The Best and Worst of Bowl Season

Forty bowl games are now in the books for the 2016-17 season, with only the College Football Playoff championship game still to come. And just when you thought it was pretty ho-hum with a bunch of “meaningless games” …

Then the Granddaddy happened. Of course it’s the Rose Bowl that gave us the best setting for the most memorable game, despite a game-time temperature of 55 degrees (brrrr!) that was the coldest since the 1974 game.

As for the rest of the bowls, sure, there’s been more interesting news off the field than on it, such as top prospects sitting out games to protect their pro futures, player shoplifting at the bowl game’s namesake store, and Lane Kiffin getting fired even though he quit first.

So, from the picture-perfect ending in Pasadena to the empty stands mostly everywhere else, here’s our nifty summary of this bowl season:

Best game: Rose Bowl. This isn’t even close. USC somehow managed to out-Penn State in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Nittany Lions 17-0 to pull out a dramatic 52-49 victory on Matt Boermeester’s 46-yard field goal at the gun in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl game in history. Despite not being a “playoff” game, the Rose Bowl actually had the most expensive tickets and is expected to earn the highest TV rating of all bowl games.

Best game (non-Rose Bowl edition): Orange Bowl. Anything involving Jim Harbaugh was bound to be entertaining and this game did not disappoint. Michigan fell behind early and looked out of it entering the fourth quarter but rallied to take the lead with just over a minute remaining. But a long kickoff return set Florida State up for the winning play just seconds from the end of regulation in a 33-32 Seminoles victory.

Worst game: Citrus Bowl. Some shine came off the game when LSU running back Leonard Fournette decided to skip the game to protect his pro future – a first-round selection in the NFL Draft – but it still had Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Well, the Louisville quarterback was sacked eight times and the hapless Cardinals lost their third straight game in an ugly 29-9 defeat against LSU.

Best conference: ACC. Other than Louisville, the ACC had a banner season in the bowl games, with Clemson advancing to the CFP title game and Florida State upsetting Michigan in the Orange Bowl. The ACC finished with an 8-3 record, with two more wins than any other conference.

Worst conference: Big Ten. The MAC might’ve gone 0-6, including a loss by Western Michigan in its New Year’s Six bowl appearance, but the Big Ten was billed as the best conference most of the season and placed four teams in NY6 games. But the B1G didn’t live up to the hype, limping to a 3-7 bowl record, including 1-3 in the NY6 games.

The rest of the conference standings:

  • SEC 6-6
  • Big 12 4-2
  • Pac 12 3-3
  • Sun Belt 4-2
  • C-USA 4-3
  • Mountain West 4-3
  • American 2-5
  • Independents 2-0

Best coaching move: Nick Holt, Western Kentucky. As the interim coach with Jeff Brohm having moved on to Purdue, the former defensive coordinator didn’t hold back and emptied the playbook – including a fake victory formation kneel down that went for a 53-yard gain right before the half. The Hilltoppers went on to a 51-31 rout of Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl. For the record, interim coaches went 3-2 in bowl games, with Baylor and South Florida also winning while Houston and Temple lost.

Worst coaching move: Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks could’ve gotten the MAC to a winning start when they had Mississippi State on the ropes late in the game. But instead of driving for a game-winning touchdown, Martin chose to go conservative, calling plays to concede 3 yards while in the red zone, only to see Nick Dowd’s 37-yard field goal attempt blocked in a 17-16 loss in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

Best performance: Sam Darnold, USC. Are you ready for the Heisman hype, for 2017? All Darnold did was throwing for 450 yards and a Rose Bowl-record five touchdowns to lead the Trojans to a scintillating comeback against Penn State. USC won nine straight to end the season and, with the redshirt freshman quarterback returning, will be a sure-fire pick as a playoff contender for 2017.

Worst performance: Ohio State. It was an epic fail in all phases of the game, and especially shocking coming from an Urban Meyer team. The Buckeyes were outclassed in every way by Clemson in a 31-0 beatdown in the Fiesta Bowl that was also a CFP semifinal game. Ohio State’s losing margin was the second largest of the bowl season – only Central Michigan’s 55-10 loss to Tulsa in the Miami Beach Bowl was worse.

