Yesterday, I told you there are a lot of big games in Week 1. Today, we keep it rolling. Here are some notes on three more games you’ll be watching this holiday weekend: Continue reading Not Another List of Big Games: Week 1 (Pt. 2)
Our top news story in this week’s Pipeline comes from the University of Illinois. (Never thought you’d read that, did you?) Yes, the Illini have attracted national attention, at least for a couple days.
Head coach Tim Beckman was fired Friday afternoon just seven days before Illinois opens its season against Kent State. Director of Athletics Mike Thomas dismissed Beckman due to the findings of an external investigation into the mistreatment of players.
Beckman is alleged to have deterred the reporting of player injuries, and pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and play through injuries. There are also some questions as to whether or not seniors were treated fairly with respect to their scholarship status during the spring semester once they were done playing. He has, of course, denied that the allegations are accurate, setting the stage for a future lawsuit.
These are very serious accusations. And there must have been quite a lot of damning evidence to substantiate these claims for Thomas to can Beckman so close to the season opener.
Bill Cubit will take over for the 2015 as interim head coach. He joined the Illini coaching staff in 2013 as offensive coordinator.
The issue of player safety became real for us last fall when Brady Hoke and the Michigan training staff failed miserably in protecting quarterback Shane Morris. Excuse the video quality, but you should hear how Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham brought this to a live audience. Now that a coach has been fired for mismanaging his players, it’s officially a hot button issue.
2. Fining College Football Players?
On Wednesday, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said some things he shouldn’t have about the possibility of fining players. Athletic director Whit Babcock was quick to shut the idea down, saying Tech would be doing no such thing.
On Thursday a list of all finable offenses is spotted outside the Tech locker room. A picture is taken. The picture makes its way around the internet. And Foster’s words are legitimized, proving that there was a plan in place to fine Hokie players for misbehavior.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 28, 2015
Then, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville seconds Foster’s motion. The AD in this case, UC’s Mike Bohn does not squash his coach’s idea, but instead agrees with him.
There’s some confusion about whether this is legal. NCAA rules state that taking money from a student’s scholarship is impermissible. However, there is supposedly some language in these financial aid contracts which states the school may subtract aid if the violations go against department policy or the student code of conduct.
I’m no legal eagle. I’ll let the lawyers decide what exactly the contracts allow schools to do with players’ financial aid. I can say that this will undoubtedly add another convoluted layer to the already complicated cake that is the controversy over compensating college athletes.
3. Pac-12 Network on DirecTV
As our own Mike Wilson wrote last week, west coast football fans might be able to relax soon. After years of not carrying the Pac-12 Network on their cable package, DirecTV will finally give fans out west what they want.
DirecTV, which was recently bought by AT&T, began testing on Friday that appears to be the first step towards bringing the Pac-12 Network to their customers’ television sets.
Imagine the frustration of paying for sports packages you’re not interested in while your favorite conference’s network is unavailable to you. This is what some fans have been dealing with since the Pac-12 Network’s inception in 2012.
Luckily for them it seems to be coming to an end just in time for the 2015 season.
Steve Sarkisian addressed the media on Tuesday concerning his “inappropriate” behavior at a USC donor event last Saturday. Apparently, he had too much to drink and had taken some pills he was prescribed.
The press conference was short, but notably odd.
There were unnecessarily personal questions about specifically what medication Sarkisian was referring to in his statement. Rightfully, he declined to disclose that information.
When asked if he had a drinking problem, Sarkisian said, “No, I don’t believe so, but through Pat [Haden] and the University, I’m going to find that out.”
“I don’t know if I even need rehab,” Sarkisian said. “That’s part of the process, and I credit Pat Haden for this, that he has put things in place for me to have meetings to figure that out.”
He was quick to ‘swear off’ drinking for the rest of the season, and clarified that while there was never any alcohol in the players’ locker room, it will now be completely banned from all USC football facilities.
The USC players had their coach do a set of down-ups, just as they would have had to do for breaking team rules.
