PostHeaderIcon INAUGURAL PLAYOFF RANKINGS: PREMATURE, OVER-DISSECTED AND UNNECESSARY

You would think Moses had returned to announce a new version of the Ten Commandments.

Perhaps that would explain the hype and consternation surrounding the College Playoff Committee’s revealing of its first Top 25 rankings Tuesday night.

I understand ESPN’s interest in the issue, especially considering they hold the contract to televise the playoff, etc. But from the beginning of the season, the exaggeration and constant projection of the four teams that will make the playoff has been the most over-hyped, waste of time and space of anything in the history of college football that I have witnessed.

For the record: Mississippi State is No. 1, Florida State is No. 2, Auburn is No. 3 and Ole Miss is No. 4.

Here’s some news – no more than one, maybe two of those teams -- will make the inaugural playoff field, in my humble opinion, when it is announced on Dec. 7.

Ohio State, ranked No. 16, was a few slots farther South than most Buckeye fans expected. And Nebraska of all teams was ranked one notch above.

Whatever.

Kirk Herbstreit seems to be the only ESPN pundit with perspective on this entire issue.

“Relax,” he said to no one in particular Tuesday night. “If your team is as good as you think they are, they will get the chance to win all of their games and work their way up. So just relax.”

Good advice.

If the Buckeyes (6-1) upset Michigan State next Saturday, run the table, then defeat the Big Ten West champ (Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa or Minnesota) on Dec. 6, they would be 12-1 and I would be shocked if they weren’t sitting at No. 3 or 4 – only because all of those teams ranked 1 through 15 are about to start beating up on each other.

And remember, Ohio State doesn’t need all 15 to lose again – just 12 of them. It’s a good bet that will happen. The question is, can the Buckeyes win out?

As far as Ohio State goes, committee chairman Jeff Long (the Arkansas’ athletic director) was asked about the loss to Virginia Tech weighing down the Buckeyes.

“I wouldn’t call it an albatross, but it was not a good loss for them,” Long said. “But Ohio State has opportunities on their schedule to play up (including at Michigan State on Nov.8), as many of these teams do. We’re still early in this process.

“While I wouldn’t get that excited about Ohio State’s placement, we do think that based on the other teams they’ve played to this point in the schedule, this is where they deserve to be ranked.”

I have no problem with that, as long as the committee would give them a huge boost on Nov. 11 should they upset No. 8 Michigan State in East Lansing. If they win that game and still are ranked below the Top 10, then there is a problem in Buckeyeland.

But truly, the Buckeyes’ 14-point loss to the Hokies (now 4-4) can’t be as bad as a 62-27 home loss to UCLA, can it? Arizona State suffered that indignity and the Sun Devils are ranked No. 14.

Nevertheless, the AP football poll, dating to 1935, was never dissected like a dead frog like this thing. Even the old Bowl Alliance system and the BCS rankings, so criticized from 1998-2013, never caused such stir and commotion all those years.

But leading up to Tuesday, it was as if we were anticipating the playoff committee to announce the quarantine parameters for Ebola, the whereabouts of key ISIS leaders and Fidel Castro’s death all at once.

Heck, they met for three days at a swanky hotel in Dallas just to compile this list!  And they will continue to do so each week for the next month. I could have come up with these rankings within 30 minutes in between the nightly news and an episode of Modern Family and had time left over to mow the yard.

These weekly meetings and rankings announcements for six weeks is a huge mistake. The committee shouldn’t have made any rankings or announcements until selecting the four teams on Dec. 7 – just as the NCAA Tournament committee operates each March.

In the meantime, we still have to put up with this weekly over-hyped, irrelevant production and its weekly fall-out.

But on to the real football issues …

HOKE CONTINUES TO HAVE HEAD STUCK IN SAND

“Spikegate,” as the Michigan newspapers have called it, is now Brady Hoke’s latest blunder.

His Wolverines, entering last Saturday’s game with a 3-4 record and five losses in its last six games to Michigan State, somehow thought it was a good idea to carry a spike onto the field and slam it into Spartan Stadium’s turf before kickoff Saturday.

The Spartans, and especially Coach Mark Dantonio, noticed.

