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.

 

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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