- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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What a week in college football. And the best news is we're a week closer to the 2012 season.
Have a great weekend, everybody.
Mike from Denver writes: Read your article on the new 4 team playoff and it not being a total loss for B1G. I think you hit it correctly and some of the national media has this pegged wrong. This isn't B1G vs SEC on a playoff model (as you've said all along). The SEC is not the big winner, the big 4 conferences are. The B1G, PAC12, SEC, and Big 12 all but assured themselves a spot at the table (assuming the conference champ from the league has less than 2 losses). What Delany didn't want was his conf. champ to be left out in favor of a 1 loss team from another conference who in the court of public opinion is a ?stronger? conference. By making conference championships and strength of schedule criteria, he has a leg up on his friends down south due to the schedule partnership with the PAC12 and the SEC?s reluctance to aggressively schedule. Seems everyone is looking at this from a frame that the SEC is now, and will always be, the best conference. I'm not sure that is the case, and the system put forth allows for preferential treatment to the major 4 conferences. And THAT was the point all along.
Adam Rittenberg: Some excellent thoughts, Mike, and not just because you agreed with me! It's good to see fans seeing through some of the lazy narrative put out there and understand that every league had to compromise a bit, but the result is a win for pretty much everybody. As I wrote Thursday, the areas where the Big Ten "lost" -- campus sites, plus-one, Rose Bowl access -- were unpopular and/or unrealistic. The Big Ten could have fought harder for campus sites, but there was no chance, given the opposition, for them to be approved. The selection committee is a big plus for the Big Ten, and, as you point out, the strength of schedule component is huge. An SEC team can't expect to be highly regarded simply because it's in the SEC. It needs to go out and schedule tough opponents, like more Big Ten and Pac-12 teams are doing. As Jim Delany has said, a truly elite SEC or Big Ten or Pac-12 team that doesn't win the league won't be left out of a playoff. But if there are comparable teams at the 4/5 spots, the conference champ will get preference. And it should.
Steve from Meridian, Miss., writes: Adam, Help me put my bias in check. Give me your top AD/Football Coach/Basketball Coach tri-fectas in the nation. Please take into consideration national impact, winning record and championships. I think you'll find it hard to find a better winning team than Hollis, Dantonio and Izzo.
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, I was thinking the same thing when Michigan State awarded Hollis his new contract. Not only does Michigan State have elite figures in all three positions, but it has stability. I remember talking with Tom Izzo a few summers ago about the lack of stability at both the athletic director and football coach positions during the early part of his time at Michigan State. He gave a lot of credit to Hollis for fostering a culture of success and stability. The Michigan State trifecta is a great one, but there are others in the Big Ten worth noting. Michigan's is very impressive (Brady Hoke, John Beilein, Dave Brandon). Same holds true for Wisconsin (Bret Bielema, Bo Ryan, Barry Alvarez). While Gene Smith received some deserved criticism last year, he's still regarded as a strong athletic director, and Ohio State's group (Smith, Urban Meyer, Thad Matta) is strong. Some schools have two-thirds of the equation but are a little unproven with the third position.
Tom from Menlo Park, Calif., writes: Hey Adam,I'm surprised I haven't seen this mentioned before, but as I see it, a selection committee has a very valuable asset: the ability to choose the matchups of the playoff games. In other words, using last year as an example, pretend Alabama is in the SEC East and they played and lost to LSU in the SEC title game (rather than the regular season) and finished 4th in the rankings. Would people really want to see LSU play Bama again in their very next game? No, nor do I think it's very fair to the team that just won the first game. Given a marginal difference between the third and fourth best teams I can imagine a selection committee using their discretion to pick traditional matchups (e.g. a Big10-PAC12 champions semifinal) and avoid repeat matchups (e.g. the LSU-Bama scenario above, or the Florida-FSU title game way back when) in situations where negligible objective competitive imbalances result.That's something that couldn't be done if a strict formula/ranking system was mandated.
Adam Rittenberg: Tom, some good points here. The selection committee would need to explain why a team is the No. 2 seed or No. 3 seed, but with these games being played at bowl sites that aren't linked to regions necessarily, it wouldn't really matter. You're right, no one would want to see a conference championship game rematch in the national semifinal. This is another reason why bowl sites are preferred over campus sites. If you had campus sites, there's a HUGE difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seed (home-field advantage for the No. 2). With bowl sites, you can be a bit more liberal with seeds and try to create attractive matchups, but only when the teams are comparable. If there are clear gaps between a No. 2 and a No. 4, those should be reflected with the seeding.
Steve from Lafayette, Ind., writes: Hi Adam, I have a question about the new playoff (Surprise!!!). I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere, and there's a good chance it hasn't been discussed yet, but how will tickets for the championship game work? I imagine the semi-final games will be pretty similar to the current system, with schools getting their allotments, plus some tickets the bowl sells itself. But that can't work for a game where the participants are known only a week in advance. Sure, the schools may get a meager number of tickets to sell to their biggest boosters, but the majority of the tickets will have to be sold well in advance - the way I see it, mostly to locals/corporations. How will I, a regular fan/season ticket holder be able to get a ticket? My guess is through the secondary market at a huge markup. (Not to mention the cost of traveling on one week's notice.) Hurray for playoffs! Can we just go back to the old days with regular bowl games?
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, you're thinking way down the road, but you bring up a good question and one that resonates with many fans. I agree that most of the championship game tickets will be sold in advance and likely scooped up by the corporate folks paying the big bucks. There will be some ultra-confident fans -- or ones with disposable income -- who will buy tickets in advance, but it'll be tough to do a mass ticket sale to each school with so little time between the semifinal and the championship. The counter-argument is if your team makes the national title game, it's worth digging deep into your pockets to see it. You never know when your team would be back. We're not going back to the old days, but your concern is very real, especially in this economy.
