We are finally here!
The most important week of the College Football Season begins tonight with the MAC and Pac-12 championship games. Eight titles games will be played between tonight and tomorrow, along with the pseudo-Big 12 championship being determined in Oklahoma.
As a follow-up to my earlier blog post during the season, I am taking a look at the representation of Nike, adidas and Under Armour in each championship game and how their schools could impact the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl games.
To reiterate, these rankings and thoughts are my own perceptions of how each brand is performing during this college football season.
- Guaranteed Championship – SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, Mountain West
- Possible Championship – Big Ten
- Top 10 teams in the CFP – Nine (9) if you include Michigan
- Under Armour
- Guaranteed Championship – American
- Possible Championship – Big Ten
- Top 10 teams in the CFP – One (1)
- Possible Championship – MAC, Conference USA
- Teams in the CFP – None (0)
Implications in the Playoff and/or New Year’s Six
- They are the dominant brand in College Football again in 2016 and barring any surprising results over the weekend; they are in line to represent all four teams in this year’s Playoff for the third straight season!
- The main problem Nike will have this weekend is the “in-fighting” that will take place could remove the brand’s flagship programs from Playoff contention.
- SEC – Not a lot of drama for the swoosh in this game… Alabama could lose this game (which they won’t) and would most likely still be in this year’s Playoff. Florida, without a conference championship since 2008, is still one of the top brands within the sport.
- Big 12 – Both teams need to win this game and have a lot of help in order to have a chance to get into the Playoff. Both are fighting for the right to call themselves the best team in Oklahoma. Both teams are represented by Nike. This will still be a great game and it will determine the Big 12 representative within the New Year’s Six bowls.
- Pac-12 – Washington have put themselves into a position to make the College Football Playoff, after dominating Colorado in the Pac-12 Title Game last night 41-10. With this victory, it would take a blowout in the Big Ten Championship for there to be a chance the Huskies drop from #4. In addition, their performance last night over a top-10 team could make them a viable contender to beat Alabama in the eyes of the average college football fan… and perhaps in Nike’s eyes as well. Now, they simply wait until this evening to see if they are assured all four teams in the CFP are Nike affiliates.
- ACC – In my opinion, this is a Red Flag game for Nike executives. Clemson has become a flagship program for the apparel provider over the past couple of seasons, making the championship game last season and Deshaun Watson’s rise into one of the best players in college football. However, this could all be undone if the Virginia Tech Hokies, with a first-year head coach no less, play well enough to pull an upset in Tampa, FL. This is a Clemson team who seems very susceptible to such a loss, almost losing in last season’s ACC Championship, losing to Pittsburgh this season and the Tigers should have lost versus NC State as well, but were saved by a missed FG as time expired. Nike officials will be nervous watching this game on Saturday night because it could mean a lost opportunity at another playoff appearance by a premier client.
- Mountain West – Bragging rights go to the winning school and a bonus from Nike (and maybe a championship logo) for winning their conference. Other than that, not really much more to discuss for wither Wyoming or San Diego State.
- UA has the only opportunity to end Nike’s run as the only apparel provider featured in the College Football Playoff.
- It also has a chance to provide a great, feel-good story in this year’s Cotton Bowl, depending on the result of the highest Non-Power 5 champion.
- Big Ten – The only non-Nike school with a chance at making the College Football Playoff is Wisconsin. However, after last night’s result in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Badgers need to not only win tonight’s Big Ten Championship, but also do so in a convincing fashion. Quite frankly, they need to have a performance not unlike Ohio State’s 59-0 win two years ago that inserted them into the CFP. Not only that, but the Badgers probably need Clemson to lose in the ACC Championship to have a chance at getting in! However, no matter what happens tonight, UA have got to be extremely excited in Wisconsin’s performance in their first season with the apparel provider.
- American – In my opinion, Navy’s performance this season may very well be the best story of the year. Ranked #19 in the country, the once college football powerhouse seems to have broken through with what could be a 10-win season and a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl. Western Michigan’s victory last night might have eliminated their chance at the Cotton Bowl, but a 70 point performance like they did last week could keep them in the running for one more week. While many bowl officials are rooting against Navy tonight due to the chaos it could cause, I am sincerely rooting for the Midshipmen to make it close because I believe this would be good for the brand of College Football to see Navy in such a prominent bowl game.
- MAC – “Row the Boat” indeed! Congratulations to the Western Michigan Broncos on completing a 13-0 season last night with a conference championship. The program has received prominent national attention through a College Gameday appearance; PJ Fleck being thrust into the limelight and adidas has provided a great amount of support to the program with a new branding and uniform combinations. Now all that remains is for the team to wait for Sunday’s rankings to come out.
- Conference USA – This is the first season that Louisiana Tech has been under the adidas banner and both have already been rewarded with a conference championship game appearance. It won’t do much from a national perspective, but if the Bulldogs are able to win later today, this has the makings of a profitable relationship for both brands. Especially if LSU continues to remain in the mid-pack of the SEC.
Lastly, I want to give a quick nod to Russell Athletic, whom represents two championship game participants this weekend with Ohio (MAC) and Western Kentucky (Conference USA). The only other prominent program that I am aware of that has a partnership with Russell is Georgia Tech, so having two of their three largest program partners in a title game this season is a coup for the apparel provider!
Overall, it seems that Nike’s dominance in the College Football Playoff is likely to continue for a third straight season, barring any unexpected results this evening. But adidas and Under Armour both have a chance to crash the Swoosh’s party over the New Year’s Six weekend.