Monday, December 23, 2013

Notre Dame Didn't Get In This Time

Nebraska didn't make the field, either. (Both the Fighting Irish and the Cornhuskers came home 8-4 here in 2013...not good enough for an at-large team to make the 24-team field.)  

In fact, just nine of the teams that made a would-be version of the 2012 NCAA Division 1-A football playoff made it to this year's version. (We'll meet them later.)

And this year's field includes four clubs that are making 1-A playoff three that hadn't made this version of a playoff since it featured a 16-squad field. 

This time around, fourteen at-large spots became available. And it was all because (1) the Western Athletic Conference celebrated its 50th birthday by giving up on offering its schools a football championship and (2) a rift between the Big East's men's basketball-oriented schools and the conference's football-oriented members caused that league to drop football. (The men's-hoops-first institutions were allowed to keep the Big East name. Never mind that half the schools in the now ten-member league aren't even located in the Atlantic states, but right here in the Midwest.) 

The other members that were in the 2012-13 version of the Big East got together with some other schools to form a new league, the American Athletic Conference.  

Well...let's do it. Let's reveal the field for this year's version of a shoulda-coulda-woulda NCAA D-1-A playoff, with teams listed in order of seeding:

1. Florida State (13-0; ACC champ)/ 2. Auburn (12-1; SEC champ)/ 3. Michigan State (12-1; Big Ten champ)/ 4. Northern Illinois (12-1; MAC at-large)/ 5. Ohio State (12-1; Big Ten at-large)/ 6. Alabama (11-1; SEC at-large)/ 7. Baylor (11-1; Big 12 champ)/ 8. Central Florida (11-1; AAC champ)

9. Fresno State (11-1; Mountain West champ)/ 10. Stanford (11-2; Pac-12 champ)/ 11. Missouri (11-2; SEC at-large)/ 12. Louisville (11-1; AAC at-large)/ 13. Oklahoma (10-2; Big 12 at-large)/ 14. Arizona State (10-2; Pac-12 at-large)/ 15. South Carolina (10-2; SEC at-large)/ 16. Oklahoma State (10-2; Big 12 at-large)

17. Clemson (10-2; ACC at-large)/ 18. Oregon (10-2; Pac-12 at-large)/ 19. Ball State (10-2; MAC at-large)/ 20. Rice (10-3; Conference USA champ)/ 21. Duke (10-3; ACC at-large)/ 22. Bowling Green State (10-3; MAC champ)/ 23. UCLA (9-3; Pac-12 at-large)/ 24. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4; Sun Belt champ)

Baylor and its old Southwest Conference foe, Rice, are in these Division 1-A playoffs for the first time ever. The Bears and Owls join fellow 2013 playoff newcomers Duke (the Blue Devils got pummeled by the Seminoles in the ACC title game, 45-7) and Louisiana-Lafayette (the Ragin' Cajuns ended Arkansas State's two-year reign at the head of the Sun Belt Conference, earning the automatic bid by beating the Red Wolves in mid-season, 23-7- getting the tiebreaker despite the two clubs sporting identical 5-2 league marks).  

The Bruins needed help from Fresno State in order to make the field and become the only one of eight at-large hopefuls with nine wins apiece in 2013 to extend the season. The Bulldogs came through, crushing Utah State in the first-ever Mountain West title test. 

Result: The Bulldogs' first 1-A playoff appearance since 1989, when Miami (FL) took it to Fresno State in the first round, 24-10.  

Three years later, the Hurricanes eliminated Bowling Green State in the first round, 15-6. (While the 'Canes went on to win it all in those 1992 playoffs, the Falcons never again made this version of the 1-A playoffs...that is, until this season's.)  

And UCLA is making its first playoff appearance since 1993, when the Bruins lost in the second round to eventual runner-up Notre Dame, 24-9.  (Eight years afterwards, these 1-A playoffs went from a 16-team field to the present 24-team one.) 

The 24-team field was in place the last time Ball State was a playoff entry...and that was in 2008, when the then sixth-seeded Cardinals (they skipped the first round) staged a miracle rally to bounce Oregon, 35-28, only to lose to Florida in the quarterfinals, 35-14. 

And as for the nine teams that are holdovers from 2012...they're Florida State, Northern Illinois, Alabama, Stanford, Louisville, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Clemson, and Oregon. (The Sooners won it all in 1985, 1986, and 1987- the only three-peat. The Seminoles came through in 1995, 1998, and 2000. And the Ducks took the 2011 playoffs, preceding the Fighting Irish as playoff kingpins.)  

Well, to get these 2013 playoffs off the ground, I'm going to do it with Lance Haffner Games' 3-in-1 Football computer game, and all the contests will be computer vs. computer. Soon as all the games get played, I'll come back to this blog and post all the results.

In the meantime, may you have a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Kwanzaa...and thanks for reading "Boston's Blog!"