CFP SHOULD HAVE NO DO-OVERS

Ohio State didn’t get in the college football playoff. Alabama did.

Ohio State won the Big 10. Alabama didn’t even make the SEC final.

Alabama got a do-over at the expense of Ohio State.

I would have put Ohio State or Pac-12 champ Southern Cal in the playoff ahead of ‘Bama. I hate do-overs. It takes away from the system’s credibility. Ohio State has no complaint, though, because it got a do-over last year.

My outrage isn’t massive. Alabama is an excellent team.

Big 10 reps didn’t score a single point in the last two playoffs. That figured in.

Some stumped for undefeated Central Florida, but including UCF would have been like putting a minor-league hockey team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It’s a bit surprising that three teams from the Deep South made it. If TV had wanted more variety, that might have worked to the benefit of Ohio State or USC.

Here’s the college football playoff system I’d use:

*Seed the winners of the so-called “power” conferences 1-5.

*Have a play-in game between the 4 and 5 seeds.

*Semifinals, and then the final.

Conference winners only. Take opinion out of it. My system provides a clear, tangible and legitimately earned path, just like in other big-time sports.

Alabama is in the playoff because a bunch of guys in a room decided ‘Bama should be. ‘Bama didn’t win its conference. Ohio State and Southern Cal did.

Yeah, Iowa beat Ohio State by 31 a month ago. That was then. More recently, ‘Bama didn’t qualify for the SEC championship game.

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WHY HASN’T COLE BEEN TRADED?

All week, it looked like the Penguins were about to trade defenseman Ian Cole.

Now, it appears Cole will play at Buffalo tomorrow night.

What the heck happened?

Here’s one scenario:

The Penguins don’t want to trade Cole, at least not now. Coach Mike Sullivan still sees him as useful, as evidenced by him returning to the lineup.

Cole got scratched for three games and overreacted. His agent, Kevin Magnuson, mindful of Cole’s status as an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, asked for a trade. GM Jim Rutherford said go ahead, find a team that’s interested, then I’ll get involved.

Magnuson couldn’t find a team. Not one that wanted to negotiate a long-term extension and give the Penguins value in return, anyway.

So now Cole is back in the lineup.

That doesn’t mean he won’t yet get traded. But if it happens, it will happen on Rutherford’s timetable. Not Cole’s.

Cole’s a pro, and a good team guy. When he’s called upon to play, he will do his best.

The hidden villain is Matt Hunwick. He was supposed to be able to play the right side, his off-side. Turns out he can’t, not so far. That created a jam on the left side. But Hunwick will again try the right side at Buffalo.

SAQUON BARKLEY = SUCKER

RB Saquon Barkley is getting praised because he’s going to play in whatever minor bowl Penn State has to settle for after choking away the chance at much bigger.

Commitment, part of a team, yada, yada. HOORAY FOR SAQUON! YAY, TEAM!

Let’s see what being perceived to be morally upright does for Barkley’s draft position and paycheck if he blows out his knee playing in the Who Cares Bowl.

If you’re in the national championship playoff, play. There’s something to be gained.

But there’s no way Penn State can benefit by winning the Who Cares Bowl.

Last year, LSU RB Leonard Fournette and Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey skipped their schools’ minor bowls to prepare for the NFL draft. Fournette went fourth, McCaffrey went eighth, and look at them now – NFL studs having great rookie seasons.

Praising Barkley for living up to some outdated quasi-moral standard is ludicrous. If you’re a potential first-round pick and your team isn’t in the national championship playoff, skip your bowl game. Nothing to gain, a lot to lose.

Just ask Jake Butt. He was a tight end at Michigan in 2016 and projected to be a second-round pick in this year’s NFL draft. But he tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl, dropped to the fifth round (where he was taken by Denver) and has spent the current season on IR.

That Orange Bowl was a meaningless game with no consequences. Butt’s career might be ruined because he played in it. Doing so has already cost him a lot of money.

READY TO USE > WORK IN PROGRESS

I don’t care who Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley yelled at. DON’T. CARE. AT. ALL.

I do care that Haley’s offense is badly underachieving. It was supposed to score 30 points every game, but hasn’t yet done so even once.

I LOL’d when the Post-Gazette called Haley’s offense a “work in progress.”

Let’s see if I have this straight: Every component of Haley’s offense is an established figure save rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. WR Martavis Bryant missed last year via suspension, but Haley has been offensive coordinator since Bryant joined the Steelers in 2014.

The Steelers’ offense should be ready to use. Zero assembly required. Not a “work in progress.”

QB Ben Roethlisberger has disappointing numbers. RB Le’Veon Bell has the raw yardage, but a substandard yards-per-carry of just 3.8. Among skill players, only WR Antonio Brown is performing up to the standard expected. The offensive line hasn’t failed. That unit has talent and cohesion and has performed very well.

