Neuqua knocks off defending champs

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Neuqua knocks off defending champs

By Dick Goss

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Neuqua Valley senior running back Joey Rhattigan rushed for 365 yards on 26 carries and scored on runs of 22, 84, seven, five and 53 yards Friday night to power the Wildcats to a wild 44-33 victory over defending champion Bolingbrook in the second round of the Class 8A state playoffs.

He keeps his feet going, Raiders senior linebacker Emile Wisdom said of Rhattigan. Hes not ever going to take a break.

Wisdom then paid Rhattigan the ultimate compliment.

That was (Joliet Catholic back) Ty Isacc when I played in little league football with him, he said.

The return of Bolingbrook senior quarterback Aaron Bailey meant the two superstars were on the field.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, the one wearing the Neuqua Valley road uniform refused to be stopped.

Rhattigan ran behind a monster offensive line that averages 240 pounds and decidedly won the battle in the trenches.

We were just physically overmatched size-wise, Raiders veteran defensive coordinator Bob Corra said. Their offensive line blew us off the ball.

Then there were a couple of times we hit him (Rhattigan) in the backfield and he broke free. That last touchdown, he was stopped and broke free and went 50-some yards.

Bailey, though, was not to be outdone.

The Illinois-bound quarterback had not played suffering a right knee sprain on the second snap of Bolingbrooks loss to Lincoln-Way East in Week 6. Only the insiders knew for sure that they would be watching Bailey on Friday rather than sophomore Quincy Woods, who filled in admirably after Baileys injury.

Although not at 100 percent, Bailey rushed for 210 yards in 31 carries, scored touchdowns on runs of 14, 1 and 20 yards and opened the scoring with a 10-yard pass to Brandon Lewis on a fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line. He completed 7-of-17 passes for 76 yards and siffered a late interception. He also was victimized by a couple of drops, one a long throw over the middle that may have resulted in a touchdown had it been caught.

Bolingbrook (8-3) finished with 371 yards of offense and 23 first downs, numbers usually good enough to win.

If only Neuqua (11-0) had not brought Rhattigan to the party.

This is a tough pill to swallow, Corra said.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead