Kristen Botica (@OGKristenB) and Damon Del Rosario (@DamoKnowsSports) revisit some of the action from last weekend’s games, discussing what surprised them most during the first weekend of college football. They also discuss some of the early Heisman candidates after getting a taste for what this season may hold for the best athletes. And looking ahead to this weekend with less marquis matchups, they discuss a few of the games that are most intriguing to them.
After scouring Twitter and Google throughout the off-season for something to satiate my college football appetite, last weekend finally arrived. If the anticipation you went into that weekend with was anything like mine, it didn’t happen a moment too soon. And, like me, I’m sure you woke up Tuesday morning mesmerized by what you had witnessed all weekend long.
We had the chance to watch Wisconsin turn Les Miles’ and LSU’s world upside down. Can Leonard Fournette save Miles’ job?
There was that beat down that Alabama put on USC. Hey, look. Kiffin just dialed up another 4th down touchdown and Saban just hired another former head coach.
Texas may or may not be back on top of the college football world after beating a highly-ranked Notre Dame team. Was that Bobby Boucher quarterbacking the Longhorns? Ah, it was Bouchele.
And to top it all off, Florida State staged a furious comeback as the Seminoles beat Ole Miss behind a halftime pep talk from Jameis Winston that will rank right up there with that Gipper speech.
What. An. Opening. Weekend.
And now we come to Week 2. I’m sorry, but after that epic first weekend, I really thought my college football life would be different. Surely we’d find a few games that we’d not only circle but also plan our Saturday around.
You know what I’m talking about. Hit Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond, but only if there was time to squeeze it into our college football viewing schedule.
Week 2? You suck.
There isn’t a single game being played between two ranked teams. At least in the Week 1 matchups of ranked vs. unranked teams we had what I would describe as solid matchups. You know, games like LSU vs. Wisconsin or UCLA vs. Texas A&M.
Week 2 is setting up to be a big pile of disappointment.
Week 2 gives us the battle of the A&Ms as Texas A&M takes on Prairie View A&M. Sorry, but do the alumni of these two schools even care about this one? I didn’t think so.
There is some excitement behind the Virginia Tech vs Tennessee game, but it’s really a game based on fabricated fluff. All that can really be said about this game is that it’s being played at Bristol Motor Speedway. Terrific! A made for TV game.
I don’t watch college basketball games on aircraft carriers and I don’t care if I ever see another football game played in Yankee Stadium. So having a football game at a race track just doesn’t do it for me.
Here’s what you can expect my Saturday to look like. I’ll wake up, have my coffee and get my oil changed. I may even hit Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Who really knows? If there’s time, I’ll tune in to that Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee game. Why that game? Easy. Because I want to see the statistical masterpiece that Dobbs will create as his encore to his performance against Appalachian State.
Any follower of my writing here at Campus Pressbox knows that I am a fervent supporter of the so-called “Make the MAC Great Again” movement. If fact, I am its only supporter.
Like a proud mother, I lovingly birthed the “Make the MAC Great Again” movement just a matter of months ago, feeding it, burping it, cradling it in my arms. And while my love for all things #MACtion will never subside, I must momentarily abandon my precious child. It seems there is an orphan in need, and that orphan is the SEC.
That’s right. It’s time to Make the SEC Great Again.
While the Mid-American Conference was but a shy, forgotten child simply searching for its wings, the poor Southeastern Conference faces far greater psychological damage. Raised by two abusive, over-ambitious parents getting regularly ejected from their kid’s tee-ball games, the SEC was raised its whole life to pursue expectations it couldn’t possibly attain. Everybody pushed the SEC to be the star of its high school basketball team. But really, all the SEC wants is a callback for the school musical.
The SEC bottled up those insecurities for years, even decades. But once the 2016 season began, the SEC could no longer bear it. Last weekend, the SEC appeared unusually shattered and broken, meaning it’s time to pick up the pieces in a step-by-step diagnosis of a meltdown that was the SEC’s Week 1.
