Wednesday, February 28, 2024

What Would a 112-Team Tournament Actually Look Like?


So on ESPN Radio's show Greeny!, producer and co-host Paul Hembekides ... aka "Hembo" ... wanted to expand the NCAA Tournament to 112 teams. His plan was to have the top 16 teams get a first round bye with the other 96 teams beginning the tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday ... basically having a massive expansion of the First Four days. 

That would mean there would be 24 games each held on Tuesday and Wednesday, and you would have to presume those games would be held at the sites already being used for the rest of the weekend (what is considered the Round of 64 and Round of 32). I assume that just because having a massive travel day to ship 48 schools all around the country to sites would be a logistical nightmare. This isn't the same as flying four teams from Dayton to their new destination. 

I'm not a fan of tournament expansion ... and certainly not at that level. I can hear a proposal of eight more teams for a 76 team tournament where all 16 seeds battle in what is now known as the First Four and those "last four in" turns into a "last eight in" with four games with bubble teams battling it out. That gives a full day for Tuesday and Wednesday for games in Dayton (with those 16-seeds playing during the afternoon, if possible) and just a small amount more teams needing to travel. But really nothing more than that ... and I'm not really into it.

But to humor what Hembo put out there, let's go ahead and map out what a 112 team tournament would actually look like. And I will use Joe Lunardi's most recent Bracketology (February 27th) for the 68 teams he has in and his "First Four Out" and "Next Four Out" to get to 76 teams (ya know, my expansion). From there, I will add the next 36 teams ranked in the NET to fill out the brackets.  So here we go:

MIDWEST
1-Purdue
2-Marquette
3-Alabama
4-Baylor
5-Dayton vs 28-Norfolk State
6-Saint Mary's vs 27-Merrimack
7-Washington State vs 26-Morehead State
8-Oklahoma vs 25-High Point
9-New Mexico vs 24-UC Irvine
10-Northwestern vs 23-Indiana State
11-Wake Forest vs 22-Miami*
12-Colorado vs 21-UNLV*
13-Ole Miss vs 20-Memphis*
14-Pitt* vs 19-St. Bonaventure*
15-James Madison* vs 18-Washington*
16-Seton Hall* vs 17-Butler*

EAST
1-UConn
2-North Carolina
3-Iowa State
4-San Diego State
5-Texas Tech vs 28-Eastern Kentucky
6-Kentucky vs 27-Colgate
7-South Carolina vs 26-Oakland
8-FAU vs 25-Yale
9-TCU vs 24-Samford
10-Nevada vs 23-Grand Canyon
11-Butler vs 22-George Mason*
12-Villanova vs 21-Louisiana Tech*
13-Utah vs 20-Minnesota*
14-St. John's* vs 19-Richmond*
15-McNeese vs 18-UCF*
16-Iowa* vs 17-Oregon*

SOUTH
1-Houston
2-Tennessee
3-Duke
4-Illinois
5-Clemson vs 28-Sam Houston
6-Colorado State vs 27-Quinnipiac
7-Michigan State vs 26-Vermont
8-Utah State vs 25-Akron
9-Mississippi State vs 24-Florida State*
10-Virginia vs 23-LSU*
11-South Florida vs 22-Boston College*
12-Providence vs 21-Syracuse*
13-Texas A&M vs 20-NC State*
14-SMU* vs 19-Kansas State*
15-Virginia Tech* vs 18-Maryland*
16-Texas A&M* vs 17-Xavier*

WEST
1-Arizona
2-Kansas
3-Creighton
4-Auburn
5-Wisconsin vs 28-Grambling State
6-BYU vs 27-South Dakota State
7-Florida vs 26-Eastern Washington
8-Texas vs 25-Charleston
9-Boise State vs 24-Appalachian State
10-Nebraska vs 23-Loyola (Ill)*
11-Seton Hall vs 22-UMass*
12-Gonzaga vs 21-North Texas*
13-Drake vs 20-VCU*
14-Cincinnati vs 19-Ole Miss*
15-Princeton* vs 18-Ohio State*
16-San Francisco* vs 17-Bradley*

While this isn't a perfectly seeded bracket, this is just to make a point. The final at-large team to get in was Florida State, who is 14-13 on the season.  Yes, 14-13. For some reason we feel that a 14-13 team in the ACC deserves to have a chance to play in a tournament that crowns the sport's national champion. And if you look at these additions, do any of them really move the needle? Sure, put NCAA tournament games on at any time and people will watch ... but will they care? Will they really? I mean, people complain about all those bowl games but they want Pitt-St. Bonaventure? 

So that's how the teams look ... but let's look at the logistics. Keeping the current pod format, you would have to have six games in each site on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Again, that's impossible. You can schedule four games at these arenas, but not six. To keep this moving, let's just say there's an overflow arena near each site to have these games. 

A place like Indianapolis could have two venues host games. The other seven pod sites really can't. There would need to be somewhere close for the overflow. Charlotte could have ... Raleigh? Winston-Salem? Greenville, SC? Memphis could have Nashville? Salt Lake City has ... Boise? This would be something to consider. Like I said earlier, if your answer is to have another set of sites hosting the Tuesday and Wednesday games then the NCAA has quite a logistical feat to navigate through. That is 48 games to play in a two day time frame that also needs to seamlessly plug back into the main bracket.

How do I mean this?  Well using the projected field, Houston (No. 1 seed in the South region) and Alabama (No. 3 seed in the Midwest region) will used Memphis, Tennessee as their pod site. That means that the winners of these games: Texas A&M-Xavier, Utah State-Akron and Mississippi State-Florida State will be in Memphis for the Round of 64 alongside Houston, while the winners of Pitt-St. Bonaventure, Saint Mary's-Merrimack and Wake Forest-Miami would also be in Memphis to join Alabama. Those games would be played on Friday, meaning the six games feeding into that would be played on Wednesday.

Where would they be played?

If Memphis, then how do you play six games in one day at one site? You can't. So what's the plan? Will the NCAA add another round of sites and ask 48 teams to travel twice in one week with all of that happening in a day between games? Imagine Saint Mary's-Merrimack being played at noon on Wednesday (by the way, these two schools are on opposite ends of the country) then have to get to a new site (Memphis, in this case) in one day. So play a game, travel, play another game. When are they supposed to prepare for their next opponent? And in Saint Mary's-Merrimack's case they'd be playing the winner of Wake Forest-Miami ... so they won't know their next opponent until hours later. 

There are solutions. Playing these first round games on campuses isn't one of them (again, imagine Merrimack having to travel to Saint Mary's). Maybe the NCAA has sub sites near the pod sites to feed into the main pod site. So for Memphis, maybe Nashville and Birmingham are their sub-sites. So the South Region Memphis teams can play in Birmingham while the Midwest Region Memphis teams play in Nashville ... all on Wednesday. Honestly, you really only need one sub-site since Memphis could be also used. So let's just match each region with a partner for two of the six games. Some of the sites could use another local arena ... albeit smaller to accommodate the games. 

Charlotte, for example, could play games at the Spectrum Center as planned with two games at UNC-Charlotte's Halton Arena. Pittsburgh can use PPG Paints Arena as planned with two games at the University of Pittsburgh's arena. If that's not an option, there are nearby cities that are appropriate. 

The only other option would to have Dayton-style formats of a group of cities being used to house two days of tournament action. Indianapolis, of course, would be a great place to have that. With several options to house games, Indiana's capital could be a great option to have 24 of those 48 games over two days. So Lucas Oil Stadium, Gainbridge Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse could each have four games on Tuesday and four more on Wednesday. A place like Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, etc could also make that happen.

Either way, this is a lot and a lot to put these players through in a week. And for games nobody wants.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The "We Should've Won That Super Bowl" Teams



Every team that loses a Super Bowl feels they left something on the field. They feel they had the better team but just made a few wrong plays that led to their demise. While that may be true for several of the teams, most were just beaten by a better team on that day. It's sports. It happens.

But these seven teams truly should feel that they should have a Vince Lombardi trophy at their headquarters had it not been for them getting in their own way.  Seven teams who I honestly feel stole defeat from the jaws of victory. Teams who really did waste a golden opportunity to win a Super Bowl championship.

Here are those seven: 


7 - 1970 DALLAS COWBOYS

In what has since become known as the Blunder Bowl, miscues cost the Dallas Cowboys their first Super Bowl championship. Dallas held the lead for most of the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Colts' only lead coming with five second left in the game, giving them the 16-13 victory. The Colts turned the ball over seven times in the game, yet the Cowboys couldn't figure out a way to win. Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter alone, with one leading to the Colts game-tying touchdown and another leading to the game-winning field goal. 

6 - 2007 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

The Patriots were thiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to becoming the first 19-0 team. While known for blowing that opportunity, the Pats really had their chances to reach that goal. It wasn't like the New York Giants' offense was good, and the Patriots finally broke through with a Tom Brady TD pass to Randy Moss with 2:42 remaining. While the Giants' game winning drive is forever known from David Tyree's amazing catch (and Eli Manning somehow escaping a sack) and Plaxico Burress' touchdown, it should also be known for New England's inability to get the defense off the field. They failed to stop Brandon Jacobs on a 4th and 1; Asante Samuel missed a sure interception; Rodney Harrison was unable to knock away Tyree's catch; and the Patriots allowed Steve Smith to pick up a key 3rd-and-11. 

5 - 2023 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

This is a bit more about circumstances. Just the second overtime game in Super Bowl history, the 49ers actually had a lead in overtime (22-19) before the Kansas City Chiefs took the next drive the length of the field and beat them. The Niners also had a 19-16 lead with under two minutes remaining in regulation before the Chiefs drove down and kicked a tying field goal. There were also some mismanagement by the Niners during the game, with the team electing to take the ball first in overtime possibly being the most egregious. 

