The Football Blitz

There were a ton of great questions regarding my playoff scenario. I go over a few with explanations. Also, how is coach Sylvester Croom doing at Mississippi State? What's up with wide receiver Terrance Toliver, defensive end Everson Griffen and center Kristofer O'Dowd? I will answer these questions and more is this week's Football Blitz.

Thanks for all the great questions over the past week, especially regarding a potential playoff system in college football. Will it ever happen? I think the majority of fans hope so, as do I.

Since I can remember, I always thought there should be some kind of playoffs to decide a national champion. Over the past decade or so it seems more and more evident that this needs to happen. Hopefully and hopefully soon, the decision makers will unite and create what most of us want to see, a college playoff.

With that in mind, I tossed around a few ideas in last week's Football Blitz. One such idea was having a playoff system that featured the six conference winners of the ACC, Big 10, Big East, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC and two at-large teams. Again, thanks for all the comments and questions, especially pertaining to this part of last week's story. Here are some more questions regarding the playoffs in college football.

Why would a conference championship be important in a national playoff system?
James (Kalamazoo, Michigan)

Like in any other sport, the NFL, MLB or NBA, division winners move on to the playoffs. In the NFL you have wild card teams that are added, the NBA takes the top eight teams in each conference, etc. In my personal opinion I think something VERY similar should happen to determine who goes to the playoff. Win your conference title and you are in. It's simple and not too difficult to understand. Conference play is tough and if your team comes out on top you should gain an automatic berth.

To me, if you win your conference, especially the top six conferences as noted, you earned the right for a playoff spot. But before this happens I think each league should have a conference championship. This means a few leagues would have to expand because you need 12 in your conference to hold such a conference title game. Therefore the Big 10, Pac 10 and Big East would need to add some teams.

To take it one step further, let's look at what teams might be considered when thinking about expanding these three conferences.

Notre Dame RB Darius Walker
The easiest one is the Big 10. Simple logic says Notre Dame to the Big 10. I don't think there is anything that makes more sense. Notre Dame in this league is perfect. I think it would be great for the Irish and great for the conference.

The Pac 10 would need to field two more teams. Off the top I think there are several programs that stand out – Fresno State, Boise State, Utah and BYU. Certainly Fresno State makes the most sense of this group.

The Big East could pull teams from Conference USA like Central Florida, East Carolina, Marshall, UAB and Southern Miss.

Regardless, the more I think about it the more it makes sense that if you want an automatic bid in a playoff for college football then you have to win your conference championship game. With today's rules there must be 12 teams. Go get them!

As I understand it, the Big Ten rarely has an outright conference champion. This is the first time since 1984 (I think) that Ohio State has won the championship outright. In your playoff scenario, who would go to the playoff in the case of a shared conference title? I suppose the same goes for the PAC-10.
Cary (Plymouth, Michigan)

Great question. First, let me respond to your stat regarding an out right winner for the Big 10. Over the last 25 years teams have shared the conference title 10 times (finished with the same conference record) in the Big 10. Ohio State has not won it outright since 1984, so you are correct. Regardless, you do bring up a great question because it does happen. Different conferences have different rules or guidelines about who goes to what Bowl game, etc.

Let's assume two teams from a conference that doesn't have a conference championship game finish with the same conference record. The first thing I would look at is head to head competition. For instance, this season both Cal and USC finished 7-2 in Pac 10 conference play. The Trojans should advance to the playoffs because they beat the Bears.

Let's look at another scenario. Say for instance that this season Ohio State and Wisconsin both finished unbeaten in conference play (that means the Badgers would have beaten the Wolverines earlier this year which obviously didn't happen) I think you have to go with the higher ranked team. There is no other way around it.

If three teams finish atop a conference with the same conference record I think you first have to look at head to head competition. If it's a wash then you have to take the highest ranked team.

Hopefully, if there is a playoff one day, this doesn't become an issue because the conferences would add teams to have a conference championship game.

John David Booty
An eight team playoff is the way to go with six conference champions regardless of their rating and two at large bids. First round New Years Day at four major bowls. The semifinals could be played a week later at one rotating site and the final at another rotating site. This way the Bowl system remains intact, spread the money around, no huge payoff for competing teams.
Dale (Michigan)

In theory I love this idea because it would bring so much excitement back to New Year's Day. But what I don't like is the month layoff in December. With the conference championship games over the first week of December, teams would wait around like they do today. If you think the build up of the Super Bowl with two weeks in-between the conference championships and Super Bowl is over done then what would this bring with three plus weeks?

You can argue that it happens anyway with teams participating in Bowl games on New Year's Day and beyond now. You could have the semi-finals seven days later and the championship game seven days after that. The one thing I do like is what New Year's Day would be like! That would be fun now wouldn't it? So I would buy into it although I think I would prefer to see the playoffs start sooner.

