Why Eight Wouldn’t Be Great for the College Football Playoff

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News

The College Football Playoff celebrated its fifth year in 2018. There have been ten semifinal games in its history. Only two have been decided by one possession.

Continuing college football’s annual tradition of being exactly what we thought it would be, Alabama and Clemson waltzed to easy victories in their semifinal matchups with Oklahoma and Notre Dame, respectively. The Tigers won their game 30-3 while the Tide beat Oklahoma 45-34 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Now, Clemson and Alabama will meet in the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive season, and if you want a sense of their total domination over the sport, consider this: 10 of the last 11 College Football Playoff games have ended with either Clemson or Alabama on top.

And with this domination, the cries for an eight-team playoff to decide a champion are building, and they aren’t coming from the outside. In fact, some of the most powerful people inside college football seem to be willing to advance the discussion for playoff expansion as soon as 2020. The logistics are still being worked out, but it seems like this is going to happen, so let’s start off by looking at what that eight-team playoff would potentially look like.

In this scenario, it’s likely that there would be six automatic bids to the Playoff. Five of them would go to each Power 5 conference champion (including the Pac-12) and the sixth would go to the highest-ranked Group of Five team (UCF). The other two bids would be at-large berths, so you would almost certainly have a bracket that looks something like this:

  1. Alabama (SEC champion) vs 8. Washington (Pac-12 champion)
  2. Clemson (ACC champion) vs 7. UCF (highest-ranked Group of 5 team)
  3. Notre Dame (at-large) vs. 6. Ohio State (Big 10 Champion)
  4. Oklahoma (Big 12 Champion) vs. 5. Georgia (at-large)

The main critique of the four-team version of the Playoff is that it isn’t competitive enough. That is perfectly fair, and making the Playoff more competitive at this stage is a very difficult—if not impossible—task. And there are several fundamental problems with expanding it to eight teams that would suggest that doing so would not accomplish what we all want, which is competitive balance.

For one thing, Washington is not one of the eight best teams in the country, but they would get in as a result of winning the Pac-12. I think it’s pretty obvious that they would get annihilated by Alabama. Clemson would likely do the same to UCF, which isn’t an entirely fair judgment of the defending national champions because of the absence of star quarterback McKenzie Milton. In my view, Georgia would likely take down Oklahoma, which would set up a fascinating rematch of last year’s national title game. The only toss-up quarterfinal game, then, would probably be the Notre Dame-OSU tilt, but my gut says the Irish would come out on top.

But beyond looking at what it would look like this year, the big-picture question when it comes to an expanded Playoff is this:

Does it make the college football season more exciting while still rewarding the best teams in the sport? I would answer no on both counts.

First of all, I truly believe that even with an eight-team championship, you would still have the same national title game we have in real life. But that’s beside the point. The real problem with doubling the size of the Playoff would be that it would greatly diminish the importance of the regular season. College football may have the most important regular season because it is almost certain that if you want to contend for a national championship, you can only afford to lose one game. Even a 12-1 record does not guarantee a berth in the playoff (just ask this year’s Ohio State team).

Moreover, adding four more teams to the Playoff wouldn’t remove disputes over who should get the last spot in it. Currently, the argument is over who should be the fourth team in, but there will be seasons where two of the at-large spots will be disputed. It may be slightly less convoluted, but arguments will still exist in years where the two at-large teams are not nearly as obvious as they were this season.

There will also be years where the best eight teams don’t get in. One example of this would have been 2012, where an eight-team Playoff would have been, um, catastrophically bad:

That’s not what you want to see.

My final qualm with going to an eight-team Playoff would be that it would prioritize automatic bids and “getting in” over being the best team that season. While the current Playoff does that to an extent, going to eight teams would not ensure that the nation’s best team is hoisting the trophy at the end of the season. In fact, it would turn the odds in the opposite direction. While everyone loves the NCAA Tournament (68 teams, chaotic first weekend, etc.), it is a fundamentally insane way to crown the “best team in the sport”, and more often than not, it fails in that regard. We would be heading in the wrong direction with the addition of more teams.

It all started just hours after their bowl game ended, with Frost saying that a “conscious effort” kept UCF out of the College Football Playoff. Frost posited this theory after watching Georgia and Alabama, two teams Auburn beat on their schedule, advance to next Monday’s national championship game. By the transitive property, UCF could be considered better than all of those teams; the transitive property, of course, does not take into effect important things like home field advantage, the injuries both teams dealt with when they played Auburn, and coaching in high-leverage situations. Also, remember that Georgia later played Auburn (in the same stadium in which the Peach Bowl was played) in the SEC Championship Game and defeated them 28-7. How quickly they forget.

But if people at the university stopped at being angry about the Knights’ apparent snub, we would have had no problem and the rage would have been easily understood. Instead, we have a far different situation on our hands.

After the Peach Bowl, UCF Athletic Director Danny White (no, not the former Cowboys quarterback) was seen on the field proclaiming his team as the national champion. At this point it’s important to remember a key fact in the debate of whether or not UCF won the national championship:

They didn’t.

It’s also important to point out that this claiming of a nonexistent championship is hardly unprecedented. Ohio State gave its players rings after the Buckeyes finished the 2012 season 12-0 but were barred from postseason play because of the infamous events of tattoo-gate. And the 2003 USC Trojans crowned themselves champions after what their then-Athletic Director referred to as “significant research”. In that case, though, USC actually was the #1 team in the Associated Press poll at the end of the season and did earn at least a split of the national championship with LSU.

UCF, on the other hand, did not top the Associated Press poll, or any other poll, for that matter. They finished twelfth in the final College Football Playoff rankings, tenth in the final AP Poll, and tenth in the last Coaches’ Poll. And before you tell me that the BCS would have resolved all of this, UCF would have finished ninth if that poll was still in use. These rankings are especially crucial because many have clamored for an eight-team playoff in recent years, as that would allows smaller, lesser-known schools like UCF to make the Playoff. So it’s good to know that the Knights would not have gotten in even if the size of the Playoff was doubled.

There is also another, not-so-insignificant problem with expanding the Playoff to eight teams, and don’t take it from me. Take it from former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware. Boulware was asked about hypothetically having to play in another game after his team played in fifteen games last season before defeating Alabama in a thrilling and emotionally-draining national title game:

If we had to do another game after this? God, no. I’d literally die.

Somehow, I doubt that would be a good look for the NCAA, but then again, the NCAA probably wouldn’t know what a good look was if it slapped them in the face. And remember, we’re talking about UCF, the school that had a kicker ruled ineligible to play for committing the heinous, shocking, and appalling crime of monetizing his YouTube channel.