The team has moved on and so should the media. This was a big mistake, but it was not an accurate reflection of Sarkisian’s character.
5. Vernon Adams Wins Oregon’s Starting QB Job
Anyone who was following the quarterback battle at Oregon knew there was a good chance Vernon Adams would end up winning the job. The Ducks’ week one depth chart was released on Friday, and sure enough Adams was at the top.
This is news mostly because it wasn’t news to those of us who were paying attention.
Adams is a graduate transfer student who played three seasons at Eastern Washington. He put up the type of numbers you see from Oregon quarterbacks, throwing for 10,438 yards and 110 touchdowns while with the Eagles. With Marcus Mariota gone to the NFL and the rest of the team in place, the Ducks needed a new quarterback who could step in and preform immediately. In Adams, they’ve got just that.
Interestingly, Adams will make his first start against his alma mater next weekend when the Ducks host the Eagles. That’s right, just three weeks after graduating from Eastern Washington he will take the field against his former team.
Ahh, what a glorious loophole in the NCAA’s transfer rules.
A few weeks ago Damien reached out to BuckAround’s (@Buck_Around) Max Brusky to ask him why Barry Alvarez was at Wisconsin. After a lengthy Twitter discussion the two did this podcast for a bit over two hours. A complete deep-dive into the Bret Bielema years at Wisconsin along with a discussion about Jeff Long and his relationship with Barry Alvarez, an obvious Top Gun reference, and off topic on the Big Ten and it’s next television deal.
- Era of Good Feelings with Paul Chryst – How Long Will It Last? [ Max Brusky/BuckAround]
- The College Quickie: Why Is Barry Alvarez Still At Wisconsin? [Damien Bowman/Campus Pressbox]
- Barry Alvarez [Wikipedia]
- Barry Alvarez’s Rose Bowl pay: $118,500 [USA Today]
- Badgers football: Barry Alvarez learned a few things from last time on sideline [Jason Galloway/Wisconsin State Journal]
- Bret Bielema [Wikipedia]
- Bret Bielema misses relationship with Barry Alvarez [Matt Hayes/Sporting News]
- Arkansas AD Jeff Long Didn’t Notify Wisconsin AD upon hiring Bret Bielema [Michael Collins/Fansided]
- Gary Andersen [Wikipedia]
- Wisconsin’s admission standards pushed Gary Andersen to Oregon St. [Dennis Dodd/CBS]
- Paul Chryst [Wikipedia]
- Brady Hoke: Takes 5-6 years to build a football program [Mark Snyder/Detroit Free Press]
- Top Gun Remake [Wikipedia]
- Tom Cruise: Top Gun sequel on cards [Andrew Pulver/The Guardian]
- Minnesota–Wisconsin football rivalry [Wikipedia]
- CFB Playoff Selection Committee [College Football Playoff]
- Report: Longhorns AD Steve Patterson alienating virtually everyone at Texas [Wescott Eberts/Burnt Orange Nation]
- So long, coach-in-waiting [Andrea Adelson/ESPN]
- Frank Beamer wants son Shane Beamer or Bud Foster as successor [Mark Schlabach/ESPN]
- Tailgate Talk: Who should take over at Alabama when Saban retires? [Kevin Duffy/Saturday Down South]
- The Longhorn Network Has Destroyed College Football [Cowboys Ride for Free]
- Barfknecht: During realignment, four others from Big 12 took a look at Big Ten switch [Lee Barfknecht/Omaha World-Herald]
- Most Influential: Big Ten commish Jim Delany will only gain more power [Jon Solomon/CBS]
- Big Ten Set to Begin Media Rights Talks in the Upcoming Season [Ken Fang/Awful Announcing]
- Why Bain hired David Brandon to run Toys R Us: He has a successful IPO history [Bill Shea/Crains – Detroit]
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A lot of football is yet to be played this year, but is appears that East Carolina is set up for a banner year. Running the table for the balance of the regular season is a realistic goal. The toughest opponents left on the Pirate schedule are Cincinnati and Central Florida.
