The UCF Critics are Missing the Point

There has been a lot of debate surrounding UCF’s claim of a National Championship, following their defeat of Auburn in Monday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. One side is claiming it to be ridiculous, looking at their proclamation as illogical by mocking their bold statement. This group is primarily made up of SEC elitists that have discredited UCF’s 13-0 season by citing their weak schedule and diminishing their win over Auburn by questioning the Tigers’ motivation in the game following an SEC Championship Game loss that knocked them out of the Playoff.

In the other corner, there is the group that has mostly defended UCF all season, claiming they should have had a fair shot at the National Championship, despite the schedule that was perceived as very weak in the eyes of the College Football Playoff Committee. This is a committee that ranked teams with two and three losses ahead of UCF with the argument that those teams played a much tougher schedule.

UCF’s victory over Auburn served as vindication that they did, in fact, deserve to be in the National Championship conversation. This belief was backed up by the fact that Auburn defeated both teams in Monday’s Championship Game earlier in the season. If we applied the transitive property, the logic is very sound.

But despite the arguments, nothing will magically insert UCF into Monday’s game, nor pit them against the winner the following week. So, UCF Athletic Director, Danny White took matters into his own hands by proclaiming UCF as National Champions. He has gone as far to commit to putting up a banner in Spectrum Stadium and honoring the bonuses built into the contract of the coaching staff for winning a National Championship.

But if you think these actions are only about an unofficial proclamation of a championship that the biggest critics think is delusional, you might be missing the point. That is just the tip of the iceberg. This action by UCF has forced the football program into the national sports conversation this whole week. This is completely foreign territory for the Knights. Sure, they had their fifteen minutes of fame following a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor four years ago. But while that 2013 season helped put the UCF Knights on the map, they essentially became lost and forgotten from the national perspective of the college football landscape the following season.

The program calling itself National Champs is an attempt to prevent that from happening again. It’s a message to the rest of college football that UCF is a nationally relevant program and is here to stay. So far, it is working. This week, several prominent current and former college football coaches and analysts have weighed in on UCF’s accomplishments and the merits behind the idea of them being National Champions.

Just yesterday, former long-time FSU Head Coach Bobby Bowden voiced his support for UCF calling themselves National Champions. 

“I’ll be honest with you, they deserve [the national title], in my opinion,” the retired coach said in an interview with The World-Herald.

“But they won’t win it because they’re not in the Power Five, you know? But you take Auburn in November, probably the hottest team in the country, Auburn beat No. 1 and No. 2, then Central Florida beats them. And so I think they got a right to claim it. But the NCAA won’t recognize it.”

The full story on Knight News can be found here.

His detailed quote leads right to the other issue at play and more importantly the next component of UCF’s motivation behind their championship claim. It is an indirect protest of the current system that makes it virtually impossible for a Group of 5 team to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. If the 12-0 UCF Knights can only rise to as high as #12 in the rankings, how can any other Group of 5 program have any hope in future years?

The only exception may be if one of those programs is lucky enough to secure an out-of-conference schedule that includes Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma. The problem? Those schools and others at that level will never schedule games against those top Group of 5 programs. Why? Because they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing so. There isn’t any incentive.

The current system we have in place is a corrupt and biased one. We have a committee that has shown the evidence of making a conscious effort to block Group of 5 from ever sniffing the playoff. UCF is exposing that problem and for now, they are getting exactly what they want – a national conversation about it.

I have written previously about the need to expand the playoff, and this has been a season to support it. But this time it has been for different reasons. Every year an argument can be made for the teams just outside the playoff field to get a spot. That will always be an issue regardless of how big the playoff field gets. Just look at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which has a field of 68 teams. There is always an argument put up for the 69th and 70th team.

But what the basketball tournament has is a way for teams of the Mid-Major conferences (the basketball equivalent of the Group of 5) to earn a spot. For them it’s simple. Win your conference and you’re automatically in the tournament. There isn’t a biased and elitist committee that can exercise their power to block those teams from proving their worth in a real game because they weren’t impressed with their regular season schedule. It all gets settled on the floor, as it should be settled on the football field.

Thanks to UCF, this is something that is now getting further examined and their proclamation of a National Championship is only the first domino to fall. It may be naive to suggest anything significant will change next season. But whether the playoff field expands and guarantees a spot or more to Group of 5 teams, or the selection criteria changes, I can safely say this was the first significant step for college football to become a more fair and even-level playing field. It may not fix the revenue gap between the Power 5 and Group of 5, but I feel good about the potential for a more fair playoff system becoming a reality sooner than later.

