Mike Anthony

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Time Waits For No One

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There is still plenty of speculation about how much of the 2020 Major League Baseball season – if any – will be played.

But one sure thing is that when play resumes the Atlanta Braves will still be one of the better teams in baseball, with every reason to believe that a World Series title is within their grasp.

However, the agreement reached by MLB and its players’ association regarding pay and service time could put a dent in the length of the Braves’ current run of great play.

Over the last decade, many baseball teams have adopted a roller-coaster philosophy to competing. They will ride out success for a while, but are now more apt to trade off aging and expensive talent.

The rebuilding process can be painful for fans and is done for financial benefit of the club – the thought being that there’s no reason to pay top dollar for declining veteran talent that won’t make the playoffs when a roster full of marginal veterans and young players can lose just the same at a much smaller price.

That’s where the current pandemic and suspension of play is hurting the Braves. If play resumes this season, all will be fine. Atlanta will contend for a third consecutive NL East title, although a shortened season figures to be a disadvantage for more talented teams better suited to handle the grind of a full schedule.

If a shorter 2020 hampers the Braves’ competitiveness or the worst case scenario happens and there is no baseball until next spring, that’s when the numbers will start working against them.

The biggest item in the agreement is that, in the event of a total cancellation of the current season, all players will receive an identical credit of their MLB service time accrued in 2019.

That would mean the Braves’ big offseason adds of Cole Hamels and Marcel Ozuna would again be free agents as both are signed to one-year deals.

Mark Melancon would also be a free agent as the contract he signed before being traded to Atlanta expires this year.

There is also the issue of age as Freddie Freeman will turn 31 this season and has just one year remaining on his deal.

Losing players is one issue, but adding on payroll seems to be an even bigger concern for Braves ownership group Liberty Media, which had often been criticized for being tight with money prior two the last two seasons of winning baseball.

The wave of youth that has been instrumental in the Braves’ rise is about to get a considerable pay raise. Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, A.J. Minter and Chad Sobotka will all be arbitration-eligible next season, guaranteeing a pay raise for all and increasing in accordance with their performance over their first three seasons.

Star outfielder Ronald Acuna will be the biggest hit on the payroll. Acuna is slated to make just $1 million in 2020, but the contract extension he signed last year bumps that to $15 million in 2021 and levels out at $17 million per year after that.

Ozzie Albies will also be breaking the bank as he will make an additional $2 million in 2021.

The Braves’ roster, as currently constructed, will remain relatively young, even if no baseball is played this season. But the contract structure of the team shows that 2020 is definitely the year Atlanta thinks it can make a World Series push.

If the Braves don’t see any action this year and want to be in a similar spot for 2021, they’ll have to make tough decisions on free agents while the payroll begins to soar.

No Azaleas

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Over a whirlwind 48-hour span, the entire sports world came to a halt. Over the course of a few days.

What started with the NBA suspending its season quickly turned into the NHL following suit, MLB nerve wracking days, a domino effect went into full effect; suspending all operations in the middle of spring training and every collegiate sport coming to a screeching halt.

Lifelong sports fans were in a sort of state of shock as each news update brought about worse news and more cancelations.

By the time Friday, March 13 rolled around, the gravity of the situation still hadn’t quite set in, with plenty of rumors circulating about how quickly everything could get back on track.

And then it happened. The Masters – a shining jewel in American sports and one of the most fiercely protected events and brands in the world – put its annual tournament on hold.

Calendars, warmer weather and the beginning of baseball aside, anyone with roots to the south knows that the true arrival of spring comes during four magical days in April when the world’s best golfers descend upon Augusta National Golf Club.

It is possibly the most mythicized and celebrated tournament in all of sports. It gets played amongst the backdrop of an impossible green and vibrant course.

It has always been a hint to the sports world that it is safe to come outside and play for the spring and summer months.

But just like everything else, the Masters will also be empty.

If there’s one bit of silver lining, it’s that the official scoreboard for the Masters reads ‘postponed’ where so many other events are canceled outright.

Communications from Augusta National have stressed that efforts will be made to hold the tournament at some point. There have also been rumors floating out of Augusta that the club might be aiming for a Masters held in the fall as the course usually shuts down during the summer months.

