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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bulletproof Glass

The greatest trick the College Football Playoff ever pulled was forcing me to cape for C.Florida.

Two weeks ago in Atlanta, North Carolina A&T capped off a perfect season with a Celebration Bowl victory over Grambling. With the win, A&T earned the right to be called a champion.

When UCF tries to complete their perfect season on New Year's Day in the same venue, they'll have no such opportunity.

The Knights have already grabbed their brass ring, a consolation prize at best: The New Year's Six berth that comes with being the highest ranked Group of Five champion, and a shot at SEC runner you Auburn. Some would argue it's a no-win game for Auburn, but I find it similarly fruitless for UCF: Lose, and they were supposed to; win, and meet excuses about how an unmotivated Auburn didn't want to be there.

But what the Knights don't have is a shot at a championship. No Group of Five team does - at least not as a single year accomplishment. Houston came closest, chasing a bowl victory over FSU with an early season win over Oklahoma. But even an undefeated 2016 campaign by the Cougars would likely have served only to put them in the conversation, not the playoff itself. That slim chance was only a function of getting Oklahoma on the schedule, the likes of which is increasingly rare for high caliber Group of Five programs. It's not just a glass ceiling - it's bulletproof.

Three years ago, the MEAC and SWAC decided that instead of an autobid to the FCS playoffs, their champions would meet in December to crown the HBCU national champion. The SWAC ended its relationship with the playoff in the '90s in favor of a conference championship game, and the MEAC now sends its champion to Atlanta, though highly ranked runners up are still eligible for an at-large bid. Seasons that would have once ended in an early round playoff exit now had the opportunity for glory in a championship of meaning.

The system we currently have still keeps this opportunity from Group of Five schools. The common refrains are that "they ain't played nobody!" and "there's no way they're going undefeated with [insert Power Five team]'s schedule!" - qualifiers that create an unbalanced narrative. After all, if you're going to mythically burden them with the schedule, you must also arm them with the resources these programs wield. For my money, I'm taking UCF with Auburn's budget over the opposite.

The fear of letting a deserving UCF - and to be clear, the language of the College Football Playoff is "best," not "most deserving" - is that it would result in a blowout of an overmatched team. Nothing prevents that from happening with the current setup - Just ask Ohio State, Michigan State, or FSU.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Bowl Bands: College Footbal Playoff - 2018 Allstate Sugar Bowl

They meet again! Clemson and Alabama go for the rubber match, this time in a national semifinal instead of the championship game. While the Tigers have the home team designation as the #1 seed, the Crimson Tide know New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl well.

Alabama:

Clemson:

Bowl Bands:College Football Playoff - 2018 Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern Mutual

The Granddaddy of 'em All hosts a pair of Sudler Trophy winners for just the second time this century and the first time in a dozen years. Oklahoma last marched down Colorado Blvd. in 2003; UGA hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since World War II, and the Redcoats missed the trip due to travel restrictions, leaving Pasadena City College to march halftime in their stead.

Georgia:

Oklahoma:

Bowl Bands: 2018 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Auburn last played in this very stadium as the fell to Georgia in the SEC Championship game. Undefeated UCF, who rebounded mightily from a winless campaign two seasons ago, ran into the bulletproof glass ceiling and attains the Group of Five's highest attainable honor: A New Year's Six bowl berth.

C.Florida:
Auburn:

Bowl Bands: 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl

Undefeated late into the season, ACC runner up Miami and Big Ten runner up Wisconsin are tales of what could have been this season. The Band of the Hour will march out of their home tunnel, while the Badger Band, in all of their postseason trips to Florida, has never played in the Orange Bowl.

Wisconsin:

Miami:

Bowl Bands: 2017 Playstation Fiesta Bowl

This year's Fiesta Bowl matchup will feature spats for dayse as the Husky Band of Washington takes on Penn State's Blue Band. The historically band friendly game is looking to rival even the Rose Bowl as sponsor Playstation brings the programs together (admittedly to promote a game, God of War).

