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The Pomp and Circumstance of Signing Day at Michigan

I thought that this article took an interesting view of Signing Day at the University of Michigan:

Michigan is less than a week away from its second “Signing of the Stars” show under head coach Jim Harbaugh. This year’s national signing day event is expected to host a bigger crowd for a higher-ranked group of new Wolverines, but it likely won’t boast the same kind of shock factor and drama as the 2016 version.

As a Michigan fan, I don't care about what celebrities show up or what shock factor there is. All I care about is the recruiting classes being strong. Keep that up and we will all be happy.

Did The Playoff Committee Get It Right or Wrong?

Below you'll find two arguments, one for and one against the Playoff Committee's team choices for this year's Football Playoff. This topic is always contentious so we thought it would be fun to give our best defenses for both perspectives. As always, let us know what you think!

 

Why The Playoff Committee Got It Wrong

By Martin Magers


When an underdog upsets a higher ranked team, the adage “that’s why they play the game” is often invoked. When Ohio State travelled to Happy Valley to take on a struggling Penn State team, the Buckeyes were 17 point favorites. The Nittany Lions were 4 and 2, lacking wins against any good teams. They had lost a close game to unranked Pittsburgh, and they were absolutely destroyed by Michigan. On the other hand, Ohio State was undefeated with strong wins against Oklahoma and Wisconsin in hand. On paper, there was no reason to think the garbage fire that was burning in Happy Valley was going to start playing football, much less be capable of beating Ohio State. As they say, that’s why they play the game. 

Penn State found a way to win, and it completely turned their season around. James Franklin, Saquon Barkley, and Trace McSorley rode the momentum of that win all the way to an unlikely Big Ten Conference Championship, beating a very good Wisconsin team en route. Ohio State, on the other hand, struggled to beat bad Northwestern and Michigan State teams, and the Buckeyes were outplayed by Michigan in a double overtime thriller, needing help from both the referees and Wilton Speight to finish a comeback. 

And so on college football’s version of selection Sunday, the committee completely screwed it up. Ohio State fans will drone on about their strength of schedule and only having one loss and that loss having been on the road at night in a hostile stadium. Guess what? That doesn’t matter. You lost to Penn State. Thus, Penn State holds the tie-breaker. As discussed, football is decided on the field, not on paper. 

After a weekend in which we saw Alabama annihilate Florida, Washington look surprisingly good against Colorado, and Clemson, in typical Clemson fashion, barely beat Virginia Tech, the committee got three out of four teams correct, but they absolutely should have put Penn State in over Ohio State. 

In the end, maybe it’s better for Penn State to not have to face Alabama in the playoff (everyone is playing for second place, anyway). With a Rose Bowl berth, the Nittany Lions can prepare for a showdown against USC, a team that on paper they are capable of beating. Actually, using the committee’s logic we should skip actually playing the game and simply award the Rose Bowl win to Penn State. Head to head play on the field doesn’t matter, right?

 

Why the Playoff Committee Got It Right

By Cam Brennan

The College Football playoff is supposed to showcase the 4 best teams in the country, regardless of conference or division. It is a hard task some years to determine which four teams are actually the best, especially in years like this when the Big Ten East had 3 teams playing top-class football. Nevertheless, the committee must make a decision. Martin thinks they got it wrong but I'm here to tell you why they got it right.

I think we can all agree that Alabama is untouchable, so I'm not going to waste any more words explaining why they are the #1 seed.

Clemson, on the other hand, has some people concerned because of a few close games early in the season. Those concerns are fine, every team including Alabama had a few close calls throughout the season, this is normal...it is football after all. Unexpected close games are one of the many reasons we love this game. 

If you are worried about those close games for Clemson though, you must also concern yourself with the 11 wins (by an average of 23.3 points), 4 of which were by 46 points or more, and 3 of which were over ranked teams, including Louisville and Florida State. The bottom line is that Clemson's season shows a team with a prolific offense that found a way to win, 11 times. They belong in the Playoff.

Now on to Ohio State. I genuinely don't understand why some people are mad that they made the playoff. They destroyed the Big 12 Champs Oklahoma, they beat Big Ten West winners Wisconsin, they destroyed then #10 Nebraska AND they beat then #3 Michigan. Were two of those games overtime wins, yes, is that a big deal? Not at all. What matters is that they won. 

A big argument against Ohio State is that they didn't even win their division, so they couldn't compete for a conference championship. The counter argument to this is that in a conference with one stacked division you're bound to have 1 or 2 deserving teams miss out on the conference championship game, even though they have the same record as the team that made it. It's a system that can't fairly handle multiple great teams.

Ohio State lost to Penn State, on the road, by 3 points. No one denies this. Penn State lost to Pitt on the road, by 3 points. So far they're even in the loss column. Penn State has one more loss though, by 39 points to Michigan, a team that Ohio State beat. 

Yes, Penn State beat Ohio State head-to-head and this matters but it isn't the only thing that matters. It is one game out of 12 that the committee had to weigh to determine who the overall better team was. On October 22, 2016 Penn State was the better team, but the committee is concerned with every other Saturday in the season as well. Head-to-head matters in determining your divisional standing and is why Penn State made the Big Ten Championship game but it isn't the sole determining factor in who makes the Playoff. 

Penn State didn't get screwed out of the Playoff, heck they finished the season ranked higher than Michigan, the team who beat them by 39 points. Yet more proof that one game isn't the sole criteria by which the Committee judges a team. 

Ohio State is in the Playoff because the Committee sees their body of work and sees a team that is dominant on both sides of the ball, is well coached, and has a killer instinct to close teams out. A trait Michigan fans know all too well.

And so we come to Washington, the team doomed to lose to Alabama in the Semi-finals. I really like Washington and am glad that they made the Playoff. They've got a great offense, a really good defense, and wins over 4 ranked opponents. Their only loss was to USC, the team representing the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. 

The biggest injustice done to Washington this year was Jake Browning not getting invited to the Heisman ceremony...are you kidding me??

You can argue that Penn State or Michigan deserved the #4 spot but you'd be wrong. Washington has 11 wins over quality competition, 1 loss to a really good team, and are a team that is strong if not great in all aspects of the game. Good luck against Alabama boys and godspeed. 

