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Beyond the Fort: A new face in Manhattan, Oklahoma’s favorite porcupine, and the first domino of CFP expansion?

Did you know that there’s a College Football Playoff edition of Groundhog Day?

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff-Selection Sunday Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re struggling to survive this college football lull that we currently find ourselves in, good news: bowl games begin on Saturday as North Texas and Utah State open up a slate of some 40 matchups with a showdown in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M.

But with all the other housekeeping updates in the Big 12 and beyond, it’d be a mistake to solely focus on the postseason action that will soon cap the 2018 season. From coaching changes, talks of potential playoff expansion (finally) and more, there is plenty to get caught up on.

So sit back, relax and enjoy this latest edition of Beyond the Fort.

A new era begins in Manhattan

Exit Bill Snyder. Enter Chris Klieman. The former North Dakota State head coach — who won three FCS national titles in Fargo from 2014-2017 — is the new face of Kansas State football, and whether or not fans are content with the hire (we’ll address that later this week), Klieman is ready to flip the script after the Wildcats endured a disappointing 5-7 finish in 2018.

And if you think that’s some cliche, well, you might as well go ahead and watch this speech he gave to the team below. Word on the street is that Klieman even offered to individually call every single individual who cancelled season their tickets after the way things panned out this fall in Manhattan — very Snyderesque, to put it lightly.

A man who could care less about star ratings? Hmmm, sounds an awful lot like another Big 12 coach out there who has won a lot of games.

Listen to the porcupine

Well, it’s a College Football Playoff featuring the Alabama Crimson Tide ... again.

But could this January mark just the second time since 2012 that Nick Saban hasn’t been a part of the national title game? If you put any stock in a critter who could be assumed to be Punxsutawney Phil’s Floridian counterpart, well, the answer appears to be yes.

Alabama is set to face Big 12 Champion and No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl as part of the semifinals on Dec. 29, and even if the Sooners are the underdogs for the matchup, there’s at least some reason to have hope after Pierce the African Crested Porcupine from the Miami Zoo (yes, this is a real thing) predicted Oklahoma to get the job done in a ceremony on Monday.

There you have it. Pierce the African Porcupine: Big Big 12 guy. And maybe his good luck charm, combined with Heisman winner Kyler Murray’s athleticism, will be enough for the Sooners to earn CFP redemption after falling short in the Rose Bowl last season.

Playoff expansion ... could this finally be the start?

Those two words should probably give you chills. Of course, the last thing we want to do is get all of your hopes over nothing, but proponents of College Football Playoff expansion should be at least somewhat excited after the Athletic dropped an exclusive report on Wednesday that several high-ranking individuals within the sport — fed up with SEC favoritism and lack of respect for Group of Five schools (see UCF) — may finally be moving the needle towards an eight team field.

Now, would eight teams solve every problem out there? Probably not. No matter how big the field is, there will always be that one team that is just narrowly left out. Bowl games would undoubtedly also become more complicated (say goodbye to the Pac-12/Big Ten Rose Bowl tie in, in all likelihood), and that wouldn’t be the only logistical challenge as finals, holidays and more are factored in. Nonetheless, who wouldn’t want a format where just about every Power Five champion earned a chance to play in a tournament for all the marbles? College Football, after all, prides itself on unpredictability, so why not finally implement that on the stage that matters the most?