Washington:

Penn State:

Bowl Bands: 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Pac-12 champion USC takes on Big Ten champion Ohio State. It sounds like the Rose Bowl - indeed, the two programs have met in that game seven times, the second most frequent matchup - but with the Rose Bowl hosting a playoff game this year and neither team making the field, they will meet in North Texas.

The Cotton Bowl has already created a matchup for the two in their Battle of the Bands - see the Spirit of Troy take on TBDBITL below.

Holiday Six Pack

While I was unable to give you the full complement of bowl matchups as in years' past, I couldn't leave you empty-handed. This bowl season will still feature previews of the New Year's Six bowls, as well as the College Football Playoff National Championship once the Sugar Bowl goes final and the stage is set. In addition, there'll be a live look at the Belk Bowl's Fan Central featuring Wake Forest and Texas A&M, and the sights and sounds of the national championship weekend from Atlanta.  For now, enjoy the New Year's Six Bowls!



College Football Playoff


Monday, December 18, 2017

Go Live

The Worldwide Leader's broadcast of the Celebration Bowl's halftime and 5th quarter was genius, evil, or evil genius.

It started with a social media alert - Instagram telling me The Undefeated has started a live video. I was already watching the Celebration Bowl, so it wasn't too hard for me to immediately put two and two together: Halftime on deck! Indeed, The Undefeated, described as "...the premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture," was going to bring us what the ABC broadcast wouldn't: Halftime of the HBCU national championship, broadcast as the good Lord intended. Kind of.

Make no mistake: I'm well aware that The Undefeated is a product of ESPN. Any praise or criticism I levee within is the same of ESPN itself. So let me begin with the praise. I'm pleased that ESPN found a way to bring us halftime - and later, the 5th quarter - that the audience gathered around for HBCU football's top prize no doubt expected. That we'd get to see it wasn't a given - after all, they had let us down before, and we had to seek other means. I was happy to get to see the bands be the focus, and on an official ESPN platform, no less.

That's about where the dap stops.

I can't lie - I was excited to find The Undefeated broadcasting halftime via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But I can also acknowledge there was no figurative or literal cost to ESPN to do so. The halftime broadcast was the high angle look we've often gotten when we do get to see bands, often during the Rose Bowl or National Championship. The 5th quarter was a handheld phone pointing at one band, then the other. As an outfit with as much broadcasting capability as anyone, we got a camera phone with no tripod. They would have been best served to let the folks at Eight to Five or Marching Sport take the reins (and if you doubt me, far better coverage can be found at Marching Sport's YouTube page). All the while, the television broadcast still cut back to the studio to sell ads and continue to promote the rest of Capital One Chick Fil-A Bowl Week Presented By Northwestern Mutual. They may even have flouted some of the broadcast/copyright laws that are often the hollow reason for not showing the bands. We as bandheads were served scraps, but because we've often gotten nothing or some hero's cell phone video in similar fashion to The Undefeated's broadcast, we ate it up.

And I wish they'd do it for the rest of the bowls.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Injury Report

As regular readers may know or suspect, I've been sidelined for a bit from regular updates. An eye issue has kept me from spending virtually any leisure time at a computer, and as a result, this here has suffered.

A corollary to this is that normally by now I'd be deep into the prep work that goes into the Big Band Bowl Battle (B4) each year since 2011. B4 provided a brief synopsis and videos of each bowl game's matchup, and the series has more than 200 posts in it, having included every bowl game for the past six years. Unfortunately, it will not continue in the same format this year, for the abovestated reason.

While it saddens me to suspend the traditional format this year, rest assured there will still be updates of some sort - some may be here, and they will certainly be on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #bowlbands. There may even be a few live and "recorded live" looks from some bowl festivities. #bowlbands, of course, is not proprietary; I encourage any and all to use it as well!

As always, follow 80mins on Twitter, 80 Minutes of Regulation on Facebook and eightyminutes on Instagram!
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