If the Steelers weren’t 7-2, Pittsburgh would be calling for Haley’s head.

But the Steelers are 7-2. They are tied for best record in the AFC. If the season ended today, they would get home field throughout the AFC playoffs.

There’s a lot to be said for all that.

The offense still has time to get better. It needs to. Given its plethora of superstar talent, it has been depressingly mediocre.

My advice to Haley is: Quit trying to be so clever. Don’t outsmart yourself. For example, recent weeks have seen Haley use a fullback one minute, an empty backfield the next. If something is working, it’s working. Hang your hat. You don’t always have to fool somebody.

My advice to you is: If Haley yells at you, yell right back.

NO ONE IS INDISPENSABLE

Jacksonville deactivated star rookie RB Leonard Fournette yesterday. Fournette reportedly missed the team photograph, along with some other functions. Maybe there’s more to it. At any rate, Fournette didn’t play.

The fantasy-league jerks went nuts on Twitter. Tom Coughlin’s old-school mentality got lampooned. Coughlin runs football operations for Jacksonville, and it was almost certainly his decision to scratch Fournette.

Then the Jaguars went out and trampled visiting Cincinnati, 23-7.

That’s a sharp contrast, because there’s scant evidence of any team rules at Cincinnati.

Fournette had been averaging 99 yards per game, but backup Chris Ivory rushed for 70 of those. Jacksonville is 5-3 and tied for first in the AFC South.

Fournette found out he’s not indispensable. That lesson will serve him well, if he lets it. The same goes for the Steelers’ Martavis Bryant, too.

If you want to win, everybody on the team has to be on the same page. If they’re not on the same page with little things, like the team photo, they’re probably not on the same page with big things.

Coughlin knows how to win. He won two Super Bowls as coach of the New York Giants. Now the Giants are 1-7 thanks to jerks like OBJ and his clown-car hair, and Mr. Three-and-a-Half Fingers, or whatever he’s got left.

FROM CLEAR TO BLURRY

Pro wrestling used to have a simple, clear method of determining success: Did it draw money? Did people buy tickets, or pay-per-views, or turn on the TV? That’s how performers and the creative process were judged.

Now, the situation is blurry.

TV ratings and their importance have been diminished by viewers seeing the product on-line via WWE Network, YouTube, etc.

House-show attendance is both lousy and incidental. It’s become a loss leader to give the product live exposure to the (few) people who want that. The meager revenue is countered by paying the performers less. A company that depends on house show revenue (like Ring of Honor) will inevitably run on a shoestring.

Merchandising is huge. In WWE, it determines what performers get pushed as much as anything. Outside WWE, it’s made The Young Bucks rich.

WWE Network has diluted the impact of PPV buy rates, which had been a major part of judging who or what is over. You can’t tell who/what made a customer subscribe to the Network. (No PPV bonuses for talent anymore, either. But that’s no big deal. Who needs money when you’re living the dream by being on big-time wrestling TV? #mark)

You can’t judge by audience reaction. Fans too often buy tickets to troll the promotion, especially at big shows.

Five-star matches don’t matter. That’s art, not money.

The brand sells. Certain events sell. WrestleMania sells out long before a card is even announced.

So how do you know who is over, and what’s working?

You don’t.

More than ever, WWE is down to an audience of one: owner Vincent K. McMahon.

REFRESHING PENGUINS NOTES!

Fresh and smooth like newly-Zamboni’d ice! Cool off with refreshing Penguins notes!

*Winger Patric Hornqvist is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Did GM Jim Rutherford miss the boat not signing him to a long-term extension this past off-season? Hornqvist will command a three- or four-year deal averaging over $5m per. Hornqvist provides physicality and net-front presence on a team not flush with either. But, given his method, Hornqvist seems an old 30. How long before his body starts really breaking down? If Hornqvist departs, management figures that rookie pro Zach Aston-Reese will pick up some of the slack stylistically.

*Sidney Crosby has several skills that are unrivaled, but his touch on deflections is absolutely nonpareil. His two tip-in goals at PPG Paints Arena against Florida Saturday evoked memories of…well, nobody but Crosby, really. Phil Esposito, if you want to revisit the ’70s.

*If Ryan Reaves is going to average six minutes of ice time per game, it was foolish to give up a first-round pick and center Oskar Sundqvist to get him. We got told Reaves was more than a run-of-the-mill goon. That he could skate, and play. But now Reaves is being deployed like a run-of-the-mill goon.

*Greg McKegg is good enough to play for the Penguins, to kill penalties and take important draws. He’s just not good enough to center their third line.

*If Antti Niemi doesn’t start playing like an NHL goaltender, Rutherford faces a difficult decision: If he promotes Tristan Jarry from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, it cuts Jarry’s games played considerably but (hopefully) gives the Penguins an acceptable backup. Niemi looks as bad as his stats (7.94 goals-against average, .809 save percentage) and his confidence appears shot.

