I knew I wouldn’t get far in my quest to post something on this blog every day. I should not put pressure like that on myself.
I went to bed early last night. I did not watch a single down of the College Football Playoff championship game.
Good thing I didn’t.
Georgia destroyed TCU 65-7 to successfully defend its championship. The Bulldogs claimed their fourth title (1942 and 1980 were their others prior to last year) and prompted many of the “experts” on television to proclaim (a) Georgia is the new superpower of college football, supplanting Alabama, and (b) Georgia coach Kirby Smart is the best in the game, surpassing his mentor, Nick Saban, who has won a record seven championships (the first at LSU in 2003, then six at Alabama between 2009 and 2020).
Alabama would have made the playoff had they beaten either Tennessee or LSU. The Crimson Tide would have been in the SEC championship, even if they lost to LSU (the Bayou Bengals’ choke vs. Texas A&M would have sent Alabama to Atlanta had the Tide defeated Tennessee). It would have mattered not had Alabama won or lost vs. Georgia, because there’s no way the committee would have put BOTH TCU and Ohio State ahead of the Tide.
The Tide would have been the No. 3 seed and played Michigan in one semifinal. Georgia would have played either Ohio State or TCU, whichever got in. Then it would have been Alabama-Georgia in the title game for the third time since 2017.
As long as Nicholas Lou Saban is leading his machine in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will win big. When your fans, players and coaches consider 11-2 and a Sugar Bowl rout of Big 12 champion Kansas State to be a down year, you’re doing a hell of a lot right.
I find Saban’s sideline behavior to be unacceptable at times, but the man can recruit, and the man has the right ideas, such as getting rid of cupcakes on the schedule. Unfortunately for Saban, he is not in complete control at Tuscaloosa the way Bear Bryant was. The Tide will not have a non-conference schedule of Nebraska, Missouri, USC and Washington the way Alabama did in 1978. Not anytime soon at least.
Greg Byrne will continue to demand at least one of those patsies come to Tuscaloosa every year. However, I don’t understand why Alabama won’t invite Jacksonville State, Troy, UAB and South Alabama to Bryant-Denny. It’s not worth it to play New Mexico State, Kent State (that being Saban’s alma mater notwithstanding) and UMass when there are four FBS schools within 200 miles of Tuscaloosa.
Georgia’s non-conference schedule for 2023 is an absolute joke. Yes, I am aware the SEC cancelled the Bulldogs’ scheduled game vs. Oklahoma because of the Sooners’ impending move to the SEC, but Greg McGarrity could have found someone tougher than Ball State to fill that spot. UAB and Tennessee-Martin, an FCS program, also go between the hedges next year. Georgia’s season ender at Georgia Tech should also be a walk, especially since the Bulldogs haven’t lost at Grant Field since 1999, when Smart was one year removed from his final season as a Georgia defensive back.
The Bulldogs have cemented their status as one of the three or four programs which should be expected to make the playoff every year, along with Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson.
Those writing off Dabo Swinney are way, way, WAY too early to be doing that. The Tigers will rule the ACC for as long as Swinney is on the sideline in northwest South Carolina. Florida State is the only major threat I can see to the Tigers’ dominance. North Carolina is too inconsistent, and will be looking for a new coach soon, as Mack Brown is 72. Miami can’t get it together. Virginia Tech has bottomed out. Pitt and North Carolina State will have good years from time to time, but never string them together. Duke and Wake Forest have done well considering their rigorous academics and limited enrollment, but I don’t see it as sustainable.
There is no reason Clemson should not be 12-0 or 11-1 every year heading into the ACC championship. If that’s the case, the Tigers only have to win the championship game to go to the playoff when it expands in two years.
Oklahoma was once a playoff regular, but the Sooners took a major step back after Lincoln Riley left for USC and took Caleb Williams, among others, with him to Los Angeles. The Sooners will find the sledding much tougher when they join the SEC in either 2024 or ’25.
The Big 12 will be wide open once Oklahoma and Texas leave. Baylor, Houston, TCU and Texas Tech should always be in the running, considering just how talent-rich Texas is. Oklahoma State should get it back on track under Mike Gundy. As much as it pains me to say it, Kansas State found the right coach in Chris Klieman.
How will BYU adjust to the rigors of nine games vs. Power Five opponents in conference, and an occasional one vs. Utah? The Cougars have as rich a tradition as anyone left in the Big 12, but let’s see how it plays out.
Michigan has made it in back-to-back seasons, but if Jim Harbaugh leaves for the NFL, does that last? Also, the Wolverines and Buckeyes still have to deal with Penn State in the Big Ten right now, and with USC and UCLA on the horizon, it should only get tougher. The Big Ten is getting rid of divisions when the California teams join, which will be a big relief for Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland, but could be a nightmare for Nebraska and Northwestern.
I did not mention the Pac-12 in the last section.