But anyway, if you thought that the coronation of UCF’s alternative national title and the absurd celebration of Frost’s team was complete, then get ready to have your mind frosted:

UCF athletic director Danny White said Wednesday that the program has decided to claim a national championship and will place a championship banner inside Spectrum Stadium to recognize its undefeated 2017 season.


Nonetheless, the school said that it will hold a celebratory parade for the team at Disney World on Sunday. UCF and Orlando announced Thursday they would hold a national championship celebration Monday evening, the day of the CFP national championship game.

At this point, I can’t even be mad at UCF. If I ever get to the point in my life where I have a parade at Disney World in my honor for no particular reason, I’ll know that my life probably won’t get better from there.

But this is madness. College football is the only sport in which you can say that you won a national championship (without actually winning a national championship, no less) and have your fans believe you. And they’re serious about this too, as their social media feeds indicate. Because nothing says “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” quite like finishing twelfth in the final Playoff rankings, missing the four-team Playoff, winning your bowl game against what may have been a slightly uninspired opponent and then declaring yourself a “national champion”.

There is one more point to be made here. While some have argued for an eight-team Playoff as of late, others are arguing for this and an automatic bid for the top Group of 5 team. That is all well and good until you consider that this was the first year in the Playoff era that a Group of 5 team has gone undefeated and could actually be considered as an honest-to-goodness candidate to make the Playoff. Many have pointed to the NCAA Basketball Tournament as having the best format for allowing smaller schools to shine. But in case you were wondering, the only “Cinderella” teams that have won a college basketball championship since the tournament has expanded to 64 teams were the 1985 Villanova Wildcats (in the first year of the new format) and the 2014 Connecticut Huskies. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s two-for-33, or roughly six percent of the time.

To make matters worse, UCF’s best win before their bowl game this season came against Memphis in a game that went to double-overtime. The Knights also suffered other close calls at the hands of Navy, SMU, and South Florida, and their out-of-conference schedule consisted of FIU, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Maine. (The Georgia Tech and Maine games were canceled, the former directly and the latter indirectly, due to the effects of Hurricane Irma.) I am all for the little guy who can take down Goliath, but we shouldn’t make sure the little guy gets in the Playoff every year if he isn’t good enough. I’m not saying UCF wasn’t, but they have been the best non-Power 5 team in the Playoff era and even including them in the Final Four (or Eight) would require a serious explanation, one that may be difficult or impossible to justify.

If there is anything you can take out of this article, it is these two things:

  1. We shouldn’t bring small-school teams to college football’s big dance if they aren’t worthy of it.
  2. We shouldn’t give schools national championships based on the transitive property.

And if UCF’s recent lunacy has exposed those two truths, then maybe it was worthwhile.

The Phenomenal, Forsaken Heisman Defense of Lamar Jackson

Alton Strupp/The Courier-Journal

What if I told you the sequel could be even better than the original?

There is a college football player who has been his team’s starting quarterback for the past three seasons. His past two years, though, have been some of the best in the sport.

Here are his numbers from 2016 and 2017, respectively. Before I show you this table, I am obligated to tell you that the player started all 13 games for his team last season and has only gotten to play in 11 games this year.

2016 56.2 3,543 30 9 1,571 21
2017 59.8 3,273 23 6 1,287 17

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that those numbers are ridiculous. It also doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, in many respects, this individual is having a better season this year as opposed to his 2016 campaign.

And, unless you don’t believe in reading headlines because they contain spoilers, you’ve already figured out that the player I’m talking about is 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. And again, he very well may be having a better season this year than last year. Oh, snap!

Jackson won the Heisman Trophy a season ago due to a profound lack of other award-worthy options. The alternatives to Jackson last season were Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson (15 interceptions), Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers (no legitimately great stats), Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who put up exorbitant numbers in a conference that, as a general rule, does not play defense, and Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who had a great season that largely piggybacked on his quarterback’s success. Jackson faded down the stretch a season ago, as he barely averaged over 200 yards passing in the final five games of the year (Louisville lost its final three contests last season). Despite Jackson’s rough November and December, he was still able to bring home the hardware, and his Heisman victory was particularly impressive when you consider that he led the race from week three on.

This year, Jackson is having a better statistical year but has not received the same amount of attention or respect. Why is this? The answer is twofold.

First, Jackson was already fighting an uphill battle as a defending Heisman winner. Out of the 82 Heisman Trophy winners since 1935 (and yes, that includes Reggie Bush), only 26 were underclassmen when they won the award. Furthermore, just 13 of these players returned to college to defend their title, with some of the most recent examples being Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston, and Tim Tebow. Only one returnee, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, won the award in back-to-back seasons (1974-1975). Jackson would have done well to simply make it back to New York as a finalist for this year’s Heisman. but the numbers he’s put up this year should put him back in the conversation for the award in most circumstances. This, though, is not a regular situation.

The other, major negative for Jackson’s 2017 Heisman candidacy is the lack of success his team has had in spite of his absolute brilliance. While you may think that a great player would be able to overcome his team’s ineptitude and win a major award like this, that is not necessarily the case. Louisville currently finds itself at 7-4 with their annual rivalry game against Kentucky to close out the season tomorrow. The last Heisman winner to take home the hardware on a four-loss team was Oklahoma fullback Steve Owens in 1969. In those 48 years, college football has evolved so much that many offenses have simply gotten rid of the fullback. And let’s say that, hypothetically, Kentucky defeats the Cardinals tomorrow, as they did last year (you probably forgot about that because you were too busy watching this at the exact same time). If you want to find a Heisman winner on a five-loss team, you would have to go all the way back to 1956, where you will find Notre Dame and Packers legend Paul Hornung, who starred on the 2-8 Fighting Irish that season. The Heisman Trophy is, rightly or wrongly, one of the most team-centric awards in sports. While that may not be fair, this precedent is not on the side of a Jackson repeat.

This, of course, is not to say that the Louisville junior should take home the hardware. Baker Mayfield has thrown for 543 more yards this year on 49 fewer pass attempts and should be the clear favorite for the award, in spite of his profanity and, well, Michael Jackson-esque gesture toward the Kansas sideline last week. But if Heisman voters view Mayfield’s actions as a disqualification for giving him the award, Jackson should be next in line to win. That’s how good he has been this season.