4 - 2008 ARIZONA CARDINALS

One of the greatest Super Bowls ever is defined by two plays that doomed the Cardinals. The first happened at the end of the first half as Arizona was primed to score a touchdown to give the Cards a 14-10 lead heading into the break. Of course Kurt Warner's pass was intercepted by James Harrison who made, to me, the greatest play in Super Bowl history (David Tyree's play was great, but had some luck to it -- Harrison's play was just insane). So the Steelers took a 20-7 lead into halftime instead. Despite this, Arizona took a 23-20 lead with 2:37 left in the game on a Larry Fitzgerald 64-yard TD catch and run. As we all know, Ben Roethlisberger threw an absolutely perfect pass to Santonio Holmes, who made one of the greatest grabs in Super Bowl history, to give the Steelers a 27-23 lead with :35 remaining.

3 - 2014 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Give Lynch the ball. I know there's been discussions over the years about that play call and if running Lynch for that final yard was as simple as it seems ... but give Lynch the ball. It was second down -- give him the ball. Okay, if you don't want to run the ball ... don't throw an interception at that moment. Either way, the Seahawks blew a great chance at winning their second straight Super Bowl. Even after Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson's pass, the Seahawks screwed up by jumping offsides as the Patriots were snapping the ball from their own 1-yard line. The penalty moved the ball to the six and Tom Brady was able to kneel down for the win. 

2 - 2016 ATLANTA FALCONS

You had a 28-3 lead. 

It isn't just Atlanta had a 28-3 lead -- they had that lead with 8:00 left in the third quarter. They allowed 31 consecutive points to the New England Patriots. They gave up two must-have two-point conversions to the Patriots. And they let the Pats drive down in overtime and score a touchdown to end the game. The Patriots never had a lead during regulation. The events of Super Bowl LI will never not be ridiculous. 

1 - 1990 BUFFALO BILLS

There is no team on this list that deserves this spot more than the 1990 Buffalo Bills. Why? Because they are the only team in Super Bowl history to miss a game winning field goal in the final seconds and the only time the Super Bowl was decided by a single point. If Scott Norwood's 47-yard kick is true, the Buffalo Bills would have had a 22-20 lead with just four seconds remaining. 

Just Stop Court Storming



I've always felt that court storming was weird. And that field storming was even weirder. I don't understand why either still exists in college athletics.

The professional ranks got rid of it. If you go back 40 years or so, you can find rare times when fans would rush the court in an NBA game, or ran onto a field in baseball or football. But we've all come together as a sports society and realized that that's inappropriate and unsafe. Yet it still exists in college athletics because the relationship between fans and athletes and their "teams" are a bit different.

See, the student section of the fans are the peers of the athletes on the field. You go to school with those guys. You have classes with them and may see them on campus. While their status is certainly different, you have a bond unlike most fan-player relationships. So when an extraordinary win happens on your floor, you want to celebrate with your fellow students. 

Let's just keep it off the floor.

It can be done. No one rushes the floor during the NCAA tournament, right? Not anymore. We don't have court storming when you solidify a trip to the Final Four or once you win the national championship. Michigan fans didn't get to storm the court after beating Washington for the College Football Playoff title. Don't tell me that "well, that's not on a home court" because there's plenty of people there who would love to celebrate that level of win, no matter where it is. 

Some conferences have fines for storming the field or court. Some ... like the ACC ... don't. 

Maybe you think I'm just some older guy that has grown out of touch from the excitement of the moment. Sure. Being older also means I remember a time when we didn't have to worry about some of the security issues that we have now. When I was in college, it was pre-9/11. Hell, it was pre-internet, really. There wasn't the connection regular folk had to famous folk like there is now. A player couldn't chit-chat with their fans on X or Instagram or whatever back then. And the vitriol of fans to opposing players is at a high level. I grew up with Morgana The Kissing Bandit running on the field and smooching players. That's all gone in the world we live in now. 

So it is weird that court/field storming still exists. It's weird that's it is still allowed.

And this old guy has always felt like this. I used to have a soft spot in my heart and felt that, yeah, these are kids and this is their school and no matter how much tradition and status a school has that this is their moment in time and who are we to stop this completely. Well, with fans body-checking players and player safety seemingly on edge (that doesn't even mention the safety of anyone who is on the court), this is probably the best time to reevaluate this.

Again, I'd love it if they just ended it completely. Anyone who isn't supposed to be on the court should be punished for doing so. If I went to an NBA game and got on the court, I would be soundly removed. We all seem to be able to follow that line of thinking in professional games so it can be done at the collegiate level. Some places have a sort of designated place on campus, outside the arena/stadium or wherever for students and fans to celebrate together. When North Carolina beats Duke, they rush Franklin Street in Chapel Hill to celebrate. Several NBA teams have a certain area outside the arena for fan gatherings (think the Toronto Raptors' "Jurassic Park", for example). Get out of the area of play and have fun there. Sure, there are new challenges to deal with there, but it sets up a sort of reverse tail-gaiting situation and not an influx of people in an area that wasn't designed for them to be there. 

And if my soft spot still lives, then let's at least do this about court/field storming: let's wait before doing it. 

As I said, we are able as a society to understand rules and norms. So why not just make it where you allow court storming once the game is over, players (especially opposing ones) and officials or whatever are off the court before you allow fans to get on the court. This seems to be a reasonable compromise for everyone. 

Obviously the incident between Duke at Wake Forest is the catalyst for this discussion today. First off, why are Wake's students rushing the court to begin with? I mean, this is the second straight time the Demon Deacons have beaten Duke at home. And this is a matchup between the "Big Four" schools -- the four North Carolina schools in the ACC. No one should rush the court after beating one of the others. It's tacky. 

Having said that, what if the game ended and security, the arena and the university made clear that fans could rush the court once they were given the okay to do so. That okay comes after the handshakes are made and the opposing team and officials are off the court and heading back to their locker rooms. Can't that be something we can accomplish? Fans wait to get inside the arena for the game. Fans spend the entire game not running on the court. Fans don't mingle on the court during halftime. We can do this! Make an announcement that no fans are allowed on the court until after the opposing team and officials are removed from the court and have the event staff make sure that's the case. If the fans don't follow these directions, then the school (or league) can then ban that arena from allowing court storming any further.

Or just dump it all together. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Why Do People Think The New Playoff Format Forces Notre Dame To a Conference???



So the new College Football Playoff format has been agreed on (for now). It is now a 12 team event with the top five conference champions getting a berth with the remaining seven berths coming from the CFP rankings -- aka "at large" bids. The top four conference champions will receive byes in the first round of the playoff. 

So eyes looked at Notre Dame, easily the most prominent Independent school, and speculation began about how they are getting screwed. Why? Why do you think that?

First off, Notre Dame knew exactly what they were getting into with this deal. In fact, the format that has ultimately been agreed on is even better than the one Notre Dame signed off on less than a year ago. Before the Pac-12 imploded, the CFP was planning to be a 6+6 format where six conference champions get automatic bids and there were only six at-large slots. Notre Dame was fine with that, so why do you think they'd be upset that now there's an extra slot that the Irish could earn?

So you understand what Notre Dame has agreed to: Notre Dame is not in a conference, so Notre Dame has no way to get into the College Football Playoff aside from earning one of the top seven at-large bids. Notre Dame also has no access to a first round bye since those are for conference champions ... which Notre Dame can't be. 

Sure, on the surface that seems like Notre Dame is at a disadvantage ... and they are. But this is a disadvantage they are fully prepared for and one they are willing to deal with as a price for their freedom of not being bound to a conference. This is what they want. They get better access than they have over the last decade and what they initially agreed to less than a year ago. 

This will not force Notre Dame to the ACC. Or the Big Ten. Or any conference. In fact, it likely strengthens their ability to stay an Independent. Their main goals to stay an Independent is access to a national championship (which I've already explained is there ... and has gotten better), ability to schedule (their deal with the ACC accomplishes that) and a lucrative television contract (which they've signed with NBC). 

Notre Dame won't be joining a conference for football. Not anytime soon and not unless football actually breaks off from the NCAA and forms its own league. 

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Some Neat Things About the 2023 NFL Season


All summer we spend way too much time analyzing what's going to happen in an upcoming season, and a lot of times we focus on the wrong things and miss many others. This season was no different as takes you were so sure of fell apart while you missed on the next big thing. So let's look at what we saw in the 2023 season.

AARON RODGERS: If you watched ESPN from, oh, March to September then I'm sure you got absolutely beat over the head about Aaron Rodgers' move from the Packers to the Jets. Mike Greenberg exhaustively turned "Get Up" into "Jet Up" to the point he made analysts talk to a framed Rodgers jersey if they dared suggest the Jets would struggle at all. It didn't help that ESPN had Rodgers' first Jets game on Monday Night Football. And you know how that went.

Four plays in and Rodgers tears his Achilles and the Jets season turned into .... well ... a normal Jets season. Of course that didn't stop ESPN with keeping Rodgers content on air (especially his regularly scheduled interviews on Pat McAfee's show). 

The story turned out to be, though, that Jordan Love ended up taking the Packers to the playoffs this season ... while Rodgers and the Jets sit home to watch. While Love has had an up and down season, he grew with a young offense and got better each week. Who knows what 2024 holds for the Jets and Rodgers but we do know the Packers are fine with their decision.

NFC EAST GETS A NEW CHAMPION: The NFC East hasn't had a repeat champion since the Eagles won four straight division titles from 2001 to 2004. For the 20th straight year, the NFC East has had a different champion.  

About a month ago, that seemed impossible. Dallas was busy getting spanked on the road while the teetering Eagles was staring down a schedule that had the Cardinals sandwiched between two games against the Giants. After struggling to beat New York, Philly inexplicably lost to Arizona and the return game against the G-men to finish second in the division. After starting 10-1, the Eagles lost 5 of their final 6 games.  