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Despite Frost’s Departure, UCF is a Sleeping Giant

The past week has been an unbelievable roller coaster for the UCF Knights Football Program. Rumors of Scott Frost’s departure for Nebraska continued to mount on the eve of the AAC Championship Game against the Memphis Tigers. Following a thrilling victory in double overtime, the rumors became reality and the Knights were without a coach as they were extended an invitation to the Peach Bowl to play the Auburn Tigers on New Year’s Day. Despite what looked like a shaky situation, all signs point to UCF being able to continue their momentum and taking the next step as a football program.

As far as Group of 5 Programs, UCF has been one of the best programs since 2007. Thanks to Saturday’s AAC Championship game win over Memphis, UCF will earn their second trip to a New Year’s Six/BCS Bowl since 2013. UCF is the only Group of 5 program with that distinction. The Knights are one of 15 FBS teams since 2013 to play in multiple New Year’s/BCS Bowl Games.

Teams to Play in Multiple New Year’s Six/BCS Bowls Since 2013

5 Alabama
5 Ohio State
4 Florida State
4 Oklahoma
4 Clemson
3 Michigan State
2 Washington
2 Auburn
2 Baylor
2 Stanford
2 Penn State
2 Ole Miss
2 Wisconsin

That’s a pretty special group of storied, big-time college football programs that UCF is a member of as well. From 2007-2016, the Knights have won 10+ games four times, played in seven bowl games while winning three. That’s a pretty good span of success over a ten-year span. Now insert a historic, undefeated 2017 season as the highest scoring team in the nation.

It’s been a storybook season minus the cloud of Scott Frost to Nebraska rumors that grew darker through November until becoming reality this past weekend. The news broke that Frost would be accepting the Nebraska job during overtime of UCF’s thrilling 62-55 win over Memphis.

Under normal circumstances, a fan base would be completely elated to celebrate their third conference title in five years. But this was not a normal circumstance. As much as fans were cheering, the mood in the stadium turned bittersweet as the video board focused on Frost, who was clearly trying to hold back his emotions. During this sequence, he exchanged a few words with outgoing UCF President, Dr. John Hitt in what I imagine Dr. Hitt was taking the time to express his appreciation for what Scott Frost did for the football program in such a short period of time.

By applying logic, Scott Frost cannot be faulted for taking the opportunity to return home to Nebraska to coach his alma mater. It’s a dream job. And while we found out in a story on Monday that the decision was much tougher than anyone thought it would be, Frost did what we expected by accepting the job to become the Cornhuskers next Head Coach.

Despite UCF fans being able to understand and accept Frost’s departure after only two seasons, it’s hard not to still be disappointed. For years I watched big-time Power 5 programs poach successful coaches from Group of 5 programs. It’s an unconscionable system that takes a coach from his team, usually before the big bowl game that getting to was the major goal of the season.

On top of that, it leaves the team in purgatory before the unavoidable process of starting over with a new coach, culture, and class of incoming players. It’s nearly impossible for a good Group of 5 program to sustain success due to inevitable departure of the coach for a bigger job with more money and resources.

Naturally, it’s easy for UCF fans to feel uneasy about the near future. In a way, it’s a Catch-22 because if the best case scenario occurs and UCF comes back strong, what is standing in the way of this process repeating itself within the next couple years? That’s a fair question.

The head coaching job was vacant for less than 72 hours as UCF announced the hiring of Josh Heupel, former Missouri offensive coordinator Monday afternoon. Heupel draws multiple similarities to Scott Frost. Both are former National Championship winning quarterbacks from the Big 12 who served as successful OC’s of major programs before taking the reins at UCF.

UCF athletic director Danny White deserves a lot of credit for not just acting quickly following Frost’s departure, but for working in a $10 million buyout into Heupel’s contract. Clearly White wanted to make a hire that appears to be a seamless transition on paper while doing what he can to prevent another quick exit (Frost’s buyout was $3 million).

UCF fans should be just as excited about the hiring of defensive coordinator Randy Shannon. Shannon recently held the same title with the University of Florida. In addition to Shannon’s credentials as a defensive coach, his recruiting connections to Miami, a historically talent-rich area cannot be understated.

