Extra Points: A Playoff problem? Clemson's secret weapon, and a huge SEC upset?
The College Football Playoff Board of Managers will meet later this month, and it now appears the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC want another look at Playoff expansion.
One industry source close to the process told CBSSports.com, “I think we go back to square zero and start over.”
To which an SEC source told me Thursday: “The current format has been very good for college football.”
It’s almost as if the SEC is daring the Alliance — the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC — to make a move.
Because If the Alliance is trying to slow the spread of the SEC over all things college football, its best move isn’t fewer teams in the Playoff, it’s more.
More teams equal more opportunity for the Pac-12 champion – which has been left out of the Playoff since 2016 – and more secondary selections for all three conferences. Any idea to limit the number of teams per conference hurts all conferences involved, not just the SEC.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who was one of four members of the working committee that proposed the new 12-team format (including Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick), has repeatedly said the SEC would be happy to stay at four teams.
The Alliance stated last week that as a voting block, it could help change “policy” in an ever-changing college sports landscape. Translation: They want to use their three votes vs. the SEC’s one, though any change to the Playoff structure takes a unanimous vote of the 10 FBS conference representative presidents and the Notre Dame president.
If we take Sankey and the SEC at their word, that they’re fine at four teams, the Alliance voting cabal means nothing.The SEC’s one vote would stand, and the Playoff would stay at four teams.
That would also leave the SEC with the best, by far, television game inventory, and leave the remaining Power 5 conferences at a financial disadvantage.
“Let me get this straight,” one industry source told me. “First they want more teams in the Playoff because it’s not representative of the entire FBS footprint. Then when they get that, they want to go back to a smaller number and put a cap on the number of teams eligible per conference. All because Texas and Oklahoma asked to join the SEC.”
Last week, Sankey was on my radio show in Jacksonville (1010XL) and said he’s open to talking to any of his colleagues about Playoff structure. None has reached out.
“I have yet to have any one of (the other 9 FBS commissioners) say, ‘I wouldn’t have done the same thing you did had that opportunity materialized,’” Sankey said of the addition of OU and Texas.
One Group of 5 athletic director told me this week don’t be surprised if the 12-team Playoff format stayed.
“There are a lot of hurt feelings,” the Group of 5 AD said. “I get it. But at the end of the day, we have to work together in the future. What’s best for the growth of our sport? Do we cut off our nose to spite our face? I don’t think so.”
The Big 12 expansion timeline
The Athletic is reporting that UCF, BYU, Cincinnati and Houston have emerged as the favorites for Big 12 expansion.
But understand this: Any expansion by the Big 12 could facilitate a quicker move to the SEC for Texas and Oklahoma.
An SEC source told me last month that the “expectation” is for Texas and Oklahoma to begin play in the SEC in 2022.
Any Big 12 membership change Texas and Oklahoma don’t vote on – they’re still technically members of the Big 12 until 2025 – could allow the universities more legal ground to mitigate the $80 million per school buyout.
One way or the other – the full buyout or a mitigated buyout – expect Texas and OU to be official SEC members in 2022.
Don’t forget the Clemson D
Georgia feels as good about its quarterback situation as it has under coach Kirby Smart.
The Dawgs are loaded at the skill positions, and the offensive line will again be a team strength heading into Saturday’s mega game against Clemson.
Here’s what they’ll see in Charlotte: A Clemson defense that has 20 players who have started games, including 9 returning starters from last year’s group that finished No. 15 in the nation in total defense, and No. 18 in scoring defense (20.2 ppg.).
Among that group of starters is a defensive line that will be the best Georgia faces all season. One NFL scout told me DT Bryan Bresee and DE Myles Murphy would’ve been first-round picks had they been eligible for the NFL Draft after breakout freshman seasons.
One more wildly undervalued offseason move: MLB James Skalski, the heart of the unit last year, returned for his “super senior” season.
“I don’t think people realize the depth of talent on that Clemson defense,” an NFL scout told me. “They’re incredibly disruptive, and they can cover in the back end. Don’t look at that Ohio State game last year and think that’s what you’re going to see.”
UCLA on the move
I asked another NFL scout for the one game that stands out this weekend, and his response without hesitation: LSU at UCLA.
“There is a ton of talent on that LSU team. They’ve got NFL guys all over the field on both sides of the ball. But I have no idea what (LSU QB) Max Johnson does. I know that (LSU coach) Ed (Orgeron) likes to say he was 2-0 as a starter, but the Florida game was a gift and the other win (Ole Miss) was against the worst defense in college football. I need to see consistent arm strength to drive the ball on intermediate and deep throws.”
UCLA played in Week 0, and throttled Hawaii. While that’s not exactly a program-defining win, it’s certainly a game previous UCLA teams – even teams coached by Chip Kelly the past 3 years – could’ve struggled to win, or even lose.
But another NFL scout told me Kelly has done a “masterful” job of tweaking his philosophy and reshaping UCLA.
“The last time Chip was in the college game at Oregon, he could get away with those offensive linemen who were more toned than heft. He had that scheme that confused everyone. Now everyone runs the same system or a version of it, and knows how to defend it. Chip came back (to college football), and ran the same thing with the same type bodies – and it didn’t work.
“That team is bigger and thicker on the lines of scrimmage, and they’re faster at the skill positions. And the quarterback (Dorian Thompson-Robinson) is a nightmare to defend. They’re going to give LSU a world of problems.”