For as much as the stoppage of other sports stung, the postponement of the Masters may have been the signal to the sports world that the response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic isn’t an overreaction, but rather a very urgent and necessary step to protect the masses.

No golf at Augusta in April is like the constant halts to trading on stock exchange floors. It’s the near total halt of international travel. It’s the empty shelves in stores and longtime local businesses that are now shuttered.

It’s a punch in the gut, is what it is. But hopefully a measure that will work out once the world catches its breath.

This is already guaranteed to be a sports year unlike any other. Here’s hoping that we still get our tradition unlike any other.


Spring Hope

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Opening day is still over a month away, but the first members of the 2020 Atlanta Braves have officially arrived at Spring Training in Kissimmee, Fla.

For those who live for baseball, the date, which sees pitchers and catchers report, may as well be the first day of spring, even if there is currently snow on your front lawn.

Teams that came up a bit short of their expectations last season will use the next week to remind themselves that hope springs eternal, dreaming of what could be with plenty of new faces and infinite possibilities laying ahead in the 162 game schedule.

The Braves may well have some of those feelings. After all, it’s impossible not to hope – and want – more after consecutive heartbreaking exits from the divisional round of the playoffs.

Then again, the team’s title of two-time defending National League East champions also allows the Braves to storm into 2020 with some hard-earned bravado.

Despite plenty of notable moves being made by teams throughout the division this offseason – and even with the defending World Series champs residing in Washington – it’s hard to keep from thinking of Atlanta as the favorite to win the East yet again.

While Atlanta bid farewell to Josh Donaldson and his resurgent 2019 season, the Braves continue to boast a young team that still has everyday players coming into their primes, to say nothing of a minor league system that remains one of the deeper and more talented farms in the game.

The starting pitching additions of Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez would have been much more impressive about five years ago, but Hamels is still very effective and the Braves are risking next to nothing on what amounts to a lottery ticket that could always produce a few games of Hernandez in his old form.

Simply put, there will never be another 14-year run of division titles – for the Braves or any other team. Baseball rosters just don’t work like that anymore and Atlanta was never going to be able to keep everyone from the 2018 or 2019 squads in hopes of matching and building on success.

But the Braves can take solace in the fact that they currently possess the sort of blueprint that is leading to playoff success. Atlanta has a solid starting rotation – although they still lack a shutdown ace. The Braves completely overhauled their bullpen at the end of 2019 and should have a solid back end again this year.

Most importantly, the Braves have a potent mix of young, cheap and improving talent in Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. Throw in the veteran MVP-level talent and leadership of Freddie Freeman and this season’s hired help in Marcel Ozuna and you’ve got a lineup that is going to be a tough out all season long.

For two seasons, the Braves have had to end a season with the promise of “Wait ‘til next year.”

As Spring Training gets underway, Braves fans have every reason to think that next year is finally here.


Bringer Of Rain

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Late Tuesday, news broke that Josh Donaldson had agreed to sign with the Minnesota Twins.

Donaldson, 34, had suffered through a few injury-plagued seasons, as he fell from his former MVP status before signing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves in 2019 and reigniting his reputation as a slick-fielding third baseman, who can power his team to victory at the plate.

The immediate reaction from many Braves fans was one of dismay. After all, Donaldson had plenty to do with turning the team from a surprise division winner in 2018 to a legitimate powerhouse and a dark horse World Series contender last year.

There’s no doubt that Atlanta’s lineup won’t be as imposing on Opening Day 2020 as it was in last year’s playoffs.

But the Braves are positioned for success beyond 2020. And in the current structure of Major League Baseball and how its payrolls and contracts work, letting the Twins win the bidding war for Donaldson may prove to be a good move.

As much as Donaldson did for the offense and contributed to the team’s identity, last year’s performance was a personal showcase for exactly what transpired in the free agent market. Donaldson’s injuries left him with few options in 2019.

Plenty of teams would have taken him on at a low rate for a few years in hopes of getting a steal.

Instead, Donaldson bet on himself. He took a lucrative deal in Atlanta that came with the pressure of a single-year contract that could have spelled the end of his career if he didn’t produce.

But he returned to All-Star form and – because of that – was able to get right back on the open market for a premium price over a longer span.

