Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; DECEMBER 3, 2018

GATORS WILL PLAY MICHIGAN IN THE PEACH BOWL

It was a double dose of good news for Florida football Sunday afternoon. First off, the Gators (9-3) earned the #10 ranking in the final College Football Playoff Poll and with that came a New Year’s Six bowl game. Second came the invitation to face #7 Michigan (10-2) in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, which is a prime recruiting territory for Dan Mullen and his staff. The other option was the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, and while it’s great to play in prestigious bowl games no matter where they are played, the Gators get the biggest recruiting bounce from playing in Atlanta.

Getting to Atlanta for a New Year’s Six Bowl with the chance to close out 2018 with 10 wins makes Dan Mullen’s first year on the Florida job an unqualified success. Getting that 10th win by knocking off one of college football’s blueblood programs is a real bonus, but the greatest benefit will be those practice sessions that Mullen can open up to Atlanta area recruits. Mullen knows fully well that bowl games are all about perceptions and the perception in Atlanta will be of a Florida football program on the rise and ready to get back to its championship roots.

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS

The first three spots – Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame – were no-brainers since all three are undefeated. There was contention for the fourth and final spot in the playoff but the committee ultimately decided that Oklahoma should be #4 by virtue of its 39-27 win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.

1. Alabama 13-0
2. Clemson 13-0
3. Notre Dame 12-0
4. Oklahoma 12-1
5. Georgia 11-2
6. Ohio State 12-1
7. Michigan 10-2
8. UCF 12-0
9. Washington 10-3
10. Florida 9-3
11. LSU 9-3
12. Penn State 9-3
13. Washington State 10-2
14. Kentucky 9-3
15. Texas 9-4
16. West Virginia 8-3
17. Utah 9-4
18. Mississippi State 8-4
19. Texas A&M 8-4
20. Syracuse 9-3
21. Fresno State 11-2
22. Northwestern 7-6
23. Missouri 8-4
24. Iowa State 8-4
25. Boise State 10-3

DOES GEORGIA BELONG IN THE PLAYOFF?

It was a bit surprising that Georgia only dropped one spot in the final playoff poll after losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That the Bulldogs ranked #5 and ahead of Big Ten Conference champ Ohio State was another surprise. Playoff committee chairman Rob Mullens explained that Georgia was actually considered for the fourth spot. Georgia seems to think it deserved the final spot but I would disagree. I don’t believe a 2-loss team that didn’t win its conference championship belongs in the final four, much less ranked ahead of a 1-loss Ohio State team that won the Big Ten.

Some folks say the final four teams should be the best four and while I understand where they’re coming from, I disagree completely considering the current 4-team playoff format. I think championships matter and once you get past conference championships that are won on the field, you’re turning the playoffs into subjective matter that opens things up for regional and other bias. I wasn’t happy, for example, when Ohio State got in without winning the Big Ten back in 2016. Although Alabama won the national championship in 2017, the Crimson Tide didn’t win the SEC and by getting into the playoff, two conference champions were left out.

If you want teams that didn’t win their conference title then expand to six or eight teams. Then you could have all five power conference champions every year and that, of course, would make the conference championship games like the first round. In a 6-team format, you could have the five champs and open the sixth spot to Notre Dame or the best team from the non-power conferences. If you want to open it up to wild cards, then expand to eight teams.

Now, back to Georgia and its close encounter with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Saturday night, Alabama played as poorly as it has played all year for three quarters. Now some of that had to do with Georgia, but that doesn’t explain the numerous dropped passes, the missed blocks that resulted in sacks or quarterback hurries, a couple of interceptions that were poor throws and the defensive breakdowns, particularly in the secondary. Before he was injured Tua Tagovailoa made mistakes we’ve never seen him make and most of them weren’t Georgia induced. Chalk most of his problems up to a bad day at the office. When Tua went down, Alabama had to go to its backup QB but fortunately for the Crimson Tide, Jalen Hurts isn’t your typical backup. Still, he was the backup quarterback who came into the game cold. That should have been advantage Georgia but it wasn’t.

For three quarters, Alabama brought its Z-game and it showed. When Hurts entered the game, it was as if Alabama flipped the switches and went from Z-game to A-game. Suddenly everything began to click and there wasn’t a thing Georgia could do about it.

On the other sideline was Georgia, which had played the first three quarters as well as it is capable of playing. While you can make a case that so much of Georgia’s good fortune had plenty to do with Alabama showing up semi-comatose, but Georgia made very few mistakes, which is why the Bulldogs led by two touchdowns. Then came the fourth quarter and that showed me if Alabama had brought its A-game from the very beginning Georgia wouldn’t have stayed close.
Now, Georgia is a very good team and might very well be better than Oklahoma or Ohio State, but the Bulldogs have lost twice. One of those losses was by 20 points to a team Alabama beat 29-0. The other loss was in the SEC Championship Game, which certainly would have trumped the loss to LSU. The combination of a 20-point loss to LSU and the loss in Atlanta add up to one thing – Georgia does not belong in the playoff.

WILL THE PLAYOFFS EXPAND?

We may be getting closer to the school presidents and conference commissioners being forced to entertain talk of expanding beyond four teams. For now they are content but do you really believe college football is better when it can’t allow the possibility of a Cinderella, in this case a UCF that has won 25 in a row? What makes March Madness so entertaining are those teams that defy the odds to make it to the Elite Eight or beyond (see Butler in 2010-11, VCU in 2011). Under the football format, there is no Cinderella possibility.

