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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: No matter what happens today, everyone will have a bone to pick with CFP choices

A GRIP ON SPORTS • With the Seahawks idle this Sunday, it seems as if it would be the perfect day to wax poetic about college football. After all, the end of the Pac-12 coincides with the final four-team playoff invitational. And it is ending in chaos thanks to too much success and not enough. In one day. But there is a problem.


• All the speculation about the four teams that will play in the sham national championship event this season ends just as this column appears on the Interweb. Which makes any opinion moot. Except for this: If those of us who have been politicking for a true tournament, something that comes closer to reality next season when the playoffs expand to 12 schools, wanted everyone to remember how messed up the system has been, today will do it.

Not just one, not just two, heck, probably not just three schools that could win the title, will be left out this year. And every one of their fan bases will be livid. Rightfully so.

The 12-team format we will have next season is still not enough but it’s better. And would have been in place today if the ACC, Big Ten and, yep, the Pac-12 hadn’t submarined it a couple years ago. (And, if you are looking for another decision that helped sink the league, you can add that to your list.)

What happens today? We’re not sure. We know the four teams we would have in the CFP: Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama, in that order. Four of the Power Five champions. And, yes, we know that’s leaving out a 13-0 Florida State team that, seemingly, is only out because its quarterback room has been decimated.

But as bad as that is, the Seminoles played in the weakest Power Five conference this season (a tick behind the Big 12, which had better depth), had an out-of-conference schedule that included one decent team, LSU, and, yep, would go into the tournament without its No. 1 quarterback.

Will the CFP committee see it the same way? Probably not.

If it holds true to its “best teams” mantra, it would have Michigan, Washington, Georgia and Alabama. But we don’t believe it would ever do that. Heck, if it held true to the four most-deserving schools, which seemed to be part of the equation over the years, the four might be Michigan, Washington, Florida State and Texas. That’s three undefeated teams and the Big 12 champ which holds a 10-point win over the SEC champ – in Alabama.

Whatever way the committee goes there will be anger. Disbelief. Lawsuits. Well, no, not the last one, even if that is the usual modus operandi in college sports these days.

And it will all fade away until the games are played. And Texas blows someone out of the Cotton Bowl by 40 – if everyone plays. Or Georgia runs away with its bowl game. Or Florida State loses to Washington by three touchdowns – or wins by the same margin. Whatever result works best into a fanbase’s narrative that they were disrespected more than anyone.

• Speaking of disrespect, ESPN analyst Jay Williams sure had some for USC last night. And it was really obvious. The Trojans, which has been college basketball’s best doughnut team (a big hole in the middle) this season, not only were abused inside by Gonzaga in its 89-76 victory, they displayed a shocking lack of passion on the defensive end.

Hence, Williams oft-mentioned disdain. Guess what? It was deserved. There were times in the second half when four of the five Trojans looked as if they were waiting for a bus. Not just defensively but offensively as well, as their two guards, Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Collier, dominated the ball.

On the other side, the Zags did what the best Zag teams do. They shared it. They hit shots. The rebounded. They ran. And they also did something else, something that some of Mark Few’s teams haven’t done. They played defense with passion.

The contrast was stark. And hard to miss. Especially if you didn’t mute the broadcast.

• We’ll be working this afternoon. We’ll be in the Kennel as Gonzaga’s women host third-ranked Stanford in what seems to have become an annual event for these two schools.

It’s not as if the Cardinal don’t visit the area often anyway. They play Washington State every year in Pullman, and they win every year in Pullman – the last seven times by at least 22 points. The same can’t be said for playing GU in Spokane. The 4,000 or so folks in the Kennel have actually witnessed a victory for the home team. Only one, sure, in 2018, but the last time the teams met, the Zags led by 10 after one quarter, only to see Stanford rally in the second half for a four-point victory.  

• One last thought. The Pac-2 have been left behind. It’s a done deal. And yet here are WSU and Oregon State, making waves in NCAA events.

The Beavers won yesterday in men’s soccer, earning their first trip to the College Cup semifinals. The Cougars, playing in front of a packed Bohler Gym crowd, ended Dayton’s long winning-streak and moved into the women’s volleyball Sweet Sixteen.

Yes, there are more resources other places. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t the chance to compete for championships. It makes it harder, sure, but doesn’t slam the door shut. Even as the rest of the well-fed power conference members bar it to the Cougars and Beavers.

• Before we get to the usual links, we have a whole bunch of CFP ones to pass along. From near and far. Everyone has an opinion. And then everyone will have an opinion after the four teams are announced. How fun.


