Tag Archives: Boise State Broncos

Virginia Posts a Strong Performance in Boise

Is the Virginia football jinx dead? (Gasp!) Thinking such things seems outlandish, risky, and maybe even blasphemous. Serious consideration of such a possibility is premature. However, the thought occurred to me as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Virginia’s improbable 42-23 victory Friday night.

Winning football games is hard. Winning football games against good programs on the road is harder still. Over the past 10 years, Boise State has won 110 games. The Broncos have beaten teams that Virginia only dreams of beating – Oklahoma, TCU, and Virginia Tech among them. I don’t know if this year’s BSU team is up to the usual Broncos’ standard, but I do know that on Friday night, Virginia took a good Boise State program to the woodshed.

Contrary to the Las Vegas betting line of 13 points in favor of the Broncos, I had a good feeling about Virginia’s chances against BSU. In its first 3 games of the ’17 season, Virginia had really cleaned up their play. Turnovers, penalties, and mental errors were way down from what the Virginia faithful had come to expect from the Cavaliers. The turnover trend was positive for Virginia. It seemed like the Cavaliers were on the brink of putting things together for the first time in many years.

My good feelings about Virginia’s chances to win were converted into assured confidence for victory on one critical turn of events in the first half. As any Virginia fan knows, the probability of converting fake punts and on-sides kicks is very low…except against Virginia. In recent years, conversion rates against Virginia for these plays has been the inverse of the rest of the football universe. Virginia football of the past 10 years gives up the trick play. The Virginia team Friday night did not and quickly converted the resultant opportunity into points.

That’s what good teams do. They take advantage of their opponent’s miscues. They make them pay. Virginia’s inability to do this with any consistency the past 10 years is why they have a 10+ year losing streak against Virginia Tech. It is why Virginia has been absent from the bowl picture 8 of the last 9 seasons. Now, for 2 weeks in a row, when Virginia’s opponents have made mistakes, Virginia has capitalized and won in convincing fashion.

Equally encouraging, and also swimming against the traditional Virginia currents, the ‘Hoos never took their foot off the gas against Boise State. Despite a couple of late game blunders after victory was in the bag, Virginia played to win for 60 minutes. Well conditioned Virginia fans, in any game where Virginia leads, start doing the math in their heads when it looks like Virginia might win. How many touchdowns does the opponent need to score divided by the time remaining…and what is the probability of the making the needed scores in the remaining time? No matter how improbable, Virginia fans have a fatalistic feeling anytime a win looks possible. Think Notre Dame. Think Louisville. Think Michigan, Texas, UNC, and a host of others.

Friday against BSU, Virginia was as focused and aggressive in the final minutes of the game as they were at the start. It was clear that Virginia’s players were intent on this win, on making a statement, that they were not going to let this one get away. How refreshing. How encouraging.

Friday’s win was a good win. The challenge now is stringing together multiple good wins to become a good team. Virginia gets an extra week off to rest and prepare before a solid Duke team comes to Charlottesville. This is an important game. It’s at home. It comes off a bye-week. It comes on the heels of 2 strong wins. Good teams win this game. Virginia gets a chance to take another step towards becoming a good team in 2 weeks.

Is the Virginia football jinx dead? Is the curse of Al Groh finally broken? It seems risky to ponder such things. When seeking guidance in life on important questions…investment advice, house purchase decisions, predictions on the fortunes of Virginia football, I find the Magic 8-Ball as good of source of truth as any.

Magic 8-ball, is the Virginia football jinx and the curse of Al Groh dead? “Concentrate and ask again”

Magic 8-ball, is the Virginia football jinx and the curse of Al Groh dead? “Signs point to yes”

Even though the Magic 8-ball said “my reply is no” when I asked if I should sell Sun Microsystems at $ 75/share many years ago, I think it is on the right track now, as is Virginia football.

I hope Virginia fans reward their team in 2 weeks by coming to the game, not just the tailgate. This team is vastly improved over last season. In Bronco Mendenhall’s culture of earned not given, this team has earned increased fan support. Let’s do what we can to deliver.

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 8

Welcome back to week 8 of Campus Pressbox’s Playoff Rankings. We are back to full force this week. As always, any previous rankings can be found right here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

Every single position in this week’s rankings changed hands, except for the No. 1 spot. Alabama continued to show its dominance by beating top 10 Texas A&M by 19 in a game that was never truly even close. It is honestly hard to tell if any team in college football can compete with the Crimson Tide, much less win the game. Nick Saban continues to build incredible teams year after year, earning the highest praise from everyone, including Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson. The only crack in the Tide’s armor is the surprisingly tight 5-point win over Ole Miss (a team that is now below .500). LSU and Auburn are the only true challenges left for Alabama. 2016 Alabama is the biggest shoo-in we have seen in the three years of the College Football Playoff.

  1. Washington Huskies (4)

Remember when we all shook our heads at Chris Petersen when he left perennial Group 5 powerhouse Boise State, a team, no, a program that he had built with his own two hands, for the miserable Washington Huskies, whose national ranking had not risen into the top ten since the AP preseason poll of 2002? Well, Peterson has gone and proved all of us, myself included, wrong. Peterson has turned the Huskies into a mammoth powerhouse in only three years as head coach. Only a single one of Washington’s current wins has been by less than 24 points. That is a ridiculous statistic. Next week is Washington’s largest remaining challenge, a showdown in Salt Lake City against the 17th ranked Utah Utes. Washington has shown nothing to prove that it won’t treat the Utes the same as Oregon, Stanford and every other team the Huskies have left desolated in their wake. However, because Utah is a very good team, we will hold off on defining Washington’s CFP aspirations until Sunday morning.

