All posts by Hollis McLain III

I am Hollis Oliver Mclain III, 23, and I am studying History at the University of Tennessee. I love all things sports, and sharing my opinions (through writing) is a dream come true. Reach out to me. I love just talking sports. Follow me on twitter @hollisoliveriii

NCAA Finally Gets Something Right, Lets Monmouth Celebrations Continue

The NCAA has been one of the worst governing bodies in the sports world for some time now. Even though that is my opinion, it is difficult to fully condemn then when they do a lot of good as well. I like to think they try their hardest to make sure that these college athletes don’t have to lean on their skills alone in life.

Instead, the NCAA tries to find the proper balance between student and athlete in order to allow these players to have a life after sports. While that is great and everything, a lot of people have a problem with the way they go about doing things, including myself, especially since they rarely dish out equal punishment for the same violation.

In the last year or so, basically everyone who enjoys sports has debated about whether or not the NCAA should pay players, specifically in football. The newest topic of debate has come from the college basketball world. During their basketball games, Monmouth University likes to have a little fun with their bench. Anytime one of their fellow teammates makes a good play, whether it is by way of a dunk, tough shot or a general basketball play, the Monmouth bench celebrates.

But this isn’t just any celebration because the bench plans out mini ‘skits’ where they do something funny and it usually involves more than a couple people (on the bench). Now, at first glance, these celebrations seem harmless, especially since they aren’t taunting or deliberately targeting a specific player, but there are some who think the celebrations are just a little overboard.

Take a look at some of the Monmouth Celebrations.

After the NCAA had received some complaints over the animated and planned celebrations, they decided to look into the rulebook to find out if the Monmouth bench was violating any rules. While they were looking into it all, a few prominent media members thought that they were going to try to rewrite the rules so that these players couldn’t do their normal, but elaborate celebrations. Spearheading the effort to allow the celebrations to continue was Jay Bilas, a popular basketball analyst who took to Twitter to show his disappointment in the NCAA.

Let me say that I completely understand why the NCAA took this seriously and wanted to look into the situation. Sometimes athletes can get a little overboard and tip toe the fine line between celebrating and taunting. While I fully believe that athletes should be able to celebrate any way they please, they also need to do it without hurting or interfering with anyone playing the game or in the arena for that matter. So, in my eyes, the NCAA was doing their due diligence by looking into the bench celebrations (as much as I hate to pat the NCAA on the back).

The real story here is what the NCAA decided on the matter. David Worlock, NCAA spokesman, took to Twitter on Monday after the rules secretary and national coordinator of officiating decided that the Monmouth players were well within their rights to celebrate from the bench. Worlock tweeted that the celebrations were not interfering with the game and can continue as they have been.

In my opinion, this is one of the best decisions the NCAA has ever made and probably ever will. Finally they chose to let players have a little fun in the midst of a game that has been tainted with massive TV contracts and corporate money. For a while, it looked like the NCAA was out to get everyone, especially those who enjoyed the game. But now that they have been able to evaluate a situation without bias, they have come to the correct conclusion. The Monmouth basketball team is allowed to celebrate as they have been, as long as they continue to keep it contained to their own bench and don’t infringe upon anyone else’s right to enjoy the game.

I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am that they NCAA came to this decision. I thought for sure that they would end up re-writing the rules, which would be one more way the NCAA has taken the fun out of sports. Sports are supposed to be emotional and most importantly, they are meant to be fun for all.

Maybe the NCAA is beginning to understand that the more rights they take away from college athletes, the more boring the games become and the less people want to watch. While they still have a long way to go before they actually become a positive influence to college athletes, this is a step in the right direction.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Mike Mozart)

Rick Barnes is Just Getting Started in Knoxville

After a continuous train of new basketball coaches in the last couple of decades, the Tennessee Volunteers seem to have found a guy that will bring consistency to the court, at least for the years he has left. Rick Barnes, recently hired at Tennessee last spring, has come into his new job ready to go, with new life in him. When Rick Barnes was first hired, most people thought that he was too old to bring excitement back to a program that had seemed lost ever since that fateful day Bruce Pearl left. But now, I can see many different reasons why Rick Barnes is the guy we need for now, and I think the rest of the fan base is coming around as well.

Now, to understand Tennessee basketball, you have to realize that most Tennessee football fans don’t care about the basketball team. Yeah, they will tell you they are fans of the team, but they don’t watch the games, keep up with the team or even show any emotion. The only time I ever notice fans coming out of the woodwork is when the Vols need a new head basketball coach. And the only reason they care at that point in time is because they want Bruce back. Don’t get me wrong; Bruce Pearl coming back ‘home’ would give me more happiness than the entire athletic department has since I was a kid. But I know this will never happen, and that is okay.

I was unsure of Coach Rick Barnes when he was hired, but I saw a ton of positives that came with having him as the Vols’ head coach. Now that I have been able to understand Barnes a little better and I have watched his team play, my opinion seems to get more positive with every week that goes by. Although more time is needed to mold my final opinion of the coach, I can’t help but find myself more excited about Tennessee basketball than I have been since the Bruce Pearl days. That is saying a lot.

Rick Barnes hasn’t had a mind-blowing start to the season (4-3), but that was expected with the weak starting lineup we began the season with.

Whether it was Buzz Peterson, Donnie Tyndall, Cuonzo Martin or Bruce Pearl running the show, each of them seemed to lack the coaching ability to get the most talent out of our players. Yes, even Bruce Pearl is not the best x’s and o’s guy. That being said, half of these coaches showed at least a glimpse of being the right guy, but in the end, none of them worked out.

Since he was hired last spring, I can already tell that Rick Barnes is better at coaching the game of basketball than any of our recent previous coaches. It may be because he has been in the game so long that he has literally seen everything or maybe he really is one of the greatest coaches at the collegiate level, I don’t know, but one thing is for sure, he is making a positive impact on our players.

