Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Division I Football Play-Off is Just Too Easy

When the Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA), Division II and Division III can all do it, there is no excuse that the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) can not. The excuses are just that, excuses, as a Division I play-off is just too simple to ignore.

This play-off can be instituted while keeping the lower level bowls intact for teams that do not qualify for the tournament. The lower divisions of college football have a few bowl games in addition to their play-off and there is no reason that the FBS Division I can not do it either. Heck, even NCAA basketball has the NIT for teams that were quite good enough for the NCAA tournament but still had good season regardless.

The higher tier bowls could rotate on a yearly basis and be used as the host sights for the latter rounds of the tournament. Please spare me the travel arrangement and class schedule arguments. Once again if the lower level divisions can do it and make it work, so can the bigger budget Division I.

Many have suggested it before but in order to make it fair, keep it interesting and give everyone a chance, the play-off has to include 16 teams. This would include the 11 conference champions and five “at-large” selections.

How the “at-large” selections are made could be via the polls, some sort of comprehensive ranking like the BCS or via a committee like the NCAA basketball tournament uses. For this argument we will use the BCS rankings.

These 16 teams would then be ranked from one to 16 and an be matched up in a single elimination tournament with the first round at the higher seed’s home field with the next three rounds at the corresponding bowl sites that rotate on a yearly basis:

First Round – Lower Seed’s Home Field
Second Round – Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Orange Bowl
Semi-Finals – Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl
Championship Game – Fiesta Bowl

This would not diminish the regular season or make it less exciting. Tell that to Oregon State who would have blown an automatic bid because of losing to state rival Oregon. Or to Ball State and Tulsa who blew their only chance to qualify by losing to Buffalo and ECU in the MAC and Conference USA Championships Game, respectively.

Win your conference and you are in. Play well at the end of the year and you have a change for an at-large spot, something the 2007 Georgia Bulldogs could have used to prove their doubters wrong.

So in 2008 here is how your NCAA Division I Football Play-Off would lay out:

11 Conference Champions – Automatic Qualifier
ACC – Virginia Tech Hokies
Big East – Cincinnati Bearcats
Big Ten – Penn State Nittany Lions
Big Twelve – Oklahoma Sooners
Conference USA – East Carolina Pirates
MAC – Buffalo Bulls
Mountain West – Utah Utes
Pacific Ten – USC Trojans
SEC – Florida Gators
Sun Belt – Troy Trojans
WAC – Boise State Broncos

5 At-Large Bids (highest BCS ranking of non-conference champions)
Texas Longhorns
Alabama Crimson Tide
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Ohio State Buckeyes
TCU Horned Frogs

The little guys like TCU, Utah and Boise State get a chance to prove that they can play with the big boys. The Big Twelve three way tie debacle still existing but all three teams; Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech; get into the play-offs. And of the six “BCS” conferences, only the ACC sends a representative with more than two losses. Only the crème de la crème, gentlemen.

So (again using the BCS rankings) the following first round match-ups would occur.
#16 Troy at #1 Florida
#9 Boise State at #8 Penn State

#12 Cincinnati at #5 USC
#13 Virginia Tech at #4 Alabama

#11 TCU at #6 Utah
#14 East Carolina at #3 Texas

#10 Ohio State at #7 Texas Tech
#15 Buffalo at #2 Oklahoma

Other than the 1/16 and maybe the 2/15 match-up is there a game that isn’t interesting?

Boise State leaving the “smurf turf” to face a “white out” in Happy Valley. Beamer Ball versus the Florida spread offense. A Mountain West rematch between TCU and Utah. A southern shoot-out with East Carolina facing Texas. A contrast in styles as Ohio State takes on Texas Tech.

The second round would be just as interesting. Possible second round match-ups of Florida/Penn State, USC/Alabama, Utah/Texas and Ohio State/Oklahoma. Who wouldn’t want to see any of those games instead of two 6-6 teams matching up in a low budget bowl?