Misplaced Gopher from Fargo, N.D., writes: Adam, every team throws surprises at us every season. Some are good surprises and some are bad. Examples? My Gophers got thrashed 45-17 by Purdue (bad surprise) and they came back to beat Iowa 22-21 in the fourth quarter (good surprise). Unless there's a big surprise, Minnesota will win between 4 and 6 games in 2012. What shocker will Jerry Kill's squad come up with this season that will get them to 7 wins?
Adam Rittenberg: While I expect to see improvement from the Gophers in Year 2 under Jerry Kill, keep in mind a six-win season would equal Minnesota's victories total from the past two years. Could the Gophers win six games or more? Sure. But they have to address several issues this offseason -- offensive skill, defensive line, secondary. Minnesota has been better at the end of the season the past few years, and there are some upset opportunities in November, including home games against Legends division favorites Michigan (Nov. 3) and Michigan State (Nov. 24). Don't think the Gophers can get Iowa three years in a row, especially at Kinnick Stadium, but they might surprise the Wolverines or the Spartans, and Purdue could be a good team that will need to be on its game Oct. 27 at TCF Bank Stadium. There's not an obvious surprise win that jumps out to me, MG, but some teams could rise up and then turn into upset opportunities for Jerry Kill's crew.
Jonathan from Westerville, Ohio, writes: The NFL is hosting a Super Bowl outdoors in New York/New Jersey. Since the NFL is more popular in the U.S. (both financially and literally), would college football turn its nose to hosting a championship game outdoors in Chicago, New York, Boston or the like? Are Southern/Western teams afraid or are college presidents not likely to move outdoors?
Adam Rittenberg: Jonathan, I think the college football commissioners will be keeping a close eye on the Super Bowl event in NY/NJ and how smoothly the operation runs there. For these massive events, it all comes down to the bid -- not just the financial portion, but the organizing committee earning the trust and admiration of those making the decisions. A plus for a group like Indiana Sports Corp, aside from having a terrific indoor venue in Lucas Oil Stadium, is that Indy has put on numerous major sporting events, including the most recent Super Bowl and several Final Fours. Next to the Super Bowl and the Final Four, the college football title game will be the biggest single-day event on the American sporting calendar. So you had better know what you're doing.
I got to witness this last spring when the groups from Indianapolis and Chicago bid for the Big Ten championship game. Indy made a stronger, more comprehensive bid -- bringing in big guns like Gov. Mitch Daniels (now Purdue's president) -- and outlined its track record of hosting major events. From what I've been told, Chicago had a nice bid, but its lack of experience in hosting these events showed. Bottom line: a lot depends on how the outdoor Super Bowl goes, but I think the commissioners will be more inclined to keep these games indoors in Midwest venues, at least early on in the process.
Patrick from Plano, Texas, writes: Hi Adam, I am a lifelong Husker fan and have been an avid reader of both your's and Brian's blogs for the better part of a year. The playoff is here and IMHO it will change the CF world as we know it. In order to maximize a conferences' stake in the playoff format and payout why is it in the B1G's and other power conferences interest to keep a conference championship game? If a Leader and Legend undefeated or one loss team were to play that would risk the huge playoff spot and resulting payout. The SEC I am sure is contemplating this same thing.So I would think it makes sense that there will be a conference realignment and regression instead of expansion in leagues.
Adam Rittenberg: Patrick, this is an interesting question and a discussion all conferences need to have. The SEC championship has been a marquee event, and the Big Ten championship certainly has the same potential. Many presume the Big 12 will reinstate a championship game if and when it expands to 12 teams (only a matter of time). Some of these games are big money-makers. But the drawback, as you point out, is that the championship game could limit the number of teams leagues have in the national playoff. A potential wild-card team could lose and drop out of contention. There also could be an upset, creating a league champion not worthy of inclusion in a four-team playoff. It's hard for these leagues to part with the money their championship games generate, but these are questions that must be discussed. I don't know if I agree about regression in conferences to avoid playing championships. I still think we'll see the bigger leagues get bigger, not the other way around.
Kevin from Chicago writes: I feel Mick McCall is probably one of the most underrated coaches in the game. He's been responsible for Northwestern's dominating offense over the past few years creating mediocre quarterbacks and making them great in the college game. How close is he with Pat Fitzgerald because I feel like there are bigger teams such as some SEC schools who would want him and his playbook. Can you see him leaving NU and Pat for bigger and better things or is he loyal to NU? Once Northwestern gets a defense or defensive coordinator that is above average Northwestern can be one of the best teams in the Big Ten.
Adam Rittenberg: Completely agree with your thoughts on Mick McCall, Kevin. He has been masterful in his development of quarterbacks at Northwestern, creating quite the pipeline in Evanston since arriving in 2008. If I were assembling my ideal Big Ten coaching staff, Mick would be my quarterbacks coach, hands down. I know McCall and his wife are very happy in Evanston, but it could be a challenge to keep him long-term. Pat Fitzgerald made sure Northwestern allocated more money for his assistants during his last contract agreement, and Pat clearly values having a guy like McCall on his staff. McCall has ties to Colorado, not SEC country. While I wouldn't expect him to leave any time soon, if a lucrative offer comes his way, he could bolt, much like previous Northwestern offensive coordinators (Garrick McGee, Mike Dunbar, Kevin Wilson).
4dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer