make up the rotation for the four-team playoff. Two of these sites each season will be on a rotating basis and will host the semi-final games on December 31st of each year starting in 2014. The inaugural title game will be held at Cowboys Stadium.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction (any step away from the BCS was a step in the right direction), I still believe this will ultimately move to an eight team playoff at some point in the next 10-15 years.

The biggest task the committee of conference commissioners and Mr. Swarbrick must address now is forming the selection committee that will ultimately decide what four teams are invited to the playoff.

In doing so, there are several things to keep in mind which first and foremost among them is the fact they need to keep this committee small. Any more than 12 members is overkill in my opinion.

Unlike the NCAA Basketball Tournament Committee which is made up of a bunch suits (athletic directors but is there a difference?) the football committee needs to be made up of ‘football people.’ The fact that the 64, errrr, 68 teams in March Madness are chosen by AD’s who haven’t paid a lick of attention to anyone outside their own school and conference is appalling and the opportunity to get it right for college football exists.

Let’s say we go with 11 members. This way you aren’t going to deal with any ties which would only further embarrass the NCAA. I would choose four coaches, four nationally-prominent college football writers/pundits and three former college football players. The pre-requisites would be pretty straight-forward. Any former coach or player must have been away from the game for four years or more. Writers/Pundits/Broadcasters would have to have a minimum of 10 years covering college football.

 

Tyrone Willingham
Willingham would be an excellent choice for the selection committee.

For example, here’s a committee I’ve put together for the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff.

Former Coaches: Lloyd Carr, Fisher DeBerry, Phillip Fulmer, Tyrone Willingham

Former Players: Barry Sanders, Herschel Walker, Bill Fralic

Media Members: Stewart Mandel SI.com, Gene Wojciechowski ESPN, Kirk Herbstreit ESPN, Pat Forde Yahoo Sports

I would recommend the NCAA have a facilitator in place but they are not to be a voting member on anything. Their job would simply be to organize and provide any information and/or criteria sought by the committee. While it isn’t realistic in any way to suggest that fans ever be a part of the selection process, this just might be the closest way for fans to get there.

Certainly rules would have to be in place to restrict coaches or players from participating should their former team be among the potential group of teams vying for the football final four. I don’t think it would be at all difficult to fin a substitute or two.

Keep in mind my suggestions for the committee are just examples. I’m not married to any of them, but they are though to give you a more concrete example. While the chances of this are slim and none, it would be a step in the right direction in terms of taking the game out of the hands of the suits and putting it back in the hands of the fans.