10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after the 2016 regular season
So let me get this straight:
Ohio State was Playoff worthy in 2014 because it overcame a 14-point home loss to a team that finished the regular season 6-6 by winning the Big Ten championship.
Yet, Penn State apparently is not Playoff worthy in 2016 although it beat Ohio State and could win the Big Ten championship on Saturday. Somehow, Ohio State, which, again, lost to Penn State and isn’t even playing for the conference championship, is a lock to make the Playoff, so say the analysts.
For the love of leather, please don’t try to tell me that every game matters. The only games that matter are the ones the Playoff committee deem important. Good luck trying to figure out which ones they are every year.
The lunacy of this four-team system we have is just one of the 10 things I’m overreacting to after a wild regular season in and around the SEC.
1. We need an 8-team Playoff, yesterday: A former editor who loved the BCS used to tell me it was great for college football because it spurred debate. I’d always say: No it doesn’t. When 98 percent of the population is upset, that’s not a debate. That’s just plain foolishness to stick with something so despised that isn’t working.
I was optimistic the 4-team Playoff would work — right up until Ohio State went in 2014 at the expense of a much more deserving TCU, which, if you remember (and I know you don’t), led then-No. 5 and undefeated Baylor 58-37 in the fourth quarter before collapsing, on the road, under a one-of-a-kind type comeback.
TCU needed one stop to go undefeated and couldn’t get it. Credit Baylor. Ridiculous comeback. Watched every snap. But TCU’s only loss was on the road, by 3 points, to the No. 5 team in the country.
TCU beat two other teams ranked in the top 10 at the time the game was played: No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Kansas State. It beat four teams in the Top 20. And, oh by the way, it crushed a Big Ten team, the same Big Ten team that lost to Ohio State by just 7. They did all of that before whipping No. 9 Ole Miss by 39 in the Peach Bowl.
Ohio State, meanwhile, suffered a far worse loss and beat exactly one team that regular season ranked in the top 10: No. 8 Michigan State.
Other than brand name and the incessant ESPN-driven Big Ten ad campaign, there was absolutely nothing in the Buckeyes’ resume that suggested they deserved a Playoff spot over TCU. Maybe over Florida State, which tip-toed around disaster that entire season, but not TCU.
The fact that Ohio State won the national title speaks exactly, emphatically to my point: Four teams clearly are not enough. We need eight. We need the five conference champions and three at-large teams because, already, a team that shouldn’t have been in the Playoff won the whole darned thing.
This year, we could have a Playoff without a single conference championship game champion.
Florida’s not going. Virginia Tech’s not going. Wisconsin’s not going. Colorado’s not going. Penn State is on extremely shaky ground. The Big 12 still doesn’t have a title game, but its two best teams are on the outside looking in.
Two years ago, the Committee’s message, its bail out, was the the conference championships trump everything. TCU didn’t have one. Ohio State did. End of discussion.
This year? It’s aww, who cares?
I lost interest in the weekly rankings several weeks ago. There aren’t four great teams this year. There is exactly one, and just about everybody (more on that in a minute) knows who it is. It is Alabama. And then there are 10 teams that could beat or lose to any other team in that group.
So pick three to join the Tide, but please quit trying to convince me that they are the best three and only three.
2. Did she really say this?
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) November 30, 2016
Do I even need to explain how ridiculous that question is? I’ve said dumb things, too. Let’s just move on.
3. Shea Patterson and the redshirt revolt: After Ole Miss started 1-2, its Playoff dreams crushed before October, I started writing that the Rebels should start the clock on the Shea Patterson era. A few snaps here and there, a start against the cupcakes.
It wasn’t an indictment of Chad Kelly. Nobody was more fun to watch. But it was acknowledgement that time moves on, and the clock started ticking on Patterson leaving early for the NFL as soon as he stepped on campus.
Redshirting him never made any sense. Today’s 5-star QBs saw Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston bolt to the NFL after their third year in school. Those two, in particular, started a trend at that position that can’t be stopped.
You, as a fan, don’t have to like it, but there was never a chance that Shea Patterson, fifth-year senior, was going to lead the Rebels out of the tunnel in 2020.
Be thankful he got a head start on 2017.