And while the Braves are in a position where they could have competed with just about any team vying for Donaldson’s services, it is probably in their best interest to have bowed out and saved their money for other ventures.

Sure, Austin Riley might not be able to play third base at an MLB level. Sure, Johan Camargo is nowhere near the offensive threat as Donaldson in the everyday lineup. And sure, the stats of Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna could suffer a bit without a third true power bat in the order to keep pitchers honest.

But the current state of baseball is all about adjusting strengths to where money can be spent most efficiently.

Atlanta is currently enjoying the likes of Riley, Max Fried and Mike Soroka on dirt-cheap contracts, but those numbers will skyrocket in the next few years if those players continue to perform at their current levels.

There is also added spending for the Braves this season on the mound as they now own the full contracts of the high-price relief pitchers traded for last season, to go along with the offseason acquisitions of closer Will Smith and starter Cole Hamels.

In the end, the decision was probably a simple one for the Braves’ front office.

There is every possibility that Donaldson will have another huge year in 2020 that won’t help the Braves, but years of statistics suggest that the money the Twins will be paying him over the last couple of years of his new contract won’t be met with comparable results.

As for Atlanta, all of the money that could have been sunk into Donaldson can now be spent to lock up much younger and still-progressing players, or could be saved for leverage in a midseason trade to make a necessary move.

By letting Donaldson walk, the Braves will pay a price in offensive production on the front end, but will extend their financial flexibility as a younger core that continues to improve over the next few years.

Eagle Departure

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Most Georgia Southern fans still hadn’t shaken off the haze of the always-blurry week between Christmas and New Year’s when they were surprised to hear that the Eagles will have a new person heading up the athletics department in the coming weeks.

With Tom Kleinlein’s announcement that he’s off to Ole Miss, Georgia Southern finds itself looking for an athletics director for the first time since it was an FCS school. While the university is roughly the same in terms of students, it will be a whole new ballgame for the next person to take the reins.

For starters, Georgia Southern Athletics is a much larger operation nowadays. The budget is now well over $20 million, where it hovered around half that mark before Kleinlein took over.

There are also more sports to oversee as women’s golf and women’s rifle began play in conjunction with the school’s move to FBS.

There is also the pressure to keep up with the Jones’ as the Sun Belt features large public schools that are continually growing as opposed to the Eagles’ former home in the private school-dominated Southern Conference.

So, with all the changes that have taken place since the school’s last athletic director hire, I think it’s time to keep that trend going.

It’s likely that – following Kleinlein’s final day on the job and during the school’s national search for his replacement – a member of the current athletics administration staff will be named the interim athletic director.

The Eagles definitely have an ideal candidate in current Deputy AD Lisa Sweany, who served as the athletic director at Armstrong Atlantic before the school was absorbed by Georgia Southern.

By all accounts, Sweany did a good job at Armstrong and has continued the good work in Statesboro. But the athletic program, in its current state, is in need of a shove forward and keeping the administration in roughly the same order isn’t the best way to accomplish that.

Five years ago, the school boasted a skyrocketing football team, a men’s basketball squad on the verge of making the NCAA tournament and a baseball and men’s golf team that were postseason regulars. Nothing has fallen off a cliff since then, but nothing has gotten significantly better either.

More importantly, the surge of money and fans that ushered in the FBS era has slowed. The stands haven’t been as crowded at any GS venues in recent seasons and balancing the budget is becoming a tougher task with each season.

It’s time for Georgia Southern to think outside the box.

The school and its athletic programs are too big and too notable to not transform into something bigger than they currently are.

Maybe that needs the touch of a business-savvy director, who can bring more donors and partnerships into the fold? Maybe it will take an aggressive and visible athletic director that will challenge the bubble immediately outside of Statesboro that is full of potential fans that don’t always fall on the Eagles’ side of the fence.

Kleinlein’s efforts were much-needed and he was the right guy at the right time for what had to be accomplished half a decade ago.

Now it’s time for Georgia Southern to find the right person once again. And if the athletic program wants to be more of a national presence, then it would do well to make sure it covers every corner of the map to find that person.

Flying To Mountain Top?

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For most of the last four seasons, the book on Georgia Southern men’s basketball has been the same.

The Eagles are an athletic team with plenty of talent and – injury permitting – a lot of depth.