This was no more apparent than when Barnes told Kevin Punter that he was changing his shot, shortly after seeing Kevin shoot around. Kevin Punter’s shot was as ugly as they come, and it seemed like a miracle when the ball went in the basket. So here comes Rick Barnes and his first major act as head coach of the Volunteers is to completely reinvent the jump shot of a junior college transfer with only one year left at Tennessee. A bold move for Barnes that has not only played out well but has changed Kevin Punter’s entire game, for the better.

Even though Kevin Punter scored a lot last year, his stats this year are just insane. Punter is playing about 3 more minutes a game, but he is averaging double the amount of points he had last year and has significantly increased his field goal, three point and free throw percentages. I realize that he is one of the main scorers that the Volunteers have now, but he also moved to point guard, which is a tougher position to get good scoring opportunities at. That’s just one example of what Coach Rick Barnes brings to the coaching table at Tennessee, and I’m sure that he is doing more behind the scenes that the majority of us don’t hear about.

To piggyback off of the point I just made, Coach Barnes has also brought some excitement to the Vols through the style of play that he implemented. Cuonzo Martin had this idea that if you played defense lights out, then you didn’t need to score, and that didn’t sit well with Volunteer fans. The reason Vol fans couldn’t handle Martin is because he had the most boring team in the nation, with multiple future NBA players on it. He didn’t like when players scored, and Tennessee had been accustomed to scoring prior to Martin’s arrival.

Now that Barnes is in Knoxville, he has reignited some fires due to the way his teams play. They run well, play fast in transition, rebound and SHOOT the ball, a lot. That’s the definition of what every Tennessee basketball fan wants to see. And to top it all off, the team takes good shots, for the most part. The best part about it all is that the team plays in control of their bodies and doesn’t just fly around like bats out of hell. Everything they do has a purpose. Rick Barnes has already made watching the BasketVOLS a little more bearable. The only thing left to do is get to the tournament.

One of the most important qualities I believe a coach can possess is the ability to completely immerse yourself into a program. Learn the traditions, the fight song and know the University at which you are coaching. That is another reason why Rick Barnes is a great fit. He knows a lot more about Tennessee basketball than the average coach. Even though that is mainly due to his wife graduating from Tennessee, I still get the feeling he cares about this program, unlike Cuonzo Martin or Buzz Peterson.

One example in particular is Rick Barnes wanting to bring back an old tradition that had since become lost throughout the years of Tennessee basketball. The Tennessee basketball team used to run through a wooden ‘T’ as they were announced in the starting lineups. The tradition dates back to the times of Ray Mears and the Bernie and Ernie show, which you basketball fans should know about. The tradition was cut a decade or so ago, but is a nostalgic sight for Rick Barnes, as well as the older crowd. There is no doubt in my mind that the players enjoy having the tradition back too. While this is only one minor example that illustrates Rick Barnes himself buying in to the program, you get the feeling that he really does care about bringing stability back to this basketball team.

I don’t know if Rick Barnes is the guy to thrust Tennessee basketball into the national spotlight for the first time since Bruce Pearl, but one thing is for sure, he is going to try. Also, I believe the jury is still out on if Barnes can put the Vols in a position to contend for anything more than a tournament birth, but I can’t ask for anything more than effort. The only question left is can Rick Barnes still consistently recruit at a high level? My initial thought is no, but Barnes seems to be catching some momentum in recruiting right now, so we have to wait and see. Even if Barnes has lost some of his recruiting luster, Desmond Oliver has the Carolinas on lockdown while Chris Ogden and Rob Lanier can hold their own on the trail as well. Although I think the Vols will be a bubble team this year, as long as the team progresses and the program reaches some sort of stability, then Rick Barnes’ time here was a success.

(Photo Courtesy of aaronisnotcool/Flickr)

New College Basketball Rules Narrow the Gap

During the past offseason, college basketball decided to make some changes to the rules they already had in place. Because fans complain about slow play and would rather see up-tempo basketball, the rules were altered to mimic the NBA a little more. The NBA has been the definition of fast-paced, no defense basketball, and that’s what the NCAA wants to move towards. Now, this is mainly due to the NCAA wanting more people following college basketball and they thought that making the game higher scoring would bring more fans in.

While it is most certainly too early to see any difference in the amount of people watching basketball, I can already see major differences in these basketball games. Before I go on, I want to preface my next thought by saying that basketball has always been a sport where the underdog has a great chance of winning. However, because of the new rule changes, I believe the gap between powerhouse programs like UNC and Kentucky and smaller schools like VCU or Butler have narrowed, by a large margin.

My hypothesis has been supported by the sheer amount of smaller teams winning against the bigger schools. Teams such as Northern Iowa, Tulsa, George Washington, and Wake Forest are finding it easier to keep up with the big schools late in the game. The reason for this has multiple facets, but its’ foundation lies in the fast-paced, frequent shooting environment that the rules have created. Of course, there are always small schools that take down the big guys, but it doesn’t usually happen this early in the season. Even though the SEC is a weaker conference overall, they are having the same problems with small schools, early. The likes of Georgia, Mississippi State, and other teams have also seen what these small schools can do.

I believe that the new rules will let teams that can shoot and are smaller to play to their strengths, allowing them to steal games that they otherwise wouldn’t. Since you shouldn’t just take this all on my word, here are specific thoughts on some of the new rules.

First, we must start off with the shortened shot clock. I wrote last year that decreasing the shot clock would, in turn, lead to higher scoring games and more shots/possessions for teams. So far this season, I think my logic has held strong because some of the early college basketball scores are straight out of the NBA. Teams have to take more shots and are getting more possessions than ever before. This gives smaller teams that focus on shooting an advantage. I have seen many teams already reach the 100-point mark, and Butler’s 144 points to start the season were just insane.

Although a couple programs with high scoring games doesn’t mean a whole lot, if you look through some scores this season, you will notice an uptick in points. Instead of seeing 50 or 60-point slugfests, I am noticing more games that consistently reach the upper 80s and low 90s. That was rarely seen last year, especially if you weren’t a powerhouse that played up-tempo and could shoot.

