It’s never too early to speculate about which Group of Five team spends the entire season whining about the playoff committee ignoring them. Who then could it be in 2022?
Who is the Cincinnati of this year?
Cincinnati, probably not. Despite the talent that left for the NFL after the Bearcats’ Cinderella playoff run last season, the Bearcats still maintained a polished image, but it wasn’t enough to defeat Arkansas, who on Saturday provided the goods. Maybe it’s Houston instead.
The Cougars were ranked No. 24 as the season began, and after going behind 21-7 against UTSA, they came back to win the game 37-35 in triple overtime. The bad news for Houston was that three overtime periods would inevitably conflict with Dana Holgorsen’s supper plans.
The Air Force might be a surprise contender. The Falcons defeated Northern Iowa, who, as a point of comparison, wasn’t even close to being the ugliest team from Iowa on Saturday. They are also favorites in each of their remaining games, per FPI. What about the coast of Carolina?
In the Chanticleers’ 38-28 victory over Army, Grayson McCall threw three touchdown passes. It’s about time the playoff committee started taking haircare into account. Coastal has a manageable schedule and some lovely haircuts.
Will Texas return?
Maybe! Quinn Ewers made his debut throwing two touchdown touchdowns as the Longhorns easily defeated Louisiana-Monroe. Even though defeating ULM doesn’t show much, Texas’ past performance versus opponents like, say, Kansas makes this a significant step in the right direction. Parking, though, continues to be a problem.
Is the Pac-12 likely to make the playoffs?
No! With losses by Utah and Oregon in Week 1, the Pac-12 was gracious enough to largely erase itself from the postseason conversation. A buyer’s market is what Kevin Warren detects.
Is Vanderbilt the nation’s top team?
Maybe! Although the Commodores’ 2-0 record matches their win number from a year ago, we can’t definitively rule out the possibility that Alabama may fall. This is because of their mediocre victory over FCS Elon.
Has Scott Frost already been let go?
No! Even though it wasn’t a nice victory, Frost’s first came against FCS North Dakota. When Casey Thompson got his rhythm in the second half, Nebraska came back from being knotted at 7 at halftime to win 38-17.
Has Bryan Harsin yet received a firing?
In our opinion, no! Even though FCS Mercer was easily defeated by Auburn, some Tigers boosters may have still found some money in their couch cushions and decided to make a change. Never can we be certain.
Next time, perhaps just pay the additional fee.
The ACC will travel to play 10 non-Power 5 opponents this season. There are just three games in any other Power 5 league. However, this is nothing new. The ACC will have played 64 such games in the playoff era by the end of the year, which is almost as many as the Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC have combined (78).
The first three of these road trips started on Friday, when Virginia Tech lost to Old Dominion 20-17 in Brent Pry’s first game as head coach after first being caught in an elevator and then shooting itself in the foot.
On the road against American Athletic Conference rivals on Saturday, North Carolina and NC State each came within a whisker of experiencing the same outcome. In the last seconds against App State, UNC needed about 36 tight escapes to avoid embarrassing themselves.
Even worse-looking was NC State. The Wolfpack botched back-to-back drives in which they had the potential to increase their lead to 14 points and had the ball at the 1-yard line. They then watched as ECU scored late, missed a PAT, came to a stop, drove into field goal range, and missed another kick before scoring.
Although a triumph in the standings, NC State’s 21-20 victory undoubtedly diminished much of the preseason excitement the squad had received as a potential dark-horse playoff contender.
The ACC has overall lost 20 road games outside the Power 5 in the playoff era, which is three more than the SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12 put together. This is undoubtedly not helping the league’s reputation, which is in desperate need of some positive vibes. Why then does the league continue to do it?
Money is the initial response. Although there is a strong case to be made that the expense of losing one of those games is even greater, promising a home game for Group of Five opponents prevents ACC teams from having to pay for a one-time visit to their stadium.
Instead of spending money to check luggage, the ACC has essentially elected to sit on a plane with a suitcase on its lap. The second response is politics, and although the state legislature didn’t directly order North Carolina or NC State to visit its nearby small-school neighbors, crucial state funding is frequently taken into consideration when making decisions.
Not all state legislatures change the legislation at the request of a coach (hello, Georgia!). Even still, politics and money are important to everyone, but the ACC takes a different approach, so the largest solution may just be philosophy. Clemson and Florida State, two of the top football programs in the conference, have only ever traveled outside of the Power 5 once during the playoff era.
Look to the SEC, where only two of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, and LSU have traveled outside of the Power 5 due to Vanderbilt’s dominance in this area. Playing these games for actual football brands is “risky business,” as one ACC administrator characterized it, and even if everything goes according to plan, there isn’t much of a payoff.
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