Inching toward a college football playoff – and less controversy

February 12, 2012

This year's all-SEC national championship game may finally lead to a college football playoff.

For those of us who’d like to see a college football playoff in our lifetimes, some welcome news came out of the 12-team Big Ten last week.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that the league’s athletic directors are considering the idea of a four-team playoff to decide the national champion. While there is still a long way to go, that’s significant news because the Big Ten led the charge to kill a Plus One system proposed four years ago by the SEC. Maybe watching two SEC teams play for the BCS championship finally persuaded the Big Ten’s ADs that getting a shot at the national title for one of their schools was more important than blind devotion to the Rose Bowl.

Of course, the whole point of a playoff would be to reduce some of the unsatisfying scenarios that have popped up ever since the BCS’s creation, such as:

  • 2001: A team getting blown out 62-36 in its last game, missing its conference championship game and still playing for the national title.
  • 2003: A team finishing No. 1 in the AP and Coaches’ polls but finishing third in the BCS standings.
  • 2004: An SEC team going 12-0 and not making the national title game.
  • 2007: Eight two-loss teams fighting for No. 2 in the BCS standings.
  • 2011: Two teams from the same SEC division playing for the national title.

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Week 9 Roundup: Down the stretch they come

November 1, 2009

Duke Virginia Football

Could Thaddeus Lewis and Duke really be headed to a bowl? (AP Photo/News & Observer,Ted Richardson)

As we come into the home stretch of the football season, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the ACC won’t have 10 bowl teams again. Down to the last three or four games of the season, we thought we’d use this week’s roundup to look at where each team stands with its bowl chances.

Overall records are in parentheses. Teams with an asterisk have to win seven games to become bowl eligible because they played two non-I-A teams. Perhaps not coincidentally, all three of those teams have some work to do to get to a bowl game.

With that explanation out of the way, away we go:

Atlantic Division
Boston College (6-3): Bowl eligible for the 10th consecutive season with Saturday’s win over Central Michigan. The Eagles also have a shot to play in their third straight ACC championship game if they can win a game or two on the road and get some help from someone else against Clemson.

Clemson (5-3): Bowl eligible with one more win. The bowl bid seems almost assured at this point. The bigger issue for the Tigers is whether they can get to Tampa for the ACC title game by running the table in their last three conference games, all of which are winnable.

Florida State (4-4): Has to split two of four. The Seminoles are in a much better position than they were going into their bye week. Still, they should be the underdog at Clemson next week and forget about beating Florida as long as this guy is still standing. That leaves Wake Forest and Maryland as FSU’s best path to six wins.

Wake Forest (4-5): Need to take two of three. The Demon Deacons cane up just short against Miami on Saturday, which has been the story of their season. With games left against Georgia Tech, suddenly resurgent Florida State and Duke, those last two wins could be hard to come by.

N.C. State* (3-5): Must win out. As Wolfpack fans, we’d say were ready for basketball season, but we’re not.

Maryland (2-6): Also must win out. At least Terrapin fans can look forward to watching Greivis Vasquez on the court.

Coastal Division
Georgia Tech (8-1): Orange or Chick-fil-A? That’s pretty much the only mystery left in the Yellow Jackets’ bowl picture. Tech seems all but assured of playing in the ACC championship game, so we won’t get an answer until then. Bet on the Jackets enjoying some time on South Beach instead of eating mor chikin.

Duke* (5-3): Has to split their last four. Each week, the Blue Devils’ season-opening loss to I-AA Richmond looks more like an outlier each week, but it also becomes a bigger drag on their bowl chances. With games left against Georgia Tech and Miami, Duke almost has to win against North Carolina and Wake Forest.

Miami (6-2): Bowl eligible after coming back to beat Wake Forest 28-27 on Saturday. The Hurricanes will be favored to win their last four games and crack the 10-win mark, but any shot they had an at-large BCS berth disappeared with last week’s overtime loss to Clemson.

Virginia Tech (5-3): Should become bowl eligible against East Carolina on Thursday. The key word there is “should.” The Hokies looked like a national title contender two games ago but lost to Georgia Tech and inexplicably fell to North Carolina.

North Carolina* (5-3): Must win at least twice more. Carolina and Duke are in a similar position. The Tar Heels have two games left they’re not going to be expected to win — vs. Miami and at Boston College. Next week’s game with the Blue Devils is going to go a long way toward determining both teams’ bowl fates.

Virginia (3-5): Needs to win three out of four. That’s going to be tough to do with road games against Miami and Clemson and a home date against archrival Virginia Tech.

Bottom line: Georgia Tech, Miami and Boston College will be going somewhere for the holidays, and Virginia Tech and Clemson can probably start packing before much longer. Of the rest, Florida State probably has the best shot to go to a bowl. Duke and North Carolina are likely playing an elimination game next Saturday. Wake Forest still has a shot but will need to win a game it won’t be favored in. N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia — better luck next year.

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Week 8 Roundup: More ACC ugliness

October 25, 2009

Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford (6) was mobbed by his teammates after catching the game winner in overtime against Miami in an exciting back-and-forth game. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford (6) was mobbed by his teammates after catching the game winner in a back-and-forth game against Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Week 8 was another ugly one in the ACC. The conference’s last (faint) hope for a national title bid fell. Two conference teams turned in weak performances in non-conference losses.

