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Oklahoma is in: Sooners snag 4th spot in playoff semifinals

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Oklahoma is in Sooners snag 4th spot in playoff semifinals

Faced with a tricky choice, the College Football Playoff selection committee played it safe and fell back on some simple criteria: One loss is better than two. Winning a conference championship is better than not. Go with the team that avoided getting blown out.

Oklahoma is in the playoff over Georgia and Ohio State, moving into the fourth and final spot Sunday after the Sooners avenged their only loss by winning the Big 12 championship against Texas.

“I feel like we have a team worthy of it, a team that can go make a run,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said on ESPN.

The Sooners (12-1) will face No. 1 Alabama (13-0) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29 in a matchup of Heisman Trophy front-runner quarterbacks — Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and the Tide’s Tua Tagovailoa, who sprained his ankle in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday and is expected to be laid up for two weeks.

No. 2 Clemson (13-0) plays No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) in the Cotton Bowl on the same day. The winners meet in the championship game on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California.

The rest of the New Year’s Six bowl matchups are UCF vs. LSU in the Fiesta Bowl; Florida vs. Michigan in the Peach Bowl; Ohio State vs. Washington in the Rose Bowl; and Texas vs. Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Georgia (11-2) dropped a spot to fifth and Ohio State (12-1) remained sixth in the selection committee’s final top 25. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the SEC championship game Saturday and the Buckeyes won the Big Ten against Northwestern. The Sooners paid back a three-point loss to Texas in a Red River Rivalry rematch.

The 13-member selection committee, given the intentionally vague task of picking the four best teams in college football, was watching games and deliberating at a hotel in Grapevine, Texas, until 1:30 a.m. CT Sunday, committee chairman Rob Mullens said. The committee finished its top four at 10:30 a.m. CT.

Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame separated from the pack by going undefeated.

The tough call was at No. 4. Mullens said the committee determined none of Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State was unequivocally best and that brought the selection protocol into play. The protocol says conference championships, head-to-head results, strength of schedule and comparative outcomes are used as virtual tiebreakers when teams are close. No factor is weighted more than another.

“This is an art, not a science,” said Mullens, who is the athletic director at Oregon.

Oklahoma’s conference championship gave it the edge over Georgia. The Bulldogs’ strength of schedule, with losses to ranked teams, gave Georgia the edge over Ohio State, Mullens said.

Oklahoma is making its third appearance in the five-year-old playoff. Defending national champion Alabama has played in them all. Clemson is making its fourth straight appearance. Notre Dame is in the playoff for the first time, making it 10 teams in five seasons to participate in the playoff. Unbeaten UCF finished eighth in the final rankings, nowhere to be found in the committee’s playoff discussion. The Knights will put their 25-game winning streak on the line against another SEC team after beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl last season.

The debate leading up to championship Saturday was whether Oklahoma or Ohio State would take the fourth spot if Alabama beat Georgia.

The wild card was Georgia beating the mighty Tide, which could have meant two SEC teams for the second straight season. Instead, the Bulldogs lost but played well enough to allow coach Kirby Smart to make that case that Georgia should remain in the top four. Smart told reporters after the SEC title game to ask Alabama coach Nick Saban which team he would like to avoid in the playoff? Saban, of course, endorsed his former defensive coordinator and conference-mate.

The committee didn’t buy it and stayed with the one consistent data point throughout the five years of playoff selections: No team with more than one loss has ever made the playoff.

Also, Mullens noted, only two of 20 playoff teams have not won a conference title.

For the second straight season, two Power Five conferences were left out of the playoff. Again it was the Big Ten and Pac-12.

“The CFP committee does its best and I appreciate their commitment to college football,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told the AP in a text message. “Not frustrated at all because I know we have three teams capable of winning it all, but only have four playoff slots.”

Ohio State was the first team out last season and again was squeezed because of a lopsided loss to an unranked team. The Buckeyes were blown out by Purdue in October, similar to the way they lost at Iowa in 2017.

“A three-point loss to a ranked team on a neutral field is different than the only loss amongst that peer group to an unranked team, and obviously we did take note that Georgia’s two losses were against the No. 1 team in our rankings and what ultimately ended up being the No. 11 team (LSU),” Mullens said. ” Sure, that was part of the discussion, but it was just one part of it.”