It is just too easy and too incredible to ignore. So grow a pair and get on board Big Ten and PAC 10. Stop holding things up BCS Bowl chairmen. Stop trying to sell me a Clemson versus Notre Dame Gator Bowl as something I want to see. In a time of change it’s time for a change in Division I college football. The fans are too smart to think what we have now is legit.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Browns Table: Indianapolis Ineptitude

Welcome to The Browns Table, a season-long look at the 2008 season for the Cleveland Browns from the point of view of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.

This discussion is not just meant for the contributing Browns fans. Please feel free to comment on any of the questions or any of our answers below.

We welcome any comments and an open discussion about the Browns below. If you would like a seat at the table leave me a note on my profile and we will try and get you in the rotation.

As always thanks to Browns fans Samantha Bunten and The Coop for their contributions this week.

The guys and gals review another disappointing performance by the Browns’ offense, discuss the RB and QB situations and weigh in on the latest Browns controversy in soap opera land. Let’s talk Browns football.

Another game, another touchdown-less performance. Romeo Crennel said the gameplan "worked" even though they lost. What did you think of the offensive gameplan?

Samantha Bunten:
What gameplan? Seriously, the only way I would say this alleged gameplan worked is if the purpose was to eat up possession time without actually accomplishing anything. Crennel is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, so to speak. I understand the need for the head coach to remain positive, but maybe it's time we just call a spade a spade and acknowledge that absolutely nothing the Browns do is working.

The Coop:
If I strain my eyes really hard, I can maybe see Romeo's point. The Browns moved the sticks won the time-of-possession battle, thereby keeping the normally-explosive Colts offense off the field.

But to say the gameplan "worked" is really a stretch. I mean, they scored 6 points on two field goals for crying out loud. In fact, other than the first two drives, they really only threatened to score one other time, and that resulted in a missed field goal.

Once again, the play-calling was way too predictable. Just because they wanted to establish the run doesn’t mean they should have ran it eight times in a row or on virtually every early-down situation.

And then when they decided to throw, almost everything was underneath. They hardly took any shots down the field, and the entire offense suffered as a result. With no downfield threats, Indy’s defense was able to play the run more aggressively and force the Browns to make plays, which we all know has been a challenge this year.

Jeff Smirnoff:
The premise was sound against a strong Colts offense. Posses the ball and minimize the Colts’ opportunities. That being said, to just posses the ball without being aggressive once you were sustaining a drive and not taking chances gives you no opportunity to win. Once the Browns got into Colts territory the offense became so conservative they were lucky to even get field goal attempts. The basis of the strategy was sound but the way they went about it was unbelievable.

Jamal Lewis asked for the ball and got it 24 times. He only gained 77 yards (3.2 average), however. How do you think Lewis should be used for the rest of this season and beyond?

Samantha Bunten:
While I acknowledge that Lewis was spectacularly unproductive on Sunday, I'm not sure we should be picking on him individually any more than anyone else. I'm glad he asked for the ball. It's nice to see someone on this squad is still willing to show some initiative even as the team continues to implode. Overall, what I might take from this is proof that Lewis needs some better blocking to assist him. He put up good numbers for the Browns last year, and I think he can do it again.

The Coop:
I will say this: running the ball is the only chance the Browns have of winning. Ken Dorsey isn’t going to beat anyone with his arm. So, for the remainder of 2008, the Browns have to pound Jamal when they can and then use Harrison and Wright more for a change-of-pace.

Lewis is a vital component of the Browns and needs to be treated as such going forward. People who want to get rid of Lewis because they think he is too old or think he’s lost a step are ignoring some very important facts and are not looking at the situation objectively.

Even in the last two games, Lewis has shown burst and power, ripping off some nice runs and also fighting for tough yards. Isn’t it possible that predictable play-calling and the absence of a downfield passing game might have something to do with his inability to dominate?

Jeff Smirnoff:
He should start and get 15-20 carries a game but not at the expense of getting Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs some touches on offense. Lewis is slowing down but he can still be an effective back if used properly. Harrison and Cribbs can keep the defense off balance, and are explosive runners, so getting them more involved will take the focus off of Lewis and hopes open up the power running game some.