AFC NORTH FINISHED WINNERS: We all felt the AFC North was going to be good, but every team finished with a winning record. What you wouldn't guess is that the one team that didn't reach the playoffs was the Cincinnati Bengals. The defending two-time defending division champions finished 9-8 and misses the postseason. Now, you can say that having a banged up Joe Burrow to begin the season and then losing him with a wrist injury in the middle of the year tanked their hopes, but that excuse doesn't work as well when you consider the Browns used four starting quarterbacks -- including Joe Flacco, a guy who was unemployed -- and the Steelers cycled through Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph.

Let's also acknowledge the great coaching jobs done in Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. All dealt with devastating injuries but fought through the reach the postseason. 

BILL BELICHICK ERA OVER IN NEW ENGLAND: The expectation is that Bill Belichick has coached his last game for the Patriots in the 17-3 loss to the Jets. All those wins and six Super Bowl rings made his time there arguably the most successful run a coach has ever had at a stop.

That's what makes the ending so sad. Look, there's not much I hate more than when people feel storybook endings in sports are "how its supposed to be". It rarely is. A lot of people felt/hoped that Belichick's final game was going to end with New England adding yet another beating on the Jets and he'd walk off the field triumphantly one final time. Instead, the Jets ended a 15-game losing streak to the Pats on a snowy day and ended this era.

Belichick will be the head coach somewhere next year. And that will be a strange site. 

YOUNG VS STROUD: Whenever you have two quarterbacks selected with the first two overall picks, we always seem to compare their careers. 

2021: Lawrence, Wilson
2016: Goff, Wentz
2015: Winston, Mariota
2012: Luck, RGIII
1999: Couch, McNabb
1998: Peyton Manning, Leaf
1993: Bledsoe, Mirer
1971: Plunkett, Archie Manning

We got it in 2023 when the Panthers took Bryce Young while the Texans took CJ Stroud with the top two picks. So far, Stroud is winning this battle by a mile. Stroud's Texans won the AFC South while Young's Panthers finished with the worst record in the NFL and got his coach fired in the middle of his first season. What makes this worse is that Carolina traded its best receiver (DJ Moore) and their 2024 first rounder for the privilege of drafting Young. As you can guess, that pick will be the top overall selection in 2024. 

SPEAKING OF QUARTERBACKS, DID TEAMS LEARN ANYTHING?: There are plenty of teams that were hoping they already had the answer to the quarterback question. Most found out that they didn't.

The most notable example of this is Russell Wilson in Denver. The Broncos gave the Seattle Seahawks a haul (and Wilson's bank account a ton of money) to make him their guy in 2022. After a disastrous 2022 season, the Broncos hired Sean Payton to get it turned around ... and that didn't work either. Wilson didn't play horribly this season, but he wasn't playing at the level they needed and Payton moved on. Wilson will likely be cut before the new league year begins in March and the Broncos will look for their new guy.

Chicago also wanted to know if Justin Fields is their guy. After a robust ending to last season, the feeling was that the Bears figured out how to use Fields and be successful. And then that didn't happen. Once again, Fields and the Bears had a strong finish to the season, but with the Bears holding onto the top overall pick in the draft (which is likely USC's Caleb Williams) the organization must make a huge decision in the coming months. Do you extend Fields or do you move on? 

The Steelers cobbled together Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to reach the playoffs, but they have to know that this may need to change in 2024. The Commanders punted on drafting a QB in 2023 to see if 5th round pick Sam Howell could be that guy for them. Howell looked the part over the first half of the season before completely falling apart over the last several weeks. With Washington holding onto the 2nd overall pick and the prospect of drafting either Williams or North Carolina's Drake Maye with that pick, you'd have to think they'll be moving on from Howell. 

The Patriots will seemingly move on from Mac Jones. The Raiders ditched Jimmy G. The Falcons know that Desmond Ridder isn't their guy ... and Taylor Heineke couldn't come and save and the day this time.

Of course, the Cardinals went from moving on from Kyler Murray after the season started to now he's back as the future of the team. It also seemed like the Vikings and Kirk Cousins may part after the season, but that now seems less likely. And the Buccaneers may have found their guy with Baker Mayfield's comeback year.

JOE FLACCO:  Let's talk about Joe Flacco. The Browns had spend a ton of guaranteed money on Deshaun Watson, who suffered various injuries all season. When he missed time, Dorian Thompson-Robinson had to start. Then P.J. Walker would start. Once Watson was declared out for the year after Week 10 and the Browns' offense struggling with the backup QBs, Cleveland brought in Joe Flacco off the street to be their starter. Flacco went 4-1 with the Browns, throwing for 1,616 yards (323.2 ypg) and 13 TDs. 

So has Flacco's career been revived? Even if the Browns have to stick with Watson next season, I just laid out the quarterback situations around the league.  Someone will go after him. 

JOSH ALLEN IS SO FUN TO WATCH: Allen gives us that Brett Favre type fun to watching football. He could throw the most amazing passes you've ever witnessed ... and some of the more puzzling interceptions you'll see. And that could be in the same game. Even if you don't care about the Bills, his games are always fun to watch. 

PUKA NACUA: From out of nowhere, the Rams' Puka Nacua sets the NFL rookie record for catches in a season and receiving yards in a season. The 5th round pick did that while first round pick, the Chargers' Quinton Johnson, caught 33 passes all year. 

 

Michigan vs Washington Is a Great Break From The Norm



Tomorrow night we will be treated to a Michigan-Washington national championship game. 

No Georgia. No Alabama. No Clemson. No Ohio State. 

Those four schools have made up 15 of the 18 previous participants of the past nine (the only nine) College Football Playoffs national championship games. Only Oregon (2015), LSU (2020) and TCU (2023) have pushed through to reach the title game ... until this year. In fact, 18 of the last 19 national champions have hailed from the south -- only Ohio State doesn't hail from the stretch of the country from Texas to South Carolina. Well, we get a non-south champ once again.

This is the first time either Michigan (who lost in the CFP semifinals the last two seasons) and Washington (their only previous CFP appearances was in the 2016 season) have reached this title game. Michigan's last national championship was a split national championship in 1997, while Washington last won a split title in 1991.

Not only does this feel different because of two new participants, this may also feel like an outlier for other reasons. While Michigan is one of the legendary programs in college football, win or lose this could be Jim Harbaugh's final season in Ann Arbor. The pull of the NFL is strong for him and with a lot of dark clouds surrounding him this past year it could finally be time for him to take a pro job. Now, that doesn't mean that Michigan can't get back without him, but remember what the Wolverines were when they hired Harbaugh and his focus on getting his program back to the elite level. He's done that, but it may be hard to maintain that once he leaves.

As for Washington, there will be a lot of changes upcoming for the Huskies. The next time Washington faces Michigan, they will be doing so as Big Ten foes. Yes, this is the final hurrah for the Pac-12 as the Huskies (along with Oregon, USC and UCLA) will move to the Big Ten next season. While this program will still be great, winning in the Big Ten will be more difficult than what they've been used to. Washington will continue to battle Oregon and USC for conference titles while also dealing with Ohio State, Penn State and, yes, Michigan, for those honors.

Of course the 12-team playoff coming takes the pressure of winning the conference for either of these programs off the table. You just got to play well to get in. But this doesn't feel like we are witnessing another emerging program like Georgia or an Alabama-Clemson type national rivalry. That's okay. These have been two great teams this season and worthy champions. Michigan has been building towards this moment for a few years now. Washington added their new coach and transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. before last season and the offense has vaulted to the top of the nation due to their big play ability. 

This could be the beginning of new power programs in Ann Arbor and/or Seattle. Maybe this is their one shining moment that they haven't had since 1997 or 1991, respectively, and it will be a while before we see them in this spot again. Either way, this will be a fantastic game with a great champion that we should all enjoy ... even if it doesn't have a southern team or the Buckeyes in it.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

NFL Coaching Vacancies Coming This Monday


With the final week of the NFL's regular season coming this weekend, let's go ahead and look to see what teams will be looking for new head coaches next week.

ALREADY OPEN

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers job is already open when Frank Reich was fired midway through his first season in Charlotte. But is this a desirable job? After all, the last three head coaches have been fired mid-season, including each of the last two years. Owner David Tepper seems to have taken the Daniel Snyder role of hated NFL owner by fans and whomever gets this job knows they are stuck with turning around Bryce Young and won't have a first round pick to bring in top talent in the draft.

Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders are an interesting case since they fired Josh McDaniels mid-season and interim head coach Antonio Pierce has done a fantastic job filling in. Will he get the job, though? 

Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers finally dismissed Brandon Staley, but this will be one of the more desirable jobs on the market. You have an elite quarterback and talent on the roster (there are some cap issues that need to be addressed), but expect big names to be tied to this gig. 

PROBABLY FIRED

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons may have gotten the less out of their talent this season, which falls on Arthur Smith. They've yet to find a quarterback, but there could be some available this offseason ... meaning that if job did open up then they would need to marry the coach and the QB. 

Washington Commanders: The Commanders organization will be getting a hard reset. That's no surprise. New owner Josh Harris' top job since taking over the franchise this summer is to dump everything that had to do with Daniel Snyder (that could include the name). Ron Rivera took over in 2020 as the franchise was hitting its lowest point. Not just COVID, but the name change, and being the positive face for a team that had to deal with 25 years of Snyder's transgressions. It is hard to win games during that, and Rivera didn't. It won't be just Rivera who will get the axe -- expect the front office to be overhauled as well. Harris will get to begin to create the organization in the way he wants.

PROBABLY NOT

Chicago Bears: It seems as if Matt Eberflus will be back in Chicago next season, especially if the Bears will stick with Justin Fields as their quarterback. That isn't a mutual exclusive scenario, though, as Eberflus could be back and Chicago elects to move on from Fields and use the top overall pick on Caleb Williams. 

