Four. No More.
We've just finished yet another year of College Football Playoff controversy with yet another round of calls for the Playoff to expand past four teams. This year, it's a fight between the only two programs that receive mulligans every season: A two-loss Ohio State program that lost to Iowa by 31 (yes, that really happened) and a one-loss Alabama, which did not even win its division of the SEC and is essentially Wisconsin with better name recognition. Neither team is worthy of a national championship, but we're now supposed to believe that they both earned a shot and the field should just be expanded to eight teams.
From this chorus of bad ideas, a siren of sanity has emerged in the form of...Barrett Sallee?
The two primary contenders for the No. 4 spot had flawed résumés, and expansion would invite even more flawed résumés to a party that should be reserved for perfection -- or at least something close to it. Expansion would shift the goal of the playoff away from excellence, favoring access instead.
Give me excellence over access any day -- even if that makes it hard for the general public and those of us in immersed in the college football world to define.
It's better to have a worthy team on the outside looking in every once in a while than one that isn't worthy get in, get hot and win it all. The latter would confirm the worst fears of those who love and appreciate the greatest three months in American sports -- the college football season.
Nothing cheapens a regular season more than bracket creep. Take college football's little brother, college basketball, for instance. The college basketball tournament is awesome, the greatest three weeks of college athletics. But the tournament -- and the dire need to get into the tournament -- trumps almost everything else in the sport. Get a big win? Better check the bracket guys and see what it did to your seeding. Suffer a bad loss (or, in Iowa's case this year, a string of bad losses)? Does this mean that you're not making the field? And, if so, is the season a lost cause?
If your program is safely in the field, losses still matter, but only to who you're going to see in the first weekend of the Big Dance. Kansas got beat last night. Did you even notice? Does it even matter? In other words, there's a reason why ratings are down. If the number two team in the country lost in football on a random Saturday night to a team that had gone 4-8 the previous year, it would send shockwaves through the sport, because that No. 2 team probably just lost its shot at a title. See also Ohio State vs. Iowa, November 2, 2017.
Expanding the bracket does nothing to stem the controversy over who gets in; it just pushes that controversy down the pecking order to where the decision isn't quite so important. But the importance of that decision is why the Iron Bowl mattered this year, and why Championship Weekend matters, and why the biggest upset in the last nine years of Iowa football mattered. Demand excellence. Say no to bracket expansion.
(With that said, noted sixteen-team bracket apologist Dan Wetzel's plan to save the postseason by eliminating the conference championship games makes some sense, even if it glosses over the gigantic conference champion selection problem with "the league gets to decide.")
Nebraska fired noted nice guy and last-place finisher Mike Riley and hired Scott Frost, because there's nothing more Nebraska than having your coach from the 1990s and wide receiver from the 1990s orchestrate the hire of a quarterback from the 1990s, all while simply looking away from his role in your program's biggest scandal of the 1990s.
As late as Friday night, Frost harbored deep reservations about leaving his unbeaten team at UCF. A lengthy conversation with his mentor and former coach, Tom Osborne, persuaded Frost to stick with the decision to return to his alma mater. And without the deliberate work of Matt Davison, Frost's ex-teammate and close friend, the Cornhuskers likely would have lacked the connection to strike a deal.
Osborne and Davison gave Nebraska a much-needed edge in this process, teaming with athletic director Bill Moos, who pushed every proper button to tap into Frost's love for his home state and the program he helped lead to a share of the national title as a quarterback 20 years ago.
No word yet if Frost can bring back the lax academic standards, Prop 48 reliance and offensive gimmickry that Nebraska needed to be relevant during his playing days, but the guy apparently can work miracles, so don't count it out.
The Iowa angle here: Welcome to a world where our Western rival has a defense run by a former Kirk Ferentz offensive lineman. Former Iowa offensive lineman Erik Chinander, who ran Frost's defenses at UCF, is coming along to Lincoln. Chinander played on Iowa's stellar offensive front from 1999-2002, then spent six years on Mark Farley's staff at UNI before jumping to Oregon and switching to the defensive side of the ball. It's there he teamed up with Frost, and the two have worked together at three different programs now.
We know Iowa hasn't changed anything since 2002, which means Chinander probably knows all of Iowa's playcalls, but the value of that is questionable. After all, everyone knows Iowa's playcalls. Every time Iowa shows an audible, it runs the same play. It's not like decrypting Iowa's offensive calls is going to change much. Also, after watching UCF's defense give up 55 to Memphis last Saturday, I'm not sure knowing the plays would matter.
Odds and Ends
Both Josey Jewell and Josh Jackson were named to the SB Nation All-America Team, which raises the possibility -- maybe even likelihood -- that they are both consensus All-Americans. If both Jewell and Jackson earn that honor, it would mark the first time since 2003 (Robert Gallery and Nate Kaeding) and fourth time in program history that Iowa had two consensus first team All-Americans on the same team. In 1985, Chuck Long and Larry Station made the first team, and Andre Tippett and Reggie Roby pulled it off in 1981.
Chris Doyle remains the highest-paid strength coach in the country by more than $100,000. Much like with Kirk Ferentz's salary, though, the market is starting to adjust to where Iowa set it.
Plan on bringing your headphones and some good music to your Pinstripe Bowl watch party:
ESPN announce crew for the bowl game: Kevin Negandhi, Mack Brown, Booger McFarland, Jen Lada
— IowaFBLive (@IowaFBLive) December 6, 2017
That's going to be like watching a mid-May episode of WWE Monday Night Raw with JBL and David Otunga on commentary. Poor Kevin Negandhi. That man deserves better.
Muscatine's Joe Weiskamp, Iowa's prized 2018-19 basketball recruit, passed the legendary Ricky Davis for first place on the all-time scoring list for his high school conference, the MAC, with a dunk that looked borderline illegal:
Davis probably showed up later in the game and started pouring baskets into his own team's hoop in order to regain his lead.
Tom Izzo took a break from winning the Big Ten in December to sit in the gallery on the Judge Mathis Show. Mathis's daughter was apparently a student assistant on Izzo's team. The interaction between Mathis and the Ohio State fan defendant who clearly has no idea who Izzo is was priceless.
When you hear college coaches lament recruiting, I'm pretty sure "having to drive a Bentley to a recruit's house and take photos on the hood with the recruit and some other dude" is right up there on the list of things they dislike. Take it away, Mark Stoops!
Give Stoops this. He doesnt wear pleated pants. pic.twitter.com/dFKNaiS3Dw
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) December 4, 2017
And finally, my son is getting a wooden train set for Christmas, and I think we all know what Dad is going to be doing for the rest of Christmas weekend (audio NSFW):
WERE BACK BABY pic.twitter.com/OciWBHw6Qd
— Ste (@stxvo) December 7, 2017