NCAA Football News

Releasing a Top 25 Weekly Poll a Dangerous Move for CFP Selection Committee

It's going to feel a lot like BCS 2.0, but with people, faces and personalities to blame. And if you don't think that's going to push patience, fanbases and message board servers to the brink of annihilation, I have only one question for you: Where have you been for the past five years?

The formulas and computers have been unplugged and tucked away, replaced with a room of esteemed human beings handpicked for the job. The members of the selection committee will stow away all biases—at least we hope—delivering your updated College Football Playoff standings on a weekly basis, starting on Tuesday, October 28.

Weekly rankings will be released on @ESPN starting Oct. 28. Additional rankings will come out Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 18, Nov. 25 and Dec. 2

— CFB Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) April 30, 2014

Think of it as the BCS, only with a few more seats. The name is different; a rebrand that was decided upon to remind you of just how different it is. And yes, the Sunday suspense that came with the BCS—which often didn't provide any suspense at all—has been moved to a night when it doesn't have to compete with prime-time NFL games.

That doesn't just make sense; it's brilliant.

It's the messaging delivered on a weekly basis that could highlight holes in the committee's mindset and consistency. Forget about getting it right at the end of the year—the only thing that truly matters with the committee—now you have to show your work along the way.

Remember that in your test-taking days? That was the worst.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, chairman of the selection committee, doesn't believe that to be the case. Or, at the very least, he believes the check-ins will provide more good than bad.

Speaking on behalf of the committee, he believes a weekly unveiling is a necessary part of the process that fans crave.

Via the Associated Press:

We felt we wouldn't be meeting our responsibility. Once we made a ranking, we felt then we needed to make them weekly. That's what the fans have become accustomed to, and we felt it would leave a void in college football without a ranking for several weeks.

Long won't just be helping to decide the playoff teams with his colleagues. He'll have a much more critical role than that.

Likely accompanied with 1,200 pounds worth of beefy security guards, a flak jacket and the world's most elaborate first-aid kit, Long will be tasked to explain the committee's latest rankings each and every Tuesday on live television, as reported by Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel.

It's both sadistic and applause-worthy. It'll be Long's job to disappoint weekly, to enrage a fanbase that just won its game by a comfortable margin yet somehow fell to fifth in the latest poll.

He'll be the voice of the playoff—a walking, talking, reasoning Grim Reaper. It doesn't quite reach the misery threshold of being president of the NCAA, although this job isn't far behind.

The show will undoubtedly do extraordinarily well from an interest (and viewer) standpoint. Each week, just like we did with the BCS, we will tune in like zombies and demand more blood. With little football to compete with—outside of the occasional MAC football game—Tuesday night will become playoff night.

In the end, it's a business. This entire charade is structured around running a successful postseason and making as much money as possible. You can decide which order those should be listed in.

This will meet all of the financial requirements and then some. Beyond the cash grab, however, there are various concerns regarding this weekly roller coaster. For one, inconsistencies in the evaluation process—a process that will be new to the creators and the consumers—will be spotlighted. The pressure on those tasked with picking college football's four playoff teams was already unimaginable. Now, starting in October, it will stay that way throughout the homestretch.

Adding to this concern, at this present time, there is still confusion regarding how teams will be evaluated and picked over one another. This was always going to be the case with human influence, so perhaps it's not surprising. But at the very least, we'll need further clarity to help us center our future outrage.

Jeff Long says it's not most DESERVING teams, but the focus is the BEST four teams that shall get into the bracket

— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) April 30, 2014

Regardless of why a team is ranked the way it is, a weekly evaluation provides little context to the method. If conference championship games are stressed as much as we've been told they will be, then what exactly does a midseason or three-quarter report card tell us?

In the end, the only ranking that matters is the final one. Everything up until that point is a parade of the procedure.

The top four will be the top four at that time while the rest of the Top 25 will help shape some of the marquee bowl games. Teams will lose, rankings will adjust drastically, and outrage will follow whether it's warranted or not.

