“We’re not going to the playoffs.”
That’s the prescient sentence — according to CBSSports.com and various national media outlets — that TCU coach Gary Patterson shared with ISU coach Paul Rhoads before the then-No. 3 Horned Frogs took the field to trounce the Cyclones 55-3 on Dec. 6, 2014.
Patterson’s words rang true. TCU inexplicably fell to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff committee’s final rankings. Ohio State slid into the top four and the rest — by virtue of the Buckeyes’ surprise national title — is history. Rhoads, speaking during Tuesday’s spring-capping Big 12 coaches’ teleconference, confirmed the pre-game exchange took place as widely described.
“I remember it very vividly,” he said.
Rhoads is still surprised that the Horned Frogs fell from the playoff ranks, but it doesn’t mean he’s a proponent of re-instituting a Big 12 championship game — which should become officially possible if a NCAA committee votes for deregulation of title contests for conferences that don’t meet the 12-team minimum requirement beginning with the 2016 season.
“No I would not,” Rhoads said Tuesday. “The fact that we play everybody — the league has worked hard to put some tie-breaking formulas in place, whether it’s two, three or more and be able to declare who our champion is. It’s tough enough to beat a team once and the fact that you play everybody once, you’ve hopefully settled it on the field.”
But not for the playoff committee. Many firmly believe lacking a championship game puts the Big 12 at a competitive disadvantage, for solid reasons.
It’s the only power-five conference without a postseason winner-take-all matchup and most coaches in the league want to see such a game return, particularly after the “One True Champion” motto failed to fully live up to its words last season.
“Yeah, I think it would be great,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “The one thing I’ve always been a proponent of is everyone doing the same thing. To have that 13th game to be on the same level as everyone else, I think, is important. Based on what happened toward the end of the year last year, I think it kind of hurt the Big 12.”
The round-robin nature of the schedule was supposed to make up for that, but the playoff committee did what it did and hand wringing promptly ensued.
So will the championship game come back? Stay tuned.
Rhoads said it will be a topic for discussion at this summer’s league meetings and coaches and administrators will proceed from there. They’ll also remain attentive to any and all information the playoff committee reveals or clarifies that pertains to the criteria that separate the top four from the simply bowl-bound.
“I think what will be very telling in that is if there’s more that comes out of the playoff committee’s communication to the other schools that, ‘Yeah, a championship game is important and it will weigh heavily on where we rank teams to end it all,’” Rhoads said.
NO KNOTT UPDATE
Rhoads said he was unable to immediately shed more light on linebacker Luke Knott’s status for 2015 and beyond. Knott, ISU’s third-leading tackler a year ago despite coming off a second hip surgery, continues to battle hip issues.
“It will be some time,” Rhoads said. “The surgeon will see him. They’re going to perform a procedure to try to alleviate some pain that he’s going through and then it will be a matter of time to see how that works and where they go from there. I don’t really believe I’ll have any kind of concrete answer for you on that until August gets here, because they’re going to give him that kind of time frame to see how it responds to the next batch of treatments, if you will.”
ANOTHER RB HURT
Rhoads said that reserve running back Justin Webster suffered an ACL injury and will likely be out “the bulk of the 2015 season.” ISU was already down to two three-deep projected tailbacks (Mike Warren and Tyler Brown) after Martinez Syria went down this spring with a neck injury.
ISU, which had several key players limited or out with injury during spring ball, didn’t sustain any more hits to the heath of the roster beyond Webster, Rhoads said. He also said there is no update on the status of wide receiver Jake Rhoads and defensive tackle Terry Ayeni, both of whom were arrested following the spring game. Rhoads was charged with public intoxication. Ayeni was charged with disorderly conduct.
“We’ll continue to go through the process of gathering information and we’ll provide any updates when that becomes appropriate,” Rhoads said.