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College Football Playoff is an imperfect response to an unanswerable question

The Free Press WV

Setting aside for a moment the commotion of Sunday, the childish stridency of Mack Brown on ESPN, the runaway nonsense of Randy Edsall on Twitter, and other balderdash, let’s glimpse at how an eight-team 2017 playoff would look today, in bracket order, with comments added:

- No. 1 Clemson (12-1) vs. No. 8 Southern California (11-2): A high-flying doozy of divergent regions, the very kind of bout that jazzes up college football. A masterpiece of scheduling luck.

- No. 4 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 5 Ohio State (11-2): Large volume.

- No. 3 Georgia (12-1) vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1): Large bruises.

- No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 7 Auburn (10-3): It wouldn’t be an Auburn home game, so we wouldn’t have to worry about that eagle flying too close to Baker Mayfield.

Now, let’s view what would happen just after those pairings appeared: a certain fury. This fury would emanate from . . . wait . . . checking the map here . . . State College, Pennsylvania. Then this fury from the fans of No. 9 Penn State would widen, in concentric circles, covering at least parts, if not entireties, of all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Then this fury would go beyond, to those outside Pennsylvania who might have lived or studied in Pennsylvania. It would fill airwaves, email inboxes, chats.

Here’s a fact of life: If Penn State fans suspect you have slighted their team, they do not mind advising you of this viewpoint.

So in this instance, Southern California would have hopped over Penn State, from No. 10 to No. 8, in the final rankings, and we would have a long discussion about how Notre Dame, before it got slaughtered in Miami, went through Southern California like a combine in a field, beating it by the approximate score of 127-0, while Penn State lost two games by four points on the road against top-16 teams, including one farcical weather delay. We might have discussed even whether Penn State’s omission constituted continuing bias from its early-decade scandal.

The eight-team solution might improve things, but it wouldn’t save us from our unsolvable puzzles in an uneven sport, such as the one last weekend between Alabama and Ohio State. Further, it would diminish things if it worked the way some envision it: Five conference champions, three at-large teams. Every once in a while in that scenario, you’d get a five-loss playoff team such as 2012 Big Ten champion Wisconsin (which ended up 8-6), or a four-loss playoff team such as 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech (which ended up 10-4), or a three-loss playoff teams such as 2011 ACC champion Clemson (which ended up 10-4).

A five-loss playoff team would sully the Declaration of Independence.

Of course, everyone still values conference championships. Everyone just values them to different degrees. Some value them to such degree that when a conference champion such as an 11-2 Ohio State finishes behind a conference non-champion such as an 11-1 Alabama, they - and this is hard to believe - opt for shrillness.

Thus did Brown, that former lobbyist for his Texas team in 2008, when it beat Oklahoma but missed the BCS Championship Game because Oklahoma (uh-oh) won the conference, conduct this nutty huff Sunday afternoon, in protest: “Conference championships don’t matter. So let’s stop talking about them.“ This was out-and-out, to borrow a word from the late Molly Ivins, horsepucky.

Here’s some homework: The selection committees have chosen 16 teams in four years for the playoff. Fourteen of those 16 won conference championships. Often, as with Michigan State in 2015 or Washington in 2016, those conference championships mattered heavily when set among the other-team factors of that particular season. (As committee chairman Kirby Hocutt reminded, “I would say there’s no college football seasons that are ever identical.“ Yes.) Everyone still weighs conference championships, among all the factors. Everyone still talks about conference championships. Everyone still prints T-shirts for conference championships, although Alabama might have stopped because its stores have no room left.

On a Sunday bound for a certain dopiness, Brown held the dopiness lead until Edsall, the former Maryland coach nowadays at Connecticut, chimed in on Twitter: “Why do they even recognize conference champions when they can’t even get into a playoff for a National Championship!“

Here’s some homework: The selection committees have chosen 16 teams . . . and 14 of those 16 . . .

Not finished yet when finishing would have helped, Edsall supplied a hashtag with this nugget: #AllAboutTheMoney.

The state of Ohio, the nation’s seventh-most populous, has a population of 11.6 million. The state of Alabama, the nation’s 24th-most populous, has a population of 4.9 million. The program of Ohio State, Ohio’s giant, shares the state with a heap of impressive smaller-tier programs, but hogs all the Power Five adoration. The program of Alabama, one of Alabama’s two giants, shares the state with a heap of impressive smaller-tier programs, but also with a fellow Power Five behemoth, Auburn.

It’s always puzzling when an exercise that’s #AllAboutTheMoney chooses the lesser amount of money.

Could Ohio State’s exclusion from the playoff wind up fueling the drive toward eight, the way the Alabama-LSU Bowl Championship Series game of 2011-12 spurred momentum toward four? It might. For now, let’s hear that most reasonable voice make reasonable suggestions for the reasonable meantime.

“Let’s have everyone have the same number of conference games, the same number of non-conference games, and it would be great to have some continuity about scheduling, which is what a lot of us on the West Coast have been asking for,“ Stanford Coach David Shaw said, after the Cardinal accepted an Alamo Bowl bid. “Because if you’re going to compare us to all these other conferences, let’s play by the same rules.“

At present, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference play eight conference games, while the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pacific-12 play nine. Let’s try to figure out how to listen to Shaw. After all, he’s the wise man who, despite his name being linked through the years to openings of seemingly half the NFL and the FBS, if not other acronyms, has remained at Stanford. If you have ever set eyes upon Stanford, you understand.

