Friday, December 02, 2016

It's Time for a 16-Team College Football Playoff

Tuesday night, the latest College Football Playoff rankings were released.  Alabama is #1, Ohio State stayed #2, Clemson moved up from #4 to #3, and Washington moved up to #4, with Michigan sliding from #3 to #5 after its double overtime loss to Ohio State.  Two more Big Ten teams, Wisconsin and Penn State, follow at #6 and #7, with Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State rounding out the Top 10.

No matter what happens this weekend in the conference championship games and Bedlam, a deserving team (or five or six) will be left out of the College Football Playoff, not that any team is without its faults.
  • #1 Alabama is a shoo-in, even if it loses to #15 Florida this Saturday in the SEC Championship game.  While their non-conference slate did include an FCS opponent, the Crimson Tide destroyed #11 USC in the season opener, beat Western Kentucky (who is now 9-3 and playing for the Conference USA title this weekend) the following weekend, won road games at #21 LSU and #22 Tennessee, and beat #14 Auburn at home.
  • #2 Ohio State's only loss is to #7 Penn State in Happy Valley on kind of a fluky play (a blocked field goal that would have put OSU up 10, but ended up being returned by PSU for the game-winning touchdown), and the Buckeyes have beaten #5 Michigan, #7 Wisconsin (in Madison), and #9 Oklahoma (in Norman).  That said, the Buckeyes are not the Big Ten champs (or even playing for the championship), and they barely squeaked by 4-8 Michigan State two weeks ago, and needed a controversial call in double OT to beat rival Michigan this past Saturday.
  • #3 Clemson, whose only loss is on a last-second field goal to #25 Pitt at home, hasn't beaten anyone ranked in the Top 10, but has beaten three Top 15 teams:  #12 Florida State and #14 Auburn (both on the road) and #13 Louisville at home.
  • #4 Washington, whose only loss is to #11 USC at home, arguably has the weakest résumé of the top five teams, having only beaten #18 Stanford at home and #22 Utah on the road.
  • While #5 Michigan's only losses are to Iowa and #2 Ohio State by a combined 4 points, the Wolverines do still have two losses and they are the only team in the top nine that lost to a team that is not currently ranked in the CFP Top 25.  On the bright side, Michigan has beaten #6 Wisconsin at home, #7 Penn State at home (by 39 points), and #8 Colorado at home (by 17 points).  They could still slip into the playoff if Clemson or Washington loses this weekend, but could also get bumped out by Penn State, Wisconsin, Colorado, or Oklahoma.
  • #6 Wisconsin or #7 Penn State will have won the toughest conference's championship, and if Penn State wins the championship game, can you really leave the Nittany Lions out of the CFP and put Ohio State in when Penn State beat Ohio State?  However, again, both teams have two losses.  Wisconsin beat #21 LSU in the season opener, and has benefitted from the imbalanced Big Ten divisions.  The Badgers lost heartbreakers to #5 Michigan and #2 Ohio State in consecutive weeks, both by 7 points (the latter in overtime), but beat everyone else they played (including winning at Iowa, which Michigan was unable to do).  Penn State lost at #25 Pitt in the second week of the season and then by 39 points at #5 Michigan two weeks later, but haven't lost since, including that season-defining win over #2 Ohio State.  Since then, their closest win was a 45-31 win over Indiana.  They also have a win over Temple, which is 9-3 and playing Navy for the AAC title this weekend.
  • Since #8 Colorado lost at #5 Michigan in the third game of the year, the Buffaloes have gone 8-1, with their sole loss being a 21-17 loss at #11 USC.  Along the way, they have beaten #18 Stanford in Palo Alto and #22 Utah at home.  I'm not sure that a win over #4 Washington in the Pac-12 Championship game would give Colorado enough of a résumé to jump over Michigan and whoever wins the Big Ten Championship game, but then again, I think it's highly unlikely that the CFP Committee would put three Big Ten teams in the playoff.
  • In this year's edition of Bedlam, #9 Oklahoma and #10 Oklahoma State are basically playing a CFP elimination game.  Oklahoma has a chance to go undefeated in the Big XII if it beats Oklahoma State this Saturday, but the Sooners have two losses and the Big XII is pretty weak this year (only 3 teams ranked in the CFP rankings).  Sure, the Sooners' only two losses are to ranked teams in the first three weeks of the season (#24 Houston and #2 Ohio State), but both were double-digit losses, and the Sooners' only win over a team currently ranked in the CFP Top 25 came two weeks ago, when they routed #16 West Virginia, 56-28.  The Cowboys are in kind of the same boat, but with worse losses.  They suffered that heartbreaking loss to Central Michigan at home on a hail mary after the refs incorrectly gave CMU an untimed down at the end of the game.  Two weeks later, they lost at Baylor.  They have beaten #16 West Virginia and #25 Pitt, though.
  • #11 USC has three losses, which they suffered in the first four weeks (to #1 Alabama, at #18 Stanford, and at #22 Utah), but the Trojans have won eight straight since then.  USC is the only Power Five team that can say it beat both of the teams playing in its conference championship game (#4 Washington and #8 Colorado).  I find it hard to believe they could possibly leap into the Top 4 of the CFP rankings, though.
  • And let's not forget #17 Western Michigan, who could very well finish undefeated, but has no chance of making the College Football Playoff, which is kind of BS.