Hence, the final touchdown with only 1:00 remaining, to punctuate a 35-11 Michigan State victory.

“I wanted to drive the stake,” Dantonio said.

“I knew something happened, but wasn’t completely sure what,” Hoke explained after the game.

Again, I want to root for this guy to keep his job, but he makes it extremely difficult. It’s as if he’s oblivious to what his team is thinking, feeling and doing, week after week.

The spike or spear was part of a motivational ploy and talk on Friday night before the game. A coach who is in touch and has command of his team would have uttered these words to his team: “Hey guys, remember, this thing stays in the locker room between us and us only. Let’s keep it in a secure place in the locker room until after the game!”

But then again, he was the only guy in 105,000-seat Michigan Stadium who couldn’t tell his quarterback had sustained a concussion earlier this season against Minnesota.

MUSCHAMP’S FINAL CHANCE
Which is what Saturday’s Florida-Georgia game is for the Gators’ head coach.

Will Muschamp must win Saturday’s game to take the first step toward saving his job. Remember, Florida is only 3-3 and he would just about have to win every game, or at least four of the remaining five to be employed as a Gator in 2015.

Even though the Gators have had an off week to prepare and heal, and larger upsets have happened, I don’t see Florida being competitive against the No. 11 Bulldogs (6-1).

And if that happens, don’t be surprised if Muschamp doesn’t get the axe on Sunday – just so Athletic Director Jeremy Foley can start making calls toward landing his next big-time coach.

CHECK OUT THESE ODDS

According to Vegasinsider.com, which lists current odds on future feature matchups, the Buckeyes today are a 3.5-point underdog at Michigan State Nov. 8 and a 19-point favorite over Michigan on Nov. 29. For the uninitiated, those numbers change daily right up to kickoff. Other lines of note: Alabama is favored by 6.5 over Auburn (Nov. 29), while Notre Dame is a 2.5 underdog for both games at Arizona State and at USC. The website also projects FSU, Mississippi State, Alabama and Oregon to make the playoff. The Tide is still the betting favorite to win it all at 6-1; Michigan State is 8-1 and the Buckeyes are 9-1 – the same as Ole Miss and Auburn.

GAMES OF THE WEEK: Auburn 37, Ole Miss 30 – Once the toast of the nation, Rebels lost a defensive struggle to LSU, now will lose a shootout and get eliminated.

Georgia 31, Florida 13 – Bulldogs remain SEC East leader.

UPSETS OF THE WEEK: Louisville (+5.5) over Florida State (Thursday night) – That’s right. It’s the Seminoles’ last chance to lose and I think the Cards’ defense is good enough to get it done at home in a crazy atmosphere. Karma catches up to Jameis. West Virginia (+6.5) over TCU – I think the Mountaineers get it done again at home.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: Baylor 66, Kansas 10 – Those poor Jayhawks. When does hoops season start?

BEST BETS: Navy (+15) against Notre Dame; North Carolina (+17) at Miami; Georgia Tech (-3.5) over Virginia; Cincinnati (-4) at Tulane.

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 29 October 2014 13:57)

 

PostHeaderIcon BUCKEYES SURVIVE -- SO DO THEIR PLAYOFF HOPES AS MICHIGAN STATE RESTS AND WAITS

Well, that was a small step backwards.

But it wasn’t a death knell.

Ohio State, on a four-game 50-points-plus roll, jumped to a 17-0 lead at Penn State Saturday and then stuttered and sputtered its way home to 31-24 by-the-skin-of-its-teeth win that kept the Buckeyes’ heartbeat to make college football’s inaugural playoff alive.

You could hear the sigh of relief from Toledo to Marietta.

The most important thing is the win kept them alive for first, a Big Ten title, and then secondly, a chance to make the final four that will be chosen Dec. 7.

But this game gave the Buckeyes (6-1) some serious cause for concern down the homestretch.

J.T. Barrett, for the first time since the home loss to Virginia Tech, appeared a bit rattled in the second half and was definitely confused by some of Penn State’s fronts and coverages. And he wasn’t protected as well, either. It was a loud game on the road in front of a hostile environment, against a pretty good defense – exactly what awaits two weeks from now.

