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College Football Recap: Championship Weekend

While Jim Sterk still wanders for the perfect coach, the Playoff field has been set.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin
Ohio State fans won’t like the fact that their Buckeyes fell from the No. 1 spot in the College Football Rankings, but a win over Clemson in the national semifinal on Dec. 28 would take the sting away.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

What We Learned

Utah Spit The Bit & Oklahoma Benefited

So much for the drama.

Against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Friday night, No. 5 Utah needed only a win to further close in on its first-ever berth in the College Football Playoff. A victory would have cemented Utah’s place atop a crowded field of one-loss teams and added a little spice to Sunday’s final Playoff selections.

Utah didn’t necessarily need to win big or pretty. It just needed to do what it has done all season.

But disaster happened. The Utes didn’t win. They won’t be in the Playoff. They may not even make a New Year’s Six bowl. They looked like a team scared to lose what was at stake.

And that fear penetrated Utah to its core.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Utah
Following his team’s disappointing loss in the Pac-12 title game, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham will now spend his time looking for the Utes’ run defense.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

All season, there was a given with the Utes: the opponent was not going to run the ball. Not only that, but they were going to fail miserably. And they backed it up.

Entering the league championship, Utah led the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 56 yards per game, and had held 11 of its last 12 opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground.

Against the Ducks, the Utes turned into JELL-O. Oregon running back CJ Verdell ran for more than 200 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns – one fewer than Utah had allowed on the ground all season.

The one constant Utah could lean on all season ultimately cost it dearly.

Not as if Oklahoma cares one bit.

The Sooners accomplished what the Utes could not, and as a result, they nabbed the coveted fourth Playoff spot with another Big 12 Championship.

As soon as OU beat Baylor for the second time in three weeks, the drama ended. It would have been really fun to see what the CFB Selection Committee would have done had Utah not folded.

It would have sprinkled an otherwise pedestrian college football season with a little flavor.

But it was not meant to be. And it’s because Utah picked the absolute worst time to play like a team that was the complete opposite of what it had been all season.

What We’d Still Like to Know

Is There A Favorite To Win The National Title?

Statistically, yes.

Ohio State has a 35 percent chance to win it all, followed by LSU (29%), according to ESPN Analytics.

For as relatively uneventful as the top of the Playoff rankings have been down the stretch, the dominance of the top three teams should make for an exciting semifinal and national championship, and no amount of statistical analysis will be able to justify the razor thin degree of separation between them.

We’ve known for weeks now that LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson were the best teams in the country. Oklahoma has not always played like one of the best four teams at many times this season, but we’ll give the Sooners the benefit of the doubt.

The Sooners may have needed a little help to get into the Playoff, but don’t be surprised if their experience, particularly that of Jalen Hurts, plays a huge factor.

LSU cannot be held under 35 points, and its defense has begun to round into form a bit. Joe Burrow will win the Heisman, and he may be the best pure passing quarterback the SEC has ever seen.

Ohio State spotted Wisconsin a lead and then decided it wanted to play in the Big Ten Championship, blowing out the Badgers 27-0 in the second half to put a stamp on what has been the most consistently dominant season of any team out there.

And Clemson … well, Clemson is peaking. The Tigers slaughtered Virginia by 45 in the ACC Championship – their string of five consecutive conference titles have come against five different opponents – and it certainly could be argued that no team is playing better on both sides of the ball than Clemson.

Poll

Who you got for the national title?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    LSU
    (28 votes)
  • 6%
    Ohio State
    (3 votes)
  • 16%
    Clemson
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Oklahoma
    (1 vote)
  • 9%
    Everyone but kansas
    (4 votes)
43 votes total Vote Now

The semifinals present some intriguing match-ups, to say the least. I doubt we’ll see a ton of defense, but a key interception or unexpected special teams play could be the difference.

We’ll find out starting on December 28. The field has been set.

Who you liking?

What We’d Like to Forget

This Search

At this point, I have no idea whether to label this thing a complete and utter Mizzou-like disaster of unprecedented proportions or something slightly more abysmal.

I’m never sure what to make of a coaching search, especially when it comes to football.

People track planes. Coaches presumed to be on the move – actually, those confirmed to be on the move – tell us there’s much ado about nothing; they’re focused on their team, at least until they leave that current team for their new team.

Everyone feels good about their sources. Until they have to update a story to tell readers that their sources may have been misinformed, presumably by other misinformed sources.

(On a side note, if every legitimate reporter on the Internet has numerous “reliable” sources out there, is there an abundance of sources available? If so, can the rest of us have some, you know, just for the hell of it?)

Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, I have not seen a need to hurry this decision. And this is not to deny how ugly the process has been to this point. That might actually lend more credence to the idea of playing the whole thing out.

Even if the Board of Curators had not spit on Jim Sterk’s Top 3, why rush?

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Georgia State
Fresh off a conference title with Appalachian State, Eliah Drinkwitz is the latest addition to the long list of potential suitors to replace Barry Odom, but would the Mizzou fanbase prefer someone a little more seasoned than the 36-year-old?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the pool of candidates this offseason is not particularly deep or impressive, but there’s no reason why Mizzou should not take this decision right up to Zero Hour.

As I stated last week, Sterk is as close to playing with house money as possible. Odom wasn’t his guy, and the one Sterk selects to replace him probably won’t be met with an overwhelming amount of fanfare or many expectations, especially considering the crippling (at least) short-term effects the NCAA violations will have on recruiting.

If you’re Sterk, a big splash would be nice. It’d put butts in the seats, particularly in those new luxury boxes. But you’re also aware of the historic temperature of the fanbase, which is tepid enough overall that a small ripple is likely be accepted or just shrugged off, assuming it has potential to produce significant enough results down the line to replicate the Pinkel days – if not produce more.

If that’s going to happen, it’s going to take time, which favors the youthful.

In that vein, give me Will Healy or Billy Napier.

Healy seems to be in a league of his own – if only for his unorthodox passion and ability to relate with today’s generation – and Napier is a Saban guy, which is an apprenticeship I’ll never not consider.

All signs point to both staying put at their current schools for now, perhaps passing on what is an equally unimpressive list of coaching openings, but this is the profile Mizzou should pursue.

Poll

Who do you want to take over for Barry Odom?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Eliah Drinkwitz
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    Blake Anderson
    (0 votes)
  • 7%
    Jeff Monken
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    Will Healy
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    Skip Holtz
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Billy Napier
    (2 votes)
  • 28%
    Somebody really cool we don’t even know yet
    (8 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now

A Blake Anderson, Jeff Monken, Skip Holtz, Jay Norvell, or Jim McElwain brings greater sense of stability and experience, but there’s no fun in that. There’s no risk.

Despite my respect for Odom, his hiring was like getting a double scoop of vanilla when cookie dough, rocky road, and mint chocolate chip were also on the menu.

Today’s new hot name is 36-year-old Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who was reportedly Ole Miss’ backup plan to Lane Kiffin. Drinkwitz is just as unproven as either Healy or Napier, but he fits the same bill. Why not roll the dice?

It’s taken you this long to make a decision, show some flair.

Gamble or no gamble, this thing has to be wrapped up in the next few days so whomever is chosen can host recruiting visits before the dead period starts on December 15.

Who will recruits be shaking hands with when they walk through the door?