It all began Thursday night in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Joshua Dobbs proved his worth as an early-season Heisman contender. Sure, Appalachian State may have joined the FBS only two seasons ago, but that didn’t stop the Sun Belt heavyweights from taking the ninth-ranked team in the nation to overtime. Tennessee’s offensive line volunteered for a shellacking at the hands of a gritty Mountaineers unit. Even though they escaped with a narrow victory, the implication of an SEC offense only managing 1.4 yards per carry against a Sun Belt squad can’t be ignored.
Mississippi State blew a 17-0 lead, and they blew it against another Sun Belt team. Safe to say the #FunBelt wasn’t so fun for Dan Mullen on Saturday, as he should probably be out of a job this morning. South Alabama possessed the ball for 36 minutes and threw for 285 yards, nearly doubling Mississippi State’s meager 143 yards of production. They also incurred eight penalties and missed both of their field goal attempts, but the Bulldogs still could not prevail.
Shortly thereafter, the fifth-ranked team in the country forgot how to play offense. Even with Wisconsin gifting LSU three turnovers, the Tigers’ attack never kicked into gear. One offensive touchdown wasn’t enough to outduel the Badgers in an ugly, defensive showdown. LSU and Leonard Fournette couldn’t overcome their first-half struggles, resulting in a 16-14 loss at Lambeau Field.
Tennesee suffered a gashing on the offensive line. Mississippi State got out-passed by a mid-major. LSU got out-slugged by a Big 10 school. Aren’t all those elements supposedly hallmarks of the SEC?
The bleeding certainly didn’t stop there. Missouri predictably faltered against West Virginia. Arkansas needed a late, go-ahead touchdown to survive Louisiana Tech. Kentucky blanked the entire second half in a loss to Southern Mississippi. Florida entered the fourth quarter locked in a 10-7 battle against UMass- another FBS newbie. Auburn botched every single chance it had at beating Clemson. And as the icing on the SEC’s intervention cake, Ole Miss spoiled a 22-point lead against Florida State in primetime, Monday night.
While Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama all registered impressive victories, these were clear exceptions to a dismal rule. Excluding the intra-conference matchup between South Carolina and Vanderbilt (not that anybody cares about Vanderbilt anyway), the SEC went 6-6 in a Week 1 full of both high expectations and terrible competition.
The SEC was favored in nine of those contests. It fared an abysmal 4-8 against the spread. It appears the conference hit rock bottom.
For whatever reason, we keep expecting the SEC to be supreme on the college football landscape. It’s time to measure those expectations. A good conference, yes, but the SEC is just that: a good conference. Its quarterbacks are no better, its schedules are no tougher, and it should be no more guaranteed a playoff spot than any other conference.
Five or ten years ago, in the heyday of the BCS, it might be fair to claim that the SEC cornered the market on skill and talent. Today, when coaches like Urban Meyer inhabit the Big 10, when teams like TCU near triple digits on the scoreboard, and when players like Ed Oliver choose to enroll at Group of 5 programs, that’s no longer a fair claim.
SEC schools should be judged based on the merit of their play, not based on some media-driven pseudo-merit of the conference that they play in.
Those truths might be hard. But only through those hard truths can we begin the conference’s healing process. Only through those hard truths can we remind a bruised and battered SEC that it’s okay to be human. So this college football season, when you find yourself suffering through yet another three-hour dose of Verne Lundquist, take a moment to reflect on a movement for college football fans, coaches, and players across all conferences. We’re all in this together.
Being a great conference doesn’t require yelling and screaming about being great, it requires proving it on the field. It’s time to let the SEC know, because only then can we truly Make the SEC Great Again.