Since the games are higher scoring this year that means teams need to shoot the ball better if they hope to score. This is where the smaller schools catch up. They pride themselves in shooting the ball more so than a bigger team that usually focuses on playing above the rim.

The next rule that plays a large role in the new version of college basketball is the movement of the restricted arch farther towards the free throw line. While the move isn’t major, it was changed to four feet from the goal this year, which will create a different defensive game for many teams. If you were Kentucky last year, then you would have hated these new rule changes, mostly because it means that defensive studs have a tougher time protecting the rim. Since the arch is farther out, defensive players will have to play their game higher up in the paint, which could keep them from playing good help defense or getting to some shots on the low block.

All of these rules are rewarding shooting teams and hurt big, defense-dominated teams.

The last rule that has affected game play this year is the new hand-checking rule. Referees were told to be more adamant about calling hand checking around the perimeter, but also near the paint. Most of the time, when you drive the ball, someone smacks your hand, even if it isn’t a foul. This year, referees will be on the lookout for these small fouls, and they will be calling them with a higher frequency due to the new rules. This will allow for less contact around the rim, which could be a problem for the teams whose defenses live to block shots and play hard defense. Instead of your big guy altering a shot by way of contact, the opponent will be shooting free throws, which again, is a massive advantage for shooters and high scoring teams.

College basketball has become more about how many shots you make than who plays better defense and that is fine. College basketball has always been behind the other sports in popularity, especially if the tournament isn’t on. Hopefully, with the new rules, more fans will begin to pay attention and bring the sport more into the spotlight. Don’t expect a change overnight however, as most people won’t even be watching college basketball until football season ends. Although I am not usually in favor of changing the whole complexion of a sport, I think this could be the start of something great for college basketball.

 

(Photo Courtesy of SD Dirk/Flickr)

Legacy Lines – 11/20/15: Battle of the Rebuilds

The winter season is fast approaching, and college football winding down makes us realize that what we hold so dear will only be on for another couple of months. It seems just yesterday we were thumbing through the preseason lists and rankings trying to find a reason to believe in our team. Well, here we are a few months later and things are just heating up, despite the weather.

Thus far this season, we have seen a great deal of good football and bad football. Even though season’s end is near, we have the best football of the year yet to come. Now is the time when every team gets a little more hype and a little more anxious to make the postseason. Whether you are Virginia Tech trying to keep a bowl streak alive and send an historic coach riding off into the sunset, Tennessee hoping for some progress in what has become a disappointing season or the dominating Alabama team with a chip on their shoulder itching to get a rematch from last year, it is our favorite time of year.

Specifically, conference races are starting to end some seasons, while others’ dreams are just being realized. No matter where your team stands, it has come time to just sit back and enjoy the rest of the season. This starts with a great game on the slate this weekend, Michigan vs. Penn State. This is our Legacy Line game of the week, which will be played at noon eastern time on ABC. Even though this game isn’t being picked up in a primetime slot, it means a lot for college football in general.

First off, we are talking about 2 of the 10 greatest college football programs in history. They forged a name for themselves in the days where spread offenses weren’t even something anyone could fathom, much less design an offense around. Yet, through all the football seasons that these great teams played, they have only matched up a mere 18 times. The reason for this low amount of games is because Penn State didn’t join the Big 10 until 1993. Since then, there have been a multitude of thrilling games between these two teams, and this weekend is shaping up to be another barnburner.

Most of you know how massive these two powerhouses were in the 90s and early 2000s, they couldn’t be beaten. But, after two storied coaches left, there hasn’t been much to be excited about recently. Gone are the days when Joe Paterno or Lloyd Carr would walk the sidelines during this game, but instead, James Franklin and Jim Harbaugh are pacing them. Part of the reason this game is so important is because the winner will most likely be named ‘farthest ahead in their rebuild’.

At first glance, it would seem that Jim Harbaugh has the edge so far in the rebuild, but James Franklin is no chump. Franklin can recruit the lights out. While I would argue that Harbaugh is the better coach, they are both extremely strong motivators. Even though the players shouldn’t need help getting up for this game, their coaches will have them ready to go. This matchup could have serious conference and bowl implications, as Michigan and Penn State’s records are (8-2) & (7-3), respectively. You don’t want to miss out on this game.

In order to understand what to expect on Saturday, we need to get down to some x’s and o’s. In my opinion, this game is going to come down to who plays offense (& quarterback) most efficiently. Will it be Jake Rudock or Christian Hackenberg that makes a name for himself? Well, in short, I think Christian Hackenberg wins the quarterback battle, especially at home. While Michigan’s defense is no joke and Harbaugh will be coaching them up, I believe that Christian Hackenberg is ready to go out with a bang.

This will be his last game in Beaver Stadium as he will most likely enter the NFL draft after this year. That being said, he will come out ready to play. But, can the Michigan defense stop him? The short answer is yes, but only through pressure early. If the Nittany Lions can get a running game early and put Hackenberg in a good position to win, I am confident he will play well enough to come out on top. However, if the offense isn’t productive early, then they are in for a long day. Jim Harbaugh will have the Michigan defense extremely prepared for the matchup. Of course, I would be selling you short if I didn’t mention Penn State’s defense. It has the ability to grab some quick negative plays, especially on the defensive line. Carl Nassib is a big reason the Nittany Lions can win tomorrow. He is not only leading the nation in sacks, but he has over 100 yards lost on his sacks. That is simply amazing. The Michigan offensive line will be put to the test this weekend.

In the end, I think James Franklin’s team will be better and come out on top. However, it will be a close game, and most likely come down to the last few possessions.

