Under the Radar

Unless you are the sports fan constantly refreshing the sports news page on Google, there is probably quite a bit of information, issues and events that you are missing. If it’s something huge, I can count on social media to let me know of its happenings, but some of the most interesting stories are oftentimes left out of my news feed.

ENGLAND PROVIDES AN EXTRA PUSH

One issue that I had to do some searching for and finally found in small print on ESPN.com is that pressure to change the name of the Washington Redskins continues to grow, now internationally. In a letter dated Feb. 2, two members of British Parliament voiced their concern with the name of the team to the National Football League. At the minimum the letter calls for the NFL to send a different team to play in London later this year. Washington is set to play Cincinnati on Oct. 30 at Wembley Stadium.

The issue with the team name has to do with the historical derivation of the team’s mascot. England currently has the strictest anti-racism laws in sports. Clubs at every level in the county run the risk of being heavily fined or banished from their respective leagues for any deemed violations.

Here in America, more than 30 national Native American organizations have spoken out against the team name.

“Sport has the rare ability to act as a unifying force in the world, yet the use of the Washington team name is inherently divisive,” Parliament members Ruth Smeeth and Ian Austin said in the letter’s conclusion. “It is both puzzling and alarming the NFL is choosing to export this controversy to Britain.”

This backlash in regards to Washington’s name from an international community that has really started to take hold of America’s most popular sport could be the extra push the NFL and other sports leagues need to get rid of names deemed racist.

ESPN’S BIAS COULD CAUSE A CHANGE

Being the huge Big Ten fan that I am, any headline that mentions the conference is an automatic read for me. On SB Nation — The Crimson Quarry, I came across an article titled, “Could ESPN’s marginalization of college basketball push the Big Ten away?”

The author of the article, Ben Raphel, discusses the topic in a two-part series. The first part is what caught my attention. He shines light on the way that members of the conference, in particular the Indiana Hoosiers, feel shafted by the so-called world-wide leader in sports.

Since my time at Michigan State University began in the fall of 2011, this conversation topic came up more times than I can count. With my fellow sport journalism majors, it felt like a daily discussion. It usually corralled around football considering the SEC gets more than its fair share of coverage. Granted it has provided the national champion the most times in recent years and sends the most players to the NFL, but college football definitely does not center on the SEC.

Currently the issue is with basketball. The funny part about this is that the SEC is not a dominant basketball conference and never really has been. But this entire season ESPN has been hanging on every little thing LSU forward Ben Simmons has done. Despite LSU being 16-12, not in the top 25 and having just experienced a loss by 20 to Arkansas, it’s surprising that the team is getting more airtime than Kobe Bryant and his farewell tour.

The SEC has two teams in the AP top 25 whereas the Big 12 is the leader with six teams and the Big Ten follows with five. And yet Kentucky gets more airtime than both because of its famous one-and-done performances.

The Big Ten’s TV contract is up after the 2016-17 season, and with the giant amounts of shade that the conference feels ESPN is throwing its way, that could lead it to look into other possibilities.

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Who’s In and Who’s Out

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The last time Michigan State went to the Big 10 Championship they beat the favored Ohio State Buckeyes, 34-24. With the win the Spartans earned themselves a ticket to the Rose Bowl where they went on to beat Stanford, 24-20.

For as crazy of a season it’s been, the College Football Playoff committee’s job is looking pretty easy right now. After conference championship weekend last year, there were some not-so-happy fan bases with legitimate arguments for why they should be in the playoff, but this year, if everything plays out like it should Saturday, No. 1 to 4 are pretty self-explanatory.

There are four major conference title games taking place Saturday: ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12. The two games with the highest probability of making the committee’s job difficult, are No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 8 North Carolina and No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 18 Florida. But before I get into the different worst-case scenarios, let us take a look at what we already know for sure.

The first guaranteed is that the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners are in no matter what. There is a lot of discussion about the teams ahead of them and the teams below them, but there isn’t much talk about that No. 3 spot. The only question I have for the committee is how come last year the Big 12 conference was left out due to its lack of conference championship game, whereas this year they are automatically in due to the same fact? We will save that for another time.

The second guarantee is that the winner of the Big Ten championship game will have a spot in the playoffs. The undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes take on the 11-1 Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans are the favorite, but only by a couple points.

If Clemson and Alabama, the favorites in both their respective games win, the rankings will remain No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma, and No. 4 Iowa/Michigan State. But if either the Tigers or Tide fall or it’s a miracle and they both do, there are several teams on the sideline with valid arguments as to why they should be the next team in.

Scenario 1: Clemson loses to North Carolina, and Alabama beats Florida

If Clemson loses, it would also be added to the list of sideline teams with the potential of making that No. 4 spot. In years past, No. 1 teams who lost their conference championships were demoted to No. 4, but that was before we had this thing called the college football playoffs. But the Tigers still have an extremely impressive schedule and win over Notre Dame.

Just because North Carolina wins, the Tar Heels are not guaranteed a spot. Although North Carolina has gone 11-0 since its season-opener loss to South Carolina, that loss along with a weak schedule that included two Football Championship Subdivision opponents, will probably not be enough for the Tar Heels even with a head-to-head win over the Tigers.

Scenario 2: Alabama loses to Florida, and Clemson beats North Carolina

No. 18 Florida has zero chance of making the playoff even with a win over Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Florida has had a very lackluster back end of the season with close wins over Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt. After it ended the regular season with a loss to in-state rival Florida State, the Gators do not stand a chance.