College Football Rankings

The Free Press WV

Associated Press Top 25
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Auburn
8. Southern California
9. Penn State
10. UCF
11. Miami (Fla.)
12. Washington
13. TCU
14. Notre Dame
15. Stanford
16. LSU
17. Oklahoma State
18. Michigan State
19. Memphis
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. Boise State


Coaches Poll
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Southern California
8. Auburn
9. Penn State
10. UCF
11. Miami (Fla.)
12. Washington
13. TCU
14. LSU
15. Notre Dame
16. Stanford
17. Oklahoma State
18. Memphis
19. Michigan State
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. South Florida
25. Boise State

Shake-up Atop College Football Playoff Rankings Has Alabama on Outside Looking in

The Free Press WV

As Clemson leapt from No. 3 to No. 1, the expected turbulence hit the top of the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday evening, the bulk of it blowing in from the state of Alabama. Auburn’s 26-14 mastery of Alabama on Saturday at Auburn caused the Tigers to vault from No. 6 to No. 2, while the Crimson Tide plunged from No. 1 to No. 5.

Not only did it mark Alabama’s first absence from the coveted top four since Nov. 11, 2014, but it positioned Auburn (10-2) above five teams with fewer losses. Eye test-wise, Auburn’s two thumping victories over teams ranked No. 1 at the time – Georgia on Nov. 11 and Alabama – clearly impressed the 13 sets of eyes on the committee, which ranked teams for the fifth and penultimate time this season.

The final rankings, replete with the four teams that will play off Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, will appear at midday Sunday.

Behind Auburn sits No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1) and No. 4 Wisconsin (12-0), both up a notch, then No. 5 Alabama (11-1), No. 6 Georgia (11-1) and No. 7 Miami (10-1), which fell from No. 2 after its jarring 24-14 upset loss at Pitt (5-7).

It marked the first entry into the top four for Wisconsin, which started out at No. 9 on Oct. 28 before inching upward, budging past some losing teams while being overtaken by some winning teams, all while hauling the hard weight of its tepid schedule. In a system that prizes challenging wins, Wisconsin’s nine Power Five victims include only one ranked team (No. 21 Northwestern). Those nine are a combined 50-58 as the schedule offered no opportunity against anybody in the Big Ten East Division top three (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State).

Clemson’s Power Five victims are 67-39, with Auburn’s at 54-30 and Oklahoma’s at 57-51. Four teams with vague (at best) playoff hopes rested just beyond the top seven. Those were No. 8 Ohio State (10-2), No. 9 Penn State (10-2), No. 10 Southern California (10-2) and No. 11 TCU (10-2). All except Penn State get a chance to burnish their CVs this weekend, with Ohio State playing Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, Southern California playing Stanford in the Pacific-12 championship, and TCU playing Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.

Kirby Hocutt, the chairman of a committee that includes five men from coaching and five from athletic directing, said the margin between No. 5 Alabama and No. 8 Ohio State remains small, raising the possibility of a royal argument between those two fan bases, should chaos butt in.

Stanford (9-3) held down No. 12, just ahead of Washington (10-2), which Stanford defeated Nov. 10. With the Pac-12 widely presumed the only Power Five conference without a viable chance at the four-team playoff, its three teams in spaces Nos. 10, 12 and 13 still outpaced No. 14 Central Florida, the top team from the second-tier Group of Five. The Knights’ much-lauded 49-42 win over South Florida pushed UCF to 11-0 but pushed it only a notch up the charts, but it does find the privilege of a ranked opponent for its American Athletic Conference Championship Game, and that will be No. 20 Memphis (10-1), which it throttled, 40-13, on Sept. 30.

Notre Dame (9-3) saw its 38-20 loss at Stanford dock it from No. 8 to No. 15.

Among the top 11, four heavy occasions this weekend will help sort out matters, or not so much. Clemson will play Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in Charlotte, Auburn will play Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta, plus the bouts of Oklahoma and TCU, and Wisconsin and Ohio State.

With Alabama just outside the top four, Clemson’s streak of 17 consecutive rankings within the top four became the nation’s longest run. (The committee does not issue postseason rankings.)

Clemson spent the entire 2015 season at No. 1 in all six rankings, and has not departed the top four since. The No. 1 Tigers (Clemson) and the No. 2 Tigers (Auburn) played each other long ago Sept. 9, with the former Tigers hogging 11 sacks and winning, 14-6. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn stressed Saturday that he meant no disrespect to Clemson, but his Auburn team differs utterly from that Auburn team from early September.

While both sets of Tigers play this weekend, Alabama will rest and hope for unrest from above.

In so doing, the Crimson Tide will know that only one team so far in the four-season-old playoff era, Ohio State in 2016, has reached the playoff without reaching a conference championship game. Alabama did get a wee boost from the bottom of the rankings, when one of its semi-anonymous September victims, Fresno State (9-3), nudged in at No. 25, having reassembled itself mightily after starting off 1-2 with losses at Alabama (by 41-10) and Washington (by 48-16). Fresno State’s presence gave Alabama, whose stash of wins is less shiny than those of Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and even Ohio State, three wins over ranked teams, counting No. 17 LSU (9-3) and No. 23 Mississippi State (8-4).

