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Football: College Football Playoffs unfair to teams like Ragin’ Cajuns

John Marcase,  

Special to The Town Talk, Dec. 8, 2020

If there ever was going to be a season in which a Group of 5 school crashed the Power 5’s lock on the four-team College Football Playoffs, this year would be it.

There is no shortage of deserving schools, such as Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina and yes, UL Lafayette.

The Big 10 and Pac 12 postponed play until the spring until they saw the ACC, SEC and Big 12 playing games this fall.

The delayed start to the season for Big 10 and Pac-12 schools have left them vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks and postponements and lack of games.

Each of the 14 members of the SEC are on pace to play 10 conference games, as are Big 12 schools.

National title contender Ohio State has played just 5 games, and its Saturday matchup with rival Michigan was canceled Tuesday due to a COVID outbreak within Michigan’s program.

Arizona State of the Pac-12 has played just twice this season, and only two schools – Oregon State and UCLA – have played as many as five games.

Then, there is the ACC, which is pulling the equivalence of a Congressional gerrymander to ensure its top two teams – Notre Dame and Clemson – don’t run the risk of an upset before they meet in a rematch in the ACC Championship game. The ACC is betting that with star quarterback Trevor Lawrence back, Clemson will avenge its 47-40 overtime loss to the Irish in South Bend. Such an outcome would give the ACC a high probability of Clemson and Notre Dame each advancing to the College Football Playoffs.

Thus, the ACC is not requiring Clemson to make up its COVID-19 postponed game at Florida State, nor is it making Notre Dame travel to Wake Forest this Saturday.

The Big 10 is mulling something similar to ensure Ohio State qualifies for the Big 10 Championship game. It is meeting Wednesday to discuss the Buckeyes’ situation after announcing before the season the minimum number of games required to qualify for the championship game was six.

None of this should be too surprising, because when it comes to major college athletics, money and power hold all the cards. Just last week, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics endorsed splitting off Football Bowl Subdivision schools from the NCAA. In other words, the top level of college football would govern itself. This “recommendation” would be laughable if the Knight Commission didn’t hold so much sway with the NCAA and the national media because in essence, the top level of college football governs itself anyway. The NCAA sure doesn’t govern it. That is why we had the Bowl Championship Series, and now the College Football Playoff.

How else do you explain why 7-2 Iowa State, which is leading the Big 12 and has secured a spot in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma, is ranked No. 10 by the AP (sportswriters poll) and was No. 9 in last week’s College Football Playoffs rankings?

Undefeated Coastal Carolina, which held off BYU this past Saturday in a game pitting two undefeated teams, is behind the Cyclones in all three polls.

Another team behind Iowa State in all three polls that is puzzling? UL Lafayette.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are enjoying a season to remember. After surviving deep-snapping issues to beat Appalachian State last Friday, 24-21, the Cajuns are 9-1. Their lone loss was 30-27 to Coastal Carolina when the Chanticleers kicked a 40-yard field goal with four seconds left to win at Cajun Field in mid-October.

Thankfully, ULL and Coastal are scheduled for a rematch in the Sun Belt Championship game Dec. 19, and Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill didn’t have to pull any strings to ensure that contest.

Where Iowa State plays into this is what happened on Sept. 12. That is when ULL opened its season by thumping Iowa State, 31-14, on the road. The Cajuns scored the final 24 points. There has been no more impressive road victory by any school this season than that one.

Yet, it now garners a shrug by the major movers and shakers in college football.

The sad reality is ULL could’ve run the tables this season, finished 11-0, and still be on the outside of the CFP.

You just hope the Cajuns will be rewarded with a decent bowl game this season instead of the school’s sixth trip to the New Orleans Bowl. You can be assured Iowa State will be playing in a far better and more lucrative bowl game because that is how major college football works.

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.