  1. Michigan Wolverines (5)

The Beneficiary of this week’s “lucky dog”, Michigan was able to get back on the lead lap after Ohio State lost in Happy Valley on Saturday night. Michigan finally controls its own destiny and will most likely take big advantage of this fact. Like Washington, the Wolverines have proved ridiculously dominant (against sub-par opponents) and have shown no reason to believe Michigan won’t make it to Columbus, Ohio undefeated. And, frankly, there is also no reason to believe that the Wolverines won’t leave Columbus at a perfect 12-0.

  1. Clemson Tigers (3)

Clemson was off this week, and got passed up by Michigan as the Tigers’ win the previous week over N.C. State was, how should we say, uninspiring. Clemson has been very inconsistent in its play this season, and the Tigers need to be sure to come to play this week, or the Florida State Seminoles will walk all over Clemson’s playoff dreams.

  1. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

Just like the cliché of the teenage daughter getting caught coming home late by her parents, Ohio State left the weekend bawling. The only way to appropriately describe what happened to Ohio State on Saturday is the word embarrassing.  The Buckeyes failed to show up in Happy Valley, and Penn State made Ohio State pay big time. This is the same Penn State team, mind you, that lost to the Michigan Wolverines by 39. I guess if you are the Buckeyes, you just try to block the previous week’s nightmare from your memory and start prepping for Michigan, whom the Buckeyes would actually prefer to be undefeated going into week 12.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (7)

If anyone was wondering: Yes, the Louisville Cardinals do still exist. It seems like many people seemingly forgot and/or dismissed the Cardinals after the loss to Clemson. However, Louisville is still just as dominant as the week it beat Florida State by 43. That being said, Louisville may not get a second chance, unless Clemson loses this weekend. If that does happen, you may ask, “Well what happens now?” The answer, my friends, is chaos.

  1. Baylor Bears (9)

Baylor hasn’t beaten anyone spectacular thus far, but the undefeated record plus the win over SMU, who would go on to beat Houston, allow the Bears to jump over the third best Big Ten team, Nebraska. Even if Baylor wins out, which is pretty unlikely in my opinion, the Bears and the Big 12 will be the odd ones out of the Playoff. The question going into this season was which Big 12 or Pac-12 team would be good enough to make the playoff, a category that Washington clearly leads over Baylor by a wide margin.

  1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8)

Hey, its everyone’s favorite top ten team without a good win over a solid opponent. I’m going to keep this brief people. Nebraska, needing a statement win, is going to lose to Wisconsin this weekend and then turn around and lose to Ohio State the next. Well, “Why put Nebraska in your top 10?” you might ask. Well, the truth is, I have no earthly idea. I guess, somewhere in my mind, it is more fun to give Nebraska the benefit of the doubt only to watch the Cornhuskers struggle. What can I say, I love good, old fashioned, schadenfreude.

  1. West Virginia Mountaineers (10)

West Virginia has been fighting to make a name for itself the entire season. The Mountaineers already have a plethora of solid wins, including victories over Missouri, BYU, and TCU (my preseason pick for Big 12 champion). It will be interesting to see if the Mountaineers can keep pace now that they have the public’s attention. West Virginia needs to prove itself more as a Washington and less as a Miami, who dropped its first game after gaining public attention.

  1. Florida Gators

There were a good number of teams who could’ve easily gotten the No. 10 spot on this list. However, I believe the Gators are the best of the bunch. Florida’s defense is second in the nation only to Michigan, and has made opposing offenses cry themselves to sleep. Despite the Tennessee meltdown (which was largely due to the offense’s inability to stay on the field in any way, shape or form) the Gators have been impeccable this season. Not to say Florida has very much of a chance against Alabama, but the Gators now control their own destiny, which gives them the advantage over any of our honorable mentions.

Drop Outs and Honorable Mentions

Texas A&M, this weeks sole dropout, is also one of the top honorable mentions. Along with Wisconsin, Florida St., and Boise St, all the honorable mentions have one thing in common. Despite all of the big wins and even bigger abilities, none of these teams are in control of their own destines, keeping them off this week’s list.

 

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @uf_goetz
Image courtesy of Sam Howzit – Flickr
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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 7

Welcome back to the Campus Pressbox College Football Playoff Rankings. This week’s rankings are an abbreviated version, but we will be back to full force next week. As always, you can find  previous weeks’ rankings here.

Rankings

1.  Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

2. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

3. Clemson Tigers (3)

4. Washington Huskies (4)

5. Michigan Wolverines (5)

6. Texas A&M Aggies (6)

7. Louisville Cardinals (7)

8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8)

9. Baylor Bears (10)

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

 

Drop Outs

Wisconsin Badgers (8)

Honorable Mentions

Florida State Seminoles, Boise St. Broncos, Florida Gators, Tennessee Volunteers, Western Michigan Broncos.

 

Games to Watch This Weekend

Texas A&M @ Alabama

Everyone is in agreement that the Top 10 showdown between A&M and the Crimson Tide is by far the best game this weekend. It should and will most likely decide who wins the SEC West. Obviously, that team will also be the favorite to win the SEC championship and to advance to the CFP. Alabama has shown neither remorse for its opponents nor any signs that the heavy schedule is having any effect on the team. For that reason, it just makes too much sense that Alabama will be able to overcome the surging and surprisingly good Aggies.

North Carolina State @ Louisville

N.C. St. surprised everyone last week when they kept pace with Clemson. The Wolfpack was only a field goal away from a huge upset, but was unable to pull it off. However, Louisville still needs to be wary. The Wolfpack may be a bit melancholic after last week, but there is a chance State comes out looking for blood. If that happens, Louisville could be in some trouble. Louisville just needs to be ready to play, and I’m sure Lamar Jackson will take care of the rest.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @uf_goetz
Image Courtesy of Aparkswv – Wikimedia Commons
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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 6

Welcome back to the sixth installment of Campus Pressbox’s weekly College Football Playoff rankings. As always,  rankings from the previous weeks can be found here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

Alabama had a nice, quality 19-point win over Arkansas to start the Crimson Tide’s “October of Hell”. Still on the slate for ‘Bama this month is Tennessee, Texas A&M, and LSU. The Arkansas game should be a foreshadowing of how the rest of the month plays out, but if the Crimson Tide play less than stellar for one minute this month, anyone of those three teams could easily steal a game. The real question is which one of them will. Alabama remains the top pick in just about everyone’s book for the College Football Playoff.