The jury is still out on the strength of Central Florida. Their record is one win and two losses, but the losses were to Penn State and Missouri, both good teams. The Knights’ lone victory is over Bethune-Cookman. ECU will play Central Florida at Dowdy-Ficklen. Home field advantage will be enough to give ECU the victory.
Cincinnati’s record is 2 wins and 1 loss. Their victories were over Toledo and Miami (Ohio). Despite a winning record, the Bearcats are vulnerable. They gave up 34 points to Toledo, 24 to Miami and 50 in a loss to Ohio State.
Ohio State does not have a juggernaut offense. Against Navy, the Buckeyes scored 34 points; against Virginia Tech Ohio only scored 21 points. The Pirates scored 28 points against the Hokies, but had to fight the zebras and Bud Foster’s defense. Ohio State did ring the bell big time against Kent State where they scored 66 points. However, scoring 66 points against winless Kent State does not mean a lot. Given that, the 50 points the Bearcats surrendered against Ohio looks big. The conclusion, Cincinnati has problems on defense.
Both East Carolina and Cincinnati can light up the scoreboard on offense. However, ECU’s defense is at least credible, and maybe even good. Therefore, ECU should take Cincinnati when the Pirates and Bearcats meet the 13th of November in Cincinnati.
The really big news is not that East Carolina has a realistic chance of going 11 -1 in the regular season; the big news is that this is, to a large extent, a building year. Next year, if Kurt Benkert can step-up as the quarterback, the Pirates will reload instead of rebuild.
The Pirate offense only has four seniors that are starters. Losing Justin Hardy and Shane Carden will hurt. However, the Pirates have a stable of good receivers and running backs. The ECU offense should have the talent to score big points next season.
Similarly, the Pirate defense should be good in 2015. They lose Terry Williams, but have a horde of young linebackers, linemen, and defensive backs that will return.
The only fly in the ointment is that East Carolina needs to keep the current coaching staff in place. Lincoln Riley is the prime suspect to leave for greener pastures, but Rick Smith and the entire coaching staff will be sought after by other schools. Most fans take Ruffin McNeill at his word that he will not leave, but you have to think other schools will come hunting for him.
Most coaches who leave ECU of their own volition are never heard from again. Pat Dye is the exception. Sonny Randle, Bill Lewis, and Skip Holtz left ECU, but never enjoyed the success at other schools they had at East Carolina.
Yes, I say it unabashedly, ECU is special. I do not know if it’s in the water or the air, but ECU brings out the best in football players and coaches.
As previously stated, ECU is good for the coaches, but the current staff is good for ECU. The surest way to lose the momentum East Carolina enjoys is to have an exodus in the off-season of coordinators and assistant coaches. I am sure the coaches are loyal, care about the players and are proud of the Pirates’ success. However, coaches also know fans, alumni and administrators are fickle; therefore, you cannot blame a coach for looking out for his family’s financial welfare when the chance presents itself.
Virginia Tech needs to be the model for ECU in retention of coaches. Bud Foster, a talented and sought after defensive coordinator, started at Virginia Tech in 1987. East Carolina’s goal should be to keep McNeill, Riley, Smith, Doll, and all of the assistant coaches. Folks, the solution is simple; ECU will have to come up with some serious scratch. In terms of winning football games, the investment in coaches will pay dividends. With a stable staff, development of talent in the program is stronger. Also, a coaching staff that is in place year after year can develop relationships with high school coaches and has more credibility with high-school recruits. That, of course, leads to more success in the recruiting game.
So, in the off-season Jeff Compher, East Carolina’s Director of Athletics, needs to break out the checkbook. I will leave the small detail of where the money is to come from to him.
