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.

 

Are Buzz Williams and the Aggies No. 1?

Fresh off a run to the championship game by Texas Tech and some high profile recent coaching hires in both football and basketball, the state of Texas appears to be in great shape when it comes to Division I college coaching duos. We ranked each sport, then took the total. The lower the score, the better. It's a pretty impressive group. We stayed with the six biggest programs (SMU would be No. 7, but there simply is not enough to go on to rank beyond that). Here is how your duo stacks up:

6) Baylor (10 points)

Baylor v Syracuse

Getty Images

Scott Drew (fifth in the basketball rankings) has built a perennial tournament team at Baylor, but they have never been able to get past the Elite Eight. Still, he has been very good. Matt Ruhle (fifth among football coaches) took over a mess of a program and after a one-win season got the Bears to a bowl game last year and could take another step this year.

5) TCU (9)

TCU football coach Gary Patterson Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Gary Patterson (3) has been one of the best coaches in the state for a long time and the Frogs are lucky to have him. Jamie Dixon (6) put up a resume as impressive as anyone's at Pitt but has missed the NCAAs twice in two years at TCU.

4) Texas Tech (7)

Chris Beard. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It's hard to argue with Chris Beard (1) as the top coach in the state, considering he was just minutes from a title and there is no reason to think he can't continue to thrive. Matt Wells (6) was an off-season hire who came off a 10-win season at Utah State but also had only three winning seasons in six years there and this is a tough step up.

2t) Texas (6)

University of Texas football coach Tom Herman Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Longhorns might have found the right guy in Tom Herman (2) for football, as Texas already has a New Year's Six win, his second as a head coach in the state. Shaka Smart (4) has been a mixed bag at the school, but is one of only three coaches in the state with a Final Four appearance.

2t) Houston (6)

Kelvin Sampson. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Kelvin Sampson (2) has engineered a remarkable turnaround with the basketball team with two straight appearances and a bright future. He also has a Final Four in his past. He has taken four different schools to the tournament. Dana Holgorsen (4) did well in a tough place at West Virginia and should thrive at Houston. He remains one of the best play callers in college football.

1) Texas A&M (4)

Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies debuted with a win. Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Jimbo Fisher (1) has scoreboard with a football national title at Florida State. He did a nice job in his first year at A&M and the future looks incredibly bright, although there will always be that pesky Alabama, LSU and Auburn to deal with. Buzz Williams (3) was a home run hire who had success in a tough Big East and then the rugged ACC. Aggie basketball should be a factor for years to come.

The basketball rankings

1) Beard

2) Sampson

3) Williams

4) Smart

5) Drew

6) Dixon

I had a tough time ranking 4-6, so I went to college basketball A.J. Hoffman, and this is how he ranked them.

The football rankings

1) Fisher

2) Herman

3) Patterson

4) Holgorsen

5) Ruhle

6) Wells

This one seemed a lot more clear cut, although you could make arguments among the top three. Would you trade your duo for any of these?

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