  1. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

The Buckeyes handled themselves well in what many, including myself, considered a trap game against the Indiana Hoosiers. The schedule will continue to get more difficult as the Buckeyes move deeper into their Big Ten conference schedule.  Madison, Wisconsin awaits this weekend, in what could be the first true test for Ohio State following the blow out in Norman, Oklahoma in week three. Really, it will provide the Buckeyes’ offense a chance to face off against one of the top defenses in the country. The Buckeyes are on the right path for the CFP.

  1. Clemson Tigers (3)

Clemson’s Friday night dismantling of Boston College was missed by most, but the 46-point win was impressive nonetheless. The Eagles simply stood no chance against a team that truly proved itself the week prior against Louisville. And though Dabo Swinney still has some qualms about the Louisville game, the fact of the matter is that Clemson is in the driver’s seat now.  If Clemson can get through the Florida State game in two weeks, there may be no stopping the Tigers from walking away with an undefeated record for the second consecutive year.

  1. Washington Huskies (4)

Washington surprised most when beating Stanford by a wide margin, but the surprise was dulled this week as the Huskies put up 70 points against Oregon. None of the games left on Washington’s schedule are push overs, but none of them are necessarily challenges either. And the fact of the matter is that Houston’s loss over the weekend helped solidify the Huskies’ Playoff spot. As long as the Huskies can manage to walk away from the season with one loss or less, they will occupy the final spot in this year’s Playoff.

  1. Michigan Wolverines (5)

Do you like cheap, high quality steak? Because the Wolverines sure do. Michigan beat Rutgers 78-0. Frankly that score tells it all. Everyone has the right to feel bad for Illinois, the next team in the way of the bulldozing Wolverines. Michigan players and fans still only have November 26 circled on their calendars, however. In terms of Playoff hopes, the Ohio State game is all that matters.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies (7)

Despite the fact that the Aggies tried to choke the game away near the end, Texas A&M still wound up beating Tennessee in double overtime. Though many attribute the game to the Volunteers mistakes, the Aggies consistent, solid play should not be overlooked. In terms of Playoff hopes, next weekend’s game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa is an obvious must win for A&M.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (8)

Louisville was off this weekend, but moved up due to Houston being eliminated from the Playoff by Navy. Duke shouldn’t provide the Cardinals too much of a challenge Friday night, but it certainly is a trap game. As for now, unless things change pretty drastically, the Louisville Cardinals are outsiders and need a lot to change to achieve a Playoff berth.

  1. Wisconsin Badgers

Literally so many teams lost this past weekend that Wisconsin, on a bye, immediately following a loss to Michigan, snuck its way back into the top 10 behind Louisville. I say snuck in, but there are two more teams below the Badgers, emphasizing how weird this past weekend was. Wisconsin probably will follow last week’s pattern and be the next No. 8 team to fall out of the top 10, as the Badgers have to beat Ohio State to stay in any type of Playoff contention. Frankly, what the Badgers truly need, more than anything else right now, is some offense. Without it, they may get trampled on Saturday.

  1. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska, without any impressive wins, is a top 10 team. The Cornhuskers beat Oregon by three points. Yes, the same Oregon squad that Washington beat by 49 points. That really emphasizes the difference in abilities of the teams at the top of this list opposed to the teams at the bottom. Nebraska really needs to ramp up its play to have any chance against teams like Ohio State. Any hope that Nebraska has at a Playoff berth will surely be squashed on the Cornhuskers’ trip to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Buckeyes the first weekend of November, if not before.

  1. Baylor Bears

Baylor, just like Nebraska, has had no “impressive” victories this season. Despite that fact, the Bears are the current favorite to win the Big 12. However, the coaching staff’s current behavior could widen the gap between the administration and the team, potentially causing some locker room incidents. If it manages to win the conference with 1 loss or less, Baylor could be a factor in the Playoff race.

Dropouts and Honorable Mentions

Houston, following its loss to Navy, has officially been eliminated from the Playoff. Unless something drastic happens, the Cougars’ place on the list (or even the honorable mentions) will not exist. Tennessee and Miami both dropped from the top 10 following losses, but both are still worthy of honorable mentions this week. The final honorable mention this week goes to the undefeated Boise St. Broncos.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected]

Photo: wikipedia

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The Cartel and the Mid-Majors, Why Scheduling Matters

Imagine pulling for a team that can’t possibly win a championship, and not just because they aren’t good enough.  In College Football, it might literally be impossible to even qualify for a championship based on the company we keep.  Because of that, and that alone, it falls on the schedule-makers at Nobody U to make said program outside the Cartel relevant to the national conversation.

That’s not to say any of the participants from “non-qualifying” conferences ever really diluted the product, quite the opposite, in fact.

Boise State was the nation’s only unbeaten team from the 2006 season. The Broncos had to ‘settle’ for that historic Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.   Meanwhile, one-loss Florida took down Ohio State in the bigger game on that same field in Arizona a week later.  After Boise State’s 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma, their quarterback was asked if they deserved a title shot, and he said he thought so.  He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t quite all-the-way right either.

