The Weekender: Realignment Could Prompt College Football Playoff Changes, Florida State Explores Private Equity Investment and Dawand Jones, Luke Wypler Shine in Hall of Fame Game

By Dan Hope on August 6, 2023 at 2:35p

Own the group chat with The Weekender, highlighting the biggest stories in college sports, standout writing from Eleven Warriors, and a glance at what's next.

College Football Playoff format could change again

As the Pac-12’s standing as a power conference faded away with the defections of Oregon and Washington to the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12 on Friday, my colleague Garrick Hodge posed an interesting question: Could this open the door for two Group of Five teams to earn automatic bids to the College Football Playoff?

The answer: Only if the commissioners of the remaining power conferences aren’t successful in changing the playoff format.

After the Big Ten and Big 12 completed their pillage of the Pac-12 on Friday, Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger reported that multiple conference commissioners had already expressed a desire to change the format currently in place for next year’s expansion to 12 teams, which will award automatic bids to the six highest-ranked conference champions. While that format does not explicitly award automatic bids to the Power Five conferences, it was designed with the idea that all Power Five conference champions would make the CFP as well as one conference champion from the Group of Five.

Now that the Power Five is likely to become a Power Four, that format would open the door for two smaller conferences to earn bids each year. But Dellenger says major-conference leaders are now hoping to change the format to five automatic bids for conference champions and seven at-large bids, with hopes of implementing those changes in time for the inaugural 12-team CFP in 2024.

Any and all changes could be on the table for the CFP come 2026, when the CFP’s current TV contract with ESPN will expire. But CFP executive director Bill Hancock seemingly left the door for changes to be made for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, as well, in a comment to The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel.

FSU athletics seeking private equity investment

Florida State went public with its own desire to join the realignment wave this past week when university president Rick McCullough and several members of FSU’s Board of Trustees expressed that they believe the Seminoles need to leave the ACC – and sooner rather than later – barring a substantial increase in revenue distribution from the conference.

But changing conferences isn‘t the only avenue Florida State is exploring to generate more funding for its athletic department.

Sportico reported Friday that FSU is working with JPMorgan Chase to explore the possibility of raising capital from institutional funds, such as private equity. According to the report, global investment firm Sixth Street – whose investments include a stake in the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and partnerships with Spanish soccer giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid – is “in advanced talks to lead a possible investment” into the FSU athletic department.

While private equity investments have become widespread in professional sports in recent years, it would be a first for a major college sports program. According to the Sportico report, the deal would be structured by Florida State creating a holding company for its media rights, then selling a portion of that company to the private equity firm, which would then make money off of FSU’s future media and sponsorship revenue.

Jones, Wypler shine in Hall of Fame Game

A pair of rookie offensive linemen from Ohio State were among the standouts as the Cleveland Browns faced the New York Jets in the opening game of the NFL’s preseason, Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

Dawand Jones, who the Browns selected in the fourth round of this year’s NFL draft, played all 74 of the Browns’ offensive snaps – the only player to do so – and did not allow a single quarterback pressure on 40 pass-blocking reps, according to Pro Football Focus. Making the other players on the field look small even at the NFL level, the 6-foot-8, 375-pound right tackle drew praise from many for how well he performed in his first live NFL action.

Luke Wypler, who the Browns selected in the sixth round of this year’s NFL draft, also saw extensive playing time in Thursday night’s exhibition – 55 snaps at center, to be exact – and like Jones, he also did not allow a single quarterback pressure in pass protection.

Both Jones and Wypler were expected to be drafted multiple rounds earlier before they ultimately ended up in Cleveland. Both of them are still competing just to secure roster spots, as their extensive playing time on Thursday came largely because the Browns did not play any of their starting offensive linemen in the exhibition. How well they performed when given the opportunity, though, suggests the Browns just might have gotten a pair of draft steals in the two former Buckeyes.


Practice Observations: Sonny Styles and Ja’Had Carter Rep As Starting Safeties, Zen Michalski Leads Order at Right Tackle on First Day of Camp

Ohio State opened up its first practice of preseason camp to media (and fans) on Thursday, and we shared notes on all of our biggest takeaways from the practice session. Garrick Hodge also captured 200 photos from the practice.

Kyle McCord and Devin Brown Confident in Themselves, Pushing Each Other Entering Preseason Quarterback Competition

Ohio State’s starting quarterback competition isn’t likely to be decided any sooner than when the Buckeyes hold their first full scrimmage of the preseason next weekend, but both quarterbacks expressed confidence in themselves and camaraderie with each other in press conferences one day before camp commenced.

Ohio State Lands Northwestern Transfer Linebacker Nigel Glover

Ohio State added yet another transfer on Tuesday – its ninth this offseason who was a scholarship player at another FBS school – as Nigel Glover, a true freshman linebacker who left Northwestern after less than two months following the firing of former coach Pat Fitzgerald, took the opportunity to return to his home state and play for the Buckeyes.

What’s Next?

  • 27 Days: Until Ohio State plays its season opener at Indiana (3:30 p.m., CBS)
  • 34 Days: Until Ohio State’s home opener against Youngstown State (Noon, Big Ten Network)
  • 111 Days: Until Ohio State faces Michigan in Ann Arbor (Noon, FOX)