Huge College FB Weekend Ahead; Football is Dangerous, II

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, followed by league championship games December 1st and 2nd, things are starting to take shape relative to the College Football Playoff and major bowl match-ups. But everything could change this weekend, as there are seven “ranked vs. ranked” games and two other important contests involving top 10 teams. In fact, the top three teams in the CFP rankings are all on the road against tough opponents.

Here’s a look at this weekend’s schedule, with a brief synopsis:

No. 1 Georgia at No. 10 Auburn—Georgia has the nation’s best stable of running backs, but also has a freshman quarterback playing in a very hostile environment. A possible upset.

No. 2 Alabama at No. 16 Mississippi State—Alabama is suffering from a rash of injuries to key defensive players, but Nick Saban has owned Mississippi State in the past.

No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami—the old “Convicts vs. Catholics” rivalry has been resurrected. We’re Catholic.

No. 4 Clemson vs. Florida State—Clemson used to fall apart against FSU, but the Seminoles are a shadow of their former selves.

No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 TCU—Possible upset here as the TCU defense could slow down the Sooners. (Oklahoma’s defense hasn’t slowed down anyone).

No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 20 Iowa—Is unbeaten Wisconsin for real? Was Iowa’s destruction of Ohio State a fluke? This game will answer a lot of questions.

No. 9 Washington at Stanford (tonight)—The Huskies pummeled Stanford 44-6 a year ago, but Stanford has won the last four at home against Washington. This is an important game for Bryce Love’s Heisman hopes. Stanford’s o-line, embarrassed by Washington State last week, will have to provide some running room for Love and some protection for quarterback K.J. Costello for the Cardinal to have a chance.

No. 12 Michigan State at No. 13 Ohio State—Michigan State is coming off a huge win over Penn State, the Buckeyes are coming off the worst loss of Urban Meyer’s coaching career. Meyer is rarely out-coached two weeks in a row.

No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 21 Iowa State—the Cinderella team turned into a pumpkin last week. Can Iowa State rebound against high-scoring OSU?

Crystal Ball: Which conferences are likely to have teams in the playoff?

Big Ten: After last weekend’s stunning losses by Penn State and Ohio State, all the power teams in the east—OSU, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State—have 2 losses, with at least one more to come this week with the Buckeyes and Spartans squaring off. Wisconsin faces long odds to get into the playoff, despite its unbeaten status. The Badgers will be underdogs in the conference championship game and their non-league schedule was underwhelming.

Big 12: Defense is non-existent in the Big 12. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were actually tied 38-38 at halftime last week. At halftime! But the winner of this week’s TCU-Oklahoma game will have a good shot if they run the table.

Pac-12: The Pac-12 is the least likely conference to get a team in the playoff, with Washington at No. 9 and two-loss USC at No. 11. The Huskies could win the league championship and finish 11-1 but be denied because of a weak non-conference schedule.

ACC: Clemson, the defending national champion and a participant in the last two title games, will get in if it wins out.

SEC: The SEC currently has the No. 1 and 2 teams (Georgia and Alabama), and both will get in if they beat Auburn and play a competitive game for the league championship.

Independents: Notre Dame will get in it if wins remaining games against Miami, Navy and Stanford. Its only loss is a one-point decision to No. 1 Georgia. This is when being independent—and not having to worry about a potential conference championship game loss—is a big advantage.

Moving on to more important topics.

“Football Under Fire,” continued: One of our subscribers recently chided us for writing a “Football is Dangerous” column. All feedback on the blog is cheerfully accepted, but we happen to think this is one of the most important sports issues of our time.

And we’re not alone.

Earlier this week, at a University of Maryland symposium, eminent broadcaster Bob Costas weighed in.

“The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains,” Costas said. “That’s the fundamental fact of football, and that to me is the biggest story in American sports.

“Unless and until there is some technology which we cannot even imagine, let alone has been developed, that would make this inherently dangerous game not marginally safer, but acceptably safe, the cracks in the foundation are there...you cannot change the basic nature of the game. I certainly would not let, if I had an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old son, I would not let him play football.”

As we said in our original post, I love the game of football, believe it teaches important life lessons, and want to see it endure and flourish. But the brain injury-related issues need to be addressed, before it’s too late. Technology is a factor, sure, but I believe coaches have to play a key role in making the game safer by teaching old-school tackling techniques and using their players intelligently.

My good friend Darrin Nelson, for my money still the greatest running back in Stanford history, made this point in a post the other day.

“I’m pretty lucky because all my coaches had what I call a pitch count for me,” Darrin wrote. “My coaches looked after me and I was limited on the amount of times I could touch the football. It was frustrating sometimes but I realized why they did it.

"Just so we are clear, I’m not trying to influence anyone as to whether your kid should play or not, but there are countless stories like mine that should be told as well.”

Amen.

Amen.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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