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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

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More AP college football.

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Binge-worthy show: Counterpart works because J.K. Simmons is incredible. Twice.

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With season 2 of the Starz hit Counterpart getting going, I thought I should go ahead and binge the first season to see if it’s one to follow going forward. Despite a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and universal acclaim, I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t move forward to season 2 if it weren’t for two letters and a surname: J.K. Simmons.

Very minor spoilers ahead for the sake of understanding why you should see this show.

Imagine if the world we know copied itself 30-years ago. These two worlds continued without knowledge of each other, save for a select few on each side who are aware of the tunnel below a building in Berlin that connects the two worlds. Now, imagine if both sides kept the existence of this secret from everyone, even most of the world’s governments, and instead ran a shadow organization in the building above the tunnel that allowed the two sides to cooperate.

That’s the world of Counterpart.

This is where it gets interesting. J.K. Simmons plays Howard Silk… twice. In the “alpha” version of the world he’s a mild-mannered operator working in the building above the tunnel but unaware of what it does or the role he plays in everything. The “prime” version is a badass secret agent who must travel to the “alpha” side to foil a plot that would bring the two sides to war.

The premise is pretty clever, albeit not completely unique. There have been stories of alternate realities playing with or against each other in everything from comic books to Star Trek shows. This is the first I’ve seen that plays it more as a spy game in an inter-reality Cold War setting, but nonetheless it’s a relatively common premise. What Star Trek fan doesn’t remember evil Spock?

Spock Mirror

On the merits of the story alone, I’d see this as an acceptable show to watch. Not quite binge-worthy, but a nice aside while waiting for the next season of The Expanse for sci-fi fans. What pushes it up to the binge-worthy level is the dual performances of Simmons. Despite the parallels between the two characters he plays, the audience is never confused about which one they’re seeing. He doesn’t even have to speak most of the time. We can tell by the way he carries himself, the expressions he makes, and the bearing he holds when looking at people.

That’s actually not that hard. What Simmons does masterfully is he accomplishes this without exaggerating the differences. He brings them to light with subtly, giving us just enough understanding of who the characters are without overplaying those differences.

There’s one more thing that the show does well that should be noted since it almost lost me otherwise. Just when you’re getting a little bored with the mundane aspects of the spy game, it slams you across the face with an unexpected twist or impromptu action scene. Even a simple conversation about arranging travel can turn into a gun versus fireplace poker fight to the death.

Great actors can take good material and turn it into something special. Though we’ve only seen one full season of Counterpart, it’s clear that J.K. Simmons makes it worth the watch.

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Travelers season 3 launches tonight and fans are going nuts

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Travelers season 3 launches tonight and fans are going nuts

Technically, it will be launched tomorrow at midnight, but who wants to get technical?

Time traveling science fiction has never been as great as it is with Travelers. This is one of the most binge-worthy shows on streaming television for a reason.

Binge-worthy show: Travelers season 3 is here. Time to catch up on the first two seasons.

http://noqreport.com/2018/12/05/binge-worthy-show-travelers-season-3-time-catch-first-two-seasons/Season 3 will be released on December 14 and I’m truly pumped. I haven’t been this excited about a new season of a show since the last season of Sherlock (which was admittedly disappointing). Season 2 ended with a world-changing cliffhanger. Luckily for those of you who haven’t seen the show yet, you have plenty of time to watch the two 12-episode season on Netflix.

Here’s a very brief overview of the premise:

Hundreds of years in the future, humankind isn’t doing so well. The planet is dying. The people are dying. All they have going for them is advanced technology that allows them to carry on with their dismal existences. Things are so bad, they decide to go back to the past – 2016 – and change things in a systematic way that will create a better world.

Season 2 ended on an extreme cliffhanger, one that will change the fabric of the story completely. It was so intense that by the last few minutes of the episode it almost seemed like a series finale. That’s how drastic it was. That’s how much things are about to change.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms are buzzing over the new season dropping. The Canadian-American show has resurrected an interest in time-travel entertainment while never getting too nerdy. It’s almost contradictory that the science invoked by an understanding of the space-time continuum is able to exist within an excellent cast and a tight storyline that keeps viewers so engaged.

The new season of Travelers drops on Netflix at midnight, PST. Fans should prepare their excuses for calling in sick tomorrow. The Director has a mission for you.

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Of course an 8-team college football playoff system makes sense

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Of course an 8-team college football playoff system makes sense

In just over two weeks, we’ll get to see who’s going to play for the national championship in college football. It all happens in two games with the current playoff system; the winner of #1 vs #4 will play the winner of #2 vs #3. It’s simple, elegant, and so far it’s been working better than any previous attempt at crowning a national champion.

It’s also inferior to what it could be. An 8-team playoff system would be ideal.

Detractors (and there are fewer and fewer all the time) have two primary complaints. The first one isn’t really an argument. Traditionalists believe the playoff system in general harms continuation of the rich history of the old bowl system. This is true, and frankly there’s no going back at this point.

The second concern is about where it stops. If 8 is better than 4, is 12 or 16 better than 8?

Let’s put that one to rest now. No. 8 is the ideal number for the playoff system. It is fair enough to allow all the teams that deserve a shot without being so big that undeserving teams might sneak in and make a mess of things.

Today, there are seven teams who have a legitimate claim that they deserve a shot at the national championship. The four teams that are in – Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma – are the teams that had the best seasons this year. Oklahoma avenged its one loss in the Big 12 Championship game and the other three teams are undefeated.

Added to the mix are the three teams on the outside looking in. #5 Georgia had the two best losses of any team and is arguably the second best team in the country despite those losses. #6 Ohio State won the Big 10 Championship and has only one loss. #8 UCF is undefeated for the second year in a row. While #7 Michigan didn’t really have a shot at the top 4 after losing badly to Ohio State, they would round off a solid 8-team playoff if that system were in place today.

It would be perfect.

Not every year would end up like this one with 8 clear top teams, but even in disputed years where #9 or #10 complained, they would do so knowing they could have gotten in by winning. This year, Ohio State was penalized despite being the Big 10 Champion and having only one loss. UCF demonstrated it doesn’t matter how well they play for how long. Two undefeated seasons wasn’t enough to earn them a spot.

An 8-team playoff system with automatic bids for the champions of the five major conferences and three at-large bids would extend the season for one week, allowing the first round to be played on or around Christmas. It would make the whole bowl season more interesting and offer hope to teams like UCF who would otherwise need a perfect storm of major conference losses to earn a spot.

This really should be a no-brainer. ESPN won’t mind. Their contract lasts until 2026. They would happily expand to include another round of four games. Those who are making the decision should make it fast. We can get this up and running by the 2020 season.

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