Category Archives: college football

Couches to Confetti: What Could Have Been in 2016 College Football

There are less than 20 days before Colorado State plays Oregon State to kick off the 2017 college football season, and college football’s return can’t come quickly enough. Since baseball is the only major sport in season, ESPN has recently resorted to airing programs such as the 2016 WFTDA Roller Derby Championships and Arm Wrestling: Best of WAL 2016 Championship on their networks. ESPNU has been showing reruns of the top 25 games of the 2016 season since July 17. After watching a few of those games, I could not help but notice the pattern of Clemson needing a few lucky breaks to win the close games they played last season. What if things had gone slightly a different way? Would the Tigers still have won the National Championship?

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In The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, a collection of essays written by G.P. Putnam’s sons, the authors use their historical knowledge to contemplate hypothetical questions such as, “what if Alexander the Great had died at the Battle of the Granicus River?”

They then use the questions to derive an alternate account of history of what might have been if the hypothetical situation did occur. I want to do the same for Clemson’s 2016 season. What if Auburn came down with the Hail Mary in Clemson’s home opener? What if James Quick of Louisville had recognized that the first down line was at the two yard line and not the three? What if Kyle Bambard of NC State hit the game winning 33-yard field goal in their meeting in October?

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North Carolina State kicker Kyle Bambard (left) and Ben Grazen watch as Bambard’s field goal goes wide late in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson won 24-17 in overtime. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro) 

Although the first two questions are a little out of left field (Hail Mary throws are usually never caught and who knows what was going on in James Quick’s mind), the third one most certainly has value. On average, college kickers make about 75% of field goals from the 30-39-yard range, and although Kyle Bambard (67%) is slightly below average, it is still very reasonable to expect him to make at least one of two attempts that he missed against Clemson.

But what if he did hit one of the two field goal attempts and the NC State Wolfpack were able to come out of Death Valley with an upset? To simplify things, let us make the assumption that the rest of the season would have unfolded identically, without a butterfly effect. The loss would have pushed Clemson to finish at a record overall and 6-2 in ACC conference play. Louisville would have finished in first place of the Atlantic division with a conference record of 7-1. But because they had played so poorly to finish out the season (loses to both Houston and Kentucky), they would have been left out of the playoff equation even if they had won the conference championship game against Virginia Tech. That leaves Clemson, Penn State and Michigan all with 10-2 records at the mercy of the selection committee. And my best bet is that Penn State gets in because they won the Big Ten conference championship.

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The playoffs probably would have played out the way that everyone would have thought they should have, with Alabama’s smothering defense dominating Penn State, and Washington beating Ohio State in a close one. This would have pit Alabama against Washington in the finals, and we know from the Sugar Bowl that Alabama would probably pull away and win back-to-back national championships.

Of course, all of this is just hypothetical, but I think it brings to light a very important idea. It might sound cliché, but every play truly does matter. One play changed the fortunes of Clemson players from sitting on their couches to laying in Tampa with orange and white confetti raining down on them. As you watch college football this season, make sure to go to the bathroom before the games and during commercials, because you will never know if you are going to miss the play that paves the way to a national championship.

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Week One College Football Games to Watch

Cue the marching band, because the 2017 college football season is finally here. Week one is right around the corner with only two weeks to go, and is loaded with blockbuster matchups. ACC vs. SEC, playoff implications, and statement games are all headlining opening day. This season is going to be wild. Here are the week one games that you NEED to watch.

Florida State (3) vs. Alabama (1)

Obviously Alabama is obviously headlining week one as perennial National Championship contenders, but don’t sleep on Florida State. Building off of the HUGE win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl last season, the Seminoles have some momentum heading into the first game of the 2017 season. Yes, the FSU defense was rough at times last season, but safety Derwin James is already drawing attention as a potential top-five draft pick. The self-proclaimed “best player in the country” is going to have his hands full with Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Bo Scarbrough. Let’s not forget, Nick Saban doesn’t accept defeat. Alabama is favored to win it all by Vegas sports books. Strap yourself in for a good one, you can’t miss this game.

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Derwin James (pictured) believes that he can put a stop to the Crimson Tide.