You're probably thinking, "Where's all of this going?  And how are your kids?"  Well, fair reader, I'm getting to that.  And the kids are doing great.  The girls are both in school, and Son is a two-and-a-half-year-old ball of energy and hilarity.  They grow up so fast.  But more to the point, all of this analysis of teams that will get screwed over is to propose a larger college football playoff. 

An eight-team playoff would be better than a four-team playoff, but a 16-team playoff would make the most sense in ensuring that everyone gets a fair shot.  The argument against expanding the playoffs that I've heard is that it will disrupt finals for the players.  If the lower NCAA divisions can have playoffs that work around finals (with 24 teams, no less), then I don't see why it would be a problem for the FBS schools.

With that in mind, here is how my proposed 16-team playoff would work:

1. The regular season would be shortened to 11 games, with the last regular season game for conferences with a conference title game happening the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Whether conferences would go with eight- or nine-game in-conference schedules would be up to the individual conferences in their infinite wisdom.  Conference championship games and final regular season games for teams in conferences without a title game would happen the weekend of Thanksgiving.  As it currently stands, just about every team plays the weekend of Thanksgiving anyway, so this wouldn't be much of a change.  And the Army/Navy game would have to be moved up, so that it couldn't wreak havoc on the selection process, as it might do this year.

2.  Every conference champion will receive an automatic berth.  Like college basketball, if a conference holds a championship game, the winner of the championship game gets the automatic berth.  If not, it's the regular season champ.  This creates the drama of the potential Cinderella -- a mid-major team proving its mettle by upsetting a Power Five team, capturing the hearts of millions in the process.  But what about the four teams who aren't in a conference?  Well, Army, BYU, UMass, and Notre Dame will just have to figure out for themselves whether they think they can survive without being in a conference (i.e., hoping to get one of the six at-large spots -– see #3 below) or if they have a better chance of making the playoffs in a conference.

3.  The remaining six playoff spots will be determined by the College Football Playoff Committee rankings, so the six highest-ranked non-conference champions would receive at-large berths to the playoffs.  This way, if a really good team stumbles in its conference title game or, like this year, two really good teams (Michigan and Ohio State) don't make it to their conference title game, those teams would still have a chance to make the playoffs.  While I realize that no ranking system will be without controversy, under this system, the margin for error is not as slim as it is under the current system, where, as we will see this Sunday, several very good teams will not have a chance to play for the national title.

4.  The bracket would be seeded 1-16, based on the CFP rankings, regardless of whether a team won its conference title.  For conference champions not ranked in the Top 25 of the CFP rankings, the CFP Committee would determine the seeding.  So, for instance, assuming the top two spots in the current rankings hold (i.e., Alabama #1 and Ohio State #2), Ohio State would get the #2 seed, even though the Buckeyes did not win their conference title.  However, conference champions playing at-large teams would get to play their Round of 16 games at home.  How exciting would it be for a team like Western Michigan or Western Kentucky to host Michigan or Ohio State in a first-round playoff game?

To cover all bases, here is how the location of the Round of 16 games would be determined:
(a)  For games between two conference champions, the game would be played at the campus of the higher-seeded team.
(b)  For games between two at-large teams, the game would be played at the campus of the higher-seeded team.
(c)  For games between a conference champion and an at-large team, the game would be played at the campus of the conference champion.

For instance, assuming for the sake of this exercise that the rankings right now do not change (and assuming the higher-ranked team wins any conference title game, and assuming the team with the better record that is not ranked will win any other conference title game between two unranked teams), here's how the Round of 16 games would shake out:

(16) Arkansas State (Sun Belt champ) at (1) Alabama (SEC champ)
(8) Colorado (at-large) at (9) Oklahoma (Big XII champ)
(13) Navy (AAC champ) at (4) Washington (Pac-12 champ)
(5) Michigan (at-large) at (12) Western Michigan (MAC champ)
(14) San Diego State (Mountain West champ) at (3) Clemson (ACC champ)
(11) USC (at-large) at (6) Wisconsin (Big Ten champ)
(10) Oklahoma State (at-large) at (7) Penn State (at-large)
(2) Ohio State (at-large) at (15) Western Kentucky (C-USA champ)

5.  Here is how the schedule would go:
Round of 16:  the first weekend of December, at campus sites of higher-seeded teams or conference champions (see #4 above).
Quarterfinals:  the second weekend of December, at campus sites of higher-seeded teams.
Semifinals:  January 1 (or January 2, if January 1 falls on a Sunday), at neutral sites.
Championship:  the Monday at least 9 days, but no more than 14 days, after January 1 (or January 2, if January 1 falls on a Sunday), at a neutral site.  Thus, if January 1 is a Saturday, the teams would play on January 10.  If January 1 is a Tuesday, the teams would play on January 14.

