Behind the Mic: Four Is Not Enough

If any college football fan doubts the wisdom of a four-team College Football Playoff system, this past weekend should eliminate those doubts.  The Selection Committee has no choice under the current system.  They can choose four and ONLY four.  The idea in the beginning was that conference champions would fill the four slots.  The only problem there is that there are five power conferences, but I’m sure the founders felt they could surely eliminate one of the champions.  But this year, the committee eliminated two – the Big 12 champions and the Big 10 champion.  The ACC will send Clemson; the Pac 12 will send Washington; and the SEC will send Alabama.  It is hard to argue with any of those choices.

Now we come to Ohio State.  Should they go or should the committee have chosen Penn State – the Big 10 champion?  I have no argument with Ohio State’s pedigree.  They lost only one game; they beat Michigan; they were ranked in the top three all year; and they beat Michigan.  That’s good enough for me.  EXCEPT….

Penn State won the Big 10 championship, while Ohio State did not play at all last week.  Penn State gave Ohio State their only loss of the year 24-21.  Penn State’s losses were to Pitt, which, by the way, beat Clemson and they lost to Michigan.  Both of those losses were on the road.  And if “playing well at the end of the year” means anything, Penn State has not lost since September.  They have won nine games in a row.  Ohio State lost to Penn State in October and Michigan lost two of their last three.

Winning a conference title is supposed to give the winning team a 13th data point.  Penn State earned that point; Ohio State did not.  Conference championships should matter.  For two teams, it did not.

As I said earlier, Ohio State, with only one loss should be in the mix for a national championship.  My fault with the system is four teams.  If you make it eight you add only one more week to the schedule and that should be palatable.  I know if you add eight, then nine and ten will feel shunned.  But eight gives you the five conference champions,   (the Big 12 will start playing one next year) and three “wild cards”.  A similar system works quite well for the NFL and six of those teams have gone on to win the Super Bowl.

So Penn State will play in the Rose Bowl against USC and that certainly is a justified reward for their season, but should they have been playing for a national championship?  What if you were on the committee – how would you have voted?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I really started to watch Penn State because of Saquon Barkley, the former Whitehall Zephyr. Now I watch them because they are one of the most exciting and dramatic teams in college football.  Their win over Wisconsin, after being down by 21 points and being totally dominated early in the game, was nothing short of miraculous!
  2. The Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks played almost as well on Friday night against undefeated Imhotep Charter out of Philadelphia. Imhotep is the defending state champion and has won 28 games in a row.  No team stayed within 30 points of them this season.  Until they met the Hawks!  The Hawks lost 24-13 when Imhotep scored a TD late in the game. Beca was in it right up until the very end of the game and actually led at one point.  It was a great year for Coach Kyle Haas and the Beca football team.
  3. Notre Dame High School did not win a game two years ago. On Friday night, they played in the PIAA state semifinal game against undefeated Middletown.  The Crusaders lost that game, but their resurgence in the past two years has been amazing.
  4. The Eagles looked like a team that cannot make the playoffs this past Sunday. The Bengals just crushed them.  Maybe it’s not a good thing for the coach to say they are looking towards the future before the present is completed.  The Eagles took major steps in the wrong direction this past Sunday.
  5. High school basketball begins next week with Freedom-Allen and Liberty-Easton on Tuesday, December 13. We will have Liberty-Central and Saucon Valley-Wilson on Friday, December 16.  The wrestling season begins on Wednesday, December 14, with Liberty taking on Nazareth.

 

 Gary's Picks

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 12-3; Overall – 119-72-2 – 62%)
Week Fourteen

OAKLAND
PHILADELPHIA
MINNESOTA
DETROIT
CINCINNATI
ARIZONA
INDIANAPOLIS
DENVER
CAROLINA
PITTSBURGH
JETS
TAMPA BAY
ATLANTA
SEATTLE
DALLAS
NEW ENGLAND

Behind the Mic: Saquon Barkley

October 17th was a rare Saturday for me.  Campus Insiders, an internet sports streaming group affiliated with the Patriot League, was granted the rights to the Lafayette-Harvard game.  There were slim pickings among the high school match-ups, so we all took the day off, a circumstance usually unheard of at this time of the year.  So what did I decide to do – WATCH football, of course. Specifically, I wanted to watch Penn State freshman “phenom”, Saquon Barkley of Whitehall High School, go up against the #1 team in the nation – Ohio State.  This, as many know, is the same Saquon Barkley who thrilled us on RCN-TV last year.  The 18-year-old is a true freshman and playing Big Ten football.  Watching him on Saturday night and putting it mildly, he did not disappoint.

