The Football Blitz

National Recruiting Analyst
Posted Dec 5, 2006
Jamie Newberg, National Recruiting Analyst

Enough of the BCS. College football needs a playoff system and here are a couple of basic ideas. Can Penn State challenge for the Big 10 title next season? Will UCLA start getting five-star prospects? What will Marvin Austin do? How come Zac Taylor doesn't get any Heisman love? I will also tell you how Ohio State helped Florida win their only national title.

When will the presidents of the Division 1-A football unite and come to the conclusion that the great game of college football needs a playoff format to decide a true national champion?

Most say it will never happen. Why? They can whine and cry about a playoff system taking too much classroom time away from the athletes but they are just trying to mislead the college football public. Make no mistake about it because it’s all about the mighty dollar and how to divide the enormous potential financial windfall that a playoff format would generate.

The bottom line is that the current system in place, the BCS, is better than the old Bowl system format but that doesn’t make it right. Tell that to Michigan this year or Auburn from a few year’s back.

The bottom line is that college football now plays a 12 game format. A conference championship game and a bowl game have some teams playing 14 games. Go back to the 11 game regular season format and add the playoff system. Incorporate the bowls into the playoff mix.

Lets look at two potential playoff formats.

First, take the existing BCS system and look at the top eight following the last week of the college football regular season.

1)Ohio State
8)Boise State

In this scenario you would have Ohio State vs Boise State, Florida vs Wisconsin, Michigan vs. Louisville and LSU vs USC. The winners move on and hence your playoff with the final two standing for the national championship.

Personally, I like the idea of having a playoff system in place where conference champions move on. Take the winners of the ACC, Big 10, Big East, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC and they would get automatic playoff berths. Then take the two highest rated teams and give them at-large bids. So if you take this season’s conference champions – Wake Forest, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Louisville and USC and add the two other highest rated teams (Michigan and LSU) you could then have your playoff. You could determine the seedings by using a committee like they do in basketball or some sort of ranking system similar to the BCS. Under this system a team like Boise State would get left out because they would fall to No. 4 regarding the rankings of the at-large teams. The bottom line with this format is that if you are not a conference winner (in one of the six main conferences) then you need to work your way up the rankings and earn one of the two at-large berths. Same goes for Notre Dame and the winners of the non-BCS conferences. Sorry but you can’t justify a 16 team format because there would be too many games unless you dropped the regular season to 10 game. And just like today, there would be controversy but the controversy would be over the at-large teams, not who should be playing for the national championship because the later would finally be decided on the field.

Michigan RB Mike Hart
Personally, under this format, I would seed the teams the following way after this regular season–

1)Ohio State
3)Southern Cal
8)Wake Forest

So you would have No. 1 vs No. 8, No. 2 vs No. 7, No. 3 vs No. 6, and No. 4 vs. No. 5. The higher seeded team would get home field advantage in round one because one would assume these game would take place a week or two after the regular season ends, which in this year’s case would be the weekend of December 16th. In round two you could incorporate the big BCS bowl sites for the national semi-finals, rotating New Orleans, Los Angeles, Miami and Tempe. Better yet, cities could bid on hosting the games. The winners of round two would advance to the national championship game.

Some would still argue that Michigan should be seeded two but there would have to be guidelines in place where three or four conferences champions would be given a higher seed by virtue of winning their conference title.

What happened this season within the ACC brings an interesting issue to this playoff idea. Wake Forest won the conference title but finished ranked as the No. 13 team in the BCS. Would the ACC champion deserve a spot in a potential playoff with a dozen teams ranked ahead of them?

You could make an argument either way. The point is this can happen and it did this year. So should the ACC have representation with Wake Forest even after they are ranked No. 13? That’s a discussion for another day but you could also stipulate that conference winners need to be ranked at a certain number or higher to gain an automatic bid. If they are ranked too low then you give three at-large bids.

Will there ever be a playoff in college football? I don’t know but I feel pretty confident that in my life time we will see one (I am only 39 years old). The public wants one and it seems like most of the college coaches want one. It works in 1-AA football why wouldn’t it work in 1-A?

It would and the university presidents know it would. Slowly, some are starting to come around. Bernie Machen is the school president at the University of Florida. He was also the president at Utah a few years back when they went undefeated. He is in the minority among his peers but wants to start to seriously look into some kind of playoff system for college football.