The tape will gain Michigan State’s attention today, as the Spartans have two weeks to prepare for the Buckeyes, who must face Illinois Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.

The big picture for the Buckeyes today is the same as it was last week – it still all will come down to the Nov. 8 game in East Lansing. Win it, even by a point or two, and this escape at State College will be forgotten and not matter a bit in the eyes of the playoff committee.

My guess is that Ohio State will be ranked somewhere from 12 to 15 when the committee releases its initial Top 25 Tuesday night.

And if the Buckeyes are to upset Michigan State, then win the Big Ten title game the following week, all they need to do in the mean time is root for all but three of the teams above them to accumulate another loss. When you look at the schedules of those one-loss teams -- Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, Notre Dame and even Arizona State -- it’s all very plausible.

They all must play each other, especially in the SEC and the Big 12, and Notre Dame has road games at Arizona State and USC remaining.

But again, the winner of the Big Ten East (either Ohio State or Michigan State) really needs Nebraska to arrive in Indianapolis as the Big Ten’s West champ with an 11-1 record to provide another quality win for either the Spartans or Buckeyes. Wisconsin already has two losses and wouldn’t provide a big bump should the Badgers win the West.

And who’s to say the Cornhuskers couldn’t pull off an upset in Indy should they make it there?

One final thought: Ohio State needs to dump the all-white uniforms. They’ve worn them twice – in that 42-41 survival at Michigan last season and now this double-overtime squeaker. They were favored in both games by double digits and played down to their opponents.

After Woody Hayes and the late Ohio State athletic trainer Ernie Biggs re-designed the school’s uniforms in 1968, adding the now legendary Buckeye leaves to silver helmets, Buckeyes were meant to wear gray pants forever.

 

Oh well, at least the sky’s not gray and falling today in the state of Ohio.

Last Updated (Sunday, 26 October 2014 15:20)

 

PostHeaderIcon BUCKEYES BEING OVERLOOKED TO WIN BIG TEN TITLE AND MAKE INAUGURAL PLAYOFF

While Ohio State seems to be improving each week, setting a school record with its fourth consecutive 50-plus-points game, the Buckeyes remain ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll and are rarely mentioned as a playoff contender by most of the nation’s analysts.

On the other hand, it seems it’s almost a foregone conclusion by most “experts” that Michigan State will be the Big Ten’s lone chance to make the playoff. The Spartans’ lone loss – at Oregon – is deemed a “good loss” in the eyes of most pundits, as opposed to the 35-21 loss the Buckeyes sustained to Virginia Tech at home.

However, I believe the Buckeyes, whose loss looks worse by the week with each Hokies’ loss, are sitting in a perfect position. Nobody is giving them a chance to win in East Lansing Nov. 8. They will likely enter the game as a five-to-seven point underdog.

Both teams are coming off 56-17 wins over Big Ten opponents, but the games could not have been more different. The Spartans, who have struggled at Purdue and barely hung on to beat Nebraska at home, trailed Indiana 17-13 midway through the second quarter and scored the game’s final 43 points.

Ohio State led Rutgers 56-7 and did not score a point in the fourth quarter.

What the Nov. 8 game will come down to will be how Ohio State’s offensive line handles Michigan’s blitzing front, whether the receivers can beat man coverage and whether J.T. Barrett continues his hot hand. The Spartans surely will play a defense similar to what the Hokies showed in Columbus on Sept. 6.

But none of this matters much if Michigan State and Ohio State don’t win their other remaining games. What Ohio State truly needs, in addition to upsetting the Spartans and running the table to get to 11-1, is for Nebraska to win out, win the Big Ten's West division and arrive in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game with an identical 11-1 record.

That would give the Buckeyes a chance for another impressive win – the day before the playoff committee announces its four teams.

What also needs to happen is one-loss teams such as Notre Dame, the Big 12’s Baylor, TCU, Kansas State and the SEC’s Auburn, Alabama and Georgia to lose again. And all of those mentioned above have several tough games remaining, mostly by playing each other in conference. I believe No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0) still will lose two games. Only Florida State, because of a weak schedule remaining, remains a good bet to finish undefeated.

