Tag Archives: FBS

2016 is the Year of Butch Jones and the Vols

It’s been 3 years since Tennessee bought out Butch Jones’ contract with Cincinnati. Three years of top 15 recruiting classes, three years of improving records from 5-7, to 7-6, to 9-4. Three years of preseason hype followed by losses that make fans’ hopes rise, but hearts break. There was that Pig Howard fumble at the goal line for a 31-34 loss to Georgia in overtime in 2013, those consecutive losses to Florida and Georgia by a combined four points in 2014, and every loss in 2015, which consisted of a double-overtime loss to #19 Oklahoma, a one-point loss to Florida, a four-point loss to Arkansas, and a five-point loss to the eventual national champions, Alabama. After three years of work, he has the recruiting classes, he has the experienced players, he has the Power Five conference football program, and he even has the not-so-formidable schedule to help him out. Only one real question remains about Butch Jones as a head coach, and it is now set to be answered this year. How far can Butch Jones take the Tennessee football program?

Can Butch Jones end the 9-year losing streak against Tennessee’s arch-rival Alabama?

That game will be played at Neyland Stadium, in front of their passionate fan base. Barring injury, they’ll have the senior quarterback, Joshua Dobbs with 24 starts under his belt, against a quarterback yet to be determined by Nick Saban and the staff who will have a total of six options. Tennessee’s defensive line of juniors and seniors will be playing against Alabama’s offensive line of sophomores and freshmen. Again, barring injury, almost every player that starts for Tennessee will have played in that five-point loss to Alabama last year. Alabama still has its vaunted defense, running back Bo Scarborough, and some of the best coaching in the nation, but if everything holds through the first six games, there has been no better opportunity for Tennessee to defeat Alabama in the nine years since it last did so.

Can he win an SEC Championship and make the CFB Playoffs?

If he can defeat Alabama, the road to the SEC Championship is one of the least formidable in the SEC. Non-conference home games against Appalachian State and Ohio, as well as a neutral site game at Bristol Motor Speedway against Virginia Tech, give them a manageable 3-0 record out of the gate.  The only real threat to that will be Virginia Tech, who’s coming off a 7-6 season and still trying to find a starting quarterback.

The next four games will determine the path of their season, at home against Florida, at Georgia, at Texas A&M, and at home against Alabama. Florida will be a difficult game against a tough defense, but they’re also looking for a quarterback (none of their quarterbacks have ever thrown a pass for Florida), and the game will be played at Neyland. Georgia will be their first difficult road game, but they will be facing a new head coach, Kirby Smart. Georgia is also young on offense but very talented and has a quarterback that won ten games last year in Greyson Lambert. Georgia is very experienced in the secondary on defense, and Smart is a defensive coach. This game will be a grind and a test for Tennessee.  the road game against Texas A&M will be their “trap game,” with a quarterback in Trevor Knight who went 11-4 last year at Oklahoma, and a coach fighting to keep his job in the midst of off-the-field drama in Kevin Sumlin. Alabama has already been discussed above.

All four of those will be tough games, but after them, Tennessee has the easiest four game schedule a team could compile in the SEC, and an FCS school they will soundly defeat. Ending the year at South Carolina, at home against Tennessee Tech, at home against Kentucky, at home against Missouri, and finishing off at Vanderbilt is a schedule that even Cincinnati, the program he left, could reasonably go undefeated against. Mark my words, if Tennessee is 7-0 on October 16, 2016, they will go undefeated through the regular season. Those middle four games will be tough, and I expect them to at least be 3-1 in the Florida, Georgia, A&M, Alabama matchups, but could there be an easier route to the SEC Championship? If he gets there and wins, it’s a virtual guarantee Tennessee will be in the CFB Playoffs… How far can they go? Every piece is in place for Butch Jones to answer the question every Tennessee fan is asking, “How far can Butch Jones take this program?”

So Tennessee fans, as you sit at #10 on the recently released Amway College Top 25 Coaches Poll, kick back and enjoy. You’re about to see the full potential of what your athletic director Dave Hart bought out of Cincinnati 3 years ago. Whether Tennessee has the next great coach in the SEC, or just one in the series of coaches trying to bring the “Power T” back to prominence, everything is in now in place.  You will know which of these he is at the end of this year, which is why, for Tennessee fans I would call it, “The Year of Butch Jones.”

Photo courtesy of Jason Yellin.

Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

Paxton Lynch

Do you know who that is? It is the name of the player you will be hearing the most about coming into this game. He is the quarterback for Memphis and he could be the best QB in college football. He will, most assuredly, be the first signal caller taken in the NFL Draft this spring.

Let’s love him a bit more.

Lynch has completed 280 of 407 pass attempts this season, for 3,670 yards and 28 touchdowns. He has thrown only 3 interceptions. Lynch has a 166.8 efficiency rating and his completion percentage is 69%. And get this, he is 6’7” and 245 pounds.