The program has the right people in place to build off the momentum from this historic season. Former head coach George O’Leary did a tremendous job putting UCF on the map in from the mid-2000s before stepping down in 2015. Scott Frost became the first coach to take an 0-12 team to a bowl the following season in 2016, before following up with a 12-0 campaign this season. Now the program is in the hands of a well-respected coaching staff with great recruiting ties.

UCF may still be in the Group of 5, which can certainly be limiting considering their media revenue is roughly 10% of their Power 5 counterparts. Given what UCF has accomplished over the past decade, the size of the university, tv market and upgraded facilities, I have to think their time outside the Power 5 is limited.

It may not be until the early 2020’s until the realignment discussion creeps up again, as the end of the major TV deals draw close. At this rate, there is no question UCF will be one of the most attractive candidates to make the move to a conference like the ACC, SEC or Big 12. And based on what they have been able to accomplish with very limited resources in comparison to major in-state programs like Florida, Florid, and Miami, the sky’s the limit for what UCF can be once they finally get a seat at the table.


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The Perfect Season for an Expanded Playoff Field

Last November, I made the case for the College Football Playoff needing to expand the field to eight teams. This season is panning out to be one that could benefit from it more than ever. I’d like to think after the conclusion of conference championship games on the first Saturday of December, it may be a lot easier for the committee to come up with a consensus Top 4 then it was for the committee to release their first rankings Tuesday night.

There are a handful of championship-caliber teams that will likely be on the outside looking in thanks to this being a season in which the Big 10 and SEC both boasting multiple teams worthy of a spot. Don’t forget about the notable independent, Notre Dame who will be in the mix all the way to the end.

The initial Top 4 included Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson. This Top 4 significantly contrasted with the latest Associated Press Poll, which would have produced a bracket of Alabama and Georgia of the SEC and Wisconsin and Ohio State of the Big 10. Now we can assume that these schools likely squaring off in their conference’s respective championship games that the rankings will sort itself out. But is that really what is best for college football, assuming those conference runner-ups find themselves on the outside looking in? I’d say no.

Conference Imbalance?

It can be argued that this is a down year for the other three Power 5 Conferences. While Clemson landed at #4 in the initial rankings, the ACC is not a lock to have a representative.

The Big 12 has the 5th, 8th and 11th ranked teams in Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State, respectively. While the Big 12 added a conference championship game that has the potential to improve the resume of its champion, the risk of an upset by a two-loss team could lead to the conference failing to field a team in the bracket for the third time in four years.

The Pac 12 is the most in-flux, with the highest ranked team being the Washington Huskies sitting at #12. For the Pac 12 to send a team to the Playoff, Washington is their best chance and they would need the Huskies to win out and for a lot of teams ahead of them to lose. Even if that happens, is that a good scenario for college football: a team that is outside the Top 10 leaping 9-10 spots thanks to the slip-ups of better teams? Again, I’d say no.

The question of these three conferences has to be asked – Are these teams being penalized for facing tougher competition at the top of their conference than the undefeated teams in the SEC and Big 10. Through Week 9, both Alabama and Wisconsin have not played a single ranked opponent. On the other hand, one-loss teams such as Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, TCU, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and even Memphis all have wins over ranked opponents.

What’s the point? Most, if not all, of the teams I just mentioned, should still be in the running to compete for the National Championship. Theoretically, just about all of those teams still have a chance. However, most need teams ahead of them in the rankings to lose in order to reach the Top 4. In a world with a Top 8, all of those teams would be able to control their own destiny to secure a spot in the Playoff.

Untested Unbeatens 

Then you have the undefeated teams that arguably have not been tested to the degree in which the previously mentioned teams have been to this point in the season. While Wisconsin, Miami, and UCF have simply taken care of business by beating everyone on their respective schedules, they don’t have quite the resume to be considered Top 4 teams. Should that preclude them from at least getting a shot against the best in the country to compete for a National Championship? Absolutely not.

I’m not naive enough to suggest they would beat or even are at the same level as the undefeated teams at the top. But I don’t think they should miss out on the opportunity to play them just because their schedule wasn’t strong enough. Fortunately for Miami and Wisconsin, both will have the opportunity down the stretch to strengthen their resume. Miami has games scheduled against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and potentially a highly-ranked opponent in the ACC Championship Game while Wisconsin will likely have an opportunity against a top-ranked opponent in the Big 10 Championship Game.

UCF will not have that same chance, especially after USF fell out of the Top 25 following their first loss of the season to Houston. At the same time, it would be fun to at least give the top Group of 5 team a shot, and in this case UCF a chance to see if they belong with the big boys.