34 – 27 Penn State Nittany Lions

 

(Photo Courtesy of Michael/Flickr)

Legacy Links – 11/17/15: The Final Push

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

With the college football season coming to a close, it is time for our Legacy Programs to give one last solid effort to make a decent bowl game. Even though we aren’t at the end of the season yet, this week and next will determine postseason play. For some teams, playoff hopes are still alive, but for the majority of Legacy Programs, this is their last chance to make their mark before they wind down towards a bowl game. Here are some important topics that fans should be following as the season fades away.

Alabama Crimson Tide

What keeps the talent level at Alabama above the rest of the nation? If you said dynamite recruiting, then you hit the nail on the head. Nick Saban knows how to recruit better than almost anybody else, but where he sets himself apart is by winning big games that recruits are watching. Recruits like to see wins, and that’s exactly what Alabama gave them against Mississippi State last weekend. Check out what the Tide’s recruits are saying about the win.

LINK – http://alabama.247sports.com/Article/Alabama-football-recruits-react-to-win-over-Mississippi-State–41126537

Even though Alabama made their last win look particularly easy, they have had problems of their own. From their quarterback situation at the beginning of the season to their injury problems, issues have been popping up out of nowhere. Here are a few things going forward that Alabama fans should keep in mind.

LINK – http://bamahammer.com/2015/11/16/alabama-football-learned-atching-alabama-vs-msu/

Penn State Nittany Lions

Sometimes, we can all get so caught up in the football season that everything else goes in one ear and out the other. Penn State athletics just partnered with a philanthropical organization on campus in order to help raise money for charity. THON, the organization paired with Penn State athletics, has decided that they will work with the athletic department so that some of the proceeds from ticket sales can go to charity.

LINK – http://www.collegian.psu.edu/opinion/editorials/article_518a6a80-8c9d-11e5-8b52-cf42483bbb89.html

Not this week, but the next week marks rivalry weekend for pretty much every college football team in the nation. For Penn State, they will play Michigan State in an annual bout that pits two storied programs against each other in a BIG battle. It was just announced that the game would be played at 3:30 on November 28th and will be televised by ABC or ESPN.

LINK – http://www.ydr.com/story/sports/college/penn-state/football/2015/11/16/penn-state-football-finale-kickoff-set/75896206/

Tennessee Volunteers

At the beginning of the season, most would have thought that Tennessee would convincingly beat Missouri. Now, the sentiment has changed completely. The Vols are expecting a massive fight from the galvanized Mizzou football team, which could spell trouble for the Vols. There is nothing more dangerous than a team that has nothing to lose.

LINK – http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/sports/college/story/2015/nov/17/vols-expect-good-fight-first-wagainst-missour/336061/

Throughout the first several games of the season, the natural grass in Knoxville looked more like a driving range full of divots than a football field. With many teams complaining about the field, including Butch Jones himself, there has been talk of artificial turf. Although Tennessee has had turf before, the fans will not want to change back form grass. Nonetheless, the university is looking into what they might have to do in the offseason.

LINK – http://www.knoxnews.com/govolsxtra/football/ut-looking-into-condition-of-grass-at-neyland-stadium_40386612

Texas Longhorns

This late in the season is the perfect time for the injury bug to start going around. And, for the Longhorns, it seems as if the injury bug is right on time. A few Longhorns are hurt and a couple are going to need more evaluation. The good news is that Texas has a bye week to do so. Check out who might be injured moving forward.

LINK – http://www.burntorangenation.com/2015/11/16/9743452/texas-longhorns-injuries-johnathan-gray-patrick-vahe-malik-jefferson

Since the beginning of the season, many people around the Texas program have questioned Charlie Strong. That questioning turned into a full-blown fire campaign when the Longhorns looked the worst they have ever looked in my lifetime. Now that Charlie Strong has a couple more solid victories under his belt, it might be time to hold off on the coaching change.

LINK – http://texas.247sports.com/Article/Texas-Longhorns-Why-Texas-fans-need-to-calm-down-Charlie-Strong-41135542

UCLA Bruins

The Bruins, who went from being playoff favorites with a freshmen quarterback (that’s why preseason rankings shouldn’t exist) to being contenders for the Pac-12 championship have found themselves in a good position to grab some recruits. The Bruins kept that going with a four-star offensive line recruit who announced his decision via twitter on Monday.

LINK – http://www.bruinsnation.com/ucla_recruiting/2015/11/16/9748230/boom-ucla-football-gets-commit-from-4-ol-mike-alves

Monday’s are always a topic of conversation on UCLA’s campus, but this Monday is slightly different. UCLA and their fans are being penalized too often. In fact, UCLA is one of the most penalized teams in recent years. Even though it looked as if things were changing earlier in the season, they weren’t. Can the Bruins right the ship?

LINK – http://www.bruinsnation.com/2015/11/16/9746378/spaulding-report-ucla-football-is-penalizing-themselves-and-their-fans

Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech will take on UNC on senior night this year. Not only will it be a game that could have bowl implications for the Hokies and playoff implication for the Tar Heels, but it will feature all black uniforms by the Hokies. Can VT send Frank Beamer out with an upset and bowl eligibility?

LINK – http://www.si.com/college-football/2015/11/17/virginia-tech-hokies-unc-tar-heels-all-black-uniforms

In what was an old fashioned Georgia Tech run-dominated game, Michael Brewer and the Hokies found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty, but they fought for their coach and themselves. Check out how it went down.

LINK – http://www.richmond.com/sports/college/football/article_b3f473d3-6752-5c12-bd28-cf3caad6c373.html

 

(Photo Courtesy of Matthew Tosh/Flickr)

Legacy Lines – 11/13/15: A Forgotten Rivalry

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

The lineup for this week’s Legacy Programs is weak, to say the least. Out of our six Legacy Programs, there were two games that seemed worthy of the Legacy Lines game of the week. These were Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech and Alabama vs. Mississippi State. Since the GT vs. VT game was played last night; I thought it would be better to go with Alabama vs. Mississippi State.

