Separate but (not) equal

In the middle of a 24 game winning streak that includes last years’ Fiesta Bowl win over Auburn, and their self-proclaimed 2017 National Title Champion as the only undefeated team in the FBS, UCF produces a conundrum for everyone involved in the sport. Not only has it become apparent that they will not get anywhere near a shot at the CFP final four, it has become clear that the “Power 5” conferences and “Group of 5” conferences have evolved into two almost separate entities.

While it is important that there are many other factors at play, their 34-27 win over Auburn in the Fiesta Bowl last year was telling. It told us that UCF could have competed with Alabama and Georgia last year as Auburn beat both of the last two teams standing in the CFP. However, there are other circumstances to account for, such as Auburn being deflated about playing in a bowl game that wasn’t the CFP, the Gus Malzhan to Arkansas rumors in the air, the hesiatation of Auburn’s best draft eligible players to give their all in a meaningless bowl game in fear for injury, and them taking UCF lightly. At the end of the day, UCF beat them on the field and the scoreboard has the final word.

UCF had its fair share of distractions as well, with their prodigy head coach accepting the same position with his alma mater. However, he deciding to coach them in the bowl game, which could have helped motivate them in the end, the thought of sending the best coach in program history off with a bang.

UCF put up incredible numbers last year, scoring around 50 points per game and dominating the competition. However, through no fault of their own, the competition wasn’t up to the Power 5 standards the final four set. They dominated the schedule set for them, but by the time they truly proved themselves against Auburn, it was too late.

This shows a clear divide between the two groups of conferences, one that clearly won’t go away and one that will prevent any Group of 5 team in the CFP final four.

My suggestion? Split the two up and they can each compete for their own crown. It could be easily done, formally at least since it’s essentially split already. Power 5 teams would play only power 5 teams and vice versa, which will assist the teams in scheduling difficult and appropriate opponents. Then, the Power 5 and Group of 5 will each have a national champion and that’s where the arguments stop.

College football has shown it’s ability to slowly integrate progressive and beneficial ideas. The BCS, for example, had its flaws but it was finally a system where #1 played #2 for the big game. Before that, very rarely did 1v2 games happen during bowl season, and as long as you were a No. 1 team and you won your bowl game, you could almost count on being crowned.

Then came what we waited years for, a playoff where the final 4 were picked through a delicate process of 13 individuals who’s job was to pick the four best teams in college football. No formulas or equations deciding who’s the best, these are football experts. Though there has been controversy over the years over who’s in and who’s out, the committee has largely picked the true best four.

Since the committee refuses to expand the playoff to 8 or 12 or 16 teams, something must be done to give the UCFs of the world a shot at the glory they deserve. Do MAC and Sunbelt teams have anything to play for other than a conference championship? Not in today’s landscape. But if you give them a legitimate shot at a National Title, they become more hungry, hopeful, and focused. All of a sudden their season has ultimate meaning, something those teams have never had at the FBS or Division 1 level.

Thats not even to mention the recruiting factor going into play. Say a high level recruit out of Florida has his pick of anywhere in the country, he can now choose UCF because his chances of winning a ring is very plausible. Same concept applies with the lower 4 star and upper 3 star guys. Why go sit for a few years at a program like Arkansas who won’t have a title shot in the near future, when you can go play for, say, Boise State and have a real shot to win a National Championship, get great national exposure, and dominate at that level. To me, it appears as though everybody wins in this scenario, and though the cost may be great to achieve this proposal, the dividends will more than make it worth everyone’s while.

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It’s Bama and Clemson’s World, We’re just Living in it…

To give you some additional context, this article was written right after week 1, but due to an error with the messaging system, it wasn’t seen by the editor until a few days ago. I posted this article on reddit so you can verify the date there.

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What Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban are doing as head coaches is a crime.

No, not a crime in the legal sense of the word, as Zach Smith at Ohio State and D.J. Durkin’s staff violated. But the fact that the two best head coaches in college football are robbing the fans of what they want to see is a disservice to everyone involved, in my opinion. Especially to Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa, who are clearly two of the most talented quarterbacks not in the NFL right now.

To be fair, I understand the situation that they’re being put in, as it’s not just a player on the field, but human beings they’re dealing with, which makes the situation all the more muddy. They also need to consider depth at the most important position in the sport, because if Alabama and Clemson had gone with the best player from the start, the culture in today’s world would have steered the two elder quarterbacks from transferring and leaving a hole in the roster and locker room that’s nearly impossible to fill. But if you want to win the whole shebang, then you need to establish a clear leader at the helm of your program and stop toying with everyone about who the better quarterback is.