Best fight: This battle in the bathroom between a Miami fan and West Virginia fan during the Russell Athletic Bowl had a little of everything, including a nifty reference from the movie Road House.

Who says bowl games are “meaningless?” Even a mere urinal is worth fighting for!

Surprise! Committee Pulls a Fast One

The biggest surprise from the College Football Playoff committee this year is that there were no surprises.

While there were rampant speculations on who might be the fourth team in the four-team playoff, at the end the committee stuck to the script, picking the four Power 5 teams with one or fewer losses for the field. And the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl games also fell in line exactly as how we projected Saturday night …

No one should have any beef with these decisions, really. Penn State, at No. 5, has two losses, including a 39-point beatdown by No. 6 Michigan, which actually has a stronger case than the Nittany Lions. The Big 12 is left out of the playoff for the second time in three years, leading its commissioner Bob Bowlsby to howl. But it has no real argument, either (more on that later).

Now that we’ve had three years of the playoff, just exactly what have we learned from the committee in its decision making?

The truth? Nothing. The members make their calls not any different from how voters in the polls or knowledgeable pundits make theirs. Conference championships are important – until they’re not. Head to head matters, until it’s not. The “13th data point” is relevant, until it’s irrelevant.

For the first time, a non-conference champion is picked for the playoff, and Ohio State’s inclusion was a slam-dunk. The Buckeyes are ranked third by the committee only for cosmetic reasons – so they’ll wear white uniforms against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, but they’re favored by Vegas.

Washington’s inclusion was the least certain, but after its 41-10 demolition of Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Huskies secured the final spot. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt admitted that UW’s weak nonconference schedule (ranked 127th out of 128 FBS teams) was a concern, but at the end its work in conference play was enough to hold off the Big Ten champion Penn State.

Let’s face it, despite all the statistical information and all the game footage at their disposal, the committee members are no more than knowledgeable fans. It’s a waste of time trying to make much more out of that.

USC is back: For the first time since the Pete Carroll era, USC is in a BCS/NY6 bowl game. The Trojans will be making their record 34th appearance in the Rose Bowl, the first time they’re in the Granddaddy of Them All since after the 2008 season. USC also keeps alive another amazing streak, as it’s played in a Rose Bowl during every presidential administration since Herbert Hoover in 1929. The Trojans just made it before Barack Obama leaves office.

SEC is hollowed out: While Alabama continues to be the undisputed most dominant program in college football under Nick Saban, the rest of the SEC has fallen off a cliff. The SEC only got a second NY6 bowl because contractually the Sugar Bowl had to pick a team from that conference. Auburn, at No. 14 and with four losses, is ranked lower than any other Power 5 participants in NY6 bowls, and actually ranked lower than even the Group 5 rep Western Michigan in both the AP and Coaches polls.

Row the Boat: Western Michigan became the third different G5 conference champion to appear in an NY6 bowl, joining Boise State (Mountain West) in 2014 and Houston (American) in 2015. The MAC champions are the only other undefeated FBS team besides No. 1 Alabama. Win or lose in the Cotton Bowl, it’ll probably lead to a big job for coach P.J. Fleck, who’s in his fourth season at the helm of the Broncos and just turned 36 last week.

Game of the Week

Penn State 38, Wisconsin 31: The Big Ten Championship Game was “only” for a Rose Bowl berth, but turned out highly entertaining nonetheless. The Nittany Lions overcame turnovers and questionable decisions by coach James Franklin that dug them in a 28-7 hole before storming back to win their first conference title since 2008, before the Jerry Sandusky scandals came to light and the ensuing NCAA sanctions. It’ll be Penn State’s first BCS/NY6 bowl appearance since losing the 2009 Rose Bowl to USC, 38-24.

Player of the Week

Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: The Sooners didn’t make the playoff, but Oklahoma did win their second consecutive Big 12 title and clinch a trip to the Sugar Bowl, beating Oklahoma State in Bedlam, 38-20. Perine was the workhorse, carrying the ball a career-high 37 times for 239 yards as Oklahoma rolled up 629 total yards to pull away late.

The Weak

We seem to have all figured out how the committee works, except the Big 12. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby is demanding to know why his conference is left out of the playoff for the second time in  three seasons.