But if Alabama loses, it doesn’t have the same opportunity as Clemson to still be in the top four. After suffering an early season loss to an Ole Miss team that failed to produce throughout the remainder of the season, the Tide cannot afford another loss. A two-loss Alabama team would have even less of a playoff argument than sideline teams.

Craziest thing about an Alabama loss, the college football playoff would be SEC-less. No one ever predicted that happening.

Scenario 3: Alabama and Clemson lose

While this scenario is the least likely, it is the best chance the sideline teams have of making it into the coveted college football playoffs.

SIDELINERS

With scenarios one through three, none of which are the most probable, Ohio State, Stanford, North Carolina and the Big Ten loser have opportunities of making the playoffs.

Ohio State: If Michigan State beats Iowa, Ohio State’s argument and resume only gets better. With the defending national champion’s only loss coming from a CFP team, the Buckeyes have a high chance. Also considering the Big Ten East division has the stiffer competition — MSU, Michigan and OSU — it has a better argument than Iowa, the Big Ten championship loser in this scenario.

Stanford: If Stanford wins the Pac-12 Conference game against the University of Southern California, the Cardinal can set itself up for a playoff spot. Stanford is going against the fact it is a two-loss team.

With a nine-game conference schedule, plus a conference championship and five games against top-20 opponents, you can almost ignore the season opening nonconference loss to No. 13 Northwestern on the road. A win over then No. 4 Notre Dame kind of cancels out the 38-36 loss to No. 15 Oregon, who has seemed to redeem itself since September.

Where Stanford would beat any of its sideline counterparts would be in its conference title. No. 24 USC has no chance of making the playoff even with a win.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels’ best chance in making the playoffs would be to win the ACC and for Alabama to lose. Like mentioned before, with just a Clemson loss, North Carolina would not be an automatic. The Tar Heels, like the Cardinal, would have a conference title on their side, but schedule weakness would be their biggest holdback.

Big Ten loser: The best chance of the loser of the Big Ten championship making the playoff is if both Alabama and Clemson lose.

If Michigan State is the loser, it would be a two-loss team like Stanford, but unlike Stanford would not have a title to back it up. The Spartans’ losses come from two higher-ranked teams, but some would say the Cardinal had the tougher schedule. MSU has the head-to-head on Ohio State but would have one more loss than the Buckeyes.

If Iowa is the loser, the Hawkeyes’ only loss would be from a playoff team much like Ohio State. Iowa would still have a better record than Stanford but wouldn’t have the title for an extra boost. The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes would have one loss suffered by the same team, but while Iowa at least made it to the title game, Ohio State had the tougher schedule.

Plenty of Football Left

Tuesday night the first college football rankings by the College Football Playoff (CFP) selection committee were released. I had been anxiously awaiting these rankings for weeks, but as the day got closer and closer I lost interest.

This season has been a weird one. By week 10 in 2014 there were only three undefeated teams left in all of the NCAA, in 2015 we have 11. What are we supposed to do with 11 undefeated teams?

Now I know by the end of the season there is no way there will still be 11. Considering how many of them play each other in an extremely backlogged season, it is absolutely impossible for there to be 11 come December 1. And for that very reason, I knew that these rankings in the end would turn out to be meaningless.

If the CFP was this weekend, the selection committee has Clemson No. 1, LSU No. 2, Ohio State No. 3 and Alabama No. 4 playing for the national title. While I don’t 100 percent disagree with the committee considering how strange of a season it’s been, I can’t help but question one loss Alabama’s spot especially when eight undefeated teams fall lower in the rankings. But the Roll Tide will have a chance to defend the committees choice in placing them fourth and those undefeated teams lower in the rankings will have a chance to work their way up as well.

There is still plenty of football left to be played. Plenty of big games to make sure you are in front of a TV for. And plenty of potential upsets are on the horizon.

First up are No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama. The Roll Tide will look to defend their No. 4 ranking and knock the Tigers out of contention when the two square up Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Second we have Clemson, the ACC’s only chance to enter the ring, but a game against Florida State on Nov. 7 at home could jeopardize that. The remainder of the Tigers’ season is pretty uneventful.

Next we have No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the undefeated Michigan State Spartans on Oct. 21 in Columbus and then they close out the season against the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House. If Ohio State remains the only undefeated team in the Big Ten then the defending National Champions definitely deserve a bid. But if they don’t will the Big Ten still have a representative?

If MSU beats the Buckeyes and then goes on to beat No. 9 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship I’d count the Spartans in, but if they’re what some are calling “miracle” wins like they had against Michigan, the Spartans may still find themselves on the outside looking in. Michigan and Iowa have a much harder path to the CFP.

Currently the Big 12 finds itself in the same position they did last year, right on the cusp. Undefeated Baylor ranks in at No. 6, undefeated TCU at No. 8, undefeated Oklahoma State at No. 14 and 7-1 Oklahoma is No. 15. Crazy thing is all of these teams have yet to play each other.

Saturday Nov. 7, TCU visits Oklahoma State. On Nov. 14, Oklahoma travels to Baylor. TCU takes on Oklahoma and Baylor takes on Oklahoma State all in Oklahoma on Nov. 21. And in the final week of the season, the Bears are on the road to the Horned Frogs and the Sooners are at the Cowboys. If one of these teams comes out undefeated, a huge “if,” the Big 12 may finally see themselves in the top four.

I don’t know about you but I am definitely ready for November. Bring on the football!