Wednesday, November 30, 2016

COLUMN- The Big Ten Championship game likely a consolation prize for Wisconsin or Penn State

If anyone told me at the beginning of the season that the Big Ten Championship game would essentially be irrelevant in terms of the College Football Playoff, I would have scoffed at the idea.

Fast forward to Championship Week and the two best teams in the Big Ten are not playing in the conference title game.

Yes, the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes showed last Saturday in a game Woody and Bo would be proud of that they are still the elite of the Big Ten.

No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State are worthy of the opportunity as divisional champs to play for the title, but the way things played out have now worked against the teams in the bigger picture.

Wisconsin/Penn State should be a fun game to watch on Saturday night, but the message the College Football Playoff committee sent with Michigan at No. 5 in the latest rankings on Nov. 29 is simple, the winner of the conference will likely settle for the Rose Bowl Game.

Why? The formula is simple as Penn State and Wisconsin failed to beat Michigan in the regular season, which in case anyone forgot is still weighed with a bit of importance when evaluating each team's resume' come Selection Sunday.

Those losses will be looked at and while the champ will come from Madison or State College, the Big Ten could be in for a bigger problem depending on how everything else plays out.

One, yup I did not stutter, ONE team could be represented in the Big Ten in the CFP.

Back in 2014, the Big 12 conference shot itself in the foot by leaving it up to the committee assuming one of the two co-champions (TCU and Baylor) would make it to the semifinals.

The CFP chose to pass the buck and avoid controversy by leaving both out of the playoff.

Guess what, the Big 12, not the CFP came out on the wrong end of the stick in terms of image.

Colorado could be the ultimate fly in the ointment:

If No. 8 Colorado wins the Pac-12 championship over No. 4 Washington on Dec. 2, the committee could jump them ahead of Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State in the final rankings.

Colorado has two things going:

(1) A strong showing in a 45-28 loss at Michigan in Sept. 17:

Unlike Penn State and Wisconsin, it showed offensive domination for a half, before Liufau's injury early in the third quarter opened the floodgates for Michgan to come from behind and defeat Colorado.

(2) What if Colorado knocks off Washington:

Let's say Colorado beats Washington on Friday, then no other team in contention can claim a better three-game stretch to end the season. Wins against ranked foes Washington State, Utah and Washington would be a strong sell to the committee.

Let's face it, the one way the CFP can avoid the most controversy is by leaving Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State out of the playoff.

There is no right or wrong about it because those teams will find slots in the New Year's Six and the Orange, Rose and Cotton Bowls are not bad consolation prizes.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Projecting the New Year's Six for Nov. 29

Welcome to the second to last New Year's six projections of the 2016 college football season.

Like last season, the projections will be based off the CSO Mock CFP Committee rankings from that very week.

Here are the second to last set of projections for this season:

Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal):

1) Alabama vs 4) Washington

Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal):

2) Ohio State vs 3) Clemson

Orange Bowl:

9) Penn State vs 13) Florida State

Cotton Bowl:

10) Western Michigan vs 11) Oklahoma State

Rose Bowl:

5) Michigan vs 8) Colorado

Sugar Bowl:

7) Oklahoma vs 18) Auburn

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Monday, November 28, 2016

CSO Mock College Football Playoff committee Top 25 for Nov. 28

Thanks to my mock selection committee for coming through and making the penultimate edition of the rankings possible this season.