If and when the playoffs expand, we may get the chance for a Cinderella, but that possibility will have nothing to do with expansion. If and when the playoffs expand it will have everything to do with preventing one or more power five conferences sitting on the sideline, not about Cinderella crashing the party and maybe winning it all. This is the third straight year the Big Ten champion has been left out of the College Football Playoff. Ohio State got into the playoff in 2016 but not as the champion due to a regular season loss to Penn State, which won the conference championship but was left out of the playoff. The Pac-12 has missed the playoff three of the five years of its existence also.

When the athletic directors in the left behind conferences raise a big enough stink and threaten their conference commissioners with no confidence votes, then you’ll see them take the message to the school presidents. The presidents will have to see expansion as a financial boon but they will spin it in the name of fairness. Isn’t that the way it always works? So, for the next two or three years, at least, don’t expect anything to change.

SEC BOWL BOUND

#1 ALABAMA (13-0): vs. #4 Oklahoma (12-1) in the Orange Bowl, a playoff semifinal.

AUBURN (7-5): vs. Purdue (6-6) in the Music City Bowl.

#5 GEORGIA (11-2): vs. #15 Texas (9-4) in the Sugar Bowl.

#14 KENTUCKY (9-3): vs. #12 Penn State (9-3) in the Citrus Bowl.

#11 LSU (9-3): vs. #8 UCF (12-0) in the Fiesta Bowl.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4): vs. Iowa (8-4) in the Outback Bowl

MISSOURI (8-4): vs. Oklahoma State (6-6) in the Liberty Bowl.

SOUTH CAROLINA (7-5): vs. Virginia (7-5) in the Belk Bowl.

#19 TEXAS A&M (8-4): vs. North Carolina State (9-3) in the Gator Bowl.

VANDERBILT (6-6): vs. Baylor (6-6) in the Texas Bowl.

HEISMAN TROPHY STUFF

These three will be on the podium, but it might be an upset if anyone but Kyler Murray wins it.

KYLER MURRAY, QB, OKLAHOMA: Murray made a statement that he should win the trophy Saturday when he led Oklahoma to the Big 12 championship over Texas by throwing for 379 yards and three touchdowns while running for an additional 39. His season numbers are staggering – 241-340 passing (70.9%) for 4,212 yards (11.6 per attempt) and 40 touchdowns (7 interceptions); 123-892 rushing (7.25 per carry) for an additional 11 touchdowns.

TUA TAGOVAILOA, QB, ALABAMA: The combination of a bad game against Georgia with an injury that allowed relief QB Jalen Hurts to grab the glory so that Alabama could win the SEC, probably stuck a fork in Tua’s Heisman chances. He was 10-25 for 164 yards with a TD and two picks against Georgia and he was sacked for 21 yards in losses. Still, his season stats are incredible – 199-294 passing (67.7%) for 3,353 yards (11.4 per attempt) and 37 TDs (4 interceptions); 48-190 rushing (3.96 per carry) for five TDs.

DWAYNE HASKINS, QB, OHIO STATE: If you just went by the last three games in which he’s accounted for 17 touchdowns (14 passing, 3 rushing) and 1,388 yards (1,300 passing, 88 rushing) he would be no worse than second in the voting. You can bet the farm he will finish third even though his season stats are remarkable – 348-496 passing (70.2%) for 4,580 yards (9.2 per attempt) and 47 touchdowns (8 interceptions); 122 rushing yards for four touchdowns.

HIRINGS AND FIRINGS>/h4>

Old Yeller is back. Former University of Florida coach Jim McElwain will be the new head coach at Central Michigan. He takes over a program that went to four straight bowl games prior to the 1-11 disaster in 2018 that cost John Bonamego his job. McElwain is 44-28 in his career (22-14 at Florida).

Bill Snyder, who elevated Kansas State from the worst program in all of college football to one that could compete for Big 12 championships, has retired. Snyder leaves K-State with a 215-117-1 career record. Although K-State says it will hire a search firm to find its new leader, be shocked if the new coach is anyone not named Brent Venables or Jim Leavitt.

Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will be the new head coach at Colorado. His only head coaching experience was as the interim coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 when he went 2-3.

With Matt Wells gone to the greener pastures of Lubbock to take over Texas Tech. To replace Wells, Utah State turned to a familiar face to keep the program on the upswing. Gary Andersen, who led the Aggies to an 11-win season in 2012 before he bolted for Wisconsin (20-7 in two years there) is coming back to take over a 10-2 Utah State team that averaged 47.2 points during the regular season.

East Carolina hired Southern Mississippi athletic director Jon Gilbert. It is expected he will immediately make a deal to bring James Madison head coach Mike Houston to ECU.

It’s being reported that Terry Bowden has been fired at Akron. Akron was 5-31 in the three years since Bowden arrived. Since 2013 the Zips went 34-43.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Michigan All-American defensive end Rashan Gary has elected to enter the NFL Draft and will forego playing Florida in the Peach Bowl … LSU All-American corner Greedy Williams will skip his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. No word if he’s planning to skip LSU’s Fiesta Bowl game with UCF … Former Utah AD Chris Hill, one of the most respected men in the business, is calling for an investigation of Larry Scott and the finances of the Pacific-12 Conference. Stay tuned on this one. It’s going to get juicy … The Green Bay Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy after a 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals left the Packers at 4-7-1 … Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes has thrown 41 touchdown passes in 12 games. At his current pace he’ll throw more than 50 … Lamar Jackson is 3-0 since he took over as the Baltimore Ravens starting QB for injured Joe Flacco … Spaniard Jon Rahm won Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge event in The Bahamas by four shots. Woods finished next to last, some 19 shots off Rahm’s winning pace.