*Jarry is 22. Two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matthew Murray is 23. If Jarry is in the minors for development’s sake, what exactly is that development supposed to lead to?

*The Penguins managed their visit to Donald Trump’s White House perfectly. The Penguins minimized exposure on their web site and social media. Sidney Crosby stood in the back so he wouldn’t be photographed next to Trump. The President was presented a golf bag instead of a jersey, so there aren’t photos of Trump in a Penguins sweater. The visit was pristinely apolitical, so now we get to talk about hockey and not indulge festering sidebars. The NFL is ruined for the foreseeable future.

*Little kids holding up signs during pre-game warm-up requesting pucks, sticks, jerseys, etc. is a trifle distasteful, mainly because it’s done at the behest of parents. A three-year-old doesn’t think to do that. What adult teaches his child to beg like a dog?

*Marc-Andre Fleury’s brilliant start with Vegas is no surprise. He learned to function in a siege mentality during his salad days with the Penguins. Fleury needs to perpetuate that, because he is Vegas’ lone hope for respectability.

ROLL FOUR LINES

There’s not often reason to question Mike Sullivan, who has done an outstanding job as Penguins coach.

But the Penguins (again) struggled in the second leg of playing back-to-back nights, and when I check the box score of yesterday evening’s 5-4 loss at Tampa Bay, I see Tom Kuhnhackl playing eight minutes, Carter Rowney six and Ryan Reaves three.

Roll four lines. Not strictly equally, but more equally than that. Especially when playing back-to-back nights, which will happen 17 more times this season.

Kris Letang played 26 minutes. Sidney Crosby played 23. But the Penguins still lost, never mind compromising the bigger picture.

I also don’t see the point of trading a first-round pick and Oskar Sundqvist for Reaves if Reaves is going to play that little.

We got told that Reaves can skate, and has reasonable skill. He can, and does. But Sullivan is deploying Reaves like he’s a traditional goon, and not worth the price paid.

10-1 IS A PROBLEM; THE ROSTER ISN’T

When you lose 10-1, it’s always jarring. Even more so when you raised your Stanley Cup banner the night before.

Defenseman Ian Cole played 19 minutes and was minus-1.

Cole was the Penguins’ No. 1 star at Chicago. Not that he was formally honored.

Twitter is awash with panic, thanks in part to Richard Panik. Only the stupidity of Twitter could so quickly push aside consecutive Stanley Cups.

Fingers point. Blame is placed. Compassion is in short supply.

The Penguins don’t deserve any compassion after that horrible defeat. But having to sit through a next-day video session with Coach Mike Sullivan merits some sympathy. That was undoubtedly scorching.

The Penguins have three difficult games next: Nashville at home, at Washington and at Tampa Bay. All legit contenders. The bad start may continue.

But the Penguins have a very good roster. Problems will be ironed out.

Don’t lament those who are gone. That’s not what’s wrong. The Penguins lost good players who contributed to Stanley Cup wins. But no one crucial.

Chris Kunitz used to be crucial, but not now. Not at 38.

Matt Cullen is 40 and has played for eight teams. He’s been replaced plenty of times.

Nick Bonino is a very good bottom-six center. But he’s a bottom-six center.

Trevor Daley’s body is falling apart. Injuries galore.

Ron Hainsey is 36. Great as a stop-gap. Dispensable in the long run.

Marc-Andre Fleury is the biggest loss. Having Fleury as the No. 2 goaltender was a uniquely quality situation.

Don’t romanticize losing those players because the Penguins won with them and you like them.

In a salary-cap league, you have to churn and burn the bottom of your roster. If GM Jim Rutherford hasn’t yet found all the right replacements, he will.

PENGUINS SWITCH DEFENSE PAIRS

The Penguins are trying something different on defense.

The pairs had been Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole and Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta and newcomer Matt Hunwick.

But now Cole is practicing with Hunwick. Maatta is with Schultz.

Maatta wouldn’t have to be the anchor with Hunwick. Maatta wouldn’t have to stay back and concentrate very primarily on defense. With Schultz, that’s what Maatta has to do, and what Maatta did last season when he played in tandem with Trevor Daley, now with Detroit.

Maatta had nine goals as a rookie in 2013-14. He can manufacture offense.

Maatta with Schultz is surprising. It’s also surprising that Coach Mike Sullivan would break up Schultz and Cole, a very steady and proven pair.

But it’s an 82-game season plus playoffs. The Penguins haven’t yet opened the regular season. Things will be very liquid between now and springtime.

Maatta, 23, has had a good preseason. Maatta has his critics, and has definitely been hampered by various maladies suffered since his rookie season: Thyroid cancer, two shoulder surgeries, mumps, etc.

Perhaps Maatta can finally get all the way back physically. The odd blunder duly noted, Maatta has been an integral part of two Stanley Cup winners.