Biggest jump: Stanford (+13) 15

Biggest falls: Louisville (-6) 23 and Nebraska (-6) 22

Let the debate begin as the latest rankings are here:

       Team                    Points             Last Week

1) Alabama                   200                   1

2) Ohio State                191                   2

3) Clemson                   182                   4 (+1)

4) Washington              175                   5 (+1)

5) Michigan                   167                   3 (-2)

6) Wisconsin                 160                   6

7) Oklahoma                 146                   7

8) Colorado                   144                   8

9) Penn State                138                   9

10) Western Michigan   125                  12 (+2)

11) Oklahoma State       123                 11

12) USC                         112                 13 (+1)

13) Florida State            105                 17 (+4)

14) West Virginia             97                 19 (+5)

15) Stanford                    81                 NR (+13)

16) Louisville                   76                 10  (-6)

17) Virginia Tech             68                 NR (+10)

18) Auburn                      65                 15  (-3)

19) Florida                      63                  14  (-5)

20) Navy                         46                  NR (+9)

21) LSU                          42                  25  (+4)

22) Nebraska                 35                  16   (-6)

23) Iowa                         23                  NR

24) South Florida           18                  NR

25) Pittsburgh                  9                  NR

Others receiving votes:

Washington State 7, Wyoming 3, Utah 2, Air Force 2, Boise State 2, Texas A&M 1, Houston 1

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

COLUMN- Why Michigan screwed Michigan

Bad calls happen in the game of football.

Heck, in life, nothing is fair and for the Michigan Wolverines, the three-course meal was served on a silver platter to them, courtesy of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 112th edition of The Game on Saturday.

One of the few things humans can control are the actions made with each passing second.

Michigan happened to let authority of the game slip away with two critical mistakes.

In full control of all three phases of the game and ahead 3-0 with 4:10 in the first half, Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight went into a playaction formation and once he slipped out of the fake handoff, panic set in and OSU defensive end Raekwon McMillan stalked the target at hand and forced a horrendous pass as Malik Hooker would be the recipient and score from 16 yards out.

Michigan found itself back in a familiar role for 11 of the previous 12 years— playing second fiddle to Ohio State in a 7-3 deficit.

Tight end Khalid Hill's one-yard touchdown run provided Michigan with a three-point cushion at the half. However, with nice things, sometimes people don't know how to handle the opportunity.

After a Jabrill Peppers interception on Ohio State's first drive of the second half, Michigan looked to be in prime position to score once more. 36 inches away from gold, Speight and center Mason Cole failed to deliver a quarterback/center exchange as Ohio State's Davon Hamilton recovered the ball.

Despite Ohio State not being able to seize the opportunity, the vibe began to change as hope began to sway. Even with Michigan up 17-7 in the third quarter, the vibe at Ohio Stadium changed.

Ohio State answered with the next 10 points as the game would go into overtime at 17-17.

After both teams exchanged touchdowns in the first stanza, Michigan's Kenny Allen converted a 37-yard field goal to go ahead 27-24.

Ohio State responded with a play that will be remembered for years as J.T. Barrett appeared to have been stopped on 4th down by inches, but officials called the play a fist down. Due to lack of indisputable evidence on the instant replay the call stood.

The rest would be academic as OSU running back Curtis Samuel found a crease on the left portion of the field and went 15 yards for the walk-off touchdown in double overtime.

Despite the controversial call on fourth down, Michigan controlled most of the game, but made two critical errors, which led to the game coming down to the hands of the referees. 

With Ohio State's increasing dominance in the series at 12-1 in the last 13 meetings, Michigan's likely destination could be the Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 2 against Washington, Colorado or USC.

For a program stuck in the lowest of lows with Dave Brandon/Brady Hoke disaster of 2014, Michigan should be happy to be in any discussion for a major New Year's bowl game.

While the end result did not work out, fans and players must be reminded that one mistake can come back and haunt you down the line.

As Alec Baldwin once said, "Always be closing".

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Coffey's all-around effort pushes Northwestern past No. 16 Florida

                       Photo Credit: Northwestern Athletics

On a chilly, Friday night after Thanksgiving, Northwestern senior Nia Coffey returned with a vengeance.

The forward finished with game highs in points (26) and rebounds (14) in a 73-68 upset of No. 16 Florida (4-1) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

At 4-1 in non-conference play, Northwestern coach Joe McKeown knows the effort came against a Florida team, who made last season's NCAA Tournament with Ronni Williams, Haley Lorenz and Eleanna Christinaki returning.