That perfect Boise State squad scheduled Division I-AA Sacramento State, a 10-win Oregon State team, Wyoming, and Utah in a down year, out of conference. None of their Western Athletic Conference rivals were ranked at the time of their game against the Broncos or the end of the season, so it was very difficult to argue their body of work against that of Ohio State’s or Florida’s for a spot in the two-team playoff.  Being undefeated basically became the standard for the Broncos, but even non-league wins over Oregon, Virginia Tech, and Georgia were not enough for National Championship consideration.  Playing other mid-majors in 8 or 9 contests per year, it impresses no one.

What are the contenders in the American, Conference-USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt doing to chase down more than just small conference glory? What type of 2016 schedule might qualify these nobodies for the very exclusive tournament that College Football uses to crown its champion?

American Athletic Conference

The geography of this league lends itself to some really good non-conference games, as SMU gets backyard games with TCU and Baylor, but the team with a schedule worthy of national consideration is Houston.  Sure, they’re playing Lamar, and I will not support any playing of FCS opponents by teams that want to be the best of the FBS, but I’ll let it go for Oklahoma and Louisville.  The Sooners and Cardinals will both play Houston in Houston, which should be good enough if they survive the AAC.

Conference USA

Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) is going to attract the big boys to the Alamo Dome, but they will usually have to reciprocate with a road game. This year, they host Arizona State in September and take a trip to College Station, where Texas A&M will host them in November.  Don’t expect competitive games.  I might like Marshall’s gauntlet of ACC adversaries, if they weren’t coming immediately after an opening slate of Morgan State and Akron. Like Marshall, Western Kentucky will be taking on Louisville, but we’re focused on their Week 2 matchup. They’ll tussle with Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, so should there be a running of the table, the Hilltoppers may get to dance.

Mid-American Conference

There might be a case to be made for Northern Illinois, but Bowling Green accompanies their visit to Columbus to play Ohio State with solid mid-major matchups against Middle Tennessee State and Memphis. They’ll see both NIU and Toledo in conference play, games they need to win for anyone to take them seriously, especially if Ohio State doesn’t boat-race them in the opener.

Mountain West

Boise State will make headlines in some markets with their Pac-12 opponents, at home against Washington State and in Corvallis versus the Oregon State Beavers, but BYU may give them their biggest challenge. However, it is the much traveled Hawaii Rainbow Warriors that play Cal, Michigan, and Arizona.  Those are all long-ish to long road trips against 2016 teams that are much better than their 2015 counterparts.

Sun Belt

If I skipped this section or listed FCS schools in this paragraph, would you even notice?

On a serious note, Troy plays Clemson, which is cool, but it’s off-set it is by playing the dregs of the FBS in Idaho. Austin Peay and Southern Miss don’t move the needle for me either, looking at the Trojans schedule. However, our eye is on Appalachian State.  The team best known for upsetting Michigan in 2007 is going FCS-free in ‘16, visiting the best Tennessee Volunteers team anyone has seen in years, and they convinced The U to come to Boone, North Carolina. The Mountaineers have already won, if you ask me.

At the end of the day, if we’re talking about those four lines and those two semi-final games, to open our game’s championship up to the anyone outside of the Cartel, it’s probably Houston.

E-mail Jeff at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ByJeffRich.

(featured photo via Sporting News.com)

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The Mountain West’s Best Football Games of 2016

The Mountain West has taken quite the fall from grace. Just ten years ago things looked great, as it was the dominant non-BCS conference. With TCU and Boise State challenging for BCS title appearances, and Utah and BYU very solid programs as well, there were years the MWC was better than some BCS conferences.

Now, Boise State is the only of those four teams still around, and even the Broncos have fallen back to the pack with former coach Chris Petersen now at Washington. It has left a less interesting conference, albeit one that is much more competitive. San Diego State ran away with it in 2015. Will that change this fall? Here are the ten games that will shape the Mountain West in 2016.

10. Fresno State @ Nebraska (Saturday, September 3)

Fresno State wasn’t very good last year, but Nebraska hasn’t exactly been dominating since joining the Big Ten, either. It’s a long shot, but the Bulldogs would earn the Mountain West a huge amount of respect if they can knock off the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on the season’s opening weekend.

9. Utah State @ Boise State (Saturday, October 1)

The unfortunate Chuckie Keeton era is over at Utah State, but replacing him won’t be the Aggies biggest issue. Kent Myers played a good chunk of the season last year and finished with 16 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. He’ll lead an offense with eight starters returning against Boise State in a game between two teams competing for a conference title bid.

8. Nevada @ San Jose State (Saturday, October 15)

These were the only two teams besides San Diego State to even finish .500 in their division last year. The winner of this one will later play the Aztecs with a spot in the conference championship game likely on the line.

7. San Diego State @ Northern Illinois (Saturday, September 17)

Northern Illinois has been the class of the MAC recently, and San Diego State rolled through the Mountain West last year. It may not mean much to most of the country, but this game is for bragging rights over the strength of Group of Five conferences.

6. Boise State @ Oregon State (Saturday, September 24)

Boise State, playing its second consecutive Pac-12 team, gets a bye before this one. The Broncos might be favored and will look for a win to provide the team some momentum and confidence heading into its conference slate.

5. California @ San Diego State (Saturday, September 10)

This is one of the bigger non-conference games among Mountain West teams. The Aztecs will bring in the nation’s second-longest winning streak and look to avenge last year’s 35-7 loss to Cal. It will be much easier with departed Cal quarterback Jared Goff playing on Sundays.

4. Washington State @ Boise State (Saturday, September 10)

Boise State hasn’t been the same team in the past few years that it was when Chris Petersen had them rolling, but the Broncos should improve from their four losses a year ago under third-year coach Bryan Harsin. The Broncos knocked off the Washington Huskies last year and will look to do the same against the Huskies’ rival.

3. San Diego State @ Fresno State (Saturday, October 15)

This in-state battle for San Diego State is against one of the few teams to play them close in 2015. The Bulldogs played a close-ish 21-7 game against the Aztecs and now get them at home. With SDSU’s defense not as dominant as a year ago, Fresno could pull the upset.

