Expansion? Big 12 Could Make Big Splash…..If they Have The Foresight
After months of speculation that the conference would expand, the Big 12 made an announcement in June that expansion was a “dead issue”. In July they did an about face and announced expansion was not only on the table, but they would like to announce the expansion teams before September 1. At this point I’m inclined to say I’ll believe it when I see it. But, if the Big 12 conference does follow through with expansion plans, they have an opportunity in front of them to take a leadership role and in the process, make a huge splash in college football. Originally talk of expansion included only 2 teams, simply the number needed to split into divisions, which is a model more suitable for their already approved conference championship game. But recently talk has surfaced about the possibility of 4 teams. If the Big 12 is truly thinking along those lines, why stop at 4? I believe the Big 12 should be thinking bigger, be innovative and more progressive. For years we have been told that the future of the sport lies in 16 team “super conferences”. If there is any truth in that statement then I propose the Big 12 be bold and create the FIRST 16 team Super Conference. Think about it. Add these 6 teams: Brigham Young, Boise State, Colorado State, Cincinnati, Memphis and Houston. Talk about a knockout blow to the rest of the Power 5 Conferences. Lock up the best available teams now and watch the dominoes fall in the other conferences over the next few years trying to play catch up. BYU, Boise State and Colorado State are already natural rivals for TCU because of the Horned Frog’s days in the WAC and MWC. Texas Tech has a natural geographical fit with those same teams. Cincinnati and Memphis fit well with West Virginia who, in my opinion, desperately needs teams in the conference closer to Morgantown in order to make the Mountaineers “more inclusive” in the Big 12. Houston is a natural fit, just as TCU was in earlier conference expansion. Take a look at this proposed division alignment: Big 12 West: Brigham Young, Boise State, Colorado State, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas, Houston, Baylor Big 12 East: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Cincinnati, West Virginia. Looks like a knockout conference to me. Just a thought. But, for the moment at hand in 2016, the Big 12 has high hopes for another run at the College Football Playoff. My top pick for the conference title is Oklahoma. The Sooners are loaded with play makers on both sides of the ball and QB Baker Mayfield is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. It won’t be easy, the Sooners have one of, if not THE toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, opening at Houston and hosting Ohio State two weeks later, and the road game at TCU the week before Texas is very worrisome. Looking ahead to Texas and not focusing on the Froggies would be a huge mistake. The Horned Frog defense will be the best in the Big 12 and if Kenny Hill comes through at QB, TCU will be a legitimate conference title contender. Oklahoma State, however, is the team I expect to be the surprise team, not only in the Big 12, but nationally. With 16 starters returning, 9 on offense and 7 on defense, including an outstanding QB and team leader in Mason Rudolph, the Cowboys will give the Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 all they can handle and more. Don’t be surprised if Oklahoma State goes into the TCU game on November 19th undefeated. The Cowboy’s last two games are probably their toughest, at TCU and at Oklahoma. One of the biggest story lines this season will be Texas and whether or not the Longhorns can win enough games to save Charlie Strong’s job…..and what that magic number might be. My guess is that it will take 7 wins minimum and probably 8, but from looking at the schedule I think 6-6 might be a realistic record for Texas in 2016. More than likely the Longhorns are looking at losses to Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and TCU. Road wins at California, Kansas State and Texas Tech are possible, but not guaranteed by any means. Wins against UTEP, Iowa State and Kansas seem pretty safe but that means home wins against Baylor and West Virginia are an absolute must in order for the Horns to have what most would consider a successful season, and even then, the win total would only reach 8. This is the way I see the Big 12 finishing for 2016: Oklahoma Oklahoma State TCU Baylor Texas Tech Texas West Virginia Kansas State Iowa State Kansas
J. T. Barrett Gives Buckeyes Edge in Big 10 Race