But since it is guaranteed that there will be at least one one-loss team in the playoff (and likely three), a 12-1 Big Ten champ Ohio State would be in a pretty good position to claim one of those spots – which seemed nearly impossible after the Hokies left Columbus.

“We’re getting better, but we’re just worried about Penn State right now,” Urban Meyer said.

Should the Buckeyes put up 50 or more points on the Nittany Lions, they will become the first Big Ten team since 1903 to record five consecutive games with at least 50 points.

The picture will be a bit clearer Tuesday when the playoff committee releases its first rankings.

 

FOLEY TAKES DIFFERENT STANCE THAN IN 2004

After seven games in 2004, Ron Zook’s third season, Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley had seen enough. Following a loss at Mississippi State, he pulled the plug on Zook after a 4-3 start in his third season.

“What must be done eventually should be done immediately,” he said then.

He let the Zooker coach out the season while he got a head start on the coaching search, which gave him a jump on Notre Dame and ended with the landing of Urban Meyer. That led to two national titles.

Monday, Foley released a statement that he continues to evaluate the coaching staff, which has the administration’s “full support” heading into the Georgia game Nov. 1 in Jacksonville.

For some reason this time around, after a 3-3 start and a hapless home loss to a Missouri team that was coming off a 34-0 loss to Georgia, he is letting Muschamp remain. You have to wonder if the Gators lose to UGA, which they haven’t beaten under Muschamp, if he fires him or waits it out to the week of the season-finale or even after what surely will be a loss at Florida State on Nov. 29.

Recruits are beginning to de-commit from Florida already, anticipating a coaching change: Jerome Baker, the No. 1 linebacker in Ohio, flipped from the Gators to Ohio State on Tuesday.

At that time, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen will be coaching the biggest game of his life – the Egg Bowl against rival Ole Miss. By then, the Bulldogs and Rebels may not each be top-five teams. But Mullen, the Gators’ offensive coordinator during the two titles under Meyer, surely would be near the top of the Gators’ list of targets for their next head coach. Should the Bulldogs win the Egg Bowl, the SEC Championship and make the playoff, it would hamper the Gators from hiring Mullen.

Charlie Strong would not leave Texas for Florida; and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has turned down the job already at least twice. So I am not sure whom Foley would turn to this time around. One thing is for certain: He has a top-secret file locked in his desk right now with the resumes’ of several targets, of which only he knows.

Which brings us to the latest….

… MISERY METER

1. Florida – Not even close this week. No major college town is more down in the dumps than Gainesville and Gator Nation.

2. Oklahoma – The Sooners, after being trumped as a prime candidate to make the inaugural playoff, dropped out after a sickening 31-30 loss at home to Kansas State. OU missed two short field goals and had a game-tying extra point blocked in the fourth quarter.

3. Texas A&M – A month ago, many ESPN pundits had the Aggies as the best team in the country and a sure bet for the playoff. Now they have three losses – the latest a 59-0 loss at Alabama. There is no sign in sight that Kevin Sumlin can turn this around this season, either.

4. Stanford – The Cardinal have lost three close ones – to USC, Notre Dame and Arizona State – and sit at 4-3.

5. (tie) Notre Dame – When is a loss really a win? When you are thisclose to winning in Tallahassee. The Irish are still very much in the playoff hunt after the nation saw them play toe-to-toe with the Seminoles. …and Virginia Tech – The Hokies (4-3) were flying high after win in Columbus but have now lost to East Carolina, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh (which had lost to Akron).

 

SURE TO BE BACK ON THE LIST NEXT WEEK: Michigan – the Wolverines beat Penn State two weeks ago and then had an off week to get ready for their upcoming pounding at Michigan State.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

GAMES OF THE WEEK: Ole Miss 24, LSU 20 – I wanted to pick the upset but don’t think the Tigers can throw consistently against the Rebels’ defense; Michigan State 31, Michigan 13 – The Wolverines can’t compete against “little brother.”

UPSET OF THE WEEK: Kentucky (+14) over No. 1 Mississippi State – I just have a feeling the Wildcats get their biggest football win in history.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: East Carolina 59, UConn 6 – The Pirates are due for a big offensive day.

BEST BETS: Memphis (-23) at SMU; South Carolina (+17.5) at Auburn; Ohio State (-13.5) at Penn State.

OTHER GAMES….

Minnesota 31, Illinois 20 – The Illini by far the Big Ten’s worst team.

Alabama 44, Tennessee 16 – The Tide rolls on.

TCU 49, Texas Tech 22 – The Horned Frogs remain in the mix of playoff hunt.

Miami 21, Virginia Tech 20 (Thursday) - The Hokies are beat up physically.

Nebraska 38, Rutgers 24 – The Knights put up a little better showing this week.

Utah 34, USC 29 – The Trojans continue to slide.

 

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 22 October 2014 16:07)

 

PostHeaderIcon THIS WEEK's PICKS ...

GAME OF THE WEEK: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 14 (If Jameis Winston plays); or Notre Dame 17, Florida State 13 (if FSU's administration comes to its senses and he does not).

UPSET OF THE WEEK: Boston College (+7) over Clemson – Tigers are due for another slip-up.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: Marshall 48, FIU 13 – The Herd is thundering.

BEST BETS: Michigan State (-14) at Indiana; Central Michigan (-7.5) over Ball State; Northern Illinois (-13) over Miami of Ohio.

THE REST….

Ohio State 49, Rutgers 20 – The Buckeyes are rolling up big numbers offensively.

Oklahoma 31, Kansas State 17 – Sooners usually get a fight from Bill Snyder’s Wildcats.

Nebraska 35, Northwestern 34 – A shootout and closer than the +7 suggests.

Georgia 28, Arkansas 24 – The Hogs can’t win a big one.

Virginia Tech 23, Pittsburgh 20 (Thursday night) – Hokies squeak by on the road.

Baylor 49, West Virginia 38 – A lot of points when the Bears play, no matter whom they play.

Missouri 20, Florida 16 – The Tigers bounce back from 34-0 loss to UGA.

Michigan 1, Off Week 0 – The Wolverines don’t lose for the second consecutive week!

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 15 October 2014 21:04)

 

PostHeaderIcon WINSTON CONTINUES TO FIND TROUBLE, FISHER CONTINUES TO DEFEND HIM -- AND FLORIDA STATE KEEPS ON WINNING

Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher was defiant Monday, once again defending his star quarterback in the face of another investigation and a university-required hearing.

This follows the news that FSU has notified star quarterback Jameis Winston that he will face a code-of-conduct hearing about the alleged sexual assault from 2013. Prosecutors refused to charge him after an investigation a year ago, but now the university wants an independent judge to determine if Winston violated the student code of conduct.

“The facts are the facts,” he said. “There is no victim, because there was no crime.”

That was in response to when a reporter had mentioned “the victim’s” testimony.

I didn’t know Fisher was present during Winston’s encounter with the girl way back when, but he talks as if he was right there in the room. Truth is, he has no idea if there is a victim because he wasn’t there. He is taking Winston’s word as gospel and as history has proven, that’s not such a good idea.

On the heels of that report, ESPN has reported Winston is being investigated for perhaps selling his autograph to a licensed memorabilia merchandise dealer.

It is the same dealer which owns hundreds of items signed by Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who was suspended for last week’s 34-0 win at Missouri, because of the allegations.

According to ESPN, James Spence Authentication certified more than 500 autographs of Gurley, who is being investigated for allegedly taking money for signings.

A search on JSA's website found more than 340 certified Winston autographs. An additional search later on Monday revealed 600 more Winston autographs that had been authenticated and logged into the company's website verification system for a total of more than 950 autographs.

It really came as a big shock.

That’s sarcasm.

The surprise is what took so long for something of this nature to be tied to Winston.

After the win over Syracuse Saturday, Fisher was adamant in defending Winston – yet again.

“Kids sign things all the time," he said. "So what do you want them to do, stop signing stuff? We could make them not have any fans from that standpoint and not sign for anybody. That's what it's going to come to, and that's a shame for college football, that somebody exploits a kid. Now if they're getting paid for it, then I don't have any knowledge of that. I don't believe Jameis did."