This schedule should allow for finals to be relatively uninterrupted for most schools.

6.  Similar to the current system, the neutral site games would rotate among the New Years Six Bowl sites -– the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Peach Bowl.  They would pair off in threes (for instance, Rose, Cotton, and Orange in one group, and Fiesta, Sugar, and Peach in the other group), and each group would get the semis and final every other year, with the final game rotating within each group.  Thus, if the Rose and Cotton hosted semis, and the Orange hosted the final in 2017, then in 2019, either the Rose or Cotton would host the final.

7.  The remaining bowl-eligible teams would still play in bowl games.  This would mean the remaining teams that finish .500 or better still have something to play for, although there would be no more New Years Six Bowls.  I love the Rose Bowl, and it would be hard to see it go as a standalone game (and I'm sure there are many college football traditionalists who would go ape shit over the thought of this), but let's be honest here.  What we all really want, deep down, is a system that determines a true national champion without leaving legitimate contenders by the wayside.


So there you have it.  Am I missing or overlooking anything?

Hair Band Friday - 12/2/16

1.  "Murder in High-Heels" by Kiss


2.  "For a Million Years" by Lynch Mob


3.  "It ('s a Monster)" by Extreme


4.  "Never" by Heart


5.  "Wasted" by Def Leppard


6.  "Play Dirty" by Poison


7.  "Just Take My Heart" by Mr. Big


8.  "Blind in Texas" by W.A.S.P.


9.  "Party's Over" by Tesla


10.  "Summer Nights" by Van Halen

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell

A mere 35 years ago Sunday, British synthpop duo Soft Cell released their debut album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret.  The album hit #5 on the British album charts and #22 on the Billboard album charts, but of course, the group is best known for their cover of Gloria Jones's "Tainted Love," which appeared on the album.  While not a hit for Jones, "Tainted Love" became an international hit for Soft Cell, who slowed the tempo down and changed it from a soul song to a brooding, synth-laden '80s classic.  "Tainted Love" topped the singles charts in six countries and hit the Top 10 in another nine countries, including #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The song ended up being the #1 song on the UK's year-end pop chart for 1981, and if you know of Soft Cell, it's likely because of this song.  There were a couple versions of the video, but here is the original.

Undefeated After Week 13

Once again, the only two undefeated teams won their games.  #1 Alabama beat arch rival #13 Auburn in the Iron Bowl, 30-12, while #21 Western Michigan won its eleventh game in a row by at least two touchdowns, topping Toledo 55-35.  Both teams play in their respective conference championship games this weekend.

Western Michigan's MAC Championship game takes on some added importance for getting a New Years Six bowl bid.  As I've previously noted, the non-Power-Five conference champion ranked highest in the College Football Playoff gets a berth in a New Years Six bowl, specifically the Cotton Bowl.  Western Michigan is ranked #17 in the new CFP rankings, while Navy is ranked #19.  This could end up being a huge deal because, if Navy beats Temple this weekend in the AAC Championship game and leapfrogs Western Michigan in the CFP rankings, the Cotton Bowl berth may have to wait until after Navy plays Army next weekend.  If Navy ends up ranked higher than Western Michigan in the final CFP rankings, the Midshipmen would go to the Cotton Bowl over the Broncos.  This scenario would basically end up causing a disastrous logjam in the bowl system because the non-New Years Six bowls, particularly those involving the MAC and the AAC, would have to wait an additional week before handing out bids, while they waited to see if Navy or Western Michigan earns the Cotton Bowl bid.  In my opinion, if Western Michigan wins this Saturday to go 13-0, they should get the Cotton Bowl berth regardless of what Navy does.  Then again, I'm not on the CFP Committee.  Yet.

The Top 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings had some slight changes, thanks to Ohio State's win over Michigan.  Here are the top four (along with each team's best win and worst loss, where applicable):
1.  Alabama (12-0)
Best win:  #11 USC (9/3; 52-6)
Worst loss:  N/A
2.  Ohio State (11-1)
Best win:  #5 Michigan (11/19; 30-27 (2OT))
Worst loss:  at #7 Penn State (10/22; 24-21)
3.  Clemson (11-1)
Best win:  at #12 Florida State (10/29; 37-34)
Worst loss:  #25 Pittsburgh (43-42; 11/12)
4.  Washington (11-1)
Best win:  #18 Stanford (9/30; 44-6)


Worst loss: #11 USC (11/12; 26-13)

Here is a breakdown of the undefeated teams and each team's remaining game (rankings are College Football Playoff Committee rankings):

#1 Alabama 12-0
Remaining game:
12/3 (3 p.m. ET; CBS) – SEC championship game (Atlanta) vs. #15 Florida (8-3) 

#17 Western Michigan 12-0
Remaining game:
12/2 (6 p.m. ET; ESPN2) – MAC championship game (Detroit) vs. Ohio (8-4)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Big Ten Bowl Outlook

Rivarly Weekend has come and gone without any major casualties, aside from maybe Michigan's College Football Playoff chances.  All three teams that needed to win to clinch bowl eligibility -- Indiana, Maryland, and Northwestern -- won their respective games, which means the Big Ten has ten bowl-eligible teams.