Certainly that would be the best way to incorporate the all the Bowls and make those New Year's Day Bowl games magical once again (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose).

My question though is this, who goes to what Bowl game? Do you seed the teams or let tradition take over where you would have the Rose Bowl pit the Big 10 versus Pac 10, the Sugar Bowl host the SEC versus at-large or conference winner, Orange with the Big 12 versus at-large or conference winner, and the Fiesta Bowl? This is certainly an interesting concept.

Ian Johnson
Why should Boise State get left out of the playoff system? They're undefeated and have blown out every single team that they should have, including Oregon State, who went on to beat USC. I like your idea for the playoff though.
Rick (Pendleton, Oregon)

I think in some years when the winner of the WAC or any one of the other non-BCS conferences go unbeaten, if they can work there way into an at-large spot based on their ranking, they absolutely should get in. Despite Boise State going unbeaten this season I am not convinced they are one of the best eight teams in college football when you take the BCS conference winners and the two highest rated at-large teams. Sorry. My two at-large teams under this scenario would be Michigan and LSU. Do you think the Broncos are better than the Tigers or Wolverines? Boise State beating Oregon State and Hawaii and going unbeaten doesn't make me believe they should be playoff bound.

The point here is who am I to say they are not? The fact of the matter is that I believe the only way the non-BCS schools could earn a spot in this playoff format is with an at-large bid. If there was a playoff and 16 teams were included you could then pull all the conference winners (12) and four at-large teams. Boise State would make it. So would BYU, etc. These are two good teams and two of the top 16 teams in the country in my opinion. I just feel with an 11 or 12 game season plus conference championship games a 16 team playoff is just too much for these teams.

Sylvester Croom has MSU on right path
When you follow a program closely, it is easy to believe the local hoopla, and not see what outsiders see. Is Coach Croom of Mississippi State doing a good job of rebuilding the program there? It is not hard to see the progress up close, but what is your take on the state of State?
Jimmy (Starkville, Mississippi)

I do think that Mississippi State is an improving program. They did get better as the season progressed. Defensively, they are good and solid. They have just had their problems on the other side of the ball. In three seasons as the Bulldogs head coach Sylvester Croom is 9-25 with three wins each of his three seasons. This season their signature win was against the Crimson Tide and they lost by a field goal to Tulane, Ole Miss, Georgia and Kentucky. So with a little luck they could have won another game or two.

Regardless, Mississippi State has to get better offensively and there was improvement there this season. Over their first six games this season they averaged only 11.8 points per game while during the second half of the year they more than doubled that number (24.1). They do have some pieces to work with like quarterback Michael Henig, wide receiver Tony Burks and running back Anthony Dixon. Across the offensive line the Bulldogs are only losing one starter.

The point here is the Bulldogs are close. They have some good young players on the offensive side of the ball. Yes this unit as struggles but they are getting better. But this is a team that needs to learn how to win, especially those close games. I do think Croom and his staff have done a nice job in rebuilding that program and they have made some nice strides. But nine wins in three years in the ulta-competitive league like the SEC isn't going to sit well too much longer. At some point, they have to start winning. I will say this, Croom deserves to given a fair amount of time. He has this program headed in the right direction. Maybe the Ws are not there yet but he will get his. It's just a matter of time.

Where do you see Kristofer O'Dowd and Everson Griffin from the state of Arizona signing?
Gladiator (Los Angeles, California)

Look for Everson Griffen (Avondale, Az.) to announce his decision sometime this week and I expect his decision to be Southern Cal. Griffen, the nation's top defensive end prospect, has visited USC, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oregon. He has listed the Trojans has his leader for some time and it would be an upset if he picked someone else. Meanwhile, Kristofer O'Dowd (Tuscon, Az.), the country's top ranked center, will make his commitment next week as well. He has already tripped to USC, UCLA, Tennessee and Arizona. Like Griffin, don't be surprised if it's Southern Cal, as the Trojans could and should land the top two prospects from the state of Arizona and the No. 1 rated players overall at their respective positions in the nation.

Terrance Toliver
Where do you think Terrance Toliver will end up?
Austin (Pennsylvania)

Terrance Toliver (Hempstead, Texas) is now the nation's top rated receiver. He has made all five of his official visits – Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Tennessee and LSU. Right now his two leaders are LSU and Florida. I would argue LSU has a slight edge over the Gators just for the simple fact that he grew up a LSU fan. However, there are rumors swirling that Tiger Offensive Coordinator Jimbo Fisher could be headed elsewhere to coach next season. Would Fisher leaving effect Toliver? Hard to say at this point as these five teams will battle it out for the nation's No. 1 rated wide receiver prospect.

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