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Playoff Not an Improvement Over BCS

Sep 02, 2014 -- 3:13pm

I believe it is accurate to say most college football fans – and certainly the media -- celebrated the death of the BCS. The new 4-team playoff has been hailed as the start of a wonderful new era.

Is it?

I vote no. I think it is simply more of the same.

What the fans and media want is a way to determine a true champion.

Sadly, under the current makeup of the NCAA’s top football division, which has 125 schools, there is no answer possible to this question -- or questions about how to govern the sport about such things as paying athletes a stipend.

Sure, picking four teams instead of two with a chance to be the champion is a better idea, but that still doesn’t make it a good idea. Nor does it make it a fairer or more accurate way of doing business.

One of the arguments of those who support the new system is that there is now a better method of selecting the four “playoff” teams than there was of determining the two teams to play in the BCS Championship Game.

A 13-person panel of experts – current athletic directors, former coaches and players, scholars – will start publicly revealing their rankings teams in late October. Their decision is final. The coaches and media polls will not be factors in this process. The dreaded computer factor is dead.

I’m not sold on this panel of experts. I won’t even go into the personal biases that will be in play. I worry about, literally, how dedicated these people will be. I worry about how football savvy they are. Will they watch and analyze games or will they check out the highlights? How many games can they see? Will they depend on game tapes?

Most still have jobs. How much time will they devote to this? Will someone such as Archie Manning be willing to give up that much golf to do this as thoroughly as needed?

See my point?

I do give the new way of determining a champion of couple of attaboys. Instead of one BCS title game, we’ll now have two semifinal games and a championship game. As a fan, the more games the better. And the revenue generated by a 4-team playoff likely means an 8-team playoff is soon to come.

But until the NCAA has a workable number of schools, comparable scheduling and a method of earning a playoff spot on the field, the college football champion will always be just someone’s opinion.

Thank Heavens for September

Sep 02, 2014 -- 9:33am

If you love watching sports as I do – and I assume you do or you wouldn’t be listening to me now – September is probably your favorite month.

Consider that . . .

The NFL season kicks off.

College football is under way.

Major League Baseball’s pennant races are heating up.

The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup comes to an end – and there’s the Ryder Cup for a delicious desert.

NASCAR’s Chase begins.

Pro tennis determines another U.S. Open champion.

There’s even a little something for basketball and hockey fans with some NBA and NHL camps opening.

January is a close second – NFL playoffs, college football playoffs, start of the golf season, NBA, NHL, college basketball.

February isn’t bad -- Super Bowl, Daytona 500, opening of MLB’s spring training, NBA, NHL, college basketball.

October is delightful – NFL, college football, the Chase continues, the MLB playoffs and World Series, NBA and NHL seasons begin.

But nothing beats September for me, and it’s finally here

Hallelujah!

Predictions: FSU rolls; Gators win . . .

Aug 29, 2014 -- 11:06am

By: Thomas Lamm

Each week during the football season I’m going to tell you who’ll win games involving the Jaguars, the Seminoles and the Gators. To be sporty, I’ll give you the final scores, for entertainment purposes only, of course.

FSU vs. Oklahoma State, Dallas – Look for the Seminoles to flex their muscles. It’s good that the Noles begin defense of their national title with a major opponent. The Cowboys will provide a reasonable test and attract plenty of attention to test the Seminoles’ egos. But in the end this Indians-Cowboys contest will be as one-sided as The Battle of the Little Big Horn. FSU, favored by 19, wins 49-13.

Idaho at Florida – The Gators have much to prove and they’ll take out much of their frustration from last season on the visiting Vandals, who stink of defense. Still, there will be enough hiccups to worry Gator Nation, but for the moment The Swamp will be rocking as the Gators snap a 7-game losing streak. Florida, favored by 36½ wins 35-13.

Bonus Games:

Clemson at Georgia – I don’t have a good feeling about the Bulldogs. The offseason issues with young men behaving badly and starting a new quarterback, 5th-year senior Hudson Mason, give bad vibes. Clemson may be rebuilding on offense, but defensive end Vic Beasley and his mates will make it a long afternoon between the hedges. The Tigers, 8-point underdogs, pull off the upset, 24-20.

Miami at Louisville (Monday) – QB Teddy Bridgewater’s exit over rides Coach Bob Petrino’s return. The Hurricanes are getting better on the lines of scrimmage and that’s the key to this game. Miami, a 3-point underdog, wins 21-13.

Here’s another bonus -- Overall thoughts about the Seminoles:

FSU may be a better team this season than last year, and that’s a mouthful considering the Seminoles were unbeaten national champions in 2013.

That, by the way, doesn’t mean they’ll win another national title. In fact, I’m predicting they won’t repeat. Repeating is obviously difficult because it happens so seldom.