They’ve consistently out-performed preseason predictions and have been a mainstay near the top of the Sun Belt standings and have earned one of the top four seeds in the conference tournament in four of the last five seasons.

But for all that success, the Eagles have never quite been able to reach the top of the mountain.

Shooting woes and a difficulty in winning road games have popped up at the worst times and the Eagles have seemed to be on the wrong end of most ‘must-win’ games.

The result is still a solid Georgia Southern squad – but one that is now closing in on 30 years without an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

So, while this season’s team has all the looks of a possible contender, it will be battling nearly three decades of demons along with the rest of the Sun Belt.

To be fair, the deck is stacked against the Eagles, as well as most other programs not fortunate enough to play in one of the power conferences.

Despite the Sun Belt quickly improving its overall statistics as a league and pulling off a pair of first round NCAA victories in recent history, the postseason continues to take more and more power conference teams with at-large bids.

So, while the Sun Belt has a handful of viable league title contenders this season and the ability to make some noise on the national stage, it’s already written in stone that only the league’s tournament champion will get an invitation, regardless of the resumes of the others.

In a way, that makes things a bit easier for Georgia Southern. To paraphrase the all-time classic movie ‘Major League’, “There’s only one thing left to do… Win the whole thing.”

That’s much easier said than done, but it’s an attainable goal for this season’s Eagles and one they’d do well to set their minds on right now.

Of course, coach speak rules the day in any sport. No amount of success or struggle will get GS coach Mark Byington to talk about a conference title in December – or in January or February, for that matter.

But the truth of the matter is that if the Eagles want to make the big dance in March, they need to start putting themselves in position for it right now.

The team has taken the first steps with a pair of wins in its’ first two Sun Belt games. A good conference tournament seed will likely net a more favorable run of opponents during the must-win games.

As the season goes on, the team also needs to consider rest for players, as everyone will have to be prepared for what could be three or four straight days of single elimination play.

Gateway Open

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Over the last year, ardent followers of college football were introduced to the transfer portal.

The creative name served to describe a new and more liberal process in which the NCAA facilitated student-athletes wishing to leave a school in which they are currently enrolled in hopes of landing at another school and playing the same sport.

Transfers are nothing new. While especially prominent in football and basketball, it’s never been world-shattering news for a player to begin his or her collegiate playing career at one school, only to move on to another. But the emergence of the transfer portal seems to have kicked the process into overdrive.

Whereas the process of transferring was previously a secretive method that involved third and fourth-party conversations that were rarely known by the public, the portal ostensibly makes the process of moving from one high-profile program to another akin to the offseason free agent frenzy of professional sports.

Initial reaction to the portal was pretty predictable. The multi-billion-dollar college sports industry is propped up by universities, boosters and media corporations that all have huge investments and stand to make even bigger profits off the success of 18-22 year old kids, who never see a cent of the money.

So, of course, those controlling entities have thrown plenty of negative opinions at a process that throws their assumed profits into flux.

All around the country, there have been cries of how there is no loyalty to schools on the part of athletes despite them accepting full scholarships.

There is also the widespread opinion that athletes aren’t showing any toughness or accountability, quickly leaving for another school if they don’t get their playing time right away.

Those complaints won’t stop anytime soon, but they are also the talking points of a side that is going to lose this battle.

Legislation has already passed paving the way for future collegiate athletes to financially benefit off of the use of their likeness, when their schools do the same.

The creation of the transfer portal is likely to be a similarly huge step forward for athletes, as it creates a sort of free agency for them despite several courts squashing attempts of college athletes to form any sort of alliance that could act in the same manner as players’ unions in professional leagues.

The transfer portal isn’t going to cool down anytime soon and for good reason.

Long gone are the days where someone has to be well into their professional career before society thinks he or she should be able to control the terms of their employment.

It’s plainly evident that millions of dollars of sales, marketing and promotion are firmly anchored to, and dependent upon, college kids.

And due to current regulations, those college kids are still smuggling extra food out of the campus cafeteria and depending on mom and dad for gas money to get home for the holidays, even if their face is flashing across your television screen on a College Football Playoff promo a dozen times each night.

The transfer portal isn’t an out for college athletes. It’s a long-overdue taste of just a little bit of sovereignty in a system that has never allowed it before.