Unless you didn’t watch yesterday’s game or are an absolute Tennessee nut job, you probably understood that this article’s title is complete sarcasm. It isn’t even the first Saturday of the college football season, and it seems that we’ve already eliminated someone from the Heisman race. I mean, he’s not completely eliminated from contention, but I can say that Josh Dobbs’ performance Thursday night against Appalachian State has to be one of, if not the “worst opening game from a Heisman candidate” I’ve ever seen. So let’s talk about what the physical embodiment of Mighty Mouse‘s first game so awful, and what it means for the rest of his season.
To put it bluntly, Josh Dobbs did more to hurt his Volunteers than help them in their opening game of the season. In fact, I would more or less say that the Volunteers won Thursday night’s matchup despite the supposed Heisman candidate. To start, he completed just over 50% of his passes, with many of his incompletions being errant throws or just bad decisions. He had a horrible interception at the end of the first half, which was almost duplicated in the second half on another play. Plus, I managed more rush yard from behind my keyboard than the man many consider to be “the best dual-threat QB in the country”. His Offensive line, which looked like they forgot how to block for half the game, though didn’t do Josh any favors. Nevertheless, Dobbs is supposed to be a dual threat QB, and the fact that he got negative yards against a Sun Belt team was not great for his Heisman candidacy.
None of that, however, did as much damage to Dobbs’ Heisman hopes Thursday night than the play that actually lead to the Volunteers’ victory. Dobbs attempted an Elway-esque move as he dove towards the end zone, and to say it backfired would be an understatement. Luckily for Dobbs, Jalen Hurd was there to bail him out and prevented Dobbs from dealing with boatloads of scrutiny. Nonetheless, check back with me later, as I believe the image of Josh Dobbs having the life hit out of him may define the Volunteers season to come.
Okay, okay. So last night’s game wasn’t an R.E.M. level disaster for Dobbs, however, it certainly leaves him with a lot, like a non-metaphorical ton, of work to make up the rest of the season. If the Volunteers want to win half of their conference matchups, it will definitely need a lot more from Dobbs than what we saw last night. Now the Appalachian State game could be great for Dobbs, as now that he’s seemingly eliminated himself from Heisman contention, Dobbs may be able to take a deep breath and concentrate on just playing quarterback. I frankly expect him to come out and play very well next week against Virginia Tech, and I think we will see more of the 2015 version of Dobbs 1.
But, last night’s performance may also have the Roberto Aguayo effect on Dobbs, and with VT, Florida and Georgia in the next month, Tennessee fans need to pray that Dobbs won’t need to hire a psychotherapist like Aguayo did. Tennessee’s coaching staff needs to make sure that one bad game doesn’t get to their star quarterback, because as I said, they are absolutely going to need him for the rest of the season. That being said, I’m in the camp that the Volunteers should play the Mighty Mouse theme song at their practices until Dobbs gets his mojo back.
The Sun Belt is quite the oddball conference. Not only does it not have a conference championship game (one of only two conferences with that dubious distinction, shout-out to the Big 12), but it has an odd number of teams, 11. Oh and the Idaho Vandals are in the conference. I don’t know about you but when I think of sun, I think of Idaho.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore the conference in 2016. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern just joined the Football Bowl Sub-Division in the past couple years, and Georgia State didn’t even have a football team until 2010. Yet, all three of those teams finished in the top four of the conference last year and will compete to top Arkansas State, who won the conference with an 8-0 record in 2015. The Sun Belt may be the most interesting non-Power 5 conference this year, and here are its most intriguing games:
10. Georgia State @ Troy (Saturday, October 15)
Troy struggled to just three conference wins in 2015 but was competitive in its game at Georgia State. With 15 starters back the hopes at Troy are for improvement and to maybe challenge for the conference crown. It will take a while before we know if that’s a possibility because the Trojans toughest conference opponents come at the end of the schedule. This will be their first chance to show if they are legit or not.