At the top, Clemson caused itself to lose a ranked victim because it blasted No. 24 South Carolina 34-10 on Saturday and shooed that rival from the rankings, but it gained one when a previous Clemson victim, North Carolina State (8-4), replaced South Carolina at No. 24. Another Clemson victim, Virginia Tech (9-3), went from No. 25 to No. 22, meaning Clemson has beaten teams ranked Nos. 2, 22 and 24, plus four more wins over Power Five teams with winning records. In an unusual boon, none of its nine Power Five victims has gone worse than 5-6.

College Football Rankings

The Free Press WV

Associated Press Top 25

1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Wisconsin
4. Auburn
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Miami (Fla.)
8. Ohio State
9. Penn State
10. TCU
11. Southern California
12. UCF
13. Washington
14. Stanford
15. Notre Dame
16. Memphis
17. LSU
18. Oklahoma State
19. Michigan State
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. Fresno State

Coaches Poll

1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Wisconsin
4. Auburn
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Miami (Fla.)
7. Ohio State
9. Southern California
10. Penn State
11. UCF
12. TCU
13. Washington
14. Memphis
15. Stanford
16. LSU
17. Notre Dame
18. Oklahoma State
19. Michigan State
20. Northwestern
21. Virginia Tech
22. Washington State
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. San Diego State

Miami Gets Bump To No. 2 Behind Alabama In Playoff Rankings

The Free Press WV

Miami made a small but potentially significant move up to No. 2 behind Alabama in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night, with Clemson slipping one spot to three and Oklahoma holding at four.

Wisconsin and Auburn remained next up behind the top four in a week when the top half of the selection committee’s rankings were mostly unchanged.

Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Southern California followed in the same order as they did last week. Over the next two weeks, every team in the top nine will play another team ranked in the committee’s top 25, including four games matching top playoff contenders.

The Crimson Tide will play at Auburn on Saturday to decide a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship on Dec. 2. The winner plays Georgia.

The Atlantic Coast Conference championship will match Clemson and Miami on Dec. 2, and Wisconsin and Ohio State play in the Big Ten championship.

Miami’s move comes after rallying to beat Virginia last Saturday. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said Miami is showing characteristics of a championship team.

“When you get down the way Miami did to Virginia two times, once in each half, and you have the poise and the ability to come back and win in a convincing manner, that is special,” said Hocutt, the Texas Tech athletic director.

The Hurricanes (10-0) play at Pitt Friday and now seem better positioned to get into the playoff even with a loss to Clemson, depending on how things play out in other conferences.

Central Florida came in at No. 15 and Memphis is 20th, the highest ranked teams from outside the Power Five. The American Athletic Conference rivals could meet in the league title game in two weeks if UCF beats USF on Black Friday, setting up a game that would likely send the winner into a New Year’s Six bowl.

___

HOW DOES THIS PLAY OUT?

On championship Saturday, the selection committee gathers at the Dallas-area resort hotel where it holds its weekly meeting to watch games together. When the games are done, Hocutt and his crew of 12 experts dig into the results and put together their final, and only truly meaningful, top 25.

Will it be a late night at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine or will the committee members be able to uncork a bottle of wine during the second half of the ACC title game? A lot depends on Alabama.

The Crimson Tide could essentially eliminate two other playoff contenders in Auburn and Georgia. The Tigers have no shot if they don’t win the Iron Bowl and the SEC title. Georgia at 11-2 with a loss in the conference title game could still have a flicker of hope to be the second SEC team in the playoff, but would need a lot of help.

At 13-0, the Crimson Tide would be seeded No. 1 and heading to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. Easy.

If Alabama loses the Iron Bowl or wins that and loses the SEC championship game, it means the committee will likely be ordering up a couple extra pots of coffee instead of a nice pinot noir.

The SEC champion is pretty much a lock to get in. But what to do with Alabama at 11-1 or 12-1? The Crimson Tide has been the most dominant team all season, rarely challenged on the field. Nick Saban’s Tide, loaded with five-star recruits and future high draft picks, will always pass the eye test. Alabama’s best wins now are against LSU and Mississippi State, both 8-3.

Alabama is the only team to make the playoff all three seasons. Is the committee prepared to leave the Tide out?

The next team that can help clear things up for the committee is Wisconsin.

The committee is not thrilled with the Badgers’ schedule, but Wisconsin can get a marquee victory in the Big Ten title game — as long as Ohio State takes care of Michigan on Saturday. At 13-0 and with a conference championship, the committee can replace the ACC championship loser with Wisconsin in the top four.

Wisconsin can also eliminate Ohio State and its 31-point loss to Iowa. A Wisconsin loss to Ohio State — or Oklahoma losing to TCU in the Big 12 title game — opens to the door to consideration of two-loss teams that could bring Notre Dame and USC back into the discussion.

The committee could be weighing two-loss conference champions against one-loss teams with no titles. Last year Ohio State was the latter and got in on the strength of three victories against top-10 teams. No contender can match that without winning its conference this season, which could make the decision much tougher this time.

