Tag Archives: ESPNU

The Oversaturation Killing the NFL is Good for College Football

All this time, the NFL has seemed so bullet-proof, but we’re seeing vulnerability in the armor. People aren’t watching as much, and they don’t like the way the product is being dispersed.

What plagues the professional game actually seems to aid college football. While we understand Saturday remains the best day to see the best games, we don’t feel like the occasional Thursday or Friday games are scheduled to do us dirty.

You want to play one of these games on the moon at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday, College Football fans will adjust. Just tell them when/where the tailgate is, and they’re cool.

Tell an NFL fan that Sunday Ticket is only offering a game that his antenna won’t in the late spot on Sunday, and they’re livid with London and Thursday Night Football. The presentation of the NFL game is too clean for fans to adapt to these random game-time windows.

College Football fans see Thursday, and now also Tuesday and Wednesday, as an opportunity to showcase a game that might be buried on ESPNU or some dreaded streaming option at noon on Saturday.

Western Michigan is the “Other” Team

Last Tuesday, the nation’s “other” unbeaten team had the undivided attention of the College Football diehards in Muncie. Maybe a 32-point win over Ball State isn’t that sexy on paper, but did you see what Corey Davis did?

Do you feel anything was flukey about Western Michigan’s 9-0 start? Maybe you understand the pecking order, and where the Mid-American Conference gets pecked. Maybe there’s an obligation to qualify the two road wins over the Big Ten by reminding everyone that Illinois was one of those wins. Maybe you wonder if the MAC juggernaut deserves to be on the field with a mid-major darling like Boise State.

Friday night, by the way, a nationwide audience was given a chance to watch the other Broncos bounce back from their first loss of the season, which happened on October 29.

Remember the 80s?

Just for kicks, you could have watched games involving Oklahoma and Colorado last Thursday. Maybe something like that would have excited you more 25-30 years ago, but those games affect the outcome of the Big 12 and Pac-12, because the present is weird.

You love it, and it takes nothing away from Saturday afternoon or evening.

Election Threads and Football on the Diamond

This coming Tuesday, Eastern Michigan will continue a semi-annual MAC tradition of paying homage to democracy with Election Day uniforms, back in Muncie–for #MACtion. Speaking of everyone’s favorite non-defense-playing conference, you’ll be sure to see Cubs fans from DeKalb to Northern Ohio trolling Guaranteed Rate Field on Chicago’s south side this Wednesday.

It’s football at a baseball stadium. Yeah, Northwestern and Illinois got Wrigley on a Saturday, and GameDay went to Wrigleyville. This next chapter in the great Toledo-Northern Illinois saga might get Roy Philbott, Rocky Boiman, and an ESPN2 production crew to urban Illinois on a school night.

Does Anyone Get Pac-12 Network?

Thursday, we get Utah in the Valley of the Sun, for the FS1 weekend preview. It’s up to the Utes to prove that anyone other than Washington is worth a damn in that conference. This game isn’t being stolen from ABC at 3:30, but more likely from a channel you don’t get, even if you live in Phoenix or Salt Lake City.

NBC is Glad It’s You, Not Them

CBS gave you three games on Saturday, just as they would when they have London and the 1 PM/4 PM doubleheader on Sunday. They got Notre Dame because they have Navy rights. Notre Dame lost again; great moment for Navy. Is College Football worse off for the Irish’s 3-6 campaign?

I doubt CBS or Navy care. They’re going to care about records a lot more in December when they’re selling some lousy SEC East team’s upset potential against Alabama in Atlanta.

Hurts Donut?

Speaking of the Tide, Jalen Hurts may have provided the only offensive spark for Alabama in a 10-0 win in Death Valley at night. There’s a joke to be told including Alabama’s quarterback’s last name and a breakfast food that looks like a zero, but I’m striking out.

The networks are hitting it out of the park though and in doing so, they’ve won us over with quantity over quality. More may mean too much on Sunday, but we love it on Saturday, Thursday, and sometimes Tuesday.

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Spring Time in the SEC

Spring Games: Here to Stay Or On the Way Out?

The roar of the crowd as the team emerges from the locker room. Fans chanting through the kickoff. The quarterback barking out orders to his teammates. The clashing of helmets and pads as players block and tackle. Onlookers screaming in excitement. The referee’s whistle signaling the end of the play. Just imagining the sights and sounds of a college football game make my heart beat a little faster. With only a few months left until the college football season officially gets under way, fans are getting anxious. I’m getting anxious. This time of year college basketball is winding down and college baseball is kicking in. But what many of us really want to see is some hard-hitting football. Down and dirty, physical, SEC-style football would be great right now.

