Do the post-holiday blues have you down? Cheer up! we’re entering another, albeit slightly different, most wonderful time of the year. For college football and NFL fans, the first few weeks of January can be like a delayed holiday present, and if the events of 2018 thus far are any indication, the gridiron may be the gift that keeps on giving. As we head into the CFP National Championship and the first weekend of the NFL Playoffs, we took some time to briefly recap the wild ride that got us to this point.
College Football Playoff
We’ve got an all-SEC College Football National Championship on our hands coming live from the heart of the Southeast. The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs beat the No. 2 OU Sooners, taking their Big 12 opponent to double overtime for the first time in the history of the Rose Bowl. Despite all of the controversy surrounding their selection to the CFP, it wasn’t hard to make the case for No. 4 Alabama after they deftly toppled the No. 1 Clemson Tigers in the Sugar Bowl. While it was the offense who outscored the Tigers by 18, it was Alabama’s defense that posted the most impressive stats: five sacks and two interceptions as they held Clemson to just six points and a total of 188 offensive yards through 70 plays.
While head coaches Kirby Smart (Georgia) & Nick Saban (Alabama) will be on opposite sidelines in Atlanta on Monday night, it hasn’t always been this way. Prior to taking the helm at Georgia, Smart served as defensive coordinator for Alabama from 2008 – 2015 (so he knows a thing or two about championship winning teams) and also worked under Saban on the LSU Tigers and Miami Dolphins. Saban has encountered other former assistants-turned-head coaches over the years, and needless to say his record is daunting: he is 11-0 when facing former assistants, beating them by a combined score of 430-111.
Back to the controversy – we’re four years in to the College Football Playoff system, and there are plenty of people questioning its methodology and selection process, starting with UCF, which boasted a perfect regular season and conference title that still left them on the outside looking in. To top it off, they completed their season with a bowl game win over the Auburn Tigers, who delivered the only losses to both Georgia and Alabama in the regular season. While SEC fans feel justified and Ohio State fans feel slighted, there is a range of opinions on the efficacy of the new playoff system – some argue in favor of the four-game playoff for the sake of players, some point out that all of this controversy is nothing new, and others turn to historical data to try to decipher a seeming lack of transparency behind it all.
It’s Wild Card Weekend! While there is no doubt excitement in the air, interestingly this weekend’s games may not be that thrilling, according to Vegas. In all four matchups – Titans vs. Chiefs, Falcons vs. Rams, Bills vs. Jaguars, and Panthers vs. Saints, the closest spread is the six points between the favored Rams and defending NFC Champion Falcons. The AFC side of the equation is particularly interesting given that the Bills and Titans are both only 9-win teams.
Adding further fun to the mix – of all teams eligible or contending for the playoffs, a stunning eight of them did not appear in last year’s playoffs. Not only were they absent from the postseason last January, but three in particular have been absent for quite some time – the Bills are ending a 17 season drought, followed by the Rams, Titans and Jaguars breaking dry spells of 12, 9, and 8 seasons, respectively. If you’re wondering how this all came to be, take a look at these 10 events that helped to shape this year’s postseason.