This is also not the first time a Heisman Trophy winner has come back to have a better year the season after. Johnny Manziel put up better numbers in 2013 than he did in 2012 only to finish fifth in the Heisman voting that season. Manziel had the best overall numbers of the four quarterbacks (Jameis Winston, A.J. McCarron, Jordan Lynch) but his Texas A&M Aggies finished just 8-4 that season. If there is a precedent for the season Jackson is having after being college football’s best player a season ago, it belongs to Johnny Football, and it’s a bad sign for the Louisville star’s candidacy.

Lamar Jackson, barring unforeseen circumstances, will be heading to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. He won’t get the award, but you should appreciate him just for completing the long road back from last year’s victory.

Many others have failed in their defense of the Heisman Trophy. Lamar Jackson has been a smashing success.

Part II: There You Go Again, NCAA

Leslie Plaza Johnson/Associated Press

Over six weeks ago, I told you the story of Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye.

The story was about how the NCAA was trying to force him to shut down the profitability of his popular YouTube channel. I wrote that this power struggle between the kicker and the NCAA, some friends of mine who currently do the same thing De La Haye did, and how the organization was wrong to make him choose between creating popular videos and playing football. The story was a way bigger hit than I thought it would be partially because the De La Haye fiasco was, at the time, one of the biggest stories in sports.

Now, the scandal has reached what would appear to be an unceremonious end.

Yesterday, De La Haye revealed via (you guessed it) a YouTube video that he has been ruled ineligible to play for UCF because he refused to stop making money off his videos. Because the NCAA viewed him to be capitalizing on his status as a Division I football player to make a profit, which always has been a huge no-no in college athletics, De La Haye was ruled ineligible and lost his scholarship. NCAA president Mark Emmert will happily tell you that college athletes are not employees; instead, he will tell you that they are students. Inconveniently for him, though, regular students are allowed to make whatever they want through any business whatsoever; that includes, if they so desire, YouTube videos. College athletes cannot do this.

And the collective outrage about this happening? Today, it’s nowhere to be found. On ESPN’s website, De La Haye’s ineligibility did not make their “Top Headlines” banner at the top of the page. Stories that did make the site were Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski’s bumbling comparison of the Yankees to the Warriors and this story, which I can’t even properly explain without sharing part of it:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch and Detroit Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson are being sued over a $9,332 nightclub bill from March.

According to court documents filed in Los Angeles, the two players were guests of Richard James Harrington at the Hyde nightclub in Hollywood. Harrington said that when it came time to pay the tab, both players’ credit cards were declined.

Harrington agreed to pay the bill, under the condition that both players would reimburse him. Harrington said they reimbursed him $4,000 via the Venmo app and cash, but says they still owe $5,332 and are now refusing to pay.

That’s right: they’re being sued for $5,332. The lawsuit came just $332 away from being eligible to be featured on Judge JudyAnd somehow, that’s still more important than this. Currently, the top story on ESPN.com concerns a public dispute between UFC president Dana White and fighter Tyron Woodley. That’s also more significant, apparently.

Of course, ESPN isn’t the only outlet completely ignoring the conclusion to this story. Most sports outlets have recently paid more attention to stories like the MLB trade deadline, the NFL’s CTE crisis, or Lonzo Ball’s father, who is essentially the sports equivalent of a white Ford Bronco traveling down Interstate 405; you really don’t want to watch but you also can’t turn away.

But this is part of why the end of this story is so anticlimactic: you could see it coming from a mile away. On June 18, De La Haye posted a video announcing that he would keep making videos and refuse to demonetize his channel. Once that shoe dropped, you absolutely had to know that the NCAA would not approve of his actions. That doesn’t necessarily make his actions wrong, but with the course of action he took, there was never a chance for him to get out of this with his scholarship and football career still in tact.

That being said, there is something noble about what De La Haye did here. Remember that one of the driving forces behind his videos was to make money to send back to his financially-strapped family, one that moved from Costa Rica to Florida when De La Haye was younger. While De La Haye cited the ability to create and bring happiness to his followers as his main reason for continuing to make videos, the plight of his family likely played a role in that decision as well. While he lost his scholarship, he’ll still have the ability to make money off his channel and, in turn, try to support his family. I don’t see where the issue is there.

And remember all those times Emmert famously said that college athletes are students and not employees? Well, regular students are allowed to make YouTube videos and profit off them. Those students are also allowed to do this without the time constraints of an athlete’s everyday schedule. When Emmert says that athletes are employees and not students, he’s wrong. College athletes are not your regular students because the demands and restrictions placed on them are so irregular that they would never be able to function like a “normal student”.

This, of course, takes us back to the argument of whether or not college athletes should be paid. Many who are against paying college athletes say that those who are in favor of compensating players are not necessarily looking out for the young men and women themselves. This is what Fordham University’s Athletic Director, David Roach, said last year about paying college athletes:

I think it’s ridiculous. All this talk is being driven by the Power Five conferences.  It’s not about the student-athlete not being able to afford the cost of living, it’s about all the money being made and where it is and isn’t going.

(Full disclosure: I will be attending Fordham University in the fall.)

Roach makes an interesting point here, and I’m not just saying that because he’s the athletic director at my college. In Central Florida’s case, though, it’s very easy to dispel of this notion because UCF’s head coach, Scott Frost, is making $1.7 million per year until 2020 and the school is currently receiving $3 million per year as part of the American Athletic Conference’s television contract with ESPN. Funny how that happens. And remember, UCF isn’t in a Power 5 conference. And yet, they’re still making boatloads of money even while the football team scratched and clawed its way to a 6-7 finish last season, one that ended with a 31-13 loss to Arkansas State in something called the AutoNation Cure Bowl.

The matter at hand, though, is that Donald De La Haye was forced to choose between his two passions: creativity and football. His viral videos were a vessel for his imagination as well as a way to repay his family for supporting him throughout his young life. The fact that the NCAA shut down his YouTube business is as hypocritical as it is wrong.

Mark Emmert will tell you that college athletes are students and not employees. His organization’s decision-making, however, would suggest that college athletes aren’t even on the level of the average student.

There You Go Again, NCAA

Dave Reginek/Getty Images

As a rapper once said, “WOOP-WOOP! THAT’S THE SOUND OF THE NCAA!”

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly like that. Maybe I misheard it. But NCAA president Mark Emmert and his organization are back again, and at this point, they really do deserve entrance music for the work they do. My personal suggestion: the Jaws theme, but that’s neither here nor there.

You know very well about Emmert and the NCAA, but someone you may not be familiar with is Donald De La Haye.

Donald De La Haye is the kickoff specialist for Central Florida University (UCF, for short) and he is going into his sophomore year of college. He appeared in every game for the Knights last season and even racked up three tackles on special teams. That, though, is not what’s important about his story.

