Dallas Cowboys Playoff Bound in 2014?

ATTstadium2014After 7 weeks of the 2014 NFL Season, the Dallas Cowboys have the best record in the NFL. If you had made that statement to any football fan after week 1, they probably would have laughed, and for good reason. The Cowboys defense a year ago was painfully bad. The loss of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher to free agency, and Sean Lee to injury, left Dallas fans feeling less than hopeful for improvement on defense coming into 2014. The offense was going to have to carry the Cowboys playoff hopes in 2014, but a 4 turnover drubbing to the San Francisco 49ers in week 1 made all of those hopes seem misguided.

But then the Cowboys started to do something that they have not done in quite some time. They started to dominate the line of scrimmage. The difference a year and the edition of Zach Martin have made on the Cowboys offensive line is remarkable. Through the first 7 games of the season in 2014, the Cowboys have already rushed for 1,118 yards, which is only about 400 less yards than Dallas rushed for all season in 2013. Here is a quick comparison of the rushing numbers between the first 7 games in 2013 vs. the first 7 games in 2014.

CowboysWeek7

This dominating play up front hasn’t just been helpful for the running game. Tony Romo recovered from his 3 interception performance in week 1 to throw 13 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions in the past 6 games. Romo’s play for Dallas has been especially good in the game’s final moments as he sports the best 2nd half quarterback rating  in the NFL .

The Cowboys defense has also been a revelation in 2014. The addition of Rolando McClain might be the single most influential trade that the Dallas Cowboys have made in half a decade. In the absence of Sean Lee, McClain has already recorded 2 interceptions and 31 tackles for a defensive unit that seems to just find ways to stop opponents. While the Cowboys are still lacking a true pass rush, the secondary and linebacking core for Dallas have greatly exceeded expectations. No one will mistake the Cowboys defense for being an elite unit, but after 7 games they sit right in the middle of the pack for yards and points allowed. Combine that with the Cowboys ability to control the ball with their running game, and Dallas looks like a legitimate contender in the NFC.

While it is way too early to crown the Cowboys as a playoff favorite, a quick look through the remaining Dallas Cowboys schedule should leave Cowboys fans more than hopeful of a playoff berth. At 6-1 the Cowboys will realistically need to win a minimum of 3 more games to earn a playoff spot and probably 5 to guarantee themselves a trip to the playoffs. Of the Cowboys 9 remaining games, 5 of them are to teams with a current record below .500. That should help offset the other 4 games against teams with a combined 4 losses.

Could this be the year the Cowboys finally push through and make some noise in the playoffs?

Remaining 2014 Dallas Cowboys Schedule with median ticket prices:

  • October 27th vs. Washington $140
  • November 2nd vs. Arizona $131
  • November 9th at Jacksonville $95
  • November 23rd at New York $216
  • November 27th at Philadelphia $185
  • December 4th at Chicago $235
  • December 14th at Philadelphia $170
  • December 21st at Indianapolis $157
  • December 28th at Washington $140

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Best Magnolia Bowl Matchup in Years

LSUDeathValley

The Ole Miss Rebels will hit the road this week as they visit Tiger Stadium to face off against LSU in the Magnolia Bowl. The Rebels are coming off a 34-3 victory against the Tennessee Volunteers this past Saturday, a game in which they actually trailed 3-0 early in the second quarter but responded with 34 unanswered points for the win.
The median price for LSU vs. Ole Miss football tickets is currently $158, marking it as one of the most expensive games of Week 9 of the college football season. It is not the most expensive game remaining on the home LSU football schedule, however, as in a little over two weeks they will host the Alabama Crimson Tide.

LSU Preview

The Tigers are coming off a convincing 41-3 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats last week which was enough to put them back into the top-25 in the Associated Press Poll. Currently the 24th ranked team in the country, LSU has lost just twice this season, most recently on the road against Auburn. LSU’s other loss was a 34-29 defeat at home against Mississippi State. So their two losses have come to the currently ranked 1st and 5th ranked teams in the nation.

