Tag Archives: Boise State

College Football 2016 Preview: Group of 5

American Athletic Conference

Prediction: University of Houston (11-1) vs. Temple (9-3)

I think almost everyone expects to see UH come out of the west in the AAC, as it is both coming off a tremendous year, and in the weaker division in the American. They biggest competition in the West is probably Navy, but it won’t be nearly as big of a challenge now that Keenan Reynolds is gone to the NFL.

Houston will be working hard this season to try and earn a spot in the Big 12, so it will be working for a repeat of the amazing season it had last year. I only have them losing a late season game to Louisville, but the Cougars are definitely the team to beat in the AAC.

In the East Division, the competition is much more of a toss-up, as realistically any of the five teams could take the division. However, the two most likely division champs are USF and Temple. USF’s schedule could pose large problems, however, as it will have to go through the likes of Northern Illinois and FSU early on. With an easier non-conference schedule, I think Temple will be able to win the East by a game. They will only be the last obstacle in UH’s way to a conference championship.

Conference Champion: University of Houston Cougars

Mid-American Conference

Prediction: Ohio University (7-5) vs. Western Michigan University (10-2)

The conference champion will definitely come out of the West division in 2016. The top four teams in the West are all currently ranked above the top ranked East team, Ohio.

Ohio will be able to get enough wins to take the East over the likes of Bowling Green and Akron. The West should be an interesting competition, but I see a breakout season coming from WMU. Their hardest non-conference games are Northwestern and Illinois, two beatable teams for the Broncos. Though they may drop a game against another team in the West, I think they will take at least the Northwestern game and win the West.

Conference Champion: Western Michigan University Broncos

Mountain West

Prediction: Boise State (10-2) vs. San Diego State (11-1)

The Mountain West really looks like a two-team race this year. Except for maybe Air Force, Boise St and SDSU seem like the only two real competitors for the Mountain West crown.

Both should be able to easily win their division, but Boise’s non-conference is much harder than SDSU’s, as it has to face the likes of Oregon State and Washington State. SDSU only really needs to overcome Cal. However, I see them dropping a matchup against NIU the week following, as they will have to travel all the way across the country. SDSU’s lack of difficult out of conference will make them slightly weaker than Boise, despite the better record.

Conference Champion: Boise State University Broncos

Sun Belt

Prediction: Appalachian State (9-3)

In the only of the Group of 5 conference without a title game, Appalachian State will have to battle off the likes of Arkansas State and Georgia Southern for the Sun Belt title. I see this conference really coming down to Appalachian and Arkansas State. Arkansas State has two guaranteed loses in my eyes, to Auburn and a much closer game to Toledo, and maybe even a third loss to Utah State.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State will lose to Tennessee. They have a possible upset against Miami (FL) and then a game against Akron. If Appalachian State manages to come out of its non-conference schedule having only lost to Tennessee and Miami, it will win the Sun Belt.

Conference Champion: Appalachian State Mountaineers

Conference USA

Prediction: Southern Miss (10-2) vs. Marshall (8-4)

Conference USA is very lopsided this year, as Southern Miss is the easy pick out of the West division. The East division, however, is much more up for grabs. Middle Tennessee, Marshall or Western Kentucky could all be the one to face off against Southern Miss, but I think Marshall’s non-conference schedule gives it the edge.

Marshall’s hardest non-conference games are Louisville and Pitt, which are both preferable to WKU’s game against Alabama. None of the non-conference games for MTSU jump off the page, but they are all decent. Vanderbilt, Bowling Green and Missouri are all difficult opponents. For this reason, I have Marshall coming out of the East.

Conference Champion: Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Featured Image courtesy of Giovanni Gallucci – Flickr

More Than a Friday: All About Cubs, and Some Other Stuff

There may have been nine other teams eligible for this 2015 post-season, and some great stories behind those teams’ run to get here, but the Chicago Cubs are the story. With the Yankees out of the picture, the St. Louis Cardinals are the only ones left standing with nowhere near three decades, if not all of eternity, between now and their last World Championship. And look, those Cardinals are the next obstacle in the way of the Cubs’ destiny.

It’s a different attitude on the north side of Chicago, this time around. We’re not blessing dugouts, exorcising goats, or doing whatever’s been done in the past to fuel the hysteria that comes with a fan-base that’s gone their entire lives without seeing their beloved baseball team compete for, let alone win, a World Championship. Okay, I concede there’s less than a what I would consider a chunk of Cubbie fans that are old enough to remember the Cubs falling to Detroit in 7 games in 1945, but no one has actually been waiting 107 years for what might happen next.

Give it up for the Ricketts family, for putting the right people in charge of the baseball side, and then getting the hell out of the way until it’s time to open the checkbook. There are only two ways to be a bad owner in sports; one is to meddle, and the other is to be cheap, and this family has done no such thing. They went out and got Theo Epstein to run the show, who in turn, brought in Jed Hoyer to be the General Manager, and eventually Joe Maddon was enlisted to manage the games. This group has done their diligence in serving the fans, by not giving a damn what they think. The first order of business was slamming the door shut on the dream of making Ryne Sandberg the skipper. Sure, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria never brought the Cubs anywhere near the promised land, but Ryno didn’t tear it up in his first go-around in the bigs, with the Phillies, either.

In addition to Sandberg not possessing the championship pedigree, if you think the fans were pissed he wasn’t considered, imagine the outrage when they had to fire him. The whole “we run the Cubs, not the fans” effect trickles down to the roster too. Cubs fans loved Tony Campana, and while this wasn’t exactly trading away Ernie Banks, Theo and Jed were able to ignore the groans heard when Campana was traded to Arizona for a couple of teenagers. Epstein wasn’t hired to dwell on the 103 years prior to his 2011 hire, but to make the next century of Cubs baseball great. He’s well on his way.

