BOZICH | Monday Muse: ACC, SEC out of balance; Ignore Ben Simmons
College football has a bigger issue than the playoff rankings this season -- conference division imbalance. Charlie Strong off the hot seat? Ben Simmons needs to shut up.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Texas A&M the fourth-best team in college football?
Who's in charge of these rankings? Von Miller? Lyle Lovett? The 12th Man?
I'm not certain if the College Football Playoff committee thought its first rankings for 2016 were due the day after Halloween or April Fools.
I think we got the answer Saturday when Mississippi State, a team that lost to Kentucky, handled the Aggies and knocked them into consideration for the Sun Bowl, where they belonged.
But the committee is not the only issue in college football. I've got another matter that requires your consideration. Before you go to the replay board, you've come to the right place -- the Monday Muse.
1. THE GREAT DIVISION DIVIDE
Most of the playoff fussing rages about strength of schedule, quality of wins and losses, wins over ranked opponents and basic stuff like that.
That's not what I see.
I see imbalance in the division play from the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences.
If the league championship games were played this week, here are the three games we'd likely be watching:
ACC: Clemson vs. Virginia Tech.
Big Ten: Michigan vs. Wisconsin
SEC: Alabama vs. Florida
Blah, blah and blah.
Nice games, sure. But those are not games matching the two best teams in each league.
The best game in the ACC would be Clemson vs. Louisville. In the Big Ten, likely Michigan vs. Ohio State or maybe Michigan vs. Penn State. In the SEC, make it Alabama vs. Auburn.
Division play eliminates that possibility. It also creates opportunities for teams that don't belong like No. 18 Virginia Tech and No. 22 Florida.
Inter-division play in the ACC and SEC shows how out of balance those two leagues are. SEC West teams have won 9 of 10 games against East teams. In the ACC, Atlantic teams are 7-3 against the Coastal.
The Big Ten has flirted with legitimate balance. East and West teams have split 18 games.
I understand the need for division play. I get that the strength of each division changes every season.
But in 2016, division play is positioned to eliminate a legitimate playoff contender.
2. CAN ANYBODY HELP LOUISVILLE?
When the second batch of rankings from the College Football Playoff committee are distributed Tuesday night, the Cardinals figure to be sixth, trailing Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Washington and Ohio State.
What are the chances a member of that group will slip over the final three weekends of the regular season?
Slight. This weekend, Washington is the only team in that quartet favored by less than 19 points. The Huskies could have a tug of war with USC, which has won five straight. Washington is favored by 8, hardly a landslide considering the game will be played in Seattle.
Clemson will not lose, not with Pitt, Wake Forest and South Carolina teed up.
Either Michigan or Ohio State will lose, because they conclude the regular season in Columbus. But the Wolverines are considered 19 1/2 points better than Iowa and should be favored by at least 28 over Indiana.
The Buckeyes will pummel Maryland and Michigan State before playing Michigan.
Alabama has played its final road game. The Crimson Tide close with Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn. Yes. Auburn could deliver and sneak in the SEC title game. But then Bama will scream for a spot as a one-loss participant.
Washington has two moderate chances to stumble -- Saturday against USC and then a season-ending rivalry game trip to surging (7-2) Washington State, sandwiched around a visit by Arizona State.
Louisville needs something outrageous to happen quickly, like a USC victory in Seattle this weekend.
3. HEISMAN RACE CALLED
Heisman Trophy ballots and emails have not yet arrived but Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports has declared a winner -- Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Everybody knows the reasons.
Any time Jackson winks or wiggles his shoulder pads, he's a legitimate threat for six points (passing or running).
Leonard Fournette, the LSU halfback, whiffed against Alabama. Scratch him. DeShaun Watson, the Clemson quarterback, has delivered a nice season, but his numbers do not impress, compared to Jackson's production.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning and Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers will earn votes but they’d have to post jumbo numbers and dramatic plays the last four weekends to overshadow Jackson.
Lamar Jackson leads -- and second place is not close.
4. ROCKY TOP
The team to beat in the SEC East this season was not Florida, the defending division champs. It wasn't Georgia, even though it should always be Georgia if you look at the prospects that chinstrap-obsessed state produces.
It was Tennessee.
The Vols received 225 votes last July, nearly five times as many as Florida, the pick to finish second. (The link.)
Tennessee can still win the East by simply winning out against Kentucky (Saturday), Missouri and Vanderbilt.
But the Vols are currently fifth, hobbled by a three-game SEC losing streak, which features a loss to a vulnerable South Carolina squad. Jalen Hurd, their best running back, quit after the South Carolina game and issued a series of Tweets the other day, explaining his departure. (Story link.)
Without Hurd, Tennessee's top runner is Alvin Kamara, who ranks 20th in the SEC with 313 yards.
Even with Hurd, Tennessee's running game has been uninspiring. The Vols averaged less than 4 yards per rushing attempt in five of the first eight games. Kentucky can win Saturday in Knoxville.