Michigan (9) vs. Florida (16)

Michigan football is back, even without Heisman finalist Jabrill Peppers. Losing to Ohio State and subsequently missing the playoffs in controversial fashion is still fresh in head coach Jim Harbaugh’s memory. This is a revenge game and a fresh start for the Wolverines. Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will have a host of young, talented wide receivers to choose from and throw to. The offensive fountain of youth could be a disaster against one of college football’s best defenses. Last season, the Florida Gators defense allowed just sixteen points per game and dominated Iowa by a score of 30-3 in the Outback Bowl. On offense, Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire will help put points on the board for the Gators at the quarterback position. With his big-game experience, Florida won’t flinch in Cowboy Stadium against Michigan. This game has playoffs written all over it, and could shape the college football landscape early.

Ohio State (2) vs. Indiana

This game is all about J.T. Barrett and the Buckeye offense. Any team that thinks they have a shot at the 2017 playoffs will be studying this game. As a perennial powerhouse, the Urban Meyer-led Ohio State Buckeyes won’t disappoint against Indiana. With another offseason to understand the playbook and to connect with his receivers, Barrett will be ready to go come week one. The Buckeyes need to bounce back and respond after getting destroyed by Clemson en-route to the National Championship. If Meyer wants to bring a ring back to Columbus, he has to start with Indiana. Beginning the season on the right foot is key for Ohio State. If they want any chance at a playoff berth, it starts with an offense that is clicking and firing on all cylinders.

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NCAA Football Playoff Format Needs to be Reconfigured

College football fans have seemingly never been too pleased with how the NCAA deals with deciding who is the best team in the nation, let alone the top four. Even before the four-team playoff, fans were clamoring for an eight-team playoff as often as Boise State ran trick plays under Chris Petersen.  The BCS system was thrown out in favor of the College Football Playoff, as both fans and athletic programs agreed that the decision of who should play in the national championship should not be left up to computers, but rather a core committee. This committee would choose the teams that they think should be selected to have the opportunity to compete in the College Football Playoff, similar to how Division I basketball teams are selected to play in March Madness.  Now a 13-person committee comprised primarily current and former athletic directors and football coaches selects the team.

The CFP uses a four-team bracket instead of the computerized rankings used under the BCS system and this year, the committee selected Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. While there certainly are improvements that can be made to the CFP, this new system of deciding which teams are best suited to compete for the CFP trophy is far superior to the BCS system.

The most different attribute of the CFP system and bracket is that it allows what the committee deems to be the best teams to compete for a chance to play in the national championship game.  Previously, under the BCS system, polls were subject to human bias, in addition to the fact that the BCS standings were also partially based off of how the coaches would rank the top 25 teams. This setup assumes that they would have had the time and spent the effort to see all of the relevant teams compete. Instead of determining which two teams were to compete for a national championship under the previous BCS bowl system, the CFP committee makes each team they invite to the College Football Playoff earn their birth to the College Football Playoff final and to subsequently win a national championship.  Nearly every other sport utilizes a playoff system to decide who indeed is the best team in the nation for that year, so there is no reason to doubt the decision made in regards to college football in following suit by establishing the CFP bracket and committee to decide who has a chance to play in the penultimate game of the season.

This new playoff system in effect renders bowl games other than the New Year’s Six (Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl) to be less meaningful.  This is the biggest problem with the CFP.  Now, top players such as running backs Christian McCafferey and Leonard Fournette of Stanford and Louisiana State University respectively, have begun electing to sit out of their team’s bowl games in order to avoid the risk of an injury that might have a negative effect on their draft status. Nobody saw this before the CFP, which glorifies only playing in the top six bowls available.

What needs to happen in order to prevent star players from not finishing out seasons with their teams and playing in their bowl games is to get rid of the meaningless bowl games and to turn them into the early rounds of an extended college playoff, culminating in the national championship game.  This is not to say that CFP is worse than the BCS, but its flaws are evident.

One other major flaw of the current playoff system is its lack of value given towards conference championship games.  Many college football fans will argue that Penn State deserved to be in the four-team bracket instead of a team like Ohio State because they won their conference championships. I believe that in order to improve the CFP system as a whole, conference victories and championship games must be weighed more heavily than they are in the current state of the CFP. If they do not, these games do not serve much purpose and should be scrapped.  Conference tournaments in college basketball play an integral role in the March Madness selection process and the same should go for college football.  Regardless of their loss to USC in the Rose Bowl, the exclusion of Penn State from the CFP illustrates that their comeback victory in the Big Ten Championship game was not enough to propel them into the CFP and that represents a flaw in the system.

Without a doubt, NCAA football is headed towards at least an eight-team playoff; the only question is when it will take place.  This playoff system is the perfect manner to decide which universities should play in bowl games, and adjustments certainly need to be made sooner rather than later.