What is important is that De La Haye has a YouTube channel. His videos range from the humorous (a parody of quarterbacks in their everyday lives) to the useful (how to kick an onside). His videos are occasionally profane but otherwise harmless, and he’s obviously doing something right; because he has reached over 10,000 all-time views on his channel (2.7 million, to be exact), he can monetize off of it by putting ads at the beginning of his videos. I must admit that I did not know that until this story came out, but those rules are very significant in De La Haye’s case. He has truly turned his internet prowess into a business, and three of his videos have over 200,000 views. He is a marketing major, and his YouTube practices actually pertain to what he wants to do with his life, as his chances of making the NFL are slim to none.

But remember when I told you that he was able to make money off his channel? Well, the feds were watching, and they clearly didn’t approve of his YouTube hi-jinks.

Because of De La Haye’s profitability, UCF has decided to make him choose between football and YouTube. To be clear, that may not be exactly the case, but UCF, as a way of preempting the NCAA, has asked him to stop making money off of his videos. His reasoning for having a YouTube channel and trying to turn a profit on it is simple: his family moved from Costa Rica to Port St. Lucie, Florida, when he was a child, and even though he is getting a full scholarship to play at UCF, he still needs to help his family pay their bills. Terrible motives, right?

Of course, the NCAA has put the kibosh on that under their infamous “amateurism rules”. If De La Haye had not made money on his videos, he would be in the clear, but because he is profitable, the school had to tell him to stop. Side note: don’t be so quick to kill the UCF administrators for this. I’m sure some of them think this is ridiculous, too, and they know that everything is better if the NCAA is not involved.

Now, before you hit on the “yeah, but he’s getting a full ride to kick a football” argument, consider this: if it were anyone else, i.e. someone not on scholarship to play a sport, they would be able to cash in on their virality. Instead, because he’s on scholarship and an “amateur”, he can’t stand to profit. That’s nice; he’s actually being penalized for playing a sport.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a story that really bothers me. Unfortunately, it kind of hits close to home, too.

I have a good friend from my high school named Miles Franklyn. He’s really good at soccer. So good, in fact, that he showed up twice on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays”…. in the span of a week. So good that he’s going to play at the collegiate level for Syracuse University next fall. And, quite possibly, so good that he’s going to have to shut down his YouTube channel.

Miles and a couple of his friends recently decided to start an enterprise called “11th Street Media”. 11th Street, as many of us commonly refer to it, takes a couple of different forms; there’s the popular YouTube channel, which has just over 10,000 lifetime views (HERE COMES THAT MUSIC AGAIN), as well as 11th Street Radio, which makes SoundCloud playlists for certain occasions, like this one they did for Valentine’s Day. The YouTube channel releases videos chronicling the daily lives of him and his friends, and they literally could not be more innocuous; even curse words are censored. Virtually everyone in the senior class was in one of the videos at some point or another. From personal experience, I also remember the 11th Street people selling shirts outside of school; how much money they made is none of my business, but several of my friends bought the shirts and were happy with them. Miles and his friends, simply put, are my type of people; they say they want to do something and then they actually go out and do it. A truly novel concept.

Now, go back over that last paragraph. Assuming Miles goes through with his commitment to play soccer at Syracuse, he’d have to give up the YouTube videos and the shirt-selling. And if he put he and his friends’ playlists for sale on iTunes or Spotify, they would be illegal, too. So here you have someone taking the initiative to make something that people like and turn a profit off of it (the nerve!), and the NCAA wants to put a stop to it. Literally anyone at Syracuse, or just about any other institution, who doesn’t play a sport can do that. But he can’t. And Donald De La Haye can’t, either.

This is not something that would ever happen in the real world. But here’s the thing: the NCAA isn’t anything like the real world because it isn’t operating in lockstep with reality. While there probably was a time when their antiquated amateurism model made sense, it doesn’t anymore. The NCAA, even though it’s still a not-for-profit organization despite making a hair under $1 billion in revenue last year, can no longer justify paying coaches exorbitant salaries without at least giving the players something.

And you would figure that because the players aren’t compensated, they would be able to take advantage of their popularity (or, in De La Haye’s case, create their own popularity). But that’s illegal, too, and at this point, it seems as though the NCAA is hell-bent on making sure its athletes don’t get a fair share of its burgeoning profits.

Some of the defenders of the NCAA and UCF in this matter will tell you that UCF is not a Power 5 school and does not see nearly the revenue that schools in the Division I major conferences do (and therefore, that somehow justifies what’s going on here). Let me remind you that UCF’s football coach, Scott Frost, is making $1.7 million per year through 2020. If UCF is losing money, maybe that’s why. I don’t know.

And, without the players, there literally would be no NCAA. It would be perfectly reasonable for the institution to make these counter-YouTube rulings if it was paying its players, but it is simply unreasonable to expect players to abide by amateurism rules when they’re not playing under contract. Any reasonable person would say that players should be able to make money off themselves even if they aren’t being directly compensated. These archaic rules, made at a time before paying coaches seven-figure salaries was a rule and not an exception, simply need to go.

Until they do, though, you probably won’t be seeing Daniel De La Haye, Miles Franklyn, and their YouTube videos anytime soon.

Scholarship Reneging Is a Problem That Goes Far Beyond UConn

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

Over the past week, it is very likely that you heard the national sports media talking about the story of a high school senior by the name of Ryan Dickens.

Ryan Dickens was offered a football scholarship from the University of Connecticut last June; upon this offer, Dickens (who lives in Raritan, New Jersey, roughly four hours away from the University) immediately offered his verbal commitment to the school over offers from Cornell and Monmouth, as well as interest from other Division I schools. The senior linebacker is in the class of 2017 and committed early to ensure that his future would be locked in.

Then, on December 26, the Huskies fired head football coach Bob Diaco after three years at the school. Two days later, former head coach Randy Edsall was re-hired by the school to the same position. Dickens called Edsall on New Years’ Day to ensure that his scholarship offer was safe, and Edsall reassured him that he was still wanted in East Hartford. Dickens then met with the school’s linebackers coach, Jon Wholley, to discuss his impending visit to UConn (which would have been today).

However, this past Sunday, Edsall informed Dickens that his scholarship had been taken away. He was given no reason why; rather, he was simply informed that the school decided to “go in another direction”.

Unsurprisingly, the national media absolutely pounced, and rightfully so; Edsall’s decision to renege on Dickens’ scholarship offer was collegiate greed at its absolute finest. Those other offers for Dickens? Out the window. His college future? At the time, uncertain (he did receive an offer from Rhode Island days after UConn’s reversal and will most likely play college football next year). Edsall’s job, one that has him making $400,000 this year? Safe.

