I'm breaking a promise to myself. Before the season began, I decided that while I would no doubt have to write about the College Football Playoff, I would not use this column to criticize or complain about the playoff expanding to 12 teams next season. The battle was over, and I lost, as I knew would be the case all along. The lie had been bought and sold, and there was nothing any of us could do about it. So, I wasn't going to waste my words on it when I could focus on anything else that mattered.
However, I have been left with no choice. I must write about it today.
Or maybe I want to because I find the situation we're currently in amusing.
One of the talking points about expansion we were hammered with over the head repeatedly was that it would keep fans engaged and interested late in the season. It would lead to more meaningful games. Merely writing that sentence causes a chemical reaction in my brain that causes me to want to write 1,500 words on how that's a specious argument, but I'll fight that urge. Instead, I'll point out how that supposed argument would hold no weight this year.
The top 10 teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings won over the weekend. It's the third weekend in a row where at least the top eight teams have won their games, with the only top-10 losers in that time falling to one of the top eight members. In other words, if there were a 12-team playoff this season, there would be no drama about who was getting in. We would already know who most of the field was heading into the regular season's final week.
Alabama and Georgia would be in no matter the outcome of the SEC Championship Game. If Alabama lost to Auburn, its spot would almost certainly go to Missouri. It's the same story for Ohio State and Michigan no matter what happens this weekend. The loser would be 11-1 and a virtual lock for an at-large berth. The winner would probably get in with an at-large of its own, even if it somehow managed to lose the Big Ten Championship Game to Iowa. There's some intrigue in the ACC, but almost all of it depends on the season-ending injury to Florida State star quarterback Jordan Travis. The 'Noles would undoubtedly get in with wins over Florida and Louisville. But if they lost one of those games, they'd still likely receive an at-large, at worst, because the committee would factor in the Travis injury. They would have to lose both to miss out, which isn't impossible by any stretch but is only a scenario we're discussing because of Travis' absence.
There's some intrigue in the Pac-12 where things could be up for grabs if either Washington or Oregon lose their rivalry games this weekend. If they don't, there's a strong chance both get into the playoff field no matter the result of their rematch, though it's possible Oregon would lose out on an at-large if it lost.
The only conference that could shake things up is the Big 12. We don't even know who will play for their conference title yet, but if it somehow ends with Texas not being league champion, the Longhorns would still have an excellent case for an at-large at 10-2 with a 10-point road win over an Alabama team that's also in the playoff.
So there would be some intrigue, but the biggest unanswered questions in a 12-team format this year would be more about seeding, the final at-large berths and Group of Five participants. Boy, nothing will get the fans riled up like trying to figure out who the No. 11 seed will be!
Then there's the format currently in place. The one that supposedly doesn't have enough excitement and interest. You know, the one that still has nine teams with a realistic shot at getting one of the four positions with a week left in the regular season and nobody with a stranglehold on a spot.
I'm pretty confident Georgia will be one of the four, even with a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, but even that isn't a lock. Not with the possibility of three undefeated Power Five conference champions still out there. If Florida State, Washington and the Ohio State/Michigan winner all win out and are 13-0, a 12-1 Georgia could be left in the cold behind 12-1 SEC champ Alabama.
But those teams, along with Oregon, Texas and Louisville, all control their fates. If they win out, they're all likely in. The only one I'd be concerned about is Louisville on account of its loss to a bad Pitt team, while a potential win over a Florida State team without Travis might not carry enough weight with the committee.
Whatever the results will be, what matters is that we have a lot of meaningful (in relation to the playoff, every game means something to the teams, no matter what anybody tells you) games left to be played this season. More than we would in a 12-team format where the biggest mysteries would be about seeding rather than a spot.
Don't get me wrong. Both formats have flaws because there is no perfect way to decide a national champion in a sport where 133 teams compete in a 12-game regular season. But you were told expanding the field would lead to more excitement and drama late in the season. It was a lie then, and it's a lie now.
Idiot of the Week
I'm giving the award to myself. I wrote in this column a month ago. I wrote nearly 1,000 words surmising that if the Trojans didn't massively overhaul their roster on the lines of scrimmage and change their philosophy a bit, they were more likely to go 7-5 in their new home than enter as a threat to win the league.