One thing I do want to say is that you missed a heck of a game last night when VT played GT. These two teams battled to the end and Virginia Tech came out victorious. While the end of the game was sloppy, the Hokies pulled it out and are one step closer to continuing their bowl game streak, which is the longest in the nation. The Hokies desperately need to send Frank Beamer out with a bowl appearance, it’s only fitting. The bad news is that Virginia Tech has to play North Carolina before their finale against Virginia.

When I glanced over the scheduled games this weekend, a few caught my eye, but one did so in particular. The Alabama vs. Mississippi State matchup has major playoff implications for the Tide, and for State, any win against Alabama reflects well on your program. So, I decided to make Alabama vs. Mississippi State game the Legacy Line game of the week. I did this partly because of the potential upset, but mostly because this is a rivalry, however lopsided it is.

If you asked Alabama fans who their rivals were, they probably would start with Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee. But, if you posed the same question to Mississippi State fans, the answer would probably be Ole Miss and Alabama.

Although this matchup of SEC West opponents hasn’t been a “rivalry” recently, there is no doubt that it has historical significance. This game has been played since 1896. That makes this rivalry one of the oldest in the SEC. It’s simply mind blowing that there have been 100 meetings in this rivalry.

As I mentioned before, this annual bout is rarely won by Mississippi State. Usually, if a team doesn’t win, then it isn’t considered a rivalry. I’m here to tell you that it is a rivalry, no matter how many wins State has. This series has all the qualifications of a rivalry, and here is the abridged version.

These teams are divisional opponents and they play every year. Not only do they play every year, but they are 90 miles apart, which makes these schools closer to each other than any other SEC programs. You might hear the game referred to the 90-mile drive, or battle for Highway 82, but that’s probably rare. The most unreal stat about this rivalry is that while Mississippi State has only won 18 games, they are tied with LSU for the most wins in Tuscaloosa. All in all, even though this series hasn’t really been competitive, it is a great SEC rivalry. Saturday will mark the next installment in the rivalry, but more importantly, it will help decide where Alabama finishes at season’s end.

Now, on to this week’s matchup. There is only one way the Bulldogs can win this game, and that is through the passing game. Mississippi State’s defense might be able to slow down Jake Coker, but I highly doubt they stop Derrick Henry. That being said, if the Bulldog defense can create some early turnovers, they definitely have a shot. On the opposite side of the ball, Alabama’s front seven is, again, amazing. Yeah, they might not have the pure talent that they usually do on the line, but they make up for it with proper technique. Mississippi State’s running game will serve as merely a decoy for most of the game. The Bulldog’s best chance to win runs through the arm of Dak Prescott. If Prescott can play like the Heisman candidate he once was, then they will be in the ballgame. However, if Dak goes out there and plays any way but great, I fear this one will get out of hand quickly.

At the end of the day, Alabama wins the game, but Dak will keep the Bulldogs in the game for at least a couple quarters.

34-20 Alabama Crimson Tide

 

(Photo courtesy of CJ Anderson/Flickr)

Legacy Links – 11/10/15: Moving Day

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

Last weekend was a thrilling week of college football. From the Thursday games, to the noon games, all the way to the LSU vs. Alabama showdown on CBS, Saturday was filled with drama. Not only did the overall schedule seem most pleasing, but our Legacy Programs went into the fire, and came back fairly unscathed. For perhaps the first and only time this year, all the Legacy Programs that played won. Of course, Virginia Tech was on a bye, but you can’t ask for much more from these historic programs.

Last weekend was a sort of moving day. Many teams had a chance to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, and some did. Others faded into the background after tough losses. No matter what happened to your team, we have some great storylines to get to.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Here we go again… Not even a few days after Alabama ran over LSU, people are back to talking about Alabama in the National Championship. Yes, I assumed that the Bama win would most likely bring on the media storm pushing the Tide through to the playoff, but was hoping it would wait. Since it didn’t, we have to talk about Alabama in the playoff right now. They look like one of, if not the best team in the country. It’s as simple as that. But, do we really want to see a rematch of last year? OSU vs. Bama. Personally, I would rather see Clemson vs. Alabama, but that’s just me. What do you think?

LINK – http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2015/11/college_football_playoff_mock_8.html

Leonard Fournette had the Heisman taken away by Alabama’s front seven on Saturday. Neither him nor his o-line could do anything productive against the Tide. It was actually a shame, especially after everybody and their mother were ready to crown Fournette the best running back of all time. While that may be an exaggeration, it isn’t that far off from the truth. At the end of the day, Alabama is who we thought they were, and Fournette is not. See how Fournette handled the loss Saturday.

LINK – http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2015/11/leonard_fournette_admits_alaba.html

Penn State Nittany Lions

James Franklin has been able to take a failing program and breath new life into it. On Saturday though, Franklin might have cost his team the game against Northwestern due to his clock management. Franklin failed to use his timeouts in the proper situation, which would have allowed the Penn State offense to have at least a chance in the end. Instead, they had to score with almost no time on the clock. Read what happened here.

LINK – http://www.collegian.psu.edu/football/article_c35623aa-877c-11e5-b408-d788e3494ab6.html

Penn State basically limped into their bye this week. They haven’t had a bye this late in the season in a long time. James Franklin’s team needs to get some serious health back in order to finish the season and make a run at a decent bowl game. Since the Lions are on a bye week, it might be good to look at some players who are performing well, but not garnering any attention.

LINK – http://www.statecollege.com/news/local-news/penn-state-football-the-other-guy-awards,1466002/

Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols won a close game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday. During the game, most people could tell that the grass playing surface wasn’t up to par. Keep in mind that it had rained for two weeks straight before the game, and the temperature has been changing drastically as well. While these are valid reasons for the turf problem, it begs the question, should they install turf again?

LINK – http://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/college/ut/2015/11/09/vols-dealing-neyland-stadium-issues/75451112/

The Tennessee Volunteers have been nothing short of decimated by injuries this year. It is always good when you can come out of a game with no injuries. With most of the team banged up, here is a look at who will and won’t be participating this week.