2. Nevada @ Hawaii (Saturday, October 1)

Hawaii was pretty dreadful last year and didn’t notch a conference win. They return 17 starters this year though so that streak should end at some point. Will it here? If a Nevada team looking to compete for a conference title game spot overlooks the Warriors, they could be in for a long trip back from the islands.

1. San Diego State @ Nevada (Saturday, November 12)

San Diego State dominated the Mountain West last year, allowing just 90 points in eight conference games. Nevada should have a good offense, but its defense will have to improve after giving up 320 yards rushing to the Aztecs in this match-up last year.

E-mail Jason at or follow him on Twitter @JLindy87

Featured image courtesy Nathan Rupert

Realigning into 16-Team Power Conferences

So much has been said about conference realignment in the last few years that we’ve become numb to it.  We recognize that the motive behind all of it is money, and that, understandably, turns many of us off to the whole idea.

I haven’t seen anybody try to turn this sensitive issue into something fun though.  Obviously, this is a complicated case with a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous.  We don’t need to get into all of that.  It’s been done before.  It’ll be done again.  So, forget all that and proceed with an open mind.

Let’s just stuff 16 teams into each of the Power 5 conferences and see what that looks like.

First of all, logistically speaking, adding teams gives us an opportunity to level the playing field a bit.  16-team conferences break down nicely into four divisions of four and that allows me to mandate schedule changes.

Every team will play 12 games in a regular season, three non-conference contests against other Power 5 teams and nine within the conference.  Teams will play their three divisional foes every season.  They’ll also annually rotate playing one entire division within their conference.  This leaves two more games, filled by one team from each of the remaining divisions in the conference.  Those, too, will rotate yearly.

From there, division winners will be pitted against each other in a two-week long playoff to determine a conference champion.  The five conference champs will receive automatic bids to the College Football Playoff with three more bids going to the most deserving at-large teams.  Oh yeah, we’re expanding the Playoff too, but that’s another column for a different time.

Enough introduction, let’s realign.

ACC

We’ll start out with the easy one.  The Atlantic Coast Conference already has 14 teams and it’s a basketball league anyway.  It shouldn’t be hard to add two schools that’ll make the East Coasters happy.

Additions: Memphis and Temple

The Tigers and the Owls both had surprisingly solid seasons in the American Athletic Conference in 2015.  Timing might have a lot to do with this but it seems like they’d be the best fits for right now.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

Clemson                    Florida State            Louisville                    Boston College

North Carolina         Miami                       Virginia Tech              Pittsburgh

NC State                    Georgia Tech            Virginia                       Syracuse

Wake Forest              Duke                          Memphis                     Temple

The problem with the ACC is there aren’t many schools you know you can count on to field a solid football team every year.  That made splitting them up evenly a bit more challenging and I think these combinations are as fair as you’re going to get.

To clarify the schedule reconstruction from earlier, let’s use Clemson as an example.  The Tigers would play UNC, NC State and Wake Forest every year going forward.  In 2016, they’d play every team in “Div. 2” and one team from “Div. 3” and “Div. 4”.  I think that shakes out to be a much better schedule than anything we see under the current system.

Of course, you’d rotate home and away to prevent Clemson from rarely leaving Death Valley, but breaking all that down would be delving into details that are not the aim of this column.  Again, we can do that some other time.

Big 12

Yee-haw!  Here’s where the real fun is to be had.  The Big 12 needs six teams to get itself up to code.  There’s been a whole lot of talk coming out of the Wild West, but it seems everyone is too afraid to pull the trigger on any real moves.  Let’s make it easy for them.

Additions: Houston, Cincinnati, BYU, Boise State, Arkansas State, North Dakota State

With so many spots to fill, this was the toughest conference to add to.  Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and Boise State all belong in the Big 12 for real and I figured why not throw in Arkansas State and FCS-powerhouse North Dakota State for fun.  All of these teams would run the Kansas Jayhawks out of the building so I’m not worried about having to dig a deeper basement.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                         Div. 3                          Div. 4

Oklahoma                  Texas                        Houston                    West Virginia

Oklahoma State        Baylor                      Boise State                Iowa State

Kansas State              TCU                         BYU                             Cincinnati

Kansas                        Texas Tech            North Dakota State   Arkansas State

Look, I know this isn’t perfect, but like the ACC, the Big 12 isn’t giving me much to work with.  It’s a conference dominated by its haves and embarrassed of its have nots.  I’ve almost made it into a coast-to-coast league by adding Boise State (that’s a long way from Morgantown, West Virginia) but the conference itself didn’t seem too bothered by that when it added the Mountaineers in the first place.

I tried to keep as many rivalries alive as I could without severely crippling any one of the divisions.  Who knows what to expect from “Div. 3” with all newcomers, or “Div. 4” with West Virginia at the top.  There’s a lot going on in the Big 12 and frankly, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it on a regular basis.  Sorry, Courtney McCrary.

Big Ten

Welcome to Big Ten country, where football is just better.  Sure, we’ve recently added a couple ridiculous East Coast members in Maryland and Rutgers, but they do serve nicely as automatic wins for our real teams.  Just two additions needed here.

Additions: Notre Dame and Ohio

Now that I know I’ve scared away all the Golden Domers, I can just come right out and say that it’s utterly ridiculous for Notre Dame to be playing half of an ACC schedule.  The Irish belong in the Big Ten.  We all know it.  They all know it.  The only reason they’re not, you guessed it: money.