That Kelly Bryant and Jalen Hurts are even still being brought up is a testament to the traditions of college football, where historically younger players have to wait in line before becoming established stars. I’m not saying they’re not good players, of course. On the contrary, I believe they’re both fine players who should be the captain of some ship on the sea of CFB, but there needs to be a mutiny in Tuscaloosa and Clemson. Kelly and Jalen should be looking for transfer destinations right now if their goal is to play and win games at this level and the next, and the coaches at their respective schools should be encouraging them to if they truly want the best for their players.

Watching Trevor Lawrence in his limited time Saturday against the almighty Furman, I couldn’t help but imagine what this kid will be like when the 2021 draft gets here. He’s an 18 year old with a 6’6” frame, a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder, and some of the best mechanics and processing skills I’ve seen in any player this young. If there’s not a hype train for him yet, then I’m going to get one on the tracks now by saying what everyone will know all too soon: He will in fact be the 1st pick in whatever draft he chooses to enter, barring significant injuries of course.  If you think about it, it’s not all that surprising. The former prodigy-turned-superstar checks all of the boxes teams look for when selecting a quarterback that high, except of course experience and production, which will come. He has no off-field issues or on field attitude problems, is a good enough athlete to escape trouble, and is clearly intelligent if he’s mastered the offense enough to throw 3 beautiful touchdowns. This is not the first position battle he’s won, and he’ll only have to win this one and one more at the next level before he’s slinging it with the best of them in the world.

Tua is a different case than Trevor, being a sophomore and now in front of Hurts who went 26-2 as a starter and had a 17-1 TD to INT ratio last year.  Tua will soon be the only left-handed qb on an NFL roster, which is a pretty cool fact. He’s also got a name that is rather fun to utter, hard to spell, and soon to be of the household variety. He got the party started by coming in after halftime last year against Georgia in the CFP National Championship last year, and we all know the rest of the story. He threw 3 TDs and led Alabama back from a 24-10 deficit to win in OT. It couldn’t get much better than that, could it? Actually, yes it can. Much better in fact, as he’s going to take the Alabama Offense to heights it has never seen in the Saban era, or any other era for that matter. He’s got the perfect storm of talent, poise, and athleticism to make his offense transform from a Camaro to a Ferrari, he just needs the keys full-time instead of most of the time.

Both of these youngsters would progress a lot faster if they were named the sole starter, but we know that’s not going to happen any time soon. Why? A mixture of politics to play with players and families, the aforementioned blow to the depth chart when the elder QBs transfer, and the situations in the locker room (veteran players usually don’t like to see an young-gun teammate come in and take their leader’s job away from them). However, Nick and Dabo are good enough coaches to make all of those reasons go out the window if they so choose, and if they’re wanting to put the best product on the field, they need to throw caution to the wind and risk it for that lovely biscuit.

They’re both sitting on a gold mine, and Just like Joe Dirt’s garden, “Ya gotta dig it and make it work for ya.”

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Now fast forward to the present time before I post this on the blog, and things are not too far from what I said back in September. Tua is the front runner for the Heisman award in the midst of a hostorical season. He has 31 TDs to only 2 interceptions, and he had 0 interceptions all season until the LSU game. He’s on pace to set the Passing Efficiency record through 11 games, and if his team weren’t so dominant, he would have to throw the ball more and his numbers would be even better. He’s been the best player in the country and deserves to hoist the Heisman.

Clemson is right behind Alabama, sitting at No. 2 in each of the playoff rankings. However, I’m not so sure they would be undefeated at this point of the year if Dabo didn’t make the move to start Trevor Lawrence. They essentially split time at tge beginning of the season, but after a 4 TD performance against Georgia Tech, it was clear Trevor was Clemson’s guy. Kelly Bryant left the program, and Trevor has flourished. His stats are pretty good for a true freshman that didn’t start until week 5, with just over 2000 yards passing to go with 21 TDs and only 4 picks, yet they don’t justify how good he is to actually watch play. He throws an absolutely gorgeous ball, and his ball placement is some of the best I’ve seen in all of football this year. I stand by my statement that Trevor Lawrence will be the first overall pick in the draft whether it’s after his junior or senior season, barring major injury of course.