Saquon had sat out the previous two games due to an ankle injury and his availability for Saturday’s game was not known prior to game time.  Trust me, he was available. Saquon rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per carry.  And he had a 44-yard touchdown run called back in the first quarter.  He did have a season-long 56-yard run in the fourth quarter.  He had four runs of over 14 yards.  He has now rushed for over 100 yards in three games and combined with the 195 yards rushing against Rutgers, he now ranks third and fourth in all-time rushing games at Penn State by a freshman.

His runs were dazzling and included another leap over a potential tackler, his second of the season.  He is spectacular at “putting his foot into the ground” and making cuts that leave defenders grasping at air or just watching him run by them.  To me, he has instincts that match some of the greatest to ever play the game.

Barkley is shredding college defenses much like he did at Whitehall.  In his senior year, he rushed for 1851 yards, 8.6 yards per carry and scored 24 rushing touchdowns.  He added another three receiving and a punt and kickoff return for touchdowns.  Take a look at his high school highlight tape:

When his Penn State highlight tape is put together at the end of the season, it should look almost as impressive.

Add to that, he is a great young man who distinguished himself both as a student and an athlete at Whitehall.  He played basketball, even though he was not a great basketball player and could have easily walked away from the team his senior year after acquiring the full scholarship at Penn State.  He played hard in every game and used all the basketball ability he had.  Then, he went on to be a track star and gave away one of his gold medals to a young lady whom he felt deserved one after a bad break cost her a victory.

For me, it is always special to follow the players who were part of the RCN broadcasts in high school.  I relish their success.  Liberty High School product and Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard comes to mind as he gets ready to launch an NBA career.  I want the same kind of success for Saquon.

Here’s hoping Saquon stays injury-free and continues to create exceptional highlight reels.  He has moved well beyond local television in the Lehigh Valley to national exposure on the major networks. For the next 3 ½ seasons, I will be yelling, like all the Nittany Lions fans,

“We are – Penn State!!”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Cleveland QB Johnny Manziel got into trouble again this past week when he was stopped and questioned by police following an argument with his girlfriend. He was stopped in his car and admitted to drinking prior to the incident.  He was not arrested and did not play in the Cleveland-Denver game.
  2. In case you did not believe Yogi Berra when he said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”, take a look at the Michigan State-Michigan game this past Saturday:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/10/michigan-state-stuns-michigan-by-returning-punters-fumble-for-td-on-final-play

  1. If you watched the Colts self-destruct against the Patriots on Sunday night, this might be what they really wanted to do:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/10/university-of-maine-ran-a-similar-play-to-colts-trick-play-but-it-actually-worked#cx_ab_test_id=17&cx_ab_test_variant=cx_blend&cx_art_pos=4&cx_navSource=arttop&cx_tag=trend&cx_ctrl_comp_grp=true&cxrecs_s

  1. If you are an Eagles’ fan, you must constantly be bewildered. How can they make so many mistakes on offense and still win?  If “defense wins championships”, the Eagles can still have a good season.
  2. The EPC South picture could become clearer on Friday night when Freedom (5-0; 7-0) visits Parkland (4-1; 6-1). You can watch the game LIVE on RCN-TV.  Saturday’s games are Lafayette at Holy Cross LIVE at 1:00 and Wilson at Pen Argyl at 7:00.

Gary's Picks

NFL PICKS LAST WEEK – 9-5; OVERALL 61-30 (67%)

NFL PICKS (WEEK SEVEN)
SEATTLE
BUFFALO
WASHINGTON
ATLANTA
INDIANAPOLIS
DETROIT
PITTSBURGH
BROWNS
HOUSTON
NEW ENGLAND
SAN DIEGO
GIANTS
CAROLINA
ARIZONA