"A win against a really good team (in Florida), who had players who could guard anyone on the floor is more impressive," McKeown said. 

Coffey offered few words in the postgame press conference, but McKeown knows the senior does all of her talking on the hardwood.

"(Nia) is humble and unselfish, which is a great trait for her to have and makes things easier for everyone else," Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said.

After missing the last two contests to an upper body injury, Coffey affected the game in all phases from the opening tip.

On the defensive end, Coffey showed her size with a chase-down block on Florida's Sydney Searcy, 33 seconds into the third quarter.

With Northwestern trailing for the majority of the second half and down 62-58, 1:42 into the fourth quarter, Coffey provided a  much-needed spark. Coffey's dazzling bounce pass from the free-throw line to Abi Scheid for the layup kickstarted a 7-0 run over 5:38.

A 66.7 percent free throw shooter coming into Friday's game, Coffey inexplicably missed both attempts moments later. However, the misses would not phase her as a feed to Lauren Douglas for a layup proved to be a source of redemption as the Wildcats took a four-point lead with 1:01 left in regulation and would not look back.

In eight-plus seasons at the helm in Evanston, McKeown knows Coffey's remarkable work ethic helps makes her teammates around better.

"The one thing that separates the best players from everyone else is they make everyone on the court better and that's what (Nia) does," McKeown said. "She covers people's mistakes and has a great sense of what needs to be done, whether that is making a defensive stop or getting to the basket. She has that mentality you can't teach."

That mentality from Coffey will be a vital factor if Northwestern can put together a solid Big Ten conference run beginning on New Year's Eve.

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Michigan-Ohio State game picks from CSO CFP mock committee members

With the Michigan/Ohio State less than 24 hours from kicking off, here are some of College Sports Overload's mock committee member picks for the epic showdown:

Carter Adler, CSO Mock College Football committee member:

Ohio State 24, Michigan 17

They're both very good teams that are very well coached. In the absence of anything more concrete to base it on, I'll pick Ohio State purely on the basis of home field advantage -- which in a close game, does matter. If this were being played at a neutral site, I'd just flip a coin, it's that close.

Davaughn Lucas, CSO Mock College Football committee member:

Michigan 23, Ohio State 20

Both teams are fairly even, but at the end of the day, the Wolverines have the most dynamic playmaker in college football in Peppers and an elite defense. If Speight is healthy, its going to be a nice road to Indy.

Jeremy Rosenberg, CSO freelance writer and Mock College Football committee member:

Ohio State 21, Michigan 13

This game will be about which team's playmaker can come through. Will it be J.T. Barrett or Jabrill Peppers? We've been waiting all season for Peppers to have a breakout game, and it hasn't happened yet. My money is on Barrett.

Sean Baligian, WJR 760/ Fox 2 Detroit:

Ohio State 23, Michigan 13

Michigan took a nice step this year, but I think OSU at home, and the uncertainty at the QB position proves to be too much for the Wolverines. Can see a few field goals between the two old foes, in a throwback type of game. There is no shame in a 10-2 season, and a New Year's Six bowl for Michigan in this new college football landscape.

Ryan Larimore, Host of the SportsTalk 313 podcast:

Michigan 34, Ohio State 27

I think Wilton Speight ends up playing, and this game it ends up being a classic. It is hard to pick against J.T. Barrett, but I think Michigan has an edge overall talent-wise.

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The Geno Green Experience- Sean Baligian

On the annual Black Friday edition of The Geno Green Experience, WJR 760 and Fox 2 Detroit's Sean Baligian comes on to preview the final regular season weekend of Big Ten action.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pick Six: Dirty Dozen edition for CFB Rivalry Week

                        Photo Credit: The Blueprint Michigan

Welcome to another edition of Pick Six as CSO contributor DaVaughn Lucas, Sports Talk 313's Ryan Larimore and WJR 760 Detroit's Sean Baligian pick 11 of the top college football games of the weekend, with a 12th game as the wild card.

