College Football Review

Thomas Johnson, Editor

On Jan. 11, Alabama walloped Ohio State in the College Football Playoff Championship by a score of 52-24. The game was close until Ohio State could not capitalize on a 1st & Goal and had to kick a field goal, making the score 21-17. Alabama had their four-point lead with five minutes left until halftime. They then extended it to an 18-point lead and never looked back after halftime. Devonta Smith cemented his recent Heisman Trophy win by scoring three touchdowns and getting 215 yards of offense, all while barely playing in the second half. Nick Saban won his seventh national championship, cementing himself in coaching history. Finally, Mac Jones raised his draft stock by throwing for 464 yards and five touchdowns. This game finished, arguably, the oddest college football season in its history and raised many questions about the state of the game.

Should Ohio State have ever been in the College Football Playoff?

Many people claimed Ohio State’s dominating win over Clemson in the semifinal game cemented the playoff committee’s choice to put Ohio State in the playoff. There is no question that Ohio State is one of the four best college teams in the country, especially after their win against Clemson, but they should never have been there. Going into their game against Clemson, Ohio State had played a mere six games while Clemson had played 11 games. This means Clemson played five more games worth of injuries, fatigue, and COVID-19 troubles. Clemson played sloppily throughout the entirety of the game and Ohio State looked fresh. If Clemson and Ohio State had played the same amount of games, they would have been in much similar form. Ohio State also only had six chances in the regular season to be upset. The Florida Gators were on the fringe of the playoff in all of the rankings through the earlier parts of the season, but they lost to LSU in game 10 of their season. After LSU lost Joe Burrow, their team floundered and they put out their worst performance in recent history, so LSU beating a high-ranked Florida was a large upset. This game knocked Florida out of playoff contention. Ohio State never had the chance to be upset in their 10th game against a lackluster team which would have knocked them out of the playoffs. They did not play a full season, so they should not have been able to fight for the championship. Many Buckeyes fans were angry at Dabo Swinney for ranking Ohio State 11th in the Coaches’ poll towards the end of the season, but this is not because they were the 11th best team in the country, but because they did not play enough games to deserve to be in the playoff.

Should the College Football Playoff be extended to more teams? If so, how many?

There have rarely been any major upsets in the playoff recently and this is because of the lack of teams. When teams only have to win two games, there is a significantly smaller chance for an upset. While this year still had very entertaining playoff games, there were no major upsets. While many people had picked Clemson to win over Ohio State, the 2nd seed losing to the 3rd seed is not a major upset, especially since Ohio State played fewer games and was therefore fresher. Adding more teams to the playoff would increase the number of upsets and would allow different teams other than Alabama and Clemson to win the championship. However, the committee should only add two more teams. Many people have suggested it be opened to eight, 10, 12, or 16 teams. However, if they do that, the top-seeded team would be playing the lowest-seeded team and these games would be blowouts, which are less fun to watch. However, slowly opening it up to more teams would create a March Madness feel to college football. This year, Indiana, ranked 11th, could not beat Alabama. Neither could 7th ranked Florida. However, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, ranked 5th and 6th respectively, may have had a chance to at least beat Notre Dame, Ohio State, or Clemson. Slowly opening the college playoff to more teams would increase the number of upsets, lead to a diversity of winners, and motivate other teams to play better since they will actually have a chance to make the playoffs.

What will next year’s NFL draft look like?

Those athletes who were trying to increase their draft stock now have run out of playing time to prove their worth to NFL teams. There is little chance that the Jaguars will take anyone other than Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the draft. Lawrence has the best rating of any player in recent years. Lawrence is rated 97 (out of 100) by ESPN. The most recent player to receive that high of a rating is Saquon Barkley, the current Giants running back. However, there are debates about who will come off the board next. 

The New York Jets have the next pick in the draft. There is speculation they will scrap Sam Darnold and take the next best quarterback after Lawrence. While this will depend on Robert Saleh, the new Jets head coach, the Jets should stick with Darnold. Darnold has had no true weapons to throw to and his coaching has been downright awful. The Jets have at least a decent quarterback in Darnold, but the same cannot be said for their offensive line or wide receiver corps. The next best prospects fitting those descriptions on the board are Penei Sewell, an offensive tackle from Oregon, and Devonta Smith, the Heisman winner wide receiver. The Jets should decide which of those two are better, pick them, and solve their other problem in free agency as they have enough cap space to spend on free agents. 

There has also been speculation the Dolphins, with the 3rd pick, may scrap their plans with Tua Tagovailoa and pick another quarterback. While I never liked the Tua pick in the first place, it is too late to go back now. They cannot waste another draft pick on a quarterback before Tua has even played a whole season, even if he had to be benched multiple times this past season. Whoever the Jets do not take with their pick, the Dolphins should take as they have similar problems to the Jets. The Dolphins’ defense was superb last year in winning 10 games and this year, but the offense needs to pick up the slack so Miami can return to the playoffs.

The 2021 NFL Draft is still filled with quarterback and wide receiver talent after the first three picks. However, NFL teams should be looking more closely at Mac Jones, even though there is better quarterback talent above him. Mac Jones will not be the starting quarterback in his first year out of college. He played very well this season, but he had many dynamic playmakers, including the Heisman Trophy winner, around him. However, teams who currently have an older quarterback should take a look at Jones. The Colts signed Philip Rivers to a one-year contract last year and he just announced his retirement. They should sign a quarterback on the free agent market on a short term deal, someone like Rivers. Then, they should also look at picking Mac Jones to take over for whomever they sign after this season because the Colts’ current backup, Jacoby Brissett, is not the answer. The Colts hold the 21st pick in the draft, but Jones is ranked as the 32nd overall prospect and 5th quarterback. Unless there is another team that needs a quarterback in the latter part of the 1st round, the Colts should trade down, get more draft capital, and still be able to draft Jones at the end of the first round. Other teams who may be interested in a quarterback in the 1st round include the Jaguars, Falcons, Lions, Steelers, and Patriots.

This college football season, riddled with COVID-19 cancellations and odd schedules, brought much excitement to a country that truly needed it. Alabama continued to cement its powerhouse status and this season created another strong group of wide receivers and quarterbacks for the next NFL draft. Many of the top major teams are losing their top players, so new teams will be able to make it to the playoffs next year, rather than just the same couple teams, and cause much excitement in the college football world.