JOHN GRANATO

Hey college football: David has a slingshot; let him use it and expand the playoffs

UCF should get its shot. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As much as they say they want Alabama I don’t believe that Central Florida would enjoy the experience. Like everyone else who’s played Alabama, UCF would probably leave the field embarrassed and dejected.

But I do believe they deserve the opportunity to be embarrassed and dejected.

How many people thought Boise State could beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl? Boise’s Statue of Liberty two-point conversion gave us one of the most memorable moments in bowl history.

Before they got into the Pac-12, Utah was in the Mountain West and drew Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Alabama was a huge favorite and came away looking at a 31-17 straight up loss to the underdogs.

Just three years ago the Coogs got a New Year’s Day bid to take on juggernaut Florida State. We know how that ended; not well for the Seminoles.

You could make the argument that none of those favorites really wanted to be in those games, they had higher aspirations, and they weren’t championship caliber teams anyway. That is true. The quarterbacks for those three losing teams were Paul Thompson, John Parker Wilson and Sean Maguire, not exactly murderers row.

So why does UCF deserve a seat at the New Year’s Day table with the grown-ups?

Because what made the NCAA Basketball Tournament what it is today could take the College Football Playoff to a whole new level.

As recently as 1974 there were only 25 teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. In ‘75 it expanded to 32, in ‘79 40, in ‘80 48, in ‘83 53 and in ‘85 64. Today there are 68 teams in the tourney.

Why? David vs Goliath.

It’s the ageless story of the little man in the face of adversity, against all odds, backs to the wall, no chance in hell… taking down Goliath. We love it in business, in politics, in books, in movies and in sports.

If the NCAA didn’t expand we’d have never had George Mason, an at-large 11-seed out of the Colonial Athletic Conference, making the Final Four.  We would have missed out on VCU, an at-large that many said shouldn’t have even made the field and had to win a play-in game to get there, beating top-seed Kansas in the regional final to win a trip to Houston and the Final Four.

Those are the kinds of stories that “mid-majors” dream about and work for through the entire offseason knowing that however remote that chance is, there’s still a chance.

That’s not the case for the Group of 5 (G5) schools. If UCF can’t get there even though they have won 23 straight games, who can? Why be in Div. 1 if you have no chance of competing for a national title? In every other sport smaller schools have the ability to win national titles.

Every. Other. Sport.

I’m not breaking new ground by calling for an 8-team playoff: 5 conference champions from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC (The Power 5), two at-large teams from anywhere in the FBS and one G5 school. The Power 5 champions would win their way in. The G5 school and at-large schools would be chosen by a selection committee. The committee would then seed the tournament (like they do today.) The top seeds would host their first round games. The Bowls would then serve as hosts for the semis and championship game (like they do today.)

Is it feasible time-wise? School is out for the holidays in mid-December. We’d have four Christmas Eve quarterfinal games that would be a huge money-maker for everyone (except the players of course), New Year’s Day semifinals and the championship game eight or nine days later. Sounds like a plan.

You might be of the opinion that one more round of playoffs would be bad for the players. It was OK to add another round five years ago. It only affected two teams, the ones that made it to the final game. This would have that same effect. One more round would only affect two teams. Many high schools play 15 or 16 games to win a state title. The pros play 19 or 20 plus four preseason games. So 15 games is not an unreasonable amount.

You might be of the opinion that it would be a waste of time for UCF or any other G5 school to be in the playoff. Maybe. Maybe not. We’ve already seen G5 schools win New Year’s Day bowls. Plus, if at least one school was guaranteed a chance at the big prize, recruiting might be a little different. Better players might choose places they wouldn’t otherwise because they would have a shot to win it all.

Ask any player except maybe those from Alabama and Clemson (because they make it every year) and they would tell you they would love to have more teams in the playoff. Ask the Big 12 or Pac 12, who have been shut out of the playoff a few times if they’d love more teams in. Ask UCF.... Never mind. We know what they would say.

Here’s how the 8-team playoff would have looked every year:

2014

  1. Alabama vs 8. Boise State

      4. Ohio St. vs 5. Baylor

      2. Oregon vs 7. Mississippi St.

      3. Florida St. vs 6. TCU

2015

  1. Clemson vs 8. Houston

      4. Oklahoma vs 5. Iowa

      2. Alabama vs 7. Ohio St.

      3. Michigan St. vs 6. Stanford

2016

  1. Alabama vs 8. Western Michigan

      4. Washington vs 5. Penn St.

      2. Clemson vs 7. Oklahoma

      3. Ohio St. vs 6. Michigan

2017

      1. Clemson vs 8. UCF

     4. Alabama  vs 5. Ohio St.

     2. Oklahoma vs 7. USC

      3. Georgia vs 6. Wisconsin

In every instance the G5 representative would have been the 8 seed. That could and would probably change this year. Another loss by Oklahoma or Washington St. would move UCF up to a possible 6 or 7 seed. Realistically two-loss Georgia or Michigan would probably not drop below UCF. Those losses would be at the hands of Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and Ohio St. and the committee would probably not punish those schools for those losses and rightfully so.

Still, it would be significant to see a G5 school seeded higher than P5 schools. It’s happening all the time now in the basketball tournament and would happen in football too. We’ve seen the evolution of the “mid-majors” in college basketball and we’d see it in football too.