The bottom line is that there are several, high-caliber teams that may technically still be in the mix to make the College Football Playoff, but realistically will not be able to get into that position solely based on their own merits the rest of the season. This is why this season would have been the ideal year to have an expanded playoff field.

Top 8

My proposal that I lined out last November would award would the eight spots as follows: five Power 5 Champs, two at-large and the highest-ranked Group of 5 team. If we followed this formula, following the initial CFP Rankings, we would currently have seedings and first-round matchups that looked like this:

  1. Georgia (SEC)
  2. Alabama (At-Large 1)
  3. Notre Dame (At-Large 2)
  4. Clemson (ACC) 
  5. Oklahoma (Big 12)
  6. Ohio State (Big 10)
  7. Washington (Pac 12)
  8. UCF (Group of 5)

In the Hunt: Penn State, TCU, Wisconsin, Miami

First Round

Georgia vs. UCF, Alabama vs. Washington, Notre Dame vs. Ohio State, and Clemson vs. Oklahoma.

What college football fan wouldn’t want to watch that? The move to eight teams is on the horizon, and hopefully, this season pushes the needle closer to it happening. The best part of this system may be that subjectively will be limited and earning a spot in “the dance” will have a much clearer path.


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The Case for the American Athletic (Power) Conference

In the latest Associated Press Top 25 College Football Rankings, a third team from the American Athletic Conference joined the list when Navy grabbed the #25 spot. The American is now tied with the prestigious SEC with having three teams. Outside of the three AAC teams in the Top 25, USF (#18) and UCF (#22) being the other two, there is only one other representative from the Group of 5, San Diego State.

Since the newly formed delineation of the Power 5 and Group of 5 in 2014, the American has easily been the best amongst the Group of 5. The conference has been responsible for several statement wins against major, Power 5 programs since the end of the BCS era and it was relegated from the group of BCS conferences to the Group of 5. The performance of these programs in the post-BCS era suggest the American should have never been separated from the SEC, Big 10, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 in the first place.

AAC Victories over Power 5 Teams

2014 Season  
AAC Winner Power 5 Loser
Temple Vanderbilt
East Carolina Virginia Tech
East Carolina North Carolina
Houston Pittsburgh
2015 Season
Temple Penn State
Houston Louisville
Memphis Kansas
East Carolina Virginia Tech
Cincinnati Miami
South Florida Syracuse
Memphis Ole Miss
Houston Vanderbilt
Navy Pittsburgh
Houston Florida State
2016 Season
Houston Oklahoma
Cincinnati Purdue
East Carolina NC State
Memphis Kansas
Connecticut Virginia
South Florida Syracuse
Navy Notre Dame
Houston Louisville
South Florida South Carolina
2017 Season (Through Week 6)
Houston Arizona
South Florida Illinois
Memphis UCLA
UCF Maryland

Looking back, we know that the demise of the conference, that is essentially the remains of the Big East, began with the rejection of a new television deal which gave potential newcomers like Boise State, TCU, BYU and San Diego State cold feet and caused them to back out of joining. The next domino to fall was the departure of Louisville, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh for the ACC and Rutgers for the Big 10. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, what was setting up to be a very formidable football conference evaporated into Conference USA 2.0.

You could argue that a conference with programs like TCU, Boise State, San Diego State, BYU, Louisville, UCF, USF, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Houston, SMU and Cincinnati would be a very strong one. At the very least, it would be a conference that would certainly deserve the status of a Power 5 conference.  

Instead, we are left with what has been the best Group of 5 conference and one that has been campaigning to be considered part of the “Power 6”. This has been based on the insinuation that they are in the same class as the Power 5 members. Despite the attempts to include themselves and the on-field performances which have backed up their claims, they’re still stuck in the rut of what is the Group of 5. Even if UCF, USF, and Navy continue to rise in the rankings and one of those schools make it to a New Year’s Bowl and defeats a storied program, the current system places a ceiling on what the conference can be.

The American will be up for a new television contract in 2020. The current deal is what separates the AAC from being on the same level as the Power 5. Currently, the Power 5 schools receive about $30 million annually from their television deals, compared to the $3.5 million per school in the AAC.