I don’t think I have ever seen a head football coach with his head repeatedly stuck in the sand when it comes to any one player. Fisher has repeatedly enabled Winston, then stood behind him when he repeatedly gets into trouble. It’s as if the world is out to get Winston, who is blameless in all these scrapes with the law, or with the rules.

I am sure Winston just happened to sign 53 jerseys and 67 mini FSU helmets out of the goodness of his heart.

Once Gurley was suspended, several of the ESPN talking heads assailed the NCAA rule that prevents a student-athlete from making money off of his signature. Johnny Manziel was suspended for the opening half of the 2013 season-opener against Rice because of this issue. And it’s similar to the situation to what led to Jim Tressel’s resignation at Ohio State. Terrelle Pryor and three other Buckeyes sold their championship rings and jerseys for cash and free tattoos. (Tressel lied to the NCAA about when he learned of the broken rules).

ESPN’s Desmond Howard, for one, ranted and raved over the weekend about the rule that prevented Gurley from making a buck on his own signature.

“Everybody’s doing it,” Howard claimed. “Gurley just got caught. And if there’s no picture of him receiving money, there is no smoking check. They can’t prove it.”

It’s such a narrow-minded way to look at the issue.

First of all, Manziel and Gurley and any other player whose profile is large enough to earn several hundred or even thousands of dollars signing their name are not considering the big picture.

Manziel comes from a wealthy family. But he put his team at risk for a few extra bucks.

Gurley was said to have earned $400.

Consider the fact that Gurley is a sure top-10 pick for next April’s draft, which will make him an instant multi-millionaire. And he can sign with an agent as soon as this season is finished, meaning he would start earning endorsement deals immediately.

So he couldn’t wait three months to have a pocketful of cash and a significant bank account? He had to violate a well-known NCAA rule now, and put his eligibility and his team in jeopardy, so close to becoming rich?

That makes no sense to me.

And don’t tell me he needs it for a pizza or take his girl on a date. I’ve seen the training tables at most major-college football programs and these players are not going hungry.

Now for those who want to assail the rule itself, it is on the books for a well-founded reason.

In the old days of the NCAA, when there was no specific rule, boosters used it to funnel cash to the star players of their favorite programs. For example, they knew they couldn’t walk up to a player and hand him cash. But they could “buy” a jersey, chin strap or a signed photograph for their kids. And they didn’t just pay chump change or the going rate.

So you had boosters buying 8.5-by-11, signed photos of their favorite players for $1,000 each. They were also paying them huge amounts of money to wash their cars or dog-sit.

It was a way to beat the NCAA rules and it was prevalent across the country.

Hence, the NCAA stepped in and ruled that student-athletes could no longer sell their autographs, pictures or anything for that matter. It also was the reason they could not hold gainful employment during their athletic seasons.

But Desmond Howards of the world won’t tell you about those days, when cheating was commonplace, either because they don’t have the perspective of college football history or haven’t done their research on why NCAA rules exist.

But back to Winston for a minute.

From the outside, it appears that Florida State is becoming divided into factions. Given that the FSU president increased his suspension from one half to one full game at 11 p.m. the night before the win over Clemson, Fisher may be battling behind the scenes against his own administration.

He constantly defends Winston, who constantly gets into trouble. The administration, besieged by emails and calls from embarrassed alumni, may feel compelled to do something. Hence, the code-of-conduct hearings.

And now we have the Seminoles’ biggest game of the year, at home against undefeated Notre Dame looming Saturday night as the backdrop to this latest saga.

ESPN’s Gameday will be in town again as it was when Winston was suspended. The focus will be on Winston’s hearing and the investigation into whether he violated NCAA rules.

Meanwhile, the Seminoles continue to win and Winston continues to play well.

He also continues to do things to bring his actions under a microscope – sometimes wielded by the law or the media and now the NCAA.

And Fisher continues to defend him in the aftermath of these reports.

It’s as if the Seminoles can’t get off of this self-induced treadmill into scandal, simply because they want their star player on the field no matter the consequences.

 

 
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