The race for the Big 10 Conference crown is more wide open than we have seen in many years. With the resurgence at Michigan, consistency at Michigan State and surprise success at Iowa, the Big 10 is looking very competitive in 2016. Although the Buckeyes lost a ton of talent and return only 3 starters on offense and 3 on defense, Ohio State has two major things going in their favor…..an established Heisman Trophy candidate in J.T. Barrett, and the Wolverines at home November 26. Those two factors are enough to give Ohio State a razor thin margin as pre-season favorites. The Eastern Division of the conference, with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State is by far the stronger group in the Big 10 this year. Any one of those teams are capable of winning the conference title. But Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State are all breaking in new QB’s. If James Franklin is going to turn a corner at Penn State, this is certainly the year to do it. The Nittany Lions have a ton of returning starters and although a road trip to Michigan on September 24th looms large, Penn State has Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State at home. In the Western Division Iowa will once again rely on a stingy defense, but duplicating last years success will be near impossible. The schedule is more difficult and the Hawkeyes won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2016. Wisconsin appears to be the next strongest team in the division but the Badgers are breaking in a new QB and must play at division favorite Iowa on October 27. Northwestern was a surprise in 2015, racing to an impressive 10-3 season record. The Wildcats have an experienced QB and enough overall talent to compete for the division title, but lack depth in key positions so injury is going to be a major concern. The schedule is not kind for Northwestern, opening with Western Michigan will be very tough and later, road trips to Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State look brutal. Nebraska will be improved, and certainly has the ingredients to be one of the year’s top surprise teams, but the Cornhuskers have consistently under performed in recent years so it is difficult to have any level of confidence in their 2016 performance. Billingsley’s Big 10 Conference Projections: East: West: Ohio State Iowa Michigan Wisconsin Michigan State Northwestern Penn State Nebraska Indiana Illinois Maryland Minnesota Rutgers Purdue
Seminoles and Tigers Vie for Playoff Berth from ACC
Florida State and Clemson are set to duel for a spot as one of football’s elite participants in the College Football Playoff for 2016. Both teams compete in the Atlantic Division, but either would heavily favored over any team coming out of the ACC’s Coastal Division. Offensively Florida State is in solid hands. Sean Maquire returns as QB for the Seminoles, although he will be pushed hard for the starting position by redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, and Dalvin Cook returns at running back. Overall the Garnet and Gold return 9 starters on offense and 6 on defense. The opening game in Orlando with Ole Miss is a grave concern, and two weeks later a road game at Louisville awaits, but the game with Clemson on Oct. 29 is at home, as well as the season finale with Florida. It’s hard not to count Clemson as the league front runner since Deshaun Watson is returning at QB for the Tigers, but defensively, Clemson has a lot of holes to fill. Only 4 starters return on defense. Clemson has recruited well, and coordinator Brent Venables has consistently produced outstanding defenses so don’t be surprised if the Tigers win the ACC……but that road game in Tallahassee could be a major stumbling block. Clemson opens the season at a re-surging Auburn which is very winnable but very tricky. Louisville is loaded with talent and experience. The Cardinal will push Florida State and Clemson for the league title, facing the Seminoles at home on September 17th and Clemson in Death Valley on October 1, but the question as to whether or not Louisville can make that huge leap into title contender has yet to be answered. A late season game on the road with Houston on November 17th could turn into a huge game for both teams if the chips fall their way for both squads in the early part of the season. Wouldn’t that be an unexpected treat for college football! The race for the Coastal Division in the ACC is wide open. North Carolina is expected to win, but the Tar Heels will find it very difficult to match last year’s surprising 8-0 division record. Miami’s hire of Mark Richt was nothing short of brilliant and could be exactly what the Hurricane have needed for years. Time will tell, but eventually I expect great success for Richt. It just feels like the perfect fit. It is not a stretch to think Miami could win the division this year, but the schedule is daunting. A brutal 5 game stretch in mid season will define this team. Florida State comes to town on October 8, followed consecutively by North Carolina, at Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame ( ACC schedule affiliated but a non-conference game ) and back home for Pittsburgh.The Coastal Division is so evenly balanced that any one of the top four contenders among North Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech or Pittsburgh could easily take the crown. Predicted Order of Finish: Atlantic Division: Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, NC St., Wake Forest, Boston College, Syracuse Coastal Division: North Carolina, Miami (Fla.), Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Next up: Thursday July 21 – Pac 10.