In a game they will be talking about for years to come, #2 Ohio State outlasted #3 Michigan in double overtime, 30-27, after the Buckeyes went for it on fourth down in the second OT, getting a first down on a controversial spot.  Why Urban Meyer didn't kick the field goal to send it to a third overtime is beyond me, but it worked, as the Buckeyes scored the winning touchdown a play later.  The loss likely relegates the Wolverines to a measly New Years Six bowl, rather than the College Football Playoffs, unless there are some upsets this weekend in other conference championship games.

As for the trophy games, on Friday, Iowa destroyed #16 Nebraska for the Heroes Trophy.  On Saturday, my beloved Hoosiers held off Purdue for a 26-24 win, keeping the Old Oaken Bucket for the fourth year in a row for the first time since the Truman Administration and clinching bowl eligiblity for the second year in a row.  Northwestern also clinched bowl eligibility by beating up on Illinois, 42-21, for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.  Maryland dropped Rutgers, 31-13, for no trophy, but a sixth win for the Terps.  #7 Penn State put an end to Michigan State's miserable season, winning 45-12 to claim the Land Grant Trophy.  Finally, #6 Wisconsin came back from a 17-7 deficit against Minnesota to win 31-17 and keep Paul Bunyan's Axe.

Wisconsin and Penn State will meet in this Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game (8 p.m. ET on Fox).

With that, let's take a look at each of the Big Ten's bowl-eligible teams, with an eye towards where each team will likely end up bowling, based on the Big Ten's Bowl Determination Procedures.  The four College Football Playoff teams will be announced this Sunday at Noon Eastern on ESPN.  Once those four teams are figured out, the New Years Six Bowls will be announced, and then the remaining bowl bids will be handed out.  Here is where I see the Big Ten teams landing, going down the line from the College Football Playoff to the New Years Six Bowls and through the Big Ten bowl priority litany.

1.  Ohio State (11-1, 8-1)
With their thrilling win over Michigan, the Buckeyes have all but solidified a spot in the College Football Playoff, as this week's rankings have shown (Ohio State stayed at #2), even though they did not win their division.  Even if there is some upheaval in other conferences' championship games this weekend, Ohio State literally can't lose this weekend, so unless the CFP Committee has some huge change of heart between now and Sunday, Ohio State will end up in the playoff.
Most likely bowl:  College Football Playoff
Other possibilities:  Orange Bowl

2.  Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2)
Wisconsin is in the same boat as Penn State.  Sitting at #6 in the CFP rankings right now, the Badgers could creep into the playoffs if they beat #7 Penn State this weekend and Clemson and Washington both lose their respective conference title games.  Most likely, though, if the Badgers beat Penn State, they'll end up going to the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champ.  If they lose, like Penn State, I think they will still go to a New Years Six Bowl, which would either be the Cotton Bowl or possibly the Orange Bowl.

Most likely bowl:  Rose Bowl


Other possibilities:  College Football Playoff, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl

3.  Michigan (10-2, 7-2)
With Michigan's loss to Ohio State, the Wolverines are on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoffs at the moment, ranked #5 in the most recent rankings released tonight.  However, if #3 Clemson or #4 Washington lose their respective conference championship games this Saturday, then Michigan will have new life.  If Clemson and Washington win, though, Michigan would likely go to the Orange Bowl.  They can't go to the Rose Bowl because they aren't the Big Ten champion.  The Orange Bowl takes the highest-ranked team from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame.  The Irish finished 4-8 this year, and the highest-ranked SEC team behind #1 Alabama is #14 Auburn, who doesn't stand a chance of moving ahead of Michigan.  Same goes for #15 Florida, even if the Gators beat Alabama this Saturday in the SEC Championship game.
Most likely bowl:  Orange Bowl


Other possibilities:  College Football Playoff, Cotton Bowl

4.  Penn State (10-2, 8-1)
Penn State presents an interesting, if not annoying, situation for the CFP Committee.  If the Nittany Lions (currently ranked #7) beat #6 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, can you really leave them out of the playoffs?  Probably, but it would not be without controversy.  If that happens, the Nittany Lions would go to the Rose Bowl.  If they lose to Wisconsin, I think they will probably still get a New Years Six bid, and that would likely be the Cotton Bowl.  If they get blown out and there are some upsets in other conference championship games, there is an off chance Penn State would slip to the Outback Bowl.
Most likely bowl:  Cotton Bowl


Other possibilities:  College Football Playoff, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Outback Bowl