LINK – http://www.knoxnews.com/govolsxtra/football/injured-vols-expected-back-at-practice_79074794

Texas Longhorns

The power struggle has shifted from historically good programs to new fancy spread offense juggernauts. While Texas is the latest program to decline because of these powerful, sometimes in-state schools, they certainly won’t be the last. Can Texas regain what they once had?

LINK – http://www.theet.com/sports/wvu/texas-no-longer-among-football-elite/article_3ac3a4f2-5086-5592-9b6d-8869cef8b85b.html

I don’t know if Texas fans are excited about their upcoming matchup with the Baylor Bears, or if they would just like to skip the game, but I do know that it will be a tough test for the Longhorns. Even though Baylor has all the weapons, don’t ever count out a historical program. They might just surprise you. While I don’t think Texas will win, this would be the perfect trap game for Baylor, and there’s nothing more than Texas would like to do than put them out of the playoff. Here’s a look at the game and its’ early start time.

LINK – http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/college-sports/headlines/20151109-baylor-football-s-matchup-with-the-texas-longhorns-scheduled-for-early-start.ece

UCLA Bruins

If there’s one thing I love, it’s history. Whether you are talking about the Romans, a World War, or College Football, I can’t get enough of what has happened in the past. With that being said, I found an interesting article that compares what is going on with Mizzou this week with a situation UCLA had a little over a decade back. Check out what happened in LA during UCLA’s trying time.

LINK – http://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/la-sp-ucla-protest-plaschke-20151110-column.html

Monday’s are usually filled with robotic expressions from coaches and players about the team they face this week. When it comes to one UCLA player, the only one made available to the media, things can take an interesting turn. See what’s buzzing around UCLA.

LINK – http://www.bruinsnation.com/ucla_bruin_football/2015/11/9/9702328/spaulding-report-for-ucla-football-silence-is-golden

Virginia Tech Hokies

The school’s board of visitors honored Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer this week. Beamer coached this program for three decades, but it will come to an end this year when he steps down as football coach. Frank Beamer deserves every bit of attention he is getting, especially from a school close to his heart.

LINK – http://www.hokiesports.com/football/recaps/20151109aab.html

Virginia Tech will play Georgia Tech this Thursday night that will the last Thursday night game for Frank Beamer. While the program is being hit from all sides by the media, the distraction continues to grow for some players. Some players have gone so far as to say that they don’t really know what to think about. They all have a mixed bag of emotions tugging on them right now, but can they go out and play well?

LINK – http://www.dailypress.com/sports/virginia-tech/dp-spt-virginia-tech-football-back-to-work-1106-20151105-story.html

Legacy Lines – 11/6/15: The Battle for the South

The college football playoff is approaching fast,and bowl season will be upon us before we know it. Tuesday, the playoff committee released their first ranking of the season. For those of you who didn’t see, Clemson sits atop the poll with LSU and Alabama in the top 4. Although the biggest surprise of the poll was Notre Dame at number 5, there can be an argument for putting Alabama AND LSU in the top 5. Even though many people are upset with Bama being so high, the fact of the matter is they play LSU this weekend. That’s a game that will not only decide who should be in the playoff ranking, but could also determine which team gets to Atlanta.

Of course, the Alabama Crimson Tide will play the LSU Tigers in our Legacy Line game of the week. The matchup will be televised on CBS, but it will be a late game, with kickoff starting at 8 EST.

If you had said that LSU would be playing Alabama in a rivalry game that has playoff implications on the line, no one would have batted an eye. But since Alabama lost to Ole Miss and LSU came out of the gate on fire, the narratives have flip flopped from what we thought was going to be the case. Neither one of these teams can lose if they hope to make the playoff. This is going to be a great game.

LINK – http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2015/11/alabama_beat_column.html

As we get ready to look at some history surrounding this rivalry game, think about how many times these particular teams have played with something on the line. It happens just about every year.

LINK – http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2015/11/5/9674196/alabama-lsu-game-2015-preview-prediction-rivalry-history

As much as either team would like to deny that Nick Saban playing LSU, his former team, isn’t a big deal, I’m here to tell you that it is. Anytime you have a coach win at your school, it is a good thing. But when he decides it’s time to get out of dodge, he goes from lovable to hated. That’s just college football, at least with some of the bigger fan bases. While LSU fans are too nice to admit this, they don’t like Nick Saban anymore, they can’t. Not only did he leave LSU for greener pastures, but he came back to coach their rival. I’m no Tiger fan, but if that doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, nothing will. So here we are, Nick Saban vs. Les “The Mad Hatter” Miles squaring off in what is sure to be a barnburner. You better believe that LSU would love to beat Saban and roll into Atlanta, but I’m sure Nick Saban has some extra energy to coach with this weekend too. Keep up with this storyline, as you are most certainly going to hear more on the subject throughout the weekend.

LINK – http://www.winsipedia.com/lsu/vs/alabama

Now, let’s get down to the rivalry as a whole. First off, there have been 79 meetings, with Alabama winning 49 of them. Alabama currently holds a four-year winning streak against LSU, with the Tigers last win coming in 2012. Speaking of 2012, that year was one of the wildest SEC season and National Championship in history.

Most of you know the story, but need to hear it again. During the 2011 season, the LSU Tigers were ranked number 1 when they traveled to play the Tide in Tuscaloosa, in their annual matchup. That game ended in overtime, with a score of 9-6 LSU. Seriously, that was one of the greatest football games I have ever seen in my 24 years of life. Fast-forward a couple months and the BCS selects LSU and Alabama to play again, this time for the National Championship. In another game for the ages, Alabama pulled off a semi-convincing win to win the Natty. That was a historical moment for college football, as no one actually though the two teams would get a chance to play each other again that year. This story is just one of many games that have decided the SEC West for years now, especially the last decade.