No matter how well you’re able to put the past away, if you have any rooting interest in the Cubs, and mine is tertiary, as I married into it, there’s always a little lack of confidence, if not paranoia, due to precedent. For many, the next hard groundball to first is still going through Leon Durham’s legs and the next 50/50 ball between the left fielder and the spectators represents a prelude to doom. Entering the snakepit that was a blacked-out PNC Park on Wednesday night, Maddon’s Cubs had to strike early and prevent the Pirates from reciprocating. Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber answered the call early and often. They were loose and unintimidated by Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, almost like someone forgot to tell them the Cubs hadn’t won a post-season game since 2003. Jake Arrieta took the ball, and despite not having his best stuff on the mound, he made sure Schwarber’s RBI single in the top of the first inning was enough. However, Schwarber put one in the Allegheny River and Fowler was a little more modest, instead going to the right-center field seats with his shot, to make the probably Cy Young Award winner comfortable with a 4-run lead. He was able to pitch out of several jams, thanks to several defensive gems behind him, but there is a sour note about Wednesday.

Aside from Schwarber and Fowler, not much offensive production from the Cubs. The probably Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant looked so lost at the plate, you might have thought he missed the flight to Western Pennsylvania. You also have to take into account, the perils of playing that Wild Card game of the 1-game sort, you’ve exhausted your Ace and he won’t get two starts in the best-of-five division series. Those are bridges they’ll cross when they encounter them in the Gateway City, as they face that next obstacle in the Cardinals. The time to worry about that is today, but a nice little honeymoom was to be had all day Thursday. To paraphrase (What About) Bob(?) Wiley, Baby Steps towards a World Championship. It started in Pittsburgh, and may not have a happy ending for Bill Murray and the rest of Cubs Nation, but it’s a start.

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And, in other news…

Texas Rangers fans would probably prefer it, if I stop listening to their big games on the radio while driving down I-8 towards San Diego. For the second time in four years, the previous time being Game 6 of the World Series, my ears were privy to an epic Rangers collapse while en route to California for a Browns game. The last time, it was David Freese of the Cardinals, down to his final strike, who prevented the Rangers from closing out their first-ever World Championship with a double off the wall. The Boys of Arlington would get a shot at redemption in Game 7, but would have no luck in the deciding game. On Saturday, they took a 10-6 lead into the 9th, as I pulled into a Yuma gas station to re-fuel and call my wife. By the time, I got back in the car, the Angels led 11-10, and the assumption I’d had minutes earlier, that the Rangers were going to clinch the American League West had disintegrated. Unlike in 2011, the Rangers were able to take care of business the next day, and all was well in North Texas.

No one knows anything in College Football, a truth that reveals itself to the masses watching each week. On paper, Ohio State should have been able to exercise The Karate Kid III clause, and just waited for a worthy a opponent to take their title from them, in Glendale on January 11th, but they have to play the games. It hasn’t been pretty; you could argue they’re getting everyone’s best shot, but you could probably make a better argument that they’re a lot more flat than the team that impressed us in January. Imagine if it was TCU, and not the Buckeyes, that got to take that magical ride through the inaugural College Football Playoff. Would Ohio State be able to maintain its #1 spot with their play in 2015? If Utah and Florida can hold serve, this point is rendered moot, but how little do we know about the Pac-12 and SEC, and how confusing can the entire College Football Playoff picture be entering the month of December?

Toledo could finish the season undefeated, and there’s a strong possibility that they won’t get the “Group of 5” bid to the Access Bowls, given Boise State’s history and a committee’s tendency to forgive September losses. Rockets fans have to be hoping the stock on the win at Arkansas rises throughout SEC play.

The Browns found a new way to lose in San Diego on Sunday, and I was on hand for the agony. Having watched Josh Lambo’s first attempt sail wide, when my celebration was interrupted by news of the laundry on the field, I assumed someone in a brown jersey ran into the Chargers kicker, but the call was off-sides. I didn’t see off-sides, but the guy in the striped shirt on the field had a better vantage point. I went on with my day in Southern California, overhearing plenty of same ol’ Browns conversations. It was like Tuesday or Wednesday that I was retroactively angry at the linesman on Bill Vinovich’s crew, who guessed wrong and cost Cleveland a chance to take the game in overtime. The Lions are in the same boat with the bad luck of letting an official decide a game. It’s really no wonder, none at all, why neither of these teams have played in a Super Bowl or won a title since 1967.

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As a Browns fan, I’ve had faith in both Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, but now that I’m seeing them play in other jerseys, I almost have to slap myself. Difference being, I liked the potential of Weeden, and soon as he put on the orange helmet, he showed he couldn’t play at a high level. Hoyer, on the other hand, won games for the Browns, giving people like me false hope and dismissing poor play as a slump or fluke. It took seeing that punt-looking interception he threw to former Brown Mike Adams on Thursday night, to convince me of his true colors.

Sunday’s New England-Dallas game will get a lot of the headlines, but I’m going to learn a lot more about the landscape of the NFL from Seahawks-Bengals and Rams-Packers on Sunday. I know the Seahawks and Packers are good, but I still need some convincing on 4-0 Cincinnati and the 2-2 Rams.

I’m offering up a lot of chalk with my Division Series predictions in baseball, but I’m looking forward to a Blue Jays-Royals ALCS, and I’m putting the Cubs and Mets in the NLCS. Regarding those National League teams, once they start winning, they don’t stop.

Basketball and hockey, we’ll get to you next week.

Have a great weekend.

Cavaliers Showcase Ineptitude on National Television

There are only so many ways to write this tale of woe. Different opponent, same result. Facing its third quality opponent of the month, the University of Virginia football team absolutely embarrassed itself on Friday night.  The Cavaliers’ 56-14 loss to Boise State in front of a national television audience was not the worst loss Virginia has endured under London’s leadership but it sure felt like it. It was a debacle of the sort that coaches don’t survive and I think that last weekend’s result included the knockout punch that will put an end to Mike London’s coaching career at Virginia.

Against Boise State the pressure of a completely ridiculous and fantastically overzealous schedule finally broke the Cavaliers.  In a game that Virginia absolutely had to have, the Wahoos stopped being competitive at the conclusion of the national anthem. After fourteen seconds, Virginia was down 7-0.  Boise State scored 10 more points in its first two possessions and led 17-0 before most fans had finished their hot dog.  Virginia’s first three possessions produced 2 interceptions and a three-and-out. Virginia, with a roster full of London recruits, the same recruits whose hype had likely saved his job previously, were completely, totally, and utterly non-competitive.