Despite the occasional great story like what is unfolding for UCF, USF, and Navy this season, none of it is sustainable. The American has become a breeding ground for new Power 5 coaches as a total of five left the AAC for Power 5 jobs just last offseason. Despite any feelings of loyalty or level of commitment those coaches may have felt to their programs, the decisions were a no-brainer when considering the imbalance of resources available to a Power 5 program.

This disparity makes so the story about Scott Frost of UCF isn’t about what he has done with a program that went winless just two years ago, but instead speculating which major program will pluck him after the season.

So what’s the solution? It all starts with television. AAC Commissioner, Mike Aresco has been very clear about his vision for improving the status of the conference. He has been very vocal about his league deserving more television revenue and has shown an ability to think outside the box to make it happen. The major positive for the American is their presence in major media markets like Houston, Dallas, Memphis, Tampa, Orlando and New York. The next step is figuring out how to capitalize on it.

I have to think there are a lot of conversations being had about exploring a contract with a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon. If they can act quickly and possibly secure a ground-breaking deal before any of the existing Power 5 conferences, that could be their ticket to closing the television revenue gap.

If you can close that gap and generate revenue at least in the same neighborhood of the current Power 5 conferences, the AAC will then have the argument on the business side to compliment the performance of their football programs to get a seat at the table and officially form the Power 6.

We have seen that the AAC has very strong football programs. These programs have accomplished a lot despite having roughly 10-15% of the resources of a SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 or Pac 12 school. But if you give them the resources needed to keep up and compete long-term, the AAC could be one of the nation’s better college football conferences.

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College Football Playoff Needs to Expand Sooner than Later

For the sake of eliminating subjectivity, the College Football Playoff needs to expand. Since the beginning of College Football, final season results are dependent on opinions and computer models. Are these rankings based on merit? Absolutely. That doesn’t change the fact that each season there is a certain level of debate and controversy regarding the teams who get a chance to win a national championship, or in recent years participate in the four-team playoff.

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.

Introducing a four-team playoff was a great first step in consistently ensuring a championship game of the two best teams in the country. In 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff, the #4 Seed Ohio State defeated #1 Alabama to face #2 Oregon who defeated #3 Florida State. It was reported that under the former BCS system, the National Championship game would have pitted Alabama against Florida State. As much as college football fans would have loved to watch a battle of the Crimson Tide against the Jameis Winston-led Seminoles, we got the championship game determined by merit.

The unfolding of these events in the inaugural College Football Playoff validated the decision to introduce this system. In 2015, the #1 and #2 seeds (Alabama and Clemson) won their respective semifinal games. The results of the semifinal games left virtually zero debate over who were the nation’s top two teams that should be going head to head in the National Championship Game. One could argue the semifinal games were not necessary because the teams considered to be the better teams won, and in convincing fashion. However, the results eradicated any belief that Michigan State or Oklahoma, the #3 and #4 teams should be in the title game.

Every few years there is some degree of controversy over the team getting left out, who played a tougher schedule, what conference is more competitive and which victories were the most impressive. Sure, it gives fans, writers, analysts and prognosticators something to talk about throughout the season. But it still means that subjective opinions are determining the fate of a few programs each season.

ohio-state-college-football-playoff-1Under the current system of five “Power 5” conferences and four playoff spots, it is a guarantee that one of these conference champions will not have a spot in the playoff. In 2014, the Big 12 was left out in the cold as Baylor and TCU finished 5th and 6th respectively with 11-1 records. The popular explanation is that the Big 12 hurts itself by being the only P5 conference not to play a conference championship game. As valid as that may be, both schools were punished despite stellar seasons and neither had the opportunity to participate in the playoff.

There is not much use in reopening a debate from two years ago about who did and did not deserve to be in the Playoff. But, those events along with how this season is unfolding gives credence to the idea that the College Football Playoff needs to expand to eight teams and also follow a more objective process.

To start, every Power 5 Champion should have a seat at the table. No questions asked. That condition immediately requires for the playoff field to expand. Secondly, there are a always a few fringe teams that do not win their conference. This season is a perfect example. Look at the Big 10 East Division. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are all playoff-worthy teams, especially if there are eight total spots. Staying in the Big 10, but looking in the West Division at Wisconsin and where they currently sit, would certainly be part of the conversation as well.

Now let’s consider the Group of 5, or more bluntly the “lesser half” of college football. We all know that the Group of 5 encompasses the programs with less history, resources and talent than those schools in the Power 5. Naturally, a Group of 5 team qualifying for the current College Football Playoff is nearly impossible. Houston could have made it with impressive wins against Oklahoma and Louisville, but there chances were squandered by three conference losses.