Also, welcome the Ohio Bobcats whose campus is absolutely beautiful (and great fun on Saturday nights).  Maybe now people will realize there is, after all, another school besides THE one in Columbus.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

Ohio State                Michigan                    Nortre Dame            Wisconsin

Penn State                Michigan State         Iowa                            Minnesota

Maryland                  Indiana                      Northwestern            Nebraska

Ohio                           Rutgers                       Purdue                        Illinois

Truthfully, I would love to boot Maryland and Rutgers, make them go play in the ACC and add a couple more MAC schools.  Northern Illinois, Toledo, Central and Western Michigan would all suffice, but for the purpose of this column I’m simply working with what’s already there.

Notre Dame gets to play schools it can start, or continue, a legitimate rivalry with.  They’ll have to play those fake rivalries they’ve got on both coasts on their own time.  The Buckeyes will have to play the Bobcats every year because I know that scares them.  As far as “The Game” is concerned, like our own Damien Bowman says, Michigan vs. Ohio State would be an even bigger game if it wasn’t played annually.

SEC

I know I angered many of you from the Southland with that wise crack about football being better up north.  We all know where the best football is played.  It’s just that people are tired of hearing about it.  The best conference in college football also needs just two teams to fill itself out.

Additions: Western Kentucky and Southern Mississippi

You’re the best, right?  Well, then you shouldn’t need any more help proving it.  Take these two C-USA teams (last year’s division winners), and consider them replacements for those mid-season walk-throughs y’all like to schedule against FCS schools.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

Alabama                    Florida                       LSU                             Ole Miss

Auburn                      Georgia                      Arkansas                     Tennessee

Texas A&M               Kentucky                    Missouri                     Mississippi State

South Carolina        Western Kentucky    Vanderbilt                  Southern Mississippi

There are so many rivalries down south it’s impossible to keep them all intact.  This divisional split preserves many of the big games while setting up some intriguing new ones.  This shakeup seems perfect to me, particularly for this coming season, but I’m sure some of you have one or two issues with it.  I’m curious what our SEC guys (and gals), Bird LeCroy, Seth Merenbloom and Kristen Botica, think about this.

Pac-12

Fifth and finally, that wacky conference out west that loves to put up points.  Unfortunately, picking last and being on the West Coast severely limits the options here.  With four spots to fill, this is going to be a tough one.

Additions: Utah State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Nevada

Basically, the Pac-12 absorbed the best available teams from the Mountain West and banished the rest of them to whatever level we’re setting up underneath the Power 5.

Div. 1                          Div. 2                          Div. 3                          Div. 4

USC                            Stanford                    Oregon                         Utah

Arizona                      UCLA                         Washington                Colorado

Arizona State            California                  Washington State      Colorado State

San Diego State       Nevada                      Oregon State               Utah State

Dividing this group of teams was even more difficult than finding which ones to add to it.  I wanted to keep USC and UCLA together, but doing so makes all the other divisions look much less formidable.  The door does seem wide open for Oregon and Utah in this setup.  I tried to put the Ducks and the Utes together but, again, the repercussions make things worse than they stand now.  What say you, Mike Wilson?

Reminder

Sports are supposed to be fun.  If they’re not, then what’s the point?  And while I understand this is a serious topic with a lot of money involved, I have a hard time taking it seriously since all anyone wants to do is talk.  Until something real happens, I’ll just keep serving up far-fetched proposals to stir the conversational pot.

I hope you enjoyed reading and I look forward to many of you telling me what I already know, why this won’t work, in the comments section below and on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Road to Houston Starts in Dayton

Ah, can you smell it? March Madness is in the air! And what better way to start out the madness than in the best basketball town in America, Dayton, Ohio. Many can eye-roll at that statement all they want, but there’s a reason the NCAA picks University of Dayton Arena to open the tournament every year since 2011. UD Arena is a family-like, friendly atmosphere, exactly what the NCAA wants their image to be. Big enough to house 13,455, have a good seat no matter where you are, and have fairly priced food and a beer or two. Even if you can’t get a ticket, there are plenty of bars or restaurants down the road from the arena that are showing the games that you can go to. UD Arena will be packed Tuesday and Wednesday night, with both townees and out-of-townees alike. Daytonians love their basketball, so don’t be surprised to see many red sweater vests around UD Arena that night displaying their beloved Dayton Flyers logo. Dayton truly is the best place to open the tournament.

The first four always has a diverse group of teams from all around the country, so let’s take a deeper look at the match-ups, shall we?

11 Vanderbilt vs. 11 Wichita State

Two shockers (really just one, pun intended) to get into the tournament by most people, Vanderbilt and Wichita State is the first match-up of the two 11-seeds. The winner of this game will get Arizona on Thursday. Vanderbilt finished the season at 19-13, good for 3rd in the SEC. I had the Commodores in the tournament to begin with. They had sort of a disappointing season after being a preseason top 20 team. They score 73 points a game, but their defense can be stingy at times, allowing only 67 a game. Wichita State had a season full of injuries to start, but then won 12 in a row and then ended the season winning their last 6 before losing to Northern Iowa in the MVC tournament. The Shockers score around 73 a game, but to me it should be more with studs like Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. WSU’s defense is 1st in the country allowing only 59 points a game. Usually that would be enough for this team to be a lock to win, but being in the Missouri Valley might not count for much.

Prediction:  This is a tricky game. Both teams are very similar on offense and defense. It’s going to be close. I got Wichita State winning a defensive battle by two, 68-66, moving on to play a very beatable Arizona team. Here’s your game to look at for one of these teams to make a long tourney run.

11 Michigan vs. 11 Tulsa

Woah. TULSA?! The universe was lightheaded after seeing Tulsa getting into the tournament. Most bracketologists did not even have them in the first four out. Michigan played themselves into the tournament by beating Indiana in the Big Ten tournament, but Tulsa? Craziness already in March. Let’s start with the clear favorite in Michigan. The Wolverines come into Dayton with a big win over IU, but then a crushing defeat from Purdue. It seems like this team either wins close or gets blown out. They score close to 74 points a game and give up 67 points a game, pretty average for any college basketball team. One stat that sticks out is that they average 32 rebounds a game, good for 326th in the country. Now…to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Tulsa is similar to its opponent, averaging 74 points a game, gives up about 69 a game, and is also terrible at rebounding, averaging 35 boards a game. Tulsa finished 3rd in the AAC and got blown out by a weak Memphis team in their conference tournament. The winner here plays a very good Notre Dame team that just beat Duke.

