Well, I was wrong again
By Ryan S. Pugh
CLARION NEWS Sports Editor
Man, if you are a dedicated reader of this column (and it still baffles me that anyone would be), you will know I missed just one pick last week but it was a biggie as I didn't feel Union/A-C Valley would take down Smethport in the District 9 Class A semifinals and boy was I wrong.
I went against the Falcon Knights' defense which was a huge miscalculation on my part. I didn't think Union/A-C Valley could stop Hubbers' quarterback Noah Lent and the Falcon Knights proved me wrong in a big way as they held Lent to just 59 yards rushing on 18 carries and Lent completed just 6-of-16 passes for 82 yards and Union/A-C Valley picked off Lent three times.
To put this in perspective, Lent had rushed for over 1,500 yards and thrown just two interceptions through the entirety of the regular season and the Hubbers' one playoff game.
But before I do a deep dive into the upcoming District 9 Class A and Class 2A championship games, I wanted to revisit the college football scene.
Georgia is still the proving to be the best team in college football this season and it's not even close. Where things get interesting is choosing which teams are the second, third and fourth best teams in the country for the College Football Playoff (CFP).
In the most recent CFP rankings, Georgia is No. 1 followed by Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State. Sitting on the outside at No. 5 is Cincinnati.
I think the worst case scenario for the CFP committee is for Cincinnati to keep winning while all of the teams in front of the Bearcats each suffer a loss. I think the committee will need to have its arm twisted to put Cincinnati in the CFP. The Bearcats are in one of the Group of Five conferences which is a tier below the Power Five conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-12, Southeastern Conference).
Cincinnati is in the same predicament Central Florida was in earlier this decade when the Knights finished undefeated in 2017 but was left out of the CFP.
The problem with Group of Five schools is they don't bring eyeballs to television screens. In most cases, teams like Cincinnati, Central Florida, Boise State, etc. have a devoted local fan base but have very few fans outside of their region. Unfortunately, the College Football Playoff is a nationally televised entity. It's much like in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball tournament.
Sure, America loves the underdog in rounds one and two, beyond that, they want the Dukes, the North Carolinas, the Kentuckys to be playing in the Elite Eight, Final Four and the championship game. Give any television executive truth serum and ask them how much they love the underdog when it comes to television ratings. Nine times out of 10, those executives will tell you the same things I just laid out in front of you. Is it fair? No. But that is the reality of it.
I think the team with the best chance to move up to at least No. 2 in the CFP rankings is Ohio State. The Buckeyes have back-to-back games versus Michigan State and rival Michigan to close out the regular season. If Ohio State wins those games it will be playing in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. Both the Spartans and the Wolverines are currently in the Top Ten of the CFP rankings and both will be sporting just one loss when they play the Buckeyes.
Wisconsin is sitting at No. 15 in the CFP standings but the Badgers are coming on strong after a shaky start to the season.
But if Ohio State loses to No. 6 Michigan, look for the Wolverines to move up into the top four. Unfortunately for the Maize and Blue, they haven't beaten the Buckeyes since the first term of the Obama administration. The last time Michigan beat Ohio State was Nov. 26, 2011.
Alabama has a tricky game with rival Auburn in a couple weeks. But I am less high on Auburn than I was before the Tigers blew a 28-3 lead to Mississippi State last week on the way to a 43-34 loss to the Bulldogs. I don't think Alabama has much to worry about.
The sneakiest game on this week's schedule comes in Salt Lake City, Utah where No. 3 Oregon will take on No. 23 Utah. If Oregon loses to the Utes Utah is favored by three I can see a blueprint for chaos.
Here's how the chaos can play out in my mind. Georgia stays unbeaten; Alabama loses to Arkansas and Auburn allowing Ole Miss to slide into the SEC championship game. Ohio State loses to Michigan State Saturday (Nov. 20) but the Buckeyes beat Michigan giving the Spartans the Big Ten East title. Michigan State then loses to Wisconsin in the Big Title game.
Oklahoma State loses at Texas Tech this weekend but beats Oklahoma in Bedlam the next week which would leave two-loss Oklahoma State playing Baylor in the Big 12 championship game.
If all of this chaos happens and Cincinnati finishes undefeated, there is no was the committee can leave out the Bearcats.
The one team that is lurking out there no one is talking about is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have lost once this year to Cincinnati. And after that game, the world seemed to forget about Notre Dame. But the Fighting Irish are two very winnable games against Georgia Tech and Stanford away from being 11-1. And do you know who loves them some Notre Dame? That's right, television executives. TV executives are still stuck in 1990 when Notre Dame was on top of the college football landscape. It's not that way anymore but apparently the television people didn't get the memo. But there is a good chance a one-loss Fighting Irish team gets into the playoff field if they win out.
Lord help me, I love chaos in college football.
Last week, I was correct on three of four picks but as I said my miss was regrettable. My season record stands at 88-21.
District 9 Class A championship
Union/A-C Valley (9-2 overall) vs. Redbank Valley (10-1) at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium Friday (Nov. 19), 7 p.m.
These teams are more than familiar with each other as this will be the fifth meeting between the teams in the past three years. In 2019, Union/A-C Valley topped the Bulldogs in the regular season but Redbank Valley upended the Falcon Knights in the playoff rematch. Last year, Redbank Valley squeaked out a 10-7 regular season win over the Falcon Knights. This season, the Bulldogs took advantage of eight Union/A-C Valley turnovers on the way to a 28-6 win over the Falcon Knights.
The Bulldogs had to rally from a 14-point deficit last week to beat Port Allegany 35-14 in the District 9 Class A quarterfinals. Running back Ray Shreckengost was the key to the Bulldogs' win as he rushed for over 200 yards and three touchdowns.
I don't think Shreckengost will have the same success against the Falcon Knights as he had against the Gators and I don't think the Falcon Knights will commit eight turnovers like they did in the first meeting.
I'm seeing a one score game coming down to the wire with Union/A-C Valley's defense being the difference-maker.
Union/A-C Valley 14, Redbank Valley 13
District 9 Class 2A championship
Ridgway (8-3) vs. Karns City (10-1) at Frank Varischetti Field in Brockway Friday (Nov. 19), 7 p.m.
The Gremlins put on an old-school show last week when they only attempted three passes (four actually but one attempt was wiped out by a pass interference penalty) in its 35-7 win over Central Clarion. Karns City toted the rock 53 times for 363 yards against the Wildcats with Luke Garing doing the lion's share of the work rushing for 172 yards on 20 carries which included a 50-yard touchdown run where Garing looked like a modern day Larry Csonka as he bounced of a slew of Wildcats' tacklers on his way to the end zone.
Ridgway got a nice win over Brookville last Friday (Nov. 12). The Elkers staked out to an early lead over Brookville and ground down the Raiders for a 26-6 win.
I would give Ridgway more of a shot in this game but Karns City bludgeoned the Elkers 35-0 in the regular season meeting between the teams a month ago. I don't see much difference in the rematch.
Karns City 40, Ridgway 0