Here is the problem, though, with our perfect picture of this story: what if this had been Alabama? Or any other major program, for that matter? Would the outrage be nearly this fervent?

Let me first say that this story was covered properly by the sports media. It showed recruiting for what it really is and although the story clearly cast Edsall in a negative light, it needed to be addressed. However, there is an air of hypocrisy about the reaction to this story. For example, Paul Finebaum of ESPN called the pulling of scholarships a “total disgrace” because of the reversal’s close proximity to National Signing Day, which is less than two weeks away. Finebaum is also the author of “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference”, which is a tale about just how great the SEC is. The problem is that Finebaum’s beloved conference is no better about holding their word with high school athletes.

Nick Saban has come under fire in the past for over-recruiting, or signing more than the NCAA-allowed 25 scholarship players in any one given year. In some cases, as in that of Harrison Jones, that means reneging on a scholarship offer at the last minute…. or even well after that. Before the 2010 season, Saban yanked Jones’ scholarship offer after Jones had moved into his dorm room in Tuscaloosa. Because the school had over-recruited and had player(s) become academically qualified shortly before the season, there was no room on scholarship for Jones. That same year, Ole Miss, then coached by Houston Nutt, signed 37 players and needed to rescind the scholarships of 12 of them because they had budgeted their offers that badly.

One would figure that the national response to this would be collective outrage even worse at Alabama than in this case because it happened in August, not January. Instead, there was little to no response from the sports media. This is what Finebaum, who called out Edsall for this reversal, said about Saban when talking about another recruiting fiasco:

Nick Saban has tried to circumvent every rule in the NCAA rulebook and has mostly gotten away with it. I’m not saying he’s breaking rules, he’s pushing the envelope. I once asked a recruiter ‘How do you do it?’ and he said ‘You skirt the rule, you go over the line, and then you get back when no one is watching,’ and that’s Saban, that’s Harbaugh, that’s Urban Meyer.

So when Edsall does it, it’s a “total disgrace”, but when Saban does it, he’s just “pushing the envelope”? Oh. Here’s a pro tip: if you’re going to make a total double standard out of something, don’t veil it this thinly.

Worst of all, Finebaum said this just one year ago, so it is hard to believe that his opinion could have changed this much in just twelve months. His attitudes toward this story, and the issue in general, though, are emblematic of the opinions of the rest of the media. UConn has made one bowl game since 2010 and has generally been a laughingstock of college football for the past few seasons. The fact that they have been so bad makes them a punching bag for sports punditry; after all, it is far easier to criticize a team that waited until three weeks after the season to fire its head coach than it is to to criticize a program that has won four national championships in the past eight seasons.

As for the issues with the NCAA’s amateurism rules, those are ever-present and don’t really need to be stated. Coaches are allowed to do this to student-athletes with no repercussions whatsoever while the student-athlete is left scrambling with just days to go until he must make his college decision. Yes, that seems completely fair from the institution that still claims it is not-for-profit even though its president made nearly $2 million two years ago. This institution also made nearly $1 billion in the 2011-2012 year, the last year the company was audited. Do you want to guess how many of those dollars went to student-athletes? I’ll give you a hint: it was as much as I made playing college football last year. In other words, nothing.

Paul Finebaum is right: what Randy Edsall did to Ryan Dickens is a “total disgrace”, especially considering Dickens never made an effort to rescind his own verbal commitment to the school. However, many of us, including myself, must do a self-examination of ourselves and investigate whether or not this anger would have come to the surface if it was Jim Harbaugh pulling the offer instead of the coach whose most memorable college football moment was this (I can’t embed the Vine anymore; RIP Vine).

So while the media was correct to shred Edsall for his reneging on the school’s scholarship offer, it is unlikely that the criticism would have reached the same level if and when a major program did the same.

We’ll see how the media reacts the next time a top program reneges on a scholarship offer to a high school football program. My guess is that there will be crickets abound.

Why Are There So Many College Football Bowl Games?

Photo Credit: Otto Kissinger/Associated Press

The above picture contains two teams you probably wouldn’t be able to identify unless I told you who they were, a blue field, and several completely empty sections of bleachers. If the photo does not perfectly encapsulate what college football’s bowl season is all about, I don’t know what does.

If you aren’t quite familiar with how bowl season works, here is a brief explanation. All teams in Division I with records 6-6 or better are invited to play in a bowl game and there are 41 of those (42 if you count the national championship game). Occasionally, 5-7 teams are invited (like last year, when three such teams went to bowl season and won and this year, when North Texas and Mississippi State were selected). The really significant bowl games are the ones that comprise college football’s four-team playoff, but those don’t take place until New Year’s Eve. The winners of those two games move on to the National Championship Game on January 9th. Four other games combine with the playoff games to comprise the New Year’s Six, games played around the calendar change that are widely regarded as the marquee games of the bowl slate.

So, to recap: there are 82 teams that have played or will play in a bowl game this December or January. There are 42 bowls in total, but only three really count, and only four more comprise the best teams in the sport. So why are there so many of them?

Well, the simple answer to that question is money, as it is with most other things. Television networks, mainly ESPN, are willing to pay large sums of money to the NCAA for the rights to broadcast these games; the network(s) make up this money through advertising revenue and, in the Worldwide Leader’s case, revenue from cable subscriptions. The NCAA and its institutions profit handsomely from the broadcasting of the games as well as the bowls’ sponsorships (such as the Dollar General Bowl, which is on ESPN as I write this article). The players get paid in experience and exposure. The amateurism model is terrible. I digress.

Moving right past that, the bowl games are pretty much made for television. An illustration of that fact comes in the form of this tweet by ESPN’s Darren Rovell:

That game was played earlier this afternoon between Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion in a matchup you would be more likely to equate with a Round of 68 play-in game in college basketball. Those in the Bahamas for the game came out by the dozens to witness it. So while the network and the NCAA profit off the game, the empty seats don’t exactly look attractive to the viewing audience.

Also, the quality of play in these games is not that of elite college football. While some games are fun (Idaho defeated Colorado State last night by a score of 61-50 in the Idaho Potato Bowl) and others are competitive and enjoyable, most of these games are not played at the highest of levels.

And yet, interestingly enough, people seem to be consistently tuning in to watch these contests. According to SportsMediaWatch, all five bowl games carried by ESPN/ABC last Saturday drew over a million viewers. The two highest rated games were the Celebration Bowl, which pits the SWAC champion against the MEAC champion in a battle of HBCU schools, and the Las Vegas Bowl, a San Diego State victory over Houston. Both of these games took place on ABC and were televised consecutively in the afternoon, but the numbers still tell an interesting story: people seem to be enjoying the expansive spread of bowl games.