Well, don't I look the fool now? After losing to UCLA (a physical team with a strong defensive line), the Trojans finished their final Pac-12 season at ... you guessed it, 7-5. They finish the season as losers in five of their final six games, with their lone victory being a 50-49 escape against a Cal team that could easily miss out on a bowl game this year.
It isn't unsalvageable, but it's hard to argue that the first two seasons of Lincoln Riley's tenure at USC have been a disaster. He's lost eight games in two seasons with the Trojans after losing 10 in five seasons with the Sooners.
Are we sure that they have the right coach on the hot seat in LA.— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) November 18, 2023
Coach of the Week
I mentioned earlier that Louisville is the lone one-loss team that could miss the playoff even if it wins out, but the Cardinals deserve far more positive words written about them. It's flown a bit under the radar because of other excellent coaching jobs around the country this season, but it's pretty remarkable what Jeff Brohm has accomplished in his first season at Louisville.
No matter what happens this weekend against Kentucky, Brohm's team will play for a conference title for two consecutive years, and he's done it at two different programs. Last year, Brohm led Purdue to the Big Ten Championship Game before leaving for his alma mater, whom he now has playing for an ACC championship.
Do you have any idea how hard that must be?
Brohm inherited a Louisville team that went 8-5 last year with losses to Syracuse and Boston College. Cardinals fans lined up to drive Scott Satterfield to a conveniently located airport and send him on his merry way up the road to Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Purdue team Brohm left has as many losses this season as it had wins under Brohm last year.
He doesn't get nearly the recognition he deserves nationally, but it doesn't mean Brohm isn't one of the best coaches in the country.
Physics Lesson of the Week
For today's experiment, we will attempt to answer the question of what happens when one object measuring 78 inches tall and 315 pounds collides at speed with another object measuring roughly 71 inches tall and 215 pounds.
This. This is what happens.
Out of respect for the victim, I will not name the Louisville defender who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, Miami's Francis Mauigoa deserves to have his name shouted from the rooftops for this one.
Victory Graphic of the Week
I'm not sure a 10-0 game deserves such majesty, but you'll hear no complaints from me.
Name of the Week
I have seen no fewer than six Oregon State games this season, but it wasn't until this weekend that I learned the Beavers had a kicker named Atticus Sappington. That's on me. Sure, when I'm watching multiple games simultaneously in my office on Saturdays, the sound is off for a lot of them, but that's no excuse.
If there's a player out there named Atticus Sappington, I should know about it. Even if he's a kicker.
Money Grab of the Week
I know I've already named Jeff Brohm as Coach of the Week, but I can't not write about Jerry Kill after New Mexico State beat Auburn 31-10 at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. Yes, you read that right: New Mexico State beat Auburn 31-10 on the Tiger's home field.
And it was paid $1.85 million to do so.
Anyway, while the paycheck is funny, there's another takeaway that came to mind. Coaches like Kill aren't "sexy" hires, but more programs need to hire coaches like Kill. He has turned around programs at Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Minnesota and now New Mexico State. This was no fluke; the Aggies are now 9-3 on the season. Kill, like Lance Leipold, Willie Fritz, Chuck Martin and others may not compete for national titles but they know how to win football games at places where it's extremely hard to win football games.
Too many athletic directors try to win press conferences instead of football games.
Cam Rising Facts of the Week
Utah quarterback Cam Rising announced Sunday that he'd be returning for a seventh season in 2024, which is incredible but also leads to a few amusing factoids.
First of all, Rising was a member of the 2018 recruiting class and originally committed to Texas. The same recruiting class included Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, who are currently in their third NFL seasons. Of course, the class also includes J.T. Daniels, who is still at Rice, and Tyler Shough, who announced he was entering the transfer portal again this weekend.
When Rising takes the field next season, he'll be leading Utah into its Big 12 era. Utah's nine-game Big 12 schedule will include six conference opponents (Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Colorado, Houston, UCF) who were not members of the Big 12 when Rising first entered college, while the team he entered college with (Texas) will no longer be a member of the league.
What a long, strange trip it's been.
College Football Projection of the Week
It probably happens with or without the Jordan Travis injury, but this has to be the week Washington cracks the top four, right? The Huskies beat Oregon State on the road Saturday, giving them another top-15 win, which is one more than Florida State currently has. I expect the committee to follow the AP Top 25's lead this week.
- Ohio State
Until the next Monday After!