New Orleans Saints: This looks like a we-will-try-this-one-more-year deal in New Orleans. Maybe we get a final shot at Dennis Allen and Derek Carr before blowing this thing up for 2025. Of course, the Saints have an outside shot at winning the NFC South which could strengthen Allen's hold on this job. This, to me, is the most 50/50 chance a move gets made.

Tennessee Titans: If Mike Vrabel comes available, he will be scooped up by somebody. He's done a great job in Nashville, even if their record this season is dismal. This may be more of a divorce if anything even happens. If certain jobs open up that are interested in Vrabel, maybe it would be time for the Titans to let go of their coach in a trade and move on to the future of the franchise. I just don't see that happening. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If Tampa Bay chokes away their shot at the NFC South, Bowles is a candidate to get fired. The entire NFC South is in jeopardy, so losing a win-and-in opportunity against the lowly Panthers will be detrimental to Bowles chances to stay on. 

New York Jets: If Aaron Rodgers wants Robert Saleh there, he's staying.

Dallas Cowboys: The only way I can see Jerry Jones moving on from Mike McCarthy is if he epically collapses in the playoffs. Even then, he's probably safe.

Pittsburgh Steelers: There is no way anyone with any sense would feel the Steelers should move on from Mike Tomlin. But if Mike Tomlin wants to move away from the Steelers?

Seattle Seahawks: Let me say this: Pete Carroll only leaves Seattle on his own terms. There is no way they will fire him after this season. None. But Carroll is no spring chicken and there will be a day where he decides to hang it up so every year there is that possibility. I strongly feel that won't be this season. He looks like he's been having fun and his teams are playing with the same toughness they always have.

SPECIAL CASE

New England Patriots: I would expect the Patriots and Bill Belichick to divorce this offseason, but I don't see Robert Kraft to actually fire him. Belichick has actually done an okay job coaching this year, but his job as general manager has been horrible. It's been over two decades and may just be time to move on. But Belichick has a lot of value and Kraft would likely trade Belichick instead of a) letting him get away for nothing and b) not have the awkwardness of actually firing the coach that brought you six Super Bowl trophies. 

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Who Should Be Flexed Into SNF In Week 18?



It's that time to guess what Week 18 will be flexed into the Final Game of the season -- the NBC's Sunday Night Football slot. It is typically a game that means something with the hope that both teams have something to play for. Now, the NFL is set up a little bit different this season as there will be two Saturday games, the Sunday Night game and then the rest on Sunday afternoon. Presumably the two Saturday games will matter to seeding or two games that matter to each other.

Anyway, which game could it be?

IT DEFINITELY WON'T BE

Jets at Patriots: Two teams that have already moved on to the 2024 season.

IT LIKELY WON'T BE

Chiefs at Chargers: While there is some seeding implications for the Chiefs, the AFC West should be locked up for them and the NFL doesn't want their final game to be where the Chargers are playing in it. LA has already fired their coach and is playing with a backup QB.

Buccaneers at Panthers: Tampa could have the NFC South already locked up and this game is sort of a throwaway. Even if Tampa Bay doesn't have the division locked up, this will be dependent on the Falcons-Saints game and Carolina shouldn't be on that type of stage.

Jaguars at Titans: The Titans are done, and the Jags could have the division won by then. If they don't, it still gets tied up with the Texans-Colts game which would determine the division champ ... or who makes the playoffs. As you'll read later, that game could have more importance.

Lions at Vikings: There's seeding to play for by the Lions. The Vikings are on the outside looking for the playoffs. That's not a likely contender for the SNF spot. 

Bears at Packers: Chicago is out and Green Bay is on the outside looking in. While this could be a very entertaining game to watch, it isn't worthy of SNF. 

Broncos at Raiders: There is an outside chance that a playoff berth could be on the line, but it probably won't be. 

IT'S IN THE CONVERSATION

Browns at Bengals: If the Bengals beat the Chiefs this week and have a win-and-in status for an AFC playoff spot, then this could get the nod. The issue is the Browns. Cleveland could have that No. 5 seed wrapped up and therefore no need to play their starters for this game. The NFL doesn't want that on its prime time showcase.  

Cowboys at Commanders: Look, TV loves the Cowboys and that's why this game gets placed here. Last season, Washington beat Dallas in a game they really needed in the regular season finale in Sam Howell's first start. The NFC's race for the top seed is an interesting battle with the Eagles and Niners. More than likely, this game and the Eagles-Giants game will be played concurrently. If they put them both a 4:30pm, they can also bring in the Niners game.

Eagles at Giants: If you read the Cowboys-Commanders reasoning, you get a lot of the same things here. Like I said, it would make more sense for the NFL to run the two NFC East games against each other on Sunday, or ... for FOX's ratings ... have the Dallas-Washington game at 1pm and the Philly-Giants game at 4:30pm for maximum viewership numbers. 

Falcons at Saints: This could be for the NFC South championship. Or maybe not. If the Saints beat the Buccaneers in Week 17 and the Falcons beat the Bears, this could be for the division. The problem is that the Buccaneers would still be alive as well, and it's hard to schedule this game in such an important spot and not be sure that it will matter. This likely will run Sunday alongside the Bucs-Panthers game. 

Seahawks at Cardinals: This barely gets bumped up to this category and not in the "likely not" just because of Seattle's status as holding on to the NFC's 7th seed right now. Depending on what happens in Week 17, this could be a game where the Seahawks are a key to the playoff race. But that would involve a lot of things happening at once and NBC believing the Cardinals will make this an interesting game. The NFL will have better options. 

A GOOD SHOT (OR BEING THE SATURDAY GAME)

Steelers at Ravens: The Steelers could also be in a win-and-in territory and be playing against the MVP frontrunner in one the league's better rivalries. Depending on what happens in the Ravens-Dolphins game this week, this game could be really important for Baltimore or they could have the top seed wrapped up. Like the category name, this could really be a Saturday game if the Ravens and Steelers need it.

Rams at Niners: There's a lot that can be moved around in Week 17, but this game could be a real important game in Week 18. Right now, the Niners hold the NFC's top seed, but are tied with the Cowboys, Lions and Eagles in wins. The Rams are holding one of the final spots in the playoffs, so this could be a win-and-in game for Los Angeles. It also could be for the top seed for the Niners. So this could be a game where various parts of the country (either Philadelphia or Dallas, whomever is trying to sneak into the playoffs) will be living on what the Rams do.

STRONG CASE

Bills at Dolphins: If the Bills win in Week 17 and the Dolphins lose, this game will be for the AFC East championship. If that's the case, this will be the game put on NBC. The weather will be nice is South Florida, it is one of the NFL's great rivalries and it has Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa going against each other. Even if the Bills falter to the Patriots, this game could be for Buffalo's playoff lives. If Miami beats Baltimore this week, this still could be for hanging on to the AFC's top seed. This is the favorite to be that final game.

Texans at Colts: Depending on what happens in Week 17, this could be your classic game where the winner is in the playoffs and the loser is out. The game could also be for the AFC South title. It could also tie in for either the Bengals, Steelers or Bills are interested in the result to see if they are in the playoffs. While lacking the star power of Bills-Dolphins, if this is directly for a playoff spot, the NFL rather have this. Plus having CJ Stroud, one of the great rookie debuts in history, and the Indianapolis Colts, one of the great surprises this season, on center stage would be outstanding. 





Monday, December 4, 2023

No Matter If You Thought Florida State Or Alabama Should Be In, The Selection Committee Got It Wrong


So the College Football Selection Committee decided on Sunday to leave out Florida State, the ACC champion who went 13-0 and beat SEC teams LSU and Florida along the way. In their place was Alabama, a 12-1 team who beat Georgia in the SEC championship but lost at home to Texas earlier in the season. 

Since then there has been great debate about what was the right thing to do. Was putting Alabama in right since they are the better team? Or should they put in an undefeated Power 5 champion who lost their starting quarterback to a broken leg? Obviously the committee decided to do the former. While that may have been the right thing to do, their reasoning and justification is wrong.

I'm not saying that Alabama shouldn't be in or that Florida State should. I am here to argue the argument or why the Selection Committee did what they did. They like the use talking point to justify what they did, but they don't make much sense when you look at the entire picture. 

JORDAN TRAVIS IS OUT

Their main justification is that quarterback Justin Travis broke his leg. The Heisman hopeful was having a fantastic season but broke his leg against North Alabama ... what should have been a cupcake game wedged between two rivalry games turned into what literally made their season. In that game and in the following week against Florida, their second string quarterback played. The Seminoles would beat North Alabama, 58-13, and Florida, 24-15. 

In the Florida game, however, the second string QB took a hit to a head and entered the concussion protocol. He wasn't released by the time they faced Louisville in the ACC championship game in Charlotte. So a freshman started the game and it was ... well ... meh. But the Noles did win, 16-6.

When the four playoff teams were announced, committee chair Boo Corrigan said that they didn't feel Florida State was a playoff team without Travis. They said they felt Alabama was better.  Fine. That is part of the criteria of considering teams.

FLORIDA STATE'S STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

After the Travis point is out, people start pointing to Florida State's strength of schedule ... which was around 55th in the country. Here's the thing about strength of schedule: it can be heavily skewed by a lot of factors outside of a team's control. As a perfect example, the ACC title showdown with Louisville should have been against a top ten team, but the Cardinals laid a big egg against Kentucky in their regular season finale. That game hurt Florida State. So did the fact that the ACC's lower tier of teams are frankly worse than the SEC's. But the Noles won every one of them, including games against SEC teams LSU (at a neutral site) and Florida (at Gainsville). For context, No. 9 Missouri only beat Florida by two at home. 

This point will come up in a bit. 

BUT WHY IS FLORIDA STATE RANKED 5TH?

But then why is Florida State ranked 5th in the final CFP rankings? If you ranked Alabama ahead of Florida State because you think they are better, then wouldn't you also feel that Georgia (ranked 6th) is better too? Heck, No. 7 Ohio State would be better. So would No. 8 Oregon. Ya know, the same Oregon who were 10-point favorites against Washington in the Pac-12 championship game? Washington won that contest. 

