Monday, December 17, 2018

Gone Bowling

Georgia Southern vs Eastern Michigan
Photo: Mickey Welsh / The Montgomery Advertiser
I went to a football game this past weekend. And it was great.

The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl was in Montgomery, Alabama this past Saturday night, and I was one of the 17,710 people in the stands. I was there supporting the Georgia Southern Eagles as they took on the Eastern Michigan Eagles. And the Eagles won! Which Eagles? Well, I'm happy with the outcome, if that helps.

Georgia Southern has only been to two bowl games. They started up football -- restarted, actually, after program was halted during World War II -- in 1981, hiring Georgia Defensive Coordinator Erk Russell to start the team. Starting from nothing -- literally, Georgia Southern College (at the time) had to buy a football from the K-mart across from the college to have one for their first press conference announcing the hiring of Russell -- they started play in 1982, and in 1985 were Division 1-AA (now FCS) national champions. Georgia Southern won a total of six 1-AA national championships before transitioning to 1-A/FBS in 2014. They ended their FCS/1-AA era beating Florida. Have you ever seen videos and images making fun of the University of Florida for the two players blocking each other? That was the 2013 game against Georgia Southern.

After their coach left for Army -- Jeff Monken led Army to 10 wins this season -- they hired Willie Fritz to lead them into their first year in FCS/1-A. Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference championship, and the next year, went to and won their first bowl game. However, the coach left for Tulane. The next two seasons were tough, with Georgia Southern falling to 5-7 in 2016 and 2-10 in 2017. They fired their coach mid-season last year, and promoted the interim to head coach for this year. Under Chad Lunsford, they improved from last year's 2-10 to a 10-3 record this year, including the win in the Camellia Bowl. Why the biggest turnaround in 2018 college football didn't get him considered for coach of the year honors is, well, baffling to me. But, hurray for Brian Kelley, I guess.

The win in Montgomery wasn't easy, though. Eastern Michigan, despite a 7-5 record, was a tough opponent. Other than a 15-point loss to Army, the other four losses were all by a touchdown or less, with two coming in overtime. They could have easily been 9-3, and possibly 11-1. And they played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts. They took the lead with 3:33 left in the game, on a fourth-down pass for a touchdown. However, they couldn't stop Georgia Southern from driving down to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired.

It was the only Division 1-A/FBS bowl game that was close. So far, easily the best bowl game, but there are a lot of bowl games left. Still, it will be one of the best of 2018.

I was happy to make it to Georgia Southern's bowl game, and thrilled with the win. But, I was thoroughly impressed with the team from Eastern Michigan. This was only the fourth bowl game in that school's history, and it had to be a heartbreaker. Kinda like the season has been for them: close, oh so close, but not able to finish.

If they get a couple of breaks, they could be champions of the MAC next year, if the team continues to play like they did this season and this past weekend.

I'm still thrilled with Georgia Southern's win. And I know that another game against Eastern Michigan would be a tough one. But, if it came next year as a rematch, but between two conference champions, well, that would be just fine with me.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

College Football Playoff 2018

I do this every year, and I'm doing it again this year. I'm telling you what the NCAA FBS Subdivision (what I still call Division 1-A) playoffs would look like if they did it right.

All 10 conference champions should be in a playoff. They won their conference, and that should mean something. A place in the tournament is a suitable reward for accomplishing that goal

Keeping in mind that limiting it to the conference champions leaves out some really good teams that are better than half of those conference titleholders. So, add the six best teams, as determined by a committee -- just like the CFP is done today -- to the tournament. Have #1 host #16, #2 host #15, and so on. Losers in the first round still get an opportunity to go to a bowl game.

The winners would advance to the next round, with the highest surviving seed hosting the lowest surviving seed, and so on. That leaves four teams left, and those teams would meet up New Year's, just like the CFP does today. The difference is, the final four got there by winning a playoff game, not solely by a committee vote.

Seeding, to me, should be the conference champs first -- similar to how the NFL does division champs first -- with the Wild Card teams rounding it out. This year, for example, Georgia didn't win their conference, but are considered one of the best by the CFP. They would be in the playoffs, but behind Northern Illinois, for example, since NIU won their conference.

Some won't like putting NIU and UAB above Michigan, but they won their conference. Besides, putting all ten conference champs higher will make for some better games. I mean, which is a better game: Alabama playing NIU or Penn State? App State playing Clemson or UAB?

Here are the seedings, listing the teams, the conference championship if applicable, record, and CPF ranking (or other as noted):

  • Alabama (Southeastern) (13-0) (#1)
  • Clemson (Atlantic Coast) (13-0) (#2)
  • Oklahoma (Big 12) (12-1) (#4)
  • Ohio State (Big Ten) (12-1) (#6)
  • Central Florida (American) (13-0) (#8)
  • Washington (Pac-12) (10-3) (#9)
  • Fresno State (Mountain West) (11-2) (#21)
  • Appalachian State (Sun Belt) (10-2) (#30 Coaches)
  • Alabama-Birmingham (Conference USA) (10-3) (#34 Coaches)
  • Northern Illinois (Mid-American) (8-5) (--)
  • Notre Dame (12-0)(#3)
  • Georgia (11-2) (#5)
  • Michigan (10-2) (#7)
  • Florida (9-3) (#10)
  • Louisiana State (9-3) (#11)
  • Penn State (9-3) (#12)

This gets everybody that can make a case for being included a chance to prove it. Whoever wins out from that pool of teams is worthy of being called national champions.