By every metric which can be used to assess a team’s performance Boise State destroyed Virginia.  Virginia was outplayed, outcoached, outhustled, outmuscled, outthought…outeverything.  Thomas Jones is one of Virginia’s most storied players.  He is Virginia’s all time rushing leader. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.  He had a twelve-year NFL career.  Like most Virginia fans, he tuned in to watch the nationally televised game.  As the horror unfolded, his pregame Twitter excitement turned to frustration and then embarrassment.

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Virginia great Thomas Jones is uniquely qualified to comment on the pitiful state of Virginia’s football program.

Virginia fans are fed up–and have been for some time now–by the sorry state of the football program and last weekend’s result has them demanding that someone answer for it. Head coach Mike London is the obvious choice, but there is talk that Executive Associate Athletic Director Jon Oliver’s overzealous scheduling and micromanagement has put London in an untenable position. There was a time when fans accepted the notion that Virginia’s academic standards made fielding a top-25 football team a difficult proposition.  Those same fans now point to Duke’s football resurrection and shout, loudly, “See?  If Duke can do it, why can’t we?”  Northwestern University, another academic stalwart and the not-proud owners of college football’s longest losing streak (34 games from 1979-1982) currently is 16th in the latest AP Top 25 football poll. Notre Dame, Michigan, Stanford all are academically rigorous and have historically successful programs.  Even Virginia has done it before, rising from complete irrelevance to national power under George Welsh in the 1980s-90s. Virginia has everything that it needs to be successful except an exceptional coach.

London’s abysmal coaching record has been at least partially offset–in some people’s minds at least–by his recruiting successes and his good character.  However the highly touted  recruits aren’t developing under London’s tutelage and fans aren’t coming to the stadium to see the head coach showcase his good character.  Virginia fans want a coach who has good character, wins the recruiting battles AND wins games.  Winning sells tickets. Winning makes donors generous. Winning makes everybody happy.

Individually, these Cavaliers have talent.  Many of them were heralded recruits whose commitment to Virginia was viewed as confirmation of the program’s resurgence.  Collectively however, these Cavaliers are ineffectual.  Virginia’s offensive line has plenty of game experience.  It was expected to be an area of strength this year.  It’s not. The line play has been terrible. Someone–perhaps a Virginia fan–once said that all runners look the same when there is no hole.  Virginia’s tailbacks have nowhere to run and the quarterback has no time to throw. It wasn’t that long ago that Virginia regularly was sending lineman to the NFL as high draft picks. Not anymore. Is that a talent or a coaching issue?  Where does the fault lie for this ineptitude?

One need look no further than Athens, Georgia for the answer.  Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert is thriving as Georgia’s quarterback after struggling last year as UVA’s signal caller. Working behind a superior offensive line, Lambert two weekends ago set an NCAA efficiency record when he completed 24 or his 25 passes for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns.  On a better team, Lambert is living up to the hype that never was evident during his time in Charlottesville. Given this, do you think that Andrew Brown and Taquan Mizzell wish they had signed with another school?  Lambert looks like a champ at Georgia.  London sold recruits on the promise of early playing time and parents on hands-on mentorship.  These recruiting wins in turn fostered the belief that Virginia was turning things around.  It’s not happening for the team or the players. Rushing 7 times for two yards won’t get Mizzell drafted but completing 24 of 25 passes for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns will do that for Lambert. A team with no coaching won’t win any more games than a team with no talent will.

And let’s be clear. It is the coaching.  The mental mistakes that Virginia regularly commits game after game reflect a lack of mental discipline, a lack of focus, a lack of preparation. At this point Virginia’s players are so desperate to make a play, to cause a turnover, to do anything to jumpstart Virginia’s nonexistent momentum that they are taking reckless chances.  Their overpursuit leaves them vulnerable to the cutback, their desire to strip the ball causes them to miss tackles.  Virginia’s defense is among the worst in the country.

The players and coaches admit that last weekend’s loss is unacceptable.  They said the same thing about Virginia’s close win against lower-division William and Mary two weekends ago. They lamented not being able to finish against Notre Dame, when finishing–plays, drives, games–is the team’s stated mission this year. They say that, with the entire ACC schedule ahead of them, the goals of an ACC championship and a bowl berth are still in front of them.  The facts belie this, however.  Virginia has not won an ACC road game since 2012. London’s overall ACC record in five seasons is 8-24. He has never beaten primary rivals Virginia Tech and North Carolina. I think it would be impossible for Mike London’s ice to be any thinner or his seat to be any hotter. Barring a miraculous turnaround, I don’t see how the psychological damage can be repaired by anything other than a fresh start.

Pac-12 Notebook: Three Quarterbacks will get us to the Playoff, Right?

USC Trojans: Something is happening in Los Angeles? What? Oh, yeah, it’s the land of Hollywood and drama, so why would any drama happening at one of this country’s preeminent schools be any different for the SoCal? The Trojans were considered at one point to be the professional in L.A., they still might be, but they are increasingly being thought of as the “soap opera” in the area.

We’ve all heard by now the story of Head Coach Steve Sarkisian being extremely intoxicated at a USC booster/alumni event. Sark was using f-bombs, mf-bombs, and any other expletive when talking to alumni, players, parents and on an open microphone. Pat Haden, USC Athletic Director became obviously irate and took his football coach behind closed doors and put down the law with him, or did he? Should he be suspended? If this was a player, what do you think happens? I let you soak your brain on that.

It’s come to light through media reports and even Coach Sarkisian that he was not only drinking, but also had prescription pills mixed in with his drinking. Never a good mix in anybody’s book and most people would agree that what happened was over the line and not acceptable. Does it mean he has a drinking problem? Not at all, but it will raise questions with many people about whether he does or not. As of today, there are plenty of meme’s out there referencing the issue with Sarkisian, but some of the media is piling on a bit. A report of the coach’s bill that was pretty high as a total bill has been shown to the public with the report saying something to effect of “Sarkisian with a high alcohol bill at a coach’s retreat.” Piling on at its best. Sark wasn’t the only one drinking, but with what has happened, he’s the only one drinking to many people.