5.  Nebraska (9-3, 6-3)
After getting blown out by Iowa last weekend, Nebraska's chances of going to a New Years Six bowl evaporated.  That said, the Huskers still had a pretty damn good season, and should be a lock to go to the Outback Bowl, which is the Big Ten's best non-CFP/New Years Six bowl.  It's unlikely that the Holiday Bowl would choose Nebraska, since the Huskers have played in the Holiday Bowl three times in the last seven years.
Most likely bowlOutback Bowl
Other possibilities:  Holiday Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, Music City Bowl

6.  Iowa (8-4, 6-3)
The Hawkeyes had a pretty good season, and are in line to play in the Holiday Bowl.  There is an outside chance they would play in the Outback Bowl if the bowl for some reason didn't take Nebraska.
Most likely bowl:  Holiday Bowl
Other possibilities:  Outback Bowl, Music City Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl

7.  Indiana (6-6, 4-5)
It wasn't pretty, but the Hoosiers clinched their second bowl in a row for the first time since 1990-1991, back when Trent Green and Vaughn Dunbar were leading the team to glory.  IU went to the Pinstripe Bowl last year, so that's out of the mix.  That would likely put the Hoosiers in the Music City Bowl, since IU is the closest remaining Big Ten team to Nashville and would likely travel pretty well.  Selfishly, I'd want the Hoosiers to end up there or the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, as those are the bowls I'd be most likely able to attend.


Most likely bowl:  Music City Bowl


Other possibilities:  Foster Farms Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl

8.  Minnesota (8-4, 5-4)
Minnesota had Wisconsin in its grasp, but ultimately the Badgers proved to be too much.  That would have been a huge win for the Gophers, but nonetheless, an 8-win season is a very solid one.  Assuming Iowa goes to the Holiday Bowl, Minnesota will probably end up in the Pinstripe Bowl or Music City Bowl.  Because Indiana went to the Pinstripe Bowl last year, that likely means that Minnesota will go to Yankee Stadium this year.
Most likely bowl:  Pinstripe Bowl


Other possibilities:  Holiday Bowl, Music City Bowl, Foster Farms Bowl

9.  Northwestern (6-6, 5-4)
After a disastrous pre-conference slate that included home losses to Western Michigan (which doesn't look quite as bad now that the Broncos are undefeated and ranked #17) and FCS opponent Illinois State, the Wildcats righted the ship, winning five conference games to clinch the seventh bowl in Pat Fitzgerald's tenure as head coach.  My guess is that Northwestern ends up win the Foster Farms Bowl.
Most likely bowl:  Foster Farms Bowl


Other possibilities:  Music City Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl



10.  Maryland (6-6, 3-6)
The Terps did what they needed to do by beating Rutgers to clinch a bowl.  I am guessing that they will be the last Big Ten team left once all of the other bowls have given out their bids, leaving the Quick Lane Bowl as the last remaining Big Ten bowl.  There is always the possibility that the Pinstripe Bowl takes Maryland, though, due to its closer proximity to NYC.
Most likely bowl:  Quick Lane Bowl


Other possibilities:  Foster Farms Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Big Ten Bowl Hopefuls After Week 12

There was almost major upheaval in the Big Ten this weekend.  First, #2 Ohio State barely beat Michigan State, 17-16, after the Spartans went for the win by going for two instead of kicking the game-tying extra point.  I respected the decision, given that Michigan State is out of bowl eligibility.  And then IU gave #3 Michigan a solid scare in Ann Arbor.  The Hoosiers led 7-3 at halftime, but then ceded some points in the second half and couldn't get their offense going in the snow, losing 20-10.  Regardless, it's just nice to know that IU will likely have the outright best record of any D-1 football team in the State of Indiana for the first time since 1967.

With that, "The Game" this weekend in Columbus is, for all intents and purposes, a College Football Playoff elimination game.  Meanwhile, three other Big Ten teams -- Indiana, Maryland, and Northwestern -- are sitting at 5-6 and looking to clinch bowl eligiblity this weekend against rivals.

Here are this past Saturday's results, as well as this coming week's slate of games (rankings are CFP):

Week 12 results:
#2 Ohio State 17 Michigan State 16
Iowa 28 Illinois 0
#18 Nebraska 28 Maryland 7
#7 Wisconsin 49 Purdue 20
#3 Michigan 20 Indiana 10
Minnesota 29 Northwestern 12
#8 Penn State 39 Rutgers 0



Week 13 schedule (times listed are Eastern)
Friday 11/25
#16 Nebraska at Iowa (3:30 p.m.; ABC)
Saturday 11/26
Rutgers at Maryland (12 p.m.; ESPNews)
#3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State (12 p.m.; ABC)
Indiana at Purdue (12 p.m.; ESPNU)
Illinois at Northwestern (12 p.m.; BTN)
Michigan State at #7 Penn State (3:30 p.m.; ESPN)
Minnesota at #6 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m.; BTN)

With only one game left, there are still five teams left that have a shot at going to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on December 5.  In the East, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State still have a shot.  In the West, Wisconsin and Nebraska are the only two teams that are mathematically still in the hunt.  Taking into account the Big Ten's divisional tiebreaking rules, here is each team's path to Indianapolis:

East Division
Michigan (7-1) will win the East if they beat Ohio State.
Penn State (7-1) will win the East if they beat Michigan State and Ohio State beats Michigan.
Ohio State (7-1) will win the East if they beat Michigan and Penn State loses to Michigan State.