Georgia has been rolling since losing by 20 at LSU in October and had Alabama on the ropes before the Tide erased a 14-point deficit. The Bulldogs proved they could hang against the best, but it was not enough to sway the committee into making an unprecedented playoff pick.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast

___

More AP college football.

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As Jussie Smollett story evolves, let’s not give it the Covington Catholic School treatment

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As Jussie Smollett story evolves lets not give it the Covington Catholic School treatment

When a juicy story hits social media, the instant reaction is to run with it and all the implications. That’s the nature of our on-demand, always-on, real-time media world. The only thing faster than hot takes from the first hint of a story are the assumptions made by both sides regardless of the details.

Such is the case with Jussie Smollett, the actor who was allegedly attacked by MAGA-loving bigots. Smollett, a gay man of color, was allegedly targeted on the streets of Chicago, but now reports are coming in that it may have been an elaborate hoax designed to help him save his job on the cast of Empire.

But so far, police have only confirmed that Smollett is still being treated as a victim. Yes, there were two persons of interest questioned by police. Yes, Smollett skipped a voluntary interview with police this morning. Yes, the story was strange from the start and this new narrative seems to match much better regardless of which side of the political or cultural aisle you’re on.

And yet, nothing has been confirmed.


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It’s incumbent on us, whether journalists or simply social media users, to wait for the facts before jumping to conclusions. It works in both directions.

Was it all a hoax? Possibly. Some who are looking at he evidence today and the report released by local Chicago news may come to the conclusion that a hoax was likely. But let’s not assume until the truth is revealed by officials.

 


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AAF debuts: everything the NFL should be but isn’t

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AAF debuts everything the NFL should be but isnt

Eagerly I’ve been awaiting the premier of the Alliance of American Football. The Spring football league debuted Saturday night with two games, one between the Orlando Apollos vs Atlanta Legends and the other between the San Diego Fleet vs the San Antonio Commanders. The former was a onesided affair with the Orlando Apollos dominating 40-6. The latter was a defensive struggle where the San Antonio Commanders came out on top 15-6.

App Review

One of the major emphasis of the AAF is their tech component. As mentioned in previous coverage, this is a venture backed league with the genius of Peter Thiel and multiple football legends. The AAF released their app earlier in the week to much anticipation. On gameday, the app delivered. This is a huge feat for software development. In comparison, the Obamacare website had a deadline set by Congress, and but when the fatal date came, the site wasn’t ready. Therefore the incomplete version was released to comply with the law, and so the exchange got off to a terrible start. A more related example would be ESPN fantasy failing on week one of the NFL a few years ago. The Alliance released their app which allowed users to stream any game without regional broadcast restrictions, an outdated barrier for sportsfans everywhere. The stream was a high quality one, almost ad-free. There were some sound issues for the game in San Antonio, but I think that fault lies more with CBS. The only issue with the stream was that my phone didn’t recognize that a video was playing, therefore the screen would go to sleep becoming inactive. Otherwise, the app was high quality and was hardly a drain on the battery life of my device. My phone only lost about thirty-forty percent streaming a football game and didn’t heat up noticeably. This is an underrated bonus.

Real Football

Part of why I disbelieve that the Vince McMahon’s XFL will work out is that the game will be too gimmicky. Even Canadian football doesn’t feel the same. Rouges don’t belong in football. College is decent, but the difference between the fastest player and the slowest is vast. Being honest, college football is really only great when two major teams play each other like Alabama and Georgia or Clemson. The NFL has great talent but the rules have become a great barrier to the enjoyment of the game. One does not simply tackle Tom Brady without being penalized, so it seems. The NFL officiating brought on great controversy prior to the Superbowl with the blatant no-call in the NFC Championship. Such instances call into question the integrity of the league. And while that particular game looked to have had incompetent officiating, there are multiple Superbowls that undermine the integrity of the league. Lets not pretend 18 point favorites featuring Johnny Unitas somehow lose to the New York Jets or the use of the Tuck Rule to save Tom Brady was the right call. Even more subtle examples like a partial power outage during a Superbowl just when the game was getting out of hand undermine the integrity of the NFL. The AAF delivers transparency where the NFL does not. On a replay of a deep pass caught, the AAF broadcasted the deliberation of the officials. The fans could listen to the refs reason as to why the call was not a catch. It was a beatiful advancement in pro-football history.

