Ten Things, Postseason Preview
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL
Ten Things, Postseason Preview
And just like that, the season is gone. Fourteen weeks of gridiron goodness gone. But all is not lost! One of the most talked about regular seasons in modern times ends with the first ever College Football…(wait for it)…PLAYOFF. Typically, Ten Things would end with the best three games to see, but there’s just too much packed into the bowl season this year. This special Postseason preview edition winds through the top ten storylines to watch throughout the bowls and, of course, the playoff.
10. South Alabama – One of the most underrated storylines of the bowl season is the rise of the South Alabama Jaguars. In 2009, South Alabama started its football program. Six seasons later, and just two years at the FBS level, the Jags will celebrate the fastest rise of a program with a bowl game that’s virtually in their own back yard. And for fans of smaller programs in the state of Alabama, this comes as a breath of fresh air after all the turmoil at UAB. Kudos to you, Jaguars.
9. Conference Champion Runner-Ups – One of the hardest things to predict in college football is how a team will recover after a loss. A team recovering after a loss with weeks to prepare AND facing a team in a bowl game that’s actually happy to be there is even more of a crapshoot. East Carolina (Florida), Wisconsin (Auburn), Bowling Green (South Alabama), Missouri (Minnesota), and Louisiana Tech (Illinois) all have to avoid an extended hangover. The lone exception is Arizona, who still made it to the Fiesta Bowl and who will be the new kid on the block up against BCS-seasoned Boise State.
8. Penn State – Ever since September, when the NCAA lifted the bowl ban on the Nittany Lions, there seems to have been a collective sigh of relief in Happy Valley. Now, with even the arbitrary punishment gone by the wayside along with all of the wrongdoers in the case, the team can finally move on and move forward. Sure it’s just against Boston College, but it’s a solid matchup of style and it’s in New York City. The seniors who endured the worst and stuck around to help rebuild deserve this for their effort, dedication, and sacrifice.
7. Future NFL Stars – Or busts. But either way, this will be the last time that we see the likes of Shane Carden (QB East Carolina), Shaq Thompson (RB/LB Washington), Brett Hundley (QB UCLA), Amari Cooper (WR Alabama), Sammie Coates (WR Auburn), Melvin Gordon (RB Wisconsin), and a host of others who have enthralled us all year. The seniors will be gone, and many of the electrifying juniors are singing their swan song. For those of us who want to get a jump on next year’s fantasy drafts or those of us who want to bask in one more round of collegiate glory, this is it.
6. Arkansas vs Texas – Really, this could be a placeholder for several teams hoping to build momentum under new management (Penn State, Washington, Louisville, Ole Miss, etc). But the Texas Bowl features two teams that few though would make it to the postseason at all. As of the first game in November, both were 4-5 with three very losable games ahead. Arkansas won its first conference game since 2012 in stupendous fashion, becoming the first team to shut out consecutive ranked opponents ever. Meanwhile Texas added a few double digit wins to show that coach Charlie Strong’s process of tossing out the bad apples is yielding an early harvest.
5. Conference Bowl Records – Fair or not, this is the measuring stick that sets the tone for many a debate/discussion for the entire offseason. This year, the playoff committee picked all the participants in the top six bowls with fairly even matchups and the resulting effect is a better slate of matchups across the board. Long story short, this may be the best year ever to have any confidence that a conference’s postseason record is an indication of its overall strength. Will the Big Ten avenge last year’s 2-5 embarrassment? Will the SEC, specifically the West division, run the table and confirm its status as the toughest division in the country?
4. Baylor and TCU – For the last few weeks of the season, there was serious discussion about a playoff involving both of these teams. Come selection Sunday, both were left out in the cold (primarily due to their conference’s ridiculous “One True Champion” slogan and their co-champions, but I digress). With Baylor and TCU facing off against a pair of respectable top ten teams (Michigan State and Ole Miss, respectively). Whether they come out flat and dejected or come out with a chip on their shoulder will likely influence future votes when considering Big Twelve teams, regardless of co-champion status.
3. Saban vs Meyer, part 4 – In 2008 and 2009 these two provided the first ever #1 vs #2 in the SEC title game, splitting the two games with the winner going on to win the national championship both years. While Saban has remained at Alabama and continued to stockpile talent with The Process, Meyer has upgraded the Buckeyes with SEC speed. There are wildcards, for sure. Will Ohio State find a way to guard Amari Cooper? Will lack of game film put the Tide defense at a disadvantage against Cardale Jones? One thing’s for sure – this will be one heck of a chess match.
2. Battle of the Heisman Winners – The reigning trophy winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, faces off against last year’s winner, Jameis Winston of Florida State. The Ducks have looked sharp all year, and none sharper than their quarterback. Mariota has an amazing 38-2 touchdown to interception ratio passing, with an additional 14 touchdowns on the ground. Meanwhile, Seminole counterpart Winston has a whopping 17 interceptions even though he continues to come up big in the clutch. With a healthy Oregon squad, this game could be ugly in a runaway – or it could provide the best ending of the postseason.
1. National Championship Game – For the first time ever, the participants will have earned it on the field by winning a semifinal game. In fact, no one will really know until eleven days before kickoff. And the sport as a whole is the better for it. Will it be Florida State proving all the haters wrong? Will it be The Process and Alabama bringing another title to T-Town? Will Urban Meyer become just the second coach to win a national title at two different schools? Will Oregon win it all behind the ruthless efficiency of Mariota? Right now, no one knows. But we’ll all be glued to the television to find out.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you after the playoffs