College Football Rankings

The Free Press WV

Associated Press Top 25
1. Alabama
2. Miami (Fla.)
3. Oklahoma
4. Clemson
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
10. TCU
11. Southern California
12. Penn State
13. UCF
14. Washington State
15. Washington
16. Mississippi State
17. Memphis
18. Oklahoma State
19. LSU
20. Stanford
21. Michigan State
22. South Florida
23. Northwestern
24. Virginia Tech
25. Boise State


Coaches Poll
1. Alabama
2. Miami (Fla.)
3. Clemson
4. Wisconsin
5. Oklahoma
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
10. Southern California
11. Penn State
12. UCF
13. TCU
14. Washington
15. Washington State
16. Memphis
17. Mississippi State
18. LSU
19. South Florida
20. Stanford
21. Oklahoma State
22. Michigan State
23. Northwestern
24. Boise State
25. Virginia Tech

WVU 14   Texas 28

The Free Press WV

Sam Ehlinger threw two touchdown passes and Texas became bowl eligible under first-year coach Tom Herman with a 28-14 win over No. 24 West Virginia on Saturday in a game in which the Mountaineers lost quarterback Will Grier to injury.

The Longhorns (6-5, 5-3 Big 12) qualified for a bowl for the first time since 2014, which was former coach Charlie Strong’s first season.

Texas entered the game with 13 touchdown passes all season, and Ehlinger got two in the second quarter. His 50-yard pass to Reggie Hemphill set up Ehlinger’s 4-yard TD toss to Kendall Moore.

Ehlinger did most of the work on the Longhorns’ next drive. He went from sideline to sideline for a 17-yard gain on third down, ran 23 yards after catching a pass from Jerrod Heard, then found Chris Warren for a 23-yard score just before halftime for a 14-0 lead.

Grier left the game in the first quarter with an injured throwing hand when he landed awkwardly as he dove for the end-zone pylon on a run. The middle finger of his right hand was bent backward and he did not return.

Backup Chris Chugunov couldn’t get much going. He threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Ka’Raun White early in the fourth quarter to pull West Virginia within 21-14. But the Mountaineers (7-4, 5-3) didn’t score again.

THE TAKEAWAY:

Texas: Ehlinger looked comfortable mixing runs and passes on a damp day. He finished 12 of 19 for 136 yards and ran nine times for 68 yards. Shane Buechele started for the Longhorns but played only two series in the first quarter.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers struggled to get first downs without Grier. Chugunov, a sophomore who played in two previous games this season, finished 14 of 26 for 189 yards. West Virginia was held to a season-low 295 yards of offense.

UP NEXT:

Texas finishes the regular season at home next Friday against Texas Tech.

West Virginia plays at No. 10 Oklahoma next Saturday.

College Football Playoff Rankings

The Free Press WVThe chances for unrest, disagreement and rancor intensified Tuesday night, especially at Nos. 2-4 and Nos. 6-7, when the College Football Playoff selection committee unfurled its third set of rankings for the 2017 season. It elevated Clemson from No. 4 to No. 2, Miami (Fla.) from No. 7 to No. 3, Oklahoma from No. 5 only to No. 4, and Auburn from No. 10 to No. 6.

All of that left Georgia toppling to No. 7, the furthest fall yet from No. 1 in the four-season-old concept.

Within that mix, the 13-member committee essentially asserted that if the season ended today, one conference would have an unprecedented two teams in the four-team playoff. It just wouldn’t be the conference everyone spent much of the season surmising. It would be that old round-ball loop, the ACC, and not the Southeastern Conference, as the ACC tilted toward a potentially colossal tussle in its conference-title game between No. 2 Clemson (9-1) and No. 3 Miami (9-0).

The ACC’s two-team placement in the top four actually became the third such spree at this time since this method of championship-deducing began in 2014. That first year, the third rankings, in mid-November, had Alabama at No. 1 and SEC brethren Mississippi State at No. 4. Last year at this stage, Ohio State held down No. 2, with Big Ten cohort, if not friend, Michigan at No. 3.

As with all six rankings of last season, Alabama (10-0) stood at No. 1 again in this latest top 25. The Crimson Tide edged up there from No. 2 when Georgia took a 40-17 mauling at Auburn. Handily, Alabama will play at Auburn on Nov. 25, a match with a fresh chance of especially lofty rankings.

In placing No. 6 Auburn (8-2) just above No. 7 Georgia (9-1), the committee clearly used an “eye test,“ with one of the two so superior to the other just last weekend on a Southeastern field. Auburn’s inferior record earned forgiveness for the caliber of its conquerors - No. 2 Clemson and No. 20 LSU (7-3) - while Georgia’s signature victory, a 20-19 win at Notre Dame, took something of a dent when the Irish’s trip to Miami wound up looking like a trip to a shredder.

Following Miami’s 41-8 win, the two of them just about swapped places, with the Hurricanes up from No. 7 to No. 3, and the Irish (8-2) slipping from No. 3 to No. 8.

An inscrutable comparison figured to happen for those Nos. 2-4 spots. Clemson (9-1) has an impressive array of wins, including two over teams currently ranked (No. 6 Auburn, No. 19 N.C. State). Miami (9-0) has the two routs of then-ranked opponents, including Notre Dame and Virginia Tech (7-3), which fell off the charts this time. And Oklahoma (9-1) might have the best grievance within the thicket, as its victims include three of the top 13 teams: Ohio State, TCU and Oklahoma State.