The NL East Beast

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Climbing the mountain to attain a division championship in Major League Baseball is tough. Maintaining superiority and defending a division title is even tougher.

But doing so while still trying to figure out a way to get to – and win – a World Series is as challenging as it gets.

That’s the problem facing the Atlanta Braves this winter.

The Braves surprised all of baseball by taking the NL East in 2018. Last season, Atlanta was a known power and excelled despite many more expectations placed on it to defend its division crown.

However, the postseason result remained the same as the Braves were bounced in the divisional series for a second straight year.

Heading into 2020, there is no doubt that the Braves will be a contender once again. The young guys who have emerged over the last couple of seasons are now entering their primes, while others like Freddie Freeman, Mike Foltynewicz and Nick Markakis are grizzled and reliable veterans playing at a high level.

Everything suggests that the Braves will be as good as ever and recent signings of Cole Hamels and Will Smith can only help. However, they might also find themselves in the day-to-day fire of competing in the best division in baseball.

Obviously, the elephant in the room is the Washington Nationals. The Nats couldn’t top the Braves in the regular season, but got the last laugh in winning the World Series.

The Nationals re-signing of Stephen Strasburg meant they would let All-Star third-baseman, Anthony Rendon walk, but Washington is more concerned with how healthy they can be.

The main reason for their second-place finish in the NL East last season was that it took two months for the team to get healthy. Once everyone was in place, the Nationals had the best record in all of baseball.

The New York Mets are in a similar spot. It seems as if the Mets have been terminally bitten by the injury bug as they have been underachieving and often short-handed for most of the last three seasons.

That said, New York still has an imposing starting rotation and could easily get into a division race if its bats can stay in the lineup all season.

Then there are the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils won the 2018 offseason by signing Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, while trading for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura.

However, injuries plagued McCutchen and Segura, while nearly the entire bullpen was lost due to various ailments.

Philadelphia continues to dole out money as it has already signed pitcher Zack Wheeler and shortstop Didi Gregorious.

Aside from the still-rebuilding Marlins, there is no reason for any of the other four teams in the division to expect anything less than a winning record and a serious run at the postseason.

If the division proves to be as competitive on the field as it appears on paper, the Braves figure to have a bit of an advantage in that their roster is stocked with guys who have thrived down the stretch in division races the last two seasons.

Then again, the Braves were also the healthiest of the top four division finishers last season and could face a very different situation if they are forced to battle through constant lineup changes.

With winter approaching, baseball may seem a long way off, but a big part of every championship season occurs in November and December when pieces are shifted around by squads in hopes of solving the World Series puzzle.

It’s been a long time since the Braves’ ridiculous run of 14 consecutive division championships and the ways of baseball have changed to where even truly great teams might only have a window of a few years in which they can compete for a World Series.

This is that moment for Atlanta and the front office is clearly going for it. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how things play out.

More Cinderellas

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The first month of the NCAA basketball season has been wild as it pertains to the national polls.

For the first time ever, two No. 1 teams have lost home games to unranked opponents in the same season.

Four different teams claimed the top national ranking within the first five releasings of the national poll and the annual rush of marquee tournaments and made-for-TV matchups have delivered a handful of top-10 matchups already.

Without a doubt, the early weeks of the 2019-20 season have been filled with fireworks.

It’s just too bad that none of it will matter much over the next few months.

With nearly three times as many teams competing for the Division I basketball title than the FBS football championship, it stands to reason that more teams are involved in the final tournament. And over the last few decades, ‘March Madness’ has become a billion-dollar moneymaker for the NCAA.

But for all the buzzer-beaters and Cinderella stories that emerge each spring, the fact remains that the deck is stacked against the little guys of basketball as much as with any other sport overseen by the NCAA.

All 32 Division I conferences own an automatic bid to the tournament, but 21 of those leagues received just that one guaranteed bid, with two of the conference champion auto-bid recipients placed in the tournament’s play-in round.

The perennially dominant leagues like the ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 routinely end up cutting down the nets. And no one can argue that the top teams from any of those conferences should be thought of as top seeds and favorites in any given tournament.

But for the sake of parity and fair play, those conferences really need to stop sucking up all the air in the bracket.

While some conferences are admittedly weaker and should only get one bid into the national tournament, that number of conferences certainly doesn’t comprise two-thirds of the national landscape.

