I had the opportunity to interview Josh Pate, one of 247’s best and hardworking members. Josh hosts my favorite CFB podcast LateKick Pod. I am very glad he took the time to chat with me so huge thanks go out to him.
Q. How do you feel about what Nick Saban said about expanding the playoff and how that would make the rest of the bowl games irrelevant?
A. I feel like he was right but I also feel like the context behind his statement was him understanding if you shift one thing you’re going to shift the tension. I didn’t have a huge problem with us adopting a four-team playoff. It wasn’t a huge deal to me. My issue has been as we adopted the playoff the entire marketing strategy behind the biggest network in sports media has been pumping the playoffs year round. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the fact that this sport is supposed to revolve around its regular season with the postseason being the cherry on top. This is college football. It’s ok to be different from the majors. Saban realized people would look at the playoff as the most important thing and if you weren’t at the top of that then you didn’t matter. It’s never the way college football should be described, it’s never the way it should be interpreted and it’s never the way it should be experienced. But because so many people have said that for so long and so many people started adopting phrases like “meaningless bowl games” after a while players listen and believe it. After a while you have an opt-out problem. The crowd that thinks the playoff caused these problems will solve them. I do not think more playoff teams is the answer. It was the problem to begin with.
QHypothetically if it expands, how should it expand?
A. A lot of times the disagreement here stems from the fact we have opposing world views on college football. What I mean by that is I’m strictly for getting the best teams in a playoff of the ones that earn it. There’s a blend of merit and there’s a blend of weighing a resume to understand that. Otherwise, we’d just use the recruiting rankings and put the most talented teams there. I’m not for that. I understand that there is a merit based resume that needs to be adhered to. I’m for that. I’m not for auto bids anytime. If I advocated for a six-team playoff and I’m for keeping it as small as possible. So if you told me we had to expand, I’d be a six-team playoff proponent but even then I’d want the six best teams and the six highest rated teams using our current ranking model. If it’s six you give the top-2 teams a bye and have those other games on the home campus. That’s the only thing I would want to change. Some other people believe that the sport is best when you’re guaranteed to have representation all across the country in the postseason. I don’t believe that. So if we disagree there then we have opposing views of college football. If we have to expand I want it to be as small as possible and I would want no auto bids of any kind to earn your way in. There is a path for everyone at the Power Five level to earn their path. The Group of Five level is a totally different conversation. I believe the G5 should have their own playoff. That’s a side conversation. If everyone’s got a shot then you have to earn it. You can’t look at me from the west coast and tell me the Pac-12 doesn’t have a shot right now. The Pac-12 has had a representation in this thing the only two times they had a viable representative. Oregon was in it and went to the national championship and Washington was in it a few years ago. Other than that nobody can point me to the Pac-12 team that has been screwed out of a playoff spot. They haven’t been good enough. So I think this tournament should be a tournament of excellence not one of inclusion.
Q. Since you mention the Group of Five should have a playoff can we hear your opinion on that?
A. I noticed a lot of times this conversation boils down to, does the G5 have an opportunity or not? I understand that frustration at the end of the road if you’re sitting there as a UCF fan or a Cincinnati fan and you’re sitting there undefeated. I totally understand the frustration looking at it and you look to chapter 16 and you look and see your teams undefeated but they aren’t playing for the playoff. Which you’ve been told is the end all be all in college football. How could you do any better than undefeated. I also understand that chapters 1-15 before you get to chapter 16 including, you played an inferior schedule to your Power Five brethren. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s nothing you can do about that. I understand that. It’s not Cincinnati’s fault for example that Tulsa plays at that level or East Carolina plays at that level. It’s not their fault but it’s not Texas A&M’s fault either. So if I look at Cincinnati’s schedule from last year, I favor Texas A&M and I favor Florida. There’s lots of teams from the Power Five I’d favor to go undefeated against that schedule. Unless you skull drag everyone 65-0 you’re not proving anything to me by running that thing undefeated. It’s a nice accomplishment but to pretend that everyone at the Power Five and G5 level are playing the same level of the same sport is ludicrous to me. You cannot pretend that Alabama and Akron exist on the same level. They don’t. To pretend that those teams are competing for the same prize is ludicrous to me. You’re never going to bridge the gap between the quality of schedule an SEC team plays and the quality of schedule that a Sun Belt team plays. That’s not feasible. So instead of trying to chase that unicorn why not just implant a second playoff? By the way, if everyone that touts G5 football to the degree they actually believe the words that come out of their mouth then they would embrace that G5 playoff product. I’d love it to think it would be a great spectacle.
