Will The College Football Playoff Expand?

I think just about everyone loves the new 4 team college football playoff. In its first 2 years it has already produced multiple games that have been thrillers. Including its inaugural 1 vs 4 matchup in which Ohio state upset the title favorites the Alabama Crimson tide. It also produced another thriller last year in the national title game in which the afore mentioned tide beat the Clemson Tigers. It is inevitable that the playoff will expand at some point but how many more teams will be given the opportunity to fight for a national title? 

Ultimately I believe that the college football playoff will expand to 8 teams. However, I believe that we are still at least 10 to 15 years away from that. So for the foreseeable future I see the playoff expanding to 6 teams. This may not make sense to some but let me explain. The number 3 seed would play the 6 seed in the first round and the 4 would play the 5. The number 1 and 2 seeds will be given byes in the “first round.” The number 1 seed will play the highest seed left after the first round, so if the highest seed after round 1 was the 4 seed then they would play the 4 and the number 2 seed would play the number 3. If an upset were to happen in the first round the number 1 could end up playing the number 6 in the second round. I know this seems like a lot of scenarios and numbers but trust me, it’s not that complicated. 

One of the problems people will have with expanding the playoff is the number of games played. They will argue that the wear and tear of more games will cause more physical burden on the athletes. I think that if you were to ask the athletes they would be open to playing more games. Especially when the stakes are that high. Others will argue that if you open the playoff to more teams then the quality of football will go down. That I completely disagree with. No matter if it is 4, 6, or 8 teams every single one of them will have the same goal and that is to be national champions. 

Opening the playoff up to 6 or 8 teams would also give the mid majors a legitimate spot at making the playoff. Now with the 4 team format not even all of the power 5 conference teams can get a team in the playoff. For example the big 12 failed to make an appearance in the first year just as the pac 12 did this past year. Not only would expanding the playoff allow for all power 5 conferences to get a team in the playoff but it would also allow either a mid major team or another viable power 5 team to make the playoff. 

Opening up the college football playoff to 6 and eventually 8 teams is something that WILL happen, it is not a matter of if it is a matter of when. 

Predicting The Top Performers for 2016

2016 looks to be a great year for the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes return over half of their starters from offense and defense. Today I will be discussing who I believe the key contributors will be on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

The obvious and really only reasonable choice at quarterback is CJ Beathard. Beathard will be back for his senior season in a Hawkeye uniform, and is looking to build to an already stellar resume which includes an all 2nd team big ten choice last season. I look for Beathard to take another big step forward this year. Beathard will be healthy to start the season and that is huge for Hawkeye fans everywhere. With Beathard healthy that will bring back his great mobility from the quarterback position. If CJ can stay healthy all year I see all of his stats going up, rushing yards, rushing TD’s, passing yards and passing touchdowns. I also expect CJ’s turnover numbers to remain fairly low. There is no doubt that Beathard is the unquestioned leader of the Iowa offense.

CJ Beathard giving a stiff arm to a Minnesota player

At running back, I see a minimum of 3 contributors to the offense. The top 3 would be Leshun Daniels Jr., Akrum Wadley, and Derrick Mitchell, in no particular order. All three of these players had an impact last season. Now with Jordan Canzeri gone, it is up in the air as to who will be the workhorse running back. It will most likely be running back by committee with coach Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis going with whoever has the hot hand. That being said Leshun Daniels will be the short yardage back, and Mitchell will most likely be the 3rd down back. Last year in Mitchell’s first season as a running back he excelled at picking up blitzes and catching the ball out of the backfield. Then there is Akrum Wadley, everyone in Iowa City knows he has the talent, but will ball security continue to be an issue? I see the coaching staff giving each of these 3 guys every chance to prove themselves.

Leshun Daniels (29) Akrum Wadley (25)

I’m grouping the receivers and tide ends together. We know what we have in George Kittle and Matt the meerkat Vandeberg. But outside of those two many questions surround who CJB will be throwing the ball to in 2016. I look for two young guys to step up at the receiver position in 2016. Those two guys being Jerminic Smith who showed great flashes in 2015 as a true freshman. And the other being redshirt sophomore Jay Scheel. You can make the case the Scheel is the most athletic guy on the team. Scheel, who is a former high school quarterback, I look for him to burst onto the scene as a big play receiver in 2016. Jameer Outsey is listed as the second tide end on the two deeps although he was mainly used in blocking situations last year. I think Dowling Catholic alum Jon Wisnieski will get a fair amount of playing time this year. He has all the talent and potential but health has been a problem for Wisnieski since he stepped on campus.