9. Georgia Southern @ Western Michigan (Saturday, September 24)
Georgia Southern gave the Sun Belt some respect by dominating the MAC champion in its bowl game in 2015. They’ll look to set a similar tone this year when playing one of the MAC’s better teams in the Western Michigan Broncos. Many of the offensive stars return between these two teams for what should be an entertaining game of contrasting offensive styles.
8. Appalachian State @ Troy (Saturday, November 12)
Appalachian State rolled through most of its seven conference wins in 2015, but Troy was the one team that kept it close. The Trojans lost by just a field goal in a triple-overtime thriller on the road. They’re one of the few teams that will be as experienced as the Mountaineers and will look to return the favor this year on their own home turf.
7. Arkansas State @ Georgia State (Saturday, November 4)
After rolling through the conference undefeated last year, Arkansas State will be starting a new quarterback and returns just the eighth-most starters in the conference. Assuming they take a step back, they could at least upset Georgia State’s chances for the conference title in this late season showdown.
6. Appalachian State @ Tennessee (Saturday, September 3)
Before playing the Miami game, the Mountaineers will have a chance to make their first statement in the season opener at Neyland Stadium (7:30 pm est on SEC Network). The Volunteers have failed to live up to the hype the past couple years and Appalachian State is obviously no stranger to upsetting Power 5 teams.
5. Appalachian State vs. Miami (FL) (Saturday, September 17)
Appalachian State’s quarterback Taylor Lamb upped his touchdown total by 14 last year while not increasing his interception total at all. Lamb will lead an experienced Mountaineers team that went 11-2 last year in a home game against a perpetually disappointing Hurricanes squad. If the Canes play the type of undisciplined football they did last year, it wouldn’t be shocking to see App State pull off the win (ESPN/ESPN2 at Noon est).
4. Georgia State at Wisconsin (Saturday, September 17)
Georgia State gets a chance to make a real statement here. As previously stated, they have 17 starters returning to a team that made a bowl game last year. Wisconsin hasn’t been the same power it was a few years ago, and it’ll be coming off games against LSU and Akron to start the year. They’re in for a long day if they overlook the Panthers.
3. Georgia Southern @ Georgia State (Saturday, November 19)
These two football up-starts battle in what looks to be a budding rivalry. The schools were already considered rivals but since Georgia State has only had a football team for a few years, the real rivalry is just beginning. Helping breed a better rivalry is the fact that this game could have conference title implications.
2. Georgia State at Appalachian State (Saturday, October 10)
Last year was just Georgia State’s third in the FBS and yet it finished fourth in the conference and made a bowl game. This year they’ll try to build off that success and make a run at a conference championship with 17 starters returning. Last year was Appalachian State’s second year in the FBS after dominating the FCS ranks the previous few years, and it went 11-2.
1. Appalachian State at Georgia Southern (Thursday, October 27)
App State and Georgia Southern were two of the best teams in the conference last year, and with at least seven defensive starters back and the starting quarterback returning for each squad, 2016 should be no different. With Arkansas State taking a step back after their 2015 conference championship, this game could decide the champ this season.
September 1, 2007 is the reason that many college football fans became familiar with Appalachian State University.
That day, Armanti Edwards and the Mountaineers took a trip to Ann Arbor, MI and shocked the world with a 34-32 victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
Since then, Appalachian State has been rather quiet on the national level while they have moved from the FCS (formerly 1-AA) level to the FBS level.
This matchup against The Ohio University Bobcats will be their first postseason appearance at the FBS level.
This season ASU finished with a 10-2 record, finishing 7-1 in Sun Belt play. Their losses were by 31 on the road against Clemson and at home by 13 to eventual Sun Belt Champion Arkansas State.
On the other side, The Ohio University Bobcats finished their regular season with a mark of 8-4, good enough for second in the MAC East behind Bowling Green. Losses inside the conference for the Bobcats included Western Michigan, Buffalo, and MAC Champion Bowling Green. The other loss for Ohio was a close defeat on the road at the hands of the Minnesota Gophers.