Thus, here is Bird’s strategy for Auburn to win the football game. KEEP THE BALL AWAY FROM PAXTON LYNCH! Brilliant, huh?

And how does one keep the ball away from Memphis and Lynch? By running the heck out of it.

Now here is where that proposition gets dicey. The strength of the Memphis defense is stopping the run. They allow only 137.8 rushing yards per game. Auburn runs the ball for 191.8 yards per game. Mark this as a critical matchup. The Memphis D-line vs. the Auburn O-line. Something’s gotta give. Or not.

Memphis Tigers

These two sets of felines have met only twice on the gridiron. Who do you think leads the series? If you said Auburn, you were wrong. Memphis beat Auburn both times they faced off. In 1975 Memphis State, as she was called back then, beat Auburn, 31-20, at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The following year Auburn fell 28-27 at the Liberty Bowl in the Bluff City.

Memphis is a member of the American Athletic Conference. These Tigers finished the 2015 regular season with a 9-3 record and they were 5-2 (third) in conference play.

Their interim head coach is Darrell Dickey. Also, a new head coach has been hired. Waiting in the wings is Mike Norvell, who was previously the offensive coordinator and Deputy Head Coach at Arizona State. That’s what they call them out there. Deputies. It’s the west. Norvell will be the youngest head coach in FBS football. He is 34 years old. I have a son older than that. When I was 34, number 34 was winning a Heisman Trophy at Auburn. You know who that was.

Now back to Memphis. There are a lot of great songs about Memphis. No, the football team. Short-term memory.

Pass the Geritol, please.

Offense? They average 510.4 yards per game and 42.7 points per game. Like I said, keep the ball away from Paxton Lynch and that juggernaut of an offense! Covering Mose Frazier would be a good place to start. Frazier nabbed 66 passes for 750 yards and 4 TD’s.

When Memphis runs the ball, Doroland Dorceus is their ‘go-to’ guy. He ran for 613 yards at 4.3 yards per rush.

And, by the way, Lynch is very good at extending plays with his legs. Keep the ball away from Paxton Lynch!

Auburn Tigers

We’re not going to say, keep the ball away from Jeremy Johnson or Sean White. We don’t know, just yet, who the starting quarterback will be for Auburn, but, suffice it to say that neither will strike fear in the hearts of the Memphis faithful the way Lynch will in Auburn Tiger fans.

But…BUT… whichever of those two guys Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee starts, he better manage a good game, not turn it over, and make good decisions. If the Auburn QB does not do these things, then the burnt orange and navy blue will, likely, suffer through a long afternoon at 400 Graymont Ave W, Legion Field.

Auburn’s QB numbers are pedestrian. Johnson is 94 of 156 (60.3%) for 1,043 yards. White has thrown 130 times and completed 75 (57.7%) of those for 1,064 yards.

What MUST Auburn do to be successful on offense? That’s right! They MUST run the football and run it well. The guys who can get that done? Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson. Barber has run the ball for 976 yards at 4.3 yards per carry. Robinson, who hails from Memphis, is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He has 513 rushing yards.

When Auburn does throw, their most popular target is Ricardo (The Prayer at Jordan-Hare) Louis. Louis has hauled in 45 passes for 699 yards. He is averaging 15.5 yards per catch.

The AU Tigers’ D has been a bit porous but they had begun to gel, somewhat, as the regular season came to an end. They allowed 421.8 yards per game. Opponents rushed for 189.7 per contest (WAAAAAY TOO MUCH) and passed for a 232.2 yard average in each game (WAAAAAY TOO MUCH).

Johnathan “Rudy” Ford lead all Tiger tacklers with 113. That was also good for second place in the SEC.

Placekickers

Daniel Carlson (Auburn) and Jake Elliott (Memphis) are excellent placekickers. Oddly enough, they both hit 22 of their 26 field goal attempts. If it comes down to a last second field goal both schools are, obviously, in great shape there.

What To Expect

A shootout? Possibly. But nothing like the 55-52 pinball game that Virginia Tech and Tulsa found themselves embroiled in recently. It should be something more like the 37-29 Nebraska win over UCLA.

Memphis is going to get some passing yards. Auburn is going to get some rushing yards.

Both sets of Tigers will score some points. The question is, who gets the most points? That is who always wins the football game. Every time. Book it. Done deal.

In the end, Auburn (6-6, 2-6 SEC) has more talent, SEC talent at that, and really wants to send this group of seniors, who have NEVER won a bowl game, out with a win. I like what I’m hearing from the practice filed concerning Auburn’s work ethic, attitude, and effort.

The Tigers of Lee County Alabama subdue the Tigers of Shelby County Tennessee.