Ole Miss Preview

Ole Miss will have its hands full with the 24th ranked Tigers.
The Rebels are the 3rd ranked team in the country, trailing just Mississippi State and Florida State. Quarterback Bo Wallace has been a revelation this season, throwing for 1,899 yards thus far along with 17 touchdowns. He was particularly impressive on October 4th when the Rebels defeated Alabama when he threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning toss with less than three minutes to go in the game.

SEC West Outlook

Saturday will mark the 102nd meeting between the Ole Miss Rebels and the LSU Tigers. But it will be the first time in decade that Ole Miss enters Death Valley with its national title hopes still alive. Despite losing 2 SEC games this season, LSU still has a chance to win the SEC West. They will need a little help, but beating Ole Miss would leave just 1 undefeated team left in the division.

If the Rebels can hold off LSU (they are currently just a 3.5 point favorite in the game) on the road, they’ll have just one more game away from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this season. They’ll need to go to Arkansas on November 22nd, but the remainder of their schedule will be home with games against Auburn, Presbyterian, and Mississippi State. Currently, the average price for Egg Bowl tickets is $586 on the secondary market. If both Ole Miss and Mississippi State can maintain their undefeated records entering the November 29th game, there’s a good chance that price will increase even more.

This week, Ole Miss joined Auburn, Alabama, and Mississippi State as four SEC West teams are all ranked in the top 5 of the country. The Rebels still have to play Auburn and Mississippi State (same as Alabama) while Auburn will need to face Ole Miss, Alabama, as well as 9th ranked Georgia and Mississippi State will have to play Alabama and Ole Miss. With so many games remaining between the four teams, it’s difficult to see a situation with all four teams maintaining their status within the top-5, but it’s clear the SEC West is the toast of college football right now.
For Ole Miss, their road to the College Football Playoffs will eventually need to go through Auburn and Mississippi State, but for now, they need to get through LSU.

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College Football Playoff Explained

As we near the release of the first ever College Football Playoff rankings, there is still some confusion as to what the playoff will actually look like and how the teams will be selected.

Here is our guide to everything college football playoff.

Format

The College Football Playoff (CFP) at its simplest form is a bowl season +1 format. Four teams will play in two semifinal bowl games, with the winners advancing to a national championship game. How we get to that point is slightly more complicated.

Expanded from the four premier bowl games in the BCS, the CFP puts emphasis on the “New Year’s Six.” Those six games are as follows.

  • Rose Bowl
  • Sugar Bowl
  • Orange Bowl
  • Fiesta Bowl
  • Cotton Bowl
  • Peach Bowl

Of those six premier bowl games, two will serve as CFP semifinal games every season. The semifinal games will rotate between the six bowl games, with each of the bowls acting as a semifinal game once every three seasons. For example, this season (2014-2015), the semifinal games will be the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. The Rose and Sugar Bowls will serve as the semifinal games again in the 2017-2018 season. The other four non-semifinal bowl games will receive marquee matchups, but will have no bearing on determining college football’s national champion.

The CFP National Championship game will be played at least a week following the semifinal games, and its location will change every season. In the 2014-2015 season, the CFP National Championship Game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Selection Committee

The job of determining college football’s rankings will be put in the hands of 13 individuals. The change to a unique selection committee means that coaches and computer polls no longer have any influence on determining which teams will advance to College Football’s National Championship. The committee members will rank the top 25 teams in the nation, with the top 4 advancing to the CFP semifinal games. Here are the current members of the CFP selection committee.

