Chaos needed to spice up college football season

By: Harry King
Published: Friday, November 16, 2018
Georgia running back D'Andre Swift (7) runs for a touchdown during the second half an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Georgia running back D'Andre Swift (7) runs for a touchdown during the second half an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

LITTLE ROCK — Fans are apathetic about the Razorbacks’ final two games, speculation about 2019 has been done to death, the SEC races are over, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa has a vise grip on the Heisman Trophy, and the College Football Playoff Selection Committee is on cruise control.

An upset of at least one of the top four teams in the country is needed to spice up the college football conversation.

In Arkansas, the “hammer down” offense promised by Chad Morris is not happening this year. Maybe next year the Razorbacks will run 80-plus plays against an SEC opponent instead of 58 passes and runs as they did in last week’s loss to LSU. But not Saturday against a Mississippi State that is No. 5 in scoring defense and not with the current personnel. For example, the experienced offensive linemen are not going to suddenly reverse form and dominate.

And, most of the talk about what would constitute acceptable progress — an SEC victory is a must — in Morris’ second year involves players not on campus. The group includes recruits, most with impressive credentials, and former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant who is to announce his decision Dec. 4, which happens to be Morris’ 50th birthday.

Meanwhile, without drama, participants in the SEC championship game were identified three weeks in advance. Georgia wrapped up the SEC East, beating Kentucky in a game that was in hand before the fourth quarter, and Alabama completed the Atlanta exacta a few hours later, leading Mississippi State by 21 at half.

In the CFP rankings, unbeatens Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame and once-beaten Michigan are again 1-4. The only changes at the top occurred a week earlier when third-ranked LSU lost to Alabama and Notre Dame and Michigan advanced a spot — not exactly a seismic development.

By the way, defense is the common thread among the “win and you’re in” teams. Clemson, Alabama and Michigan are 1-2-3 in scoring defense and Notre Dame is No. 15.

That said, Notre Dame is the only one of the four in any jeopardy this week. Taking on an 8-2 Syracuse that applied the coup de grace to Bobby Petrino’s tenure at Louisville, Notre Dame is favored by more than a touchdown at Yankee Stadium. Clemson and Michigan are four-touchdown favorites and Alabama is favored by 50-something.

Ironically, the team that caused consternation for the CFP Selection Committee in 2017 is the team most likely to do the same during the current season.

No. 10 this week, Ohio State plays Michigan Nov. 24 with a spot in the Big Ten championship vs. Northwestern on the line. All you need to know about Northwestern is that the first-time division winner is 6-4 without a victory over a non-conference opponent.

Last year, the Buckeyes were No. 8 when J.T. Barrett accounted for three touchdowns and converted an important fourth down in a 27-21 victory over No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, a result that initiated the argument whether the twice-beaten Big Ten champion or a once-beaten Alabama that did not qualify for the SEC title game should be No. 4 behind Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia.

The selection committee debate went past 1 a.m. on the Sunday before the final rankings were to be released. Committee members settled on Alabama, but reconvened at 7:30 a.m. to review their decision.

“There were people who thought, ‘This is probably over,’ and others who thought, ‘I need to really look at it again, I’m not really sure,” said CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock.

Offered a do-over, committee members declined.

Georgia over Alabama would wreak even more havoc than Ohio State beating Michigan and the Bulldogs are capable with superb running backs, a quarterback who’s been there, and defense.

If Georgia wins, the committee might have to sort out Georgia, Alabama and LSU from the SEC, plus once-beaten conference champions Oklahoma and Washington State for one spot.

Solely for optimum chaos, here’s hoping both the Buckeyes and Bulldogs win.

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