If you ask, "why does that matter" then you are missing the entire point of rankings ... especially the College Football Playoff rankings. If you're top priority is to rank who the top 25 teams in the country are then do just that. Especially when you justify putting Alabama ahead of Florida State by saying that they are better right now. You aren't ranking by resumes or records ... but by the eye test of who you think is better.  Fine.

THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU ACTUALLY PICK THE FOUR BEST TEAMS?

If you picked Alabama because they are one of the four best teams and not recognizing Florida State (who, by the way, had a Strength of Record of No. 3 in the nation), then why do we have the four teams we have? To me, Georgia is still one of the four best teams in the nation. In fact ... if this means anything to you ... Georgia would be strong favorites over all four teams that are actually in the playoff. You could make a fantastic argument that Georgia, Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State are really the four best teams in the country.  Ohio State has the toughest strength of schedule and Georgia, well, we discussed their qualifications. 

STOP MENTIONING GEORGIA'S 29-GAME WINNING STREAK


Please don't tell anyone that Alabama got in because they beat a team that had won their last 29 games. No. No. No. It's true that the school has won 29 straight, but not that team. If we say that Florida State isn't the same team now as they were earlier in the year when Travis was healthy, then you are aware that the Georgia team that played in 2023 is not the team that played in 2021 or 2022. Stetson Bennett wasn't on that field in 2023. Neither were all those guys who are now playing in the NFL on Sundays. No, Alabama beat the 12-0 team ... that lost Brock Bowers along the way. Still an great feat, but not the one they are droning on about.

IF WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT FLORIDA STATE-FLORIDA, THEN WE CAN TALK ALABAMA-AUBURN

Remember that Tate Rodemaker, the Noles' backup quarterback, played in the Florida game but not the Louisville game. He is planned to be back by the time their bowl is to be played.

So there are some pointing to the Florida game (a FSU win, 24-15) as proof that Florida State isn't championship worthy. Rodemaker isn't capable of putting the team on his back and leading them to a title. Yet no one really talks about what happened that same day when Alabama needed a 4th and 31 conversion to beat an Auburn team that just the week before lost 31-10 at home to New Mexico State. If Florida State looked rough, certainly Alabama did to. 

OKAY, SO WHY IS LIBERTY PLAYING IN A NEW YEAR'S SIX GAME, THEN?

The rankings don't just pick the top four teams for the playoff, but also selects who the top Group of 5 champion is. In this ranking, Liberty ... the 13-0 champion of Conference USA ... instead of SMU. Liberty finished one spot ahead of SMU, meaning they get to play Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl while SMU gets Boston College in the Fenway Bowl. Liberty had the 16th easiest strength of schedule in the nation. Meanwhile one of SMU's two losses were to Oklahoma.

So if Alabama gets ahead of Florida State despite FSU's undefeated record, then why did Liberty get rewarded for their undefeated record even though it was against a really bad schedule? 



Saturday, September 9, 2023

What Are These Conferences Getting In Their New Basketball Schools


With the realignment craziness that will take into effect next year, all anyone really wants to talk about it football, money and television markets. But what does it mean for men's basketball? Sure, all of this is done with football in mind but the rest of the sports have to deal with it. So let's talk hoops.

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE

Coming: California, SMU, Stanford

The ACC was a basketball conference until they expanded with Florida State in the 1990s and Miami, Virginia Tech, etc in the mid-2000s. Granted, the new schools have held their own in basketball as well so hopefully that will continue with the western additions. 

SMU isn't a great addition. The Mustangs have reached the NCAA Tournament twice in the last 30 years ... and those bookended a season where they were ineligible due to academic fraud and ethics violations. The Mustangs are coming off a 10-22 season and their sixth straight season missing the NCAA Tournament.

Cal hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2017 and have fallen far since the Mike Montgomery era a decade ago. The Bears have had some great talent over the years, but that's not been the case of late. New head coach Mark Madsen (who went to Stanford) has his work cut out for him. Stanford has missed the last nine NCAA tournaments, but did win the NIT in 2015. Jerod Haase is entering his 8th season but does know the ACC from his time as an assistant at North Carolina under Roy Williams.

Needless to say that this isn't a very good haul for the ACC.

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

Coming: Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington

The Big Ten got some of the best hoops teams from the Pac-12. UCLA, of course, is a blue blood who has won more NCAA tournaments than anyone. Even though the Bruins haven't won one since 1995, they've been to Final Fours and filling the NBA with talent. UCLA fits well with the Big Ten's top programs like Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State and Wisconsin. 

USC hasn't competed for national titles, but they are able to put talent in the NBA. Of course, Bronny James is a Trojan this year and who knows if he'll still be there when USC joins the Big Ten. USC has been to the last three NCAA tournaments and reached the Elite 8 in 2021. 

Oregon's Dana Altman has been one of the better coaches to not have won a national championship. He took the Ducks to the 2017 Final Four and five Sweet 16s since 2013. Obviously Oregon brings Nike along with it and should thrive in a competitive Big Ten. As for Washington, they've been a roller coaster of a program and have been to just one NCAA tournament in the last 12 years. That came after the Dubs reached the Big Dance six times in eight years. Of the four additions, Washington is the weakest, which means the Big Ten got a very strong collection.

BIG 12 CONFERENCE

Coming: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah

The Big 12 has been the best hoops conference the last several years and they certainly got stronger adding a program like Arizona. The Wildcats have been to 34 of the last 38 NCAA tournaments, four Final Fours and 18 Sweet 16s. Their rival, Arizona State, has been to just four NCAAs in the last 14 years and haven't reached the Sweet 16 since 1995. 

Utah isn't the same program since Rick Majerus left in 2004. Since then, the Utes have been to just four NCAAs and just one Sweet 16 in the last 18 years. Colorado pops in and out of the tournament for years now but hasn't reached a Sweet 16 since ... 1969!

Add this to this year's hoops haul -- BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF -- and this becomes an even more interesting basketball conference. 

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

Coming: Oklahoma, Texas

The SEC has gotten much stronger in basketball and both Oklahoma and Texas should help build it further. No, the Sooners and Longhorns aren't Final Four regulars but they are solid programs. Texas has had some coaching changes after Rick Barnes left in 2015, but they've reached the Elite 8 last season. Oklahoma was an NCAA tournament regular under Lon Kruger but has struggled in two seasons under Porter Moser. 

Friday, September 1, 2023

Sportz Explains ACC's Expansion


After running around online continuously trying to explain what today's ACC expansion means, I'd figure I'd just create a one-stop shop for all of this madness.

NOW, WHAT HAPPENED?

The ACC extended offers to California, Stanford and SMU to join the ACC beginning August 1st, 2024. All three schools accepted.  Cal and Stanford will be leaving the dying Pac-12 while SMU is leaving the American Athletic Conference. Cal and Stanford will only be getting 30% of the TV revenue shares for the next nine years while SMU will get 0% during that time.  The money that would go to them will end up in a pot to be distributed to the current 15 members for various goals they achieve.

WHO IN THE ACC WANTED THIS?

Of the 15 ACC members, Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest were always on board. Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina were against it. NC State initially was against it, but swung to a yes vote this week. NC State's vote was the 12th vote they needed to add the three new schools.

WHY DOES CAL AND STANFORD WANT THIS?

Cal and Stanford were two of four schools left behind as 8 of the Pac-12 schools are ditching the conference for greener pastures next summer. This was a desperation move by Cal and Stanford to stay in a power conference instead of either a) going independent, b) going to the Mountain West Conference or c) attempting to merge the Pac-12 and MWC to form a new Pac-12. Even though they agreed to lesser revenue from the ACC than what they've been getting from the Pac-12, it is better than the other options. 

WHY DOES SMU WANT THIS? 

SMU took advantage of this craziness by sneaking its way into a power conference. They knew that the ACC would want a sort of weigh station between its current geographic footprint and the Bay Area and got in. This is quietly a major move for a program that has spent a long time trying to come back from the death penalty of the 1980s and the collapse of the Southwest Conference in the 1990s.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR FOOTBALL?

We don't know what the scheduling model will look like quite yet, but ACC commissioner Jim Phillips explained that the current 14 football schools will only have to travel to California/Stanford just once every other year. So you visit Cal one year and then two years later travel to Stanford. Meanwhile, Cal and Stanford will have to travel three or four times (depending on who hosts the Cal-Stanford game) each year. SMU's travel isn't considered as treacherous. 

The ACC enters this season under a new model where divisions are ditched and schools play a 3-5-5 model, meaning every school plays three rivals every season, they they'll play five other conference schools home/road for two years and then the other five schools home/road the following two years. Adding three schools (making 17 football schools) wildly throws this off. There is no word if the ACC is planning on adding one more school. 

Nothing has been said about what that new model will be. Will the ACC expand to 9 conference games? Unlikely with their deal with Notre Dame and four ACC schools with SEC rivalry games. 

As far as the programs the ACC is getting ... well it isn't good. Stanford has been solid but has fallen on hard times of late. They won just one game last season and struggles in the transfer portal era of college football since they can't just pluck anyone off the list due to their high academic standards. Cal has been middling for a while, though they've had their moments. SMU, who suffered the death penalty in the 1980s, has rebuilt their program into a respectable one. Still, none of these schools should challenge for an ACC title.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR BASKETBALL?

Scheduling is still up in their air. Currently with 15 basketball schools, the current format is a 20-game conference season where a school has two rivals (where they always play home and away), then plays four schools only at home, four schools only on the road, and four schools home and road ... with those three groups rotating. 