Prediction:  Both teams’ averages on offense and defense are similar, so to me, it comes down to who is the toughest down the stretch. Michigan just showed that against IU in the Big 10 tournament with the buzzer beating three. Tulsa got a beat-down by a bad Memphis team. Michigan wins this thing 72-64, and Monmouth trolls Tulsa on Twitter every day until next March.

A few quick notes about the 16-seed matchups

No one really does their research about the 16 seeds since none of them have ever beaten a 1-seed, so I’ll just add a few quick notes about the two games:

Holy Cross vs. Southern:  Holy Cross is the only team under .500 to make the tournament, which is a nice little story. Southern was a 16-seed a couple of years ago and almost upset 1-seeded Gonzaga. So if you are feeling really confident this year to pick a 16-seed to beat a 1-seed, Southern might be the way to go. The winner plays Oregon, which was a surprising 1-seed to most people. Hmmmm…

Florida Gulf Coast vs. Farleigh Dickinson:  Dunk City is back. Florida Gulf Coast shocked the world in beating Georgetown as a 15-seed back in 2013. Farleigh Dickinson won their conference tourney as a 2-seed and finished their season at 18-14. FGCU is fun and exciting, so I would go with them I guess. The winner gets North Carolina. Have fun with that one.

Why should we care about the First Four?

So this is fun and all, but why should anyone watch or even care about the First Four? Do any of these teams actually matter in the big scheme of things? Well, I will tell you what, since the First Four was started in 2011, no team has won a national championship, but there have been some great runs. In fact, every year since the event started in Dayton, a First Four team has advanced to at least the third round of the tournament. That’s pretty good for a bubble team that barely squeaked into the tournament. Let’s recall those successful First Four teams:

Last year, my hometown Dayton Flyers cause a controversy playing in the First Four on their home court as the away team, not that it helped Boise State or anything. Dayton won as an 11-seed and marched right into Columbus to upset 6-seeded Providence. They eventually lost in the third round to Oklahoma, but they put up a pretty good fight. In 2014, Tennessee made it to the Sweet 16 as an 11-seed by beating Iowa, 6-seeded UMass, and 14-seeded Mercer (remember when that team ate your bracket by shocking Duke?). In 2013, another A-10 team in La Salle played in as a 13-seed and eventually made it to the Sweet 16 as well by beating the likes of Boise State (rough time for the Broncos in this event), Kansas State, and Ole Miss (and they say that the A-10 is a weak conference). 2012 saw 12-seed South Florida beat Cal and Temple to reach the third round. And finally, 2011 was the best Cinderella from the First Four yet, with 11-seeded VCU riding its victory over USC to wins over Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and 1-seeded Kansas all the way to the Final Four. The Rams are in the A-10 now, so the conference inherits that Final Four appearance right?

So why should we care about these games? Well, the four 16-seeds are nothing to make noise about, but the other 11 seeds are something to be curious about. Out of the four spoiler teams, one of them is going to ruin your bracket. And what’s nice about the ESPN Tournament Challenge (assuming that’s what most people use), you can change your tournament choice depending on who wins their First Four game. If I were you, I would be watching those marquee match-ups to see which team is going to upset their second round game.

It’s going to happen, people. Prepare for it while you still can.

Photo taken by Chris Pyle

Stats from ESPN.com

What Tampa Bay is Getting with Dirk Koetter, If He’s Named The Buccaneers Head Coach

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the only team to the play fast and loose with their head coaching position, but the Glazers have certainly made some eyebrow-raising moves since winning the Super Bowl with Jon Gruden thirteen years ago. It began with Gruden, currently ESPN’s color analyst for Monday Night Football, being shown the door after consecutive 9-7 seasons, and there’s been a folly of errors with the Bucs top job, including the questionable dismissal of Lovie Smith earlier this week.

The team’s improvement to 6-10, from 2-14 in Smith’s first season, apparently wasn’t enough, so the core of Gerald McCoy, Jameis Winston, and Mike Evans will get their marching orders from a new leader when mini-camps and OTAs begin later this year. We’ve heard rumors from the ridiculous to the absolutely reasonable, so you can rule out Alabama head coach Nick Saban, but there are other candidates not named Dirk Koetter interviewing for a job they like won’t be offered when it’s all said and done.

Say what you will about the Rooney Rule, I personally understand the spirit behind it, but I don’t feel the mandate for a minority candidate interview fulfills its purpose, nor do I feel its necessary, given how much we’ve evolved since Art Shell was hired in 19891Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928. It’s difficult to put a name to this, and I don’t care to insult the man, but with Koetter being the in-house favorite, we’re going to label Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin as the Rooney Rule candidate.

It isn’t fair to Goodwin, available to interview during the Cardinals’ bye week, but all parties involved can get something out of this. Best case scenario, speaking to supporters of the Rooney Rule, Goodwin blows them away, and gets the job. Under this scenario, Koetter walks, which is something of a wash, because Goodwin will certainly want to be the architect of the offense, in his first steps away from the shadow of Bruce Arians, aka “The Quarterback Whisperer”. Bottom line: This is an interview Goodwin deserves, but many will see it as a farce, and only the ones in the room will ever really have a feel for how legitimate the process is.