Notably, Alabama and Clemson, the combatants in the past two championship games, have occupied every single top four for the past three seasons, encompassing 15 rankings (six in 2015, six in 2016 and three in 2017).

Wedged in the whole lot of them is No. 5 Wisconsin (10-0), which rode both the attrition up ahead and a pulverizing 38-14 win over then-No. 20 Iowa into a three-slot rise. Of the top seven teams, the Badgers have the least imposing set of wins, with just one against a ranked team (No. 23 Northwestern), but with a chance to add another coming Saturday as Michigan (8-2) made its 2017 debut on the list at No. 24.

Even with the Big Ten temporarily still on the outside looking in, it did line the top 25 with a peerless six entries. Behind Wisconsin at No. 5, No. 9 Ohio State (8-2) and No. 10 Penn State (8-2) made curious four-notch bolts, the former after a 48-3 win over then-No. 12 Michigan State, but the latter after a 35-6 win over unranked Rutgers.

Both of those overtook Southern California (9-2), which stayed at No. 11 as it beat Colorado and clinched a Pacific-12 Conference title game slot. It no doubt suffered from the general parity malaise of its league, which has no top 10 teams. Washington State (9-2) chimed in at No. 14 and Stanford (7-3) reentered at No. 22, while the committee punished Washington (8-2) for losing at Stanford by docking it from No. 9 to No. 18.

From the Group of Five teams that battle for the lucrative crumbs of a New Year’s Six bowl bid, the committee upped their inclusion to three teams. UCF (9-0) went from No. 18 to No. 15, and Memphis (8-1), with its lone loss to UCF, from No. 22 to No. 21. Boise State, which earned the coveted major bowl bid in 2014, came in at No. 25 after having barged from 2-2 to 8-2.

Sports News

The Free Press WV

►  For the first time in College Football Playoff, somebody might get both obliterated and included

As the committee of football philosophers meets Monday and Tuesday in Texas, studying the statistical and the unknowable, it might grapple with a fresh dynamic in its four-year existence. The way things have shaken, and shaken, across this fall in the kooky chambers of college football, it looks like these wise men could wind up awarding, or considering awarding, a playoff spot to somebody who spent a Saturday somewhere getting absolutely mauled.

This has not happened before.

In the first three years of the College Football Playoff selection committee, nine teams with a loss on the CV got playoff berths. Of those nine, only two lost by more than one possession: Washington, when it fell, 26-13, to Southern California in November 2016, and Ohio State, when it lost, 35-21, to Virginia Tech in 2014. “They kicked our ###,“ Texas Coach Tom Herman, then the offensive coordinator at Ohio State, recalled this past summer, but they just did not kick it in the way other posteriors have gotten kicked lately.

How should a committee member, with the galling absence of an open bar in the meeting room, weigh such matters as No. 1 Georgia taking a 40-17 obliteration by Auburn on Saturday? How should one process No. 3 Notre Dame’s 41-8 decimation by Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, or Ohio State’s 55-24 annihilation by Iowa the previous Saturday?

If Georgia (9-1) wins against Kentucky, Georgia Tech and either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, it would make the playoff, wouldn’t it? Or could enough of the jury of 13, come December 3, see a tight Clemson-Miami ACC title game with no losers, see an unbeaten Wisconsin, see a surging Oklahoma that won handily at Ohio State, see a Georgia team outrushed 237-46 Saturday at Auburn, and see fit to dole Georgia an agonizing No. 5 ranking? Similarly, as the supporters of Ohio State (8-2) and Notre Dame (8-2), believed to number in the trillions, root for chaos and for a potential two-loss playoff team, surely the sight of those two in Iowa City and Miami Gardens, respectively, could give pause.

Did Miami shoo Notre Dame from playoff consideration mostly because it wrought not just a win, but a destruction?

It would seem that it almost certainly did.

It certainly redrew the football map.

That map includes again motley, funky Miami, not your average college town and something else altogether. The tailgate music booming from its vehicles at Hard Rock Stadium certainly sounds more booming and more delightfully apocalyptic than elsewhere. There’s the wondrous, peerless energy from the mingling of all the colors of the human spectrum.

Mike Bianchi, the great Orlando columnist, once beheld a non-sellout of a Miami Dolphins playoff game and surmised that the worst American sports city was Miami, with the second-worst Miami and the third-worst Miami. Reputedly, they won’t come until you win, yet win Miami has, by 69-18 over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech and then-No. 3 Notre Dame the last two Saturdays.

“How can you not play hard for that crowd?“ said second-year Coach Mark Richt, the 57-year-old former Miami quarterback and Georgia coach who pronounced himself “really inspired” by his players. The reemergence of that old titan Miami after some irrelevant years has thrown the whole ACC up the playoff chain, and has caused Richt to caution, “I still wouldn’t say we’re a dominating football team. I mean, tonight was, I guess, a dominating performance, on the scoreboard, anyway. I don’t know if we’re just truly a team that can sit there and impose our will on everybody we play but we can bring it.“

It even briefly regenerated the old, racist “Convicts” theme from the “Catholics vs. Convicts” T-shirts of the 1980s, which had some Miami fans defiantly wearing “Convict” T-shirts on Saturday night, and got quarterback Malik Rosier to say, “It’s actually kind of funny. I mean, they call us, what, ‘convicts,‘ but I think we’re number one in, like, community service, so you can’t really say that. I don’t think convicts do that. Willingly.“

A listening room laughed.

