Draft King Analysis|
October 28, 2014
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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Later this evening, the NCAA college football playoff selection committee will reveal its first list of the four teams that would/could be chosen for the inaugural FBS/I-A mini-playoffs. If this sounds like a giant television stunt, that's because it is. But it also will draw in attention and support and disdain and furious disagreement from many other corners, from Twitter to sports talk radio.
The 16 team playoff structure (the classic FCS/I-AA model) laid out in the great and already prophetic Death to the BCS is what I suspect will eventually be reached. That will allow teams like Marshall which run strong over inferior competition to prove their worth on the field rather than be summarily dismissed by smug talking heads.
Trust me, media outlets do themselves no favors when they pick on the little guys, be it Northern Illinois or Tulane or Marshall or anyone else you care to pull out of the archives. It's still going to happen, not because of any conference bias (contrary to what Jimbo Fisher might have you believe) but rather a big vs. little mentality.
However, the notion that ESPN has an SEC bias is amusing to me, but I understand how there could be the perception of it based on projections and how ESPN is connected to the SEC Network. But when in doubt, look to Las Vegas -- the sports books always know the truth.
On a micro level, saying that Team X can't be any good because they haven't played anyone of note is faulty logic. In that scenario, Team X is unproven, but that doesn't preclude them from having the capacity to beat the megapowers.
But it won't be the little guys who bring change. It will be the "Power Five" conference champion(s) who fail to qualify who will bitch and moan, and potentially rightfully so, that will play a role. So will prominent one-loss squads who are arbitrarily judged to be less deserving than other one-loss teams.
Change can take time, but the fact that the college game has evolved from ties at the end of regulation and split national championships to the mini-playoffs in less than 20 years is impressive. I would suggest that social media has played a role in recent changes since it has the tendency to amplify the voice of the people that often isn't properly represented by traditional media.
|My view of the Mississippi State/Kentucky game from this past Saturday in Lexington. State won 45-31. (Matt Pickney)|
This past Saturday I drove 400 miles round-trip from Columbus, OH to Lexington, KY to attend the Mississippi State/Kentucky game. I met up with my brother Matt and his wife Jenica for what was a really fun experience. My bro is a State grad, and he was enthusiastic about being able to see his Bulldogs play as the #1 team in the AP college football poll.
My interest was in three players in particular: State QB Dak Prescott, State ILB Benardrick McKinney, and UK's DE/OLB Alvin "Bud" Dupree. Dak could win the Heisman this year, while McKinney and Dupree both are on course to be selected in the first round of next year's NFL Draft.
Some thoughts from the game:
• Dupree is the real deal, and he brought his A-game this past Saturday, recording ten tackles and proving to be a menace to Mississippi State's offense. And as much as State RB Josh Robinson torched the Wildcats on the ground, Dupree was an ever-present force to limit the success that the Bulldogs could have kicking it out wide on rushing plays.
• Dak is drawing comparisons to Tim Tebow (who Dan Mullen coached when he was offensive coordinator at Florida) which is good news for his Heisman campaign. But his accuracy is something that is a concern in my estimation, and seeing him off target on a number of throws this past Saturday did little to convince me that he is a bona fide future first-round prospect. Or, perhaps more clearly, it didn't convince me that he should be a first-round pick. As always, it just takes one team to make it happen.
• It's great fun to watch McKinney zip around on the field, or at least it is if you're cheering for his team. People who are 6'4" 255 normally don't have the kind of quickness that McKinney possesses, and his athleticism and strong instincts make him a terror for opposing offenses. He has NFL quality size and speed and there's a reason that he is so highly touted. If he stays healthy, he has a bright future at the next level.
• Overall, the people I encountered in Lexington were friendly. This was actually the third time in as many years that I went to a Kentucky home football game (State in 2012 and Alabama last year), and there was hospitality shown from strangers that reminded me of how great the people were in Athens, GA were in 2011 despite me being there cheering for the other team.
It wasn't perfect though. During the game, someone threw an empty plastic soda bottle from the walkway area just above our seats that struck me in the back of the head. We made for an easy target wearing maroon in a sea of blue, and while I wasn't happy about it, I knew it could have been much worse. But props to the UK fans who saw it happen and self-policed the situation. One guy even apologized to me for what happened and assured me that it wouldn't happen again, and it didn't.
At the same time, I know when I wear enemy colors into a hostile environment that I could potentially be the target of abuse. It's a bit like being a pro wrestling villain, even if you're not being intentionally antagonistic. People generally don't screw with me, at least not to my face, but the emotions of sports (particularly when fueled by alcohol) sometimes get the better of people.
As an aside, we discussed at one point if Kentucky fans would storm the field with a win. My brother said no, and I agreed -- despite playing every season, there's not a heated rivalry there in football (basketball is another story) which would have pushed it over the top. Plus, State is "new money" as far as being a major player on the scene. You might not think that makes a difference, but I assure you it does.
One last thing: Jon Bois, who created the brilliant Breaking Madden weekly series on SB Nation, crafted this comparison of the University of Pittsburgh's five-fumbles-in-13-carries game on Saturday with the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive explosion on the same field one day later. It's worth your time to check it out.