Coaches hate distraction in any form. This distraction was self-induced by the coach, so he has nobody to blame, but himself. Can the Trojans circle the wagons and not let it ruin what seems to be a potentially good season? I am hoping that they can because when the Trojans are relevant in college football, it’s good for college football.

Washington Huskies: With all the air being sucked out of the room in Los Angeles, the Washington Huskies have been trying to figure out things that actually have to do with the field of play. Offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith and the rest of the staff have yet to figure out who will be the starting quarterback for the 2015 season. The Huskies have three quarterbacks preparing for the season. Head Coach Chris Peterson has told his three quarterbacks to prepare like they will be starting week one. Junior Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and true freshman Jake Browning are all vying for the starting job, but Coach Peterson has said that he may not announce a starter before the September 4 opener with Boise State.

A three quarterback system? Peterson knows better, so does his OC, Jonathan Smith (former Beaver quarterback) that a system like that will not work at this level. Name the starter, let him build some continuity with the starting offense and go from there. If the starter can’t be the leader that the coaches want then bring in the “other” guy to give them a shot. I don’t know exactly what they should be doing, but I do know that having a rotating system of quarterbacks is not what the Huskies need. The question that sticks out there with these three quarterbacks is this, why can’t their junior quarterback Jeff Lindquist separate himself from two freshmen quarterbacks? Doesn’t make Lindquist appear to be that great. Maybe I’m wrong with this, maybe I’m right, but if a junior can’t distance himself from his younger competition that says something about him.

Arizona State: After the dust up with the recent dismissal of true freshman linebacker George Lea things have quieted down for the Sun Devil program. Running a major college division one program can seem like a rollercoaster ride much of the time, but it’s something that comes with the job. In this past week, Todd Graham has had to deal with a distraction that has come from his own family. His son, Bo Graham, and probable heir apparent to being the OC at Arizona State resigned his position effective immediately. No reason, other than “personal reasons” was officially given. We now know that his reason was very “personal”.

The story has blown up around Valley of The Sun because of tweets from former Sun Devil quarterback Rudy Carpenter insinuating that Bo Graham may have had a personal relationship with somebody associated with the ASU and their athletic program.

His father, Todd Graham has said that he left for an “exciting opportunity”. That exciting opportunity is the unemployment line.

Here is what happened with Bo Graham. Most people here in the Phoenix area suspected that he may have had romantic relationship with an Arizona State athlete. It turns out, that he did have a romantic relationship with an athlete. That is prohibited by ASU and the reason why Bo is gone. There were rumors of this type of behavior at Pittsburgh and Tulsa as well. Those were previous coaching stops for his father.

Bo didn’t know in this case and he should have known better. With these type of rumors out there it was incredibly stupid of Bo Graham to even consider doing something like this, especially if he knew that ASU had rules governing this type of behavior with other athletes. Bo had a great thing going with coaching for the Sun Devils and may have been the OC when Mike Norvell moves onto a head coaching position.

Now that we know why the resignation happened so quickly one thing is for certain, it left a hole in the coaching staff less than two weeks before the start of the season, but in typical Coach Graham style, he promoted Josh Martin to assistant coach to coach tight ends and H-backs. Graham is going to do everything and anything to not let this derail him from getting his team ready for Texas A&M. That might be easier said than done because of the timing of this controversy. If this was something that happened after the season nobody would have cared. Now that it’s so close to the opener it’s a distraction for Todd Graham and something he doesn’t need.

Problems with the Playoff

I can’t pretend like the College Football Playoff didn’t make this season even more intriguing than normal. With the excitement building in the last few weeks of the regular season and culminating in the three playoff games themselves, it’s fair to say the long-awaited experiment was a success. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t found some design flaws. There is certainly room for improvement and that’s what I’m here to do.

Irrelevant weekly updates
First off, as Damien Bowman said a year ago, the actual College Football Playoff Rankings should not come out until after the final week of the season when everything is decided. What’s the point of releasing them weekly? Talking points. We’re going to tirelessly discuss the teams vying for the top spots regardless. Plenty of polls and opinions already exist. Leave it to them until you’re sure.

TCU went from five to three all the way down to six in the final three weeks of the season. All they did was win the ballgames on their schedule (I’ll address this separate issue later on). In turn, they were given false hope and punished. Eliminating the Playoff Rankings until the regular season is over will rid us of that ever happening again.

The role of conference championships
This is more of a conference alignment thing but my next point is that the Big 12 got screwed because it lacks a championship game. I do think a round robin approach is ideal, but if every other conference has a title game then you’re hurting yourself by not having one too. I think ultimately the committee couldn’t decide between Baylor and TCU, so they didn’t. Instead they chose Ohio State to be the fourth team in.

Now, some people will say Baylor is clearly the better team because they won the head-to-head matchup. Others will argue that was a dramatic comeback win on a last-second field goal in Baylor’s own stadium that happened half a season ago. The point is that a rematch would’ve settled the score, and the Big 12 wouldn’t have gotten shutout of the playoff.

The fix is simple. Either, add two (or more) teams (Boise State, BYU, Houston, Louisiana Tech?) or make sure your proposal to change NCAA rules gets through so you can keep your cute, little 10-team league.

The SEC showed exactly what’s wrong with the divisional approach to conference play. The West was ridiculously more difficult to navigate than the East was this season. Missouri won the East and earned their rightful spot in the championship game, but they got lucky by drawing Arkansas and Texas A&M as their inter-divisional opponents for this season. They avoided Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, and LSU. It would be gracious of you to write them down for more than one win out of those five.

This is why the divisional format is troubling. The two best teams in the conference don’t always meet up at the end. Unfortunately, in a 14-team conference not every team can play one another, unless you expand the regular season by a couple weeks (good luck with that). So, in the meantime let’s get rid of the fourth non-conference game that many SEC teams use as a glorified bye week midway through their tough schedule. Make them play one more conference foe to further sort out what the standings should look like come season’s end.

