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NCAA Football News: December 4, 2018

College Football Playoffs Are Upon Us

After a full season of football, the selection committee has made their four choices. This year’s college football playoffs will consist of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma. While the top three were expected, the fourth pick (Oklahoma) really was a three-legged race. You had Georgia, who gave Alabama everything they could handle before eventually 35-28. While many argued that they deserved a spot in the dance, particularly since they are arguably better than Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Ohio State, but ultimately their loss against Alabama in the SEC championship was their end. According to the committee, with no clear winner, they looked at conference championships. This left Oklahoma and Ohio State. Here, it was all about the opponent. While both teams won their respective conference championships, it was Oklahoma who did it against a ranked opponent in Texas. No offense to Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats, but they aren’t Texas. And so it sits Oklahoma in the 4 spot, and a very interesting playoffs are set up.

In the semifinals, you will first have no. 1 Alabama versus no. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. One advantage for Alabama is that they have two starting-caliber quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa has been seen as a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy this year (although a couple other quarterbacks are going to give him a run for his money) and has been absolutely dominant this year. It also doesn’t hurt, especially when Tua had to leave the game against Georgia with an ankle injury, that you have a backup in Jalen Hurts who took Alabama to the championship game last year (although it was Tua who came in and won it in the second half). On the Oklahoma side, you have a pretty stellar quarterback as well. Kyler Murray has been dominant this year and has many wondering whether he should pursue his contract with the Oakland A’s for baseball or spurn it to go to the NFL. Still, he has the capability to put up big numbers against any team. Ultimately, though, I think Oklahoma’s defense will be their undoing and Alabama will be heading back the championship game.

On the other side, you have no. 2 Clemson taking on no. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. While both quarterbacks have been solid, this one may be about how the defenses handle the opposing rushing attacks. Both Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams have been stellar this year and will be tough on any opposing defense. I think the key comes back to the quarterbacks. If either Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Notre Dame’s Ian Book can have some success early on and make the defense respect the passing game, it could open up the rushing lanes for the backs. Ultimately, while Notre Dame has been good this year, Clemson is better. I think this will be a much better game than the Orange Bowl, but I still see Clemson coming out ahead.

Heisman Trophy More Up For Grabs Than Originally Anticipated?

All year long it has been expected that Tua Tagovailoa would win the Heisman Trophy, but it wouldn’t be close either. Don’t tell that to quarterbacks Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) and Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), though. They have been absolutely stellar down the stretch and may have made it more of a conversation than people anticipated. Here is how the final stats play out:

Tua Tagovailoa – 13 games, 199 for 294 (67.7%), 3,353 yards, 37 touchdowns 4 interceptions, 202.3 passer rating, 190 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns

Kyler Murray – 13 games, 241 for 340 (70.9%), 4,053 yards, 40 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 205.7 passer rating, 892 yards rushing, 11 rushing touchdowns

Dwayne Haskins – 13 games, 348 for 496 (70.2%), 4,580 yards, 47 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 122 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns.

As you can see, any one of these three is deserving of the honor, but only one’s name will be called. This is nothing more than a hunch, but I smell an upset. I like Kyler Murray for this one. When you couple his passing along with his ability to rush, there hasn’t been anyone like him this year. It is a long shot, but I like his chance. It is just too bad he is never going to play again after this playoff. It is the Oakland A’s gain, but football’s loss.

Coaching Carousel News

Nothing quite embraces the idea of the end of the college football season like the discussions of which coach will be moving to what school the following fall. Some of those dominoes have already started to fall, though. The most recent ones include Louisville and the University of Massachusetts. For Louisville, it will be Appalachian State’s coach Scott Satterfield who will be taking over as coach. The Mountaineers won the Sun Belt Conference Championship game and finished 10-2 on the season. They are scheduled to play Middle Tennessee State in the New Orleans Bowl. With his acceptance of the job, Satterfield will likely not be on the sidelines for that game. In his career at Appalachian State, he is 51-24 overall. He was also named the Sun Belt’s coach of the year this season.

For UMass, they have looked to Florida State offensive coordinator Walt Bell to fill their open position. Bell will be one of the youngest coaches next year as he is still only 34. That doesn’t mean he isn’t suited for the job, though. Bell has worked for numerous programs and generally has had success everywhere he went. While Florida State’s offense was a little suspect this year, that was in large part due to Willie Taggart and his play calling before giving the job to Bell. Still, without a conference and struggling to recruit, Bell will have his work cut out for him.

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