The Expansion Reality
After five years of the College Football Playoff the call for expanding from the current four-team format is beginning to grow louder. Much louder. For some it’s natural want to see a good idea expanded to include more teams. For others it may be because they think the committee did a lousy job of selecting and ranking teams this year, and feel it is time for a change. That’s me. I thought the committee’s reasoning for ranking teams this year was not just bad, it was awful. I’ve already written a blog detailing my thoughts on all of that (if you’d like to read my ramblings on the CFP committee, you can click here), so I’m not going to go over them again. While many are in favor of expansion, there are some realities we must deal with. A word of caution: it’s not going to be as easy as it appears.
Before getting into why it won’t be as easy as we think to expand the playoff, I think it is important to establish who is the College Football Playoff. We know WHAT the College Football Playoff is, but the majority of fans don’t know WHO the College Football Playoff is. Let’s get this out of the way first: the NCAA has NOTHING to do with how the playoff is set up, or selecting the teams. Comparing the College Football Playoff to the NCAA basketball tournament is apples to elephants. The two events could not be more different. CFP Administration, LLC is basically the “owner”, if you will, of the playoff. It is made up of the ten FBS conferences, and Notre Dame. The Board of Managers, which is made up of one university president from each of the conferences (and Notre Dame), oversees the whole thing. Underneath the board is the Management Committee, which is comprised of the conference commissioners (and, of course, Notre Dame). This committee is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the “company” according to the College Football Playoff website. The Selection Committee is chosen by the members of the Management Committee, and will serve a three-year term. Another thing to keep in mind is the agreement for a four-team playoff runs through 2026. A lot of dry, boring stuff there, but it is important to know just who the decision makers are when it comes to any kind of expansion.
The playoff was a great idea. It was going to pair up the four “best” teams in college football in two semi-finals with the winners meeting in a Super Bowl-like championship game. No more polls, or formulas determining who gets to yell, “We’re number 1!” Things would be settled on the field. The idea seemed to work quite well in the first few seasons. Oh, sure, you could quibble over a few things here and there, but overall it worked. But, as usually happens in college football when the human element, and money, LOTS of money is involved, Scottish poet, and well-known college football fan Robert Burns (trust me on this one; I’m sure he had a Wooster Fighting Scots kilt) was right, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And awry they’ve gone.
Buckeye fans were misled by the Selection Committee chairman about their team’s chances to make the playoff when the penultimate rankings came out in 2017. After the announcement of the four playoff teams, he pretty much said the Buckeyes were never close. That’s when I really started to lose faith in the setup. As far as 2018 is concerned, do I really have to go into that debacle? I think it is all fresh enough in our minds. All of this has led to the cry for an expanded playoff to become louder. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, and Washington head coach Chris Peterson have both expressed support for expansion. But, when you look at the setup of CFP Administration, LLC, one thing is clear: the road to expansion is not an easy one.
Those involved with CFP Administration, LLC are quite happy with the present state of things, and appear in no hurry to make changes. In a statement recently released by Mark Keenum, the chairman of the Board of Managers, they make it clear they feel it is much too soon to expand, and if a decision ever has to be made, it will be done so by the university presidents. But, let’s say there some within their ranks begin to push for change. Regardless of whatever concept the athletic directors on the Management Committee come up with, it is still subject to the approval of the university presidents on the Board of Managers. I don’t see expansion as an easy sell to those guys. They’ll bluster on about academics, and players missing too much class time. They’ll talk about the integrity of the bowl system. There’ll be a lot of pompous posturing, and long-winded excuses. In short, they’ll act just like we expect them. The argument about academics and class time is a ridiculous one. I’m not going to bother bringing up the missed class time of players in the FCS, and Division II and III playoffs. Instead I’m going talk about college basketball. Just the other night WVU played at TCU. It was a weeknight game in Texas for the Mountaineers. So, just when do you think they left for the game? What time did they return? How many times a season do you think this happens? Factor in the conference tournament, and then the NCAA tournament, and you have a lot of college basketball players missing a lot of time in the classroom. But, all of this will be lost on the university presidents. I don’t think you’ll see these guys consider expansion until they figure out how much more money can be made, and how to divide it up between the schools. Even if they do figure this out, I think you’ll see the process move at a glacial pace.
