Finally!! A College Football Playoff!!

National Championship Trophy

The NCAA needs to be tortured for the way they have handled their Division I football collegiate championship. No, we’re not going to speak in terms of subdivisions and that nonsense because it diverts the attention from the task at hand… How can we achieve a true national champion in college football?? For the most part the argument has come from teams, bowl sponsorships, and conferences not wanting to relinquish prestige or money. What was known as Division II and III have settled their championship on the field for years…so why can’t they in the top tier?? At Taylor Blitz Times, Chancellor Taylor decided to preside over a panel of experts and to decide how we can come up with a true national champion. Here is how it can be done in his estimation.

First off this move in college football to super conferences hurts the matter. The rumor that Florida St, Texas A&M joining the SEC would do what for the conference?? The argument by SEC loyalists would be that their 5th best team is better than other conferences 1st or 2nd. They would wind up with more than 6 teams not facing each other in a season. How could they determine a true champion?? This only detracts from the landscape of college football as well as a sentiment that is not true. The top level team in any conference can stay on the field with a top tier team from another conference. For a given playoff game?? Absolutely.

So the first thing we need to do is scrap the super conferences and adopt the NCAA basketball rules and dole out automatic qualifiers for each conference champion. Whether that conference has a championship game or not is up to them to decide who they’re conference champion is. So we would then have the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac 12, SEC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, WAC, and Mountain West would all have a qualifier. That gives us an 11 team field so far and we would need to have conferences move back their championship games to conclude in late November. Reversing the last 10 years where teams kept moving games later so they don’t get leapfrogged in the BCS. (see LSU leapfrogging USC in 2003) We need that to assist in the time necessary to get our playoff system to a condensed workable format. We need that December time to decide things.

Rose Bowl Trophy

Next up, the poll rankings and the BCS. Keep them! Otherwise Nebraska and Oklahoma would put Pugaswan St School for the Dyslexic, on their schedules again. Sure we say that in jest but the BCS has been good for one thing: It has brought to light the strength of schedule and condemened teams for not playing one. Great measuring tool so it and the AP and Coaches Poll stay. Why?? Its these mechanisms that will give us our 6 at large teams that will round out the 17 team tournament. Ranking and strength of schedule will determine who gets those spots.  If you are an Independent like Notre Dame, this is the only way to qualify for the National Championship playoff. So join a conference or schedule at least 7 heavies in your campaign. It’s their choice. You have to keep in mind that we have to have a tournament long enough to include the right amount of teams yet not so long that we interfere with college basketball. So the buck stops at seventeen.

So to assist with the strength of schedule format think of it like this: Had Auburn been upset in last year’s SEC Title Game, they still would have qualified for the playoff as an at large. Where a South Carolina had to win that game to qualify because of their record. So it’s paramount to win the most games and the strength of schedule will still aid your BCS standing for a late loss. Furthermore you can have 2 or more teams qualify for the playoff from the same conference. So if the Ohio St. Buckeyes win the Big Ten, yet a streaking Wisconsin Badger team almost catches them but falls a game short of qualifying for the conference championship game. They could make it to the playoffs by virtue of their poll and BCS standings.

While some conferences like the Mountain West, WAC, Sun Belt, or Conference USA won’t have that luxury, at least they would now be invited to the dance. However if you think about it, that’s not necessarily true. The Boise State Broncos would have qualified and followed Nevada into this mythical playoff system were it in place last year after losing to the Wolfpack. Otherwise win your conference and carry the torch and battleflag into the playoffs for the rest of your brethren.

Sugar Bowl Trophy

We would begin the playoffs with a playoff kickoff around Pearl Harbor Day (Dec 7th if you just came to the U.S.) with the BCS 16th and 17th teams playing on the home field of the 17th team.  No need for additional travel at this point, the first round of the playoffs would be at each team’s home facility anyway. This game would be played on a Thursday or Friday night. Could you imagine a playoff game at College Station between the Texas A&M Aggies hosting Nebraska on a chilly night??

Had this been in place last year this would have been our kickoff. Or the year before it would have been Oklahoma St. hosting Oregon St. So this game could be a revenge game with conference rivals or teams that don’t know each other. Perfect. Trust me fans and players would be fired up for more. The winner of this game slides into slot 16 for the final tournament bracket which would be seeded upon each team’s BCS finish. Think we could find a corporate sponsor for this game??

