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 loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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