Martin may disagree but given the body of work for all four of these teams, the Committee got it right this year. Here's to some great football games and another Alabama National Championship. 

College Football Postseason Pick Em

This article will be updated as we make our picks for each round of games. Check back often for new predictions and to see who's winning!

First published: December 2, 2016 10:45 CT
Updated: January 10, 2017 00:10 CT


As the 2016 College Football Season comes to its inevitable end, our College Football writing team decided it would be fun to predict the winners of every Conference Championship game, Bowl game, and Playoff game. Below you'll see our picks for every game along with a brief explanation of why we made the pick. Feel free to play along and let us know how you do!

 

Conference Championship Games

 

MAC

Martin: Western Michigan over Ohio (1/1)
 

I’ll take the Broncos over the Bobcats. I think WMU is a legitimately good team that would beat most top 25 teams and maybe even a few top 10 teams, and PJ Fleck appears to be one of the next hot coaching hires. It’s too bad they don’t have a shot at the playoff. I think Western wins by at least two scores.

 

Cam: Western Michigan over Ohio (1/1)

No offense to Ohio but this one seems fairly academic. WMU is outscoring their opponents by an average of 25 points per game and their offense is very efficient and balanced posting a healthy 503 yards of offense per game. 13-0 will look good on the Broncos. 

 

PAC-12

Martin: Colorado over Washington (1/2)

Washington has been the darling of the Pac-12, but don’t overlook Colorado, who is in the middle of one of the biggest single season turnarounds of all time. Colorado’s two losses were on the road at Michigan (a game in which Colorado was winning until their QB was injured) and on the road at USC (after USC decided to start playing football and be a really good team). Washington’s non-conference schedule was weak, and they needed overtime to put away a bad Arizona team. I expect this to be a close game, and I give the edge to Colorado. (I also really hope Colorado wins to put Michigan in the playoff…)

 

Cam: Washington over Colorado (2/2)

This game…I am very excited about this game. Both teams have stingy defenses as far as points allowed are concerned. Both teams have prolific offenses, averaging over 450 yards of offense per game. I expect both teams to play exceptionally well and push each other to the brink. The difference though is going to be Jake Browning. He’s thrown for 3162 yards, 40 touchdowns, only 7 interceptions and is completing 65% of his passes. The dude has skills and I think Colorado is about to find out just how skilled he is. 

 

AAC

Martin: Navy over Temple (1/3)

Can a team that averages 128 passing yards win a conference championship? If you also average 342 rushing yards, you certainly can. Navy beat Houston earlier this year, and they are a dangerous team to play. I expect Navy to beat Temple.

 

Cam: Navy over Temple (2/3)

Navy is having an incredible year, why should that stop now? I expect a full dose of Triple Option running from Navy despite Temple's solid run defense. Close game? Probably. Navy still finds a way to win. 

 

SEC

Martin: Alabama over Florida (2/4)

Because they are Alabama, and we’re all fighting for second place.

 

Cam: Alabama over Florida (3/4)

Yeah, what Martin said.

 

Big Ten

Martin: Wisconsin over Penn State (2/5)

Wisconsin’s two losses this year? A 7-point loss in Ann Arbor and an overtime loss to Ohio State. Penn State has had a miraculous second half of their season after looking like an utter garbage fire early on, but I expect the magic to run out tonight. I think Wisconsin wins by two scores.

 

Cam: Penn State over Wisconsin (4/5)

I'm not really sure how much this game actually matters, which is sad. One of these teams will have to win convincingly and hope for Clemson to look bad against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game just for a hope of sneaking into the playoff. Looks like these 2 are playing for the Rose Bowl...which is still a big deal right?

 

ACC

Martin: Virginia Tech over Clemson (2/6)

If I was in Vegas, I’d put my money on Clemson. But I have nothing but pride riding on this, I want Clemson to lose, and I haven’t been impressed by them all year. They’ve had numerous close calls with bad teams (Troy and NC State), and their wins aren’t all that impressive anymore. Virginia Tech doesn’t sport a great resumé either, but one of these games needs an upset, right?

 

Cam: Clemson over Virginia Tech (5/6)

I agree with Martin that Clemson has looked downright poor at times this year, but they still have an 11-1 record despite some close games. I like VT and their new head coach and expect them to get better in the coming years but this is not their year to win the conference. That privilege belongs to Clemson for the 2nd year in a row. 

 

Bowl Games

 

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

North Carolina Central vs. Grambling State

Cam (6/7) & Martin (3/7): Grambling State

 

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

New Mexico vs. Texas-San Antonio 

Cam (7/8) & Martin (4/8): New Mexico

 

Las Vegas Bowl

Houston vs. San Diego State

Cam (7/9) & Martin (4/9): Houston


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Appalachian State vs. Toledo

Cam (8/10) & Martin (5/10): Appalachian State

 

Autonation Cure Bowl

University of Central Florida vs. Arkansas State

Cam (8/11) & Martin (5/11): University of Central Florida

 

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

Cam (9/12) & Martin (6/12): Southern Miss

 

Miami Beach Bowl

Central Michigan vs. Tulsa

Cam (10/13): Tulsa

Martin (6/13): Central Michigan

 

Boca Raton Bowl

Memphis vs. Western Kentucky

Cam (11/14) & Martin (7/14): Western Kentucky

 

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Brigham Young vs. Wyoming

Cam (12/15) and Martin (8/15): Brigham Young University

 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Idaho vs. Colorado State

Cam (12/16) & Martin (8/16): Colorado State

 

Popeye's Bahamas Bowl

Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion

Cam (13/17): Old Dominion

Martin (8/17): Eastern Michigan University

 

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Louisiana Tech vs. Navy

Cam (13/18) & Martin (8/18): Navy

 

Dollar General Bowl

Ohio vs. Troy

Cam (14/19) & Martin (9/19): Troy

 

Hawai'i Bowl

Hawai'i vs. Middle Tennessee

Cam (14/20) & Martin (9/20): Middle Tennessee

 