That’s easy, Bob. Oklahoma was beaten badly by Ohio State, at home, and also lost to Houston. The Sooners had no case, nor did any other Big 12 teams.

The Big 12 rushed to add a championship game starting in the 2017 season despite not expanding and not putting its 10 teams in two divisions. In this year’s case, Bedlam would’ve been a totally meaningless affair as both teams would’ve been assured of a berth in the Big 12 title game a week later.

This conference cannot disband soon enough.

— Samuel Chi is the managing editor of RealClearSports.com and proprietor of College Football Exchange. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePlayoffGuru.

Big Ten Ready to Unleash Big Chaos

“The Game” lived up to its considerable hype, and then some. Not only was Saturday’s epic Michigan-Ohio State showdown turned out to be a double-overtime thriller, it was also by far the most-watched college football this season – garnering a gaudy 10.4 TV rating – and the second most-watched since 2001, topped only by the 2006 edition of the Michigan-Ohio State game.

It also set the selection committee up for a huge headache. How many Big Ten teams can it take for the four-team playoff? One, two, or even maybe three?

Had Michigan won in spite of officiating malfeasance (every close call or non-call went Ohio State’s way, and the Buckeyes were flagged just twice for 6 yards the entire game), most likely the Big Ten would’ve ended up with just one team in the playoff. But now …

Ohio State is a lock for a playoff spot, though it won’t even play in the Big Ten championship game. The Wisconsin-Penn State winner in the B1G title game most likely will get a spot, too. And don’t completely write off Michigan, either, as it still has a chance to back into the playoff if both Clemson and Washington lose their respective conference title games.

If both Clemson and Washington go on to win the ACC and Pac-12, respectively, the committee then must wrestle with whether to exclude either one-loss team in favor of a two-loss Big Ten champion. And then there’s the Big 12 champion – the winner of Bedlam – but its hopes are faint at best.

Regardless what happens in the five Power 5 title games next week, the committee will not have very clear-cut choices. It’ll be its most difficult decision in the three years of the playoff era.

Bowl Update: As of now, 76 teams clinched bowl bids, including 6-7 Hawaii and 6-5 Army, which defeated two FCS teams. South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette may still earn bowl bids by winning their respective regular-season finales next Saturday.

But that means at least two and as many as four teams will qualify for bowl games with 5-7 records by virtue of their score on the Academic Progress Report. The next teams on the APR list, with North Texas and Mississippi State already guaranteed bowl bids:

  • North Texas (APR 984)
  • Mississippi State (971)*
  • Texas (971)*
  • Northern Illinois (970)
  • Louisiana-Monroe (967)
  • Cal (960)*
  • Arizona State (960)*

*MSU has tiebreaker edge over Texas on one-year APR (970-968), Cal has edge over ASU (997-990)

<u”>Game of the Week

Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2OT): The 113rd edition of college football’s best rivalry was as gripping as it was controversial, with Ohio State pulling out the victory in double overtime after two sensational plays by wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Michigan was victimized by quarterback Wilton Speight’s three turnovers as well as a number of questionable calls. It was the Buckeyes’ 12th win in the last 13 meetings as Urban Meyer improved to 5-0 against his team’s arch rival.

Player of the Week

Adoree Jackson, USC: In perhaps his final collegiate home game, the Trojans’ do-everything defensive back showed why he should be the most serious threat to Louisville’s Lamar Jackson as a Heisman candidate. USC’s Jackson returned a punt 55 yards, a kickoff 97 yards and caught a pass 52 yards, all for touchdowns – in addition to playing his usual shutdown corner. The Trojans routed Notre Dame, 45-27, for their eighth straight victory.

The Weak

In that same game, Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery pulled off two despicable acts and somehow was not ejected. First, he used his foot to nudge USC running back Aca’Cedric Ware, who was down on the ground with an apparent head injury – but that went unnoticed by the officials. Later in the game, Tillery stomped on the ankle of USC offensive lineman Zach Banner, and was caught in the act and flagged for a penalty.

The Irish were blown out by the Trojans to cap off a disastrous 4-8 season after being ranked in the preseason top 10. And now there’s a possibility that Brian Kelly won’t return to coach in 2017. Notre Dame’s nightmare of a year can’t end soon enough.