“It you recall, Utah was one of the main agitators to get from the four BCS games to five and I was part of that,” said Machen recently to the St. Petersburg Times. “I just don’t feel it’s fair the way it’s set up. I think it’s worse now (than three years ago) because it’s structured such that we get incentive to play teams like Western Carolina, which we shouldn’t be playing. If the playoff was in place, we wouldn’t worry about playing teams like that. We could play anybody we wanted and play in through our league schedule. So there are a lot of reasons why we need to think about a playoff. And I think the public wants it; it’s just the university presidents that aren’t there yet.”

Also jumping on the playoff bandwagon is Florida State president T.K. Weatherell, who said recently that he would be in favor of a playoff. Machem is going to try and get the playoff discussion on the agenda when the SEC presidents meet this spring or summer. Whether it comes to fruition or not a move toward a potential playoff is gaining steam, although it’s still far from being done.

“It all about the money,” said Machen. Look in our conference. Several of us will go to the BCS, but every school in the conference will get the same amount of money. So there are a lot of people sitting at home that are going to get their BCS shares and they are the ones saying why should I change to a playoff when I might get less? So it’s going to ultimately mean we’re going to have to come up with a deal that includes the bowl, but puts the money in a different place. We’ve done it in basketball, we can do it in football.”

Oh, the irony!
Florida won it’s only national championship back in 1996. How did they get there and who did they beat? Well, they beat Florida State in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl (52-20). The Gators lost to the Seminoles 24-21 in their final regular season game only to get matched up with FSU in the Sugar Bowl after winning the SEC Championship.

That same season the Buckeyes faced the Sun Devils in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State beat ASU 20-17, as David Boston caught the game winning touchdown pass with 19 seconds remaining. That cost Arizona State not just a Rose Bowl win but a national championship. Because the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl the Sugar Bowl became the national championship game between the No. 1 ranked Seminoles and the No. 3 Gators. ASU was No. 2 in the polls before losing to Ohio State. Florida went on to win and won their first national championship. Guess who finished No. 2 in the polls? Ohio State.

So not only did the Gators get a rematch with Florida State to win the national title they needed helped from Ohio State.

Ted Ginn celebrates a touchdown at Texas with

Now that we know who the Buckeyes will face for the National Championship does Florida present any major problems for Ohio State? I see the Buckeyes rolling over the Gators in this one.
Skip (Cleveland, Ohio)

On paper Ohio State certainly looks like the more dominant team. But you could argue that this Florida team reminds many of the Ohio State team that beat Miami a few years ago for the title. If there is one advantage that the Gators may have over the Buckeyes it’s the Florida team speed, especially the speed on their defense. I am not saying Ohio State doesn’t have speed. They have speed and then some. But man for man, Florida’s defense may be the fastest in the country, especially their front seven. Now Florida is playing without their top defensive linemen, Marcus Thomas, who was kicked off the team. Still, they are a speedy and athletic group led by defensive ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey. The linebacking corps is very good led by Brandon Siler and Earl Everett. And manning the last line of defense is the top free safety in college football, Reggie Nelson.

The bottom line is that Jim Tressel is an exceptional big game coach and Ohio State has certainly been the more consistent team of the two. What I love about this Buckeye offense is that they are so well balanced. More importantly, they are great up front with arguably the game’s top offensive line. The most important match up in this title tilt is the Buckeye offensive line against the Gator front four.

Most are already saying it’s going to be the Buckeyes in a blow out. I don’t see it that way and think it will be a tight game and a great match up. This game will be decided by who wins in the trenches and can Ohio State negate the Florida speed? It will certainly be fun to discuss over the next month and even more fun to watch on January 8th.

Matt Grothe of USF
As things stand right now would you consider South Florida the second best college football team in the state of Florida behind the Gators?
Larry (Indian Rocks Beach, Florida)

Now that’s an interesting question. I think the only safe conclusion we can make about college football in the Sunshine State is that the University of Florida is the No. 1 team. Florida State and Miami were dreadful by their high standards this season while South Florida surprised many by winning eight games. Remember as well that USF lost early in the season on the road to Kansas in a game they should have won and they lost to Rutgers by two points late in the game. In essence they were a few plays away from 10 wins.