19118758-mmmainConsider Western Michigan, who will head into the MAC Championship Game with a perfect 12-0 record. Due to their underwhelming schedule, they will not sniff the Top 4. Even if the playoff expanded to a Top 8 and simply granted access to teams ranked 1-8, Western Michigan would still be on the outside looking in when the Playoff Committee releases its final rankings in December. One argument could be that Western Michigan shouldn’t deserve a spot, especially if they are not considered one of the eight best teams in the country by the committee. However, the other side could contend with “What did Western Michigan do wrong, aside from not playing a competitive enough of a schedule?”

While universities have some control over their out-of-conference schedule, when looking at an individual season, that specific team and group of players should not be punished for their school not being able to schedule more competitive opponents. A team should not be punished when they do everything they can, defeating every team on their schedule.

When Group of 5 teams have virtually perfect seasons, we never find out exactly how good those teams are. Do we get to see them against a great Power 5 team in a major bowl game? Yes. Sometimes they prevail, sometimes they flounder. But now that college football has graduated to a playoff system, teams like Western Michigan are still left out of the dance without ever finding out how that team stacks up against the other playoff participants. This needs to change.

The best Group of 5 team needs to be guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff. It would eliminate the mystery and ultimately give hope to each and every team at the beginning of the season, much like college basketball when every team theoretically has a shot. At the very least, even if we saw Western Michigan get blown out by Alabama, there would be a resolution to the season and a clear understanding of how the top G5 team stacked up against the best team in the country.

chi-college-football-playoff-selection-committ-001To recap, the proposed structure would call for an eight-team playoff granting spots to the following:

(5) Power 5 Conference Champions

(2) At-Large Teams, or the two highest ranked teams not to win their conference

(1) The highest ranked Group of 5 team

This creates an eight-team bracket where the rankings would still have a purpose for seeding the teams. Let’s take a look at how it would look this season and assume the presumed favorites win next weekend. The field would look something like this:

#1 Alabama (SEC Champ)

#2 Ohio State (At-Large)

#3 Clemson (ACC Champ)

#4 Washington (Pac 12 Champ)

#5 Michigan (At-Large)

#6 Wisconsin (Big 10 Champ)

#7 Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)

#8 Western Michigan (Top ranked Group of 5 Team)

A bracket would then be created in a #1 vs #8, #2 vs #7, #3 vs #6 and #4 vs #5 structure. In order to keep the major bowls with their sponsors in tact, the extra games created by expanding the playoff from four to eight would occupy the appropriate bowl games and locations on a rotating basis.

An eight-team playoff bracket would mean seven games. The current “New Year’s Six” would occupy the first two rounds, with the National Championship Game being played at the end with the two teams left standing.

Taking these steps would drastically improve the College Football Playoff and the sport as a whole. Expanding to eight teams is the next, necessary move. Ideally, we will have a sixteen-team playoff someday soon. But eight needs to happen first. If we ever get to sixteen, the tremendous College Basketball model needs to be replicated.

An ideal sixteen-team playoff would include all ten conference champions and six at-large schools. This would truly give every single team hope. A system like this would do wonders for the sport, especially with the chance to narrow the gap between the Group of 5 and the Power 5. But, one step at a time. Hopefully we get to talk about who makes the “Elite 8” in the near future.

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College Football Preview

College football is just around the corner, and here’s my first-ever article to give you a nice right-to-the-point preview of the 2016 season.

First, let’s look at the returning Heisman finalists, in order of their 2015 Heisman Rankings.

1. Christian McCaffrey

2. Deshaun Watson


3. Baker Mayfield


4. Leonard Fournette



5. Dalvin Cook


There are two teams looking to win their first game since the 2014 season. I’ll give you a fun fact about each. The Kansas Jayhawks’ last victory came at home when hosting Iowa State on November 8th, 2014, winning comfortably 34-14. To make it even worse, Kansas has not won a road game since 2009.


The UCF Knights’ last win came on a last-second Hail Mary from Justin Holman to Breshad Perriman against East Carolina at Dowdy-Fickle Stadium on a Thursday night thriller. If there’s one thing I’d bet on this year, it’s that these teams will win more games than 2015. ucf1

Here’s a refresher on the more popular coaching changes for the 2016 season:

Kirby Smart to Georgia (formerly DC at Alabama)

Mark Richt to Miami (former HC at Georgia)

Lovie Smith to Illinois (former HC of Tampa Bay Bucs)

Will Muschamp to South Carolina (former DC of Auburn)

Full list of coaching changes

It’s also the third year of the college football playoff system. Woo! Screw the BCS!