The Weak II

Pitt put up 76 points and Navy 75 and neither was the highest scoring team this week. Middle Tennessee hung 77 on Florida Atlantic while amassing 757 yards of offense. The Syracuse football team scored more points (61) in losing to Pitt than its basketball team did (50) in a loss to South Carolina.

Does anyone play defense anymore?

Projected committee rankings

1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Clemson, 4. Washington, 5. Michigan, 6. Wisconsin, 7. Penn State, 8. Oklahoma, 9. Colorado, 10. Oklahoma State, 11. USC, 12. Louisville, 13. Florida State, 14. West Virginia, 15. Florida.

Top Group of 5 teams: Western Michigan, Navy, Temple.

Projected New Year’s Six bowl matchups

Peach Bowl (CFP semifinal) : Alabama vs. Washington
Fiesta Bowl (CFP semifinal): Clemson vs. Ohio State
Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs. USC
Orange Bowl – Michigan vs. Louisville
Sugar Bowl – Florida vs. Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl – Penn State vs. Western Michigan

Bowling for Losers

Were you not happy that three teams with losing records made it to bowl games last season? (And by the way, they all won and still finished with losing records.)

Well, get ready, as there will be teams with losing records getting into bowl games again this year. Perhaps as many as five or six. Maybe even more.

That’s right, with 40 bowl games and 80 slots available, there simply won’t be enough 6-6 or better teams to fill them all up. Then teams with 5-7 records will have to be considered, the pecking order to be decided by the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report from the 2014-15 academic year.

Yep, whether your team goes bowling or not will all boil down to how many of the players from those schools graduated two years ago. Just as how things worked out for Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State last season when they clinched bowl berths despite finishing the regular season with 5-7 records.

The math for the 2016 bowl season is thus: Currently there are 65 bowl eligible teams, 15 short of the 80 bowl slots. There are 18 teams still alive to gain bowl eligibility, but there’s little chance that all 18 teams will win their remaining games to finish 6-6.

Here’s the breakdown:

Likely already eligible (1): Army. The Black Knights are 6-5, but they have two wins over FCS teams and the NCAA only counts one toward the six wins for bowl eligibility. In the event there are fewer than 80 bowl eligible teams, Army will be the first one in.

Likely to gain eligibility (2): TCU and South Alabama. Both teams just need to win one of their remaining two games to reach the six-win threshold. South Alabama was granted a waiver as it can count two FCS wins toward the total because its game last week against LSU was canceled so the Tigers could play Florida. The Jaguars ended up scheduling FCS Presbyterian as its game against the Gators was called off for the same reason thanks to Hurricane Matthew.

Likely to win (8): Indiana, Maryland, Northwestern, North Texas, UTSA, Hawaii, Arizona State and Ole Miss.

Likely to lose (7): SMU, Boston College, NC State, Texas, Southern Miss, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette (the latter has to win both of its remaining games).

As things stand, several teams currently 5-6 are in good shape win or lose this weekend. Northwestern, Vanderbilt, North Texas, Boston College, Indiana and Maryland are all high on the APR list. If they do go bowling with 5-7 records, they can thank their former teammates for putting in the time in the classroom.

Game of the Week

Michigan at Ohio State (-6.5), noon ET, ABC

This is shaping up to be the the most important “The Game” since the classic 10 years ago when No. 1 Ohio State edged No. 2 Michigan, 42-39. That game essentially decided the BCS title game participant, though there was nearly a rematch as Michigan finished just percentage points behind Florida for No. 2 in the final BCS standings. There’s a distinct possibility that the Buckeyes may earn a playoff spot this year despite not advancing to the Big Ten title game, as their path is blocked by Penn State even if they defeat Michigan.

Also keep an eye on

Washington (-6) at Washington State, 3:30 p.m. ET Friday, FOX

The Apple Cup will decide the Pac-12 North winner and also the conference’s fate in the playoff. A Huskies victory keeps the Pac-12’s hopes alive to appear in the playoff as they advance to the conference title game. A Cougars win most likely means the Pac-12 will miss the playoff for a second year in a row. Washington has won six of the last seven Apple Cups, including the last three.

