Rich Rants: The Art of the Playoff

Week 15 thoughts, musings and ramblings about the weekend.

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The best thing to come out of the playoff pairings is that scheduling clearly matters, a lesson that ought to be heeded by everyone with championship aspirations in the future. And anyone who cares about the sport is going to benefit if we see fewer matchups between Power Five schools and speed bags in the future. I feel your pain, Baylor, but it’s hard to give much sympathy to a team that opened with SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. You’re not annually grinding for bowl-eligibility, so go out and schedule someone of substance.

That said, you’ve got to love the fire and brimstone shown by Baylor head coach Art Briles this weekend. This guy is an unapologetic throwback, for which he’s adored around Waco. He had every right to lash out at Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who has done a sophomoric job of representing his league this football season. You cannot run on “one true champion” all year, and then profess to crowning co-champs, like some slick politician talking out of both sides of his mouth. It should have been made crystal clear weeks ago that if the Bears and TCU finished tied, Baylor would be crowned by virtue of its head-to-head win. The waffling and spin that came out of Big 12 HQ on this subject was amateur hour, and the Frogs and Bears suffered accordingly.

The final weekend of the regular season, championship weekend, earned a C-. Week 15 lacked game control, a term popularized this fall by the new College Football Playoff system. Sure, we were all at the edge of our seats, because so much was at stake in this inaugural playoff season. But the actual games largely underwhelmed. Of the six games with playoff implications, only the ACC Championship Game was decided by fewer than 10 points. Most of the others lacked fourth-quarter intrigue.

No. 2 Oregon has knocked down every hurdle put in its path this season. Michigan State. UCLA. Stanford. And now Arizona, which had the Ducks’ number the last two outings. This is a team on a mission, led by the game’s best player and a coaching staff that’s found its rhythm. The fact that this Oregon team is next on Florida State’s schedule is as tantalizing a postseason matchup as you’re ever going to find. Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston alone makes the Rose Bowl an epic undercard to Alabama-Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl nightcap on New Year’s Day.

It was three-and-out for Houston head coach Tony Levine, who really underachieved since replacing Kevin Sumlin in Space City. The Cougars should have been better than 7-5 this season, a reality that must be pinned on the staff, though it still qualifies as a minor surprise that Levine’s been dumped so quickly. Look for the school to go hard after Doug Meacham, who was instrumental in revitalizing TCU and QB Trevone Boykin this season. The offensive coach knows the region and the school, having coordinated the Houston attack just a season ago.

You should have been more patient, Bob Diaco. Every coordinator under the ago of 60 dreams of leading a team, but Diaco should have waited another year instead of accepting the UConn job. He had a pretty good thing running Brian Kelly’s D in South Bend. The Huskies are a mess, a basketball school nestled in a region of the country that doesn’t produce much elite football talent. And becoming SMU’s first—and only—victim in 2014 will make it even tougher to motivate the fan base and sign kids who can make a difference down the road.

Bob Stoops needs a career timeout. Don’t know if he’ll do it, but Stoops ought to go on hiatus for two or three years. Recharge. Find a hobby. Get in shape. Reconnect with the family. Whatever gets you centered, coach, because you’ve lost something off your fastball. Stoops is one of the best in the business, still. But maybe he’s burnt out, because his old methods just aren’t working like they used to. Fifteen years at one job is a long time. And Stoops is still young enough to step away, clear his head and then resume winning championships. It sure has worked for Urban Meyer.

Someday, once everything can be processed properly, the Big Ten Network will do a documentary on the week leading up to Ohio State’s Big Ten Championship Game evisceration of Wisconsin. The Buckeyes were actually the underdog on Saturday night, and why not? They were down to Cardale Jones at quarterback, an inexperienced third-stringer and a very different player than injured starter J.T. Barrett. That Meyer and his staff could adapt to changing circumstances in just one week against a quality opponent qualifies as one of the most remarkable in-season coaching adjustments in recent history.

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