Broncos make case for Group of Five playoff

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Arlington, Texas — Is it time for the Group of Five to start its own championship bracket?

That’s the opinion of Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, who told ESPN this week, “It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of Five. Why not?”

Under the current Football Bowl Subdivision format, the top four teams in the final College Football Playoff rankings make the four-team championship bracket.

That’s left undefeated Western Michigan (13-0) well on the outside, and having to settle for Monday’s Cotton Bowl matchup against Wisconsin.

The last non-Power Five team to win a national title was BYU in 1984. Unless the format changes, that’s not changing anytime soon.

Western coach P.J. Fleck is on record saying he prefers an expansion to the playoff format, to eight teams, with one slot going to a Group of Five team — which, this year, would be the Broncos, one of two undefeated teams in the FBS, along with top-ranked Alabama.

Asked Thursday for his opinion on the matter, Western offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca took a soft pass.

“Obviously, that’s really not my area of expertise,” Ciarrocca said. “I personally like the way it is right now. So it’s a great experience for our players and our coaches and our families. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Pressed further on the topic, Ciarrocca smiled.

“Honestly, you’re asking me something I’ve spent zero time thinking about,” he said. “You’ve spent more time thinking about it obviously than I have. I’m sure Coach Fleck probably thinks about that stuff.

“In the springtime when people are thinking about these things, I’m thinking about playing golf.”

Western is the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the nation, at No. 12 in the AP poll, No. 14 in the coaches’ rankings and No. 15 in the CFP standings.

Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington are the four teams in the playoff.

Big Ten ambitions

Western wide receiver Corey Davis wanted to play in the Big Ten. Who wouldn’t?

“I did. I definitely did,” Davis said this week. “But they overlooked me, and they didn’t really give me a shot.

“I’m happy to be a part of the MAC and part of Western Michigan. And everything happens for a reason. Happy to be here.”

In four years at Western Michigan, Davis has become the all-time FBS leader in receiving yards, and is projected to be a first-round pick in April’s NFL draft.

All this for a two-star prospect out of Wheaton, Ill.

Western already has beaten two Big Ten teams this season, Northwestern and Illinois, and gets a shot at a third in Wisconsin on Monday. There’s definitely incentive there.

“Definitely,” Davis said. “Pretty much playing every team, it’s a little bit on me. But Big Ten, in particular, it’s a little bit more. It means a little bit more to me because I have so much more to prove. I have always had that chip on my shoulder ever since I was a little kid.

“It’s definitely grown ever since I got here, and ever since I have playing bigger schools, bigger opponents. I have more to prove.”

Fans on campus

Western senior quarterback Zach Terrell has a lot of fans on campus. Heck, he recently walked into a graduate class and received a standing ovation.

But he’s also got fans on his team.

“I’ve never been around a better leader than him,” senior offensive tackle Taylor Moton said. “He inspires me to be better, all of us to be better. He’s a really cool guy, but he’s still got that feeling because he’s always doing the right thing and inspiring everybody else to do the right thing.

“(A) 4.0 on the master’s program, always going out and giving and serving, won the Campbell (Trophy) for academic scholar.

“Everybody strives to be like Zach Terrell.”

Extra points

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst still hasn’t made a decision on his starting quarterback, or at least he’s not saying whether it’ll be freshman Alex Hornibrook or senior Bart Houston.

... Wisconsin senior linebacker Vince Biegel hacked off his mullet for the Cotton Bowl. “I have always enjoyed seeing what was next,” Chryst said.

... Bob Wischusen will call the game on ESPN, with Brock Huard providing commentary, and Allison Williams working the sideline.

Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin

Kickoff : 1 Monday, Cotton Bowl, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

TV/radio : ESPN/WDFN

Records : Western Michigan 13-0, Wisconsin 10-3

Line : Wisconsin by 7 1/2