I’ll admit I’m playing the odds here because there are lots of reasons to rate FSU as the favorite. You can start with talent, throw in experience, add a returning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and include a reasonably soft schedule.

They may actually have too much experience and talent. They’ll start nine seniors on offense, and that group doesn’t include their QB, Jameis Winston. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s most important jobs will be keeping his players focused on the next game, not the NFL and wannabe agents. That’s more challenging than game planning for Oklahoma State, Clemson, Louisville, Notre Dame and Florida.

Muschamp's Fate Will be Determined in October

Aug 26, 2014 -- 9:38am

Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley is right not to put a number of what it will take to save the job of his beleaguered football coach, Will Muschamp.

Muschamp should be judged more on which teams the Gators defeat and lose to than their overall record.

If I was coaching the Gators they should win five games (Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky). If Bear Bryant was coaching the Gators they’d likely lose to Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State.

That means the season and Muschamp’s job comes down to a three-week stretch in October when the Gators play at Tennessee and then host LSU and Missouri.

Win those three games for an 8-4 record and Muschamp’s job should be safe. Anything less and he deserves to be fired.

The No. 1 key game is LSU. The Tigers likely will be favored in Gainesville. But Muschamp’s Gators must win at least one game as underdogs, particularly at home, to prove they are headed in the right direction.

I realize, of course, there are lots of variations of my simplistic outline of the season, where an 8-4 record wouldn’t be enough, in my opinion, to save Muschamp’s job. For one, he simply can’t afford to lose one of the five teams listed as “sure” victories – even if Florida upsets Georgia or South Carolina.

It’s possible, of course, the Gators could pull off several upsets. No one would argue the Gators have more than their share of elite athletes. Are they being properly prepared and motivated? Are they being put in the best positions for success? That’s coaching.

Another factor will be the style of football the Gators play. Muschamp has been a defensive-minded coach who believed in a grind-it-out offense to eat clock and avoid taking risks. Will the Gators continue to be so conservative on offense or will Muschamp allow new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to run his up-tempo offense?

What’s worse than losing? Losing and being boring.

I don’t think Muschamp should have been hired 3½ years ago. It quickly became obvious to me he was in over his head as a head coach at an elite program. Is it possible he has learned enough with on-the-job training to be successful at Florida?

Yes, that’s possible. We’ll find out in October.

C'mon Gus, Give the Ball to Bortles

Aug 25, 2014 -- 9:45am

I’m more confused than ever.

Based on what I’ve seen, Chad Henne has looked like a solid veteran journeyman NFL quarterback who has the talent to salvage a team’s season in an emergency. His preseason performances have been solid.

Based on what I’ve seen, Blake Bortles has looked even better than his lofty third overall draft selection would indicate. His preseason performances have been outstanding.

So why is Coach Gus Bradley so adamant that Henne is the starter and there’s no quarterback competition?

Listen, I know Bradley knows far more about football than I do. But that doesn’t mean he’s always right.

I also understand not rushing a rookie -- any rookie but especially a quarterback -- into the action too soon is smart. But Bortles seemingly has passed every test thrown his way. He appears more ready than advertised.

Many thought the Jaguars drafted Bortles too high. While everyone saw the potential – great size, athletic, tireless worker, relentless competitor – most thought he needed major work on his mechanics, things such as footwork; learning to read defenses; and playing more from the pocket.

I’m not suggesting Bortles is a finished product. There’s no doubt when the real season begins he’ll see things from sophisticated NFL defenses he’s never seen. He’ll make mistakes.

But he clearly he’s ahead of what even the Jaguars expected. NFL analysts are raving about his feel for the position, his mechanics, his poise and his not-so-raw talent. Bradley can’t hide the excitement in his voice when talking about his rookie quarterback.

I understand the value of learning by observation, but few would argue the best way to learn is by doing, not watching. Besides, it isn’t like Bortles is waiting in the wings while a future Hal of Famer plays.

Why wait? At the very least why not consider playing Bortles sooner than later. 

NFL Pop Quiz

Aug 21, 2014 -- 9:55am

Today I’m giving you an NFL pop quiz.

What’s the No. 1 key ingredient to winning in the NFL?

A -- Is it coaching?

B – Is it quarterback play?

C – Is it having outstanding lines of scrimmage?

D – Is it a great defense?

E – Is it luck (as in not getting screwed by the zebras)?

F -- None of the above.

The answer is F, none of the above.

So what is the key ingredient?

It’s staying healthy.

No word is used more often by coaches and players than “injury”. No phrase is uttered more often than “staying healthy”. In football the question isn’t if a player will be injured but when and how badly will he be injured.

 Injuries are a part of all sports but nothing like they are in football. They indicate success and failure more than anything a GM, coach or player can do.

That’s why nearly every new rule is about protecting players. Trouble is large, powerful and fast men crashing into one another is the perfect formula for not staying healthy. 

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