Some wondered whether Florida State winning it all last season would finally put an end to the SEC’s dominance of the college football world or if it was an aberration. Outside of the Seminoles’ struggles putting away OK State, the focus of opening weekend was on the SEC once again. The Week 1 storylines consisted mainly of talk about the Texas A&M/South Carolina opener, Alabama’s struggles, and Georgia and LSU winning marquee games. Turning our attention to the second weekend, the SEC haters will get a reprieve (if only for a week) as the conference is loaded with non-conference gimmies. With the SEC taking a backseat, all eyes fall on the Pac-12 and Big 10. While the Pac-12 is out to prove it is right up there with the level of play in the southeast, the Big 10 is merely trying to remain relevant. They’ll have a chance to prove it, so let’s look at the weekend’s biggest games.
USC @ Stanford
The Trojans appear to be on the rise, while many expect the Cardinal to take step back this year. Regardless, both teams have similar expectations and this game will go a long way in determining the success of both teams. USC and Stanford each rolled in their tune-up games last week. Both are balanced teams, each with solid defenses and offenses that can punish teams on the ground or through the air. Being at Stanford will have this game coming down to the wire. In the end I think two things tilt the balance in USC’s favor. Stanford’s inexperienced offensive line will have trouble with USC’s front seven, keeping Stanford QB Kevin Hogan on edge. Hogan has the ability to deal well with the pressure, but he has fewer weapons at his disposal than his counterpart in Cody Kessler. USC wins a close one 27-24.
Virginia Tech @ Ohio State
This game doesn’t have the marquee status of other early season matchups, but the Big 10 is desperate to improve its image and needs Ohio State to win this one to avoid taking more beating in the media and across the country. This game would’ve been a no-brainer with Braxton Miller on the field, but a Bud Foster defense going against an unproven quarterback has some thinking upset. Both offenses will struggle in this contest, but Ohio State still has the weapons to pull it out in the end. The Big 10, and its playoff contenders, needs this victory as much as Ohio State does, and I’m not going against the Buckeyes at the Shoe, at night. Ohio State takes it 24-13.
Michigan @ Notre Dame
Much of the lead-up to this game will focus on the end of a rivalry, and rightfully so. But both teams are also traditional powers who have struggled for the most part of the last decade. With Notre Dame’s difficult schedule and Michigan playing in a down Big 10, both have a chance to be playoff sleepers. This game is critical for both if they wish to remain in the hunt. Both teams rolled in Week 1, but will face a significantly greater challenge Saturday night, playing against a team pretty similar to its own. Both teams will run the ball fairly well and though Everett Golson dazzled in his return, Michigan’s linebacking core will be able to slow him down just enough and in the end, Notre Dame won’t have an answer for Devin Funchess. Michigan wins in a slight upset, 37-34.
Michigan State @ Oregon
The showdown that has been anticipated for months is finally here, as we get the first showdown between Top 10 teams. The perception is that Michigan State needs to win, or at least keep the game close in order for the Big 10 to have any shot at getting their champion into the playoff. But Vegas has the Ducks as a double digit favorite and with the game at Autzen Stadium, that’s a tall order. Marcus Mariota will be tough to slow down, let alone shut down as he leads Oregon’s versatile rushing attack. However, the Ducks’ passing game is not as proficient as it’s been in the past due to a lack of receiving weapons so the Spartans will be able to focus more on the ground game. This is also a much bigger game for Michigan State than it is for Oregon, and the urgency will show in the Spartans’ play. Mark Dantonio’s squad keeps it close, but when the clock hits 00:00, Mariota and the Autzen crowd will have been too much for State to overcome. 31-24 Ducks.
There are many well known phrases, ideas, or thoughts in football. The idea that defense wins championships is one of the most prevalent. Even though Florida State did have Heisman winner Jameis Winston at quarterback, they also had the best defense in the country last year. The SEC’s run of titles was mainly led by the stout defenses of Alabama, LSU, and Florida. This year will likely be no different. Barring a disaster of an offense, having a championship level defense almost guarantees a nine win season with the potential for much more. Chances are a few teams from this list will find themselves in the playoff hunt until Championship Saturday, and one of them being crowned the first National Champion of the College Football Playoff Era.