St. Petersburg Bowl

Miami (OH) vs. Mississippi State

Cam (15/21) & Martin (10/21): Mississippi State

 

Quick Lane Bowl

Maryland vs. Boston College

Cam (16/22): Boston College

Martin (10/22): Maryland

 

Camping World Independence Bowl

NC State vs. Vanderbilt

Cam (16/23) & Martin (10/23): Vanderbilt

 

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

Army vs. North Texas

Cam (17/24) & Martin (11/24): Army 

 

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman

Temple vs. Wake Forest

Cam (17/25) & Martin (11/25): Temple

 

National Funding Holiday Bowl

Minnesota vs. Washington State

Cam (17/26): Washington State

Martin (12/26): Minnesota

 

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl

Boise State vs. Baylor

Cam (17/27) & Martin (12/27): Boise State

 

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern

Cam (17/28) & Martin (12/28): Pittsburgh

 

Russell Athletic Bowl

West Virginia vs. Miami

Cam (17/29) & Martin (12/29): West Virginia

 

Foster Farms Bowl

Indiana vs. Utah

Cam (18/30) & Martin (13/30): Utah

 

Advocare V100 Texas Bowl

Texas A&M vs. Kansas State

Cam (19/31): Kansas State

Martin (13/31): Texas A&M

 

Birmingham Bowl

South Florida vs. South Carolina

Cam (20/32) & Martin (14/32): South Florida

 

Belk Bowl

Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech

Cam (21/33) & Martin (15/33): Virginia Tech

 

Valero Alamo Bowl

Oklahoma State vs. Colorado

Cam (21/34) & Martin (15/34): Colorado

 

Autozone Liberty Bowl

Georgia vs. Texas Christian University

Cam (22/35) & Martin (16/35): Georgia

 

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Stanford vs. North Carolina

Cam (23/36) & Martin (17/36): Stanford

 

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Nebraska vs. Tennessee

Cam (23/37) & Martin (17/37): Nebraska

 

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

South Alabama vs. Air Force

Cam (24/38) & Martin (18/38): Air Force

 

Capital One Orange Bowl

Michigan vs. Florida State

Cam (24/39) & Martin (18/39): Michigan

 

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

Louisiana State vs. Louisville

Cam (24/40) & Martin (18/40): Louisville

 

Taxslayer Bowl

Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky

Cam (25/41) & Martin (19/41): Georgia Tech

 

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin

Cam (25/42): Western Michigan

Martin (20/42): Wisconsin

 

Outback Bowl

Florida vs. Iowa

Cam (25/43): Iowa

Martin (21/43): Florida

 

Rose Bowl

University of Southern California vs. Penn State

Cam (26/44): University of Southern California

Martin (21/44): Penn State

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Auburn vs. Oklahoma

Cam (27/45) & Martin (22/45): Oklahoma

 

PLAYOFF

 

Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl

Washington vs. Alabama

Cam (28/46) & Martin (23/46): Alabama

 

Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State vs. Clemson

Cam (28/47) & Martin (23/47): Ohio State

 

National Championship Game

Alabama vs. Clemson

Cam (28/48) & Martin (23/48): Alabama

 

Final Results

The final tally for Martin was 23 correct picks out of 48 games, which comes out to a score of 47.9%. Cam chose 28 games correctly, resulting in a score of 58.3%. Neither of us did great, frankly, but those are the breaks when your picking college football games, weird things happen.

When we first published this post we also launched a Pick Em pool on espn.com. The winner of that pool was none other than Mendoza Line co-host, Nick Coats, congrats on your big win!!

Week 13 - Three Big Ten teams in the Playoff??

By Martin Magers

The Game, follow up.

The Game between Michigan and Ohio State on Saturday was one of the most watched college football games of all time. It was a clash between two rivals who absolutely hate each other, both were ranked in the top 3, and it went to double overtime. Surely it will be an all-time classic, right?

For most Michigan fans, it won’t be. Rather, it will be a haunting reminder of why in College Football you have to be able to run the ball, why you can’t turn the ball over, and why defense may win championships but the defense still needs the offense to ice the game. And it will also be a reminder of what can happen when the field is heavily tilted against you.

Don’t get me wrong. Michigan, both players and coaches, made critical errors on Saturday that usually cost you the game. Too many turnovers. No offensive production in the fourth quarter. Questionable use of time outs. Failure to creatively get Jabrill Peppers the ball in open space. Dropped passes. Missed blocks.

However, even with those errors, Michigan’s championship caliber defense kept them in the game, and had it not been for blatant homer officiating, Michigan wins that game. It is unquestionable that the Wolverines outplayed the Buckeyes. It is also unquestionable that the referees missed two crucial, obvious pass interference penalties against OSU on Michigan’s first and last drives, that the referees made a questionable pass interference call against Michigan on an uncatchable throw which extended OSU’s final regulation drive, and that the referee most responsible for calling or not calling pass interference is a self-described OSU fan. In fact, he was recused from officiating the 2006 Michigan vs OSU game because of that very reason. So why was he wearing the black and white stripes on Saturday? Your guess is as good as mine (for reference, his name is Kevin Schwarzel, and you can fact check everything I just wrote).

And, for the record, JT Barrett was definitely short on fourth down, but it is extremely difficult to overturn a ball spot on a replay. If that was the only bad call against Michigan, Harbaugh would absolutely deserve his $10,000 fine for blasting the officials, and his critics would be accurate in labelling him a whiner. But it wasn’t, and he isn’t. Between that call, the blown pass interference calls, the absurd personal foul on Harbaugh, and the lack of any substantial penalties against the home team, Harbaugh had every right to throw shade at the officials. I mean, Michigan had eight sacks and OSU never tried to hold the defensive line? Ridiculous. Taco Charlton was being grabbed by the neck at times, but he still earned 2.5 sacks and a large payday in April’s draft.

Playoff Implications.