Derek Anderson is now out for the season with a sprained MCL. What are the ramifications of having both Brady Quinn and Anderson out for the season?

Samantha Bunten:
Quinn and Anderson were both largely ineffective in their respective stints at the helm. Thus, I doubt losing both will really hurt the Browns all that much. I hate to challenge the universe's sense of irony by asking, "what could be worse?", but really, could things really be any more of a mess with Dorsey as the Browns QB?

The Browns season is over anyway, so even if Dorsey were to cost us a game or two, it won't make much difference overall. The one thing that makes this such a disappointment is that we did not get a chance to see if Quinn, finally given a series of consecutive starts, could step up and be the guy he was supposed to be when we drafted him. As per usual, we wait till next year.

The Coop:
Well, obviously, the injuries are troubling because no one knows how they will handle the rehab and recovery. I’d think Quinn would be okay because it doesn’t seem as serious, but the injury is on his throwing hand and who knows if it will limit his throwing ability. For Anderson, it’s much scarier because knee injuries are just never good. And the guy wasn’t mobile to begin with.

Quinn will be mainly hurt by not being able to gain valuable actual-game experience. There’s no substitution for facing “live bullets.” Allowing him to start the last half of the season would have given him a good foundation to build on heading into 2009. Now, he’s practically still a rookie.

As for Anderson, the bigger impact may be felt by the Browns as an organization. He now has virtually no trade value, because no one will want “damaged goods.” So, although I generally like DA, the Browns’ are more or less stuck with him until he plays out his contract or is released.

Jeff Smirnoff:
For Brady Quinn it is five games lost against quality opponents that you can accurately evaluate him for the future. Now you are forced to evaluate him based on three games, one healthy, and ten plays last year. Not a large data sample.

For Derek Anderson it is an opportunity lost to prove his worth to another team, prove to the Browns that he can still be their quarterback or increase his trade value. Now not only has he had a poor 2008 but he is also damaged goods without an opportunity to get back out there and show he is healthy.

Cue the Ken Dorsey Experience. Dorsey gets the start at QB for the rest of the year with Josh Cribbs serving as back-up. How should the Browns approach the QB position for the last 4 games?

Samantha Bunten:
It is a shame Winslow is injured - it would have been interesting to see if Dorsey and Winslow could rekindle some of the chemistry that made them a solid combination during their days at the University of Miami. That aside, I'm not sure this situation merits a change in approach to the position. The Browns have not had the luxury of relying on the strength of their quarterback all season, so they are used to having to look for other ways to succeed. Also, signing Gradkowski was a smart move - if anything happens to Dorsey, I don't really want to see Cribbs in the QB slot.

The Coop:
We now know that Bruce Gradkowski will be the backup. Thank goodness for that. The notion of Josh Cribbs playing QB is really silly. Cribbs in one of my favorite players, but the guy has no NFL experience at QB and hasn’t taken any reps in practice, nor has he been involved in quarterback meetings in Berea. How could anyone expect him to run the offense? Furthermore, putting him at QB takes away the Browns' best special teams player – offensively AND defensively – and reduces their options at the already-thin wideout position.

Dorsey deserves to finish the season as the starter because he knows the offense better than anyone on the roster. There’s a reason he’s a third-stringer, but the Browns weren’t exactly lighting up with the other two guys, so the Browns should just run him out there and hope for the best. Bet he wishes his first start as a Brown was coming against Denver (like Quinn) or Cincinnati (like Anderson) and not Tennessee!

Jeff Smirnoff:
Ken Dorsey should be the quarterback with a healthy dose of Josh Cribbs in the “Flash Package” as the Browns call it. You can not expect a guy, who already has to know all his special teams assignments and receiver routes, to come in and learn the entire playbook for a QB perspective in four weeks. Not going to happen. It also will decrease his effectiveness on special teams.