So could the Bulls beat the Seminoles and Hurricanes? If you asked this question to me last season or a few year’s back I would have said no way. But we have seen a slow decline in Tallahassee and Coral Gables while things are looking up for the team in Tampa.

Two weeks ago USF scored their biggest win in school history by defeating West Virginia in Morgantown. The Bulls fate this season was cast by the young Matt Grothe. This red-shirt freshman quarterbacked the Bulls and was pretty impressive in the process. Folks have been saying for a few years now, including me, that USF was a quarterback away from being a very good team. Well, Head Coach Jim Leavitt found his man in Grothe and the Bulls will have him for three more years.

Equally important is that this is a very young team. With more maturity and experience the Bulls will make a serious run at the conference title in the coming years. That’s great for the Big East because it’s no longer Louisville, West Virginia and everyone else. The Big East is improving by leaps and bounds from top to bottom. This season we all saw what Rutgers did and what a great story the Scarlet Knights have become. It also appears that Rutgers will not be a one hit wonder and they are a program that will continue to get better.

Meanwhile, there sits USF, fourth in the Big East and they just beat West Virginia. Sure the Cardinals, Mountaineers and Scarlet Knights will be the talk of the conference going into next season but you better watch out for this team in Tampa.

So how would USF stack up this season to Miami and FSU? It’s hard to tell. Surely it wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion that FSU and Miami would beat the Bulls. I am sure if they were matched up the ‘Canes and Seminoles would be the favored team. But USF has their playmaker at quarterback in Grothe. Where the Bulls may struggle is facing the defenses that Miami and FSU field. Remember, most of the struggles this season in Tallahassee and Miami were on the offensive side of the ball. I would be fairly confident that a USF/FSU and a USF/Miami game this season would be two close games that could go either way.

The bottom line is direction. Miami and FSU are looking for a new identity while South Florida is a team looking up as a program on the rise that could certainly play with the ‘Noles and ‘Canes. It sure would have made for an interesting bowl match up to pit USF against FSU or Miami.

So to answer your question I would still likely rank the Bulls fourth in the state behind Florida, Florida State and Miami. It’s certainly an impossible question to answer considering they don’t play each other. Having said that I can say with certainty that the Bulls have made incredible strides under Leavitt and they are quickly closing the gap with everyone.

Austin Scott, 2006 Orange Bowl
Will Austin Scott be the man at Penn State?
Do you think Penn State has a legitimate shot at winning the Big Ten? I mean, they aren't losing many players and all the teams they lost are ranked in the Top 10. What do you think?
Tom (Warr, Pennsylvania)

Can Penn State win the Big 10 next season? Sure. Will they actually win the Big 10? That’s another story. I think there are two crucial questions regarding Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions next season regarding quarterback and running back.

First, can Anthony Morelli step up and be a quarterback that manages the game and avoids the bad throws? We can all see that he has the physical ability but he has to make better decisions. Now he has improved but for Penn State to make a serious run at the Big 10 title next year he has to play better. This year he finished 9th in the league passing efficiency ratings after completing 53.7% of his passes for2,227 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Second, Austin Scott has to be the “man” next season. You still have to run the football, especially in the Big 10. Scott has to step up with Tony Hunt moving on. If Scott doesn’t do it will someone else? Could it be Evan Royster? Or can the Nittany Lions sign LeSean McCoy (Milford Academy) last year’s All-American running back that signed with Miami but failed to qualify? It looks like he will end up at Penn State or Pitt. Who ever he signs with McCoy could make an instant impact. Regardless, a running game will be an important variable to their success next season or lack of.

Aside from Hunt the Nittany Lions must also replace other seniors like Jay Alford (DT), Levi Brown (OT), Donnie Johnson (S), Ed Johnson (DT) and of course Paul Posluszny (LB).

There was once a time not to long ago where things didn’t look good in Happy Valley. That’s know longer the case, as Paterno and his staff have recruited well. This is a talented team that could certainly contend for their conference title next season.