Playoff Hopes Hover over Houston
During the BCS Era I never failed to hear the same ole roar……the deck is stacked against the little guys, they don’t stand a chance against the powers of college football. I’m hearing the same roar, second verse now that we have moved on to the college football playoff. The only difference is, to some degree, now the naysayers have more of a point. For as much moaning and gnashing of teeth that I heard about the BCS computers there is one thing everyone could not deny…..the computers didn’t know if team “A” was Alabama or South Alabama and frankly my dear….didn’t give a damn. It was all about wins, losses and strength of schedule for those unappreciated machines. Now, a human committee must be convinced that a team is worthy of one of those coveted top four spots, and well, honestly, South Alabama really doesn’t stand much of a chance. If I said it once I must have said it a thousand times…..if you want to be a big boy, you must play, and beat the big boys. It’s all about timing, and scheduling, and getting the lucky breaks along the way. Being undefeated is not enough, you simply must prove your worthiness on the field of play by beating top notch quality opponents. Most of the teams comprising the conferences in the “Group of Five” don’t have the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot because A). They don’t schedule a major power team to give themselves an opportunity to prove themselves; B). They over schedule too many power teams and therefore enhance their risk of a loss; C). They are just flat out not good enough. Harsh words, but truer words were never spoken. This year, there is an opportunity, certainly an opportunity, for a team to make that leap into college football history. The University of Houston has the talent, and at the same time they have the schedule, so timing is on their side….. all they need now are the lucky breaks along the way. Lucky like beating Oklahoma and the Sooners going on to win the Big 12. Lucky like Louisville having an outstanding season in the ACC. Lucky like the American Athletic, overall, having it’s best year EVER. If all those things fall into place, even a human committee, hell bent on favoring traditional powers, might….just might be convinced. But all of those breaks mean nothing if Houston doesn’t come through and play the game of their lives EVERY WEEK. No letdowns, no squeakers over teams they should beat by 30 points. Let’s be real folks, to that committee….style points count. Speaking of the American Conference, it’s not going to be a cakewalk for the Cougars. Getting through their own conference undefeated, much less beating Oklahoma early (September 3) and Louisville late (November 17) is not going to be easy. Memphis, Navy, Temple, Cincinnati and South Florida all have visions of their own. And the American Conference is certainly not the only conference in the Group of Five putting forth a solid team. In Conference USA, Southern Miss plays at LSU, an undefeated season with a win in Baton Rouge against the SEC champ? That may carry some weight don’t you think? Or perhaps a Western Kentucky win at Alabama? Oh, the opportunities are there for sure for Conference USA to make some national noise. Marshall and Louisiana Tech will join Southern Miss and Western Kentucky in a battle for the conference crown. Over in the Mid America Conference, the race is so tight I could barely separate the teams by a fraction of a point in the pre-season rankings. Ohio, Akron, and Bowling Green in the East, and Western Michigan and Toledo in the West all have the fire power to win a conference title. Out in the Mountain West Conference Boise State and San Diego State appear to be a notch above everyone else, but Air Force, Colorado State, Utah State (all in the Mountain Division) and San Jose State and Nevada (in the West Division) are all within one of those “lucky breaks” away from upsetting those division leaders.
Sun Belt Anxious to build on 2015 Success
Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson is all smiles this summer. Four conference teams went bowling in 2015, posting two wins and two losses, and the conference is poised for even greater success in 2016. Arkansas State won the conference title last year with an unblemished 8-0 record, but lost to Louisiana Tech 47-28 in the New Orleans Bowl, while runner up Appalachian State was flying to a dramatic 31-29 win over Ohio. The Mountaineers finished the season 11-2 and earned a #25 ranking in the final Billingsley Report, the first time in history a Sun Belt team finished in the Top 25. Although Arkansas State and Appalachian State will both be breaking in new QB’s, both teams have enough play makers to contend for another conference crown, and perhaps even, a national ranking. The Mountaineers return 16 starters (7 on offense and 9 on defense) while Arkansas State returns 13 (6 and 7). Various Online college football odds are already on top of posting the first week of the season, along with odds for conference titles and playoff participants as the opening week of the season is drawing near. Appalachian State has a very tough non conference schedule, opening at Tennessee on September 3 and hosting Miami (Fla.) two weeks later, so matching the won-loss record success of 2015 would mean posting a big non conference upset or running the table in conference play, both of which are very possible. The Volunteers and Hurricanes better be ready for this team. By a quirk in the conference schedule, Arkansas State and Appalachian State do not play in the regular season. Georgia Southern, also a big bowl winner in 2015, figures prominently into the conference race. The Eagles are the only conference contender with a solid returning QB (Sr. Kevin Ellison) but must play a tough road game against Arkansas State on October5. Later Georgia Southern gets Appalachian State at home on October 27, and has another tough road test near the end of the season at Georgia State. This is the way I am projecting the Sun Belt Conference for 2016: Appalachian State Arkansas State Georgia Southern La. Lafayette Troy South Alabama Georgia State Idaho New Mexico State Texas State La. Monroe