West Division
Wisconsin (6-2) will win the West if:  (1) they beat Minnesota; or (2) they lose to Minnesota and Iowa beats Nebraska.
Nebraska (6-2) will win the West if they beat Iowa and Wisconsin loses to Minnesota.

Let's take a look at the bowl chances of each Big Ten team.  I'll list each team's current record (overall and conference), and then I'll break down each team's (1) remaining game and whether it is a likely win, loss, or toss-up, (2) probable regular season win total (this will not include the Big Ten Championship game or any postseason games), (3) analysis of the team, (4) how many more games they need to win to become bowl-eligible, where applicable, and (5) for those teams that have clinched a bowl, the realistic best and worst case bowl scenarios.  The schools that have lost at least 7 games and, therefore, are not eligible to go to a bowl, are separated and listed after those schools that still have hope.  For sake of ease, I'm just going to go in alphabetical order.

1.  Indiana
Record:  5-6 (3-5)
Remaining game:  Purdue (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  6
Analysis:  The Hoosiers had another close loss to a Top 10 team, losing 20-10 at #3 Michigan after leading at halftime.  With the Old Oaken Bucket game this Saturday against Purdue, IU should beat its fetid, slack-jawed rivals to clinch bowl eligiblity for the second year in a row.  That may not seem like a big deal to you, but bear in mind that, if that happens, this will be the first time in 25 years that the Hoosiers have gone to bowl games in consecutive years.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1

2.  Iowa
Record:  7-4 (5-3)
Remaining game:  Nebraska (11/25) (toss up)
Probable win total:  7-8
Analysis:  The Hawkeyes beat up on Illinois, 28-0, last Saturday.  Now, they face #16 Nebraska this Friday in Iowa City for the Heroes Trophy.  Iowa is a one-point favorite at the moment, and it should be a good game.
Best case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Heart of Dallas Bowl

3.  Maryland
2016 record:  5-6 (2-6)
Remaining game:  Rutgers (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  6
Analysis:  So the Terrapins have finally finished their murderers' row of games.  After starting 4-0, they went 1-6 over their last seven games.  However, they play Rutgers this Saturday, and that's just what the doctor ordered.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1

4.  Michigan
2016 record:  10-1 (7-1)
Remaining game:  at Ohio State (11/26) (toss up)
Probable win total:  10-11
Analysis:  The Wolverines didn't look all that convincing this past weekend in their 20-10 win over IU, with backup QB John O'Korn at the helm.  That said, they still control their own destiny in the Big Ten East, and a win over Ohio State this weekend would be triply satisfying for Michigan fans, as it would not only be a win over their arch-rival, but also it would clinch the Big Ten East for Michigan and effectively eliminate Ohio State from the College Football Playoffs.
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Outback Bowl

5.  Minnesota
2016 record:  8-3 (5-3)
Remaining game:  at Wisconsin (11/26) (likely loss)
Probable win total:  8
Analysis:  The Gophers beat Northwestern 29-12 last Saturday, and now face #6 Wisconsin in Camp Randall.  Even if they lose, it's their third 8-win season in the last four years, which hasn't happened since they reeled off six 9+-win seasons in a row from 1900 to 1905.  Furthermore, they're going to a bowl for the fifth consecutive year, which is the second time in school history that has happened (2002-2006).
Best case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Foster Farms Bowl

6.  Nebraska
2016 record:  9-2 (6-2)
Remaining game:  at Iowa (11/25) (toss up)
Probable win total:  9-10
Analysis:  Nebraska beat Maryland 28-7, and now travels to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes, needing a win if the Huskers have any hope of winning the Big Ten West.
Best case bowl scenario: Outback Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Music City Bowl

7.  Northwestern
2016 record:  5-6 (3-4)
Remaining game:  Illinois (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  6
Analysis:  While the Wildcats lost to Minnesota this past weekend, they face a hapless Illinois team this Saturday in Evanston.  That should mean that they clinch their seventh bowl of the Pat Fitzgerald era.  With a win, Fitzgerald will have taken the Wildcats to more bowls than all other coaches in Northwestern history combined.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1

8.  Ohio State
2016 record:  10-1 (10-1)
Remaining game:  Michigan (11/26) (toss up)
Probable win total:  10-11
Analysis:  The Buckeyes were one two-point conversion away from having their College Football Playoff hopes dashed.  Unfortunately, Michigan State's two-point attempt failed, and Ohio State escaped East Lansing with a 17-16 win.  Now, they face a wounded Michigan team in Columbus, but I think it's safe to say that Michigan's defense is better than any defense the Buckeyes have faced thus far.  It should be a good one.  
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Citrus Bowl

