Championship weekend helps pad stats

College football’s conference championships will help decide the final four, but it will also be an opportunity for players to pad stats. We will look at some of the top NFL draft prospect playing in those games in the coming days.

By Dec. 7, the powers that be will decide on the four teams that we will see face off in a four-team playoff format to determine the college football season’s national champion. The committee assigned to select those four teams will make their announcement at 11:45 a .m. Central Time on that day, but the action taking place this weekend will weigh heavily in their decisions.

The committee’s goal is to generate the excitement and bring more significance to college football’s unique regular season, where every game counts. The selectors will choose the four teams for the playoff based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won and other factors.

Two semifinals and four other premier bowl games will be played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Those holidays will belong to college football. Semifinal games will rotate among six different bowls, extending the experience to more fans. Every NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision team has equal access to the playoff based on its performance. No team will qualify automatically.

While the decision to create a playoff system was made to generate a fan frenzy-like atmosphere, in reality, this structure falls right into the NCAA marketing format to increase revenue for all conferences and independent institutions. The same holds true for the conference championship games that will take place beginning Friday.

The conference championship series is certain to see a further increase in football records being broken, as those schools will have the benefit of having the statistics recorded in these contests count towards team and individual accomplishments for both their season and career résumés.

In 2000, defensive player performances became a part of the NCAA statistics. Individual and team records and rankings included only regular-season games through the 2001 season. Beginning in 2002, all individual and team records included postseason games.
Major college career records of players include only those years in which they competed in the FBS.

Statistics in some team categories were not tabulated until the advent of the computerized statistics program in 1966. The records listed in those categories begin with the 1966 season and are so indicated. Some players in career categories have five seasons listed because they were granted an additional season of competition for reasons of hardship or a freshman redshirt.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the NCAA’s statistical compilation change and the addition of the conference championship schedule is Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, who needs to gain 369 yards combined vs. Ohio State in the Big Ten Conference title clash and the Badgers’ projected postseason appearance in either the Cotton Bowl (with a victory over OSU) or Fiesta Bowl (if they lose to the Buckeyes) to set the NCAA FBS season rushing record.

Currently, Gordon has gained 2,260 yards with 26 touchdowns on 283 carries (7.99 ypc) through 12 contests for Wisconsin, averaging 188.33 yards per game on the ground. That puts him within striking distance of Barry Sanders’ record that he set at Oklahoma State in 1988. Sanders recorded 344 attempts for 2,628 yards (7.64 ypc) and 37 scores, accomplishing those figures in just 11 games.

In 1988, postseason statistics were not recognized by the NCAA, like they are now. Gordon will have at least 13 games and possibly 14 contests to challenge Sanders for his record. Throw in his Holiday Bowl record performance of 222 yards and five touchdowns on 29 tries vs. Wyoming and Sanders would have been recognized as having gained 2,850 yards on 373 carries (7.64 ypc) and 42 scores, pretty close to having the impact that Babe Ruth’s 1927 season had for baseball.

College football fans will have seven conferences featuring playoff contests this weekend, starting on Friday, with the Mid-American Conference kicking off the title bouts at 7 p.m. with Bowling Green challenging Northern Illinois. Two hours later, Oregon takes on Pac-12 Conference surprise Arizona, marking the first time the Wildcats have a chance to capture the league title since 1993.

Saturday’s lineup begins with Marshall, reeling from a wild 67-66 loss to Western Kentucky last week, taking on Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA championship contest. That will then be followed by two league clashes with serious playoff impact, as Alabama tries to hold off Missouri in the Southeastern Conference game and Florida State, featuring a four-interception showing by Jameis Winston, meeting red-hot Georgia Tech for the Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.

Under the current playoff ratings, Alabama, Oregon and Florida State stand to benefit the most from winning their respective league titles, as it all but assures them a spot in the four-team playoff format for the national championship. The fourth team that will likely join the playoff is Big Twelve Conference leader Baylor.

Loses by any four of these teams this weekend (Baylor plays Kansas State in their season finale) will throw the playoff picture into major disarray. That could see teams like Arizona, Texas Christian, Wisconsin and Georgia Tech all making valid arguments to be in the final four instead of the aforementioned favorites Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and Florida State.

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