With an extra week off, around December 14th,  the 15 big boys join the party with the higher seeded teams at home hosting their lower seeded counterparts. So seeds #1 – #4 for example would have hosted #13 – #16.  Those games last year would have had BCS #1 Auburn hosting #16 Alabama, #2 Oregon hosting #15 Nevada, and #3 TCU hosting #14 Oklahoma St. and #4 Stanford hosting #13 Virginia Tech. Imagine that…didn’t Stanford play Virginia Tech in last year’s Orange Bowl?? Pay attention we are on to something.

Think about the marquee games being played on Thursday and Friday night as to not disrupt the NFL which plays Saturday games after college football is done.  Think about that for a second, Alabama getting a second crack at Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and Auburn after that come from behind win in the Iron Bowl?? Think Nick Saban wouldn’t have had ‘Bama up for a second go round?? Now you’re starting to see what we mean about a playoff system generating some battle lines. You’d call off sick from work or hit the sports bar early for that playoff game…think about it?? Would Auburn beat them a second time??

Orange Bowl Trophy

Step on the NFL’s Saturday toes?? On second thought, there would be a few of the middle seeds playing on Saturday though. We would then move into BCS #5-8 hosting #9-12 or: #5 Wisconsin hosting #12 Missouri in snowy Madison, #6 Ohio St. hosting #11 LSU, #7 Oklahoma hosting #10 Boise St, and #8 Arkansas hosting #9 Michigan St.  Goodness!! This slate would be better than the Thursday / Friday games. Columbus, Ohio hosting LSU to get revenge on the Tigers for that loss in the NCAA Title Game from 5 years ago??

Oklahoma being able to get revenge on Boise St for that Fiesta Bowl upset loss 5 years back?? Fans wouldn’t be up for these games with those battle lines now would they?? Could you imagine the barbecue, chips, and beer consumed watching these playoff games in one day?? How many folks would be at your house that day?? Bring pizza!!

Now we get a two week break for Christmas to set up the second round of the playoffs, and to allow other Bowl Games they’re rightful place to lead the marquee. Yet by January 1st we get right back to it with the present BCS bowls plus a few others so that we can move it around every year. So we would include the Outback Bowl, the Capitol One Bowl, and drop one of the BCS bowls as a playoff site for a given year to keep the pageantry of the bowls in place and make sure our championship keeps it’s variety from year to year.

With the winners of the Orange, Rose, Fiesta, and Sugar Bowls we’re now down to our final four schools.  So each Bowl has a sponsorship like the FedEx Orangebowl, etc. Do you think we could get a corporate sponsor for the semi final games to be played at a predetermined neutral site?? What about a semifinal being held in Ford Field in Detroit, an Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio or a game in Rocky Top, or an Indianapolis. New places for a major college football playoff game. Everyone doesn’t live in the Sun Belt, so move it around to some new places. What about a National Championship Game in Notre Dame’s stadium with the College Football Hall of Fame right up the street??

Fiesta Bowl Trophy

With the bowl games decided we would take a week or two off to set up our neutral site semi final games. These would be prime time epics with one being played on a Friday night, the other being played on Monday Night. The NFL would be in their playoffs at this time so Monday would be open. This would be taking place around January 8th / 10th or the week of the 13th / 15th.  After a one week layoff and during the two week break between the NFL’s NFC and AFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl, we would have the NCAA National Championship Game on a Saturday night at a neutral field (highest bidder) all by itself around January 30th.

If you think we couldn’t find sponsors or site committees to step up to host that game you’re crazy.  Right now you’re salivating at just the shape of these playoffs and yet we did the one thing we set out to do.  Keep the governing bodies intact, not step on corporate sponsors toes and actually generate more money for college football with the additional television revenue.

The Bowls were kept intact and we included the BCS. We kept a manageable line when placing our games around the NFL games to be played and kept things tight from a logistics standpoint without too much additional travel. A national championship game in Seattle, Washington?? Raleigh, North Carolina?? Albequerque, New Mexico?? Why not?? These collegiate Super Bowls could pump financial blood into new areas and …. At long last we’ll have a real National Champion crowned in college football!!

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College Football’s Leveled Playing Fields

Marshall Faulk at San Diego State

The changing faces of college football over the last fifteen years has been a unique situation upon the sporting landscape. Gone are the days when the traditional schools would line up and pummel a school from a smaller conference. Don’t get us wrong, there are still some lopsided contests but the talent level is closer than in the 1970’s,80’s, or even the 90’s. This is the byproduct of several things.