With 18 basketball schools? Most likely the ACC would end up keeping the 20-game model with each school having three rivals (that they play home and away) and they they play 7 schools only at home and 7 schools only on the road. The ACC could decide to combine Stanford and Cal as one trip every other year for the current ACC schools (so North Carolina would travel to the Bay Area for a Thursday game at Stanford and then a Saturday game at Cal ... and then wouldn't have to go back for another two years). Or they could just have each ACC school take one Bay Area trip each season. Of course, the brunt of the travel will be on Stanford and Cal, but the ACC likely doesn't care since those two schools were desperate to get in.

On the court? Well, Cal and Stanford have had their success from time to time on the men's side while Stanford's women's team has been one of the better programs in the country and makes the ACC an even stronger women's hoops league. SMU isn't much.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR OTHER SPORTS?

Well, that's the tricky one. Other sports don't necessarily act like football and basketball. Phillips said that 14 of the ACC's 28 sports are played in a single-site format, like meets or tournaments. Others may have those issues, but remember how I phrased the basketball scheduling. Athletes may only have to make one or two trips over their collegiate career to either Cal or Stanford.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE ACC'S RELATIONSHIP WITH ESPN?

So by now you know that the ACC and ESPN have a broadcast rights deal through 2036. The ACC has also have its members under a Grant of Rights agreement for the same time frame, which means if anyone leaves the ACC, they will have to pay a hefty exit fee (rumored to be over $100M) and owes the ACC their home game television revenue until 2036. This agreement is what has both held the league together and been a thorn in the bigger program's side. While this ties everyone together for the next 14 years, it also means they are tied into a very low paying agreement for 14 years.

The ACC and ESPN has a pro-rata deal where if the ACC expands then ESPN must pay each new member the same amount as they are paying the current schools. So if all the schools were getting $40M a year each, then ESPN must pay $120M a year to the ACC for the new schools. As I've said, SMU is forgoing its share and Stanford and Cal will only get 30% of theirs, meaning of the $120M ESPN will pay extra now, the ACC will get to keep $96M for themselves, which the league plans on redistributing according to on and off field successes. What that looks like is unknown right now. 

SO IS THIS A FORWARD THINKING MOVE BY THE ACC?

Very much so. Understand what the ACC is thinking right now. I just talked about the ACC's deal with ESPN. Well, if the ACC went below 14 members (which it would have if current schools find a path to leave) then ESPN can renegotiate their TV deal ... which would mean that ESPN would end up paying less for the rights. Most of the 11 schools who were for expansion will be stuck with that scenario, so they were willing to do almost anything to make sure the ACC didn't drop below 14 members. Right now, the "lesser thans" of the ACC don't want what is happening to Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State happening to them. They don't want that $40M a year dropping down significantly. 

This also keeps the ACC's seat at the table for the College Football Playoff.

IS THIS THE END OF THIS FOR THE ACC?

Nope. Again, this is the ACC protecting itself long term. Rest assured that the ACC knows that at some point Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina will find a way out of the ACC and into the Big Ten or SEC ... and once they do Virginia, NC State and Miami won't be far behind them. This is more of a when than if. This will happen and the ACC is making sure it will have a conference and not end up like the Pac-12 ... even if that means the ACC will be a lesser league. If a mass exodus occurs, look for the ACC to keep adding schools ... like Tulane, UConn, Memphis, Appalachian State or South Florida.

The ACC won't look like this 18-school format for very long and both the ACC's front office and its members know this. Membership could be very fluid in the coming years. 

What this has done is kept the ACC's future more like the Big 12 and less like the Pac-12. 

SO WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT THIS EXPANSION?

Over two years ago, I wrote on this blog that I think the ACC should aggressively expand to the west coast. At that time, I said the ACC should add Cal, Stanford, Oregon, USC and UCLA. First off, that would be the first strike in this realignment scenario ... instead of the third strike after the Big Ten and Big 12 picked through the best parts of the Pac-12. Second, it would add the Pac-12's most valuable assets as well as attractive programs that could lure Notre Dame into some sort of stronger relationship with the ACC. 

Instead, the ACC didn't strike ... and the UCLA and USC bolted for the Big Ten a year later. The ACC still didn't strike at adding Oregon, Washington and the two Bay Area schools when all were wobbly a month ago ... and the Big Ten got Oregon and Washington. By that time, the corner schools were off the table, too. 

The ACC found reasons to not make those moves ... and all those reasons remain when they added Cal and Stanford today, but now they get the least valuable of those schools. While the expansion of Cal, Stanford and SMU was a necessary business decision, there's not much to like. This could have been such a bigger and better deal. 

Also ... SMU gets lost in all this. I've been an ACC guy my entire life and you could have never convinced me that there would be a time that the ACC invited SMU to be a member of the conference. Sure, it seems like a cherry of a deal for the ACC since they extort money from ESPN that they don't have to give to SMU ... but it is SMU. Yeah, Dallas joins Chicago, Charlotte, Boston, Miami, Atlanta and New York as a great market for the ACC but this isn't even about markets anymore. 

This is a good move for the ACC as an entity. I understand why it is being done. I also understand that this move publicly showed the cracks in the foundation of this league. Clearly Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina are on a different path than the rest of the ACC and you will start to see a lot of movement from those three about finding a way out. Maybe not tomorrow or next year ... but it is coming. As a North Carolina fan, I know that the Tar Heels will be just fine no matter how this turns out. UNC is a very valuable brand that both the Big Ten and SEC would love to bring over to their conferences ... and when that happens, Carolina will reap the financial rewards. That isn't the case, though, for schools like Boston College, Wake Forest, Syracuse and others who really need the ACC to not break apart like the Pac-12 did last month. 

As I said, I've been an ACC guy my whole entire life.  I grew up in Charlotte in the hub of the ACC and where the conference is so beloved. It saddens me to know that this will end in some form or fashion in the next decade. Either North Carolina will not be part of the ACC anymore or the league will just look like some bastardized version of itself. While I'm not thrilled that this league now has Stanford, Cal and SMU as members, I'm happy that it could hold this thing together just a little bit longer. Make no mistake, this is a marriage of necessity more than one anyone wanted. 


Thursday, August 10, 2023

ACC's Westward Expansion Is Literally a Hail Mary


So there's rumors of the ACC looking at adding both Cal and Stanford as expansion candidates, as well as SMU. There's also rumors of Notre Dame, who is an ACC member in all sports but football, is pushing for this expansion. Here is my opinion on it all.

ACC BLEW ITS CHANCE AT THE PAC-12

I said two years ago that the ACC should aggressively go after the Pac-12. My master plan went out the window a year later when USC and UCLA ditched the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. Still, grabbing Oregon, Washington, Stanford and California would've been a nice move but the ACC couldn't pull the trigger and when the great Pac-12 war of last week happened, the ACC was left helpless.

ADDING CAL AND STANFORD ISN'T A HORRIBLE IDEA

Well, it is if that's your only play. I'm not big on adding those two schools for the sake of adding those two schools. As I said, this made sense if you were also pulling USC, UCLA, Oregon and/or Washington. But that ship has sailed. There is no reason that have two west coast schools in the ACC just for the sake of having them. They don't help financially much and they aren't what I'd call must see college football TV.

However, if adding Cal and Stanford is the first domino that leads to a bigger westward expansion (and something else) then it isn't a bad idea to strongly look into it. The ACC could sell to ESPN having a late night game that the Pac-12 used to provide and with it an east coast viewership that wasn't there. East coast fans may not stay up for a Arizona State-Stanford game but may for a Miami-Stanford game. Again, what I am about to say looked better when I said it two years ago, but I must bring it back up in this climate.

UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS ABOUT NETWORKS AND NOT CONFERENCES

The "climate" I just referred to is the television climate. It has changed. FOX went out and got into the Big Ten business in full, pulling that conference out of ESPN, with CBS and NBC in on the fun. The Big 12 also is a FOX property of sorts, though a bigger part of its inventory belongs to ESPN. ESPN has a cherry deal with the ACC and pulled in the SEC away from CBS. 

The Pac-12's demise was due, in major part, to the networks. When USC and UCLA went to the Big Ten ahead of their deal with FOX, NBC and CBS, it became evident that the Pac-12 would have a difficult time trying to find a TV deal worth anything. ESPN is laying off folks and becoming more picky in what rights they bid on. FOX put a huge investment into the Big Ten and wants to take advantage of ESPN's weakening. NBC is gearing up to pay Notre Dame and CBS doesn't think the Pac-12 really replaces losing the SEC. 

So instead of bidding on the Pac-12, ESPN and FOX just took parts they wanted from each league. Now ESPN and FOX shares Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah in the Big 12 while FOX, CBS and NBC got Oregon and Washington to join USC and UCLA. No one needs Cal or Stanford. Not even the ACC.

You also have to consider that this new expanded College Football Playoff comes next year and the bidding rights for it and the future will be quite a battle.

STOP WITH THE "ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE" NAME JOKES

Have we not understood that college athletics jumped the shark with conference names already? I keep seeing on Twitter comments like "you can't have west coast teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference" or that the ACC needs to be renamed the "All Coast Conference" or something of that nature. The Big Ten will have 18 teams next year. The Big 12 will have 16. The Big East has a team in Nebraska. The Dallas Cowboys play in the NFC East. The Oklahoma City Thunder play in the NBA's Northwest Division. The name doesn't matter anymore and the acronym "ACC" is more important. Stop it.

ACC CAN TRY TO LURE NOTRE DAME

This is the Hail Mary. Understand that Notre Dame is a full voting member in the ACC despite not being a football member. Also understand that Notre Dame's contract with NBC is about to expire and a new one is all but a formality. Notre Dame is pushing for Cal and Stanford and said that those two high academic institutions and well-rounded athletic programs deserve to be in a power conference. 

The ACC knows that Notre Dame can save them. 

Notre Dame is bound to the ACC, even in football. The ACC provides five games each season for Notre Dame to play and they are contractually obligated to join the ACC if it decides to give up its football independence. The Irish are also bound to the same Grant of Rights agreement that the other 14 ACC members are.  