So what did Saturday mean for the playoff? Well, it appears the committee is valuing the eye test over conference championships. Most pundits will tell you that Alabama, who beat Auburn, and Ohio State are locks for a playoff spot, leaving two open spots for Clemson, Washington, Penn State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Michigan (yes, Michigan) to fight over. Clemson rolled South Carolina on Saturday, and with a win over Virginia Tech in the ACC championship this week is likely in the playoff. That leaves one open spot, and if Washington, coming off a big win over Washington State, can beat Colorado on Saturday, they will likely round out the fourth spot. That would leave the champions of the Big Ten and Big Twelve out of the playoff.

Alternatively, if either Clemson or Washington stumble, and if the committee is consistent with what they have done thus far, Michigan could sneak into the fourth spot. Michigan has wins over potential Pac-12 champion Colorado and both teams vying for the Big Ten championship.

Before you call me a homer, let me just say that I hate this system. Penn State not only may win the Big Ten, but they also beat OSU in head to head competition. Thus, if the Nittany Lions keep riding their unexpected success to a Big Ten championship on Saturday, they absolutely, 100% deserve a spot in the playoff, as do Washington and Clemson if they also win. That would mean the four playoff teams are Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and Penn State. Unfortunately, the committee has made it clear that if only one Big Ten team goes, it was to be the winner of the OSU vs UM game, completely undermining the core of the competitive spirit. College athletics are supposed to be decided on the field, not on paper. Penn State has positioned themselves such that they deserve a playoff spot if they win on Saturday. But they likely won’t be given it.

Now, if you take the actions of the committee to their full end, remaining steadfastly consistent to the idea that the playoff is to include the four best teams, conference champions be damned, here are the four teams they should take, in no particular order: 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Michigan, 4. Winner of the Penn State/Wisconsin game. I know, including three Big Ten teams is insanity, but the Big Ten is clearly the best conference right now. Aside from possibly winning their conferences, Clemson and Washington haven’t actually done anything impressive this year. The same goes for Oklahoma. If the goal truly is the four best teams, put your rankings where your mouth is and take three Big Ten teams. On the other hand, I’d also be ok with just awarding Alabama the national championship and letting Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin/Penn State, and either Washington or Clemson duke it out for second place.

This weekend will be interesting…

Week 12 - The Game is Coming

By Martin Magers

The Game.

If you know one thing about this week in college football, it is this: The Game is on Saturday.

A decade ago, I crowded into a study lounge in my college dorm with my friends to watch then #2 Michigan travel to Columbus to take on then #1 Ohio State. Both teams were undefeated, with the Big Ten Championship and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game on the line. It was arguably the biggest game that had ever been played between the two bitter rivals, and I was certain my Wolverines would win The Game. Ultimately, my heart sank as Michigan fell three points short. Michigan would soon be stuck in a near decade-long free fall from relevance.

Now, ten years after that loss, having endured the Rich Rod and Hoke eras, Michigan has an opportunity to avenge that loss and restore themselves atop the Big Ten. As fate you have it, opportunities for a Big Ten and a national championship await the winner yet again.

Who will win? Ohio State is favored, and rightly so. Michigan may be forced to use its backup quarterback, Ohio State has the speed and athleticism on offense to potentially expose Michigan’s linebackers, and the Buckeyes have owned this series lately. On the other hand, Michigan boasts one of the best defenses in the country, Ohio State lost to a Penn State team that Michigan slaughtered, and Jabrill Peppers is one of the most electrifying players in the country.

I can’t wait until Saturday.

Everything else that isn’t nearly as important as The Game:

Louisville got destroyed by Houston. Lamar Jackson may still win the Heisman, but Louisville will not make the playoff.

Oklahoma blew out West Virginia. It’s unlikely that Oklahoma, with two losses, will make the playoff, but the Sooners do have a prayer.

Washington, currently on the playoff bubble, takes on Washington State on Saturday. If the Huskies want to remain on the good side of the bubble, they’ll need a win.

If Ohio State beats Michigan and Penn State can take care of business against Michigan State this week, it will actually be Penn State representing the East Division in the Big Ten Championship game.

Week 11 - A Saturday of Sadness

By Martin Magers

Upsets abound

Michigan, Washington, and Clemson all entered the weekend with an undefeated record and a top 5 ranking. Clemson and Michigan both appeared to be poised to remain perfect until last minute field goals from Pittsburgh and Iowa, respectively, handing each their first loss of the year. Washington, on the other hand, trailed nearly the entire game and lost to USC.

What does it mean for each team? For Clemson and Michigan, the losses likely do not affect their chances of making the playoff. Both teams, if they win out, will win their respective conference championships and would be near locks to be invited to the playoff. Before this weekend, there was discussion that Michigan might sneak its way into the playoff even with a close loss on the road against Ohio State the final week of the regular season, but that was assuming they would beat Iowa and Indiana en route to Columbus. With the loss to Iowa, that possibility was erased. The loss appears to hurt Clemson more than the others. Unlike Michigan and Clemson though, Washington would not be quite as certain to make the playoff even with a perfect record the rest of the way.

What about Ohio State?

Though Ohio State appears poised to slide to #2 in the college football rankings, they may not truly control their destiny. Even if Ohio State wins out, Penn State would represent the Big Ten East in the conference championship game if the Nittany Lions are able to beat Rutgers and Michigan State, both very winnable games. Some analysts think Ohio State would still be invited to the playoff even without a conference championship on their resumé, but consider this guy skeptical. If Penn State wins out, Michigan falls to Ohio State, and Penn State beats Wisconsin the Big Ten Championship, Penn State would boast wins over two top 10 teams, a conference championship, and losses to Michigan and Pittsburgh who, by the way, just beat Clemson in Death Valley. In that scenario, Penn State would certainly be invited to the playoff over Ohio State. Would the committee consider taking Ohio State instead of a one loss Power 5 conference champion? We’ll see...

What about Western Michigan?

Seeing the Broncos in the playoff would be a fantastic storyline. Until the NCAA figures out a way to expand the playoff to 8 teams, however, the chance of seeing a team such as Western Michigan in the playoff approaches zero.

What about Alabama?

Yeah, they’re still Alabama, and they’re still taking care of business. 

Week 10 - Who Didn't Get Blown Out This Week?

By Cam Brennan

Alabama and LSU was a snooze fest

I know what you’re thinking, it was a defensive slugfest. Great defenses win championships. This is what SEC football is all about.