Clemson and Duke exit the weekend feeling best about themselves. The Tigers rode C.J. Spiller’s routine brilliance and Jacory Harris’ self-destructive tendencies to a 40-37 road upset over the Hurricanes.

Where does Spiller sit in the ACC player of the year debate? He posted 310 all-purpose yards and two long touchdowns (one receiving, one returning) against the conference’s last top-10 team Saturday. For the season, Spiller has more than 1,400 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns. With Clemson controlling its destiny in the Coastal Division, Spiller has as good an argument for POY honors as anyone right now.

Meanwhile, Duke put together its first conference winning streak since the Contract with America. An ugly fourth quarter closed the game: the teams combined for more turnovers (3) than points (0) in the last stanza. A muffed punt return with slightly more than two minutes left sealed Maryland’s fate.

At 2-1 in the Coastal Division, Duke technically controls its destiny for an ACC title game bid. But Duke won’t beat Virginia and Wake Forest, much less Georgia Tech and Miami, with the sort of display it put on in the fourth quarter Saturday. With opportunities to close Maryland out, Duke fumbled the ball away at the Maryland 1 and spoiled a drive to the Maryland 28 with 23 yards in penalty and sack yardage.

Elsewhere in the ACC, Georgia Tech held serve against Virginia and gave itself the softest path toward a BCS bid. Tech may eventually replace Miami in the BCS top 10. But with no ranked teams left on the schedule (barring something unforeseen in the Atlantic Division), the Yellow Jackets are unlikely to make a serious run for the national title game.

Wake Forest and Boston College both lost nonconference games. After a 52-point outburst against N.C. State, the BC offense came back to earth against Notre Dame: 5 turnovers, a sub-50% pass completion rate and 2.4 yards per carry on the day. Still, the Eagles had a chance to win, carrying a 16-13 lead into the fourth quarter.

Navy defeated Wake Forest without attempting a single pass. Starting his first college game for the Midshipmen, sophomore quarterback Kriss Proctor ran for 89 yards and a touchdown. Navy rolled up 338 rushing yards on Wake. Having failed to contain Paul Johnson Offense 3.1 Saturday, I don’t like the Deacons’ chances against Johnson XP in two weeks.

Rounding out the ACC Week 8 schedule, Florida State came back from an 18-point deficit to win at North Carolina Thursday night. Instead of Texting (sort of) doesn’t gamble, but neither of us would have chosen Oct. 22 in a preseason pool on when then-No.-18 FSU and then-No.-21 UNC would get their first conference win. Poor team showings aside, FSU’s Christian Ponder is the best quarterback in the ACC right now.

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Week 7 Roundup: A Tale of Two Divisions

October 18, 2009
Georgia Tech's 28-23 win over Virginia Tech brought down the goal posts at Bobby Dodd Stadium and erased any semblance of order left in the ACC. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Georgia Tech's 28-23 win over Virginia Tech brought down the goal posts at Bobby Dodd Stadium and erased any semblance of order left in the ACC. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Midway through the season, both divisions in the ACC seem to be in chaos. The difference is that only one actually seems to matter.

That would be the Coastal Division, where the three best teams — Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech — have all taken a game from each other after the Yellow Jackets 28-23 win over the Hokies.

(For the record, Virginia actually leads the Coastal and remains the only ACC team without a conference loss, but I challenge you to find someone outside Charlottesville who actually thinks the Cavaliers are going to finish ahead of all three of those teams.)

Georgia Tech’s win pretty much ensures that we’re going to get an exciting finish in the Coastal and could give us a chance to see how well a three-way tiebraker can be done with one-loss teams. As sweet as the game was for the Jackets, it was a major disappointment for a Virginia Tech team that still had a shot at playing for the national title. The Hokies’ loss also weakened the ACC’s hopes of putting two teams in BCS bowls, although Miami and Georgia Tech are 10th and 12th in the initial BCS standings, and Virginia Tech isn’t far behind at No. 14.

On the other side of the standings, the Atlantic Division is looking more and more like the Big 12 North, circa 2004. Florida State and N.C. State, two of the preseason favorites in the division, have been exposed as frauds. Wake Forest entered the weekend with a chance to put some distance between itself and the rest of the division but crumbled instead. Clemson, the team Wake lost to, has shown flashes of dominance but remains inconsistent. Maryland really isn’t even worth mentioning. And Boston College, now the Atlantic leader, has probably looked the best of anyone in the division but has yet to prove it can win away from home.

That’s a common theme in the Atlantic. The six teams in the division are collectively 1-12 on the road, including 0-9 in the conference. It’s called home-field advantage for a reason, but at some point, a team has to win a game or two on the road to be successful.

If you need any more proof about the gap between the divisions, Atlantic teams are 0-6 against the Coastal.

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Can the ACC put two teams in BCS bowls?

September 3, 2009

In the 11 seasons that college football has been blessed/cursed with the BCS system, the ACC has never sent two teams to the big-time bowls. SI.com’s Stewart Mandel and ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach have been among the experts who have suggested this could be the year that the streak ends.

The ACC wasn’t the best conference in the country in 2008, but it was the deepest. A record 10 teams went to bowl games. Those teams all finished either 4-4 or 5-3 in conference play. None had more than 9 regular season wins.

That kind of parity made the ACC exciting to watch each week, but it’s not conducive to getting an at-large team into the BCS. Read the rest of this entry »