WSU: The Cougar men have played a less-than-daunting nonconference basketball schedule this season. By design, we’re sure, as Kyle Smith had to rebuild his team prior to Pac-12 play. However, Saturday’s opponent, the Big Sky’s Portland State, has been playing well this season. The Vikings, however, couldn’t match up with Washington State inside, with Idaho transfer Isaac Jones scoring 27 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and leading WSU to a 71-61 victory. Greg Woods has the game story. … Greg also has a story on another Cougar starter leaving for the NFL draft, cornerback Kam Lampkin. … We linked Peter Harriman’s volleyball story above and we do it again here in the WSU section. … River Cracraft has spent the past six years since leaving Pullman knocking around the NFL. He’s found a home in Miami. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we missed this the other day but wanted to pass along a great ode to the conference and its football history. … Jon Wilner decided to rank the best conference football champions since it expanded. This year’s Huskies are not his No. 1, despite being the first undefeated team in a year when the conference has been as good as ever. … Speaking of the Huskies, former Gonzaga Prep standout Devin Culp has been at UW for a long time. Theo Lawson tells us how important he’s become to the Husky offense. … Matt Calkins is voting for Michael Penix Jr. on his Heisman ballot. … By the way, how the heck did UW manhandle Oregon on Friday night in the title game? … Speaking of the Ducks, John Canzano sees them at coming to something of a crossroads. … Deion Sanders is too, trying to rebuild Colorado’s offensive line through the portal. … Oregon State finished 21st in the polls. … Caleb Williams had a tough season. … Jedd Fisch set a new bar for college coaches with his turnaround of Arizona. … In basketball news, Washington, behind Portland transfer Moses Woods’ outside shooting, gave No. 20 Colorado State all it could handle in Las Vegas last night. … A last-second 3-pointer in overtime lifted Oregon over visiting Michigan. … Arizona is headed to No. 1 after it brushed off Colgate (sorry). … Colorado hosts Pepperdine today. … The Husky women are still undefeated. … So is Oregon State. … Colorado has ascended to the heights but still has unfinished business. … Utah had no trouble with BYU. … Arizona was smoked by UNLV. … The L.A. schools are having great seasons.

Gonzaga: We had some thoughts from last night’s win in Vegas (and a TV Take that ran in the S-R). But Jim Meehan was in the arena and has this game story on another GU victory over a Pac-12 team. Few must be sad to see the conference disappear. … Theo was also at the game and he has a story on how much offensive depth the Zags showed as well as the difference makers. … Tyler Tjomsland takes you into the action with this photo gallery. … We also have a couple stories from Los Angeles. … We linked above Greg Lee’s preview of the showdown with Stanford and we do it again. Greg also has a story on the Truong sisters, focusing on Kayleigh today.

Idaho: We watched the last quarter or so of the Vandals’ first home FCS playoff game in the 30 years last night. And was surprised to see them struggling with Southern Illinois, considering the build on many of the Salukis. Heck, SIU’s quarterback was 5-foot-8 and didn’t seem to be in the best of physical shape. But man did Southern Illinois hit. UI had to contend with being blasted more often than the old-time tunnels up the road in the Silver Valley. And the fourth-seeded Vandals survived, which is the right term. Survived being behind all game. Survived not scoring an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter. Survived a game-winning field goal attempt in the waning seconds of regulation. They won, 20-17, in overtime and will advance to the next round. Colton Clark has more in this story. … The Idaho men won another home basketball game, topping Cal Poly. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, No. 2 Montana had no trouble, snowing under Delaware 49-19 in the Blue Hens last FCS game. … No. 6 Montana State was the only seeded team to lose, dropping a 35-34 thriller to North Dakota State on a blocked overtime PAT. … Sacramento State lost 34-24 at South Dakota. … In basketball, Idaho State, Montana, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado each posted wins.

Whitworth: The Pirates defeated visiting Pacific 67-65 on Jerry Twenge’s last-second layup.

Preps: Today is the day the S-R honors the all-league athletes in fall sports. Don’t miss perusing through the pictures and the lists. You may just see someone you know. … Dave Nichols didn’t have to worry about football anymore but he does have a roundup of the basketball action.

Chiefs: Dave was also in the Arena last night for his first Teddy Bear Toss game. He covered the hockey game, a 6-3 loss to Prince George, while Roberta Simonson covered the charity event itself.  

Kraken: Ottawa usually gives up goals in droves. Not against Seattle last night. The Kraken, despite trying a new line, fell 2-0 on the road.


• We’ll be back here later this afternoon. And tomorrow morning. And on and on and on. Are we in a rut? Maybe. Until later …