9.  Penn State
2016 record:  9-2 (7-1)
Remaining game:  Michigan State (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  10
Analysis:  The Nittany Lions murdered Rutgers, and now have a very winnable home game against Penn State for the Land Grant Trophy.  A win puts Penn State in the Big Ten championship game, if Ohio State beats Michigan.  
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl

10.  Wisconsin
2016 record:  9-2 (6-2)
Remaining game:  Minnesota (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  10
Analysis:  The Badgers did what they needed to do against Purdue, winning 49-20, and they now face Minnesota for Paul Bunyan's Axe and a chance to clinch the Big Ten West.  As I said last week, with a win in the Big Ten Title game, Wisconsin could go get into the College Football Playoffs, depending on how other things shake out.
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Citrus Bowl

Teams who are ineligible for bowls:  Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Undefeated After Week 12

The only two undefeated teams remained as such, as #1 Alabama toppled FCS opponent Chattanooga 31-3, while #21 Western Michigan blew out Buffalo 38-0.  Both teams now have tough regular season finales, with Alabama getting a visit from #13 Auburn for the Iron Bowl on Saturday, while the second-best team in the MAC, Toledo (9-2, 6-1), will make the trip to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan on Friday.

As you may know, the non-Power-Five conference team ranked highest in the College Football Playoff rankings that also wins its conference gets a berth in a New Years Six bowl.  That is relevant here because right now Western Michigan is ranked #21 in the CFP rankings, while Boise State is ranked #19.  However, if Wyoming beats New Mexico this weekend, Wyoming would clinch the Mountain West's Mountain division, meaning that Boise State could not win the Mountain West.  As long as Western Michigan wins the MAC, they should get the nod for a New Years Six bowl.  Frankly, if they go undefeated and somehow end up ranked lower than another non-Power-Five conference team, that's bullshit.

The Top 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings didn't change this week.  Here they are (along with each team's best win and worst loss, where applicable):
1.  Alabama (10-0)
Best win:  #12 USC (9/3; 52-6)
Worst loss:  N/A
2.  Ohio State (9-1)
Best win:  at #6 Wisconsin (10/15; 30-23 (OT))
Worst loss:  at #7 Penn State (10/22; 24-21)
3.  Michigan (9-1)
Best win:  #6 Wisconsin (10/1; 14-7)
Worst loss: at Iowa (11/12; 14-13)
4.  Clemson (9-1)
Best win:  at #11 Louisville (10/1; 42-36)
Worst loss:  Pittsburgh (43-42; 11/12)

Here is a breakdown of the undefeated teams and each team's remaining games (rankings are College Football Playoff Committee rankings):

#1 Alabama 9-0
11/26 – #13 Auburn (8-3)
12/3 – SEC championship game (Atlanta) - #15 Florida (8-2)

Remaining opponents' combined record:  16-5 (.762)
Best win:  #12 USC (9/3; 52-6)

#21 Western Michigan 10-0
11/25 – Toledo (9-2)
12/2 – MAC championship game (Detroit) - Ohio (8-4)

Remaining opponents' combined record:  17-6 (.739)
Best win:  at Northwestern (9/3; 22-21)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Big Ten Football Rivalry Trophies

This is the most revered and precious weekend in college football:  Rivalry Weekend.  All across the country, students, alumni, and fans will be gathering to watch their favorite university's team try to obliterate their least-favorite university's team.

As you should be keenly aware of by now, I went to Indiana and, therefore, I despise Purdue.  Those shit stains from West Lafayette make the trek down to Heaven on Earth (Bloomington) this Saturday.  While Purdue has played itself out of bowl eligibility for the 4th straight year, IU is 5-6 and, with a win, will clinch its second consecutive bowl berth for the first time since 1991.  More importantly, a Hoosier victory would be the fourth in a row over the Boilermakers, which means the Old Oaken Bucket's stay in Bloomington would match its longest stay ever (1944-1947).  Here's a shot of several IU players carrying the Bucket after last year's 54-36 win over Purdue at Ross-Aid Stadium.
The Old Oaken Bucket is one of 15 in-conference rivalry trophies in the Big Ten.  Many of those trophies are iconic, while some are too new or too ugly to be worthy of recognition in the greater college football landscape.  With that, fair reader, I set out to rank my ten favorite Big Ten football rivalry trophies.  Please remember that these are only in-conference trophies (sorry Crab Bowl Trophy lovers).

Here are the trophies that didn't make the cut:  Heartland Trophy (Iowa/Wisconsin); Heroes Trophy (Iowa/Nebraska); The Land Grant Trophy (Michigan State/Penn State); Governor's Bell Trophy (Minnesota/Penn State); Freedom Trophy (Nebraska/Wisconsin)


10.  Purdue Cannon (Illinois/Purdue)

It was hard for me to include a trophy between my least favorite two Big Ten teams on this list, but given the other options, it's hard to pass up an adorable toy cannon for a bell or whatever the fuck the Land Grant Trophy is.

9.  Paul Bunyan Trophy (Michigan/Michigan State)
This is a massive trophy -- a four foot wooden statue of Paul Bunyan that sits on a five-foot base -- that Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams presented in 1953 to commemorate Michigan State joining the Big Ten.  The funny thing is that neither school really seemed to want it for the first few years, but they eventually warmed up to it.