Jerminic Smith catching a ball against Illinois

The offensive line faces two departures of the five starters from 2015 in Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh. However, I do not see the offensive line being an issue in 2016. All five starters listed on the early season two deeps saw a substantial amount of playing time in 2015. With only one senior (Cole Croston) this is a group that will be solid for years to come.

On the defensive side of the ball you have work horses in Jaleel Johnson, Josey Jewel, and Desmond King, these guys also have a pretty good supporting cast. Who else will step up on the defensive side of the ball in 2016? I look at a guy in outside linebacker Aaron Mends to have a huge year. Mends started seeing his playing time increase later in the season last year when Iowa used their “Raider Package” defense. I think Mends is the type of player that can reek havoc in the opponent’s backfield. Parker Hesse stepped up big last year in the absence of Drew Ott, I look for him to improve even more this year. Matt or Anthony Nelson will also have to take steps forward to see their production increase this year. The Hawkeyes are solid at the linebacker and corner back positions with the likes of Desmond King, Greg Mabin, Ben Niemann, Josey Jewel, and Aaron Mends. Miles Taylor will be back for his second season at the starting strong safety position, I only see positive progress with him. As for the strong safety position Brandon Snyder looks to be the starter. If he can just hold his ground, I see this Hawkeye defense being one of the tops in the Big Ten and the entire country.

Mends chasing down Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong

The hawks have all the pieces to succeed in the 2016 season, the only question is whether or not they can put the pieces together. I believe that if the Hawks can stay fairly healthy in 2016 they will do great things for a second year in a row.

 

 

2017 Recruiting Class

Kirk Ferentz has been turning 2 and 3 star recruits into NFL caliber players during his entire 17-year tenure at the University of Iowa. So usually I don’t bat an eye when I see that Iowa has the 11th or 12th best recruiting class in the big ten. So when I see that the 2017 Iowa football recruiting class is 11th in the NATION. I would say that’s a pretty big deal. Ferentz has proven he can turn guys without All-American talent into all Big Ten caliber players. So what will Kirk be able to do with the likes of Eno Benjamin, Tristan Wirfs, and AJ Epenesa?

Eno Benjamin making a cut in a high school game

Chad Greenway is the prime example of an unheralded recruit that coach Ferentz got the most out of. Greenway was wait for it, an unrated recruit coming out of high school. Greenway went from unrated recruit to first round pick in the NFL draft. Greenway has continued his success in the NFL as 2 time pro bowler.

Greenway in the probowl

Ferentz has proven that he can get the most out of middle of the pack recruits as well. Especially the offensive lineman. Brandon Scherff for example was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school. Coach Ferentz turned Scherff into an all American player and a top 5 NFL draft pick. Ferentz has proven time and again that he’s got what it takes to produce elite NFL caliber talent out of his offensive lineman. Marshall Yanda is widely regarded as the best offensive guard in the NFL. Yanda, Riley Rieff, Scherff, Brian Bulaga, and Robert gallery are just a few other NFL offensive lineman that coach Kirk has produced. I think that Tristan Wirfs of Mt. Vernon will follow in these lineman’s successful footsteps.

Tristan Wirfs of Mt. Vernon

Eno Benjamin, a 4-star running back out of Texas and AJ Epenesa, a 5-star defensive end out of Illinois are both regarded as two of the highest ranked recruits that Ferentz has ever had in Iowa city. So should Kirk coach these guys any different? The simple answer to that question, no. If any of these highly coveted recruits are not ready to play right away, then they should be red shirted. I am not saying that they will not be ready. I am saying that if they are not then redshirt them and save them another year of eligibility. The bottom line is Kirk knows how to coach, no matter the personality or the talent Kirk will get any player to buy into the system and play for the team.

AJ Epenesa

The 2017 recruiting class will benefit the Iowa Hawkeye football program exponentially. When Kirk gets that kind of talent and then instills them with the hard nosed Hawkeye work ethic, only good things can come from that combination. All you have to do is look at the track record of what Kirk has done with the talent he has had. It can only get better. The product on the field can only get better with more talent and continued good coaching. The 2017 recruiting class will be the first of many classes to come that are lined with prized 4 and 5 star recruits at the University of Iowa.