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The American

A four-team playoff and the ‘big five’ conferences... But if the numbers don’t add up, is it all just built-in obsolescence? wonders Richard L Gale INTO

WON’T GO

F

Jameis Winston, FSU PHOTO © WLPEARCE.COM COURTESY OF FSU SPORTS INFORMATION

Atlantic Coast Conference Within the ACC, the only thing that can nix the ’Noles is FSU, through peeking ahead. Whatever stories swirl around Famous Jameis, on the field Winston’s pure business. They simply stomped foes last season, and both lines remain packed. Clemson is the only other serious-talent contender, but devoid of Boyd or Watkins, they lack the killer punch. Beyond them, expect the offensive journeyman genius of Bobby Petrino to raise Louisville’s game significantly, at least for this year. All three play in the Atlantic Division. In the Coastal, RB Duke Johnson should help Miami amass a flattering record, while Duke slip back from their high water mark. Virginia Tech usually finds a way, and while QB Logan Thomas’ raw talent is no longer there, neither is his unfulfilled potential. Instead, Texas Tech grad Michael Brewer arrives, but another trip to the Ho-Hum Bowl could have patience in Beamerball running thin. North Carolina could be the party-crasher: after a dismal start in 2013, they finished 6-1, and have some sparkling difference makers on offense.

46 September 2014

inally, a D1 football playoff. It even has a logo: that clever two-bracketsand-four-dashes-look-like-a-football one. And I won’t be the first to observe that there’s room enough between the brackets for eight laces rather than four... You know, the way the B1G logo only needs to extend the crossbar of its ‘G’ for it to read B16. One day the playoff WILL have eight teams and one day, some conference will drop the other shoe and become a super-league of 16 teams. Consider them future-proofed logos. For now, at least one of the ‘big five’ champs won’t be going to the inaugural playoffs, which is why this year’s conference media days were full of high-profile coaches preaching why their conference deserved to be taken as seriously as any other. The SEC champion’s a lock. The ACC and Big 12 might carry less weight, were it not for (a) National Champs Florida State, and (b) Oklahoma shocking mighty Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl. It’ll be a committee of 13 football luminaries making the final selections, a group that, beside boasting former coaches and ADs (Barry Alvarez, Tom Osborne, Oliver Luck...), includes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Which is fitting because the strength-of-schedule politicking is already underway. Whoever misses out becomes the first signatory for the eight-team petition.

Southeastern Conference

Alabama is the default, even though Auburn memorably rewrote logic in 2013, upending the Tide in the play of the year, beating Missouri in the SEC title game and gatecrashing the National Title game. Two headline changes at ’Bama are the addition of Jacob Coker, ex-FSU, at QB (though Blake Sims isn’t out the picture); and Lane Kiffin arriving as OC. How each falls in with the Saban philosophy will determine how far Alabama takes the story this season. Saban directs this show from a strict script, one that will be more about TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry out of the backfield. The defense, especially the pass rush may actually be improved from last season. By comparison, Auburn tore up the SEC script last season, but can they capture lightning in a bottle, and can they hang in there against the best of the best,

considering the away schedule includes Georgia and Alabama? Even Ole Miss and Miss St. shouldn’t be underestimated. QB Nick Marshall has much of his receiving corps and line returning. I just don’t think the dice fall their way a second time without Tre Mason. LSU lost a few too many studs early, but are always well stocked. Freshman runner Leonard Fournette is being spoken of as a talent in the mould of Herschel Walker. We’ll see soon. South Carolina loses their starting CBs, QB Connor Shaw, and most of their defensive front, including Jadeveon Clowney. It falls to RB Mike Davis and his blockers. Georgia has more in the backfield, more receivers, and the defense will mature: the LBs could be magnificent. If they can beat the Gamecocks at home, the division’s theirs. Florida is an outside contender, but maybe only in light of what Auburn and Missouri did last year.

The American September 2014 Issue 736  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.

The American September 2014 Issue 736  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.

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