One thing to watch in this game is how Ohio defends Appalachian State’s seventh-ranked rushing attack. The Mountaineers come in to the game averaging just under 269 yards per game on the ground, and the Bobcats are giving up nearly five yards per carry. Appalachian State should be able to capitalize on the relatively weak front seven from Ohio and move the ball at will.
Vegas has the Mountaineers as a seven-point favorite.
Earlier this season I warned you all not to sleep on the Mid-American Conference this fall. If you didn’t take my advice you missed an interesting first half to the 2015 college football season.
Let’s recap. Through seven weeks the following has happened:
Toledo and Bowling Green hit the road and beat Arkansas and Maryland in week two. Northern Illinois went the distance with top-ranked Ohio State in week three, falling to the Buckeyes 20-13 in the ‘Shoe. In week four, Bowling Green beat Purdue to earn its second road win over a Big Ten team. The last three weeks have seen #19 Toledo and Bowling Green go undefeated in-conference.
These two Northwest Ohio schools are off to a great start this season. While the Falcons and particularly the Rockets have enjoyed the bulk of the overall success, just about every team has something to be happy about. Here are some of the impressive ways that members of the MAC are standing out nationally.
Toledo is one of 10 teams in the nation that have surrendered less than 100 points this season (Duke, Michigan, Appalachian State, Wisconsin, Boston College, Toledo, Temple, Missouri, Florida State, NC State), and one of only six that’ve allowed fewer than 80.
The Rockets have given up just eight touchdowns this season. Only Duke has given up fewer. Of those touchdowns only two have come through the air, tying Toledo with Northwestern for the least in that category.
Kent State is one of only 10 teams that have held opponents under a 50 percent completion rate. They and Northern Illinois are tied for seventh in the nation with 11 interceptions.
Linebackers Austin Valdez and Trenton Greene of Bowling Green, and Dylan Evans and Jatavis Brown of Akron are the only pairs of teammates in the FBS with at least 60 tackles each. All four are in the top 20 in tackles.
Bowling Green is one of just six teams in the nation that have scored more than 300 points (Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Western Kentucky, Ole Miss, Bowling Green). The same six are the only ones who’ve scored 40 touchdowns or more.
Northern Illinois has rushed for 21 touchdowns, tied for fifth in the country. With 13 rushing touchdowns, NIU’s Joel Bouagnon is just one behind FBS-leaders Leonard Fournette and Greg Ward Jr. Eastern Michigan’s Darius Jackson is tied for eleventh with 10 rushing scores of his own.
The MAC has some of the most prolific passers in college football.
With BG’s Matt Johnson, Central’s Cooper Rush, UMass’s Blake Frohnapfel, and Western’s Zach Terrell, the MAC has three of the country’s top 20 passers in terms of completions, completion percentage, passing touchdowns and passing yards per game.
Frohnapfel is a single passing yard shy of being the third MAC QB in the top 20 in that category as well.
Somebody’s got to catch those passes for the quarterbacks to be so successful. The MAC is also home to some of the most statistically impressive receivers.
BG’s Roger Lewis is one of two players in the nation with over a thousand yards receiving.
Tajee Sharpe (UMass) and Daniel Braverman (W. Mich) rank one-two in the FBS in completions, and nine-ten in receiving yards. Lewis, Sharpe and Braverman are third, sixth and seventh in receiving yards per game. Sharpe and Braverman are two of only three players who average 10 catches a game. Lewis comes in ninth with almost eight.
Braverman and Lewis are tied for fourth in the FBS with nine touchdown grabs.
Akron’s Jerome Lane and Toledo’s Cody Thompson are two of six players averaging north of 23 yards per catch.
Five of the nation’s top 20 kick returners, in terms of yards, play in the MAC. Freshman defensive backs James Olipahnt (UMass) and Emmitt Thomas (C.Mich), NIU’s Aregeros Turner, Western Michigan’s Darius Phillips and Ball State’s Darian Green have all done an excellent job fielding kicks.