The game was not without penalties but false starts and delay of games must be enforced. Furthermore, the AAF refs place greater emphasis on illegal contacts as opposed to PI calls. Overall, the refs let the players play.

The most notable hit of the night came on the opening drive of the San Diego Fleet. There is no way the NFL would not have penalized that perfect sack. Instead it’s called a hit stick tackle and celebrated.

Level of Talent/ Rate of Play

The disparity between the fastest players and the slowest players is, seemingly, reduced from the extremities of college football. Is the game as fast as the NFL? No, but its close. And the fact that the play clock is reduced to speed of the game makes a lot of quality differences less noticeable. One disparity that stood out was the level of quarterbacks. Between the San Antonio Commanders and the San Diego Fleet, there were five interceptions and the completion percentages were below average. However, five interceptions is more exciting then five (short) punts. The game was low scoring falling well below its 50 point over under, but the credit is due to the solid defenses. To me, it’s too soon to judge the league based on talent. It’s game one. With that said, these quarterbacks should improve as the season progresses. But the defenses, particularly San Antonio Commanders’ defense was the kind of football I enjoy.

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Fortnite: A mirror for our current political atmosphere

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Fortnite A mirror for our current political atmosphere

We’re living in strange days. Most Americans seem oblivious, content to rant occasionally on social media but mostly going about their business as if there isn’t much to see here. Many Americans are stuck in a tribal, dysfunctional, inexplicable political world that seems to be breaking apart the fabric of American governance. Meanwhile, a good chunk of Americans are waiting for the next battle bus to launch.

I’ve lived through most of the evolution of video games. I played Pong as a young child, enjoyed Super Mario Bros. and their ilk before graduating to Doom in my late teens. Between Madden  and Call of Duty, I didn’t get to see much in gaming innovation other than the incremental improvements in these two classic series for nearly two decades. By that time, I was an adult. Gaming was an occasional distraction to play with my kids.

Today, there are”battle royal” games dominating the screen-time for millions of Americans ranging from 5th graders to adult celebrities. Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) are the leaders in this genre that has taken over the collective gaming experiences of the masses. Both have become cultural phenomenons of sorts with PUBG being the original, but Fortnite has stolen much of its predecessor’s thunder.

The basic concept of battle royale games is that you’re dropped on an island and must collect resources, weapons, and equipment while trying to survive. The battle arena shrinks over time, bringing surviving players closer and closer until one remains alive and is declared the winner. There are other variations that include duos, squads, and large team battles. Sometimes there are goals that aren’t purely surrounding survival.

Each player has different ways of decorating themselves with clothes, special gear, and “emotes” that have become cultural phenomenons of their own.

As a metaphor, Fortnite fits nicely with our current political atmosphere. There are large groups that work together in certain situations much like the political parties. There are smaller groups that can work together as well, like the various camps and caucuses that drive decision-making on Capitol Hill. But at the end of the day, you have a bunch of players doing what’s best for them so they can survive longer.

They decorate themselves in Fortnite just as modern politicians build their public personas through social media.

Fortnite is Washington DC.

This should be alarming whether you buy into this clunky analogy or not. The reality of our political situation is we have a bunch of people doing what’s best for their own political survival. They sometimes work as teams but for the most part they’re taking whatever resources are best for them to move up the leaderboard and make it alive to the next shrinking of the map.

All of this has caused a very strange shift in the sentiment of the nation. I’m not referring to polls or predictions about the general consensus. Contrary to popular belief, the “average people” who drive real sentiment in our nation are the ones who generate a following on social media, through their websites, or out in the streets rallying the people. These are the Ben Shapiros, Louis Farrakhans, and Jim Acostas of the world. They’re the influencers who have gone beyond the good ol’ days of popular journalists and community leaders. Today, their followers are almost as cult-like as the followers of politicians like President Trump or Representative Ocasio-Cortez.

Just as a gaming streamer known as Ninja broke Twitch records by playing with Drake, Travis Scott, Kim DotCom, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, so too can the political tastemakers make as much of a stir as actual politicians. This should be a good thing, but unfortunately for every Shapiro there are a dozen Acostas. The tastemakers are taking the important aspects of the nation’s collective consciousness in the wrong direction.

We can learn a lot about the idiocy in DC by looking at the way Fortnite has captivated the masses. It’s every person for themselves in both worlds, and only the one left standing at the end gets anything other than pride for lasting through it all.

 


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