8.  $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy (Minnesota/Nebraska)
This makes the list solely because it is likely the first college football rivalry trophy that came about because of a Twitter wager and crowdsourcing.  The Twitter account for Minnesota's mascot, Goldy Gopher, and the account Faux Pellini (a fake account for Bo Pellini, Nebraska's now-former coach) exchanged some friendly banter, and decided to wager on the game, when Faux Pellini suggested that, if Nebraska won, Goldy would give Faux Pellini $5, and if Minnesota won, Faux Pellini would get to smash a wooden chair over Goldy's back.  It seemed like a bad bet for Goldy, yet someone made a trophy to commemorate the wager, and the trophy was actually given to the winner of the 2014 and 2015 games, but then it disappeared this year.  Both schools then said it was never really an official trophy anyway, so there are no plans to bring it back.

7.  The Old Brass Spittoon (Indiana/Michigan State)

This is a strange trophy, given that spittoons are fucking disgusting and are not particularly associated with Indiana or Michigan.  Nonetheless, since 1950, IU and MSU have played for a brass spittoon, and an old one at that.

6.  The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk (Illinois/Northwestern)

It's a tomahawk, so that's awesome.  However, in 2008 -- in the wake of the NCAA's mandate that anything that might be deemed offensive to Native Americans be banned -- it was replaced by the Land of Lincoln Trophy -- a stovepipe hat that hides and protects hair and scalps, quite the opposite of a tomahawk.

5.  The Little Brown Jug (Michigan/Minnesota)

Believed to be the oldest trophy in college football, the Little Brown Jug was purchased as a water jug by a Michigan student manager in 1903 at the behest of Wolverines head coach Fielding Yost, who was afraid Minnesota would tamper with Michigan's water supply.  Yost left the jug behind after the game, and a Minnesota custodian found it and kept it.  The teams decided that the jug would go to the winner of their football games starting in 1909.

4.  The Illibuck Trophy (Illinois/Ohio State)

The Illibuck is a wooden turtle, which might seem odd, since one doesn't think of turtles when thinking about Illinois or Ohio.  Apparently, the teams initially exchanged a live turtle, as a symbol of longevity, but realized at some point that the rivalry would outlive your garden variety Midwestern turtle.  The scores of each game are written on the back of the turtle, and there have been ten turtles total, since people apparently can't write small enough.

3.  Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa/Minnesota)

It's a bronze pig.  Does it get more Midwestern than that?

2.  Paul Bunyan's Axe (Minnesota/Wisconsin)

After the previous trophy -- I kid you not, called the Slab of Bacon -- disappeared, Wisconsin's letterwinners' association came up with Paul Bunyan's Axe, a six-foot-tall axe, which has been the trophy since 1948. The score of each game is written on the handle, and the original axe was retired in 2003.  No matter which team wins, it's always fun watching players sprint to sideline, grab the axe, and run around the field with it.  They used to have a tradition of "chopping down" the loser's goalpost with the axe, but they stopped that a few years ago when Minnesota's players circled their goalpost and wouldn't let Wisconsin players chop it down.  They still had an axe, so I'm pretty sure they could have chopped it down if they wanted to.

1.  The Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana/Purdue)

Obviously, I'm quite biased, but the Old Oaken Bucket is my favorite college football trophy.  In 1925, the Indiana and Purdue alumni association chapters in Chicago decided, rightfully so, that the winner of the annual football game between the two schools should get a trophy.  They decided that it should be an "old oaken bucket" from a well in Indiana, and a chain would be created to show each year's winner, with the date of the game and the score engraved on each link.  When IU wins, a brass "I" is added to the chain, when Purdue wins, a brass "P" is added, and back when there were ties, a brass "IP" was added.  The Old Oaken Bucket was found on a farm in Southern Indiana, and it dates back to the 1840s, making it the oldest trophy in college football.  And as a result of all of those brass letters, the Bucket is heavy as hell.  I've had the pleasure of touching it, holding it, caressing it a few times.  Last week, I took this picture at an alumni event in Chicago, and you can see the extent of the massive chain that the Bucket holds.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Two male co-workers walk down office hallway talking to each other, when one says: "And, you know, he was just happy to see two dicks at the same time."
--Chicago
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

Early twenties female on train, to friends:  "Have you ever been holding a baby and just wanted to throw it?"
--Chicago, Red Line train
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 11/18/16

1.  "Wind Me Up" by Mr. Big


2.  "Back in Black" by AC/DC


3.  "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison


4.  "Hear About It Later" by Van Halen


5.  "Diary of a Madman" by Ozzy Osbourne


6.  "Cummin' Atcha Live" by Tesla


7.  "Interlude/Everywhere I Go" by Nelson


8.  "Homebound Train" by Bon Jovi


9.  "Revolution Calling" by Queensrÿche


10.  "Without The Night" by Winger