Nope, P.J. Fleck’s 13-0 Western Michigan Broncos won’t get a chance to claim the National Championship, in spite of being the only non-Alabama team in the nation to boast a perfect record. But that probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many. The mid-major didn’t play a single top-25 team all season.
What’s more surprising is that the College Football Playoff (“CFP”) Selection Committee left out a team that not only beat no. 3 Ohio State, but also claimed the Big Ten championship: Penn State.
At the end of the day, the committee didn’t have much of a choice, and general consensus is that they got the top four – (1) Alabama, (2) Clemson, (3) Ohio State, (4) Washington – correct.
Now that we know the four teams that will be battling for national supremacy – make that the three teams that will be clambering to keep up with Bama – Sascha (SP) and I (MM) are setting the odds for the CFP, plus a prop or two about a possible expansion to the playoff system and the latest coaching rumors.
Next stop, Tampa!
Odds to win the 2016-17 National Championship
Alabama Crimson Tide: 8/7
Ohio State Buckeyes: 11/4
Clemson Tigers: 4/1
Washington Huskies: 14/1
Not many are giving Washington much of a chance against the no. 1-ranked Crimson Tide, and you can count me in that group. Bama possesses the top-ranked total and scoring defense in the nation, and allows a mere 63.4 yards on the ground per game (next fewest is 96.9 per game).
Outside of going 9/24 in the Pac-12 championship game and a dud against USC, Jake Browning has been great for the Huskies this season. But no defense in their conference compares to what Browning will see in the Peach Bowl.
Ohio State has the edge in the Fiesta Bowl. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett may not be as talented as Tigers pivot Deshaun Watson, but he doesn’t have to be; Barrett has the better team behind him.
In order for the Tigers to find their way back to the National Championship – and have a shot when they get there – they’ll need the Watson of 2015 to make a return. – MM
Odds CFP expands to eight teams (in the next five years): 4/1
I understand that people are upset that the likes of Penn State, Michigan, and Western Michigan are missing out on the CFP, but the system is fine the way it is. Everyone knows what you have to do to get into the top-four: win your damn games. Michigan and Penn State both have two losses on the year. That’s one too many, boys, sorry.
As for Western Michigan, I love them just as much as you do, but you also have to schedule more ambitiously if you want the committee to give you a serious look. If you’d asked Fleck at the outset of the season whether his team had any hope of making the playoff, he would have said no.
If anything, this season is an argument against a playoff entirely. It’s clear who the best team is. And looking to the last two years, it would have been ridiculous to allow any more than the four teams who got in. Baylor and TCU didn’t deserve a bid in 2014, and neither did Iowa or Stanford in 2015.
We want to see the nation’s elite do battle to close out the season. Expanding to eight would allow too many unworthy teams. Even in the first two years of the current four-team system, three of the four semifinal games have been decided by a margin of at least 20 points. – MM
Odds teams must win their conference to qualify for CFP (in the next five years): 7/2
As the CFP prepares to welcome its first ever non-conference champion – Ohio State – the debate over whether the Buckeyes should be there is heating up. Penn State not only won the Big Ten Championship (over a team that wasn’t Ohio State), but also handed the Buckeyes their lone loss of the season (24-21). Unfortunately, the Selection Committee found themselves turned off by Penn State’s two losses. Their narrow 42-39 setback to 8-4 Pitt could have been overlooked (as it was with Clemson) if not for a 49-10 walloping at the hands of Michigan.
In my mind, the better and more deserving team from the Big Ten is in the CFP. The problem is the lingering feeling that the conference championships don’t mean enough anymore. Although I feel this prop has a better chance of happening than the expansion, it’s still not likely; it would have led to the wrong outcome this year. We shouldn’t be upping the import of conference championships at the expense of the national championship process. – MM
Odds to be the next coach fired
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: 7/1
Todd Graham, Arizona State: 9/1
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: 19/2
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: 12/1
Jim Mora, UCLA: 12/1
Good news: a handful of coaches got an early start to their holidays this season. Bad news: they won’t be back from those holidays. Texas, Oregon, LSU, and Baylor are just a few of the bigger schools to have parted ways with their head coaches. The list is sure to increase.
Despite A&M’s support for Kevin Sumlin, losing four of the last six will look even worse if they manage to fall to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. Sumlin was suspected to be on the hot seat entering the season, and the collapse has to have his bottom feeling the heat.
Among current “head coaches,” Houston’s Todd Orlando is the most likely to be replaced. (The Cougars want to bring in Lane Kiffin or Les Miles.) But Orlando doesn’t make the list because of his “interim” tag. (You don’t “fire” an interim coach. Technicalities!)