My proposal two years ago was to add both USC and Stanford into the ACC in a large attempt to lure Notre Dame into the conference. If Notre Dame already plays five ACC games and also plays USC and Stanford every season, then why not agree to play in the ACC and work out the TV money? They would already be playing 7 ACC games so why not get the perks of full membership and a chance at the ACC championship and College Football Playoff seeding? It worked the one year they were in the ACC.

USC going to the Big Ten really hurt that, but Stanford would help. So would adding ... say ... Navy. The ACC values academics and adding Stanford, Cal and Navy would keep that theme going. It would also replace USC with Navy as a Notre Dame rival that would already be in the ACC. Again, 7 games against ACC foes. 

Hail Mary.

That's where this lives right now. If Notre Dame said, "we will join the ACC if you do X, Y and Z" then the ACC and all members would do just that. But the Irish isn't saying that, which is making any movement difficult. 

THE ACC IS AS FRACTURED AS IT HAS EVER BEEN

The ACC is the latest example of what college athletics was to where it is now. The ACC was made up of a tightly connected schools who were close in geography and in culture. There were four North Carolina schools (Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest) with nearby Virginia and Maryland north and Clemson and South Carolina south. In the early 1990s, the ACC added Florida State so it could be a football player, and then kept adding to keep pumping its football profile. Now it is a conference is disarray.

Florida State wants out. Clemson believes it deserves to be paid like the national championship contender it has been. North Carolina and Virginia knows that no matter what happens, they are highly desirable programs. Miami knows that, too, and wants to be treated like the football power it once was. Schools like Pitt and Louisville know they should be alright, but have no guarantees. Wake Forest, Syracuse and Boston College are holding on to dear life so they aren't the next Cal and Stanford. 

So any proposal to add Cal and Stanford will cause Florida State's and Clemson's eyes to roll. Why do anything to help a league they are trying to leave? Florida State's play is to either find a sugar daddy to bank roll their program or to piss off enough other ACC schools so the league blows up and the Grant of Rights deal is torn up. 

So while the ACC powers discuss adding Cal, Stanford and SMU, all of them have completely different agendas, which isn't healthy for a conference that's reeling and its future.

PLAY THE LONG GAME

The ACC's Grant of Rights is keeping the conference together. For now. It keeps schools from jumping ship and it keeps conferences from poaching. It also keeps ESPN from forcing anything because they have the ACC at cost control. 

So as dysfunctional as things may seem, the ACC is sort of locked in to what it is. Maybe ... just maybe ... that is the stability needed if college football transforms into something else that keeps the ACC from suffering the Pac-12's fate.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Mountain West Should Dissolve Into Pac-12


So here is the next thing that could happen in conference realignment.

The Pac-12 and Mountain West should "merge" into one conference, and that conference should be the Pac-12. Here's how they should do it.

MOUNTAIN WEST SHOULD DISSOLVE

The Mountain West should dissolve the conference. That way there is no $34M exit fee for each school and they can just join the Pac-12 without a financial setback.

MOUNTAIN WEST SCHOOLS JOIN PAC-12

The reasoning for this has several points. For one, the Pac-12 is a better brand than the Mountain West is, even if that brand has taken a major hit this week.  That should produce a better broadcast deal than the one the Mountain West is currently on. That is plenty of enticement for both the Mountain West schools and the four remaining Pac-12 schools (Cal, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington State) would otherwise just be joining the current Mountain West deal. 

Another point is that they can merge their NCAA Tournament credits together. The Pac-12 has credits and the Mountain West, which gained credits on San Diego State's run to the national championship game last year. 

MERGE MEDIA RESOURCES

You have the Mountain West's deal with CBS and FOX and we know that the Pac-12 was fishing for a new broadcast deal. You would most likely see the Mountain West deal stay but possibly be made a bit more valuable with the four Pac-12 schools as well as the Pac-12 name. There is also the Pac-12 Network which could be used as more of a streaming service ... possibly propped by Apple+. The Mountain West already streams games so there is already a familiarity there.

WHAT'S IN IT FOR EVERYBODY

For the Mountain West schools, it would frankly put them in a shinier box to sell and possibly give them better access to the College Football Playoff and the NCAA tournament. On both sides, it should end any poaching rumors (mainly from each other) and could allow the league to go looking at expanding elsewhere ... possibly into Texas with SMU or adding Gonzaga for basketball (more on that). For the leftover Pac-12 schools, it is just a better situation than what they'd be forced to consider otherwise. It doesn't come anywhere close to what they've had but it keeps them alive. 

WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE

So you would have California, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State. All four fit into the Mountain West footprint already so there's no outrageous geographical issues that weren't already there (ahem, Hawaii). So we have:

Washington State
Oregon State
Boise State
Utah State
Nevada
UNLV
California
Stanford
San Jose State
Fresno State
San Diego State
Wyoming
Air Force
Colorado State
New Mexico
Hawaii (football only)

That would give the New Pac-12 15 non-football schools and 16 football. If the league wanted to lure Gonzaga (a non-football school), that would be 16 both ways. 

Oregon State and Washington State add the Pacific Northwest that would be attractive for the Mountain West to enter, market-wise, plus are good geographical partners. Cal and Stanford would solidify the Bay Area market that San Jose State already resides it, making those three a great trio of rivals. Nevada and Fresno State aren't too far away which could make road trips for all those programs very doable.

WHERE COULD THEY GO FROM HERE

Expansion wise, the New Pac-12 (or Pac-16 since they are the one conference that actually attempts to correct their name) could be an attractive option for other Group of 5 schools. I alluded to Gonzaga earlier as a non-football option. That would be a major get for the Pac-12 to give the conference a top-notch basketball power. With San Diego State having the great season they had last year, UNLV having a great history, and Stanford having its moments throughout the year, the Pac-12 could be a rising conference hoops-wise if they can land Gonzaga. Of course, the Big 12 is doing the same, but the Zags may feel more comfortable in a Pac-12 they could still dominate.

The league could also look to expand into Texas. Possibly SMU, which was on the radar of the Pac-12 before all this mess, could be an option. Possibly UTSA, a rising program, would be of interest. There is Rice, which would be the academic fit for Stanford and Cal. 

Maybe they get bold and go further out. Memphis? 

At the rate conference realignment is going, this could go pretty quick. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

NCAA Should Have Created a "College Football Playoff" Subdivision



Pretty much nobody but NCAA member presidents and their accountants love all of the conference realignment/expansion/poaching going on over the last 20 years. It is all about football cash grabs and the rest of the sports be damned. That's why we will soon have UCLA playing a Big Ten hoops schedule and not Arizona anymore. Why the Big 12 stretches from Denver to Orlando and why longtime ACC members North Carolina and Wake Forest had to schedule non-conference matchups just so they could play each other once in a while. It's why we may lose the Pac-12 conference.

It's stupid and postponing the inevitable: a breakaway mega-super-duper conference.

That's cool ... for football. But the collateral damage has been swift and killed of many of the great things about college athletics. Rivalries ripped apart and conferences that feel more like Zoom meetings than an actual fraternity of schools.  

I wish that the NCAA and the schools just went ahead and separated football from the other sports and went ahead and formed a new subdivision. Doing so might have allowed the conferences to keep their integrity with the other sports (ahem, like our old Big East).

The College Football Playoff Subdivision. 

We used to have Division I-A and Division I-AA, which we now refer to as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The FBS are the schools you know and love, the ones who played in bowls at the end of the season. The FCS are those smaller schools that played in a playoff format to determine their champion. Of course the FBS now has a playoff that will expand next year and has developed a tier system of "Power 5" and "Group of 5" in their own subdivision. 

So why not just place the current ACC's 14 schools, the Big Ten's 14 schools, the Big 12's 14 schools, the Pac-12's 12 schools, the SEC's 14 schools, and Notre Dame ... plus one more school ... to form a 70-team subdivision. For the sake of moving along, make Boise State the Group of 5 school that makes the leap.

That gives us 7 "divisions" of 10 teams. Each division will play everyone else in it one time, and then three non-division games against whoever the CFP schedule makers decide. Of course, the schedule makers could consider traditional rivalries as part of that (like Notre Dame-USC), but let them decide.

The divisions would also consider traditional conferences to a point ... but it is obvious leagues who have to split up.

Divisions

EASTERN: Boston College, Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, UCF, West Virginia 

Kind of a mix of northeastern and mid-Atlantic schools left over from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12. Obviously the controversial placement is Notre Dame. In doing this, Notre Dame will have to make some tough decisions and will have had to forsake their independence to join this association. Putting them here makes sense when you see the rest of the divisions and the Irish already has relationships with some of the schools in this division -- mainly Boston College. This still allows the Irish to play USC in a non-league rivalry and, if the FBS allows for games against FBS opponents, Navy. 

ATLANTIC: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Basically the ACC but with the northern and western schools out. It is strong with Clemson, Florida State and Miami there with plenty of space for others to make their mark.

SOUTHEAST: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Like the ACC, this is the same SEC before they expanded back in 1992. Sure, this is a tough schedule and a tough league, but with an expanded playoff format they should find plenty of teams in the postseason  

NORTHERN: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

The theme continues as these are the ten schools that made up the conference named Big Ten. Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland stay east and Nebraska gets left out. 

SOUTHWEST: Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M

Now we're back to starting to create new groups, though this one already has history. The six Texas schools and Arkansas were in the old SWC for decades, and Missouri has been a bit of a rival with Arkansas in the SEC. When the SWC disbanded in the mid-90s, the Texas schools were in the Big 12 with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (and Missouri for a while). This holds up nicely. 

CENTRAL: Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Nebraska, Utah

Similar to the Eastern Division, this is a mixed bag of sorts. Boise State enters into the power leagues, Louisville is left from the ACC, Nebraska from the Big Ten, and Utah from the Pac-12. They fit here because the other six schools were set to be Big 12 members together anyway and those other four schools fit the geographic footprint. 

