Wednesday, November 29, 2023

BARNEStorming: Playoffs and thoughts around the college football world – The Rebel Walk

Must read

OXFORD, Miss. — If this was November 2024, there is little doubt Ole Miss would be included in the inaugural 12-team playoff.

Apart from the Rebels’ record, another key component is the team’s strength of schedule.

Of Ole Miss’ non-conference opponents, only Louisiana-Monroe has a losing record. Tulane is 10-1 — with its only loss to Ole Miss — and the Green Wave is in line for a New Year’s Six Bowl berth. Georgia Tech is over .500 and bowl eligible and Mercer won eight games and received a bid to the FCS playoffs.

The Southeastern Conference cross divisional opponents reached each end of the spectrum.

Vanderbilt is winless in the conference with a game against Tennessee still on the slate and undefeated Georgia won the east and will be in Atlanta for the SEC title game.

The west was tough again as it annually is. Alabama won the division with only Arkansas currently missing out on a bowl bid. Mississippi State needs one more win to reach the postseason and the Bulldogs get that shot Thursday when Ole Miss heads to Davis-Wade Stadium for the Egg Bowl.

How ‘Bout Them Aggies

The Aggies are 9-3 and second in the conference, pretty much what the fans in College Station, Texas, expected this season.

Oh wait, we’re talking about the New Mexico State Aggies, not the ones from Texas A&M.

NMSU coach Jerry Kill’s team has been an afterthought most seasons and a perennial homecoming opponent for other teams around the country.

Nevermore sayeth the Aggie.

All New Mexico State did Saturday was roll into Auburn and drill the Tigers 31-10. Up next for the Aggies is another Alabama team, Jacksonville State at home in Las Cruxes, and the Conference USA championship game against undefeated Liberty.

Another interesting aspect about the Auburn win — the Aggies left Jordan-Hare Stadium with a $1.8 million check.

Should Auburn need some help covering that check before it hits the bank, perhaps the Tigers should call the former coach of those other Aggies in Texas. With Jimbo Fisher’s buyout from A&M, he can afford it.

Please Game Day, no more, signed the Sun Belt.

That could be the subject line from an email from the Sun Belt Conference to ESPN.

Saturday, ESPN Game Day,  the flagship college football pregame show visited the James Madison campus in Harrisonburg, Va. The students, fans and pretty much anyone in the area came out and set a Game Day record with 26,000 fans in attendance., That is impressive since Game Day has been to Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, USC, Texas, Ohio State, Michigan and Ole Miss.

The hosts all lauded the virtues of the Dukes whom the NCAA has deemed ineligible for the postseason due to a stupid rule about schools transitioning from the FCS to the FBS.

Then JMU took the field and lost to Appalachian State in overtime.

Last season, a week after Ap State upset Texas A&M, Game Day went to Boone, N.C., to visit the Mountaineers. Again, the hosts exalted  the home team with one host saying the opponent had no chance in the game.

It took a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game to give Ap a win over Troy.

One home team down, one winning by a miracle.

The Sun Belt certainly loves the exposure in the pregame, but not the actual contest. Somewhere in the conference’s New Orleans offices, someone is playing a Pink Floyd record and singing along: “Leave them kids alone.”

Bo knows stats, but so does Jayden

Saturday, Oregon took a 42-0 halftime lead on its way to a 49-13 win at Arizona State.

With the outcome of the game not in doubt, the college football world knew what was coming next. It was time for Bo Nix to pump up his Heisman stats.

The Auburn transfer threw for 404 yards and six touchdowns.

After that game, LSU took to the Tiger Stadium turf and Jayden Daniels used the opportunity to elevate his numbers against Georgia State. Daniels accounted for eight total touchdowns. He ran for two and passed for six. Unfortunately the last one left a sour taste in some people’s mouths. It was a 40-yard scoring strike to Malik Nabors midway through the fourth quarter to provide the 59-14 final.

LSU finishes the regular season next week against Texas A&M. The Aggies might want to employ eigh defensive backs the entire game as this will be Daniel’s last appearance before Heisman voting closes.

Committee, you have some choices to make

The college football playoff committee has a couple of hard choices to make very soon.

First, with Jordan Travis out as Florida State’s quarterback with a severe injury, what does the committee do with the Seminoles should they win Saturday at Florida and then take the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game?

Will the committee include FSU in the field of four, or use Travis’ injury as an excuse to exclude an undefeated conference champion?

The bigger decision for the committee is what to do with itself.

Michigan just accepted a three-game suspension for coach Jim Harbaugh for his part in an alleged sign-stealing scheme. The school also accepted the resignation of an athletic department staffer involved in the case and fired linebacker coach Chris Partridge for his alleged role in the scandal.

Now, what does the committee do with Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, who serves on the committee?

They could always keep him and say he had no idea about the events and therefore should not be sanctioned. But is that the right choice?

It would be bad enough if he and Harbaugh, who initially claimed no knowledge and wanted a court date only to take the suspension instead of going to court, knew what was going on with the football staff.

It would be worse if Manuel didn’t know. That would mean his subordinates were running rouge exercises under his nose and he didn’t even notice. That comes very close to the NCAA’s definition of “lack of institutional control.”

The college football world is watching committee for one reason — to see if you have integrity.

Raising Arizona

Arizona has been the surprise team out west this season with the Wildcats off to an 8-3 start with only the rivalry game at Arizona State left in the regular season. The Cats only losses were at Mississippi State in overtime and a 7-point loss against then-No. 7 Washington and a triple-overtime loss to then No. 9 USC.

The Wildcats are on a five-game winning streak, with four of those wins coming against ranked opponents.

That is the good news for Arizona. The bad news is now every school in the nation is looking at Wildcat coach Jedd Fisch.

When a team gets things turned around quickly — Fisch is in his third season in Tucson — other schools are looking to poach away the architect of the rebuild. So Fisch is now in the conversation with Tulane’s WIllie Fritz, Troy’s Jon Sumrall and Jamie Chadwell at Liberty as hot coaches to be plucked away by bigger schools.

Of those four, Fisch might be the most attractive simply for availability.

Liberty is undefeated. Tulane has one loss. Troy has two. Those three teams should be playing in bowl games in late December or early January. No athletic director wants to wait that long to hire a coach, especially when there is more than one opportunity in the coaching job market.

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for, and as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.

He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.

A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.

Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.

He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.

Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

Latest article