Until Cam Newton started to make Riverboat Ron Rivera’s offense tick, the strength of Carolina’s game is what you see when the Panthers don’t have the football. Sean McDermott has been coordinating that defensive unit since 2011. Give him credit for knowing how to utilize Luke Kuchely, and how to disrupt in the trenches, his defense is the reason they sit on the 1-line in the NFC as we enter the playoffs. He’s a candidate, but he’d have his work cut out for him with the 7th-worst scoring defense in the game, and that was in Year 2 of Lovie Smith.2This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.

I could get hit by a bus, but I’ll probably be home for dinner.

Barring a very genuine surprise, the former Arizona State head coach will be promoted by the Tampa Bay brass from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach very soon, but they have to complete the process. Honestly, what does it hurt to talk to viable candidates, even when you’re 99% of the direction you want to go? In Jacksonville, Atlanta, and now Tampa Bay, Dirk Koetter has received a lot of praise for the way he calls an offensive game for whoever was featured on the Jaguars offense from 2007 to 2011, for Matt Ryan, and for the very talented Jameis Winston.

One area of concern remains; there’s a big difference between being the Skipper and the First mate. The Glazer family, Jason Licht, and everyone involved with this rumored decision to put Koetter in charge of the show are willing to make a leap that no has dared to attempt since failing to elevate the Arizona State over six seasons3Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.. Koetter put a few players in the NFL, most notably Terrell Suggs and Zach Miller, but the Sun Devil football program never could conquer the Pac-10 on his watch.

He may be another Norv Turner, a guy who is brilliant until he gets the big whistle and a challenge flag, but I have to commend the Buccaneers commitment to stability for Jameis Winston, even if you might want to denigrate them for pink-slipping Smith after two seasons, and just one with the services of Winston. After all, you usually hear about the head coach/quarterback tandem more than the chemistry between the signal caller and the OC.

You might hear conversations about Brady and Weis, McDaniels, and O’Brien, but none of them roll off the tongue like Brady & Belichick or Belichick & Brady do. Things tend to change over time. Maybe under the guidance of Jack Del Rio and Mike Smith, he understands the head coaching role better now, as well as the NFL game. There’s a precedent for that with the aforementioned Belichick. He didn’t get it done with the Browns, spent more time with Bill Parcells, and quickly took the Patriots to the promised land with his first second chance. I might believe Josh McDaniels was on the verge of that, but he’s got some work to do if he ends up in Nashville.

If any of these jobs were easy or “good”, there probably wouldn’t be vacancies, so they’re all difficult undertakings. Keep in mind, there are no exclusive rights to Koetter’s service, despite the Bucs being his current employer. He’s talking to San Francisco and perhaps Philadelphia, but probably isn’t the favorite to land either of those jobs. The move makes sense, and honestly, Goodwin and McDermott are logical targets, but potentially giving Jameis Winston the same voice for the foreseeable future carries a value that can’t be matched. Sun Devil fans won’t believe they’re watching the same guy when they see the pewter, orange, and red on their screen on Sundays.

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1. Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928.
2. This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.
3. Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois

San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium is the setting for this year’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. This game features the Mountain West representative, Boise State (8-4), against Mid-American Conference runner-up, Northern Illinois (8-5).

Boise State:

This season marked the second season without school coaching legend Chris Peterson at the helm; still an unusual sight. This season, compared to seasons past, underachieved somewhat. With a loss to Air Force Academy 37-30, the Broncos were eliminated from defending their Mountain West Championship; another such event we aren’t accustomed to seeing.

Bright Spot:

Despite Chris Peterson’s emotional return to the confines of Albertsons field, a place where he dominated as head coach of Boise State for seven seasons, the Broncos found a way to spoil Peterson’s return and pull off an improbable victory over his Washington Huskies, 16-13. The production of running back Jeremy McNichols has been a sight to behold. He was the irreplaceable cog in the Boise State engine. McNichols finished the season with 1,244 yards and tied for fourth in the nation with 18 rushing scores.

Low-Light:

For the first time since 1997, Boise state has suffered consecutive home losses this season, an anomaly of sorts. We aren’t used seeing one of the most winningest programs in the last decade experience such occurrences. Not to mention, this is Boise State’s second eight-win season in the last three years, snapping a streak of seven straight double-digit-win seasons (2006-2012).

Northern Illinois Huskies:

The Northern Illinois Huskies’ season was full of promise until the injury bug came a calling. Junior quarterback Drew Hare went down for the remainder of the season (Achilles) during a crucial game against #24 Toledo. With that loss, NIU back-up Ryan Graham stepped in and helped maintain the ship down the home stretch of the season, finishing 2-3, including the eventual loss to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship.

Bright Spot:

Although NIU will be without starter Drew Hare, the Huskies have a couple of high-caliber offensive players lining up come bowl time in First team All-MAC running back Joel Bouagnon (1,269 yards and 18 TD’s) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (71 rec. 1,122 yards  and 10 TD’s). Even though they were stymied during the MAC championship due to injuries to both quarterbacks and having to play a third, hopefully, Ryan Graham will be back to help ignite an offense that at times, looked dominant.

Low-Light:

The Achilles heel (pun unintended) for this Huskies squad is the lack of experience at the quarterback position. Without that veteran leadership, Boise State will have an easier time keying in on Bouagnon and making either Graham or freshman quarterback Tommy Fiedler beat them through the air.

X-Factor:

The determining factor in this game is exactly what I mentioned above. If Ryan Graham is under center, the Huskies stand a better chance of staying in this contest. If Graham is not under center, or at some point is injured during the game, NIU can kiss this game good bye.

Prediction: 

Both teams have solid running backs. It would be in NIU’s best interest to lean on Bouagnon early and often to keep Boise State’s offense on the sidelines. However, in third and long situations, if NIU is unable to convert due to passing inconsistencies, Boise State will jump on those miscues and run away with the game. Though the Broncos have underachieved to a certain degree, I think they can muster enough umph to pull out another win. Broncos win it, 34-24.