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Thursday Morning Brews (10/30/14)

Playoff talk, and a Mark Jackson-inspired HtL. (Mama, there goes that man!)

Scott Cunningham

Breaking Down the Inaugural Playoff Ranking

The College Football Playoff was designed to give a fairer chance to more teams, create an "undisputed" national champion, and do so in a way that removed bias from determining who would get that chance in the title game. The AP Poll and Coaches Poll, which constituted two-thirds of the BCS rankings, certainly had their flaws - most especially an over-reliance on the win-loss column and a soft spot for marquee teams and players. The Playoff Committee was supposed to be better - and it looks like it will be.

First off, the CFP is emphasizing strength of schedule more than what most people anticipated. Besides encouraging programs to schedule tougher matchups in the future, this is also something that will benefit the elite teams of the SEC - as proven by three of the four playoff spots going to SEC teams.

As the creator of one of the computer rankings used in the BCS said: "We've been doing this for 25 years or so, and I don't think there has ever been a conference that's as dominant as the SEC this year," said Jeff Anderson. "We've talked about how good the SEC has been over the last 10 years, but I think this might be the best incarnation of the SEC. They're not all going to stay where they are because they're going to lose, but the SEC is unbelievable this year."

The Top 25 also seems cognizant of the fact that some football games in a season are aberrations, both in overperforming and underperforming compared to their actual weight class. #10 Notre Dame is 6-1, with the only loss to Florida State, but none of those losses were overly impressive. They barely beat 5-3 Stanford, which lost to both USC and Arizona State, and none of the North Carolina, Syracuse or Purdue games were really blowouts. In other words, they haven't shown what they showed against FSU every single week. A win is a win, but stacking up wins against Syracuse and Rice means less than before.

This also showed with ranking TCU ahead of Baylor, which rankled some who looked at Baylor's come-from-behind 61-58 win against the Horned Frogs. However, outside of that game, consider this: TCU has beaten Oklahoma 37-33, Oklahoma State 42-9, and a Minnesota team that's in the hunt for the B1G West, 30-7. Baylor has beaten West Virginia 41-27 and Texas 28-7, but its other wins were all against mundane opponents.

And more generally, the Committee also seems impervious to things like momentum, a sign they were able to focus on the resume of each team to this point and nothing further. #19 LSU, with a peaking offensive line and a win in hand over Ole Miss, still couldn't get over the fact it's largely underperformed (and looked occasionally ugly) to this point of the year. #11 Georgia's similarly hit its stride over the last month, but it will need to collect more wins against quality opponents like Auburn or their SEC Championship Game opponent. Both these teams were rated a few spots lower compared to the AP Poll.

Essentially, the vague "eye test" is now not a part of the rankings. It is, more literally, about the full resume a team produces - something that stunts potential problems. While this promises that late-season losses won't be fatal, it will be interesting to see how much early season losses will count against teams that grew mightily during the season. There is also the matter of losses accruing to top SEC teams as they run through each other. These are something to keep an eye on, but the Playoff Committee vindicated itself on Tuesday.

Hitting the Links Is Todd Gurley

End of an Enigma

This is a well-written piece on a bit of news from earlier this week, the team's dismissal of Rod Smith.

MSU Commit Brian Lewerke Throws 5 Touchdowns

...with a broken finger. Something that's been said quite a bit - and there's something to it, admittedly - is that it's hard for academic schools to recruit great talent. It is harder in the sense that a program can't recruit every great athlete that's out there, but on the other hand, no school can do that anyway. Also, as Lewerke shows, wins are gotten with things like spunk and grit as much as they are by athleticism.

Todd McShay to Connor Cook: "You need another year"

This is on point. And if it is foretelling of what Cook will do, then Michigan will face Cook with a largely new cast of brothers (as Langford, Tony Lippett, and backup running back Nick Hill are all graduating). The problem is, there are so many possible new contributors.

Delton Williams (7.2 ypc, 5 TD's) will be a junior. Gerald Owens, Madre London (true freshmen this year), and Gerald Holmes will challenge Williams for time in the backfield, with another four-star running back in Larry Scott making it to campus. At receiver, Aaron Burbridge has been growing into a possible star, and tight end Josiah Price is only a sophomore. R.J. Shelton has been a weapon both catching and running.

Big Ten Awards Tracker: Week 9

I included this because they do not, in fact, have Brandon Scherff #1 for the Lineman of the Year.

How to Select All-Conference Linemen

While we're on that subject, Corn Nation has us covered.

Malzahn's Relationship With Rhett Lashlee

This highlights the fickle nature of offensive playcalling, and shows two of the better ones at work. On a related note, in Minnesota's 24-17 win over Northwestern, Matt Limegrover seemed to be perfectly in tuned with his offense and what the defense was trying to do. In this week's loss to the Illini, Gophers fans complained about some of his calls as one of the reasons for the loss.

Look Out For Scooby Wright

The only player in the country with nine sacks and five forced fumbles is Arizona's linebacker and lightly recruited former prospect.

Look Out For Ronald Darby

The Florida State DB is one of the nation's best.

Big 12's Most Surprising and Disappointing Position Groups

Texas Tech has surrendered 37 points in every Big 12 game except Kansas, and another 61 to Central Arkansas and UTEP.


Stat of the week: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion will become the Pac-12's career passing leader with just 194 yards, breaking Matt Barkley's record (12,327).