10. Ohio St.
Ohio State should have a formidable defense once again this season. They return seven starters from a defense that gave up 22.6 ppg (28th in the nation). Noah Spence and Joey Bosa bookend a defensive line that is arguably the best in college football and will have Big 10 quarterbacks hitting the turf all season long.
The Horned Frogs struggled a bit on defense last year, but this year will return to the defensive dominance that they’re accustomed to under Gary Patterson. TCU returns eight defensive starters and adds back Devonte Fields, who won the Big 12 defensive player of the year as a freshman two years ago, and Kenny Iloka, a transfer safety who had 126 tackles last year. This D held Texas Tech and Baylor under 300 yards passing last year and with most of those players back, will be more consistent this year on their way to a top 10 defensive finish.
8. Virginia Tech
You can almost pencil in the Hokies defense as one of the best every year and this year should be no different. They’ve overcome losses before which this year are up front. Bud Foster will have plenty to work with though starting with one of the best defensive backfields in the country led by budding star Kendall Fuller, who had six picks last year.
The Sooners have a ton of buzz going into this year as a potential playoff team and a lot of that rides on expectations for their defense. There was some inconsistency last year, to be expected when switching to a new scheme. But this year nine starters return from that defense with a full year and offseason to get the 3-4 system under their belt. Led by pass-rushing duo Charles Tapper and Eric Striker, Oklahoma will not only have the Big 12’s best defense, but one of the best in the nation as well.
USC might be higher if it wasn’t for depth issues stemming from scholarship losses, but this defense is almost as talented in the starting unit as those that contended for championships in the last decade. Seven starters return to a unit that had the 16th best scoring defense last year. Leonard Williams is a potential top 10 pick on the defensive line, and the defense could boast a top 5 defensive line, linebacking corps, and secondary.
It will be a strange year in Clemson, having a team led by the defense. Though overshadowed by an offense with stars like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, Clemson’s defense actually was pretty good last year giving up the 24th least ppg. They return seven starters from that D and will be led by their front seven and pass rush. Vic Beasley is an All-American at DE, Stephone Anthony will lead the linebackers after having 131 tackles last year, and the Tigers return defenders who accounted for 32 of their 38 sacks last year (one of the nation’s top totals).
Alabama has been rolling out top 5 defenses year after year and this year won’t be different. They return five starters from a defense that allowed 10 points or less nine times last year, and we all know that Nick Saban has plenty of 5-star talent to replace the other starters. Landon Collins, Trey DePriest, and A’Shawn Robinson give the Crimson Tide an impact player at every level and will ensure that Bama’s D doesn’t have any significant drop-off.
Everyone in the college football realm is familiar with the number of injuries Florida encountered last year. Even with that, the defense still only gave up 314 ypg and was the 15th best scoring defense in the nation. That is pretty incredible considering how many tough spots Florida’s lackluster offense put its defense in. 9 of the top 12 tacklers return, and the defensive playbook will be wide open with stud corner Vernon Hargreaves shutting down one side of the field
2. Michigan St.
Most people have been focusing on the losses Michigan State has on defense going into this year. While those losses will hurt, the Spartans have numerous impact players that remain. DE Shilique Calhoun, CB Trae Waynes, and S Kurtis Drummond are all near the top of their respective positions in the country, and Taiwan Jones is a more than adequate replacement for Max Bullough in the middle. With a vicious pass rush from the defensive end spots and a lock-down cornerback, the Spartans defense will be near the top in points allowed just as they have been the last few years.
1. Florida St.
They say some teams reload instead of rebuild, but we might need to come up with a different word for what Florida State has done. After losing five starters from the nation’s number one defense last year (12.1 ppg), the Seminoles are still loaded. There is NFL talent at basically every position. PJ Williams, Jalen Ramsey, and Ronald Darby form the best cornerback unit in the country and will give the numerous 5-star players on the defensive line plenty of time to harass ACC quarterbacks game after game.