When there really needs to be 12. Or 16.
If ever a college football screamed out, “it’s time to expand the playoff,” the current one is it.
There are just too many good, quality teams, many of them with BIG names, to remain limited to the current constraints of just a pair of national semifinals and a national final to determine a champion.
Imagine if we had a 16-team tournament, going off the latest CFP rankings. We’re looking a first-round matchup between the two programs that have dominated the sport the better part of the last decade: No. 8 vs. No. 9 Clemson.
Who wouldn’t want to see that? Especially if you’re hoping to hammer home the narrative the one of their dynasties is done.
No. 13 North Carolina, with Heisman hopeful Drake Maye, probably knocks off No. 4 Texas Christian.
Heck, No. 16 UCLA might even give No. 1 Georgia a scare. The Bruins actually have the talent on offense, led by their three-headed monster of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, wide receiver Jake Bobo and running back Zach Charbonnet, to test the Dawgs’ vaunted defense.
Frankly, the only mismatch of the bunch seems like it would be No. 15 Kansas State against No. 2 Ohio State. The others – No. 10 Utah vs. No. 7 USC, No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 6 LSU, No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Tennessee, and No. 14 Ole Miss vs. No. 3 Michigan – all appear like pretty good, and even, pairings.
Kinda seeing a quarterfinal round of No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 1 Georgia, No. 10 Utah vs. No. 2 Ohio State, No. 6 LSU vs. No. 14 Ole Miss, and No. 13 North Carolina vs. No. 12 Oregon.
Then the semis, No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 13 North Carolina and No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 LSU.
And the final, No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 6 LSU.
With the Tigers, in a stunner, beating the Tide for the second time this season, setting off another round of silly takes on Alabama and head coach Nick Saban’s demise.
Ah, just imagine … Brian Kelly, after so many years of being unable to get over the hump at Notre Dame, winning a title at the FBS level in his first year in Baton Rouge.
Pretty entertaining stuff – and all possible had the playoff expanded.
HARD TO FIGURE
North Carolina is 9-1, rising in the polls, currently on a six-game winning streak and already slotted to face ACC juggernaut Clemson in the upcoming conference title game next month in Charlotte, yet, the Tar Heels are kinda hard to figure.
Why? Well, aside from Florida A&M in the annual FCS season-opening sacrifice and Virginia Tech, they haven’t dominated anyone. Six of their victories have been single-score differentials, and they’ve trailed in the second half of their last four games before rallying.
Really, the only thing about them that isn’t hard to figure is their quarterback play – which has been outstanding.
Not for nothing, but redshirt freshman Drake Maye – up to this point – has had the best season in college football. He’s top five in every statistical category for QBs, leads the country in total TDs (34 passing, 5 rushing), and is cool as a cucumber, hence, UNC’s uncanny knack for comeback wins. He’s also the Heels’ leading rusher with 584 yards, averaging 4.4 a pop.
Whether UNC is a team to keep an eye on may be in question. Maye being a player (even a player in the race Heisman race) to keep an eye on is not.
UGH-MA MATER MATTERS
Both my schools – Temple and Illinois – took it on the chin this past Saturday, and not quite sure which hit stings more.
Sure, the Owls played – gulp – heroically on the road in Houston, led by quarterback E.J. “Son of NFL Hall of Famer Kurt” Warner’s 486 yards and 3 TDs passing, the last sparking the go-ahead margin of 36-35 with just 1:22 remaining. The problem is, the Cougars scored the game-winning TD just 40 seconds later.
Way to slam the door there, boys. Ugh.
Two weeks ago, the Fighting Illini were sitting pretty in the Big Ten West Division, looking about as close to a lock for their first trip to Indianapolis for the conference title game. But after back-to-back losses – at home, no less – to underachieving Michigan State and now Jekyll-and-Hyde Purdue, with a date at No. 3 Michigan looming this Saturday, and – AND – NCAA rushing leader Chase Brown likely out due to an injury suffered during a last-ditch drive to salvage things against the Boilermakers … Ugh.
- Clemson RB Will Shipley has two of the season’s best runs, the latest being an incredible, almost Matrix-like hurdle over one defender before splitting two others en route to a 25-yard score Saturday in the Tigers’ win over Louisville. Thing is, his roommate, Phil Mafah, had the better game (career-high 106 yards on 10 carries, one being a 39-yard TD).
- Nice to see the re-emergence of former powers of late. Teams like LSU, Notre Dame, Florida State and … Coastal Carolina. Even without their starting QB, Grayson McCall, who is out the remainder of the season due to a leg injury, the Chanticleers (the feel-good college football story in Year 1 of the pandemic) improved to 9-1 and jumped back into the polls after beating Southern Miss by a field goal.
- Remember when Syracuse was 6-0 and ranked No. 14 in the country? Me, neither – not after the Orange racked up their fourth straight loss, this time in embarrassing fashion to FSU, 38-3 … in the friggin’ dome.
- Kudos to Jim Mora and UConn. With Saturday’s 36-33 upset of No. 19 Liberty, the Huskies, in Mora’s first season as their head coach, earned bowl eligibility for the first time since 2015.
- Same to Vanderbilt for snapping a 26-game skid in SEC play.