And while the games may not be played at the competitive level of, say, a playoff game, it is still major college football. After all, Americans have demonstrated time and again that they have little to no time for substandard football; the XFL and Arena Football League learned this lesson the hard way. However, people will watch if the product is even decent; if you build it, they will come.

NFL ratings dipped earlier in the season but they have now rebounded; my guess as to the reason for this half-season dip is that some Americans were more engrossed with this year’s Presidential Election, but it’s really anyone’s guess. However, the NFL product was simply not very good to start this season, and because of this, people tuned out and looked for other options.

Another thing that seemed to kill the NFL, though, was over-saturation. With games on Thursday, Sunday, Monday, and even Saturday, many seemed to be suffering from football burnout. That is the issue that college football may have with so many bowl games in such a limited amount of time; however, this is happening over the span of three weeks and not seventeen, unlike the NFL. It hasn’t seemed to hurt the sport yet, but it will be something to follow over the next few years.

And finally, we need to keep this in context: NFL ratings are so much higher than those of college football. The two bowls I referenced earlier pulled in a combined 6.455 million viewers. On September 26th, the same night as the first Presidential Debate, a Falcons-Saints matchup on Monday Night Football drew the lowest rating in the 46-year history of the series. The game failed ESPN so badly that it only pulled in…. roughly eight million viewers.

College football simply does not have this type of ratings power; their way of making up for this is by showcasing their product as often as humanly possible. If that is what works for the sport, then the volume of bowl games is good for the game. However, I do believe that the significance of making a bowl game is significantly watered down when you consider the amount of bowl games and the fact that so many bad teams have made it to bowl season that just this past April, the NCAA placed a three-year moratorium on the creation of even more bowl games. Yes, more bowl games.

Also, the relevance of these games has to be called into question when stars like LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey choose to sit out their teams’ contests for fear of injury and hurting their NFLdraft stock. If these games were more meaningful, the chances of McCaffrey and Fournette playing in them would exponentially increase (LSU is playing Louisville in the Citrus Bowl while Stanford plays North Carolina in the Sun Bowl).

This is the central point of the debate: college football, and specifically the NCAA and the broadcasters of the games, will make a ton of money off of college football this month. So while it may seem like over-saturation, the extended bowl season is likely a good thing for the sport. Lower-level programs get necessary exposure, coaches get attention, and recruits get to see more teams in action. The players don’t benefit, but that’s a debate for another time.

There may be a lot of bowl games in the next couple of weeks, but no one said you have to watch them. If you do, know what you’re getting into. If you don’t, know that there will still be plenty of opportunities to get in on the fun this holiday season.

The Week 12 College Football Top Ten

Photo Credit: Ty Russell/Oklahoma Sports
Photo Credit: Ty Russell/Oklahoma Sports

Relative order was restored to college football last Saturday, as there was only one top-10 defeat (Louisville) and many a blowout victory to go around. However, there is still plenty of intrigue in this week’s results just as there was a week ago; the intrigue in these results comes in what they mean for the College Football Playoff. So without further ado, here are my selections for the top ten teams in college football after week 12.

10. Washington Huskies (10-1)

You may have noticed that I dropped Washington from last week’s rankings after a home loss that week to USC. Well, after getting some help from Louisville, the Huskies emerge at number ten in this week’s rankings. I do not believe that this team deserves to make the playoff, as their out-of-conference schedule was atrocious (no, really: their best inter-conference foe was Rutgers). While they are playing well, their loss to USC ended their chances, at least in my eyes. And while the Huskies may control their own destiny in the real Playoff race, there is little to no chance you will see them in my final four. I just don’t think I can do it, especially with their strength of schedule (or lack thereof).

9. USC Trojans (8-3)

Sure, the USC Trojans are 8-3 and don’t necessarily have the resume to make the Playoff. But ask yourself this: do you really want to play the Trojans right now? Although they got off to a horrific 1-3 start, Clay Helton’s squad has bounced back with seven wins in a row, including triumphs over Colorado and Washington. Sam Darnold has been terrific since being named the starting quarterback earlier in the year, and USC could legitimately be ranked higher than this strictly based on how they have played over the past two months.

8. Western Michigan Broncos (11-0)

Weekly Western Michigan rant: this team is undefeated, has soundly defeated nearly every team it has played and boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last week, the Broncos defeated Buffalo 38-0, a visit that was punctuated by the presence of ESPN’s College Gameday. While the Broncos are ranked 21st in this week’s rankings, I believe that they should get a bonus for going undefeated, even if their schedule isn’t overly strong. And that concludes my rant. However, I will say this: I can’t see myself putting the Broncos higher than eight. So Western Michigan is not going to break the glass ceiling, so to speak, but I do believe they should be in a New Year’s Six Bowl game.

7. Oklahoma Sooners (9-2)

Oklahoma had what was easily the most impressive performance of week 12, as the Sooners traveled to Morgantown and defeated West Virginia 56-28. Granted, Oklahoma lost two lopsided contests early in the season to Ohio State and Houston, but they, just like USC, are one of the most explosive and dangerous teams in the country right now. The team has struggled defensively at times this year, as evidenced by their allowing 579 yards to the Mountaineers on Saturday. But this is a team that you can disregard at your own risk.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)

Week 12 was quiet on the Penn State front, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Nittany Lions took care of business against Rutgers on Saturday to move to 9-2 and set up a meeting with a 3-8 Michigan State team for a chance to go to the Big Ten title game. Penn State needs Ohio State to beat Michigan, as well, for that to happen, but their chances of making the Big Ten Championship Game and potentially playing for a spot in the final four are becoming more realistic with each victory. Penn State needs some help, but their Playoff chances do have some life.

5. Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)

A quick note: my dropping Wisconsin from four to five this week does not have anything to do with the Badgers. Their solid run continued on Saturday with a 49-20 win against Purdue, a team that is winless in Big Ten play. Rather, this move has to do with the teams above Wisconsin in the standings, and one, in particular, that I am going to get to next. In my rankings, the Badgers would control their own destiny to make college football’s final four, even with two losses. Those two losses, though, came to Ohio State and Michigan.