Baligian and Lucas finished at 3-3, while Larimore finished at 2-4 last week.

Here are the season standings as we head into this weekend's games:


Baligian 53-19 -

Larimore 42-30 11

Lucas 38-34 15

Week 13 Games:

Baligian Larimore Lucas

Washington at Washington State Washington Washington Washington

TCU at Texas Texas TCU Texas

Nebraska at Iowa Nebraska Iowa Iowa

NC State at North Carolina NC State NC State North Carolina

Michigan at Ohio State Ohio State Michigan Michigan

Illinois at Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern

UCLA at California UCLA California UCLA

Georgia Tech at Georgia Georgia Georgia Georgia Tech

Mississippi State at Ole Miss Ole Miss Ole Miss Ole Miss

Utah at Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado

Florida at Florida State Florida State Florida State Florida State

Wild Card Game:

Northern Illinois at Kent State Northern Illinois Kent State Kent State

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Falk on how the legacy of the 1986 Michigan-Ohio State game molded the legacies of Schembechler and Harbaugh

The more the things change, the more they stay the same.

Unlike in professional sports where great teams are more dependent upon players shifting from one team to another, college represents a different dynamic, especially when it comes to rivalries. 

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry represents the epitome of pageantry and tradition over time, no matter the thousands of players that change over time.

For once quarterback and current coach Jim Harbaugh, "The Game" is something that still reverberates after 30 years, since the last road edition he would compete in.

Through the eyes of longtime Michigan equipment manager and current special adviser Jon Falk, he remembers the 1986 edition of The Game with Harbaugh as the quarterback.

"We played Minnesota that year and it was supposed to be the record-breaking game for Bo (Schembechler) for most wins as a Michigan coach," Falk said. 

"Jimmy then came in and said that all of the players who were recruited by Bo in our class would honor him with the plague after we beat Minnesota that week. I went out and brought a really nice plaque and put on there, Bo Schembechler, 166 career wins as the football coach at Michigan."

Unexpected plot twist:

In the glorious sport of college football, upsets can happen and Michigan fell victim to a 20-17 loss on Senior Day against unranked Minnesota at Michigan Stadium.

The three-point defeat turned into a bigger blow as the possession of the Little Brown Jug returned to Minnesota. Schembechler's commemorative plaque that looked to serve as the icing on the cake at home would have to wait another week against arch rival Ohio State, which featured future Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter and linebacker Chris Spielman.

"Lo and behold, we get beat by Minnesota, 20-17. So, the week of the Ohio State game, a bigger problem needed to be resolved on my end and that would be changing a $600 plaque in time for the game," Falk said. 

"We were able to get down to Columbus and win, 26-24. It was only fitting for Bo to win the record of most wins at Ohio State. After the game, I gave the plague to Jimmy to present it to Bo."

30 years later:

Fast forward 30 years and Falk will get to witness the former quarterback lead Michigan in his first road game in the rivalry as the coach.

Harbaugh offered little insight into the significance of the moment in Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference.

"Yea, I guess (it matters), but I don't know exactly how much it means," Harbaugh said.

The few words mentioned from Harbaugh were by design as the precious present was in full effect and Ohio State preparation served as top priority.

"At Michigan, we have grown into what we call the precious present. In other words, you can't look back, you can't look forward, you have to enjoy the time we have with the precious present," Falk said.

"The precious present is the Michigan Wolverines playing the Ohio State Buckeyes and when those two teams clash, it is one of the greatest games you can be a part of," Falk said. 

"Luckily for me, I have been a part of that game for over 40 years and the emotions that will carry you no matter who wins or loses serves as the ultimate test. I love playing Ohio State and enjoy being at the horseshoe and you have to think of the precious present. When you see those Wolverines and the Buckeyes take that field on Saturday afternoon, you know you are going to be in for one of the greatest clashes of college football that you will witness."

As the late Bo Schembechler once said, "No man is more important than the team, no coach is more important than the team. The team, the team, the team, the team."

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