I can hear the naysayers claiming football is different. It is. But tell Appalachian St. they can’t beat Michigan or Troy that they can’t beat LSU or Louisiana Monroe that they can’t beat Arkansas or South Alabama that they can’t beat Mississippi St.

Yes, that’s the exception to the rule, but so was David and Goliath. That’s why we remember them thousands of years later.

 

College Basketball Report

UH rolls into Top 25; UT splits

Galen Robinson has been a beast for UH. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

TEXAS LONGHORNS (6-3)

Last week (1-1):
L- VCU 54-53, W- Purdue 72-68.

This week: Saturday vs. Grand Canyon.

Texas basketball continues to be a roller coaster this year. The week started with the Horns dropping their third straight game, 54-53 to VCU. It was an ugly game for offense, as the Rams won the game shooting just 28%. Texas committed 18 turnovers in the game, and VCU turned those into 17 points. Kerwin Roach was the poster boy for the offensive struggles, as he went 1-for-11 from the field. Jericho Sims was the only Longhorn in double digits, scoring 14 in the loss. Texas then came back with a 72-68 win over Purdue. The three-ball finally started falling for Texas, who hit 44% from deep. Turnovers continue to plague Texas, though, adding 15 more in the game. Matt Coleman led the charge offensively for Texas, scoring 22 points in the win. Texas has just one game this week, Saturday vs. Grand Canyon.

TEXAS A&M; AGGIES (3-4)

Last week (0-0): Boston College- Canceled

This week: Saturday vs. Oregon State

The Aggies didn't play this week. Their scheduled game against Boston College was canceled due to mechanical issues with BC's charter plane, compounded by poor weather in the northeast. The Aggies are back in action on Saturday against Oregon State.

HOUSTON COUGARS (8-0)

Last week (2-0): W- Lamar- 79-56, W- @ Oklahoma State 63-53

This week: Wednesday vs. LSU, Sunday vs. Saint Louis

Cougar hoops continues to roll, tacking on two more wins last week. The first was a 79-56 drubbing of Lamar. The win was the 21st straight home win for UH, and it was never in question. Galen Robinson led the way with 20 points, and Armani Brooks added 17 points and 9 rebounds. The Cougars hit 47% of their shots and were plus-10 in rebounding. They then traveled to Stillwater, OK, and promptly put the boots to Oklahoma State 63-53. Brooks had another big game, posting 23 points and 8 rebounds in the win. Rebounding was strong all around for Houston, winning that battle 44-33. The two wins were enough to push UH into the AP top 25, coming in at number 24. The Cougars get LSU and Saint Louis next week.

RICE OWLS (3-6)

Last week (0-0): No games.

This week: Thursday vs. St. Edwards, Saturday vs. UC-Santa Barbara

The Owls didn't play last week. They have two home games this week, against St. Edwards and UC-Santa Barbara.

BAYLOR BEARS (5-3)

Last week (0-0): No games.

This week: Saturday @ Arizona.

The Bears didn't play last week. They have a game at Arizona on Saturday.

TCU HORNED FROGS (7-1)

Last week (2-0): W- @ SMU 67-59, W- USC 96-61

This week: Sunday vs. Indiana State

The Horned Frogs had a good week, taking in two wins this week. The first was their first road game of the season, going about 40 miles to SMU's campus, where the Frogs took a 67-59 win. Jaylen Fisher and JD Miller both had 15 points in the win. All 15 of Fisher's points came from behind the arc. The Frogs then went out to LA, and dominated USC by a score of 96-61. TCU led by 20 at half and never turned back. Fisher again hit 5 3-pointers, accounting for all 15 of his points. Alex Robinson also had 15 points in the win. His 8 assists padded his lead as the country's top assist man. The Frogs have just one game this week, Sunday against Indiana State.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (8-0)

Last week: W- Arkansas-Pine Bluff 65-47

This week: Wednesday vs. Northwestern State, Saturday vs. Abilene Christian

Texas Tech is still unbeaten, and still climbing the rankings after a 65-47 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tech has been a force on defense all season long, and this one was no exception. Pine Bluff shot 32% from the field and turned the ball over 20 times. Jarrett Culver led the way for Tech with 13 points, on a night where the offense wasn't exactly in sync. Tech is now ranked 13th, and starting to garner some real respect nationally. They have two free throw games this week, against Northwestern State and Abilene Christian.

SMU MUSTANGS (6-4)

Last week (0-1): L- TCU 67-59

This week: Saturday @ Georgetown

After three wins a week ago, SMU got sent back to earth against TCU, 67-59. The offense was a real problem for the Mustangs, who shot 36% from the field and just 16% from 3-point range. Jahmal McMurray was a bright spot for SMU, scoring 19 points, but even he shot an inefficient 8-22 from the field. SMU hits the road for a game at Georgetown this week.

LSU TIGERS (7-2)

Last week (1-0): W- Incarnate Word 91-50

This week: Wednesday @ Houston, Saturday vs. Saint Mary's

The LSU freshmen didn't play well a week ago, but they came back strong against Incarnate Word in a 91-50 win. Nad Reid and Ja'vonte Smart. Kavell Bigby-Williams added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers in the win. They led by 22 at half and never let the Cardinals within 20 points again. LSU shot 56% from the field and held the Cardinals to just 32%. Things will not be easy for the Tigers this week, as they have a trip to Houston and a home game against St. Mary's on the schedule.

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