Ball State’s Morgan Hagee has made more kicks than any other freshman in the country. His 12 made field goals tie him for sixth in the FBS.
Bowling Green’s Tyler Tate is tied for third with 39 made extra points.
Joel Bouagnon, Darius Jackson, Daniel Braverman and Roger Lewis are all in the top twenty in total touchdowns.
Roger Lewis and Darian Green are responsible for at least 1000 all-purpose yards. They’re two of only fifteen who can say that so far this season.
Cooper Rush is twelfth in the nation in total yards.
Matt Johnson leads all FBS players in total yards and yards per game. He needs two measly yards to get to 3000.
Basically, by not watching MAC football you’re missing out. Not to worry though, in just a couple weeks we’ll start dedicating Tuesday nights to watching all the aforementioned teams and players go head-to-head.
#MACtion starts Tuesday, November 3 with Northern Illinois at Toledo. Then two weeks later Toledo heads to Bowling Green for a probable conference championship preview.
Ohio State got declared the unanimous number one, best team in the country who should probably just be handed the championship trophy. They’ve looked less than dominant against three lesser opponents. What everyone touted as an embarrassment of riches at quarterback has turned into a muddled mess at a team’s most important position.
Northwestern is 3-0. Northwestern! 3-0! And it’s not like they’ve played St. Mary’s Hair Cutting School for the Blind. They knocked off Stanford who after taking care of then 6th ranked USC is again ranked themselves. I’m usually on the soapbox for the Wildcats, saying they’re usually underrated and underappreciated. However nobody expected them to be ranked 17th in the nation even this early.
The weirdness isn’t just contained to the Big Ten though.
BYU lost their starting quarterback and then won two consecutive games on wild last plays.
Jacksonville State went to overtime against Auburn and came within a few inches of sending it to double overtime.
Toledo took down highly touted Arkansas and sent them into a tailspin that will probably eventually cost head coach Bret Bielema his job.
Sorry, things kind of got away from me for a moment there. So with all this weirdness going on, why not bring some of that to Ann Arbor?
We’ve already got a little bit of weird infecting the Wolverines. Ever since Jim Harbaugh has arrived at the University of Michigan, things have seemed a little off.
An offense that struggle to move the ball last season has suddenly found some life. Despite only adding a transfer quarterback and losing basically their own receiver from last season in Devin Funchess, the offense has scored 17, 35, and 28 in their three games so far. The run game that could be described as anemic at times last season already has two guys chugging along in De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac with Drake Johnson starting to build steam as well.
The defense that was at least above average last year has only allowed an average of 12.7 points per game which is tied for 13th in the nation. That’s a little weird, right? It’s mostly the same guys as last year plus a healthy Jabrill Peppers. Peppers is looking like he’s going to be a star but the defense is holding passers to an average of 144 yards per game and has only allowed two passing touchdowns this season. I don’t know how you figure it out but the University of Michigan ranks 7th in Total Defense.
So with all the weird going on this season, why not let the dreams grow in Ann Arbor?
The Wolverines get the surprising Northwestern Wildcats and the rival Michigan State Spartans at home. Northwestern may or may not be for real and the Spartans don’t seem to have that dominant defense that they’ve had in years past. Minnesota took a step back and Penn State is a mess.
Then there’s the less than mighty Ohio State Buckeyes who might or might not be undefeated going into the last week of the regular season. Michigan seems to be trending up and the Buckeyes are treading water at best, possibly trending down. So you know what, why not get weird?
I’m not saying anything or predicting anything. I’m just a guy pointing out that it’s kind of been a strange year so far. College football has a way of providing great stories and magical moments when you least expect it.
Boise State in 06.
Appalachian State in 07.
Manti Te’o and his fake dead girlfriend in 2012.
Johnny Football was the first freshman to win the Heisman in 2012.
A third-string QB leading his team to a National Title in 2014.