MICHIGAN REMAINS IN CFP CONVERSATION

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For those of you who believe the current College Football Playoff system is a travesty.

At the height of the rivalry’s 10-Year War, Ohio and Michigan played to a 10-10 tie in 1973. The Big Ten commissioner and athletic directors met the next day via a conference call and declared the Buckeyes as the conferences Rose Bowl representative. A mitigating factors supposedly was a season-ending injury to Michigan’s quarterback. In those days no one outside of the Big Ten champ went to ANY bowl game.

In 2016 Michigan and THE played double-overtime, and the Buckeyes prevailed in a controversial 30-27 decision that eliminates the Wolverines from College Football Playoff consideration.

Or did it?

The ESPN website known as fivethirtyeight.com has Michigan’s chances as slim and none, their metrics places UM at two percent, behind Wisconsin (34 percent), Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. According to the site, Wisconsin’s chances improve to 81 percent with a win over Penn State along with a Washington loss to Colorado.

This is the same outlet that actually gave Donald Trump a 28.6 percent chance on election night, which was much more than the Washington Post and other publications gave the now President-elect.

The just released AP rankings have Michigan’s chances as better than Wisconsin. The Wolverines received 1264 votes, just 34 votes behind Washington and 27 ahead of the Badgers.

This time Michigan’s fate will lie with 13 members who make up the College Football Playoff committee. As things stand now, their decision may prove as controversial as Ohio State’s fourth down measurement.

For purposes of this exercise, assume top-ranked Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and possible No. 4 Washington win their conference title games. No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State will meet in Indianapolis for the Big Ten trophy, but in reality is considered a third-place game. No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State also meet in the Big XII regular season finale.

Assume Alabama and Ohio State as in, along with Clemson. That leaves the remaining candidates for No. 4

  • 12-1 Washington, Pac-12 Champion.
  • 11-2 Wisconsin or Penn State, Big Ten Champion
  • 10-2 Oklahoma or Oklahoma State
  • 10-2 Michigan

The instant classic in Columbus allows Michigan to remain in contention. Ohio State won handily at Oklahoma early in the season, Michigan and Ohio State both beat Wisconsin and Michigan blew out a Penn State team that THE somehow lost to.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez is part of the CPF committee, but just one of 13 members, he likely will not be able to help Wisconsin’s cause. Former Washington coach Tyrone Willingham also serves on the committee, he was fired after a 0-11 season in 2008.

That leaves possible 12-1 Washington as the fly in the ointment. If the committee did opt to bypass the Huskies, it will not be U-Dub’s first screwjob (see 1984). If the Huskies lose to Colorado in the Pac-12 championship, then Michigan’s inclusion becomes less controversial. Ditto if Clemson manages to lose to Virginia Tech.

If Washington made the CFP ranked No. 4, only to be annihilated by Alabama (very possible), the committee would be open to endless criticism.

Not only could Michigan make the playoff, the Wolverines could even be elevated to No. 3. That would lead to a rematch of Ohio State and Mich-AGAIN in one semifinal along with Alabama/Clemson in a rematch of last year’s thrilling national title game.

ESPN and most fans outside of Seattle, Madison or State College would not complain about those two pairings.

BYU FOOTBALL FUTURE MAY BE BLEAK

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Some fighting between Brigham Young and the Memphis Tigers breaks out following the NCAA football game at the Miami Beach Bowl, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. At front is Kai Nacua (12) of Brigham Young.

When LGBT lobbyists succeeded in getting the National Basketball Association to move the 2017 All-Star Game out of North Carolina, it could be surmised that the trickle-down effect would expand to other entities under the PC microscope.

That bodes trouble for Brigham Young University’s football and athletic program.

In terms of football and basketball success and prestige, BYU remains as qualified as any candidate to join one of the ‘Power Five’ conferences, and considered throughout the summer as a top candidate  to join the Big XII Conference.

For geographic and athletic reasons, the University of Houston and University of Cincinnati have jumped to the top of most projections. Houston is a major city with likely support from the conferences six Texas and Oklahoma entries. Cincinnati is also a media market and gives the University of West Virginia a geographic partner.

These two schools could be added and the Big XII could rightfully say it is nothing personal against BYU’s policies.

But it does not help that lobbyists have predictably targeted against BYU and have lobbied against against the Mormon school’s Big XII inclusion.

Than what?

BYU could swallow its pride, point towards its unique brand and following and continue its existence as a ‘mid-major.’

But the situation could get worse before it gets better. In year number six as an independent, football scheduling has become more difficult – especially in bringing quality opponents for home games. The 2016 schedule at LaVell Edwards Stadium includes the following.

  • Sept. 17 v. UCLA
  • Sept 30 v. Toledo (Friday night/LDS conference weekend)
  • Oct. 14 v. Mississippi State
  • November home games against FCS Southern Utah, fellow independent Massachusetts and Utah State.

Other than getting UCLA along with a SEC team smack in the middle of their conference season, there is little to offer. 2017 includes home dates with Utah, Wisconsin and Boise State while Cal highlights four home games slated so far for 2018.

BYU’s next ‘hope’ to land in a major conference could come if the college football landscape shifts to four 16-team conferences in the mid 2020s. But would the ‘Pac-16’ or Big Ten show interest in the Cougars then? History says no.

At some point BYU could attempt to crawl back to the Mountain West, where Boise State can provide a legitimate rival. But if lobbyists can keep the school out of the Big XII, why not lobby against the MWC, Sun Belt or any other conference.

The politics can expand to those who schedule BYU non-conference. Would it be a shock if Wisconsin decided to take a second look at its scheduled home-and-home for 2017-18? Wisconsin already has a policy not to schedule schools with politically incorrect names.

As an independent BYU gets automatic bids to various bowls provided the team is bowl eligible. In 2016 the Cougars would earn a bid to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, last year the school played in the Las Vegas Bowl. But could bowl games shun BYU in future years? The football team’s conduct in a postgame brawl v. Memphis after a bowl game in 2014 serves as a black mark.

It may not seem fair. Notre Dame’s culture could be viewed in a simila vain, a dozen compared to BYU’s 12. But Notre Dame established itself as a major football brand more than 100 years ago. No one is going to kick the Irish out now.

In recent years sports was surprisingly dropped at BYU-Hawaii and BYU-Idaho (which once had a strong JUCO program). Ten years from now, the end game may see BYU’s flagship campus dropping football and remaining with like-minded schools in the West Coast Conference in other sports.

Unthinkable, but possible.