Pre-Season Magazines offer few surprises for 2016
The middle of June holds a ritual in the Billingsley household, that of daily trips to the local WalMart, the only source for college football magazines in Choctaw County Oklahoma. Usually the search turns into a disappointing, frustrating waste of precious time until FINALLY, one by one, the magazines start to appear. It’s always exciting to read the various predictions in print from Athlon, Sporting News, Phil Steele and online from College Football Odds. This June’s much anticipated arrival yielded few surprises in regards to Top 10 teams and predicted Conference Champions. A general consensus seems to agree on just about everything. In the coming week’s Richard Billingsley will be preparing his own conference predictions and ultimately be posting the 2016 Pre-Season rankings in the middle of August. Until then, a sneak peak preview of preseason magazines find the SEC once again firmly in control with 8 teams ranked in the Top 25 in at least one magazine. Defending National Champion Alabama once again is picked to win it all in several publications with perennial favorites Florida State, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State filling out the role as top contenders in one publication or another. Some newcomers certainly seem to be garnering a lot of attention, although not surprisingly so based on coaching, returning starters and building on last year’s success. Most notably Michigan, Tennessee, Notre Dame, LSU, Washington and Houston. Also getting a lot of attention, but perhaps somewhat less than last year are Ole Miss, Stanford, UCLA, Georgia and TCU. Teams on the rise most mentioned are Louisville, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Miami (Fla.) and Texas A&M. Iowa, USC, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Oregon seem to be filling out most of the bottom part of the Top 25.
Alabama Overtakes Notre Dame as Top College Football Program
There is a new King in College Football. For the first time in CFRC history, the Fighting Irish are no longer the top College Football Program. First released to the NCAA in 1996, the College Football Research Center’s All Time Top College Football Programs saw Notre Dame as the number one ranked program, a title the Irish have held every year since. In fact, Notre Dame and Michigan held a solid hold on the #1 and #2 positions respectively for 18 years. But Alabama began making a strong move beginning with their 2009 National Title which ranks as the overall best team in College Football history. Two years ago the Crimson Tide leaped over Michigan for the #2 position. At that time, my estimate was that if the current trend continued Alabama would overtake Notre Dame within 4 years. But thanks to three more Championships in a five year span, it only took 2 years. Since this list is compiled from every game played since 1869, movement among the Top 10 Programs is rare, but Alabama’s run of 4 National Championships in 7 years, especially during a time when strength of schedules are the highest in the history of football, created rapid movement for the Tide. Michigan has continued to fall, dropping to #4 behind arch rival Ohio State, but the race among the Top 4 teams will be an interesting one to watch in the next few years as Michigan and Notre Dame are witnessing a resurgence in their programs while nothing seems to be slowing down for Alabama and Ohio State. Click here for a complete list of the Top All Time College Football Programs and click here to research the entire Billingsley College Football Encyclopedia.
Alabama Tames Tigers in Classic Championship Game
The Crimson Tide won the College Football National Championship Monday night with a hard fought 45-40 win over a tough Clemson team. The undefeated Tigers refused to give in to the favored Alabama squad, even after the Tide stole momentum after a gutsy onside kick play and jumped to an 11 point lead in the middle of the 4th quarter. Clemson fought back and had a chance to win the game, but time, and big plays by Alabama on offense and defense finally sealed Clemson’s fate. Alabama has now won 4 National Championships in the last 7 years, a feat unmatched in the history of Modern College Football.
Clemson and Alabama set to play for College Football National Championship
Both the Tigers and the Crimson Tide took care of business in stunning fashion New Years Eve in their respective Semifinal games to capture a spot in the College Football Playoff National Title Game. Clemson cooled down a hot Oklahoma offense and stunned the favored Sooners 37-17 in the Orange Bowl. A few hours later Alabama completely dominated a tough Michigan State team 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl. The two teams will square off Monday night January 11th in the Championship Game. The Billingsley Report featuring the Bowl Game results was released at 11AM CT this morning (January 3rd). The Margin of Victory Report, and Billingsley’s Personal Report, will follow this afternoon. Follow the links on the rankings tab.