Now it’s time to get down to football. LSU comes in with their highly touted running game ready to explode, not just Leonard Fournette. Don’t get me wrong, Fournette is a monster, but we must remember that LSU has other options as well to run the ball. Alabama, on the other hand, seemingly has found their quarterback and has a running game of their own. I see this game being a nasty battle in the trenches. I have little faith in Brandon Harris or Jake Coker to make a significant difference through the air, except to turn the ball over. Whichever team runs for the most yards will win this football game. While Alabama’s front seven is monstrous, they have a tough test against Fournette. Derrick Henry is no slouch either. He will hit you in the mouth, and LSU better be ready for it early and often. I do not think that Fournette will come close to the rushing total he has been averaging, but I do think he gets over 100 yards for the day, but barely. As long as Lane Kiffin doesn’t try to throw the ball too many times or get fancy, Alabama will come out on top. That being said, if either quarterback can get a passing game going, they have the better chance of winning. Although LSU has a lot of talent, I just don’t see Saban allowing Bama to lose this game.

LINK – http://www.nola.com/lsu/index.ssf/2015/11/lsu_qb_brandon_harris_coming_o.html

In the end, Derrick Henry has a better day than Fournette and the Tide roll.

24-20 Alabama Crimson Tide

Legacy Links – 11/3/15: Change Is Coming

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

If you looked at the entire football schedule for last Saturday, you would have been underwhelmed with the seemingly unexciting games. As it turns out, this past weekend has been one of the wildest weekends in college football this year.

It all started with the Miami vs. Duke game. After what looked like a lateral-filled win as time expired for the Hurricanes turned into a wildfire of blame for the referees of that game. Not only did the referee let the play go after there were multiple penalties and a knee on the ground, but they allowed Duke to lose on an illegal play. Although the officials have since been suspended, the damage was done. Replay and referees have been a major topic of discussion in the recent past, and this is just another blemish on the NCAA.

On top of all this controversy, Frank Beamer will be stepping down at the end of the season. While we knew it was just a matter of time, this comes as a surprise to many. With so many coaching positions open and more opening everyday, the coaching carousel is in full swing and might be grabbing a coach near you.

After a crazy weekend, here are the high points for our Legacy Programs.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Even though the Tide aren’t having a fairy tale season, they do still have a ton of great, talented players on their roster. I say this to reinforce the fact that while your team may be having a down year, you can still be proud of your players. Reggie Ragland is the perfect example of a guy who means a lot to his team and is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Ragland was named to the list of 10 semifinalists for the Butkus award, which goes to the best linebacker in the country.

LINK – http://www.rolltide.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/110215aaa.html

Alabama has a massive matchup this weekend against the LSU Tigers that most likely will determine which team wins the SEC West. I realize that Ole Miss is at the top currently, but they are going to lose here soon. For all the Alabama fans nervous about this weekend, here are some points you need to see ahead of the matchup.

LINK – https://www.seccountry.com/alabama/8-things-every-alabama-fan-needs-to-know-today

Penn State Nittany Lions

After a solid performance against a weak Illinois team, Penn State’s offensive coordinator is getting some high praise due to his recent success. While he is the man of the hour now, he hasn’t had many other positives this year. His offense has been terrible for the most part, in fact. The Nittany Lions has a tough game against a good Northwestern team this weekend that is a true test of what offensive coordinator John Donovan can do. Will he continue his recent success?

LINK – http://www.pennlive.com/pennstatefootball/index.ssf/2015/11/penn_state_offensive_coordinat_3.html

At one point this season, Northwestern looked to have a shot at the playoff picture, but turns out they aren’t as good of a football team as we thought. Well, Penn State isn’t exactly blowing good teams out of the water either. This will most likely be an ugly matchup set for a noon kick. Which team can take the momentum heading into the final few games?

LINK – http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sports/college/psunorthwestern.html

Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteer offensive is humming right now, and Kentucky was their latest victim. The entire Vol offense seems to be on the same page, especially one unlikely pair. Josh Malone has shown up the past few weeks as one of Josh Dobbs’ favorite targets. After coming in highly touted out of high school, Malone was going to be a bust. That is, until he decided to start running routes and catching the ball. Check out what this means next for the Vols.

LINK – http://tennessee.247sports.com/Article/Josh-Malone-rising-at-right-time-for-Tennessee-Vols-football-40756169

If the Vols win the rest of their games, then they would be improving on their season last year, barely. Although they are most likely headed to a bowl game, which bowl is still a huge question. Here are some early bowl predictions for Tennessee.

LINK – http://allfortennessee.com/2015/11/03/tennessee-football-week-10-bowl-projections-for-vols/

Texas Longhorns

There have been rumors surrounding the Texas program that Charlie Strong could be looking for a job next year. At least that was the case before he beat Oklahoma. Now, we are right back to where we started after Texas lost to an absolutely awful Iowa State team and got shutout. Charlie Strong may still be in good graces, but Texas losing to Iowa State cannot happen. I’m honestly surprised he wasn’t fired on the spot.

LINK – http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/college-sports/headlines/20151101-national-reaction-charlie-strong-running-out-of-time-for-longhorns.ece

As I mentioned, Texas got completely destroyed by Iowa State last weekend. The Texas offense has no identity, and Charlie Strong isn’t the guy that can remedy it either. When it comes down to it, Texas just isn’t a good football team, and they have been lucky to play well when they have. The Longhorns hope to forget this loss and move on.

LINK – http://www.burntorangenation.com/2015/10/31/9652568/texas-longhorns-0-iowa-state-cyclones-24-charlie-strong

UCLA Bruins

The Bruins have been riddled with injuries this season, and they have adopted a next man up mentality throughout the season. After more players went down, UCLA very nearly ran out of men to play. While Josh Rosen and company are showing promise, Mora has to find a way to keep people healthy. You are going to get hurt in football, but injuries can be prevented as well. Check out how the Bruins spun positives out of injuries.