The first thing was with up to 20 cable televisions showcasing football around the country. Schools could recruit outside their region for talent and deliver the promise that their families and friends could still watch them play. Alternative schools to the traditional powers also offered players the chance to remain at their position of choice. One glaring example of this was when Marshall Faulk was coming out of New Orleans as a high school star.

Tons of schools were recruiting him and one of the heaviest was Florida State. They would offer Faulk a full scholarship yet they wanted him to switch from running back  to cornerback. Faulk opted to go to San Diego State where he dazzled the nation as a freshman gaining 1,429 yards and 23TDs. Along the way he had a freshman record 386 yard, 7 touchdown performance against U of Pacific. Before you say something about the talent level, keep in mind he’s just 3 weeks away from giving his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech. So kill that noise.

The point being he didn’t have to play cornerback with Terrell Buckley and watch Amp Lee and Warrick Dunn as tailbacks at Florida St when he had other alternatives. Being on the west coast and playing in many night games, Faulk was watched all around the country and became the first freshman to get serious consideration as a Heisman Trophy candidate. There are other notable examples of this but an electrifying running back that made both Hall of Fames (college and pro) seemed like a logical example. Players know they can go anywhere and be seen all over the country.

Steve Slaton slashing up Marshall

The second was the scholarship limitations the NCAA  instituted in 1990. Now the top 20 schools, the Miami’s, Florida St’s, Oklahoma’s, Nebraska’s, Texas’, Michigan’s, Ohio St’s, the USC’s couldnt swallow the top 100 tailbacks coming out in a given year. Some of them were talents that never developed or later developed. Some players actually blossomed at non traditional schools that struggled to get the blue chip prospect.

When you get a Steve Slaton at West Virginia, a LaDainian Tomlinson who opted to stay near home at Texas Christian, or a Jamal Anderson at Utah, or even a Doug Martin right now at a Boise St. These players could have split time or may not have started early in their careers at traditional schools. In most cases we never hear of these players as they fade into obscurity and don’t make the pros.

Some play in Canada but many fall by the way side. Two players that did play later were Jeff Smith of the Nebraska Cornhuskers of ’83 and Priest Holmes of Texas in the late 90’s. Each played RB behind Heisman winners in Mike Rozier and Ricky Williams. Yet both developed their talent in the NFL, Smith had a serviceable career with Kansas City Chiefs, where Holmes went on to rewrite the Chiefs record book after winning a Super Bowl ring in Baltimore.

Yet all of a sudden we were seeing electrifying, record breaking runners at schools we didn’t expect those performances from. The aforementioned LaDainian Tomlinson, A Troy Davis at Iowa St running for back to back 2,000 yard seasons in the mid 90s. A Barry Sanders rushing for 2,629 yards and 37TDs in a 1988 Heisman Campaign, who followed an All American Thurman Thomas. Who followed another All American and ’82 NCAA rushing leader Earnest “Sparkplug” Anderson with over 1,800 yards rushing. Yes the year Herschel Walker won the Heisman he didn’t lead the nation in rushing. The latter three talents went to Oklahoma St and not Texas or Oklahoma.

The third key component in leveling the collegiate playing field were the different strategies employed by college coaches.  These evolving sets have been lifted from the antiquated wishbone offense to more pro style sets including the run and shoot, 3 receiver one back sets, to the variations of the spread offense. Teams that couldn’t field All American offensive linemen could opt for an attack that spread the defense and made it think. Why go toe to toe with an opponent when you can out think your opponent and outhit him when he is out of position? This has been the true equalizer in college football over this last ten years just ask Michigan how it feels about Appalchian St. Michigan became so confused that they thought “hell if you can’t understand it hire a coach who does” yet they didn’t have the type of talent needed to direct that offense under coach Rich Rodriguez.

With the run and shoot, different types of receivers were needed to make the offense go. You recruited your traditional large fast receiver(6’0-6’3 -215 lbs.) along with a new prototype that manned the slots.  This player was smaller in stature yet quicker than the large fast receiver and stood (5’7-5’9 -175-185lbs.) which were the high school receivers that traditional schools didn’t recruit unless they were going to be switched to cornerback.