4. Clemson Tigers (10-1)

Last weekend, Clemson really impressed me. While a road win in November against Wake Forest may seem like an ordinary triumph, the circumstances around it are what made it so pleasantly surprising. After the Tigers lost a heartbreaker to Pitt the week before, they bounced back and absolutely dominated the Demon Deacons on Saturday. The 35-13 win, as well as the quality of Clemson’s bounce-back performance, was enough for me to push them into the top four this week. It’s not that I expected them to lose, but the Tigers had their most important test of the season last weekend and they aced it. That’s enough to put them in the Playoff if it were held today.

3. Michigan Wolverines (10-1)

Not a whole lot has changed on the Michigan front, either. Even though the Wolverines stumbled to a win against Indiana last weekend, that came under adverse weather conditions and with the team starting a backup quarterback (John O’Korn) who completed a grand total of seven passes on the day. Next up for Michigan is their annual rivalry matchup with Ohio State with a win sending them to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game next weekend. The health of starting quarterback Wilton Speight will be critical for Michigan on Saturday, as playing with O’Korn might not cut it against the Buckeyes.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1)

Speak of the devil, Ohio State comes into this weekend scarred after a 17-16 victory against Michigan State. The Spartans tried to go for two late in the game to take the lead but failed, and the Ohio State defense sealed the win with an interception on the next drive. All of that can be thrown out the window in advance of Saturday’s game; however, the performance could be construed as slightly concerning for a Buckeyes team that has been slightly inconsistent at times this season. However, I sincerely think Ohio State will be fine. A win on Saturday gets them into the Playoff.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0)

There really is nothing to see here. Alabama struggled to a 31-3 win over Chattanooga last week, but that may actually be good for them as they head into the Iron Bowl against Auburn. The Tide should be just fine, assuming they can escape the next two games without any severe injuries. Even a loss to Florida in the SEC title game would not knock them out of the top four. A loss to Auburn wouldn’t, either. After all, this is the best team in college football.

Departure: Louisville

New Addition: Washington

The Week 11 College Football Top Ten

Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Ah, yes, there goes college football rearing its ugly head again….

That’s sarcasm, of course: this sport is as good as they come when the late stages of the season come rolling in. That was on full display again on Saturday, as the second, third, and fourth-ranked teams all went down on one day for the first time in 31 years. That means plenty of changes in this week’s rankings, and that also means new teams in the top four. So let’s get on with it; here’s my list of the top ten teams in college football after week 11.

10. USC Trojans (7-3)

Last week: NR

USC had arguably the most impressive showing of any team this past weekend, as they traveled to Seattle and easily dispatched the Washington Huskies. Redshirt Freshman quarterback Sam Darnold anchored the offense with two touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards passing; additionally, the team’s defense held the explosive Husky offense to just 13 points.  The Trojans struggled to start the season, going 1-3 and raising questions about new head coach Clay Helton’s job security. But USC is one of the ten best teams in the nation right now and would be a lot to handle for basically any team in the country. Hypothetically, they could even beat Alabama–no, never mind.

9. Oklahoma Sooners (8-2)

Last week: NR

Speaking of teams that have rebounded from slow beginnings, Oklahoma has won its last seven games after a 1-2 start. All of those seven games have come in-conference, as well, so the Sooners control their own destiny to win the Big 12. This week, they’ll be going on the road to play a very solid West Virginia team in a game that almost has Playoff implications. While the Sooners likely don’t have a realistic path to the Playoff at this point, things could get a little interesting if they win out. After all, we saw what happened last week.

8. Western Michigan Broncos (10-0)

Last week: 10

Western Michigan continues to climb up in my rankings. After starting at ten last week, the Broncos are climbing up two spots to eight this week. While they were tied in the fourth quarter last week with a 3-6 Kent State team, they were able to take care of business and score the final sixteen points en route to the victory. This shift is more of a figure of the events of last Saturday, as the Broncos continue to take care of business while other teams falter. In my rankings, P.J. Fleck’s squad would be a lock for the Group of Five berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game. They don’t have a path to the Playoff, but they do deserve their just due.

7. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2)

Last week: 8

Quietly, Penn State staged one of the gutsiest performances of week 11. Down ten points in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions scored 24 of the final 27 points to beat Indiana, 45-31. Granted, this team is not perfect, as Saturday’s game showed, but Penn State found a way to win, keeping their somewhat dim Playoff hopes alive. James Franklin’s team can still win the Big Ten East with an Ohio State win over Michigan to close the season, a scenario that seems all the more likely now (more on that later). If Penn State were to win the Big Ten title game, they would still have a chance to get in the Playoff. Once again, anything can happen.

6. Wisconsin Badgers (8-2)

Last week: 7

There isn’t a whole lot of news to report on the Wisconsin Badgers, and with last weekend’s happenings, that isn’t a bad thing as far as they are concerned. With a routine 48-3 thumping of the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday, the Badgers stand to benefit at least some from the carnage at the top of the standings. Sure, they lack some of the bells and whistles of the better teams in the country (including, you know, competent quarterback play) but Wisconsin is poised to find itself in a New Year’s Six Bowl and potentially beyond with a little help. That is far more than anyone could have predicted at the beginning of this season.

5. Clemson Tigers (9-1)

Last week: 3

Mini-rant time: Clemson has been dicey and, frankly, unimpressive at times this season. They’ve had close calls at home against the likes of NC State and Troy and have had six games decided by seven points or fewer. Yes, they do boast wins over Louisville, Florida State, and Auburn, but the team has taken on a 2015 Ohio State vibe, and I mean that in all honesty. So after they lost to Pittsburgh at home this week, you would think that they would drop in the rankings. And yet, many pundits seem to think that they will only drop one spot (from two to three) in the real rankings. I know, I’m only dropping them two spots, but you don’t just lose at home to a 5-4 team and escape in the top four of my rankings. Sorry. I can’t put Clemson in the top four this week.

4. Michigan Wolverines (9-1)

Last week: 2

Michigan suffered a similar fate on Saturday; the only difference between them and Clemson is that their loss to a 5-4 team came on the road at Iowa. The bigger issue for the Wolverines, though, is the health of starting quarterback Wilton Speight, who is said to have suffered a broken collarbone in his non-throwing shoulder on Saturday. Coach Jim Harbaugh has since refuted that report, but it remains to be seen whether Speight can come back to the field this season. Michigan still controls its own destiny to make the Playoff, but they may have just suffered a crippling blow to those aspirations.