What about the little guys?
Remember the few seasons where it seemed like everyone became a Boise State fan just so we could see someone break the BCS and squeak into the national championship game as a little guy? Well, that never happened and now that we’ve got a four team playoff I really don’t see how it ever could.

Florida State had a hard enough time getting into the top four as an undefeated member of the ACC, and the defending national champs. How is Marshall supposed to have a chance at the playoff when the “Power 5” is halfway to autonomy? Boise State, at 20, was the one and only team from a “Group of 5” conference to be included in the committee’s final playoff rankings. Though they showed they definitely deserved it, they should consider themselves blessed to have gotten the opportunity to play in the Fiesta Bowl.

8 > 4
This is a slippery slope but I think an eight team playoff would be far superior to the four team format we have now. Immediately some will complain about these kids playing in too many games and there not being enough time to play them all. Don’t even. All those players would love to suit up one more time. And surely we could eliminate the three week hiatus between the playoff announcement and the bowls.

An eight team playoff would look like this: the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC champions each receive an automatic bid. Even though I’m a little leery to do that, it’s almost certainly what would happen anyway. The remaining three spots would be at-large bids reserved for the next three most-deserving teams (smaller conference champs, big conference runner-ups, or teams in situations like Mississippi State, who didn’t get a shot).

The Peach, Orange, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls would be your quarterfinals. The Rose and Sugar Bowls would be your semis. Then you could have your National Championship Game. You could still rotate between the six of them to spread the revenues around.

Wrap-up
In conclusion, I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten or overlooked. Please, add your own ideas. Praise me, call me an idiot and offer your own fix, anything. Getting a dialogue going is the only way to arrive at the best possible solution.

Think nobody’s listening and it’s pointless? Well, we finally got our playoff. Now that we’ve taken that daunting first step it’s time to take another.

The Crossroads: The Iron Bowl Rematch Has Arrived, At Last

There are a ton of exciting, meaningful and interesting matchups across college football this weekend. For this week’s Crossroads, we’ll take a journey through the games you should watch. Still, there’s one game that towers over everything.

Auburn at Alabama

There is the Iron Bowl on Saturday night, and there are the other games. I’m not an SEC homer by any means, but this game has taken on an almost mythical appeal in the landscape of the sport. Think about it – the game has had national championship implications annually since 2008. That is absolutely absurd for a game played at the end of the season.

This year’s game may not have the hype that last year’s did but it’s fascinating because of how that game ended. You know the play, I don’t need to rehash it. This is Alabama’s revenge game. Everyone knows it.

Yet, for Auburn, this is their entire season too – a win over Alabama would guarantee them a New Year’s Six bowl and instantly erase that dreadful performance against Georgia two weeks ago.

The other networks seem to know about the game’s appeal too: only the ESPN family of networks will be airing games Saturday night. Fox is taking the night off. The ABC primetime game is Oregon at Oregon State, which has less national appeal than Florida/Florida State. It’s all about the Iron Bowl Saturday.

Of course, you’ll be watching. But what else should you be watching?

TCU at Texas

Personally, I think a tad too much is being made of 6-5 Texas, who have turned it around but have only beat one (West Virginia) good team. The defense is for real, so it should make for an intriguing matchup against TCU’s high-powered offense.

There’s something about Texas hosting a Top Five team on Thanksgiving while Texas A&M and LSU play a game with no meaning that has to make the Longhorns feel good. TCU should win but you know Texas will come out of the locker room on fire.

Northern Illinois at Western Michigan

You remember Northern Illinois, right? They played in the 2013 Orange Bowl. They spent all last season being denigrated by ESPN analysts. This year, they are merely 9-2 and playing for a spot in the MAC Title Game against Bowling Green. So 11 am Friday on the East Coast, you can watch the Huskies go for it.

Yet, they won’t be the only ones playing for a title game berth: Western Michigan has won six games in a row and has only 1 conference loss. If they beat NIU, they will need Toledo to lose later in the day to Eastern Michigan, which is a putrid 2-9. That may not happen but who cares? This is a sneaky fun game to start your Black Friday leftover consumption.

Arkansas at Missouri

Friday afternoon is going to be a really good time to watch college football. This is a game that, about a month ago, looked like an albatross on the CBS schedule, after years of Auburn/Alabama and LSU/Arkansas in this timeslot.

Instead, Missouri is on fire and playing for the SEC East title while Arkansas is also on fire having shutout LSU and Ole Miss in back-to-back weeks. Everything could hinge on the availability of Arkansas QB Brandon Allen, who left the Ole Miss game earlier. But if you’ve watched Arkansas at all this year, you know the passing game is just something that occasionally has to happen.

UCLA at Stanford/Arizona State at Arizona

When it was announced the Pac-12 would be airing two games simultaneously on Black Friday across ABC and Fox, I was puzzled. Why would they waste the games against each other? Per usual, I was proved to be an idiot.

Because the Pac-12 has set up a rare scenario – much like the final games of the World Cup group stage – where concurrent games have such a remarkable impact on each other. If UCLA wins, they win the Pac-12 South. If they lose, the Arizona State/Arizona winner does.

It creates an insane situation where the two Arizona schools, on the day of their annual rivalry game, will be united in rooting for Stanford. I love college football.

Virginia at Virginia Tech

I must admit, this is my guilty pleasure: the bowl play-in. Virginia and Virginia Tech, two tremendously disappointing teams, are both 5-6 and need a win to salvage some sort of hope for 2015. In the case of Virginia, it may determine the fate of Mike London. In the case of Virginia Tech, who knows how the locals with respond to Frank Beamer staying on board without a succession plan in place if they go 5-7?

Regardless, it’s intriguing viewing. I may not be the best person to speak on this since I willingly watched the end of the Virginia Tech/Wake Forest pillow fight, but this will be a fun game to peek in on while you’re doing far more interesting things over the holiday weekend.

Georgia Tech at Georgia

Do you think CBS would like a do-over? Since they could not air Alabama again due to its contract, the network had to decide between this game and the Egg Bowl between Mississippi State and Ole Miss. They chose the latter, and it should still have playoff value. But Ole Miss seems to be falling apart and Mississippi State’s resume – the cupcake non-conference schedule – should prevent them from making the playoffs unless Alabama loses to Auburn.