Yet these players found homes in offenses that spread the field and played their game in space throwing the football. Most teams realized that the third and fourth best WR were normally better than third and fourth corners on a given team. You had the University of Houston in the 80s and early 90s as the vanguard of the run and shoot teams and most recently June Jones University of Hawaii teams. Even the Miami Hurricanes employed these techniques winning two National Championships in1989 and 1991.

Then along came Rich Rodriguez and his West Virginia Mountaineers. He took the spread offense to a complete zenith with what you could do with a 53 1/3 yard wide field and implemented a power rushing attack from a spread formation. First he recruited Pat White from Alabama.  At 6’0 (being generous) and 185 lbs. he was short for a quarterback and had a decent arm, yet it was his 4.28 40 yard dash that made it nearly impossible for interior linebackers to read blocking patterns, than get to the flank to defend against his options or pitch to Steve Slaton.

Slaton was brought down from Pennsylvania. One of the nation’s fastest running backs coming out of high school in 2005.  He had committed to Maryland who had offered him a scholarship then retracted their offer.  He took his 4.3 speed to West Virginia to team with Pat White, Owen Schmitt, recievers Darius Reynaud #82 and Brandon Miles#7 and a powerhouse was born. They spread from a traditional set and some 3 receivers yet ran what they call a speed option that most MLBs didnt have the lateral quickness to stay with.  The result?? First we have to set the table for you.

The Miami Hurricanes and Boston College had just fled the Big East to join the ACC. Many felt that the Big East was no longer a top flight conference with two of their heavyweight schools having departed. Yet the Mountaineers started a redshirt freshman in Pat White, and a freshman tailback in Steve Slaton and a new offense took the country by storm.  They improved as the season went on and Slaton finished the season with 1,128 yards and 17 TDs, while White finished with 952 yds rushing and 7 TDs to go along with moderate passing to keep defenses honest.

Once they ran out to a 10-1 record, their Big East championship gave them an automatic bid to the BCS Sugar Bowl where they would take on Georgia. The Bulldogs that year were 12-1 and only a close loss in SEC play had kept them from appearing in the National Championship Game. Experts scoffed that West Virginia’s offense couldn’t perform that well against a superior defense from a superior conference. Yes experts were treating the Big East as a second tier conference with the remaining teams.  So the battle lines were drawn and since the Sugar Bowl had to be moved from New Orleans to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, because of Hurricane Katrina, this would be a home crowd for the Bulldogs too. No way the Mountaineers could stay on the field with an SEC team……………….right??

Naturally underdogs play with a chip on their shoulder and Bulldogs were chasing Mountaineers all night. In a humiliating 38-35 defeat, SEC Champion Georgia never led in the ball game. No one on the set picked West Virginia to win and the nation watched in stunned amazement as the Mountaineers burst onto the field and  was up 28-0 before Georgia knew what hit them. Freshman Steve Slaton set the Sugar Bowl rushing record with 26 carries for 204 yards, 3 Tds with twin 52 yard touchdowns that were electrifying. Passing the exploits of Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, Major Ogilvie, Vegas Ferguson, and keep filling in blanks here…Slaton outrushed them all just being 7 months removed from high school. Yikes!!

This watershed game got more coaches on the bandwagon of the spread to be used as a rushing offense.  By the time the point was hammered home that this was an offense to stay, was when Appalachian State upset Michigan in “The Big House” in 2007. Now even skeptics were using some variation of the offense in their playbooks. Though the SEC was embarrassed that night in the Sugar Bowl, we come to see that 5 years later Auburn wins the National Championship over Oregon and both were run first, spread option teams. In came the Cam Newtons and Terrelle Pryors to lead this new wave…

So the landscape has changed, first through the proliferation of cable television stations allowing players to play in far away places and still be seen back home.  This changed the way colleges could approach players when they weren’t the clear cut favorite to land a particular recruit. Players weren’t forced to switch positions to go to a particular name school when there were other alternatives.

This happened simultaneously with the NCAA limiting the amount of scholarships teams which spread talent all over the collegiate landscape. Then in an effort to find the great equalizer, coaching innovations leveled the playing field even more with better tactics while landing a better athlete on their campus than ever before.  Couple these factors with the natural chip on the shoulder that most underdogs play with and college football has turned into “On any given Saturday…” Making college football an even greater game than before.  We’ll be back to help solve the National Championship Game and BCS problem later.

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