“When I came back, or when I decided to continue to coach, I really did want to enjoy it,“ said Richt, fired in 2015 after 15 seasons of 74-percent wins at Georgia. “I wanted to have fun. And what better place than Miami, can you have some fun? Gosh, it’s just great. It’s been a blast” - and a fast blast at that. They just wanted to win the ACC Coastal Division, which finally they’ve done in a 13th season of trying, but now they’ve joined the heap of early qualifiers for conference title games, including Southern California (9-2) in the Pacific-12, Wisconsin (10-0) in the Big Ten, Georgia (9-1) in the SEC, Clemson (9-1) in the ACC and, just about assured, Oklahoma (9-1) in the Big 12.

They’ve even redefined Notre Dame, beating it for the first time in five meetings across 28 years, to help throw the committee two unspeakable romps, the other coming at Auburn, whose Kerryon Johnson, coming toward you carrying a football, would have to be one of the scarier sights in the sport.

At least the committee doesn’t have to mull Alabama getting routed, for the handy reason that in a sport without “nevers,“ Alabama never gets routed. Its worst loss among the mere 19 across Nick Saban’s 11 seasons has come by 14 points, which happened twice, and without any disintegrating crushing.

When Alabama withstood Mississippi State, 31-24, after trailing 24-17 early in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, it boasted the element that could carry it through its unusual rash of injuries and its coming thickets: the calm, playmaking capacity of Jalen Hurts, that rare sophomore quarterback who, within a still-short life thus far, already scored a go-ahead touchdown late in a national championship game.

“I don’t think you know, when you get a guy, if he has that [calm] or if he doesn’t,“ Saban told reporters in Starkville. “But Jalen certainly does. Most of the time, the bigger the situation, the better he is.“

In the hard, loud, ringing horror of Starkville, Hurts ran 13 yards on a fourth down and 4, down 24-17. He passed 31 yards across the middle to Calvin Ridley on third down and 15 in the final minute, after seeing “something in the defense,“ Hurts told reporters, telling Ridley about it, hearing Ridley demur, and saying, “Baby, trust me. I got you.“ The play after that, he threw 26 yards to DeVonta Smith for the winning touchdown 25 seconds from the end.

“Just who I am,“ Hurts told reporters. “It’s some things, you can’t coach. A person’s demeanor is one of them.“

“I think sometimes, you need ‘hard,‘ “ Saban told reporters, meaning games where “every play counts,“ where “every third down is important,“ while, he said, “We don’t always have that when we win 49-0.“ Clearly, he’s a man who can speak from 49-0. He just can’t speak, Alabama-wise, of being on the other end of it, or something even near it. The meaning of that fate that befalls others is for 13 sages to parse.

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The Free Press WV

►  MEC Football

#2 Shepherd 63 UVa-Wise 35

Second-ranked Shepherd capped off the regular season with a 63-35 win over UVa-Wise. The victory marks the 30th consecutive MEC win for the Rams, who clinched the conference title outright last week.
Shepherd (10-0, 10-0) piled up 567 offensive yards in the contest while holding UVa-Wise (5-6, 4-6) to 252 yards over the course of the day and just 43 yards on the ground.
Connor Jessop accounted for five touchdowns on the day. He completed 25 of 45 pass attempts for 386 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 38 yards with a score.  He connected with five different receivers in the with including Ryan Feiss 12 times for 173 yards and one touchdown and Wanya Allen eight times for 118 yards and two scores. Duron Norris recorded two receptions for 21 yards and one touchdown.
Jabre Lolley tallied 99 yards on 13 carries and scored three touchdowns for the Rams.
Jake Sturgill was 14-of-33 for 144 yards and two touchdowns for the Cavaliers. Kaian Duverger hauled in five passes for 61 yards for two scores while Victor Mitchell led UVa-Wise on the ground with 34 yards on seven carries. Javonte Latney and Devontae Jordan both notched touchdowns in the loss.
Defensively, DeJuan Neal recorded eight tackles (six solo) for Shepherd while Chrys Lane, Jared Austin and Myles Humphrey all notched seven stops on the day. Humphrey recorded two sacks on the day.
Kwadwo Diawuo led all players in the game with 11 tackles for the Cavaliers.

Urbana 35, Concord 15

Tajuan Green rushed for 186 yards and threw for 199 more to help lead Urbana to a 35-15 win over Concord on Saturday afternoon at UU Stadium. Trevon Saunders had six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

The Blue Knights (5-6, 4-6) rushed for 320 yards as a team and finished with 519 yards of total offense averaging 8.4 yards per play. Trevon Saunders had six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

Saunders started the scoring with a 71-yard TD reception from Green. The Mountain Lions (2-9, 1-9) answered early in the second quarter with a touchdown run from Jamal Petty, who finished the game with 164 yards on just 16 carries. The Blue Knights were able to pull away with two late second quarter touchdowns, including one as time expired from Green to Saunders from 34 yards out.