  • Jeff Long – selection committee chairman, Arkansas athletic director
  • Barry Alvarez – Wisconsin athletic director
  • Gen. Mike Gould – former superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy
  • Pat Haden – USC athletic director
  • Tom Jernstedt – former NCAA executive vice president
  • Oliver Luck – West Virginia athletic director
  • Dan Radakovich – Clemson athletic director
  • Steve Wieberg – former college football reporter
  • Tyrone Willingham – former head coach of Notre Dame, Stanford and Washington
  • Mike Tranghese – former commissioner of the Big East Conference.
  • Condoleeza Rice – former Secretary of State, Stanford professor
  • Tom Osborne – former Nebraska head coach, athletic director
  • Archie Manning – former Ole miss quarterback, college football hall of fame inductee
    • (Archie has recused himself from voting in 2014, he is expected to return next season)

Criteria

The selection committee will put emphasis on a few key categories when determining the top 25 college football teams in the nation.

  • Win-loss records
  • Strength of schedule
  • Conference championships won
  • Head-to-head results
  • Results against common opponents

It should be noted that although these categories are listed as those “emphasized” by the CFP selection committee, their decision is not relegated to these metrics. The committee has left themselves the power to choose a team simply because they want to and the rest of the nation will have to abide by the committees decision.

Voting Process

The procedure for how the CFP selection committee will chose the top 25 teams in the country is a 5 step process.

  1. Every member on the CFP selection committee will identify which teams they believe are the top 25 in the nation and submit that list to the group. The lists of each member will be compared and if a team appears on 3 member’s lists, it will remain in the discussion.
  2. From this narrowed list of teams, each committee member will select who they believe the top 6 teams in the country are. These submissions will be compared and the 6 teams who receive the most votes will then move on to be seeded.
  3. Each member of the selection committee will then seed these 6 teams, with the 3 teams receiving the lowest points total becoming the top 3 seeds. The 3 teams that receive the highest points total will remain in the voting pool.
  4. The committee members will then list their top 6 teams from the remaining list, with the 3 teams that receive the most votes being joined with the 3 teams that were left over from the first seeding effort, and the seeding process will begin again.
  5. Steps 3 and 4 will be repeated until all 25 teams have been seeded.

Voting Dates

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee will release their rankings 6 times during the college football season with the final vote serving as the seeding for CFP semifinal games. The voting dates for 2014 are as follows:

  • Oct. 28
  • Nov. 4
  • Nov. 11
  • Nov. 18
  • Nov. 25
  • Dec. 2

Steps to Avoid Controversy

Each of the College Football Playoff selection committee members represents a certain region, conference, or even a specific school. To try and avoid individual bias, the selection committee added a recusal policy.

The policy looks like this:

  • Each member of the committee will be recused of voting on a team they have a specific tie to. That tie can include but is not limited to alma maters, a current or past employer, or an employer of a family member.
  • If a committee member is recused, they will not be allowed to vote or deliberate on that specific team. For example, Barry Alverez would be allowed to vote in steps 1 and 2 of the voting process, but he would not be allowed to choose Wisconsin on his list because of his relationship to that school.
  • If a team that a committee member is recused from reaches the seeding level, step 3 of the voting process, that member would be excused from that round of voting and could return once the team he/she is recused from has been seeded.

Where Controversy still exists

While the voting procedure is fairly transparent, the actual votes themselves are kept completely secret from teams and fans. While the recusal policy goes a long way in deterring thoughts of bias, it is only a matter of time before someone, somewhere will be calling to see how exactly those votes were cast.

Other Interesting facts about the playoff

  1. Gone is the “SEC” rule from the BCS system. There is no limit to the number of teams from the same conference, state, or region that can end up in the top 4. While it seems unlikely that 3 or 4 teams from the same conference would end up in the playoff system, there very easily could be 2 teams from the same conference or the same division in the playoff every season.
  2. Which teams go to which CFP semifinal game will be determined by geography and seeding. The number 1 ranked team by the CFP selection committee will be awarded the semifinal game that is closest to their campus and will play the 4th ranked team. The other two schools will travel to the other semifinal location.

2014-15 College Football Playoff Schedule

  • January 1st, 2015 – Sugar Bowl
  • January 1st, 2015 – Rose Bowl
  • January 12th, 2015 – CFP Championship Game

What if your team isn’t one of the top 4 teams in the country? We’ll have more on that later.

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