Sunday, October 23, 2016

My College Football Dream

10/23/16:  If the rest of the college football season could go the way I want…

Penn State wins out the rest of the regular season to finish 10-2 and 8-1 in conference play.  They become increasingly dominant each week, never giving up fewer than 14 points nor scoring fewer than 38.  But they need a little bit of help…

Michigan ends up laying an egg against Iowa, so it comes down to “The Game,” during which Ohio State fulfills another part of the dream by defeating Michigan, 28-17.  Penn State holds the tiebreaker and moves to the Big Ten title game against a still-undefeated Nebraska squad.  They have people reminiscing about OSU’s thrashing of Wisconsin a couple years later, winning 56-0, and making a strong case for inclusion in the College Football Playoff, despite a two-loss season.

But they need help.  And they get it.

The Big 12, as usual, falls into something resembling chaos.  No team ends the season with fewer than two losses, and a three-loss Oklahoma (thank you, Oklahoma State) team ends up being the conference champion.  Baylor and West Virginia fade badly down the stretch.  No team from the conference has a chance at the CFP.

The ACC is only marginally less chaotic.  Clemson ends the regular season undefeated.  Louisville gives up a shocking 61 points to Houston and takes a second loss.  In the conference championship game, North Carolina, taking the tiebreaker over Pitt, pulls a shocker and defeats Clemson, 34-27.  However, no one expects a three-loss UNC team to be invited to the CFP.  Clemson, looking increasingly worse but escaping each game in the final weeks of the season, tries to pull the “But we only have one loss” card.

The Pac-12 sorts itself out cleanly, with Washington winning out; at 13-0, their invite is secure.

The SEC gets interesting.  Florida stinks up their game against Georgia and Tennessee wins the SEC East; the rescheduled Florida-LSU game ends up being inconsequential.  In the SEC West, Alabama wins out, with no other team having fewer than two conference losses.  [Note—My real dream regarding Alabama goes something like this:  They lose three of their final four regular season games, barely beating Chattanooga before Auburn posts another 56-3 smackdown in the Iron Bowl.  Nick Saban is not seen in public again until the following Wednesday, when he shows up in Columbia, SC, for the announcement of his new coaching gig with South Carolina; he’ll leave SC three weeks later to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns.  He is burned in effigy throughout the post-Iron-Bowl week in no fewer than 47 Alabama towns and villages.]  Tennessee makes Alabama look pretty bad for three quarters before committing two costly turnovers and losing by three.  Alabama heads to the playoff.

The CFP committee has no trouble ranking Alabama #1 and Washington #2 (although there is discussion about switching them), but has to decide among other teams for the two remaining slots.  Ohio State, Nebraska, and Clemson each have one loss but none won their own conference.  Western Michigan finishes the season undefeated, but their strength of schedule is appalling.  North Carolina and Oklahoma win their conferences—but each has three losses.

The announcement is controversial, and stirs up strife among certain fan bases, but the committee takes Clemson as the #3 seed and Penn State, champion of the Big Ten, as #4.  Western Michigan subsequently gets a Big Six bowl; they will eventually shock Oklahoma with a pick-six in the final minute to win by 14.  [WMU will subsequently go on a stretch where they win the MAC five times in six years and win a total of three bowl games against Power 5 conferences; they also become the first FBS team in a decade to beat North Dakota State.]

The opening game on December 31 features Washington and Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.  Washington, a 6-point favorite, covers the spread by winning 31-24.  The late game is surprisingly won—surprising both for score and victor—by Penn State by a 31-24 margin.  Penn State forces three turnovers and gets enough offense to send Alabama home.

After Ohio State defeats Utah in the Rose Bowl, there is a lot of talk about the Big Ten-Pac 12 championship matchup.  Will the Big Ten win again?  Will the Pac 12 team take home the trophy?  [SEC fans grumble about a two-loss team being in the championship game, proving that irony is still alive and well.]

It’s my dream, so I say that Penn State beats Washington, 24-21, to take home the trophy.