THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; JANUARY 2, 2019
GATORS SHOULD MOVE UP TO #7
The final college football rankings won’t come out until the morning after next Monday night’s national championship game, but based on their Peach Bowl win over #7 Michigan and losses by #8 UCF and #9 Washington, the Gators should finish no worse than #7 in the final polls.
My guess is the final top ten will look something like this after Alabama beats Clemson (my prediction) for the national championship:
4. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
10. Washington State
I believe Michigan, UCF and Washington will all drop out of the top ten. I could also see Kentucky finishing #10 ahead of Washington State.
THE STREAK ENDS FOR UCF
At some point, you knew UCF would run out of magic and the streak would come to an end. It happened Tuesday in Glendale, Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl where the Knights’ 25-game winning streak ended at the hands of LSU, 40-32. This was UCF’s first loss since December 17, 2016, when Arkansas State beat them, 31-13, in something called the Cure Bowl.
UCF fans will lament that they were forced to play the Fiesta Bowl with stud quarterback McKenzie Milton on the sidelines still recovering from multiple surgeries since a devastating injury suffered against South Florida, but Milton’s absence doesn’t explain all the dropped passes or the way LSU controlled both lines of scrimmage. When the Tigers had the football, they controlled the clock for nearly 45 minutes while throwing for 394 and rushing for another 161.
During the streak, UCF was accustomed to opponents scoring lots of points and chewing up the defense for big yardage, but nobody really stuffed the UCF offense and that’s what LSU did (UCF had 250 yards, about 300 fewer than normal) with a defense that went most of the game minus five starters. Perhaps UCF can match many of the teams in the SEC with their first team talent on either side of the football, but as we saw in the Fiesta Bowl, LSU’s second team talent was every bit as good as the starters. Until UCF has a two-deep roster of players who could compete in the SEC, it’s not going to be able to compete against the big boys on a week-in and week-out basis.
In no way does this loss diminish what UCF has accomplished. Winning 25 straight games is a serious feat and by making it to within one game of running the table two straight years, UCF has been very, very good for college football. More importantly, UCF has made us keenly aware that the current playoff system isn’t designed to accommodate a Cinderella.
YOU CAN KILL THE PLAYOFF EXPANSION TALK FOR NOW
Alabama and Clemson, which started the season 1-2 and will end the season 1-2 no matter who wins next Monday night’s national championship game, have made it perfectly clear that there is no need to expand the current playoff system beyond four teams. At least for now. Why expand the playoffs to either six or eight teams when the two best teams clearly dominate teams three and four in their semifinal matchups? And why do we add four more teams when #5 Georgia, #7 Michigan and #8 UCF all lose their bowl games to lower ranked teams? This is the reasoning that will be thrust forward when expansion talk heats up this offseason.
Right now, at least, the presidents of the power five conference schools, the conference commissioners and ESPN all like the status quo. The only way that will change is if one or more conference consistently finds their champion left out of the playoff or if ESPN wants more playoff games and fewer bowl games.
Eventually, I think we’ll see a format that will ensure all five power conference champs will make the playoff, but I don’t see it happening in the next five years.
URBAN RIDES OFF INTO THE SUNSET
Urban Meyer called it an Ohio State career Tuesday evening when the 6th-ranked Buckeyes (13-1) held on to beat 9th-ranked Washington (10-4), 28-23, in the Rose Bowl. Meyer went 83-9 at Ohio State, winning three Big Ten conference championships and the 2014 national championship. For his coaching career Meyer finishes with a 187-32 record and three national championships (two at Florida, one at Ohio State). His .854 winning percentage is third in college football history, trailing only Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy.
But have we seen the last of Urban Meyer coaching a college football team? Asked by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after Tuesday’s game if he would ever coach again, Meyer smiled said, “I don’t believe I will.” Skeptics – and there are many – will spend months and perhaps years speculating that Meyer won’t be able to stay away.
Meyer is only 54 years old and with the exception of a one-year sabbatical from coaching (2011) when he worked as an analyst for ESPN, coaching football is the only thing he knows how to do. He will be an associate athletic director next year at Ohio State and probably will find his way back to the TV studio again but will that satisfy his burning need to compete and win?
From a health standpoint, it better. He has an inoperable arachnoid cyst on his brain that has to be drained periodically. The cyst creates pressure on the brain and causes serious headaches when he’s stressed. There are a couple other health issues as well and like the cyst, they aren’t going to go away. For the sake of his health, he needs to find something to do that doesn’t involve coaching.
The temptation to coach won’t go away anytime soon and until Meyer proves capable of saying no over and over again, every time there is a big time opening that presents the opportunity to coach for championships you’ll hear Meyer’s name at the top of the wish list. For his sake, I hope he’s able to say no and stay retired. He is legitimately one of the best coaches in college football history and there is nothing more to prove. It’s time to take care of his health and find out some of the non-football related things he’s been missing all these years.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
#11 LSU (10-3) 40, #8 UCF (12-1) 32
#14 Kentucky (10-3) 27, #12 Penn State (9-4) 24
Iowa (9-4) 27, Mississippi State (8-5) 22
#6 Ohio State (13-1) 28, #9 Washington (10-4) 23
#15 Texas (10-4) 28, #5 Georgia (11-3) 21
Conference bowl standings
Big Ten 5-5
Conference USA 4-2
Mountain West 3-2
Sun Belt 3-2
Big 12 2-3
American Athletic 2-5
With Dana Holgorsen all but signed, sealed and delivered to Houston, West Virginia reportedly had prioritized Luke Fickell (Cincinnati) and Neal Brown (Troy). The backup plans include Mike Leach (Washington State) and Butch Jones (formerly Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee).
Lincoln Riley has signed a contract extension to remain at Oklahoma, putting to an end any speculation that he will bolt to the NFL Cleveland Browns.
With Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl win over Penn State, Mark Stoops got another year on his contract and another $250,000 in bonus money. Stoops earned more than $1 million in bonuses this year.
The Green Bay Packers are very interested in Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, however, has no interest in the Packers or any NFL team.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Now that Steve Alford has been canned, UCLA’s wish list for the NEXT John Wooden starts with Billy Donovan. Good luck on that one. The Oklahoma City Thunder just exercised its option for Donovan for the 2019-20 season … It’s January and the NFL playoffs start this weekend. There is a chance I might break down and watch my first NFL game. I still haven’t watched an NBA game and my current inclination is that I will not, at least not before the championship series … The Sugar Bowl marked the second time in five years that Tom Herman has had Kirby Smart’s number. The first time was 2015 when Herman was Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and Smart was Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama. Herman torched Smart’s defense for 537 yards and 42 points with third string quarterback Cardale Jones in the playoff semifinals. Tuesday night in New Orleans, with Herman the head coach at Texas and Smart the head man at Georgia, Herman kept dialing up third down conversions to keep drives alive as the vaunted Georgia defense got manhandled … Did you also happen to notice that a Big 12 defense held Georgia to 296 total yards and only 72 rushing yards in the Sugar Bowl? … Benny Snell Jr. ran for 144 yards and two TDs in Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl win over Penn State. In beating Penn State, Kentucky got its first 10-win season since 1977 … Prior to the 2018 season, Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins had thrown for all of four touchdown passes. With his three TDPs against Washington, Haskins finished the 2018 season with 50 … Washington’s Myles Gaskin ran for 121 yards against Ohio State, giving him 1,268 yards for the season. He’s only the second player in NCAA history (Ron Dayne was the other) to run for at least 1,250 yards in each of his four seasons. Gaskin finished his collegiate career with 5,303 rushing yards and 57 touchdowns.