The rest of the names on the list are all likely to open the 2017 season with their respective teams. But all will be under a great deal of pressure to win. – MM
Over/under how many more seasons Brian Kelly coaches Notre Dame: 1.5
Notre Dame surprised a lot of people by confirming Kelly would be back in 2017. The Irish will be a talented team next year. But they were this year, too, and went 4-8. Their schedule is always tough. Next season will be no exception. Georgia, Michigan State, North Carolina, and USC makeup four of the team’s first six games. Another rough start to the year will have Kelly’s toasty buttox approaching char-grilled. – SP
Odds Chip Kelly returns to Oregon in 2017: 5/1
In spite of his lousy first season with the 49ers, and his success in four years at Oregon (46-7 overall record), I don’t see Kelly quitting on his team Doug Marrone-style. Nor do I believe San Francisco would part ways with the polarizing coach after just one season. He’s done what he can with barren cupboards.
Kelly has made it clear that he has no intentions of returning to his old stomping grounds, and that the program has not reached out to him, either. While that may not be worth much, Kelly has too much pride to go crawling back to a place he knows he can succeed. The challenge of turning around the 49ers excites Kelly, and you won’t see him back down from it.
As much as the Ducks faithful would love to see Chip walking their sidelines again, it’s highly unlikely. – MM
Odds Chip Kelly’s next coaching job is in college: 4/5
If Kelly’s struggles continue beyond his first year in San Francisco, and the 49ers choose to go in a different direction, he will have a hard time finding another NFL team willing to take a chance on him as the head man. Finding a job as an NFL OC is a much more realistic proposition.
The second Kelly is out of work, though, there will be multiple colleges at his doorstep, battering rams in hand. The highly-criticized coach is a proven winner at the NCAA level and will likely take his philosophies back to the amateurs, where he’d be running the show, instead of being a helping hand in the pros. – MM
Odds the following coaches are NFL head coaches in 2017
David Shaw, Stanford: 30/1
Jim Mora, UCLA: 50/1
Nick Saban, Alabama: 100/1
Making the move from the college ranks to NFL head coach is not common. Chip is an exception. There aren’t that many openings in the NFL each year, and they go – almost exclusively – to current NFL coordinators or guys who already have experience leading an NFL franchise (see Pete Carroll, who came to Seattle from USC, but had previously been the boss of the Patriots and Jets).
Throw in the fact that the likes of Mora, Shaw, and Saban – some of the most pro-ready coaches the NCAA has to offer – have great things going in their current situations, and the odds of seeing an NCAA coach take over an NFL team in 2017 are slim.
Saban, who checks the experience box (Miami Dolphins, 2005-06), has a particularly sweet gig in Tuscaloosa. And the “experience” he got with the Phins (15-17 over two seasons) won’t inspire many NFL GMs, anyway. – SP
NCAA coaches most likely to switch teams in 2017
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan: 1/9
Bryan Harsin, Boise State: 1/3
Larry Fedora, North Carolina: 5/2
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: 5/1
Fleck is the prettiest pony on the coaching carousel right now. Athletic Directors are fighting for his services like two dads whose kids both want to ride the same shiny mare. That’s a bit hyperbolic, but he’s outgrown the Western Michigan job; whether it’s Cincinnati, Oregon, or somewhere else, he’s apt to be on a new sideline in 2017.
Harsin is 31-8 in three full seasons with Boise State, which claimed a share of the Mountain West title and earned a spot in the Cactus Bowl this year. He’s not as hot a candidate as Fleck, but once Fleck takes a job, the losing dad will try to convince his kid that Harsin is just as pretty.
Fedora is another highly sought after coach. He’s pretty comfy in Chapel Hill, though, and UNC is on the rise in a resurgent ACC. There’s still room for the team to grow under his tutelage. This year’s slate of openings likely aren’t enough to pull him away from his Heels.
Mullen has been linked to Oregon. I expect that job to go to Fleck. Like with Fedora, I don’t see the other openings left on the table enticing Mullen away from his spot in the SEC. – SP
Odds Jim Harbaugh …
wins a national championship at Michigan: 1/1
returns to coach in the NFL before winning a national championship: 5/4
never wins a national championship or coaches in the NFL again: 9/1
What Harbaugh has done in two seasons at Michigan is remarkable. The Wolverines went 31-20 in four years under Brady Hoke and got worse every year. They’re 21-5 under Harbaugh. That includes a jump from 5-7 in Hoke’s last season to 10-3 in Harbaugh’s first. Love him or hate him, he’s a tremendous coach and he has the recruiting skills to match. Michigan is going to be a Big Ten contender as long as he’s in Ann Arbor.
But winning a national championship is really hard, especially when you have to outlast Urban Meyer and Ohio State in conference play and then deal with the best the SEC has to offer in the CFP. Michigan likely won’t be better than 10/1 or 12/1 to win the title at the outset of any season.
Harbaugh has never coached anywhere for longer than four years. I could see him having a long tenure at his alma mater, but he also has unfinished business in the pros. If the right NFL opening arises, he continues his quest for a Super Bowl ring. – SP
Featured photo credit: Matt Velazquez (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].