On the couch with this week’s picks

This week, on the couch.

After a long double weekend, I am not going to lie. I am happy to recover on the couch this weekend. It was a great time, but I am knackered.

 

Some thoughts on last week:

  • Minnesota did just about everything I could ask for. It was a close game that nearly went down to the wire
  • I was very pleasantly surprised by the Hokies. The only thing was that I missed the game as I was getting a nice buzz sitting on the “Terrace” at the Wisconsin Campus. I had such a good time I didn’t regret missing the Hokies outstanding defensive performance
  • Like the Gophers, Wisconsin nearly met expectations. A wire to wire game that was great to watch. Just a blast, but it felt like, even with the two PSU picks, that Wisconsin lost that game rather than PSU won it.
  • The Golden Flashes kept it close for awhile, but I knew the heat and their depth would catch up with them. A&M did what they were supposed to.

Other observations:

  • Good job by FSU. Maybe that program is finally turning the corner. Miami, however, not so much.
  • What exactly does the defense do at Oklahoma’s practices? Maybe they spend a lot of time on non-violent, problem resolution. How else do you explain 35 points to the Green Wave of Tulane?
  • Unless Georgia’s season goes into the toilet, Clemson won’t see much impact from this loss if they run the table from here on. It may be the same for LSU’s loss to UCLA, but I doubt it.
  • How’s that Grizzly cupcake taste, UW? Bitter, I would guess.
  • Nice to see Iowa State managed to survive the annual UNI scare
  • It didn’t take long for the other shoe to drop on Randy Edsell at UConn. Frost at Nebraska can’t be too confident beating up on Fordham, especially when Illinois loses to UTSA.

I am not loving my picks this week. There’s still not enough of a baseline to really know the UMass from the Bama’s yet. So with that disclaimer in place, here are my picks.

  • I was only slightly impressed with Ohio State last week. They really couldn’t stop Minnesota. I get the feeling the Ducks can keep it under fourteen.
  • I really don’t believe in the Huskies, but strange things can happen when coaches get fired. Plus, always bet against Cakes! (See the Sports Junkies on 106.7 the Fan in DC).
  • Again, this is really a guess, but I think the Cougars will be just enough to cover against the Owls.
  • Maybe Montana is really good, but I doubt it. I think Michigan runs away with this one.

 

And a way we go

UPDATE: Here’s my PICKS for the week.

No offense to UCLA, Illinois, Fresno State and UTEP, but now the season starts for real. First stop for me is Saint Paul, Minnesota to see the Gophers host the Buckeyes. Well, technically speaking, the first stop is actually the Minnesota State Fair. I was told that if I was going to Minnesota to see the Gophers, it had to be when the snow hit the ground. I laughed that off. I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. We eat snow for breakfast in Erie. I have played more than my share of football games in the snow. I have also sat through many games in the snow. No offense to my Gopher friend, who I won’t remind that we also have the O.G. – the Original Gopher – in Punxsutawney Phil, but I don’t need my snow card punched. It would seem hitting the State Fair is a good compromise anyway. It is a Thursday night game and I can’t wait to feel sixty degree weather again after roasting all summer in Houston.

Alas, I won’t get to spend much time in Saint Paul as I will have to hop a bus to get to Madison, Wisconsin. Yes, another first for my somanystadiums tour. I had all intentions of renting a car and making the leisurely drive over to Madison while happily munching on cheese curds. However, when I went to rent a car, it was an astronomical $350 a day. I considered flying, but the times were just inconvenient so it was “one bus ticket, please”. It will be worth it to see PSU play Wisconsin in one of the best games of the weekend. I am a little bummed that the kickoff is at 11am but I am still looking forward to jumping around in Camp Randall. Haven’t got the tickets yet for either game and was surprised to see that the Minnesota game is the hotter and more expensive ticket right now.

Did I mention that Fox’s version of ESPN Game Day, Big Noon Kickoff, will be at both locations? I don’t really know what that vibe will be like. It feels like I should do my duty to check it out. To be honest, that kind of thing is good for about a half hour live. See the set, have a beer, and then bolt. Unless Fox is going to give me A.D.’s (attention dollars) by putting me on stage, I’d be happier eating a brat and drinking a Milwaukee’s Best (when in Rome…). That’s nothing against Fox by the way, I would say the same thing about ESPN’s Game Day which I have done a couple of times.

They are also kicking off the Dos Equis Ultimate College Football Road Trip. Mark Titus and Charlotte Wilder (yeah, I had to look them up too) are going to various towns to check out the tailgates etc. They kick off the tour with a stop at a local Madison bar, SCONNIEBAR, on Friday night. You may have forgotten when Dos Equis’ snubbed me in their most interesting fan in college football contest, but I have not. Given that the North Carolina – Virginia Tech game starts at the same time, I am strongly considering giving Titus and Wilder the stiff arm. I am a Modelo Negra guy anyway. On the other hand, it is Friday Fish Fry at SCONNIE’s – Perch anyone?

 

Not your father’s college football?

As the 2021 College Football season gets ready to kickoff, it occurs to me that the game may be fundamentally changing in a number of ways.

First, there was the announcement of a “proposed” new playoff field. Adding a 12 team playoff format brought D1 College Football into the 21st century. It also gave the smaller conferences an invitation to the dance. I am not saying it would be a recruiting game changer, but it would give perennial Group of Five leaders like UCF at least a puncher’s chance at the playoffs. However, with the recent announcement of Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC, one wonders what this does to the other conferences and ultimately the proposed playoff format. I have no doubt that the SEC could make an argument that they should get two automatic bids and depending on how the other major conferences shakeout, there could be more of the same. If, on the other hand, the proposed playoffs go through as planned, smaller schools may become more prominent.

But what about the recent ability of college athletes to get paid? On first pass, one would think that will disproportionately help the big dogs. On the surface, that would seem the case and the most likely one. However, it would not be surprising to see big donors step up to help smaller schools as well. I will use Oklahoma State as an example. I recognize that it is hardly a small school, but with no disrespect to the Pokes, they are not exactly what you think of as top tier. However, if T-Boone Pickens could had funneled his hundreds of millions into more than just facilities just imagine the roster he could have built. I don’t see this kind of thing making Troy State a perennial power, but you could see a situation where the right money to the right player at the right time could elevate a smaller team to the upper echelon for a year or two. Combine this with a playoff system that would let them in and the national championship discussion could be much different. Regardless of how it shakes out, the money will have the college game slowly creeping closer to the pro’s.

The third change coming down the road is far more ominous. The number of insurers willing to cover college football teams is slowly dropping to low single digits while the premiums are skyrocketing. Even If a college football team can find an insurer, they may not be able to afford them. The number of CTE cases continue to rise and it probably isn’t going to get better unless the game is fundamentally changed. There are ways to make the game safer but from rule changes to tracking cumulative “hits” on the head, they would all be impactful to the game as we know it.

The way I calculate my run rate to get to all stadiums, I figure I have anywhere from five to seven years to get there. I never thought I’d have to worry about the game changing before I got them all in. I am not so sure anymore.

See you in the cheap seats.

Yeah, we told you so.

Sometimes, I hate being right. The playoff selection process is so laden with bias and status quo that here at Somanystadiums we were able to fully predict the playoff field with all the “championship games” yet to be played.

Some things we knew right off the bat:

  • Alabama was in, win or lose. Even if the Tide had lost by 35, they were in under the “We want the four best teams” sentiment. The premise is fine if you have an eight field team where you can give a Power Five team a break for the one-off loss. However, it makes conference championship games meaningless. Bama has looked great all year so they were automatically in, win or lose.
  • Notre Dame was in, win or lose. This is all about the national team / east coast bias for the Irish. They are a good team, and at times, a great team. I would have given this spot to Texas A&M.  But, I have seen A&M play a few times this year and their case is only a little bit stronger. We are talking feet, not yards if you are looking for a football analogy. Nonetheless, I’d rather see the Aggies than the Irish. I think ND is going to get crushed by the Tide. Having already played them once, I give A&M a better shot.
  • Clemson had to win to get in. I think everyone knows they are heads and shoulders better than ND, but they had to prove it. They don’t get the old school, east-coast bias benefit that ND does today so a win was a must.
  • Ohio State was in the same boat, but only because they had played six games. To be fair, the Buckeyes have been winning with a lot of backups thanks to Covid-19 precautions. If Ohio State had rolled into the Big Ten championship 11-0, they would have gotten the east coast bias, beauty contest playoff bid. Of course, you could argue the Big Ten already gave them that gift when they changed the conference requirement rules. Like it or not, the Buckeyes did take care of business.
  • This left Texas A&M hoping for some upsets. None of which happened. Gig’ em next year.

As Bruce Hornsby sings, “Did you really think about it before you made the rules?” This is not the way it should be. The playoffs should be an eight team field team with the following fully transparent rules.

1) Power Five conference winners get an automatic bid.

2) Undefeated Group of Five conference winners get an automatic bid.

3) Remaining slots filled by Selection Committee ranking.

With that in mind, this is what it should look like.

  • Bama is still the number one seed and they get the Oregon Ducks, as PAC 12 champions. I hate that the Ducks get in over say a Florida or Coastal Carolina, but by virtue of winning their conference, they are in. If Florida had beaten Texas A&M, they would have been in a much different spot. Plus, this season is different and giving a PAC 12 team a shot would be a lot more inclusive. The PAC 12 winner would not be nearly as problematic if the USC Trojans had taken care of business in the first place.
  • Notre Dame still gets in with an at-large bid and the four seed based on the selection committee ranking (thank you very much east coast bias). Texas A&M gets the other at-large bid and comes in at five. Honestly, isn’t this the game you wanted to see anyway? It allows the arguments to be settled on the field instead of in a hotel conference room.
  • Clemson rightly gets the number two seed and would play the Bearcats of Cincinnati. The Bearcats are undefeated and won the American Athletic Conference. Congrats Group of Five, you wanted it, you got it.
  • Ohio State gets the third seed and will play Oklahoma, the Big 12 Champion. Is Florida better than Oklahoma? The selection committee didn’t think so, having put the Sooners one spot ahead of the Gators.

The big losers in my eight game scenario are the following:

  • Florida. The Gators looked awfully good on offense against Bama. It feels like they could keep up with anyone in a shoot-out. Again though, when a team loses three games, it is hard to feel too badly for them.
  • Coastal Carolina. Let me be clear, had the Chanticleers beaten Louisiana (Lafayette) in the now cancelled Sunbelt Championship, they would have rightfully knocked out Texas A&M, only because the committee rated ND ahead of them. However, since this is a purely hypothetical bracket. I would suggest the Committee put A&M above Notre Dame. This way, you would get some great regional games that feel very much like first round playoffs.  Coastal would play Clemson, OU would take on Texas A&M, and Cincinnati would play the Buckeyes. Plus, college football fans get the added bonus of watching Irish fans go apoplectic and wail at the injustice of it all. My work here is done.

I am not alone in my assessment of the challenges facing the current system. You know there are problems when even the NCAA poster boys at ESPN’s Game Day are bad mouthing the college playoff system. As an aside, it was not exactly a great year for Game Day. From the forced and tenuous connection between The Masters and college football to backdrops with no audiences, the show really never caught its stride this year. The Bear’s Bank segments feel like they have run their course. When your picks are hitting only half the time, it’s the equivalent of a Christmas Club savings account – a feel good endeavor at best, and wasting away money at the worst.

But it wasn’t just ESPN that struggled. Some of the weekends, let alone games, were unwatchable this year. I am not sure that is the fault of anyone, it was just the way Covid-19 impacted the season. Thankfully, the precautions, by and large, kept most everyone safe. Sadly, though, there were some outliers. With that in mind, please celebrate the holidays with as much care and responsibility as possible. Let’s make 2021 a better year in every sense of the word.

Tree

 

 

 

That kid, Sermon,  from Ohio State is a beast