This game? Well, this game at high noon could determine a million things. For one, Georgia will know if they will be playing a week later in the SEC Title Game, while Georgia Tech knows it has a date with Florida State. At the very least, both teams are playing for New Year’s Six bowls. Georgia may still be in the playoff hunt. The winner of this game will also provide a huge boost to its respective conference in terms of strength of schedule.

And, oh yeah, there is the little matter that these two teams really don’t like each other and would be dueling to the death even if nothing was on the line. This has to be the best game the SEC Network has exclusively aired in its short history.

Illinois at Northwestern

Another bowl play-in game but one with a stark difference – these teams are okay with being in this position. Okay, so that’s not entirely true since no team dreams of starting 5-6. But Northwestern was 3-6 heading to South Bend to play Notre Dame and Illinois was 4-6 hosting Penn State. The teams have surprised to even get to this point and both would love to end disappointing seasons with a trip anywhere. Even a bowl game in Detroit means extra practices.

Rice at Louisiana Tech

If (when?) undefeated Marshall beats Western Kentucky on Friday; the winner of this game will get a golden ticket to one of the biggest games on Championship Saturday. Yep, thanks to East Carolina gagging away a game to a mediocre Old Dominion team, this is a winner-take-all battle for the Conference USA West crown.

Now, it doesn’t mean either of these teams is particularly good but they’re playing for everything. It’s my favorite thing about divisions in college football, games like these. And games like…

Minnesota at Wisconsin

This is a Big Ten semifinal game. As with CBS, you have to think ESPN is kicking themselves for not selecting this game over Michigan State/Penn State. The Big Ten Network will gladly air a winner-take-all battle that will have far-reaching consequences across the country.

To wit: a Minnesota win does wonders for TCU’s strength of schedule and saddles Ohio State with a rematch. However, a Wisconsin win will give Ohio State a new, showcase opponent with a Heisman candidate in the Big Ten Title Game, while hurting TCU, and by extension, the entire Big 12.

No need to mince words here: Jim Delany needs Wisconsin to win this game, and preferably do so impressively.

Utah State at Boise State

Well if you didn’t get enough football in the preceding three days, stay up late for one last division crown to be decided. If Colorado State loses the day before to Air Force – very, very possible – this becomes a Mountain West semifinal. If Colorado State wins, they need a Boise State loss here to win the Mountain West Mountain (yes, that’s the division name).

Utah State has to be one of the great, underappreciated stories of the season, down to its fourth-string quarterback and coach Matt Wells has to be considered for a future big-time coaching job. For Boise State, a season of uncertainty following the departure of Chris Petersen has turned around in a big way and they appear to be the front-runner for a Fiesta Bowl return.

This will be a great way to end your football binge-watching.

Rebuilding or Reloading? Boise State Broncos Edition

Three games are in the books for the 2014 Boise State Broncos’ season. With a record of 2-1 the Broncos have offered a mixed bag of successes and failures. A poor showing against the 18th ranked Ole Miss Rebels in the first game of the season has acted as an umbrella overshadowing the positives from the two most recent Broncos games, versus Colorado State and at Connecticut. If it weren’t for a complete meltdown against the Rebels on national television, the mood surrounding the Broncos may be a bit more favorable. So where do the Broncos really stack up this season and what should we expect moving forward? Let’s dive a bit more deeply into the three games already played.
Broncos versus Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebels
The Broncos lost their season opener to Ole Miss 36-13. It was a chance for Boise State to make a splash on the national stage in the first game of its 2014 college football season. With a new coach and new offensive and defensive game plans, early struggles were expected. The offense experienced the brunt of these struggles, particularly in the first half of the game. While credit is partially due to a tough defense in Ole Miss, the signal caller of the Broncos didn’t do much to help matters. Making poor decisions throughout including three first half interceptions, many questions were raised to test whether Grant Hedrick is the best candidate for the Broncos under center in 2014. The bright spot of the offense was their bona fide running back Jay Ajayi. Powerful, explosive, and versatile, Ajayi was the star for the Broncos against Ole Miss. He looked very good running inside, outside, and catching passes out of the backfield. He was the lone bright spot in an otherwise poor showing. Grade – D.
hedrick-to-throw
As for the Boise State defense, it was solid for much of the game. The Broncos stuffed the Rebels’ running game and forced the Ole Miss passing game to try and move the ball. This worked well early on as the Broncos intercepted quarterback Bo Wallace three times in the first half. It was clear by the fourth quarter that the Broncos were gassed against the talented SEC team, and Wallace and standout wide receiver Laquon Treadwell were able to finally get it going, contributing to four 4th quarter touchdowns. Grade – B-.
 Broncos versus Colorado State Rams
The Broncos won their 2014 home opener against the Colorado State Rams 37-24. It was a much better showing for Boise State on the whole, but there were still some glaring negatives fans took from the game. While Hedrick’s stats looked good in the box score, he still made poor fundamental choices. His lone interception was a ball thrown into double coverage and in the red zone, taking away possible points from the Broncos at the time. He continued to throw the ball without his feet set and on the run. Each time he left the pocket and let the ball go without set feet, a collective cloud of anxiety could be felt throughout Albertson’s Stadium. The star on offense yet again was Jay Ajayi, who ran for over 200 yards, receiving for over 60, and scoring three touchdowns. However, it was concerning for fans to see first year head coach Bryan Harsin ride Ajayi like a Clydesdale among ponies especially when the Broncos roster other quality running backs like Jack Fields and Devan Dumas, who each had only 2 carries during the game. Even throughout the latter stages of the game when the Broncos had all but won, Ajayi was still fed the ball and took a few unnecessary hits to the lower body. Ever seen the movie “Friday Night Lights” when James “Boobie” Miles is given additional carries when a game is essentially over? You don’t give your best offensive player garbage time carries, it can only ends poorly with little (if anything) to gain. Grade – B-.
The run defense was extremely solid against Colorado State, limiting the Rams to 28 total rushing yards. The Broncos fortified the iron curtain erected during the game at Ole Miss, forcing the Rams to pass the ball on early downs. This played right into the Rams’ hands however, and allowed CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson to throw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. Needless to say, the Broncos’ passing defense took a sharp step backwards in the home opener and nearly fell down the stairs in doing so. Leaving receivers wide open and the quarterback ample time to throw is not a recipe for success as a pass defense, and the Broncos continued to be exposed when it came to defending the pass. Grade – C.
Broncos versus Connecticut Huskies
Making the trip across the country to play the UConn Huskies, the Broncos defense stole the show in this one and was just what Broncos’ fans ordered. Returning a fumble recovery and interception for touchdowns in the game the Broncos offense didn’t have to worry much about scoring points. In addition, the defense held the Huskies under 300 yards of total offense and looked much-improved overall. The Boise State run defense was bullish (48 total yards) and played as fans were accustomed to seeing in the first two games of the season. A good showing was desperately needed for the Bronco pass defense and the call was more than answered in this one. Regularly pressuring UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer and collecting eight sacks on the day, the Broncos limited the Huskies to a pedestrian 242 passing yards.  Grade – A.
Boise State UConn interception
Seeing Grant Hedrick with a “0” in the interceptions column of the stat sheet is rare and a sight for sore eyes for Boise State fans. Hedrick started off the game slowly and the Broncos were forced to punt on their first four possessions of the game. The running game could not get much going either and Jay Ajayi was contained well by the UConn defense (39 yards on 18 carries). Coach Harsin continued to lean on Ajayi without adhering to UConn basing their defensive strategy around stopping him, and gave all other Boise State running backs a total of one carry in the game. It was a passable showing for the offense with still much left to be desired. Grade – B-.
Miscellaneous thoughts from an unsettled fan
I talked to one of the Broncos’ diehard fans and he had some great critiques of the Broncos so far. Carl Swantek has paid close attention to the Boise State Broncos for decades. He’s got major concerns about Coach Harsin’s decision-making, both personnel-wise and in play-calling. Here are his thoughts, unfiltered and with a fine-toothed comb.

