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.

 

TCU/Facebook

TEXAS LONGHORNS (14-11), (4-8)

Last week: (0-1): L - Iowa State 81-52

This week: Wednesday vs. TCU, Saturday vs. Kansas State, Monday vs. West Virginia

In one of their worst performances of the season, the Texas Longhorns dropped their fourth consecutive game in an 81-52 loss to the Iowa State Cyclones, despite a 21 point outing by Courtney Ramey. Texas defense was a no-show in the loss, as the Longhorns allowed the Cyclones to shoot 57.7% from the floor, to go along with 40.0% from behind the arc.

Texas will look to end their losing skid in a home match against the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday, before taking on Kansas State on Saturday.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (12-12), (6-6)

Last week: (1-1): L - Florida 78-61, W - Georgia 74-69

This week: Wednesday vs. Alabama, Saturday vs. Mississippi State

After dropping a close game against the Florida Gators on Wednesday, the Texas A&M Aggies pulled off a much-needed victory against the Georgia Bull Dogs, Saturday afternoon, inside the Reed Arena in College Station.

Against one of the nation's top freshmen in Georgia's Anthony Edwards (6 points), Emanuel Miller shined in the Aggies' win with a career-best 21 points and 10 rebounds on the night. Texas A&M erased a 12-point halftime deficit, as the Aggies outscored the Bulldogs 45-31 in the second period.

Following the win, Texas A&M will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday, prior to their home match against Mississippi State on Saturday.

Houston Cougars (20-6), (10-3)

Last week: (1-1): W- USF 62-58, L - SMU 73-72

This week: Wednesday vs. Tulsa, Saturday vs. Memphis

After recording their third victory in a win over the USF Bulls, the Houston Cougars dropped a heartbreaking loss to the SMU Mustangs in a 73-72 overtime loss Saturday evening.

In the best performance of his collegiate career, Houston's freshman guard Marcus Sasser scored a career-high 26 points (8-15 FG, 5-10 3PT) in the loss. With the game on the line late in the second half, Sasser stepped to the charity stripe to hit three free throws to send the game into overtime.

Unfortunately, Sasser fell short of becoming the Cougars' unsung hero, as SMU's Emmanuel Bandoumel connected on an off-balance 3-point field goal to give the Mustangs the win. Up next, the Cougars will look to return to their winning ways on Wednesday, in a home match against the Tulsa Hurricanes.

RICE OWLS (13-14), (5-9)

Last week: (1-1): L- Old Dominion 73-70, W - Charlotte 70-54

This week: Saturday vs. UTEP

The Rice Owls longest winning streak of conference play came to an end in a 73-70 loss to the Old Dominion Monarchs.

In a loss, Ako Adams registered 22 points while shooting 46.6% from the field, as the rest of his team shot 32% as a whole. Adams would also be outshined by the Monarchs' Malik Curry, as the junior guard scored 25 points (8-19 FG, 8-11 FT), nine rebounds, five assists and three steals in the win.

The Owls would go on to bounce back in a blowout victory over the Charlotte 49ers. Rice will hit the road on Saturday to take on the UTEP Miners.

BAYLOR BEAR (23-1), (12-0)

Last week: (1-0): W - West Virginia 70-59

This week: Tuesday vs. Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Kansas

After a series of single-digit wins over the past two weeks, the Baylor Bears picked up an 11-point victory over West Virginia on Saturday. As always, sophomore guard Jared Butler led the Bears in the win with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

As the nation's top-ranked school, Baylor will put their 22-game winning streak on the line Tuesday, in a showdown against the Oklahoma Sooners inside the Lloyd Nobles Center in Norman, OKLA.

TCU Horned Frogs (14-11), (5-7)

Last week: (1-0): W - Kansas State 68-57

This week: Wednesday vs. Texas, Saturday vs. West Virginia

After dropping six games in a row, the TCU Horn Frogs ended their losing streak in a 68-57 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday. TCU connected on 15 3-point field goals while shooting 45.5% from behind the arc.

Three players scored in double-figures with Desmond Bane leading the way with 17 points (6-14 FG, 5-10 3pt), eight rebounds and eight assists. Both RJ Nembhard and Jaire Grayer scored 15 points apiece shooting a combined 50% from behind the arc. TCU will return to action on Wednesday in a match against the Texas Longhorns.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-9), (7-5)

Last week: (0-1): L- Oklahoma State 73-70

This week: Wednesday vs. Kansas State, Saturday vs. Iowa State

Winners of four of their last five games, the Texas Tech Red Raiders suffered a three-point defeat in a road match against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

In a surprising turn of events, Oklahoma State missed its final eight shots from the field, but made its free throws in the closing seconds to secure a 73-70 win over Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders' loss was a result of their rebounding issues, as the Cowboys outrebounded Texas Tech 37-22, as well as giving up 15 offensive rebounds which converted into 12 second-chance points.

Texas Tech will return to the court on Wednesday for a BIG 12 showdown against the Kansas State Wildcats, before taking on the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday.

SMU Mustangs (18-6), (8-4)

Last week: (2-0): W - Connecticut 79-75, W - Houston 73-72 OT

This week: Wednesday vs. Tulane, Saturday vs. Tulsa

After recording a four-point win over the Connecticut Huskies, the SMU Mustangs survived a 73-72 overtime victory over the Houston Cougars, Saturday night, inside the Moody Coliseum in Dallas.

Despite a career-best performance by Houston's guard Marcus Sasser (26 pts), Tyson Jolly scored 20 points (5-7 FG. 10-10 FT) to lead the way for SMU. Emmanuel Bandoumel became the unsung hero for the Mustangs, as the sophomore guard connected on an off-balance 3-point field goal to give SMU the win.

Up next, the Mustangs will look to make it three straight wins on Wednesday, in a road match against the Tulane Green Waves.

LSU Tigers (18-7), (9-3)

Last week: (1-1): W - Missouri 82-78, L - Alabama 88-82

This week: Tuesday vs. Kentucky, Saturday vs. South Carolina

Following a 10 game winning streak, the LSU Tigers are in their worst slump of the season. After coming away victorious in an 82-78 win over the Missouri Tigers, LSU dropped their third loss in four outings in an 88-82 defeat against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Down 40-29 at the half, the Tigers scored 53 second-half points and shot 56% as LSU tried to rally from an 18-points deficit. With 1:35 left in the game, LSU came within a point but was unsuccessful to slow down the Crimson Tide on the defensive end.

Up next, LSU will return to the court on Tuesday to face off against the Kentucky Wildcats.

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