Upset special

Wyoming (-3) at New Mexico, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Boise State is the highest ranked Group of Five team in the most recent committee rankings, but it cannot claim a New Year’s Six Bowl spot unless it wins the Mountain West title game. The Broncos can’t get there unless Wyoming loses the season finale to New Mexico, which at 7-4 is shooting for its best record since 2007, when it finished 9-4.

Player to watch

Florida at Florida State (-7.5), 8 p.m. ET, ABC

A New Year’s Six bowl berth may be on the line for both teams as they’re just outside of the top 12 in the current rankings. Florida State senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker might have to make the difference to keep the Seminoles’ hopes alive. Walker could’ve turned pro after last season but decided to return to school. He has racked up 13 sacks (second in the nation), 13.5 tackles for losses this season and remains a likely first-round draft pick.

Conference Calls Ringing Off the Hook

Last week, San Diego State became the first team to clinch a berth in the conference championship game for the 2016 season after it defeated Hawaii. Of the 10 FBS conferences, eight will stage title games this season, matching respective division champions.

Conference championship games for the four Power 5 conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC – obviously have playoff implications. That’s especially true this year since the Big 12, the only Power 5 conference not to have a title game, most likely has played itself out of a playoff spot.

In some sense, there’s probably even more at stake for three of the Group of Five conferences with title games – American, MAC and Mountain West. Each conference has at least one team contending for a New Years’ Six bowl slot – and remember, that automatic berth is only guaranteed to a conference champion, regardless of the selection committee rankings.

To break it all down, we present here the most likely and most Armageddon scenarios for each of these seven conference races:

ACC 

Best case: Clemson needs just one more win to clinch the Atlantic division. Virginia Tech owns the tiebreaker over North Carolina and it can clinch the Coastal with two more wins.

Worst case: Clemson loses to either Virginia Tech or UNC (both with at least two losses), leaving the committee to decide whether to take either Clemson or Louisville (both with one loss but not conference champion) for the playoff or leaving the ACC out entirely.

Big Ten

Best case: Michigan-Ohio State winner takes the Big Ten East and beats Wisconsin a second time in the Big Ten conference title game to claim a playoff spot.

Worst case: Michigan loses to Iowa and Ohio State, allowing Penn State to win the Big Ten East and crowning a conference champion with at least two losses.

Pac-12

Best case: Washington defeats Washington State to win the Apple Cup and then beats the South winner (Colorado, Utah or USC) to claim a playoff spot.

Worst case: Washington loses the Apple Cup, giving the North division to Washington State, leaving the Pac-12 champion with at least two losses and out of a playoff spot.

SEC

Best case: Alabama runs the table and cruises into the playoff for a third consecutive year.

Worst case: Alabama loses the Iron Bowl, leaving the SEC champion with at least two losses. Worse yet, the East champion (Florida, Kentucky or Tennessee) pulls the upset in the title game, as the SEC has only a non-champion Alabama with fewer than three losses.

American

Best case: Navy wins its remaining games to claim the West division and then takes the conference title game (though this could force the committee to postpone its decision on the NY6 bowls an extra week because Navy plays Army a week after the scheduled final selection).

Worst case: None of the contenders in either division finishes the regular season with fewer than three losses, completely taking the AAC out of the NY6 bowl contention.

MAC

Best case: Western Michigan runs the table and finishes the season 13-0, grabbing the first-ever NY6 bowl berth for the MAC, regardless of what happens in the other conferences.

Worst case: WMU loses to Toledo in the regular-season finale, leaving no team in the MAC with fewer than two losses, and completely out of the picture for an NY6 berth.

Mountain West

Best case: San Diego State wins out, and, combined with a Western Michigan loss somewhere, lands the NY6 bowl berth with a 12-1 record.

Worst case: San Diego State loses to Wyoming in the MWC title game, leaving both SDSU and Boise State ineligible for the NY6 bowl berth.

Game of the Week

USC at Washington (-8.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX

After losing two of their first three games, the Trojans have made a dramatic turnaround after redshirt freshman Sam Darnold was handed the starting QB job. USC has won five straight and now represents perhaps the most serious threat to Washington’s playoff aspirations. The Huskies have the nation’s second-longest winning streak at 12 games but they can ill afford to have any letdown.