4. So many curious coaching decisions: I’m obviously not there every day. I’m not at practice, charting effectiveness and breaking down film afterward. But how much evidence do some of these guys need?
Kamryn Pettway dominated Auburn’s defense in the spring game, much in the same way Jalen Hurts was the only Alabama offensive player who made that Tide defense pause.
Even if you believed in Jovon Robinson, it was obvious then that Pettway would be a beast few men on earth would want to encounter. Find a way to get him 10 touches a game, at minimum. Instead, he got zero carries in the opening loss to Clemson.
But Alabama’s quarterback battle was the ultimate head-scratcher. And Nick Saban’s decision to start Blake Barnett in the opener was, well, just wrong. One-hundred percent predictable, but wrong. Saban realized it almost immediately. He yanked Barnett after successive punts, inserted Hurts and the Tide never looked back.
Great coaches make mistakes. But only the stubborn ones are unwilling to stick with a flawed plan simply because it’s their plan.
They stopped giving Saban the SEC coach of the year in 2009. Writers got bored, I guess. With as much as the Tide lost on offense entering this year, his ability to adjust on the fly and go against everything he ever thought about this game — true freshman quarterback, employing the spread instead of despising it — is as remarkable as it is refreshing.
If he doesn’t win coach of the year this year, I’ll have a head start on the next overreaction piece.
5. Georgia would have won the East with Mark Richt: I’m a Richt fan and thought Georgia made a mistake in firing him. The Bulldogs complicated the mistake by hiring a rookie to replace him. Kirby Smart might become a great head coach, but he isn’t one yet. Particularly early in the season, he made numerous questionable calls and decisions that led to losses.
The most egregious was rushing three and dropping his most athletic edge rusher — Lorenzo Carter — into the end zone to try to knock down a Hail Mary against Tennessee.
Do you really think Nick Saban would do that with Tim Williams?
With injuries crippling Tennessee and Florida, the East was Georgia’s to win. And the Bulldogs lost it.
6. Criticizing Joshua Dobbs: I wrote in the offseason that I could see Dobbs making a Brandon Allen-like leap to 25 touchdown passes as a senior after throwing 15 last season. Dobbs did even better, finishing with an SEC-best 26.
Throughout the season, people spent more time criticizing what Dobbs couldn’t do rather than focusing on what he was doing: specifically, saving Tennessee’s butt.
Given everything the Vols endured this season, preseason injuries, mid-season defections, Dobbs kept that team together. He saved Butch Jones’ job in the process.
If you still think Dobbs didn’t do enough or wasn’t good enough, just wait until next year.
You’re going to miss him when he’s gone.
7. Jeffery Simmons: I had all kinds of issues with Mississippi State admitting him and Dan Mullen allowing him to play this season, but let’s give the young man some credit. He stayed out of the headlines. He played well, too, finishing with 38 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss.
I don’t think I overreacted to what he did, but it’s a good reminder that people can bounce back from a mistake, no matter how bad the mistake is.
Moving forward, let’s hope the only trouble he continues to cause is for opposing offensive coordinators.
8. I’m sorry, Mark Stoops: About 10 weeks ago in this space, I wrote in this space that I was done believing in the direction he was taking Kentucky.
I'm not a fire-the-coach guy, but this Kentucky performance is the type that gets a coach fired.
— Chris Wright (@FilmRoomEditor) September 10, 2016
He did an abrupt U-turn. I’m still angry the Cats couldn’t get that elusive fifth SEC win. I’m sure they are too.
9. The jet-sweep pitch/pass: It’s not a pass. Wait, that was way too calm.
It’s not a pass! Quit pretending it is!
New rule proposal, effective 2017: Any pass that doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage in the air shall not be counted toward a quarterback’s yardage total. It shall instead be counted only in the team’s overall passing total.
10. Bring on the Big Ten: I’m tired of hearing about them. I’m tired of poking obvious holes in their resumes. They’re as flawed as everybody else this season (well, almost everybody).
Actually, I hope three Big Ten teams get selected for the Playoff. Then I hope they reconfigure the Playoff on the fly, and just let Alabama eliminate each one, one week at a time.
Justice, served with a smile and side of grits, SEC-style.
Chris Wright is Executive Editor at SaturdayDownSouth.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @FilmRoomEditor.