3. Louisville Cardinals (9-1)

Last week: 6

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Saturday’s carnage was the Louisville Cardinals, who did not look overly impressive themselves in a 44-12 win against Wake Forest last week. The Cardinals were losing that game 12-10 in the third quarter before their offense pulled it together in the final quarter and a half. Louisville should be in the Playoff if they win but that isn’t necessarily guaranteed, as they could still be jumped by Clemson if the Tigers win out; Clemson also has a tiebreaker over Louisville to go to the ACC title game. However, the Cardinals are in good shape with two weeks left in the regular season.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1)

Last week: 5

In reality, not all that much changed for Ohio State this weekend. They took care of business in a big way against Maryland and while they have moved from five to two in my rankings, they still need to win out to make the Playoff. It’s hard to see them getting in with two losses, but it’s fairly clear the the Buckeyes are the second-best team in the country right now. It’s probably as high as they can get this season, but the Buckeyes are in a great position to secure a Playoff berth over the next two weeks.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0)

Last week: 1

At this rate, college football is slowly becoming a story of Alabama and everyone else. What I’m trying to say is that the Tide are just that much better than the field. There is no reason that would change after Bama’s 51-3 win over Mississippi State on Saturday. Alabama is number one until they lose. And right now, I don’t think I can see them losing anytime soon.

Departures: Washington, Auburn

New Additions: Oklahoma, USC

College Football’s Top Ten After Week Ten

Photo Credit: Johnny Andrews/The Seattle Times

While tomorrow is Election Day in America, the College Football Playoff committee will also have some critical decisions to make.  While this week’s rankings will not ultimately decide the teams that make the Playoff, what the Committee does this week will go a long way toward deciphering what exactly they value in a team (hint, hint: strength of schedule).

And while the Committee certainly isn’t listening to me on this one, I’ll chip in my two cents anyway.  We’ll try to make this a weekly staple until the reveal of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.  Let’s start at number ten.

10. Western Michigan Broncos (9-0)

Let’s confront this fact head-on: Western Michigan is an odd choice at number ten.  The Broncos have played a weak schedule and haven’t looked overwhelming in some of their games.  However, I’m willing to cut the Broncos some slack because they’ve beaten all of the teams they have played.  Let’s face it: the committee values strength of schedule above basically everything else in its evaluations.  But shouldn’t there also be a value on winning?  Winning is what the Broncos have done, which is why I’m happy to put them at number ten on November 7th.  And no, that’s not a misprint.p

9. Auburn Tigers (7-2)

Let’s face it: there are teams in this realm with better wins than Auburn’s.  However, it’s also important to look at their two losses, which came to Clemson and Texas A&M, both of whom were ranked in the top four of last week’s rankings.  Granted, they didn’t look overly impressive in last week’s 23-16 win over Vanderbilt, but a fairly easy next two games (at Georgia, Alabama A&M) should have them in position to play spoiler against Alabama in the Iron Bowl on November 26th.  A rushing attack centered around Kamryn Pettway (who is questionable for this week’s game) and one of the best defenses in the country have Auburn sliding into the top ten this week.

8. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2)

Penn State is a team that I have come around on over the course of this season.  After getting pummeled 49-10 by Michigan on September 24, the team has won its last five games, including a 24-21 home victory over Ohio State.  An offense spearheaded by Trace McSorley has been one of the most consistent in the country and has come on as of late.  This is a different team than the one that got destroyed in Ann Arbor in week four.  Message to the rest of college football: beware of Penn State.

7. Wisconsin Badgers (7-2)

Wisconsin is another team that has evolved since the beginning of the season; the Badgers, though, have fared far better and more consistently in their schedule than Penn State has.  The Badgers have had quarterback issues all year long, waffling between Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook.  The Badger offense, though, revolves around running back Corey Clement, who rushed for over 100 yards in last week’s win over Northwestern.  Wisconsin’s two losses have come against Michigan and Ohio State and their remaining schedule (Illinois, at Purdue, Minnesota) is rather easy.  The Badgers should run the table and likely will end up in the Orange Bowl.

6. Louisville Cardinals (8-1)

The Louisville Cardinals are a good team that has been carried all year long by human cheat code quarterback Lamar Jackson.  Jackson continued his heroics last week, throwing for seven touchdowns in a blowout victory against Boston College.  The Cards don’t have any more difficult tests on the schedule, as Houston has self-imploded (you’re welcome) and Wake Forest and Kentucky will both be coming to Louisville.  The Cardinals probably need help to make the Playoff, but they’re having an amazing season nonetheless.  That is all thanks to Lamar Jackson.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1)

Ohio State had the most impressive performance of week ten, defeating Nebraska 62-3 at home.  J.T. Barrett is a legitimate Heisman contender who leads one of the most talented offenses in the country.  If Ohio State wins out, which would include a victory against Michigan, they would likely make the Playoff.  Even at five, the Buckeyes still control their own destiny.  Two road tests lie between them and a date with the Wolverines in Columbus to close out the regular season.

4. Washington Huskies (9-0)

While the Huskies may be jumped by the Buckeyes in the real rankings tomorrow, I am putting Washington over Ohio State because of the value I place on winning.  While Washington has not played an overly difficult schedule, they have won all of their games, and have won all but two of those games in convincing fashion.  Jake Browning has spearheaded the second-best scoring offense in the country to a 9-0 record this year, and the Huskies’ remaining games are against USC, Arizona State, and Washington State.  If Washington wins out, they’re in my playoff.  Let’s be honest: all they’ve done is win.  There’s something to be said for that.

3. Clemson Tigers (9-0)

Clemson has been tested nearly all season long and was a missed field goal away from losing to NC State on October 15.  However, they’ve come out of these trials unscathed, with close wins against Auburn, Troy, Louisville, NC State, and Florida State.  Granted, the health of quarterback DeShaun Watson will be key for the Tigers going forward.  But Dabo Swinney’s team will do things the way they always have: by bringing their own guts and pulling out close games when they have to.

2. Michigan Wolverines (9-0)

I rate Michigan above Clemson because I subjectively believe that they are just a tick better than the Tigers.  Honestly, the choice between two and three is kind of splitting hairs, but the Wolverines have blasted through their schedule with only two close calls (a week nine win at Michigan State and a 14-7 slugfest against Wisconsin on October 1st).  Tack onto that an impressive 45-28 win over Colorado in week three and you get the picture of a team with a complete resume.  That’s what the Wolverines have, and that’s why I put them just above Clemson.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0)

Duh.  Alabama is in a class of its own in these rankings, as they can win any game in any fashion.  I truly believe that they are significantly better than everyone else in college football right now, and the Tide have the talent on both sides of the ball to back that up.  Barring a trip-up in the Iron Bowl or in the SEC title game, the Tide will be rolling into the College Football Playoff as the nation’s best team.  And it isn’t that close.

Let me know what I got right and wrong in the comments section!