Zac Taylor
Why isn't Zac Taylor getting any Heisman consideration? He's been playing as good if not better then Brady Quinn? And how would you rank Nebraska’s Maurice Purify against other junior wide receiver and do you think he will be the first wide receiver taken in next years draft?
Larry (Miami, Florida)

Zac Taylor did have a very good season for the Cornhuskers, throwing for 3,071 yards, 25 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He also completed 60% of his passes and finished 19th in the NCAA in passing efficiency. He was recently named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. More important than the stats was Taylor’s ability to lead Nebraska to a Big 12 North title. This program is starting to hit it’s stride under Bill Callahan and Taylor was a big reason why.

In terms of the Heisman he never had a chance. Taylor wasn’t promoted in the pre-season while Quinn and many other were. There are many players who could have been considered that were not like Taylor, Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid, Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb, Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, etc. Those are just QBs from the Big 12 or that region.

In terms of Purify he is one of the conference’s top receivers. He finished the season with 33 receptions for 621 yards and seven scores. No way is he the first receiver taken in next year’s draft if he decides to go. That distinction will go do Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson. Not only is Johnson the top receiver he could be the top player in he draft and potentially the first pick. Other junior standout wide receivers are Dwayne Jarrett (Miami), Adarius Bowman (Oklahoma State), Robert Meachem (Tennessee), DJ Hall (Alabama), Kennan Burton (Kentucky), Andre Caldwell (Florida), Marcus Monk (Arkansas) and Ted Ginn, Jr., just to name a few. That’s a very strong junior receiver class.

Karl Dorrell
Does UCLA have any chance of getting the 5 star recruits that USC gets while Pete Carrol is head coach?
Allen (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Certainly UCLA’s stunning upset win over cross town rival USC last weekend will go a long way for the Bruins in terms of recruiting. It’s just unfortunate for Karl Dorrell’s club that they have so few scholarships to give this season. The Bruins will sign in the neighborhood of 12-14 prospects but you can bet the big win over the Trojans give them so much needed recruiting momentum for next season.

In terms of this recruiting class UCLA has one five star commitment in defensive tackle Brian Price (Los Angeles, Calif.). Price is one of seven prospects that have pledged to UCLA. Other notables are running back Raymond Carter (Los Angeles, Calif.), quarterback Chris Forcier (San Diego, Calif.), tight end Nate Chandler (San Diego, Calif.), defensive end Akeem Ayers (Los Angeles, Calif.), linebacker Steve Sloan (San Jose, Calif.) and cornerback Courtney Viney (Fresno, Calif.). They may not be five-star prospects but these players are ranked very high and considered among the top players at their respective positions.

Remember, there are only 50 five-star prospects in the country and if you break it down a little deeper this season quarterback Jimmy Clausen (Westlake Village), running back Marc Tyler (Westlake Village), offensive tackle Martin Coleman (Huntington Beach, Calif.), defensive tackle Brian Price, and linebacker Chris Galippo (Anaheim) are the only five star prospects. Tyler, Coleman and Galippo are headed to USC, Clausen is committed to Notre Dame and Price is going to UCLA. Getting one isn’t a bad thing. The hard one to deal with is Tyler because his father Wendell played for the Bruins. What UCLA needs to do in terms of big name prospects, whether they are five-stars or four-star recruits, is to just get their share. They have certainly done that with the four-star prospects this season.

The bottom line is things are looking up for coach Dorrell and his Bruin program. The big win last weekend will certainly help their future efforts with both the five-star recruits and everyone else.

Marvin Austin
Marvin Austin
Where do you think Marvin Austin will end up?
Matt (Sigourney, Iowa)

That’s a tough question to answer simply for the reason that at one time Marvin Austin was thought to be leaning to play for Florida State or Miami. The Seminoles were thought to hold to edge but now we are hearing things have changed. Two teams could lead for the nation’s No. 1 prospect and those two teams are Illinois and USC. Austin has already taken his official visits to Illinois, Tennessee and USC. He visits Maryland this weekend and FSU in January. Austin loves the glamour and glitz of USC and Los Angeles but he knows he could potentially start at Illinois next season. If he does make all his trips you still have to watch out for the Seminoles in the end. By then they should have all their coaches in place and late January is a time when Florida State shines when it comes to recruiting. And remember, they were one of his early leaders. This is far from done for the nation’s No. 1 prospect. But I feel that if Signing Day were today it would be Illinois or possibly USC.

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