  1. I am not sure how Charles Bertoli plays in practice, but during games in the past he has played outstanding – a powerful runner that would be a great complement to Ajayi’s abilities.  Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and Coach Harsin need to go back and look at game tapes when he played.
  2. Bryan Harsin is on the path to mediocrity, calling plays just like every other team and how the Broncos did it the last two years (which went downhill for the Broncos).  Where is the creativity?  By creativity I don’t mean trick plays, I mean being creative and unpredictable on every play possible.  Where is the ball distribution?  Not only does Hedrick not spread the ball out, the offensive plays always give the ball to Ajayi to run.  Sure makes it easy on the defense.  I love Ajayi, but he would be a lot more productive and be kept healthier if he only got the ball half the time and other running backs had a chance. 
  3. Quarterback – there is no doubt that for both college and NFL teams the teams tend to go the way of their quarterback.  BSU has had a lot of very good quarterbacks, most notably Kellen Moore.  However, there was Zabransky, Dinwiddie, Hendricks, and others before him.  When you look at these other quarterbacks they did vary a bit in raw talent, but what they all had was the “it factor”!   Hedrick does NOT have the “it factor”.  Fans appreciate his effort, his work ethic, and his desire to succeed, but he doesn’t have it when he gets to the red zone or when the game is on the line.  Harsin had a chance to go with one of the younger quarterbacks that have potential and may well have the “it” factor, but we won’t know because we don’t get to see and of them. 
  4. One last question, why isn’t 4-star recruit Dylan Sumner-Gardner playing more?  Seems like he should have been red-shirted if he wasn’t going to start this year.  What message is this sending to potential four and five star recruit candidates?  If he is not as good as he was ranked, then we can understand, but we don’t know because he’s had a lack of playing time from day one.   

Where do we go from here?
Through 25% of the season, the Broncos are clearly behind the pace in terms of fans’ expectations for the 2014 season. Inconsistent play on both sides of the ball are inherent with teams that have undergone as much change as the Broncos have seen over the past year, and we are all hoping for those wrinkles to be ironed out before the Broncos take on Air Force come September 27th. We expect to see a flawless game against Louisiana Lafayette this upcoming Saturday, giving the team and its fans confidence heading into a definitive four-game stretch (at Air Force, at Nevada, home against Fresno State, home against BYU) that will go a long way in deciding how the Broncos will be remembered in 2014. Three things to look for in the short term are how Hedrick progresses and develops as a winner and not just as a passer, if the pass defense can settle down and become more consistent, and if Coach Harsin’s game plan continues to be ultra-conservative or if he starts calling plays like he did as Boise State offensive coordinator from 2006-2010. While there remain questions for the Broncos on both sides of the ball and in certain coaching moves, there are many reasons to be optimistic as a Boise State fan. Buckle up, it should be one heck of a ride. Go Broncos!
Boise State Broncos cheer