Neither team was able to get points in the third quarter, and Concord pulled to within one score after Petty’s second touchdown run of the day. Urbana was able to close things out on a two-yard plunge from Trey McFadden and then a 51-yard scamper with less than two minutes to play to seal the victory.

Josh Dillard led UU with a game-high 16 tackles. Isaiah Turner had 1.5 sacks in the game, L.A. Kelly had seven tackles and an interception for the Blue Knights.

Concord was led defensively by Zach Malone who finished with 10 tackles. Ke’Shawn Hall had seven tackles, including a TFL and a fumble recovery. Jeremiah Johnson picked off a pass for CU in the loss.


West Virginia State 45, West Virginia Wesleyan 28

West Virginia Wesleyan pulled within three points early in the second half, but West Virginia State responded with 21 of the game’s next 28 points to close out the season with a 45-28 win over the Bobcats on Saturday afternoon.

The Yellow Jackets (6-5, 5-5) were able to win despite giving up 310 yards rushing to Devin Montgomery. Montgomery needed just 24 yards to rack up 310 yards in the game—just the second 300-yard rushing game in MEC and school history. The 310 yards is the third-most rushing yards in NCAA Division II this year (as of games through November 10).

The Yellow Jackets led 24-7 in the second quarter, but touchdown runs by Tra Jackson at the end of the first half and another to open the third quarter pulled West Virginia Wesleyan (5-6, 5-5) to within a field goal at 24-21 with 12:52 left in the period.

WVSU had to punt on its next possession, but got a three-and-out on defense and took back over at the Wesleyan 44-yard line. West Virginia State needed just six plays to go the 44 yards and the drive was capped by a 19-yard reception by Calil Wilkins from Matt Kinnick.

The Yellow Jackets then blocked a field goal by WVWC on its next possession, and would later add another TD pass from Kinnick as he found Gray from two yards out to make it 38-21 early in the fourth quarter. Dante Satcher had a 48-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Deal for the Bobcats, and Kinnick added his fourth TD pass of the day to AJ Barnette to close out the scoring.

Kinnick finished 21-of-29 for 269 yards and the four TDs. Dylan Lucas added 100 yards on the ground with a score, and Wilkins had 93 yards rushing and 29 yards receiving. Gray totaled five receptions for 59 yards and two scores.

In addition to Montgomery’s 310 yards rushing, Jackson ended with 86 on the ground and WVWC had 426 as a team. Ryan Deal was 9-of-17 for 109 yards and had two touchdowns but was picked three times.

WVSU’s Moises Valcarcel had 13 solo stops, forced two fumbles and recovered one, and also picked off two passes. Trent Williamson had 11 tackles (nine solo), including 2.5 for a loss. Robert Branch was also in on a pair of TFL.

Brandon Grayson had 12 tackles (10 solo) for WVWC. A.C. Caldera had five tackles and broke up three passes. 


#10 Indianapolis 42, Notre Dame 27

enth-ranked Indianapolis held off Notre Dame late and pulled away from the Falcons to take a 42-27 win.

The Greyhounds (11-0) out-gained the Falcons (8-3) by a 546-425 margin. The Falcons had the edge in first downs, 29-25, but Indianapolis was able to hold Notre Dame’s rushing attack to just 120 yards on 36 carries (3.3 yards per carry).

The game was tied 14-14 after the first quarter, but quarterback Jake Purichia had a pair of touchdown passes in the second quarter to stake UIndy to the 28-14 lead at the break. The Greyhounds were able to push the lead to 35-24 with a TD on their first possession in the third quarter, but NDC did not go away. Brian Walker opened the fourth quarter with a two-yard scoring run, and Tay Johnson added 25-yard touchdown reception to make it 35-27 with still 9:31 to play.

The Falcons got the stop it needed on UIndy’s next possession, but was stopped on 4th-and-4 at the Greyhounds 43. Just three plays later on 3rd-and-10, Indianapolis responded with the score that put the game away as Purichia had a 50-yard touchdown pass to Malik Higgins. 

Notre Dame quarterback Malik Grove was 28-of-49 for 305 yards and two touchdowns against one interception, and also added 41 yards on the ground with a score. Walker finished with 58 rushing yards and a score. Conner Henry had seven catches for 102 yards, and Darius Johnson also had seven catches for 91 yards and a score. Johnson’s four catches for 72 yards and one TD.

For Indianapolis, Purichia was 22-of-31 for 348 and five TDs. Higgins had nine grabs for 197 yards and two scores. Tyre Lee had 18 carries for 121 yards.

On defense, NDC was led by R.J. Goodwin was in on seven tackles, including two for a loss with a sack. Davion Johnson had six tackles and forced a fumble, Curtis Collins was also in on six tackles.

Indianapolis’ Joe Lambright had 12 tackles and broke up two passes, while Jacob Schmatz had 10 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks.


Charleston 28, Glenville State 14

Charleston closed the regular season out with a 28-14 win over Glenville State on Saturday afternoon at UC Stadium.

The Golden Eagles close the season with a record of 4-6 (4-6 MEC), while Glenville State falls to 4-7 (3-7 MEC).

After a scoreless first quarter, Glenville State managed to get on the board first with a D.J. Williams touchdown reception from Jaylen McNair.