Far too often, the tournament selection committee gets it in its head that a certain conference will only get one team into the bracket and is then left scrambling for reasons to justify snubbing a dominant team with 25-plus wins that just happened to fall short during its conference tournament on the way to an auto-bid.

The plight of smaller conferences won’t find much sympathy outside of leagues with similar problems, but the growing gap between the haves and have-nots is hurting the game itself.

For every extra at-large bid a power conference vacuums up in March, the sport as a whole becomes less relevant during the regular season.

Sure, bid scarcity will fuel some incredible regular season and tournament games in smaller conferences, but for every intense game with huge repercussions in small conferences, there will be a dozen more regular season meetings between middling power conference teams that routinely sleepwalk through some games with the assumption that even a modest record will be enough.

That’s not what the NCAA tournament should be about.

Each season, the NCAA churns out dozens of highlight reels, making sure to emphasize the little guys and tout ever punch a David can deal out to a Goliath. The NCAA and its tournament would do even better by all parties involved to include a few more of those long shots.

No one remembers the 8-9 game between two power conference also-rans. Meanwhile, the upsets and names involved with them are talked about decades after the fact.

The same elite group of programs are likely to contend for – and win – the title each season. But there’s no reason not to ensure that every good team gets a fair chance at tournament glory.

Broken System

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The latest College Football Playoff rankings are out and – just as all of these releases are, up until the final one – it’s just a song and dance meant to drive argument and interest in the race for the four spots in the championship postseason.

It really doesn’t matter that Ohio State is ahead of LSU. The Tigers could very well pull ahead with a win, in what will be perceived as a tougher matchup in its conference championship game.

It really doesn’t matter that Georgia is fourth while Alabama is fifth. A win for the Bulldogs in the SEC title game will guarantee them a spot – and a higher seed – in the playoff, while Alabama knows all about sitting out of a conference championship game and moving up by default.

It really doesn’t matter that Clemson has pinballed around the rankings so far. They’re the defending national champions and they’ll be in the playoff so long as they remain undefeated.

In the end, everything seems to be on a crash course for yet another round of bashing the selection committee for including one team while leaving out another. And when you look at the big picture, the NCAA has brought a lot of that scorn upon itself.

Of the 10 conferences in FBS football, there is a split between the ‘Power 5’ and the ‘Group of 5’. Those names weren’t originally created by the NCAA, but the association acknowledged the split several years ago when it set special stipulations to mandate that at least one G5 team is represented in the six major New Year’s bowls.

But, by doing that, the NCAA has stepped in an even bigger puddle. There is now a de facto admission that five conferences are seen as superior and will get preference in rankings and bowl allotments.

That much isn’t so bad as the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC consistently put forth the best teams in the country. But the problem arises when elementary math takes over and there are five power conference champions and only four playoff spots.

It’s as if a ship named five officers and only provided four lifejackets to go between them. Regardless of anyone else on board who is deserving of a vest, it’s impossible for anything other than a power struggle to result.

There have been plenty of years in which a P5 conference hasn’t produced a national championship-caliber team. And there have been years where one P5 conference has objectively had two of the best four teams in the nation that both deserve to play on.

Of course, there are also about a half-dozen instances dating back to the BCS days where a G5 team went undefeated and wasn’t even allowed the ability to keep playing toward a national championship before being dismissed and cast aside while P5 schools battled it out.

With P5 conference members given more of a benefit of the doubt for losses and those same teams mostly controlling who and when and where they play any non-conference game, it’s almost guaranteed that every season will end with a couple of shoe-in playoff teams, along with about a half-dozen other P5s with solid cases to make and a few G5s who can’t get the time of day due to their PERCEIVED lack of schedule strength.

It’s past time for the playoff to expand. If the P5 schools are so far above the rest, then each of the conference champions should have a chance to play for a title. And when great G5 teams get bashed for their schedule, it should be taken with a grain of salt since obviously no P5 squad wanted to bring them in for a perceived easy win.

There are too many teams and not enough weeks to work out a perfect regular season that produces a unanimously agreed upon playoff field. So, it’s up to the powers that be to come up with something that isn’t designed to ensure plenty of legitimate contenders left on the sidelines each fall.

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