We will be able to relate to this unnecessary ride because we've grown accustomed to hitting the reset button weekly. This same procedure, however, comes from the system we're now trying to distance ourselves from.

With the BCS, there was the math to lean on. There were voters, too, but they were a part of the numbers and percentages that helped us accept the ups and downs. It's strange to look back at the system that way, but it really did a fine job of packaging the chaos into numbers we somehow understood. We didn't always agree with it or accept it, but math couldn't be convinced it was wrong.

Committee members present a slightly different scenario. They have feelings, they have televisions, and they have the Internet. They also have an integral part that the former system lacked—a human element—although this can be both good and bad.

Allowing this group of dignified football minds to decide on the postseason is one thing. Forcing it to show exactly how it got there—following a procedure still taking shape—is another.

We'll be playing the role of that dreaded math teacher you despised in school, looking for distinct and exact reasoning for why the rankings are the way they are. At that same time, we'll know we're only seeing a percentage of the final equation. It'll be Jeff Long's job to satisfy, which will be an impossible task.

It’ll be wildly entertaining regardless of how efficient it is packaged and delivered. It's going to generate a flurry of debate and, in turn, mountains of cash for the network that now owns that playoff. And yes, it's going to take an already chaotic process and highlight the potential for problematic reasoning.

It is, quite simply, going to be complete and utter anarchy.

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Oregon Ducks Unveil New-Look Uniforms for 2014 Spring Game

A new era has begun for the Oregon Ducks football team.

Sure, the team returns some of its biggest stars from last year's squad. However, next year's team will have a new look to it, which fans will get a glimpse of this weekend.

Nike introduced the world to Oregon's "Mach Speed" uniforms back in December. With the 2014 spring game being played Saturday, Nike has unveiled the uniforms the Ducks will be wearing during the game.

Here are some more looks at the spring game uniforms:

Those uniforms will look nice with Oregon's awesome cleats:

[Nike, B.J. Kelley]

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Nick Saban Wants You to Know He Thinks the Big Ten Is 'A Really Good Conference'

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who played at Kent State and has coached at Ohio State, Toledo (as a head coach) and with the Cleveland Browns, gave a speech in the state of Ohio this week for the first time in as long as he can remember, according to Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

It didn't take long before Saban was asked about the Big Ten, where he coached for five years at Michigan State before moving to LSU in 2000, and how long it might take for his former league to catch up with his current conference, the SEC.

To which Saban had some flattering comments, per Lesmerises:

Everybody grows up a college football fan (in the south). There’s no Cincinnati Bengals fans. There’s no Cleveland Dawg Pound. There’s no other choice for people in terms of how they grew up. So that passion for athletics, especially football, is really, really strong. In the Southeast, the school is still the center of a lot of communities. So there’s a lot of positive self-gratification for people to be involved in programs.

I think we have a little bit of an advantage when it comes to the recruiting base we have in the Southeast. But I think the Big Ten is a really good conference. And I want to be quoted on that.

Saban may think—or say—the Big Ten is a really good conference, but his last few results against the league sort of belie that point.

Most recently, Alabama destroyed Michigan, 41-14, in the first game of the 2012 season, which the Wolverines entered ranked eighth in the country after winning the 2012 Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech.

Before that, the Tide swept a (relatively close) home-and-home with Penn State in 2010 and 2011 and beat 11-win Michigan State, 49-7, in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, out-gaining Sparty by 375 yards.

Comparing these results—and the results of the Big Ten at large the past few seasons—with Saban's flattering comments has thus led to some predictable backlash, like this funny comment from Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com:

Fornelli sums it up even better in his post on the comments, writing:

Lies! Damnable lies!