UC’s Tevion Cappe tied things up shortly after that going in from four yards out. Vernard Roberts put the Golden Eagles up 14-7 just before halftime with a one-yard touchdown plunge.

Early in the third quarter, James Bryant caught a hook from Mason Olszewski, broke a tackle and went the rest of the way for the 37-yard touchdown catch to make it 21-7.

Glenville State got a key stop forcing and recovering a fumble just as UC looked to go in for the score at the three-yard line. However, on the next play, McNair’s pass was batted into the air where Keon Mabin snagged it and went in for the touchdown.

After a UC turnover, McNair and Williams hooked up again on a quick slant pass to cut the Golden Eagles lead to 28-14. However, neither team was able to manage a score in the fourth as Charleston picked up the victory.


►  UC Edges WVWC, 1-0, In NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament

Charleston’s Robin Lapert headed in a corner cross from Kieran Bywater in the 36th minute, and the Golden Eagles made the goal stand up the rest of the way as they defeated West Virginia Wesleyan, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.

The Golden Eagles (17-1-2) will play host to the next two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, including a matchup against West Chester next week. Game dates and times will be announced later next week. West Virginia Wesleyan concludes its season with a record of 12-6-3.

The game was played mostly in the midfield and looked destined to go into the half scoreless before UC’s first corner kick of the game in the 36th minute. Bywater served the ball high towards the near post, and Lapert beat his defender to get to the ball and put it in the back of the net. Lapert scored on a similar goal last week against the Bobcats in the MEC Tournament championship match.

West Virginia Wesleyan looked for the equalizer but could not break through, and then got a bit of a break when UC keeper Paulo Pita left the game with an injury. Ewen Le Gallo came in and played the final 30 minutes and made three saves to preserve the shutout.

Alessandro Armenia made eight saves on the night to help keep WVWC in the match. The Bobcats were limited to just five shots in the match, two of which came from Juwon Akintunde.


►  Pioneers Come Up Short in Season Opener Against Slippery Rock

The Glenville State Pioneer men’s basketball squad came up short in their season opener against Slippery Rock 75-64 in the Jakobi’s Journey Basketball Classic on Saturday evening at the Waco Center.

Glenville State (0-1) shot 38 percent on the night and just 20 percent from deep while Slippery Rock (1-0) finished the night shooting 41 percent from the floor and 28 percent from deep.

Slippery Rock held a big advantage on the boards as they out rebounded GSC 52 to 36. The Pioneers also got outscored in the paint 42 to 30.

Glenville State got a great performance from sophomore guard Darhius Nunn as he scored a game high 21 points as he went 10-of-22 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds. Jon Dunmyer and Elisha Mayberry each scored nine points in the ball game with Brooks Ely chipping in with eight points.

Slippery Rock had three players score in double figures with Micah Till leading the way with 20 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double. Brandon Simmons scored 15 points off the bench while Aaron McDonald chipped in with 13 points.

Glenville State (0-1) will return to action tomorrow Sunday, November 12th in Jakobi’s Journey Basketball Classic as they take on California PA at 4 p.m. following the Slippery Rock vs. West Virginia Wesleyan game.


►  McLeod Leads Lady Pioneers Past Bloomsburg in Season Opener

Glenville State’s Paris McLeod scored a high 22 points as she helped the Lady Pioneers pickup their first victory of the season over Bloomsburg University, 73-69.

Glenville State (1-0) forced Bloomsburg University (0-1) into 32 turnovers and scored 28 points off of them on the night. However the Huskies outscored the Lady Pioneers in the paint 32-30 but GSC had 24 second chance points while BU finished just nine.

GSC had a tough night shooting the ball as they went 24-of-85 for 28 percent and finished 7-of-32 from deep for just 21 percent. Bloomsburg went 29-of-63 for 46 percent and went 5-of-16 from behind the three-point line for 31 percent.

Paris McLeod was the only GSC player in double figures as she scored a game high 22 points to go with eight rebounds and four steals. Erika Toney scored nine points off the bench while Emily Stoller, Courtney Davis, and Julie Bishop all chipped in with eight points each. Davis also grabbed a game-high of 13 rebounds.

Bloomsburg had four players in double figures with Alyssa Mack leading the way with 14 points while Meghan Corridoni scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Glenville State (1-0) will play West Chester tomorrow Sunday, November 12th at 3 p.m. in the Carol Eckman Memorial Tournament.


►  College Football Rankings: Associated Press Top 25

1. Alabama
2. Miami (Fla.)
3. Oklahoma
4. Clemson
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
10. Oklahoma State
11. TCU
12. Southern California
13. Penn State
14. UCF
15. Washington State
16. Washington
17. Mississippi State
18. Memphis
19. Michigan
20. Stanford
21. LSU
22. Michigan State
23. South Florida
24. West Virginia
25. NC State


►  College Football Rankings: Coaches Poll

1. Alabama
2. Miami (Fla.)
3. Clemson
4. Wisconsin
5. Oklahoma
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
10. Southern California
11. Penn State
12. UCF
13. Oklahoma State
14. TCU
15. Washington
16. Washington State
17. Memphis
18. Michigan
19. Mississippi State
20. South Florida
21. LSU
22. NC State
23. Stanford
24. Michigan State
25. West Virginia

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