Also keep an eye on

Minnesota at Nebraska (-8), 7:30 p.m. ET, BTN

While everyone has seemingly handed the Big Ten West to Wisconsin, Minnesota will have a say in the matter. In fact, if the Gophers win their last three games, they will claim the division title. Nebraska is reeling after back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State after starting the season 7-0.

Upset special

West Virginia at Texas (-2), noon ET, FS1

Charlie Strong might’ve saved his job – for now – with back-to-back wins over Baylor and Texas Tech, but his Longhorns will be facing their sternest challenge yet against West Virginia, the only Big 12 team that still has a flicker of hope of making the playoff. The Mountaineers need to win just to keep pace with the Oklahoma schools for the conference title.

Player to watch

Utah (-5.5) at Arizona State, 9:30 p.m. ET Thursday, FS1

Without much fanfare, Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez has become the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer among kickers. Gonzalez is 20-for-21 this season and made 6-of-7 field goals from 50 yards or more, including a school-record 59-yarder. His career point total of 475 broke the record set by former FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins and he’s just seven shy of becoming the first college player to make 100 career field goals.

Selection Committee’s Job Easy, For Now

On Tuesday, the selection committee will reveal its first rankings of the 2016 season. At first glance, it should be pretty easy to determine which four teams will land in this year’s College Football Playoff.

Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington are the only undefeated teams from Power 5 conferences and they should take up the four playoff spots (more on that below). Western Michigan, as the only other unbeaten team, should claim the Group of Five’s spot in the New Year’s Six bowl lineup.

But only if the season ended yesterday.

There are still five more weeks to go in the season and each of the top four teams – with the exception of Clemson – still faces its stiffest test yet. Alabama must get through LSU and Auburn, Michigan has to visit Ohio State, and Washington hosts USC and travels to the Palouse for the Apple Cup, and that’s all before their respective conference championship games.

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt replaced Arkansas’ Jeff Long as the committee chairman. On Tuesday he’s going to spin his own yarn about why the rankings are how they are. He might borrow from Long’s book with jargons such as “game control” and “quality loss,” or he might invent his own. But the initial rankings – or any of them before the Dec. 4 final rankings – don’t matter.

Unlike voters in the AP and coaches polls, the committee takes a fresh look at the teams each week as its members discuss how they should be ranked. The weekly shows are merely programming fillers that provide lots of talking points, but nothing more.

We learned that from the first season of the CFP.

Game of the Week

Washington 31, Utah 24: Of the remaining unbeaten playoff contenders, the Huskies probably were the most untested. But after winning a gritty road game against the Pac-12 South co-leaders, those doubts should subside some. Heisman candidate QB Jake Browning played a controlled if unspectacular game, but it was the Huskies’ special teams that made the difference at the end, breaking a 24-24 tie late on Dante Pettis’ 58-yard punt return with 3:25 left.

Player of the Week

Saquon Barkley, Penn State: The Nittany Lions’ resurgence has been both sudden and surprising. After losing to Pitt and getting blasted by Michigan, coach James Franklin was on the hot seat. But he has turned things around quickly as Penn State has won four straight, including an upset of Ohio State. Sophomore running back Barkley has been the Lions’ workhorse as he ran for 207 yards and caught three passes for 70 more in their 62-24 rout of Purdue.

The Weak

How does this continue to happen? Never mind the idiot players who value preening than their teams’ welfare, but how do the officials still not pay attention? We’re talking about players so anxious to drop the ball to celebrate a score that they can’t bear the thought of carrying the ball all the way across the goal line.

This idiocy has already happened a couple of times this season, and nearly a dozen times over the last few years, but it continues and the officials keep missing it, even with the help of replay. Oregon’s Pharaoh Brown apparently was about to score on a 72-yard pass reception when he flung the ball before crossing into the end zone. The play was so blatantly obvious that almost all TV viewers saw it immediately.

Except the guy who was standing 3 yards away and the Pac-12 replay crew that was supposed to review all scoring plays. The touchdown stood as Oregon took a 7-0 lead en route to a 54-35 win over Arizona State.

