PIECES OF EIGHT – MY 2016 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

larry_culpepper

I got my knee brace but peddle Mountain Dew instead of Dr. Pepper.

Last year college football would had been better served to immediately fast-forward to the Clemson/Alabama championship game over the two mismatch semifinals served up on New Year’s Eve.

This year would had been a good time to ‘invent’ the eight-team College Football Playoff. I would stop short of going Dan Wetzel and invite Western Michigan (how about North Dakota State while we’re at it?), but the best eight teams of 2016 make for great theatre. It’s all hypothetical and will not be a reality anytime soon, but here would be the four ‘quarterfinal’ games.

  • No. 8 Oklahoma (10-2) v. No. 1 Alabama (13-0) – Boomer Sooner will be represented at the Heisman Trophy dinner, with quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Dede Westbrook both invited. The Sooners went 1-2 in non-conference but swept through the Big XII schedule to earn OU its place among the top eight teams.
  • No. 7 USC (9-3) v. No. 2 Clemson (12-1) – In the actual final CFP rankings, USC finished No. 9, behind Wisconsin. I disagree, USC is the argument for an eight team playoff and finished as college football’s best team outside of Tuscaloosa and Washington privately celebrated when the Trojans were left out of the Pac-12 title game. As for the Badgers, they played Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State close, but as Washington State Coach Mike Leach would say, ‘(screw) playing them close.’.
  • No. 6 Michigan (10-2) v. No. 3 Ohio State (11-1)  I made a case for Michigan’s inclusion for the actual four-team CFP, but the Wolverines lost two of their final three games, albeit the last one in ‘controversial’ fashion. Of course most double-overtime ‘instant classics’ deliver some controversy. I would like to see an actual eight-team playoff contested on neutral sites in its entirety, but would  settle for a Michigan return trip to the Horseshoe. It will be good for business, but be warned sequels tend to fall short of the original.
  • No. 5 Washington (12-1) v. No. 4 Penn State (11-2) – No, the CFP did not get it right, which they will realize when the Chick-Fil-A Bowl looks exactly like the SEC Championship game, only with the Crimson Tide rolling a team in purple instead of orange. Some would argue Penn State ahead of Ohio State, but that would mean Penn State facing a Michigan team they were routed by in the regular season. As for the Huskies, it is fitting their kicker’s name is Van Winkle because it has been more than 20 years since the football program was last relevant. Again, one of my criteria is how teams play late and the Nittany Lions finished as well as anyone outside of Alabama and USC.

How it would play out:

  • Oklahoma gives Alabama a better game than Washington but the Crimson Tide prevails.
  • Penn State defeats Washington.
  • Michigan loses for a second time to Ohio State, Coach Jim Harbaugh will be at the ready for more excuses.
  • USC upsets Clemson. I elevated the Trojans to No. 7 to avoid the possibility of a first-round Alabama ambush.

In the second round, Penn State gives Alabama a scare but falls short. The other semifinal features Tommy Trojan against THE. The two schools last met in 2009 when the late Joe McKnight lead USC to victory at the Horseshoe. This time around, Ohio State does not get the call in overtime and the Trojans advance to the championship.

One could pick Tommy Trojan to win the whole shooting match, but I do not live with cardinal and gold glasses and shout ‘Fight On’ to everyone I know. It would be a classic but Nick Saban and Alabama repeat as National Champions.