LINK – http://dailybruin.com/2015/11/03/ucla-football-triumphs-despite-injuries-forcing-new-players-to-step-up/

UCLA will play Oregon State for the first time since 2012 this weekend. Due to poor scheduling, the two teams haven’t been able to face off against each other. What does this mean for the Bruins? It means they have no idea what to expect, and that could be dangerous.

LINK – http://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/la-sp-ucla-football-20151103-story.html

Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies will have a new football coach for the first time in almost 30 years. He has seen great triumphs and massive sadness throughout his career, and he has decided to step down at the end of the year. The Virginia Tech program has been in limbo recently, as everyone knew Beamer was on his way out; it was just going to be on his own time. He deserved that.

LINK – http://www.si.com/college-football/2015/11/01/virginia-tech-football-frank-beamer-retire-announcement

Since Frank Beamer will no longer be the coach of the Hokies, they must look elsewhere for someone to save this program. While Virginia Tech isn’t a top 10 program, they have a rabid fan base, and play in an easy conference. This job is appealing to many coaches, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a young fiery guy came in and started being successful. Where should Virginia Tech go from here?

http://www.richmond.com/sports/college/football/article_494b4324-55e9-505e-ac10-8cc67a4852bd.html

Legacy Lines – 10/30/15: College Football Should Never Change

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

It’s finally Friday again. The weekend has arrived again only to bring joy back into our living rooms as we watch our favorite teams fight for power in their conferences. Throughout the college football season thus far, we have seen pure elation and powerful sadness. It is an endless, repeating cycle, with some teams on the winning side and others going back home disappointed. While college football is largely about the wins and losses, it’s also about the passion, rivalries and moments you make on the field.

Of course when it comes to rivalries, during the game, the stands are full of hate for the opposing team, but once the final whistle blows things are normal again. That’s the beauty of college football. Every football fan out there has a team they pull for on Saturday, and sometimes, that team can make or break your year. It is truly intriguing that something so simple as a sport can transform a nation, but yet here we are.

Now, to focus us in on this weekend’s Legacy Teams, we must look at a few important games coming up on Saturday. Tennessee will face the Kentucky Wildcats in what could be a trap game for the Vols. The Vols are coming off of a tough matchup against Alabama (bye this week), and we all want to know if Tennessee is real and get a win. On the other coast, UCLA is taking on Colorado in a Pac-12 bout. Finally, Penn State must face Illinois on Saturday. Penn State will come out on top, but I have a feeling that Illinois is going to give them some fits.

Our Legacy Line game of the week is Virginia Tech vs. Boston College. Game time is set for 11:30 Saturday morning. This game does not have any playoff implications, but a win could turn around both teams’ seasons. These teams are a lackluster 3-5, and the road won’t get easier for either of them going forward. The best chance for one of these teams to make a bowl game would be to win this weekend, giving them only two more games to clinch bowl eligibility. Now, Boston College might have a little more on the line, as they desperately need their first conference win of the season. At the same time, Frank Beamer must get a win for a program that has gone from prominence to off the map. This matchup is poised to be a fun one.

Like we do every week, it is time to give some background on this fairly new rivalry that has transformed into a dogfight more recently. At first glance, you wouldn’t think that these two teams are rivals, but they have been since 1993 when they played their first game against each other. Even though Boston College won the first one, Virginia Tech has dominated the series, winning almost double what BC has. However, the last couple of years, Boston College has gotten the upper hand on the Hokies.

LINK – http://hamptonroads.com/2015/10/breaking-down-virginia-techboston-college-matchup

I believe this game will come down to quarterback play, which both of these programs know something about. It would be a travesty if I didn’t mention Doug Flutie’s miracle against Miami in the same thought as good quarterback play, because the future NFL quarterback was a monster during his time at BC. While Flutie was amazing, two greats of my generation, Michael Vick and Matt Ryan played for VT and BC, respectively. Although they didn’t play against each other, they led their teams to win after win on the gridiron. Michael Vick will go down as the best scrambling quarterback in history as well as a great overall field general. Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan will always be known as a clutch qb that could take his team down the field to win the game whenever he wanted. Even though these great players have moved on, their competitive character lives on in this VT vs. BC rivalry.

LINK – http://www.bcinterruption.com/boston-college-vs-virginia-tech-2015/2015/10/30/9640114/boston-college-vs-virginia-tech-film-study

This year both teams have had problems with their starting quarterbacks. Boston College has one out for the season and another with a concussion. They don’t have a starter as of now, but they are going to choose between two of their young guys. Troy Flutie, (yes, Doug’s son) who has been less than stellar this year, could get the start, but it is just as likely that the freshman walk-on John Fadule gets the nod. On the other sideline, Virginia Tech has had their own quarterback moments. The first game of the season, VT’s starting qb Michael Brewer, suffered a broken collarbone and was out for multiple games. Even though he is back, he still isn’t at full strength and will have a tough test on the road, in a tough environment.

LINK – http://espn.go.com/blog/acc/post/_/id/87525/boston-college-could-start-a-freshman-walk-on-quarterback-against-virginia-tech

As I said before, the road to victory will run through one of these quarterbacks. If Boston College can get up early through their passing game, then they have a great shot at the win because VT has been struggling offensively all season. Boston College has had their own serious issues offensively, but I think they can rally to have some sort of passing game against a depleted Virginia Tech secondary. As for Virginia Tech, with Michael Brewer on the field, they should move the ball early and often. VT will win this game if their offense can score. BC won’t be able to keep up with the offense and the only way BC wins is through defense, late.

LINK – http://nesn.com/2015/10/boston-college-home-underdog-against-struggling-virginia-tech-in-acc-clash/

Although these teams could end up scoring a bunch, I don’t see it actually happening this weekend. Instead, I picture a low scoring, defensive battle. In the end, Virginia Tech comes out on top, but it goes down to the wire.

Virginia Tech 20 Boston College 17