Bowl Season Begins Saturday December 19th
40 Bowl Games begin to unwind this Saturday with 5 games on the slate for opening day. The season culminates with the Championship game on January 11th. This year the two CFP semi-final games will be played on New Year’s Eve with the Orange Bowl, featuring #1 Clemson and #4 Oklahoma followed by #2 Alabama and #3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. For all the Bowl Game Projections, follow the links below. Billingsley Billingsley+ (MOV)
Navy Squeezes Past Improved Army 21-17
In one of America’s premier rivalries, played Saturday in Philadelphia, the Naval Academy completed a 10 win regular season with a hard fought 4 point victory over Army. It was the Midshipmen’s 14th consecutive victory over the Cadets. Army was a 23 point underdog but fought valiantly, taking the game into the late stages of the 4th quarter. The Cadets finished 2-10 on the season but have shown noticeable improvement in 2015. 7 losses this season have come by 7 points or less. The future of Army football looks bright under head coach Jeff Monken. Army’s stingy run defense kept Navy in check most of the day and gave the Cadets an opportunity to win the game, but in the end, turnovers and an inability to sustain any offense proved too much for Army to overcome. This week represents the Final Regular Season Billingsley Report. The next ranking will be published on January 3 after the conclusion of the Bowl Season on January 2. A Final Report will be issued on January 12 after the National Championship Game on January 11.
Billingsley Releases Final Regular Season Rankings
Although there was little drama surrounding Saturday’s games, college football fans anxiously await the release of the CFP Final Four scheduled to be shown on ESPN at 11 AM CT Sunday morning. Billingsley released his rankings Sunday morning at 8:19 AM. There will be an updated version to include next Saturday’s Army/Navy game. The seeding of the Top 4 teams remains the only mystery left to unfold. If Clemson holds the #1 position as expected, they will play the #4 ranked team, either Michigan State or Oklahoma. The ACC Champion plays in the Orange Bowl, so either the Spartans or the Sooners will head to Miami. #2 Alabama will be the host team in the Cotton Bowl and play the #3 seeded opponent. Both games will be played December 31, with times yet to be released. Billingsley’s Margin of Victory and Personal Rankings will be released later this morning.
Stanford win over Irish Makes Job Easy for CFP
Stanford’s dramatic last second 38-36 win over Notre Dame removed any drama from the College Football Playoff Selection Committee release this coming Tuesday night. The Cardinal moved the length of the field in 30 seconds and kicked a 45 yard pressure packed field goal to end any playoff hopes for Notre Dame. An Irish win could have created some controversy over the Top 4 teams with Notre Dame and Oklahoma both finishing the season at 11-1 and no conference championship to play. Instead, the Sooners, who most likely would have won the selection anyway, appear in line to take one of the spots in next week’s FINAL selection, along with Clemson, Alabama and the winner of the Big 10 Championship Game between Michigan State and Iowa. Only a major upset by North Carolina or Florida could reshape the standings at this point. In that case, Ohio State, Stanford or even North Carolina could fill the remaining slot. With Florida’s loss to Florida State, even a win over Alabama would most likely not be enough to sway the committee in the Gators direction. College fans will certainly celebrate the 4 team playoff this year. Can you imagine the outcry we would have experienced if only TWO slots were available at the end of this season? All 3 Billingsley Rankings are now online.
College Football Rivalry Weekend is best in Sports
Talk about tradition…….for over 100 years on Thanksgiving weekend college football’s greatest rivalries have played themselves out. Oh, they may not have ALWAYS been played on this weekend EVERY year, but if you check out the biggest rivals through Billingsley’s Encyclopedia (Section 2) , you’ll see historical data from some of the greatest games ever played. The list could go on forever, but these are certainly special, Alabama/Auburn, Florida/Florida State, Ohio State/Michigan, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, Oregon/Oregon State, Washington/Washington State, Clemson/South Carolina, Mississippi/Mississippi State, and USC/UCLA. The CFP picture may clear a bit after this weekend as the Big 12 and Big 10 both have top rated contests in Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, Ohio State/Michigan and Michigan State/Penn State, plus Notre Dame Stanford figures into the mix pretty strongly. Happy Thanksgiving to all…..it’s wall to wall football, just the way I like it! Billingsley Projections Billingsley+ Projections Pre-Season Game By Game Projections