Watch List

If you’d like a list of the preseason Top 25, check this out. I don’t like those because you got one there…and on ESPN…and you probably have your own opinion of what it’s like. So why bother? You know it will look much different come playoff time. However, here are a few teams to keep an eye on this year.


These boys are the consensus underdog to go the distance, which kind of doesn’t make them the underdog anymore, but they’re still like the underdog. With a giant RB (6’4”, 230) and dual-threat QB on offense, Evan Berry (Eric’s younger brother) returning punts and kicks (for a touchdown, and another touchdown), and a defense returning over half its starters, they could be that good. A not-so-competitive SEC East makes it a little easier for them too.

The Cougars are coming off a great year with second-year coach Tom Herman, houstonwho led Houston to a 13-1 year ending with a 38-24 win over the defending
national champion Seminoles in the Peach Bowl. Greg Ward Jr is coming off a season as a top-50 rusher with 21 scores on the ground and another 17 through the air, look for him to be a dark horse Heisman candidate.

With Trevone Boykin gone, they don’t have a quarterback right? Nah, they have Kenny Hill who transferred from Texas A & M and will likely lead the always-high-powered Horned Frogs’ offense. If anyone in the Big 12 is going to challenge Oklahoma for the conference title, it’s these guys.

Despite having a question mark at quarterback, FSU is always a playoff fsu
contender. Dalvin Cook is poised to have a huge year on the ground, possibly better than that Fournette guy on LSU. The Seminoles’ defense isn’t that bad either – returning for a consecutive year are most of its D-linemen, OLB’s, and DB’s.

uwYou know, I’m not entirely sure why they’re on my watch list, but I feel like I’ve heard some good things about them in the background noise of my TV playing ESPN. This team is ranked #14 this preseason, which makes them second in the PAC-12 behind Stanford at #8. Come to think of it/look it up, it’s the third year for Chris Petersen at UW, which is about the time new coaches’ vision and plan are well-developed and executed. Disregard that first sentence.

Every year I choose a random team to follow for various reasons, and this year iowathat team is Iowa. If you’re the type who likes old-fashioned football that requires a TEAM effort to win games without any flash, this team is for you (FTR that’s not why I picked them). If you aren’t aware, the Hawkeyes are made of a veteran offense and a half-experienced defense driven by the 2015 All-American & Jim Thorpe Award Winner Desmond King at CB. They just might make the Big 10 Championship game.

ucf2My alma mater has to turn it around after an abysmal 2015 campaign. They will have 3/4 of its starters returning under new head coach Scott Frost, previously the Oregon OC. (Did you know he beat Peyton Manning in the 1998 Orange Bowl while playing QB for Nebraska?) The Knights even got some new uniforms to hopefully inspire some Oregon-esque flare on the field. It won’t be easy getting past Houston to win the American.


Himesman Award

This will of course go to the best all-around college football player of the season. Not only will numbers carry significant weight, but off the field factors (e.g. what brought him here, academics, significance to team’s success) will also play a major role in determining the winner. One factor that will not carry much weight is his team’s W-L record. No, someone from a 0-12 team will not win the award, but recent Heisman winners have been on a championship-bound team. While I respect what it takes to bring your team to the national stage, there have been times a player on a less prestigious team was deserving of the esteemed trophy in college football. And I feel it’s my duty to give that award. The preliminary list will come out next month. And yes, I just created my own “award”. (I mean no copyright infringement, my apologies in advance Heisman Committee members).


Final Thoughts

Here’s an idea for next season and every one thereafter – do away with preseason rankings! Let’s have rankings come out week 4, after most teams have played a couple games. Maybe wait until week 8? Reminiscent of the despised BCS era. I bet it would change the way teams prepare each week, but on the flipside make it more exciting not knowing who is considered the best.

But wait! There’s more! Food for thought – what if rankings were totally abolished and there was one big playoff involving all of the FBS divisions based on final standings and conference title games. More on that in my next article.


Get ready people, it’s college football season!



[Disclaimer, being a UCF alumnus I like to shine some light on my college. However, I will not bias my articles for or against them. Peace peeps, I’m gonna go enjoy Spain for the next 8 days.]


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