Blah, blah, blah, the game was boring. LSU’s offense looked completely inept. Etling couldn’t hit any open receivers and Fournette managed 35 yards on 17 carries. Just terrible. 

Outside of a few key plays, Alabama’s offense wasn’t much better. They finally opened it up in the 4th quarter when Bo Scarbrough came in and played with some actual tenacity, which was refreshing. I’d have loved to see him earlier in the game.

Not to discredit these two defenses, they are good, Alabama’s is probably even great, but they proved in this game that their offenses are not on the same level as their defenses. We knew this about LSU but seeing Alabama struggle on offense was a bit of a surprise. I hope we get to see Alabama and Michigan in the Playoff, that way we can judge which team is truly the best this season.

The College Football Playoff got it wrong with Texas A&M

I think we all knew this. I also think we all knew that in time Washington would make it into the top 4. What I didn’t expect was Texas A&M promptly choking and making the Playoff Committee look sillier than they already did. I know I enjoyed that result, not so much at the expense of A&M, but more at the expense of the Playoff Committee’s SEC bias. Which leads me to my next point.

Washington makes a statement

Washington could easily have slipped up this week on the road after being snubbed in the initial Playoff rankings. What they did, however, was drop 66 points on the California Bears, winning by a cool 39 points. This wasn’t the biggest scoring margin of the weekend, but hopefully it will get the attention of the Playoff Committee. Washington deserves to be in the top 4, this weekend was just another example of why.

Michigan and Ohio St. dominate, thicken the plot as we approach The Game

In just 3 short weeks the 113th edition of The Game will take place in that state to the south. It will, barring any freak results, pit 11-0 Michigan against 10-1 Ohio State. If Michigan wins they claim the Big Ten East, if Ohio State wins they win the East despite a 3 way tie for first place, assuming Penn State wins out. 

So it’s do or die for both teams. 

Ohio State looked awful in their loss to Penn State and then only beat Northwestern by 4 the following week. Things in Columbus were getting tense. You know what releases tension really well? A 62-3 victory over the number 10 team in the country. For their part Michigan destroyed Maryland 59-3.

I cannot wait for this game on November 26th. It is going to be incredible. 

Week 9 - Hail To The Victors...Barely.

By Martin Magers

Big 12 has a bad weekend.

Going into this weekend, the Big 12’s chances of getting a team into the playoff surprisingly rested on West Virginia and Baylor. Though the Mountaineers and the Bears are having better than expected seasons, both lost on Saturday. With the losses, the Big 12 almost certainly will not have a team in the playoff. It is difficult to imagine a one or two loss Big 12 champion beating out an undefeated or one loss team from another Power 5 conference. 

Michigan slays one of its demons.

The University of Michigan Wolverines boast not only the most wins of any college football program but also the best winning percentage. That winning percentage, though, had suffered in the years before the Harbaugh era began. By all accounts, Harbaugh turned things around in Ann Arbor much more quickly than expected, capping his first season with a resounding win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl. There were two notable things that he had failed to do in year one, though: 1) beat little brother Michigan State; 2) beat the team down south. After a long, agonizing year of having to replay one of the most improbable, horrible things that has ever struck Michigan, the Wolverines finally got their revenge on Saturday. Jabrill Peppers was spectacular, and the Paul Bunyan trophy returned home to Ann Arbor. 

Other undefeated teams also remain perfect.

Clemson and Washington were both able to win on the road against tough opponents to keep their undefeated seasons alive. Clemson beat Florida State 37 to 34, and Washington beat Utah 31 to 24. The ACC is firmly controlled by the Tigers, who have a very winnable schedule the rest of the regular season, and the PAC 12 is led by the Huskies.

Notable Week 10 Matchups

There are only two games featuring two top 25 teams this coming week, and both are at 8:00 on Saturday night. Nebraska travels to Columbus to play Ohio State in a crucial matchup for both teams. Ohio State needs a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and Nebraska desperately needs a win to keep pace with Wisconsin, who they just lost to in Madison in overtime. Down South, Alabama travels to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. Les Miles was largely fired because of his inability to beat Nick Saban and Alabama, and Ed Orgeron has the Tigers playing at a high level after some early season struggles. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers can finally beat the Crimson Tide. 

Week 8 - Still A Lot to Play For

By Martin Magers

New number two!

After nearly losing in Madison last weekend to the Badgers, Ohio State had to travel to Happy Valley for a night game with the struggling Nittany Lions. For most of the game, it looked as though the Buckeyes would escape with a win, but PSU’s special teams came up big with a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter en route to a shocking upset over OSU. It was James’ Franklin’s biggest win since he took over in Happy Valley in 2014.

The questions now are: 1) Can Michigan beat the Buckeyes in Columbus and go to its first Big Ten Championship game? 2) If Ohio State can win out, including beating Michigan in the last week of the regular season, can it still make the playoff? 

To answer the first question, Michigan probably has the talent to match up with Ohio State this year, and Jim Harbaugh certainly has a gameplan to work with now that Ohio State has shown vulnerability the past two weeks. It’s interesting to note that Ohio State needed overtime to beat a Wisconsin team that Michigan handled with relative ease, sans the field goal team, and lost to a Penn State team that Michigan utterly annihilated. That said, every legitimate football fan knows the transitive property doesn’t mean a thing. Oh, and The Game is in Columbus… As far as whether Ohio State can still make the playoff, the short answer is that they can, but they’ll need help. It’s unlikely the committee would invite a one loss Ohio State team if the other Power 5 conference champions are undefeated. However, if even one other Power 5 conference produces a champion with a loss on its resumé, OSU’s chances skyrocket. 

Big road games

•    Michigan travels to East Lansing: Michigan will look to remain perfect on the season and get revenge against the struggling Michigan State Spartans after last year’s fluky finish to the rivalry game. The Wolverines are a heavy road favorite, but if there is one thing Mark Dantonio can do, it’s get his team ready to play Michigan. This game could wind up lopsided, but don’t be surprised if the Spartans play their best game of the year.

