New York – Yesterday afternoon, FOX Sports conducted a press call to preview the 2014 college football conference championship games. FOX Sports exclusively airs the Pac-12 and Big Ten Championship Games on back-to-back nights this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5 and 6. Coverage of the Pac-12 title game between No. 2 Oregon and No. 7 Arizona begins at 8:00 PM ET on Friday, and coverage of the Big Ten championship between No. 5 Ohio State and No. 13 Wisconsin begins at 7:00 PM ET Saturday on FOX.
Tim Brando, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft call the Pac-12 Championship Game live from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, while Gus Johnson, Charles Davis and Molly McGrath are at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.
Highlights of yesterday’s call, which featured Klatt, Davis and FOX college football insider Stewart Mandel, are transcribed below. To listen to the entire press call, please dial 719-457-0820 and enter passcode 2292287 when prompted.
FOX Sports college football insider Stewart Mandel says the College Football Playoff will expand to eight teams before the current contracts expire:
“It is going to go to eight teams. The demand is going to be too great. The logical point to do that would be halfway through this 12-year contract, when all of the bowls that are involved in the playoff rotation will have each hosted semifinals an equal number of times.”
FOX Sports college football analyst Charles Davis believes undefeated Florida State should be ranked higher in the College Football Playoff poll:
“I’d still love to totally understand ‘most deserving’ versus ‘four best teams,’ and I think we’re trying to figure that out as we go along. I still can’t quite understand how an undefeated power-conference team could be No. 4. They’re [Florida State] being held to a standard of last year, which goes counter to what other people think – they think they’re getting a benefit of last year. I think they’re being hurt by last year.”
Mandel says Ohio State needs a win in the Big Ten Championship Game, plus a loss from a top-four team, in order to make the playoff:
“If Ohio State can beat Wisconsin with the guy that was the third-string quarterback to start the season, that’s impressive enough to not drop them. But the fact is, out of those one loss teams, they have arguably the weakest resume, even if they win the game this weekend. I can’t see them vaulting over other teams if those teams take care of business. This game is to stay afloat, and then they need a little help.”
Klatt says Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston’s play has declined from his Heisman season a year ago:
“One of the hardest things to do in sports is for a player to win a Heisman Trophy and come back and be, at least in the public’s and media’s eyes, the same player. We’ve seen so many players try to do it, and it’s not just about winning the trophy again, it’s about the level of play and standards these players have set for themselves in their Heisman campaigns.
“Jameis has pressed at times, and his team’s play has forced him to press at times. He’s forced the ball into situations that he didn’t have to with large leads a year ago and it’s led to a lot more turnovers, which I know he would love to have back. His 13 interceptions in the first half lead the country and that’s something he can’t do as the opponents are going to get tougher down the line here. So to categorize it, I’d say it’s been a sub-par season for him.”
FOX Sports analyst Joel Klatt says Arizona has been able to beat Oregon recently by playing clean games:
“Playing a clean game against this Oregon team is imperative. A clean game as Rich Rodriguez explains it has probably never happened, meaning zero turnovers and zero negative plays. However, Rodriguez did say that last year against this Oregon team at home, that his team played as clean a game as he’s ever coached during his entire career going back to any level, which led to the dominating victory over Oregon. Finally, the personnel matchup that has led to Arizona’s success is Scooby Wright. He is the best defensive player in America. He leads the defense in the 3-3-5 scheme that adjusts well to the spread and they tackle well in space, which is why they have been able to limit Oregon enough to get the victory.”
Davis explains how Ohio State’s third-string quarterback Cardale Jones matches up against Wisconsin and how the Buckeye defense can stop Melvin Gordon:
“Ohio State is going to try and get him [Jones] comfortable early, but I don’t think they’re going to back away and close down the offense. Ohio State realizes that playing Wisconsin, if you close things down, then you’re just playing into their hand. That’s a really talented group that they’re dealing with.
“Everybody is susceptible to Gordon because Wisconsin has an identity. Ever since Barry Alvarez went to that campus and started resurrecting them, they’ve played with that identity – and that’s running the football; running with big horses up front that can block and people who can not only make you miss, but run you over, and Gordon has it all. The key with Gordon is that you have to have three, four, five guys sitting there after a missed tackle, making sure that he has to face that all game long.”
Mandel on the possibility of the SEC not having a team in this year’s playoff:
“[If Alabama loses this weekend], they would be out of the playoffs, no question about it. It would be a scenario that nobody ever saw coming. Most people think that the SEC is the best conference and I think the SEC West is one of the most competitive divisions that we’ve seen, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’re one of the four best teams in the country.”
Klatt says Michigan is not necessarily an attractive coaching vacancy right now:
“Michigan has to get its own house in order before that’s an attractive job. No coach in America wants to go get hired by someone that’s not going to be their long-term athletic director. The attractive candidates are going to go other places. There are some good jobs open, and right now, Michigan is not necessarily one of them.”
Davis believes Michigan is in a precarious situation as it searches for its next head coach:
“If you’re a big-time coach, and you have a school president that has come out and said, ‘I don’t know anything about athletics,’ and you have an interim athletic director, good luck because you can’t just roll out that nice Michigan helmet and say, ‘This is going to solve everything.’ It doesn’t happen at any program anymore.”
– FOX SPORTS –