Former Boise State DE to become Impact Player at OLB for Chicago

Shea-McClellin1
To say the Chicago Bears reached on Shea McClellin in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft is an understatement. The Bears took McClellin with the 19th overall pick, while draft experts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper believed the former Boise State defensive standout should have been selected at the tail-end of the first round if not early second round. With two years under his belt, McClellin has underperformed but it is not entirely his fault. In 28 games with Chicago, McClellin has racked up a total of 6.5 sacks, 23 assists, and 21 total tackles. However the front office in Chicago set him up to fail from day one. He was never fit to play defensive end in the Bears’ 4-3 defense and would have had a much better chance playing as an outside linebacker on a 3-4. He’s also been plagued by the injury bug and never performed consistently during his first two years. Will this former Boise State Bronco be able to revitalize himself and the Bears’ lackluster defense in 2014?
During the 2014 NFL Combine, Chicago General Manager Phil Emery announced the team would switch McClellin from defensive end to outside linebacker and possibly give him some looks at middle linebacker. McClellin played outside linebacker at Boise State from 2008 to 2011 and excelled at the position, compiling 130 tackles, 20.5 sacks, and a handful of interceptions (4). It was a strange development when the Bears shifted McClellin from his natural position, as he weighed around 260 pounds, quite undersized to play on the defensive line in the NFL. The Bears aren’t known for making many intelligent internal decisions however, and lo and behold received two dreadful years from McClellin. Hardcore fans will still contend that sacking Aaron Rodgers and breaking his collarbone during a 2013 regular season game was worth the price of admission.
Sorry to say many could have advised against McClellin being used exclusively at defensive end in the first place, and there are a couple glaring reasons why. As aforementioned, the guy weighs between 250-260 pounds. In other words, his size doesn’t really fit battling it out in the trenches down after down. The goal was to have McClellin as the heir apparent to former Bears’ superstar Julius Peppers, who went on to sign with the rival Green Bay Packers during the offseason. Obviously the plan did not pan out. So the Bears will finally attempt to utilize their former first-rounder in ways that better utilize his skill set. He ran a 4.63 at the Combine in 2012, along with a vertical jump of 31.5, broad jump of 9 feet, 10 inches, and 3-cone drill of 7.07. Compare this to Jadaveon Clowney, first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, and you see some comparable lines to note. Which position will the Texans line Clowney up in 2014? He’s projected to play where McClellin should have stayed all along, at outside linebacker.
Reports from Chicago seem to be mainly positive for McClellin so far into offseason workouts. He’s slimmed down considerably and his body looks great. He is said to look much better as outside linebacker than he did at defensive end, in addition to McClellin stating the position change feels more “natural” to him (source). To his benefit, McClellin will continue to line up alongside Bears’ great Lance Briggs, a very promising up-and-coming stud in Jon Bostic, and a wily veteran in DJ Williams.
This leaves McClellin with a fresh start, a clean slate, and a chance at redemption. The project at defensive end is over and there is no longer a question about McClellin’s “right” position. He is an outside linebacker in the NFL. His size, speed, and overall skill-set will be better used at outside linebacker. “I think it’s what I should be doing… My first two years weren’t the greatest, but I think linebacker is a natural fit for me.” While McClellin is opening up a new chapter in his career after an unsuccessful start, the Boise State product has the potential to become a real impact player for Chicago in 2014.

Homeless Football Player Finds Home at Boise State

At 6’3’’ and 280 pounds, previously-homeless Boise State defensive tackle Antoine Turner will be a substantial addition to a historically hard-nosed Bronco defense in 2014. If you watch any of his game tape from Fullerton College you’ll be able to see that he has all the physical attributes to be a staunch run stopper and dogged pass rusher. He’s got quick feet and a knack for knifing through offensive lines and disrupting backfields of opposing offenses. You can see he’s got a motor that will not quit – you’ll see him making plays downfield, never giving up when a play seems dead, and generally wrecking absolute havoc in his wake. He’s scrappy and possesses a never-give-up attitude, even when his back is pressed up against a wall.

Turner_Fullteron

But not long ago, Turner found himself at the precipice of losing those fumes that kept him going – his dream to play college football and then in the NFL. At one point, he was flunking out of college. He lost his job at the local Laundromat. His family was broken and he lost his mother to cancer 17 years prior. Then, he was kicked off the Fullerton College football team. He spent his nights sleeping on a steel picnic table at a park in Anaheim, CA where he lost 70 pounds because of malnutrition and contemplated ending his own life right then and there. But it only took a small spark to rekindle his inner flame.

He met a fellow Fullerton student named R’Mya, who allowed for Turner to house with her and her family for the time being. That student is now Turner’s girlfriend and plans to attend college with him at Boise State this fall. Turner was also, somewhat surprisingly, given a rare second shot to play for Fullerton by head coach Tim Byrnes.

This time, he wouldn’t let the opportunity slip away.

Turner tore up the line of scrimmage last season at Fullerton with 34 tackles, 6 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and an interception. He has used his second chance as a way to revitalize his entire life with a hard reset. Now he’s a promising young defensive tackle for one of the top college teams in the Northwest, complete with a full-ride athletic scholarship.

Turner_streets

While he has yet to find a home and continues to sleep in motels, hotels, and any facility that puts a roof over his head, Turner knows the odds are increasingly pointing in his favor.

“I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor,” is how Turner sees it, “I want to inspire people. Perseverance is a big word for me. You control whatever you want to do in life.”

Turner still has a lot to prove, much more to himself than to anyone else. “Even if I get the food and I get the place to sleep I still have this planet on my shoulder that I have to get off. It’s not a chip, it’s a planet.” This is a man that realizes only he has the power to control his future and understands it can all be undone in an instant. He was only 12 years old when he saw this first-hand, as Hurricane Katrina ripped through his family’s home in New Orleans.

Antoine Turner is a rare type of player. He acknowledges the repercussions of failure, accepts that life is often unfair, and once came dangerously close to falling into the abyss of irrelevance. He has since turned his life completely around and will use his unique resolve and determination for the orange and blue this fall.

That’s not a good sign for opposing offensive lineman. Turner and the Broncos open the season in the Georgia Dome against Ole Miss on August 28th  (on ESPN at 8 p.m. EST).

MTAF Daily – BCS Issues, Terrell Owens Works Out and MTAF Radio

by Ryan Isley

BCS Issues:

The latest BCS standings were released on Sunday night and the one team who has a legitimate gripe about the way things shook out would be Stanford. The Cardinal somehow ended up ranked 6th, behind both Clemson and Boise State.

All Stanford did this past weekend was beat No. 25 Washington by a score of 65-21. That’s right – they beat a top-25 team by 44 points and they are still ranked behind a team like Boise State, who escaped a close game against Air Force.

Of course the schedule will eventually swing favor towards Stanford (or should anyway) and this will be a moot point if Stanford continues to win. The real issue is that two of the computers have Stanford ranked 14th and 21st in the rankings. Seriously? A team that is 7-0 in a BCS conference is the 21st-best team in the country according to some geek who puts data into a computer and this is how we decide the national champion?

Continue reading MTAF Daily – BCS Issues, Terrell Owens Works Out and MTAF Radio