Seriously, I say this as somebody born and raised in Chicago who has spent their entire life following Big Ten football: the Big Ten is not "really good." It's not nearly as bad as some folks want to believe it is, but it's not quite really good, either. If ranking the five power conferences I'd have the Big Ten settling into fifth. Not miles behind fourth place, but with work to do to catch up.

That about sums up my stance on the issue, although I'd consider putting the Big Ten (slightly) ahead of the Big 12.

This is little more than Saban playing politics.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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4-Star Recruit Osa Masina Tweets Top 8 Schools

There's still a long way to go in his recruiting process, but coveted athlete Osa Masina made inroads toward a decision with an announcement late Wednesday night. The 4-star Utah prospect posted a list of his top eight collegiate options on Twitter:

His favorites feature several formidable programs, including the in-state Utes. Fellow Pac-12 programs Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Stanford also made the cut.

Michigan and Wisconsin are contenders out of the Big Ten Conference, while Notre Dame also remains in the picture. Masina visited each of the three eastern options last year.

He made the most of a jam-packed 2014 spring break, spending time at Stanford, Cal, USC, UCLA and Arizona State, according to Matthew Piper of The Salt Lake Tribune. His older brothers, Uaea and Lo’i, are currently on the Utah roster.

Uaea was a 3-star linebacker in the 2013 class and has worked his way up the depth chart. Lo'i is a reserve in the defensive backfield.

The latest Masina prospect out of Brighton High School (Salt Lake City) is the most heralded. Osa, a 4-star talent, rates No. 8 nationally among outside linebackers in 247Sports' composite rankings.

He is listed as the No. 2 prospect in the state and has attracted attention from colleges across the country.

Oklahoma, Oregon, Nebraska, BYU, Vanderbilt and Washington are among teams that didn't make the cut for his favorites list. Masina began compiling scholarship offers early, holding several as a sophomore.

His accomplishments have come on both sides of the ball at Brighton. Masina dominated during a run to the state championship game in 2013.

The 6'4", 218-pound playmaker rushed for 1,683 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior, per Piper. He also tallied 57 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss.

Masina is projected to commit to Utah by 90 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Now that he's down to a top eight, expect each contender to step up their pursuit of the talented prospect.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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CFB Playoff Committee Strives for Transparency, but Faces Tough Challenges Ahead

The College Football Playoff management committee hammered out a series of protocols over a two-day meeting in Dallas that concluded Wednesday. The 10 FBS commissioners, along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, laid out procedures for the 13 members of the selection committee as the CFP begins its inaugural season in 2014.

Until Wednesday, how the 13 members should go about their business was mostly guesswork. Now at least we have some clarity, as the CFP power brokers should be commended for their decision to strive for transparency.

That said, there remains many other questions and challenges ahead. Here's my look at what the committee did right and where it might have left itself open to criticism:

The Good

Weekly standings: The committee, after all, decided to go with a weekly release of its own top 25 poll starting Oct. 28 and then every Tuesday until the final matchups for the two playoff games and four other CFP bowls are announced on Dec. 7. The standings will air live on ESPN at 7 or 7:30 p.m. with chairman Jeff Long on hand to explain the rankings.

The data: The CFP has retained SportSource Analytics to provide the data platform for the committee. The members should have a wealth of statistical information to help them with ranking the teams as opposed to be the selection committees of other NCAA championships who lean heavily on the unreliable Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

The Bad

Five-step procedure: The committee laid out an extremely convoluted protocol where it takes at least four votes and most of the times many more to establish the top 25 rankings that it will release every Tuesday. This is an unnecessarily cumbersome procedure that doesn't actually enhance the strength of the rankings.

Tuesday release: Whereas the BCS standings were released each Sunday night in the second half of the season, the CFP will wait an extra 48 hours to unveil its rankings. While the fact that committee members will meet in person each week (sorry, Skype) has merit, the real reason why we must wait until Tuesday night is without a doubt television. ESPN has a Monday night football game to broadcast.