Projected Committee Ranking

1. Alabama, 2. Michigan, 3. Clemson, 4. Washington, 5. Louisville, 6. Ohio State, 7. Texas A&M, 8. Wisconsin, 9. Nebraska, 10. Florida, 11. Auburn, 12. Oklahoma, 13. Penn State, 14. Baylor, 15. Western Michigan.

Projected New Year’s Six bowl matchups

Fiesta Bowl (CFP semifinal): Michigan vs. Clemson

Peach Bowl (CFP semifinal): Alabama vs. Washington

Rose Bowl: Colorado vs. Wisconsin

Sugar Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma

Orange Bowl: Louisville vs. Ohio State

Cotton Bowl: Nebraska vs. Western Michigan

The NCAA: It’s Never About the Kids

The NCAA on Monday issued a three-year moratorium on new bowl games, effectively killing new bowls about to sprout up in Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina and Austin, Texas. It looks like we’re stuck with no more than 40 bowl games plus the College Football Playoff Championship game until at least the 2019 season.

Some people snickered and rejoiced. They already complained that there were too many bowls last season when three teams with losing records had to be plucked just to fill all 80 bowl berths. The NCAA, obviously, agreed.

The move is misguided at best. But the more important fact is that once again, when in doubt, the NCAA always rules against the “student-athletes” that it claims to serve.

Who benefits the most from the bowl games? The players, of course. They get a few more weeks of football (and training table), an all-expenses paid trip to usually somewhere warm, a few bucks to spend with their per diem, and swag provided by the bowls that’s worth hundreds of dollars in merchandise.

The bowl games, except the biggest ones involved in the College Football Playoff, actually don’t benefit the schools very much financially. Most teams end up losing money after expenses because they cannot make up the cost of unsold tickets each school must absorb at face value. That, plus the additional expenses of transporting the band and other personnel to the games (and paying coaches their bonuses), is why the administrators are hardly heartbroken to see a stop to the proliferation of bowl games.

This is essentially why the moratorium was issued. To say that the NCAA serves the student-athletes is just a sick joke besides being a blatant lie. The NCAA is a consortium of the universities and it really just serves the member institutions and their bottom lines.

Need more proof? Just look at the blanket satellite camp ban that was issued a few days before the bowl moratorium. At the behest of the SEC and the ACC, which have been enduring a constant onslaught since one Jim Harbaugh returned to coach college football, the NCAA abolished satellite camps, effective immediately.

Just who does the satellite camp ban hurt the most, you ask? Not Jim Harbaugh, but the student-athletes. You see, these camps’ main purpose was to allow the less recruited (the non- 5-star or 4-star recruits) to be seen by a multitude of coaches working in camps all across America. These recruits would be able to go to a couple of their camps near their homes and be evaluated by coaches from dozens of programs, including many Group of Five schools.

But now that opportunity is gone. If you go to Urban Meyer’s camp in Columbus but had no shot of getting a scholarship from Ohio State, now you’ve lost a chance to be seen by the several MAC coaches who typically worked in the camp. The same goes for Hugh Freeze’s camp at Ole Miss, where usually several Sun Belt coaches were present.

And you know what’s more insane? The Sun Belt, along with the Mountain West, Big 12 and Pac-12 all joined the SEC and ACC and voted for the satellite camp ban, against the interest of many coaches of their own institutions. Even some of the coaches who were for the ban – most notably Freeze – are expressing regrets now as they hadn’t fully realized the potential consequences.

Make no mistake, the satellite camp ban isn’t going to hurt Harbaugh, Meyer or Freeze one iota. They’re still going to get their elite recruits. It’s the kids scraping to get a Division I football scholarship – and their families – who are going to feel the burn of the latest NCAA edict.

They should get real, however. Just like the bowl moratorium, the NCAA is never about them anyway. It likes the essential services the “student-athletes” provides to fill the coffers of all of the member institutions, but their welfare is the last thing that keeps the NCAA administrators up at night.

Postscript: Predictably, Harbaugh has hit back with a vengeance, calling the NCAA “hypocritical” and suggesting it drop the use of “student-athletes for consistency.”