PACIFIC: Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

And this division looks like the Pac-12 when it was the Pac-10. Remember those times?

So what does this accomplish? Well, we have a College Football Playoff Subdivision of Division I football. The schools comprising the Group of Five would stay as the Football Bowl Subdivision. That would be the AAC, MAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West and Conference USA. Of course, would a bowl system even be needed at that point ... especially for these schools. The AAC has 14 schools, MAC has 12, Mountain West with 12, Sun Belt with 14 and Conference USA has 10. That's 62 total members.


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Ranking the NHL Logos

With the 2023 Stanley Cup Final around the corner, it seems like a good time for me to rank the NHL logos. The NHL really has a unique stable of primary logos with a lot of looks that have lasted nearly 100 years while others embrace their 1970s history, and even more have modernized their looks. This is just my preference and nothing against who likes what.

Of course, some of my favorite NHL logos aren't represented here since they are no longer used. There is the Hartford Whalers, the Quebec Nordiques and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

32-DALLAS STARS: Ugh. Later on I will talk about how a franchise moves and rebrands and does it right ... but the Dallas Stars did it wrong and made it worse. The Minnesota North Stars logo was cool, but when they moved to Dallas and dropped the "North", they have yet to come up with a great logo. The star-D logo is just ugly. In a town where a star logo is iconic, the NHL's star looks goofy by comparison. I will give them some props for the better shade of green.

31-LOS ANGELES KINGS: The Kings used to be purple in gold like their more popular NBA neighbors but was one of those franchises that went to black when it was popular in the late 1980s. The logo they came up with when Wayne Gretzky was dealt to LA should have been the one they never left. The current shield with the crown (which is a good piece of the franchise's history) and the "LA" is bland. Go back to the 1990s logo.

30-COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: I just can't get with this one. With a name like Blue Jackets, the best you can come up with is a star with a swooshing Ohio flag? Their alternate logos are much better.

29-TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Tampa Bay has been a really good franchise since joining the NHL in 1992, but they haven't done well with their logo. Their current logo, which they went to in 2011, obliterates the sloppy ones they had before it ... but it isn't much better. I will say that the logo looks okay on their jerseys but isn't nice to look at on its own. A blue lightning bolt in a blue circle. Even the Los Angeles Chargers' lightning bolt has more color and character to it. Compared to their original logos, this is fantastic. Compared to the other NHL logos, it is lacking.

28-ANAHEIM DUCKS: I will say that I prefer the old Disney Mighty Ducks logo over the current web-foot "D". While the current logo is more of a classic look, it lacks personality that the cartoonish Mighty Ducks logo had. That's saying something for me since I'm not a fan of the 90s era logos in sports. This is a perfect example of a logo that would rank higher if I hadn't already seen a better version, and if the Vegas Golden Knights hasn't done the color scheme better. 

27-OTTAWA SENATORS: The Sens logo is popular ... but I just don't get it. First off, thank goodness they left the 3D senator head aside and went back to the original logo. That's a win. But their logo still feels like some generic thing created on some software using an template. I do love the red, black and gold, but the senator head has me wanting more. 

26-ARIZONA COYOTES: This franchise is a bit of a mess, but they did something right by going back to the kachina logo. Like I mentioned earlier with the Anaheim Ducks (and you'll hear again in these rankings), sometimes the more cartoonish logo has more personality. The howling coyote they used lacked that. 

25-FLORIDA PANTHERS: I may be in the minority (I don't know) but I like the current classic look better than the lunging panther the team used for much of its history. There's nothing memorable about it at all, which is why it is tucked into the bottom half of my rankings. 

24-WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Look, this logo is sort of fine. It is a modern rendering of their original logo and ditches the blue and gold swooping eagle of the 90s and 2000s. Like the red, white and blue coming back, but this is as plain as it gets. Sure, the stick L with the puck and the three stars are cool but it's ... meh. 

23-WINNIPEG JETS: When the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and the Jets were reborn, I thought that we'd see the old Jets logo from the original franchise and before they moved to Phoenix. Of course, that didn't happen and instead of the 70s era logo (which looks a lot like the Islanders) we have a more modern and sleek look. It is a real-looking jet (based on the Royal Canadian Air Force) up against a red maple leaf. A mature look.

22-VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Let me be honest ... I just don't like this logo. I don't like the whale or the crushing ice or the anything about this. It is better than their plain original stick logo and their colorful racing skate but I'm sure there is something better than this wishbone C and mean orca. I do like their alternate logo of a skating lumberjack as a possible substitute. 

21-CAROLINA HURRICANES: The Hurricanes logo is both cool and bleh. I give credit for it being unique by having the hurricane flag colors and the franchise leans into that. It just lacks that umph you would actually feel a hurricane should be. It does pop off the jersey, though. 

20-NEW YORK ISLANDERS: The Islanders logo is one of the most interesting in sports. It is clearly dated, which isn't always a good thing. In this case, it is a great thing. Sure, it is clunky and a bit busy but it has great Easter eggs in it (the stripes on the stick for their titles; the top of the "I" in Islanders) and it isn't the Gorton's fisherman logo they tried to pull off in the mid-1990s. The blue has changed over the years as well as the bordering, but this is a logo that looks better on the jersey than on its own. 

19-NEW YORK RANGERS: Like all of the original six, the Rangers logo is a classic piece that brings back memories of the old era of the NHL but isn't stale in the modern game. However, it is just a shield with the team's name on it so I can't place it ahead of the rest of the bunch. In fact, it is my least favorite of the original six because it is ... just there. 

18-BOSTON BRUINS: It is always tough to rank a logo that has stood the test of time. The Bruins logo is iconic, albeit understated. 

17-COLORADO AVALANCHE: I give a lot of credit to the Aves for their logo. Typically when franchises relocate and rebrand, their new logo seems rushed and flawed. I still think that the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder did the worst job at this. When the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado in 1995, the logo they came up with is the logo they still have to this day. No pun intended, but it is a cool logo that looks great on their jerseys.

16-NASHVILLE PREDATORS: The logo works for me on several levels. One, I enjoy animal based logos that look mean ... and this predator is tough. The blue and gold works well (even though the NHL has a few other teams that use that combo) since it leans more into the gold than the Blues or Sabres do. 

15-MONTREAL CANADIENS: The Habs logo is classic and simple. The "C" for Canadiens and the "H" in the middle for hockey. And due to their history, it stands for success,

14-SEATTLE KRAKEN: The NHL's newest franchise got themselves a cool logo. The Kraken tentacles form an "S" while there is a red eye that adds a creepy element as well as breaks up all that teal. It is cool, albeit simple. 

13-BUFFALO SABRES: The Sabres logo is so unique because it is the name of the franchise without using words. A buffalo atop of a pair of sabres. When the Sabres went away from the look from 1996 to 2010, it messed with a good thing. This is both classic and cool and works perfectly. 

12-CALGARY FLAMES: The Flames logo is ... fire. They played with it for a while by using a black outline but has recently ditched that for the logo we knew back when and today. 

11-PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Another late 60s logo that got it right the first time. The only thing that has changed is the shade of orange in the "puck" of the flying P and the wings got a little work. It works so well on both their white and orange jerseys. 

10-EDMONTON OILERS: The oil drip and the top and the way the letters run down the logo are stunning. The only knock is that the team keeps adjusting the colors of the logo. Just keep it the way it was when you were winning all those cups!

9-NEW JERSEY DEVILS: One of the most underrated logos in the game. The hooked N and J with the devil horns and tail is so obvious that you can't screw it up. I do miss the green of back in the day, but as long as they never change the core of this logo, it will stay great. 

8-PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Another NHL logo that was replaced at one point only to make a comeback. The cartoon penguin was replaced by a more linear and modern look for a decade -- ironically the franchise won titles before and after the switch but not during. At the turn of the century, the Pens went back to the skating penguin and back to winning Stanley Cups. 

7-TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: The logo gets a knock up in the standings after changing to their more classic look in 2016. The logo they used in 1970 to 2016 was so plain that it would be way down these rankings and easily the worst of the original six logos. The classic logo was used for throwbacks and as an alternate before becoming their primary logo a few years ago. The textured leaf with a different font with a curve is so much better. 

6-VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS: A great logo from the jump. I mean it has the V for Vegas, the color gold, and a knight's helmet. It tells you the whole thing while looking stoic. The shield adding a black background to the helmet helps it pop and that V on the face looks menacing. Solid showing.

5-SAN JOSE SHARKS: Another team that got it right out of the box ... though the Sharks have made a significant adjustment over time. San Jose jumped on the teal bandwagon in the early 1990s and crushed their logo of a shark snapping a hockey stick with its teeth. In 2007, they cleaned it up a bit by making it a bit more 3D and adding some teal shading to the shark. A real clean look.

4-ST LOUIS BLUES: Like the Devils, the Blues logo is so underrated it's ridiculous. Aside for the red border and the city's name they added in the 80s and 90s, the flying note logo has remained mostly unchanged. It has a classy look to it.

3-CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: The Blackhawks logo is just so intricate and their jerseys are so awesome to look at. Chicago has also rocked this logo forever, with the only modifications being for the darkness or lighting of the colors. Just a beautiful logo.

2-DETROIT RED WINGS: Like the Blackhawks, the Red Wings are an original six franchise with an iconic logo that has stood the test of time. It is also intricate and one of sports' top logos. One of the few logos you can just stare at and notice something new. The shading, the detail in the wings and the wheel and the white and red working with and against each other is perfect.

1-MINNESOTA WILD: I absolutely love this logo. No words needed on the logo. The way the "wild" creature's head (wolf? bear? big cat?) is formed with the dusk sky, the sun/moon forming the ear, the river forming the mouth and teeth and the north star eye is breathtaking. The red, green and gold logo is simply beautiful. As much as I loved the former Minnesota North Stars logo, this one is so much better.