Rangers coach takes some shots at the Devils

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Rangers coach takes some shots at the Devils

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- John Tortorella stood out again at a playoff news conference. Only this time it was because of his feistiness toward the New Jersey Devils and not for his brevity and contentiousness with the media. The New York coach defended Rangers forward Brandon Prust, who was given a one-game suspension Sunday because of an elbow to the head of New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov, and accused the Devils of embellishing to draw penalties in the Eastern Conference finals. "We tell our players, Don't stay down on the ice. Get up,'" Tortorella said Sunday. "I'll leave it at that. If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I have a long list here." He then began to air it. Tortorella said the Devils set picks during power plays to set up shots for Ilya Kovalchuk and prevent the Rangers from getting into position to block them. He added that forward Dainius Zubrus elbowed New York defenseman Anton Stralman on Saturday, and said top New Jersey forward Zach Parise launched himself into another defenseman, Michael Del Zotto. Neither of those players, nor Prust, was penalized for their hits during the Rangers' 3-0 win that gave New York a 2-1 lead in the East finals. Kovalchuk scored a power-play goal in Game 2 that the Rangers say was made possible by a pick. "We're trying not to get picked," Rangers forward Brad Richards said. "Sometimes you get picked. We're trying to let the refs know and have them look at it."

No one was robbed, but Penn State, Michigan were both deserving of Playoff spots

No one was robbed, but Penn State, Michigan were both deserving of Playoff spots

There was no right answer for the College Football Playoff selection committee on Sunday afternoon.

So does that mean every answer was a wrong one?

Certainly any outcome would've had its detractors, and so no matter which four-team field the committee chose, there would've been tears over which teams were excluded.

The Big Ten looked to have a real shot at becoming the first conference to land multiple teams in a single Playoff. Instead, only Ohio State was named to the final four. Big Ten champion Penn State and Michigan were left out, with Alabama, Clemson and Washington claiming the other three spots.

The truth is this: There were six teams of Playoff caliber this season. Unfortunately, the Playoff has just four spots.

Penn State and Michigan were the casualties this season, just like there were casualties in the first two seasons of the Playoff's existence. Don't let that make you believe for a minute, however, that the Nittany Lions and Wolverines weren't deserving of playing for a national championship because they most certainly were.

Penn State looked darn close to pulling the same trick Ohio State did just two years ago, when an epic performance in the Big Ten Championship Game propelled the Buckeyes into the four-team field, boxing out the champions of the Big 12. That proved the correct decision, as Ohio State won the national championship a month later. Could Penn State have done the same thing? We'll never know.

While James Franklin and his Lions did not utter a single gripe over being left out of the Playoff — and why would they, with a trip to the Rose Bowl a tremendous consolation for a team that wasn't supposed to be a contender this season — but boy did they have a strong case that they were one of the country's four best teams. Penn State is riding a nine-game winning streak that includes wins over two top teams, one coming against Playoff-bound Ohio State and the other an instant-classic comeback against Wisconsin to win the Big Ten championship. Those are two sterling wins on any resume. Add in two more wins over AP top-25 teams Iowa and Temple and the fact that both losses came against top-25 teams in Michigan and Pittsburgh, and that's a compelling case.

It seems, in the end, Penn State's loss to Pittsburgh cost it a spot in the Playoff. Washington, which played the second-easiest non-conference schedule in the entire FBS, edged Penn State for the final spot.

And then there's Michigan, which seemed to be held to a standard Ohio State was not. The Buckeyes benefited greatly from a dominant non-conference win over Oklahoma, while the Wolverines — who had their own non-conference win over a top-10 team in Colorado — dropped behind conference-champion Penn State despite a head-to-head win. Remember that Penn State beat Ohio State, though that didn't keep the Buckeyes out of the Playoff in favor of the Lions. Michigan earned three wins over top-10 opponents and took the No. 3 team in the country to double overtime on the road just a weekend ago.

An argument could be made that a list of the top four teams in the country should contain all three of the Big Ten teams in question. After all, Washington didn't earn its first top-10 win of the season until this past Friday night. Clemson is still without a top-10 win this season. Even Alabama, arguably, didn't have to go through the same rigors as all three of these teams who play in the same division. While a non-conference win over USC looks terrific now, the Tide's SEC schedule pales in comparison to the gauntlet it's been in years past.

But here's where the committee seemed to draw the line. Every team in the Playoff has one thing in common: one or zero losses. Winning the games on your schedule seemed to be the No. 1 factor when splitting hairs between these six elite teams. Penn State and Michigan didn't have winning percentages comparable to Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. Is that the best way to determine the four best teams, as the committee so often repeats is its mission? That can be argued. But that's certainly what happened here, as 12-1 Washington was picked over 11-2 Penn State and 10-2 Michigan.

None of this is to bash the non-Big Ten teams that made the Playoff. Clemson and Washington have turned in terrific seasons and are most deserving of the opportunity they've received to play for a national championship.

But so too were Penn State and Michigan. You just can't fit six teams into a four-team Playoff.

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

The College Football Playoff field is set, and for the second time in three years, the Ohio State Buckeyes will compete for a national championship.

The selection committee revealed the four-team field for this season's Playoff, with Ohio State coming at No. 3. The Buckeyes will battle No. 2 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The other Playoff semifinal pits No. 1 Alabama against No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl.

While Ohio State has been considered one of the best teams in the country throughout the season, the Buckeyes' inclusion in the Playoff field is not without controversy, as they are the first team to play in the Playoff without winning their conference championship. But Ohio State had a sterling resume with three wins over top-10 teams: Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. The Buckeyes' lone loss came against a top-10 Penn State team.

The 2014 national champion, Ohio State returns to the Playoff after missing out last season. Big Ten champion Michigan State represented the conference last year, getting crushed by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Two years ago, the Buckeyes beat the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl and then beat the Oregon Ducks in the national championship game.

Big Ten champion Penn State, which won the conference title game Saturday night with an instant-classic comeback victory over Wisconsin, ended up fifth and was left off the bracket. So too was sixth-ranked Michigan, which didn't compete for a conference championship but was ranked fifth in the final set of rankings prior to Sunday's bracket reveal. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines combined for five wins over top-10 teams this season.

There was plenty of conversation that red-hot Penn State could surge into the Playoff, just like Ohio State did two years ago. The Lions are riding a nine-game winning streak, defeated Ohio State earlier in the season and claimed the championship in what has been the hands-down best conference in college football this season. And boy did they impress Saturday night in their most recent showing, erasing a three-touchdown deficit to come back and beat Wisconsin.

Michigan, too, had a mighty compelling case to make. The Wolverines, owners of one of the best defenses in the country all season long, beat three top-10 teams during the regular season and took the No. 2 team in the country to double overtime just last weekend.

But in the end, we did not get the first Playoff field to feature two teams from the same conference. Penn State and Michigan will learn their bowl fates — likely going to New Year's Six bowl games — later Sunday.