The Ugly

Recusal policy: Though most committee members have ties to at least one (and most several) FBS programs, the protocol bars them from voting for schools they current draw a paycheck from. This decision actually puts six teams at a distinct disadvantage: USC, Stanford, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Clemson and Arkansas. I had advocated and maintain that stance even more now: There should be no recusal policy at all.

The "best four teams": These are allegedly the teams that will be put into the CFP playoff field, according to Long, and at least that vernacular goes against the committee's previous commitment to reward conference champions. The nebulous concept is exactly what gave us the all-SEC debacle in the 2011 BCS title game, and the committee would be better served not to give in to this and stick with its original plan.

Overall, the committee has shown itself to be sensitive to public opinion as best attested by its decision to release a weekly ranking. But even the best-intentioned plans are just that—an idea—until they're put to test in a true trial-by-fire inaugural season of 2014.

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Jalen Julius Commits to Florida: Gators Beat OSU for Speedy DB Recruit

Jalen Julius quickly became one of America's hottest recruiting commodities this spring, collecting scholarship offers in bunches. The Sunshine State speedster opted to stay close to home with a commitment to Florida on Wednesday, per Orlando Sentinel reporter Chris Hays.

His decision gave the Gators a seventh pledge in the 2015 class as April came to a close.

"It feels good. I just got off the phone with head coach Muschamp," Julius told Hays. "I'm very excited to be a Florida Gator right now."

The 5'10.5", 170-pound Orlando product recently transferred to West Orange High School (Winter Garden, Florida). He starred at Evans High School as a junior, exhibiting elite athleticism in various capacities.

Julius contributed as a cornerback, running back and receiver, while playing a pivotal role on special teams.

He averaged more than six yards per carry and scored three touchdowns as a rusher in 2013, per the Sentinel. Julius also returned two kicks for scores.

Rated No. 38 nationally among cornerback prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, his offer sheet also includes Ohio State, Auburn, Tennessee and Ole Miss.

The majority of offers arrived this year. Florida joined the race in late March.

His speed—documented at 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to the Sentinel—creates plenty of possibilities at the next level. Julius is expected to initially land in the defensive backfield.

Florida has compiled quite a haul at cornerback in recent months.

Marcus Lewis, a 4-star prospect from Washington, D.C., pledged to the Gators two weeks ago. Head coach Will Muschamp was able to flip 5-star 2014 cornerback Jalen Tabor—another Washington, D.C. recruit—from Arizona just a few days before his early enrollment in January.

Julius already has high expectations for his upcoming career in Gainesville:

He may also eventually help Florida land another in-state standout during this recruiting cycle. New high school teammate Dexter Williams, a Miami commit, may be swayed to take a closer look at Florida.

The 4-star running back is expected to spend time on campus with Julius in coming months, per 247Sports reporter Luke Stampini:

It remains to be seen whether the Gators can turn this into a package deal. At the very least, Florida has its hands on a dynamic threat who could make an impact in multiple roles.

The addition of Julius pushed Muschamp's 2015 class to No. 23 in 247Sports' composite team rankings. It rates 11th among SEC squads. 

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Imagining College Football's Top Coaches as Famous Movie Characters

The most recognizable face associated with any college football team is its coach, the man in charge of all those helmet-clad behemoths behind him and the one they all turn to for guidance and leadership.

If we didn't know any better, you'd think the coach is like the star of a movie or something. Hey, that's got us thinking...

If college football coaches were cast as iconic movie characters, who would they portray? It might be based on their personality and demeanor, maybe their appearance, possibly because of their sideline antics. Whatever the case, there's something about each of the top coaches in college football that remind us of a certain well-known film character.

Take a look at our casting list, then give us your own suggestions in the comments section.

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Power Ranking Every Pac-12 Quarterback, Post-Spring Practice

If our team power rankings didn't stir up some offseason emotions, perhaps a countdown of the Pac-12's quarterbacks will do the trick.

Arizona's B.J. Denker and Washington's Keith Price were the only starting seniors in 2013, which gives the league a bevy of experience returning to the position. Both Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley chose to stay in school for at least another season despite the opportunity to be selected high in the upcoming NFL draft.

All in all, it may be the most solid group of quarterbacks the league has ever had, and ranking them makes rocket science look like pre-algebra. OK, it's not that difficult, but there are at least seven or eight guys with a shot at postseason honors, and no team is in a terrible situation at the position.

But enough rambling. Click ahead to read through our Pac-12 QB power rankings.

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North Carolina A&T Football Player Jermane Darnell Clark Murdered Outside Home

On Tuesday night around 11 p.m. ET, Jermane Darnell Clark, a linebacker for North Carolina A&T University, was shot and killed outside of his home in Greensboro, N.C.

North Carolina A&T confirmed the news on Wednesday morning on its official Twitter account:

The Associated Press reported the story on Wednesday after learning about the homicide and provided more details on the situation:

Capt. Mike Richey said it appears Clark was approached by one or more people and an argument started and he was shot. Police don't know what sparked the argument and have not determined a motive, although investigators do not think Clark was robbed.

Clark was taken to Moses Cone Hospital, where he died.

While Clark was a student at North Carolina A&T, the university does not have anything to do with the shooting, Richey said.

Jamal Fox, a former N.C. A&T adjunct professor, spoke about the ongoing investigation and how he plans to help put the pieces together, per Sarah Newell Williamson of the News & Record:

In the coming weeks we will invite residents in and around the college communities to become actively involved in helping to create a dialog and action steps designed to address these issues. By working together, we will continue to make Greensboro a safer city.

Stephanie Ando of WGHP Fox 8 also provides more information about the investigation and ceremonies taking place to honor Clark:

Clark played in all 11 games for the Aggies last season after transferring from Colorado following the 2012 season. The 6'2", 195-pound linebacker was ranked No. 93 in the state of North Carolina coming out of R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Another local college in UNC-Greensboro along with Rocco Scarfone, a defensive back at East Carolina, shared their condolences over Twitter:

The team will have to return to action this upcoming season without the sophomore starter and hope to bounce back from the tragic loss. Following a 7-4 season, the Aggies just wrapped up their spring game with Clark on the field and will have to prepare for Alabama A&M minus the linebacker.

Not much is known about the incident at this time, but more information will be added as the details are announced. Our hearts go out to Clark's family, friends and the entire A&T program in this time of sorrow and mourning.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:

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Breaking Down Oregon's Royce Freeman's Highlight Tape

Royce Freeman is a 4-star running back who signed with Oregon in February. The Ducks run an uptempo spread offense that usually features speedy and shifty running backs.

However, at 5'11.5" and 215 pounds, Freeman will bring a powerful element to the offensive backfield in Eugene. The California native has just enough wiggle to elude a couple of defenders, and he also has solid speed.

He showcases what he can do throughout his highlight tape.

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Oklahoma State Receives 2014 Cotton Bowl Rings Despite Losing Game

The Oklahoma State Cowboys fell to the Missouri Tigers in a 41-31 shootout in the 2014 Cotton Bowl but will still be getting rings.

The school's web developer shared the photos of the rings that the team received to honor their season's accomplishments instead of focusing on the final game's result.

[Instagram, h/t CollegeSpun]

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The NFL Comparison for Top 10 DT Recruits from Class of 2015

Comparisons to NFL players paint pictures for everyone to have a familiar idea of the skill set of less-popular prospects. This series of professional comparisons with the recruits in the 2015 class continues, with the nation's best defensive tackles being the focus of this list.

Among the nation's top overall talents happens to be a 5-star defensive tackle who plays like a star with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An athletic defensive tackle from Los Angeles has a similar style to an underrated player in the AFC West, while an interior presence with the Carolina Panthers is an older version of a 5-star recruit from Virginia.

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