5. CHARLIE STRONG: NOT GONE YET
It's been written every week, but this week it's actually true: Super-sized game for Charlie Strong's future as the Texas Longhorns' head coach.
Texas has climbed back from its 2-3 start to win three of four and sneak into position to become bowl eligible Saturday.
But bowl eligibility is never the goal at Texas. Winning a national title is the goal. Complete domination of college football is the goal.
Granted. But Charlie gets No. 17 West Virginia in Austin this weekend. Win that one and it's reasonable to suggest Texas can get to 8-4 by finishing with victories against Kansas (1-8) and TCU (5-4).
That would put Texas at 8-4 and bump Longhorns into a reasonable bowl game. Considering Strong has played mostly freshmen and sophomores, Texas will be positioned for Top 10 consideration next season. In Texas, they're writing that Strong is saving his job one game at a time. (The link.)
One thing more: Texas is currently favored by 2 over the No. 11 Mountaineers.
If Charlie wins Saturday, I like his chances.
Until he loses another game.
6. THE $10 MILLION MAN
It’s coming, perhaps as early as next season.
I'm talking about the first $10 million college football coach, somebody whose salary will make Nick Saban money look like chump change.
Reading between the lines from stories leaked on the Left Coast this weekend, I'm guessing former Oregon coach Chip Kelly will be that $10 million.
First there was a story out of Oregon saying that aging Nike founder Phil Knight was tired of watching his beloved Ducks lose and was determined to celebrate a college football national title while he could enjoy one.
Then there a follow-up story from the Bay Area saying former Kelly has no interest returning to college football because he's not a fan of recruiting or cocktail parties with boosters.
That is the same Chip Kelly whose NFL coaching record reminds you of Rich Kotite or Dave Wannstedt. Kelly's 49ers (1-7) are the only one-win team in the NFL.
Sounds like you'd better make that $12 million, Ducks.
7. PROJECTING U OF L, UK, IU, WKU BOWLS
Louisville and Western Kentucky will got bowling
Indiana and Kentucky can join them with one more victory, something both programs will be favored to deliver.
That's what Vegas believes -- and what Jason Kirk of SBNation believes.
Here are his projected bowl appearances by the four local programs:
Louisville vs. Penn State in the Orange Bowl (Miami), Dec. 30. The Nittany Lions lost to Pittsburgh and Michigan, but are likely to close with victories against Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State while finishing 10-2.
Kentucky vs. Texas in the Liberty Bowl (Memphis) Dec. 30 -- Yes, please.
Indiana vs. Music City in the Music City Bowl (Nashville), Dec. 30 -- The Hoosiers will likely take bowl eligibility to the wire in the home finale with Purdue.
WKU vs. Utah State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dec. 27 -- That's an interesting call, considering the Aggies are currently 3-6.
8. NOTE TO BEN SIMMONS: SHUT UP
I watched the first 30 minutes of the Ben Simmons documentary on Showtime Sunday night.
I'd describe it as interesting, but not so compelling that I could fight through Time Change Fatigue and make it to the happy ending.
I did not make it to the clips that created the stir last week, the ones where Simmons rips the NCAA for profiting off college athletes, moans about having to fake it through one season of college basketball, says he did not grow up caring about the NCAA Tournament and generally punches every Diva button placed in front of him. (Link to clip about the film.)
But I did have several questions, and maybe some are answered in the final hour of the film:
Who paid for Simmons to play four seasons at Montverde Academy near Orlando, Fla.? The word is that the cost of attendance there is more than $47,000 per year.
Who paid for his family to join him from Australia for his entire senior season?
If he did not want to attend classes at LSU and turned the entire academic thing into a charade, why didn't he play overseas or in the NBA Developmental League?
The reason could not have been that his brand benefited from the breathless hype he was given by ESPN and the SEC Network.
If Simmons had attended more classes, maybe somebody could have read him the information that the "One and done rule," that he dislikes is actually an NBA rule, not an NCAA rule.
Now that Simmons is a member of the NBA Players Association, maybe he can lead the fight to get that rule changed.
9. COLLEGE BASKETBALL SNAPSHOT
The college hoops season crowds into the sports calendar Friday.
Louisville opens with Evansville, which was picked to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference at the league’s media day.
Kentucky opens against Stephen F. Austin, a team that went 28-6 last season, but lost coach Brad Underwood to Oklahoma State. Ken Pomeroy forecasts a 20-8 season for the Lumberjacks.
Indiana travels to Honolulu to play No. 3 Kansas, the second game in a doubleheader that also features Michigan State and Arizona.
Western Kentucky opens with Alabama State, a team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference that stunned Virginia Tech in its season opener last season.
10. POLL RESULTS
Which player is Lamar Jackson's top competition in the 2016 Heisman Trophy race?
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan linebacker, 41.8 percent
Deshaun Watson, Clemson quarterback, 34.4 percent.
Jake Browning, Washington quarterback, 14.6 percent
Leonard Fournette, LSU halfback, 9.1 percent.
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