I don’t know how much longer the Pac-12 (which will revert to Pac-10 once the LA schools depart) can hold up. Adding UNLV, Fresno St. and San Diego St. isn’t going to bring much to the table. Adding Gonzaga as a basketball-only member won’t cut it, either.
The rumors are everyone except Oregon State and Washington State should have a place to land if the conference dissolves. The Big 12 is looking at going to 16 by adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, and of course bringing back Colorado. California, Stanford, Oregon and Washington will get into a power conference some way, some how. All four could join the Big Ten and make it 20, which could lead to a split for sports outside of football and basketball. It is not fair to ask students at Maryland and Rutgers to spend a week on the west coast, or vice versa.
It would be a crying shame if Oregon State and Washington State get dumped into the Mountain West. Nothing against the Mountain West, but the administrations in Corvallis and Pullman have invested way too much time and money into keeping up with the powers in Eugene and Seattle, not to mention LA and the Bay Area.
Somewhere, Mike Leach is pleading with the Good Lord to save the Coogs from purgatory. Dee Andros and Ralph Miller are probably doing the same for the Beavers.
As it stands now, at least one conference champion from outside the Power 5 will earn automatic entry to the CFP once it expands.
Tulane has the opportunity to be that team on a consistent basis.
The Green Wave should be picked no lower than third next year in the American Athletic Conference. Willie Fritz has committed to Tulane, something Larry Smith, Mack Brown and Tommy Bowden did not. I’m surprised Georgia Tech did not pursue Fritz harder, given his success in New Orleans and his ties to the Peach State at Georgia Southern.
Problem is, if Tulane keeps winning, it’s going to be that much harder to keep Fritz.
Before going to Statesboro, he coached at Sam Houston State, which lies in the shadow of Texas’ death row in Huntsville.
If Texas A&M becomes tired of Jimbo Fisher’s mediocrity and is willing to pay his asinine buyout, Aggie boosters will almost certainly be crossing the Sabine River and headed straight for the Big Easy. Texas is always a volatile situation until the Longhorns prove they can win at Darrell Royal/Mack Brown levels on a consistent basis. Will the SEC lure Dave Aranda away from Baylor?
Tulane football is at its highest point since the spring of 1949, when it was coming off a 46-0 rout of LSU in Death Valley to close the 1948 season 9-1. If you read my post from Jan. 2, you’ll know the Wave was ranked as high as No. 4 in 1949 before losing badly in South Bend, coming back to win the SEC championship, only to lose the Sugar Bowl bid when they were flattened 21-0 by LSU in New Orleans. Tulane didn’t sniff another bowl until 1970.
In the Mountain West, Boise State should be a yearly contender, as should Fresno State. San Diego State could be if it doesn’t bolt for the Pac-12. Air Force has done quite well for decades under Troy Calhoun and his predecessor, Fisher DeBerry, but the Falcons don’t have the “big uglies”, as Keith Jackson used to say, along the lines. That, plus the rigors of military training and the commitment following graduation drive many young men away from Colorado Springs, West Point and Annapolis.
Speaking of the academies, without a conference, Army’s chances are next to zero. The Black Knights would have to catch lightning in a bottle, or reincarnate Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard in 1945-46 form.
Navy is in a conference, but is far behind Tulane, SMU and Memphis in the American. Firing Ken Niumatalolo and replacing him from within was a very dumb move by athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who made a similar faux pas at Tulane in the early 1990s by bringing in Buddy Teevens from Dartmouth. Teevens is a hell of a nice guy, but he was overmatched at the top level. After a brief failed stint at Stanford, Teevens returned to New Hampshire and has the Big Green back to its familiar perch at or near the top of the Ivy League.
I saw Smart play for the Bulldogs on the evening of 3 October 1998, when Georgia came to Death Valley for a highly-anticipated matchup with LSU, which was ranked sixth in the AP poll following wins over Arkansas State, Auburn and Idaho.
The talk around Baton Rouge was if the Bayou Bengals prevailed, they were automatically contenders for the first BCS championship, and Gerry DiNardo would take his place alongside Paul Dietzel and Charlie McClendon as the greatest LSU coach ever.
Smart, wearing No. 16, was overshadowed that evening by future Pro Football Hall of Famer, who played nearly the entire game on defense AND offense, and quarterback Quincy Carter, who made play after play to keep Georgia afloat.
With the game hanging in the balance and the Bulldogs ahead 28-27, Bailey made an acrobatic catch on a deep ball down the left sideline to clinch victory.
LSU went into total freefall after Georgia returned to Athens.
The Bayou Bengals won only one of their next seven games to finish 4-7. They got worse in 1999, starting 2-0 before losing eight straight.
On 15 November 1999, Gerry DiNardo was fired by LSU chancellor Mark Emmert, who heroically took the coaching search reins from cheapskate athletic director Joe Dean, who did all he could to keep DiNardo around for 2000.
Fifteen days after DiNardo was booted, Emmert introduced LSU’s new coach, Nick Saban. The rest is history. Mostly good.
Once again, I’ve rambled on. I’ll stop. Thanks again for reading.