Let’s take it one step farther, and say the Board of Managers someday give the green light for expansion. The plan should be easy right? I mean all of us have it figured out already. Form an eight-team playoff that includes the champions of the Power 5 conferences, plus three at-large teams, with first round games taking place at campus sites. If you think it would be that easy you haven’t been paying attention the last two years. First of all I don’t see any way southern, and many western schools would agree to anything that could take them north in December. Georgia playing in Columbus in mid-December? Please! Secondly, there isn’t any guarantee the playoff decision makers will decide to take all of the Power 5 champions. We see the beauty contest the playoff has devolved into by taking the four “best” teams. What makes you think they won’t set it up to take the eight “best” teams? ESPN has the broadcast rights to the playoff games. ESPN is in bed with the SEC because of the SEC Network. The Selection Committee has shown a HEAVY SEC bias the last few seasons, and we are constantly treated to analysis/lobbying by ESPN for a second SEC team to be one of the four teams chosen. If the playoff expands to eight, I promise there will be a push for three (or even more) SEC teams each season. Here’s another thing to consider. ESPN is launching the ACC Network soon. Anyone want to lay odds on the number of ACC teams ranked by the committee increasing? One last thing. Group of 5 schools are going to want their cut of things. There’s no way they’ll stand for not being included in the expanded format.
I’m hoping to see expansion sooner rather than later, but I don’t see it happening anytime in the immediate future. If it does expand I really believe it will not look anything like the eight team/first round home games model many have suggested. There are a lot of hurdles, and a lot of moving parts that will be involved in any sort of expansion process.
Tate Martell has announced he is transferring to Miami. This isn’t a surprise since a few of his high school teammates are there. WVU was another place he considered, but he strikes me being more of a South Beach than Star City type. The consensus is he will not be eligible to play until 2020, but he is petitioning the NCAA for immediate eligibility.
Another high-profile quarterback has chosen his landing spot. Former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has joined the Oklahoma Sooners. I’m interested to see what kind of stats he puts up in Oklahoma’s offense, and the defensively challenged Big XII. Some already have Hurts penciled in as a Heisman finalist, but I’ve always viewed him as a good runner, but only above average passer. Oklahoma made some headlines because of another transfer situation. Sooner head coach Lincoln Riley initially blocked quarterback Austin Kendall from transferring to WVU. Since the Mountaineers and Sooners are in the same conference, the move to block Kendall’s transfer was within the rules. But, let’s be honest and call it what it was: scummy. After facing HEAVY criticism the Sooners relented, and signed off on Kendall becoming a Mountaineer. Since he is a graduate transfer he is able to play immediately, and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Heisman winner Kyler Murray has said he is entering the NFL Draft. As soon as you saw that, you knew the comparisons with Dwayne Haskins would begin. ESPN draft experts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper still have Haskins ahead of Murray as do many others. But, there’s always that one guy. That one guy who wants everyone to know he’s smarter than them all. In this situation that guy is Trevor Sikkema of The Draft Network. Sikkema rated the two in various categories (arm strength, accuracy, etc.), and had Murray ahead of Haskins in all but TWO categories. He had Haskins ahead in size (kind of a no-brainer there), and he had them even in clutch. This guy is in love with Murray. He spent a lot of time in
one of the categories talking about the Penn State game for Haskins. That was only the fifth game of the season for the Buckeyes. I’m not sure what other games he looked at, but Haskins was a different quarterback at the end of the season. Another head-scratcher was Sikkema’s claim that Haskins’ throwing motion is side armed. Again I’m not sure what games he looked at, but if you watched Haskins all season you saw him vary his delivery depending on the situation. Case in point is the touchdown throw to Rashod Berry in the Rose Bowl when he dropped down to more side arm to get the ball past the rush. But, Sikkema absolutely lost me when he rated them on mobility. He talks about what a great runner Murray is, and how Haskins can move a bit, but isn’t going to outrun any linebackers or spies. Neither are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees, but those guys have done ok for themselves. To rate Murray above Haskins in nearly every category is just laughable.
While looking at a 247 Sports article on the NCAA transfer portal, I noticed former Buckeye defensive lineman Malik Barrow listed. What makes this interesting is Barrow retired because of knee injuries. I’m curious to see how this plays out, and what is the story..
A reminder that receiver Johnnie Dixon will represent the Buckeyes in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game at 5 PM Saturday on FS1.
Cowboys running back Zeke Elliot and Saints receiver Michael Thomas have been named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-NFL team. Thomas, along with eight other Buckeyes, still has a shot at winning a Super Bowl ring.
One other NFL note. I really hope Colts’ kicker Adam Vinatieri is brought back for his 24th season. I’d hate to see such a great career end with a missed extra point because of a bad hold. He connected on 85% of his field goals this year with a long of 54 yards. The 46 year-old from South Dakota State has not just one, but two Super Bowl winning kicks in his career, and is the league’s all-time leading scorer.
Jim Harbaugh offered a scholarship to a seventh grade quarterback. I’ll just let that sink in because there is really no need to say anything else right now.
For those wondering, Star City is a little town right next door to WVU’s campus. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see the Geico camel commercial back on the air. It never fails to make me laugh. My part of the Great State of Ohio is supposed to get hammered with bad weather again this weekend. Stay warm everyone.