UT spring game

 

Most schools have hosted open practices for fans this spring, giving us just a little teaser of what’s to come for our favorite team in August. Many of these schools will also be hosting spring games, with Offense #1 vs. Defense #1. And by many I mean a list that includes 11 SEC schools, every PAC-12 school, every Big Ten school, 7 Big 12 schools, 9 AAC schools, and 11 ACC schools. But what is the true significance of all these games? Down in Gainesville we call it the “Orange and Blue Debut” and back home in Knoxville I grew up with the good ole “Orange and White Game.” Of course I love the idea of watching some actual football action this early in the year, but I also don’t put much weight on the actual performance of my team’s offense and defense during this “game.”

Obviously no team has the full man-power it would take to play a true game. All a coaching staff can hope to do is match up its best players against each other and observe. Admittedly, teams and coaches can learn from these matchups. They can strategically play a shorter corner on a lengthier receiver to see how he compensates. What they can also see in a spring game that is unique is how younger players react to having a relatively large audience and playing in the stadium.

Tennessee Coach Butch Jones seems less focused on matchups and more focused on bringing in a record number of fans to Neyland Stadium. Though Tennessee did not go to a bowl game, they pulled off an energizing upset at home over South Carolina last year. Jones hopes to bring that momentum into this year, starting with mobilizing the Vol Nation at the Orange and White Game. Jones is also in a rebuilding phase at UT, needing to use an opportunity like this to aid in recruiting. Few things are more impressive to recruits than pulling in a large, energetic crowd this time of year. If a fan base is that loyal and excited now, you can only imagine how great they could be on Saturdays in the fall. So for the Volunteers, the spring game really means gaining publicity, exposure, and the backing of the fans and recruits.

Due to an overwhelming number of injuries last spring, Florida Coach Will Muschamp decided to hold a glorified practice in The Swamp instead of a spring game. Having a connection with the fans was still important to Muschamp despite the team’s injury problems. Luckily for those of us in Gainesville, Coach Muschamp is returning the Orange and Blue Debut to its former glory this year. He can observe his best offensive players snap after snap against his best defensive players. In 2012, the spring game was even key in establishing whether Jeff Driskel or Jacoby Brissett would be the starting quarterback for the Gators come fall. But this year Gator fans will be chomping at the bit to get a peek at new Offensive Coordinator Kurt Roper’s plans. And hopefully the game will energize the fan base after a disappointing past season.

Another SEC team who hosted a media circus of a spring game last year won’t be playing one this year. Texas A&M’s last spring game brought great attention to a program who hoped to rally behind quarterback Johnny Manziel to win a championship this past year. But with an ongoing stadium renovation at Kyle Field, Aggie Coach Kevin Sumlin places little importance on having a true spring game. He will conduct a scrimmage on A&M’s practice fields for his last spring practice instead.

Even non-SEC teams have been in the media for not hosting spring games this year. One of such schools is the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt Coach Paul Chryst officially called off their spring game. While weather may be a factor, Chryst is also more concerned about his team’s health than exciting their fan base. He relies on the idea that he can simulate the pressure of a game in practice without having as high of a risk for injury.

So in the long run is that lack of a spring game going to really affect Texas A&M’s or Pitt’s football season? Probably not. What it is more likely to affect is the team’s fan base and maybe even recruiting just a little. While Volunteer and Gator fans all around me are gearing up for their spring games as excited as ever to see a little football, Aggie and Panther fans are nowhere to be found. Their teams will practice and grind, but for now they’ll just have to wait until fall to watch some actual football.

Now that I’ve laid a few examples before you, take a minute to look at the possible negative outcomes of a spring game. For a team like Florida, I can see two major problems that could arise from this game. First of all, when you have such a suffocating defense is there even a good chance that our new offense is going to excite fans? Nobody in the country wants to go up against cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, so is it fair to judge our quarterback or receiver based on his performance against a defensive star like him? Our defense could shut down what may be a good offense and then the Florida faithful will be less excited to see what that offense can do come Fall. The other more critical problem that comes from a spring game is the increased chance for injury. With a team that was decimated by injuries last season, it’s easy to be concerned that the same thing will happen this year. Practices are less risky and hard-hitting than games, and injuries have still happened throughout our program then.

But in a college town like Gainesville, football has become a part of the culture. People spend all day tailgating and rallying behind the Gator football team. Not having a spring game for the fans could get a coach like Muschamp who’s already on the “hot seat” this year with much of the Gator faithful in big trouble. And as much as practices can simulate the idea of a game nothing will compare to playing four quarters of football, offensive best vs. defensive best, in The Swamp in front of a roaring crowd.

Are spring games going to become a thing of the past? The cons may be starting to outweigh the pros for some programs. But then again, college football would be nothing without its loyal fans. So for now schools and coaches, especially in The South, may aim to please fans with a little spring football. But don’t be surprised if some big programs with less favorable conditions for hosting spring games start to move away from the games in favor of one final spring practice.