Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He previously covered the Minnesota Vikings for four years, starting in 2008. In addition, he covered college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.

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Ohio State in; let the complaining begin

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: December 7, 2014 - 12:01 PM

Let the complaining begin.

The College Football Playoff field is set and Ohio State secured that final spot ahead of TCU and Baylor in the selection committee’s final rankings.

Alabama got the No. 1 seed and will play the Buckeyes in one semifinal. No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State meet in the other semifinal.

Three one-loss teams had legitimate cases for the final spot, but the committee went with an Ohio State team that won the Big Ten Championship in impressive fashion by smashing Wisconsin 59-0.

TCU held the No. 3 spot in the committee’s previous rankings, but the Horned Frogs fell to No. 6 despite defeating Iowa State 55-3.

Baylor defeated Kansas State in its final game and defeated TCU in their head-to-head meeting. The Bears couldn’t crack the committee’s top four. The Big 12 does not have a championship game, which would have help their cause.

Like many others, I thought Ohio State would get that final spot after its performance in the conference title game behind No. 3 quarterback Cardale Jones.

Conspiracy theorists will claim that the committee gave the nod to Ohio State because of the school’s name brand and national appeal. No doubt that TV executives will love an Alabama-Ohio State semifinal game.

It’s a bitter pill for TCU to swallow falling three spots despite winning by 52 points.

But until the playoff is expanded to eight teams, this kind of controversy was inevitable. Five power conferences and only four playoff berths guaranteed that.

Picking college football playoff field difficult task

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: December 7, 2014 - 6:41 AM

Where have you gone BCS?

We miss you. Actually not really, but imagine being a member of the inaugural College Football Playoff selection committee?

Sleep well, folks?

The committee has the unenviable task of picking four teams Sunday for college football’s debut playoff, and I keep coming back to one thought:

Why can’t it be an eight-team playoff?

That makes far more sense and would avoid the difficult scenario the committee faces in whittling the field to four.

The top three seeds are easy: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State. The committee might not pick them in that order, but those three teams are locks.

The discussion becomes messy with the final pick. Three teams are worthy: TCU, Ohio State and Baylor. All three finished the season with one loss. All three have a solid case. Two will be left out.

TCU was third in the committee’s most recent rankings and smashed Iowa State 55-3. Ohio State stunned Wisconsin 59-0 with a third-string quarterback. Baylor handled No. 9 Kansas State 38-27.

I turned myself into a mental pretzel trying to decide on the fourth playoff team.

Baylor beat TCU head-to-head after trailing by 21 points, but the Bears lost at West Virginia. TCU won at West Virginia and beat the Gophers in non-conference.

Ohio State’s only loss came against Virginia Tech at home in Week 2 but that was J.T. Barrett’s second start in place of injured starter Braxton Miller. This is a different team now. I thought the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes were lost with Barrett’s injury but No. 3 quarterback Cardale Jones was brilliant in the Big Ten title game.

TCU has the “best” loss so to speak. Baylor won the head-to-head. Ohio State looks fabulous.

I saw TCU and Ohio State in person and came away extremely impressed with both. I honestly can’t sit here and say definitely which team is better. They’re both very good. So is Baylor.

So what to do? The problem is, there is no wrong answer. Every argument is strong. I can argue the merits of all three teams.

But only four teams get in, so this is how I think the things will look when the committee releases its playoff rankings on Sunday.

  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State
  4. Ohio State

Gophers deliver statement win for program

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: November 22, 2014 - 2:24 PM

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA -- The Gophers will play for the Big Ten West Division title next week at Wisconsin.

They put themselves in that position because they delivered a gut-check second-half performance to upset Nebraska 28-24 at Memorial Stadium.

The Gophers trailed 21-7 at halftime, but made a number of critical plays in the comeback.

Mitch Leidner, who has struggled with his accuracy, led the Gophers on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown that he capped with a 3-yard run for the final points. Huge drive for Leidner's confidence and development.

The key play was Leidner's perfectly placed 38-yard deep ball to KJ Maye along the sideline on third-and-6. That put the Gophers in at least field goal position.

The Gophers defense had to make a stop, which they got after awful roughing-the-passer call against defensive tackle Cameron Botticelli.

But Brien Boddy-Calhoun made a game-saving strip on a completion near the goal line by De'Mornay Pierson-El. The Gophers were able to run out the clock.

Gophers can't stop Barrett in loss

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: November 15, 2014 - 2:34 PM

The Gophers played hard and got two huge plays on defense by Briean Boddy-Calhoun, but they lost to a more talented Ohio State team 31-24 on a snowy day at TCF Bank Stadium.

The difference in this game was Buckeyes freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who hurt the Gophers with his passing and running. Barrett passed for 200 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 189 yards and one touchdown.

On the flip side, Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner completed only 7 of 19 passed for 85 yards with two second-half interceptions.

David Cobb ran with heart in piling up 145 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Gophers in the game. But the Gophers needed more from their passing game than 85 yards and two interceptions to upset a team as talented as the Buckeyes.

Gophers start big month with stunning dominance

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: November 8, 2014 - 2:22 PM

Well, the Gophers answered how they’d respond to a bad loss and a difficult start to their November stretch run.

No one could have expected this outcome though.

The Gophers put together a thoroughly dominating performance to throttle rival Iowa 51-14 at TCF Bank Stadium.

I admittedly have a bad memory, but I can’t remember a game like this from a Gophers team, as either a beat writer or columnist. Not in an important game against a big rival. Their performance also makes their loss at Illinois two weeks ago even more perplexing.

The Gophers played darn near a perfect first half to take a 35-7 lead to the locker room. Jerry Kill’s team took control after a shaky opening series by the defense.

Lot of credit to pass around after this performance.

The defense bottled up the run and forced three turnovers in the first half.

Tight end Maxx Williams was brilliant with three touchdown catches and one highlight reel grab along the sideline on a ridiculous individual effort to drag his toes.

Mitch Leidner looked sharp throwing the ball and ran the ball well in a bounce-back performance.

Kill got his team focused and ready to play after the tough loss to Illinois and his coordinators – Tracy Claeys and Matt Limegrover – had smart, aggressive game plans.

With the score still close, Claeys called back-to-back corner blitzes for Eric Murray in the first half and it worked effectively. Murray caused an errant pass on a quarterback hit the first time and then forced a quick throw short of the first down sticks on the second one.

Limegrover also had a good day. He called a number of Jet Sweeps for KJ Maye, who hurt Iowa on the edge and rushed for 53 yards on six carries before halftime.

Limegrover also showed confidence in Leidner after Murray got a hand on an Iowa punt, causing it to travel only 14 yards. On the first play, Limegrover called a play-action pass and Leidner connected with Donovahn Jones for a 44-yard touchdown.

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