Dorsey is not going to light it up but at least he is a veteran who has some starting experience, albeit three seasons ago. Use Cribbs to keep the defense off balance but don’t expect him to come in and play quarterback in a standard capacity in any way, shape or form.

Controversy of the Week: Some of the faithful at Cleveland Browns Stadium cheered Derek Anderson's injury. Your thoughts on the fans taking their angst out on DA?

Samantha Bunten:
It is never, NEVER acceptable fan behavior to cheer for an injury to a member of your own team. Ever. I find this sort of behavior classless, disloyal, and flat out despicable. It reminds me of fans applauding when Tim Couch got a concussion a few years ago. I hated Couch as much as anyone, but I don't think a good fan should ever delight in an injury to a member of his team.

The Coop:
There’s no question that cheering because a player is injured is classless and disgusting.

But the thing that bothers me the most about this incident is that it’s just another occurrence in an all-too-familiar series of contemptible behavior by Browns fans. Since coming back in ’99, Browns fans have managed to cheer injuries to not one but two quarterbacks, litter the field with beer bottles and other debris, enter into email confrontations with members of the front office, and even run onto the field during a game.

I’ve always believed the Browns have the best, most loyal and passionate fans of any professional sports franchise. My friends, family and other bloggers here on B/R reaffirm those thoughts frequently. But when there are a couple of losers who act in these deplorable ways, it’s impossible for anyone else to see how great the majority of Browns fans truly are, and it personally embarrasses me.

Jeff Smirnoff:
I was at the game. It wasn’t all or most of the fans doing it but that doesn’t make it right at all. To boo any player when they are injured is just classless. I understand the fans are upset and frustrated at the Browns performance this season but that doesn’t give you Card Blanche to celebrate the injury to someone, let alone your own team.

It’s always the few people who do it that give the rest of the people a bad name but it doesn’t change the fact that it just is the wrong thing to do. Very disappointing indeed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Browns Lose Second Straight Game... and QB

On a miserable, rainy day on the shores of Lake Erie the Cleveland Browns put up another miserable performance, losing to the Indianapolis Colts 10-6.

They also likely lost beleaguered quarterback Derek Anderson for the season with a sprained MCL. Two weeks, two crappy performances, two quarterbacks done for the season.

Let the Ken Dorsey Experience begin. Dorsey will be taking the snaps next week against the Tennessee Titans and for the foreseeable future unless Anderson has a miraculous recovery.

As is with the 2008 the Browns their basic strategy was good but their implementation was awful. Run the ball, possess the ball and keep the potent Colts’ offense off the field. The Browns were able to do just that but whenever they got into the red zone they got ultra conservative and settled for field goals instead of touchdowns.

That philosophy had a chance to work with the normally porous Browns defense holding the Colts at bay, and without an offensive touchdown, but it was the offense that allowed the defense’s effort to be for naught.

With the Browns leading 6-3 midway through the fourth quarter Dwight Freeney beat Browns’ left tackle Joe Thomas on a bull rush and knocked the ball free from Anderson’s hands. Robert Mathis then scooped the ball up and rumbled 37 yards for the decisive score and a 10-6 Indianapolis victory.

The loss did spoil what was a good day for a Browns defense that held the Colts to just three points on offense. It was the first time since 2002, once again versus the Browns, that the Peyton Manning led Colts were held without an offensive touchdown.

Manning was 15 for 21 on the afternoon, but on for 125 yards and two interceptions. Joseph Addai and Dominick Rhodes were held to 92 yards on 26 carries. Struggling Browns’ corners Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald held their own against Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison whom totaled only seven catches on the afternoon.

Wright recovered an Addai fumble on the opening play of the game and McDonald picked off Manning on a ball intended for Wayne on the Colts opening series of the second half. Sean Jones picked Manning on the final play of the first half.

But in the end it didn’t matter much as on a day that the defense showed up to play the offense did not. The plays the offense ran were designed more not to lose the game than to try and win it. That is what losing teams do, par for the course for the 2008 Cleveland Browns.