Q. Who do you think starts at QB? And depending on who, how will Alabama do this year?
A. I think Bryce Young is their starting quarterback. There was some talk in the spring about Tyson but Bryce Young is the guy for them. At the beginning of the year you’ll see flashes, but ultimately, what can Alabama build to? This is a young team with an entirely new offense for them. They are replacing several pieces of their offensive line, replacing their quarterback and replacing a guy like Najee Harris at running back. You’re also replacing, if you think over the span of two years, four first-round wide receivers, including last year’s Heisman trophy winner. And if that’s not enough, you have a new offensive coordinator in there too. They have the reputation of an Alabama offense but the reality is they have new pieces everywhere. So how far does that get them? They play Miami and they’ll be favored by double digits. I think they’ll beat Miami but as that offense goes along throughout the year, the key take away is people will be saying, “Wow this offense has some time to grow.” This defense is better than these past two years and I think that will be the early story with Alabama. Everyone will talk about the offense, everyone will talk about Bryce Young, but the defense will be the headliner early.
Q. How’d you get started at 247 Sports?
A. Well I was doing sports talk radio in Columbus, Georgia for a little while. I did it for a couple of years and I get a phone call out of the blue one day from a television general manager. He ran the WLTZ NBC affiliate down in Columbus and he says. “I don’t know if you’ve ever done TV but would you like to do it?” I came over there and I also ended up being a sports anchor, their sports director and then elevated to television anchor. All the while I knew what I wanted to do – my own college football show. When it came time to renegotiate my contract I turned down a five-year extension as news director because I knew I could not create my own college football content independently. It was a no no in the contract. I asked to work independent contractor style for them for quarters on the dollar of what I would’ve earned as salary. I instead worked into my deal with them that I get the studio three nights a week for my own college football show on my own YouTube channel. A year and a half later, I got a call from 247 at CBS here and they said we want you to come do this for us what you’re already doing on your own. You have complete creative control. We don’t want to tell you where to go with it, it’s your idea. So I came here in January of 2020 and shortly after Covid hit we had a tornado and a bombing. We’ve had all kinds of stuff happen here. We had a season which we didn’t know if it was going to be played but in the midst of all that we’ve created an amazing thing here that I think we’ve only scratched the surface of in terms of potential. That’s why a lot of us are excited about where we can take Late Kick and 247 in general.
Q. What advice would you give me or anyone as an aspiring sports analysts?
A. Sports analysts, the best advice I ever received was it’s one thing to say I want to work in sports media. You could mean water polo on TV, you could mean baseball on radio, you could mean football in print. The best advice is to find your passion you truly care about. If you had to do it 50 hours a week you wouldn’t care. That way you don’t care about working since it’s a hobby for you. Find your talent and where it intercepts with your passion and hit the ground running. Then find a career inside that circle. If you find it, you can be working 50-60 hour work weeks and you wouldn’t care because it feels like a game. You look around every day and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”
Q. What if there was only in state recruiting football for college?
A. The initial answer is Southern Cal and Texas would dominate but what we’re talking about here is Southern Cal, UCLA, Cal, Fresno and San Jose St. What I would say here is, let’s say the same coaches are coaching where they are right now. I think a lot of people asume this knocks Alabama off the perch because Alabama doesn’t produce as much talent. Alabama would be very competitive, but they won’t be guaranteed much. You have to realize these signing classes will be a lot less each year. If I take the top-25 players in Alabama I could have a great team with good development. What would be interesting would be the split between the big three in Florida and could a program like UCF dip into that? That would be fun to watch. I also think Georgia would be the biggest beneficiary out of any school since they are one of 2 major players in the state and they don’t need to worry about any other state coming in there and taking the talent. This is Kirby Smart’s dream scenario.
I would like to thank Josh for doing this with me and I look forward to a lot more conversations with him and hopefully we can do a stream sometime in the future.
Ethan Carbone is a Contributor for Unwrapped Sports Network. Follow him on on Twitter @ethan_carbone