•    West Virginia travels to Stillwater: The Mountaineers are putting together a surprising season, but this week they put their perfect record on the line against a good Oklahoma State team on the road. WVU is favored by 4 on the road (as of Monday night), but I don’t think anyone would be shocked to see Oklahoma State pull the upset.

•    Washington travels to Salt Lake City: Washington is expected to represent the PAC 12 in the college football playoff, but first they need to take care of business against Utah in hostile Salt Lake City, not an easy place to win on the road.

•    Nebraska travels to Madison: Nebraska has quietly climbed to #7 in the AP Poll, but this week they take on #11 Wisconsin in Madison. This is a big litmus test for the Cornhuskers. 

•    Clemson travels to Tallahassee: Clemson has had its fair share of close calls this year, and Florida State is good enough to make them pay, especially in Tallahassee. 

Week 7 - Boise State, Nebraska, and WestVirginia are still unbeaten.

By Martin Magers

Close calls for potential playoff teams. 

Ohio State and Clemson both needed overtime to put away their opponents on Saturday. The Buckeyes overcame a 16 to 6 halftime deficit to beat the Badgers on the road in Madison. Beating a good Wisconsin team on the road kept the Buckeyes at #2 in the AP poll and solidly in playoff contention. The Tigers, however, dropped a spot to #4 in the AP poll, flipping positions with Michigan. Frankly, Clemson should have lost this game in regulation as NC State missed a chip shot field goal attempt, and it’s simply not a good look for the ACC’s most likely representative in the playoff. Clemson’s resumé now includes 6 point victories over Auburn and Troy, and a 7-point overtime win over NC State. If the Tigers win out, they’ll most likely still make the playoff, but nothing is certain at this point in the season. 

Alabama. Looks. Good.

It’s probable that Tennessee was overrated. Any team can lose any week. Alabama probably has a flaw. These are all true statements, but it’s a relatively safe bet to put money on the Crimson Tide rolling to another national championship in January. 

Boise State keeps climbing. 

Most considered Houston the only legitimate non-Power 5 conference team to have a shot at the playoff this year, which obviously ended with their loss to Navy. With Boise State now 6 and 0 and sitting at #14 in the AP poll, maybe it’s time to start talking about them. The Bronco’s strength of schedule isn’t terrible, but it’s also not great. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have any match-ups with legitimate top 10 teams this year. They would certainly need the top teams in the Power 5 conferences to take some big losses, but it’s not entirely impossible for them to make the playoff. 

Nebraska remains unbeaten.

With the majority of Big Ten hype being focused on Ohio State and Michigan, Nebraska is quietly setting itself for a run at the playoff. The Cornhuskers beat a decent Indiana team on Saturday in Bloomington to improve to 6 and 0. With a home game against the horrid Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday, Nebraska should be 7 and 0 before they finally have road games against Ohio State and Wisconsin. The safe bet is probably on the Buckeyes and Badgers in those games, but Tommy Armstrong and a good Nebraska defense could make things interesting. 

West Virginia?

The last time the West Virginia Mountaineers were truly relevant, Rich Rodriguez was still winning football games, Pat White was still playing quarterback, and Barack Obama was winning his first presidential campaign. No one, including die hard Mountaineer fans, thought Dana Holgerson’s Mountaineers would compete for the Big 12 championship this year. However, with the Mountaineers now 5 and 0 and with Baylor and Oklahoma traveling to Morgantown later this year, WVU has an outside shot at winning the Big 12 and making the playoff. 

3 Big Losses and 1 Enormous Beat Down

By Martin Magers

Houston, it was fun while it lasted.

Any chance that the Houston Cougars had of securing a spot in the College Football Playoff dissipated after their loss at Navy on Saturday. Navy’s opportunistic defense, a strong rushing attack, and a few big pass plays eliminated this year’s non-Power 5 Cinderella team. That said, Houston remains relevant to college football this season for two reasons: 1) Will they hand Louisville its second loss of the season on November 17 and knock them out of playoff contention as well? 2) What is the future of Tom Herman?

Tennessee, your luck ran out. 

Last week, we discussed Tennessee’s unlikely road to an (at that time) still unbeaten record. The Volunteers opted to tempt fate once more, this time falling behind 28 to 7 in the third quarter. Once again, they made a wild late-game comeback, but this time they fell short in overtime. Tennessee fans had to see this coming; in a Power 5 conference, you can’t dig yourself a big hole every single week and expect to win. 

Rutgers, you should be relegated.

Yes, Michigan is good. Their defense is one of the best in the country, and their offense is becoming dangerous behind starting QB Wilton Speight and Heisman candidate Jabrill Peppers, but 78 to 0? Come on, Rutgers. You can do better than that. Michigan had its back-ups in the entire second half, and you still couldn’t move the ball on offense or slow down Michigan’s offense. Michigan had 600 yards of offense; you had 39 yards. Michigan had 23 first downs; you had 2, and neither of those were in the first half. Jim Delany (current Big 10 commissioner) should put you out of your misery and bring North Dakota State to the Big Ten. 

Miami, you’re improving.

After an 8 and 5 (5 and 3 in the ACC) record last season, few expected Miami to contend for the ACC conference championship this season. Heading into this weekend, Miami was undefeated, including a win over an Appalachian State team that should have beaten Tennessee. That said, Saturday’s game against Florida State was by far the team’s biggest test of the year so far. Unfortunately for Miami, they fell just short (if not for a blocked point after attempt, the game likely would have gone to overtime). Regardless, new head coach Mark Richt has the program heading in the right direction.

Week 5 - What is Tennessee's Deal?

By Martin Magers

Clemson and Louisville deliver a classic.

It’s a shame that either team had to lose. Both teams looked good, and both QBs showed why they have Heisman hype. While Lamar Jackson probably walked away with more Heisman votes than Deshaun Watson, Deshaun Watson delivered what matters most: the win. Clemson still has a regular season matchup with Florida State looming, but FSU suddenly looks very beatable and Clemson looks poised to win the ACC.

Michigan’s defense is really good.

