The Back Nine: Picking the four playoff teams would be tough this season

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio cracks a smile following a Spartans' touchdown during the first half of their 34-24 win over Ohio State on Saturday in the a Big Ten Conference championship. (AP Photo)

Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 9, 2013 at 11:49 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after what has to have been one of the greatest weekends for watching sports, well, since last weekend. It wasn’t just football either, but football was fairly significant. Duh.

10. The Back Nine is still nursing an open wound after being snubbed for the College Football Playoff committee, but today as we sit here, maybe it’s for the better. Because if they had to decide which teams would make up the Financial Four (it’s all about the money after all), it would be a tough call. FSU is in and Auburn would have to be, but Alabama? Most would consider the Crimson Tide No. 3, but their final strength of schedule was 45th in the nation and they didn’t play in their conference title game. And if you put the Tide third, would an Alabama-Auburn rematch be compelling after they played one of the best Iron Bowl games ever? Also, would the committee steer Alabama to No. 4 behind closed doors to avoid the rematch? And would Alabama make it at all? Would Michigan State, which had a strength of schedule of 56th and had one really good win all season, be the fourth team? Would Stanford, which has the fourth toughest schedule in the land, but lost to Utah and Southern Cal, make it? How would the wizened wonders vote on Baylor, which lost one game and won the Big 12, but lost that one game by 32 points and played nobody in the non-conference schedule? The point is that expanding the field to four teams next year isn’t going quell the arguments, but instead will make them louder. And here’s the thing — in basketball the talking heads get on the air Sunday night and all day Monday complaining about which teams were left out and which teams snuck in the back door, but by Tuesday night we’re playing and everyone forgets. With this system starting next year, we’re going to have weeks of arguing and hard feelings and verbal attacks on those who made the decision. So, in the end, thanks for ignoring me committee.

11. I’m a big believer that now that the door has been opened we will one day see an eight-team playoff once the suits realize how much money they are leaving on the table with only four. It’s probably six or seven years down the road and I don’t see it going past eight to 16. Just too many games. Not that there is a concern for the student-athletes, just that 16 would be unmanageable. So if the eight-team playoff took place this year, here would be my bracket. You might want to sit down before you read this. 1. FSU vs. 8. South Carolina (Head Ball Coach vs. Semis? How great would that be?); 2. Auburn vs. 7. Stanford; 3. Michigan State vs. 6. Baylor; 4. Alabama vs. 5. Ohio State (Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer, again). Play them wherever the heck you want, whenever the heck you want. The numbers would be ridiculous.

12. One of the biggest winners over this long weekend is also one of the biggest losers. It’s great for the University of Central Florida that it will be going to a BCS bowl game. Quite an achievement. But it’s going to be costly. I can’t think the school is going to come close to selling its required allotment of 17,000 tickets. I mean, how many UCF fans are going to foot the bill to fly to Arizona to watch their team get boat-raced by Baylor? Still, it’s about exposure and building tradition and it’s a very nice step for a school that has been to five bowl games in its history.

13. After a season of disappointment, it was almost like a lot of Gator fans received the victory they were waiting for courtesy of Michigan State on Saturday night. If you were rooting for Sparty because you wanted an SEC team to make the title game, I get it. If you rooted for Michigan State because you just don’t like Ohio State, I get it. If you rooted for Michigan State because the Big Ten and Urban Meyer made it seem as if guard Marcus Hall would play despite his actions in the Michigan game, I get it. If you rooted against Ohio State because you didn’t think the Buckeyes deserved to play for a national title with their weak schedule, I get it. If you rooted against Ohio State because you’re still angry at the coach who won two national titles at Florida, well, you probably have a scrapbook full of pictures of you and your old girlfriend or boyfriend with his or her head cut out of the pictures. Last week was another example of how Meyer could use some public relations advice. If he knew he wasn’t going to play Hall, let the media know so you don’t have to take so much criticism. That, I don’t get.

14. As if the college football wasn’t good enough, I was able to flip around enough to see the ending of the Colorado-Kansas basketball game and the Ole Miss-Oregon overtime game and the Kentucky-Baylor women’s game that went four OTs (133-130) and the unreal ending to the golf tournament and as good a Sunday in the NFL as I’ve seen this year. Nothing quite like a bunch of snow games to make it must-see TV.

15. The thing about Kansas and Kentucky, which lost to Baylor in the men’s game that followed the women’s game, is that you can bring in all the freshmen stars you want, but they need older players around them. That’s what made Kentucky so good two years ago. They had players who stayed and mentored the freshmen (OK, those freshmen were off-the-charts mature and talented, too). Kentucky and Kansas will both be fine and the Jayhawk team that comes in to Gainesville after a loss will be eager to make up for it. Expect Billy Donovan to throw a bunch of different defenses at Kansas, because the Jayhawks have looked confused at times against changing defenses. Kentucky’s biggest mistake may have been talking about going 40-0 in the preseason. The young Wildcats showed their lack of maturity in Arlington when they had zero steals in the loss to Baylor. I know it was a late start in a weird arena with mostly empty seats, but it was that way for both teams.

16. One last thing about the bowls. I give you my yearly reminder that they aren’t for you and they aren’t for me. They are for: 1. the teams and coaches; 2. the communities where the games are played; and 3. ESPN. I know there are games that you wouldn’t watch if they were played in your backyard. There always are. You don’t have to watch. But a lot of dads and moms and siblings are getting nice Christmas presents because of the bowl system.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who went through what I went through on this crazy weekend. You spend too much time on Twitter and you feel like you need a shower. Herbie wrote — “Whatever happen to the days teams won & their fans were more interested in being proud of their team then cussing out everyone else?!?” They were swallowed up by social media.

18. So my daughter and I went to “The Hunger Games” sequel and I let her play Justin Bieber songs in the car all weekend and we watched SNL with One Direction, so I need a cleansing. I’ll start with these downloads — “Walking Far From Home” by Noah and The Whale, “Marry Song” by Band of Horses and for old-school listening “Easy To Be Hard” by Three Dog Night. There, I feel better.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top