Before the season started, Wolverine fans had circled road games against Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State as the true litmus tests for this team, but then Wisconsin burst onto the scene and Michigan’s first big challenge of the season came much more quickly. On Saturday, Michigan’s defense was able to overcome atrocious special teams play (3 missed field goals and idiotic pre-play penalties) to keep Michigan undefeated, absolutely terrorizing Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook (9/25, 88 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT) and holding the Badgers to 71 total rushing yards.

Michigan’s offense wasn’t remarkably better, but they did leave 9 points on the field with (very make-able) missed field goals, and Wilton Speight came through with a huge fourth quarter TD. The highlight of the game? Jourdan Lewis’ insane fourth quarter interception. Yes, Lewis probably should have just knocked the ball down, but can you blame him for getting himself a Top Ten highlight?

Washington is a contender.

Everyone is expecting this year’s national champion to come out of the PAC 12, right? Especially if that team isn’t Stanford? Obviously not, but after Friday night’s shellacking of Stanford by undefeated Washington, it looks possible. Washington’s defense is really good, their offense is moving the ball well, and they just beat their best regular season opponent. If they keep playing like this, they should be one of the four teams in the playoff.

What is Tennessee’s deal?

Alright, let’s run through Tennessee’s year so far:

  • Week 1: Started the season ranked #9 with a Heisman hopeful QB and needed overtime to put away an FCS school
  • Week 2: Take care of business against unranked Virginia Tech after falling down 14-0 to start the game
  • Week 3: Beat the vaunted (sarcasm) Ohio Bobcats by merely 9 points
  • Week 4: Fell down 21 to 0 to Florida before a wild second half comeback (by the way, Florida nearly lost to Vanderbilt on Saturday…)
  • Week 5: Were losing by 17 points to Georgia before they decided to come back again, this time needing a Hail Mary with time expiring

It’s tough to confidently say if Tennessee is lucky or good, but the next two weeks will help clarify things. They may be able to overcome a slow start this week against #8 Texas A&M, but something tells me a slow start against #1 Alabama in two weeks won’t work in their favor.

Week 4 - Notre Dame Might Not Make a Bowl Game

By Cam Brennan

Wisconsin is for real 

Wisconsin started the season unranked and has gone on to beat LSU and Michigan State, the latter very convincingly. Their defense has been superb, only giving up a measly 11.75 points per game. The only reason this could be considered ’surprising’ is because of pre-season rankings and the opinions of expert analysts heading into the season. (Can we please get rid of pre-season rankings? They hold absolutely no merit.)

The bottom line is that Wisconsin is the real deal thus far, adding to the top-end power of the Big Ten this season. That being said, Wisconsin has a huge early season meeting at Michigan next week that will tell us a whole lot about each team.

 

Tennessee finally beat Florida

After 11 years, and 2 very close games in the last 2 years, Tennessee has finally beaten Florida. The most amazing part of this victory was that Tennessee was down 21-3 at halftime and then proceeded to outscore Florida 35-7 in the second half. This was truly impressive.

After an early scare against Appalachian State, Tennessee has now rallied to a 4-0 recored heading into the teeth of their conference schedule which pits them against Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama over the next 3 weeks. If they can get 1 win out of those 3 games, which I think will happen, they could finish the year with a 10-2 record, which would be nothing less than amazing. 

 

Notre Dame might not make a bowl game

Last week we noted that Notre Dame was out of Playoff contention, this week we’ve changed our outlook to Notre Dame most likely not making a bowl game. Yikes.

Notre Dame is sitting at 1-3 and hasn’t looked convincing all year long. They fired their defensive coordinator after their loss at home to Duke this weekend but I’m not sure that will solve their problems. If anything, that move was Brian Kelly trying to save his own job…which isn’t surprising. 

They still have games against Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech, and USC left. Not to mention the Army and Navy games. The chances of them going 5-3 the rest of the year are not great. It is certainly possible but I’m not betting on it. 

 

Les Miles’ job is definitely on the line

I’m not surprised. His teams, no matter how seemingly talented in recent years, tend to choke. Part of it is on the players inability to get it done in the clutch, but the other part is definitely on Miles and his lack of end game skills. Sometimes it’s as if he doesn’t even understand what clock management and appropriate play calling is. 

This weekend's game against Auburn was no different. LSU had the ball with enough time to score. Fournette hurt his ankle and then was brought back into the game, apparently as a decoy? I understand that he’s your best player but if he can’t move, then he can’t run or block on a pass play. And if I remember correctly, LSU wasted a timeout surrounding this Fournette issue, causing the commentators to wonder what LSU was doing. 

Ultimately this game came down to LSU being out of timeouts, yet by the grace of God getting a final play with :01 left on the clock. Amazingly they were able to score and win the game! But after review the play was overturned because the game clock had expired before the snap. LSU blows it again and Bob’s your uncle. 

LSU’s upcoming schedule: Missouri, Florida , USM, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas…this could get rough.

 

Lamar Jackson…wow

The dude, through 4 games, has 1330 passing yds, 13 passing TD, 3 INT, a QB Rating of 176.7, 526 yds rushing, and 12 rushing TD. That’s 464 total yards of offense and 6.25 TD per game. Just amazing.

Now Louisville does have a very tough game at Clemson next week which should serve as a great litmus test for how good this team really is. Other than that Louisville only has one other game that should be tough: at Houston on Nov. 17. That game, potentially, could have enormous playoff ramifications for both teams. 

Week 3 - The Big 12 Is Already Out of The Playoff

By Martin Magers

Notre Dame is done.

After nearly making the college football playoff last season, the Notre Dame faithful had high expectations for this year’s team. Quarterbacks Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer were supposed to lead a high-scoring offensive attack behind a strong offensive line, but the defense was largely a question mark. Three games into the season, Notre Dame now owns two losses and sits outside the Top 25 poll, thanks in large part to its defense. Granted, Texas is certainly improved from last year, and Michigan State will once again be in playoff contention, but losses to both teams leave Notre Dame firmly out of playoff contention. The Irish will be playing for pride from here on out.

How good is North Dakota State?

A knee jerk reaction to Iowa’s loss to North Dakota State would be that Iowa was overrated, but as Lee Corso always says, “Not so fast, my friend!” Firstly, it should be kept in mind that Iowa was one play away from making the playoff last season. Secondly, North Dakota is really, really good. It’s easy to dismiss FCS teams, but North Dakota State would beat a lot of FBS teams. North Dakota State has won the FCS championship five years running and produced 2016 first round draft pick Carson Wentz (who threw for 2 touchdowns in his NFL debut last week). Regardless, Iowa still controls its destiny as it opens Big Ten play against Rutgers this coming weekend.

Florida State loses big.

It’s not simply that Florida State lost to Louisville on the road, it’s that Louisville absolutely destroyed them. While Lamar Jackson was putting up video game-type stats against the Seminole’s defense, Deondre Francois and Dalvin Cook struggled to get anything going. Florida State will need help if it wants to win the ACC and make the playoff.

Alabama pushed to the wire.

Ole Miss has had Alabama’s number the past two years, but the Crimson Tide rallied back this time. Though Alabama remains unbeaten and atop the polls, Ole Miss certainly exposed some weaknesses.

Forget about the Big 12 making the playoff.

After Oklahoma was handled by Ohio State and Texas lost to Cal, it’s safe to eliminate any Big 12 team from serious playoff consideration. The lone undefeated Big 12 teams are Baylor and West Virginia, but even if one of them wins out, which appears unlikely, there is no guarantee they’d be in the playoff; the Big Ten, SEC, and ACC all appear poised to send at least one team each, and Houston is in the discussion as well.

Week 2 - One Major Upset...With A Huge Asterisk

By Martin Magers

Most top teams took care of business…

In comparison to last weekend’s historic level of excitement, this weekend was only slightly more exciting than an NFL preseason game. There were no games featuring two top 25 teams, and College GameDay had to travel to a racetrack to feature a team that should have lost to Appalachian State last week. Adding to the boredom was the decisiveness with which most top teams disposed of their markedly lesser opponents. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, and Michigan all rolled to easy victories again. 

...but some didn’t.

Though they still finished with the all-important victory, Clemson and Georgia certainly didn’t win any style points this weekend. Clemson’s résumé now features 6 point victories over unranked Auburn and Troy. Similarly, Georgia escaped with a two point victory over Nicholls. Both teams fell in the rankings, with Clemson now sitting at #5 and Georgia at #16.

Hail Mary! (or not)

One would think that Central Michigan traveling to Stillwater to shock the Oklahoma State Cowboys on a Hail Mary play would be enough to raise this weekend’s excitement at least a notch or too. Everyone enjoys a good David versus Goliath story, right? Well, maybe not if it should never have happened. At the end of the game, the officials erroneously awarded an untimed play to CMU following an intentional grounding penalty. The officiating crew has already been suspended, and there will always be an asterisk attached to what otherwise would have been an awesome play.

Things will get interesting again next week.

In terms of anticipated matchups, next week’s slate of games looks a lot more like last week than this week, with four top 25 matchups and several other notable games:

  • #12 Michigan State travels to South Bend for a night game against #18 Notre Dame. 
  • #14 Oklahoma tries to redeem itself against #3 Ohio State.
  • #2 Florida State takes on #10 Louisville.
  • #1 Alabama plays #19 Ole Miss.
  • #6 Houston gets another chance to prove themselves against undefeated Cincinnati.
  • #4 Michigan looks to keep rolling against it’s toughest opponent so far, Colorado.

5 Things to Note - Week 1

By Martin Magers

Great opening weekend.

College football is back, and it’s back in full force. After a season that featured the second ever college football playoff, a fantastic national championship game, and numerous unthinkable endings to big games (one of which was particularly tragic, reference: U-M vs MSU), it picked up right where it left off. It started Thursday with #9 Tennessee needing a lucky play in overtime to put away a good Appalachian State, kept going Saturday with College GameDay traveling to Lambeau Field to preview a matchup between Wisconsin and #5 LSU, continued Sunday with a matchup between #10 Notre Dame and Texas, and concluded Monday night with #4 Florida State taking on #11 Ole Miss. Altogether, there were four matchups between top 25 teams, and that doesn’t include the LSU-Wisconsin, ND-Texas, and Clemson-Auburn matchups. Most of these games lived up to their billing, and there were several other surprisingly great games as well (i.e., the aforementioned App State vs UT matchup and Texas A&M upsetting UCLA). Best opening weekend ever? Probably not, but it was the most fun opening weekend in a long time, and the new playoff system seems to be encouraging teams to schedule strong opponents early in the season.

Houston is good??

The top five schools going into this weekend were (in order) Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, FSU, and LSU, all schools with storied football programs. One school in the top 25 without a storied football program? #15 Houston. The last time we saw Houston they were beating #9 FSU in the New Year ’s Day Peach Bowl to cap off a 13-1 season and a #8 final season ranking. 2015 was certainly a great season for the Cougars, and they may have even forced their way into the playoff if not for a loss at Connecticut. After beating a very good #3 Oklahoma team on Saturday, they appear ready to roll through the rest of their regular season schedule. You may not know much about them, but don’t be surprised to hear them in the conversation for 2016’s playoff.

The SEC is overrated...

Can the narrative that the SEC is markedly better than the other power conferences please be laid to rest with LSU’s national championship hopes? (Yes, it’s theoretically possible LSU still makes the playoff, but it’s unlikely and they did not look good on Saturday). Not only did unranked Wisconsin beat #5 LSU, but #9 Tennessee needed a lucky play in overtime to beat Appalachian State and Mississippi State was shocked by FCS opponent South Alabama. Just face it, Finebaum, the SEC is not as good as you think.

but Alabama looks really really good.

#1 Alabama beat #20 USC by a score of 52 to 6, but even that margin of victory doesn’t do justice to how good Alabama looked. Both of USC’s quarterbacks finished with a QBR less than 10. USC managed 64 yards rushing (2.1 per carry average). On the other hand, Alabama rushed for 242 yards (5.4 per carry average) and passed for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. USC was probably overrated, but the Crimson Tide nonetheless showed why they were the preseason #1. Time will tell...

Nebraska is classy as hell.

The best story of the weekend can’t be done justice in this short blurb. Just grab a box of tissues and watch