Prediction. Auburn 34, Memphis 24.

Here is the link to the Birmingham Bowl website.

http://www.birminghambowl.com

MAC: Weekly Roundup

With a full week of conference games behind us, things are just starting to get exciting in the MAC as teams start to form an identity and marquee match-ups begin to reveal themselves and build importance. Obviously every game matters but conference play is where we separate the men from the boys.
After 22 conference games (several schools played previous conference games) and one full Saturday slate, only 4 schools remain undefeated: Toledo (3-0), Bowling Green (2-0), Northern Illinois (1-0) and Akron (1-0). Akron beat lowly Eastern Michigan and will soon drop back to mediocrity where they belong while Toledo on the other hand has a strong start and an early advantage going in the MAC West. Playing in classic rainy, unusually cold, Midwest weather, the Rockets edged Western Michigan 20-19 while earning themselves sole possession of 1st place in the West, at least for the time being.
Perhaps Toledo’s biggest threat in the battle for MAC West and MAC Conference supremacy comes from the confident shoulders of the 4-time defending West Champion, Northern Illinois. After running the table in the regular season last year, the Huskies choked by losing the MAC Championship game. Needless to say, they’d like another shot at it. One of my preseason favorites, N. Illinois extended the nations longest current home winning streak to 28 consecutive wins, defeating Kent St. 17-14 in N Illinois’ MAC opener. The Huskies haven’t lose a home game since way back on September 27th of 2009! N. Illinois has also dominated the MAC winning 24 straight regular season conference games stretching back to October 1st, 2011 when they lost 48-41 at Central Michigan in their MAC opener that year. Winning their next 7 conference games to finish 2011, they proceeded to run the table in 2012 and 2013 and have now started 1-0 in 2014. Throughout all of this they’ve won 4 consecutive MAC West Division titles, back to back MAC Conference Championships in 2011 and 2012, and have earned the right to play in a MAC record 6 consecutive Bowl games. Their 50 wins 2010 ranks 2nd among all FBS schools to only Oregon. Coincidentally, the Huskies host the Chippewas who handed them their last MAC defeat in a marquee match-up Saturday. Taking a look ahead at a game that may decide the MAC West and promises to entertain, Toledo comes to N. Illinois in a month(November 11th) for a MAC showdown. It will be interesting indeed to see where both teams stand 4 weeks from now.
MAC get some maction logo Elsewhere in MAC land, Miami of Ohio snapped an embarrassing streak of losing 21 straight games dating back to October 27th, 2012. That’s a longggg time for Redhawks fans to go without celebrating but at long last they got a win! Defeating U-Mass 42-41 in an incredibly thrilling comeback overcoming an impossible 27 point halftime deficit in an instant classic. Miami(OH) moves on to Akron saturday to attempt another first in ages; a win streak!
Checking back on previous spotlight player WMU’s Jarvion Franklin added another TD and 64 more rushing yards vs. Toledo to his impressive rookie debut, but was unable to top 100 yards for consecutive games after topping 100 in his 1st 3 games. Despite falling back down to earth some, Franklin is still in the upper echelon of most FBS RB categories including: 1st in Rushing TD’s (12)
1st in Scoring (72 pts., 14.4 points per game)
7th in Rush Yards Per Game (136.4 ypg)
9th in Total Rush Yards (682)
Franklin and the Broncos have another tough match-up Saturday as they’ll head to Ball St. On a side note, WMU received their 4th MAC West Player of the Week award in 5 weeks as punter J. Schroeder received the honor for Special Teams week 5.
Adding to the national exposure of the MAC, Miami(OH) WR David Frazier became the 5th MAC receiver to be added to the coveted “Biletnikoff” Award watch list. Joining Frazier through the 2nd “Biletnikoff” update are last years MAC West Player of the Year WMU’s Corey Davis, N. Illinois’ Da’Ron Brown, CMU’s Titus Davis, Ball St’s Jordan Williams, and Bowling Green’s Roger Lewis. The award, given to the best college WR in the nation, is organised and comprised by the Tallahassee QB Club Foundation. A group of 221 prominent, distinguished college football journalists, commentators, and former players form the “Biletnikoff Award National Selection Committee and vote on a winner. You can vote for your favorite player, see the rest of the list, and find out more at www.biletnikoffaward.com. Tune into ESPN December 11th at 7 p.m. to watch the College Football Award Show and find out who wins!
That’s all I’ve got for this week folks but be sure to catch all the MAC football action this Saturday and check back next week for all that is MAC from out here in MAC land!

Hilltoppers Snare the Falcons

In the sum of 60 minutes and a 59-31 beat down of the Bowling Green Falcons by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, mine, and many other writer’s predictions might as well have been sent to the shredder.  Not that an an FBS school beating a Mid-Major is that unheard of, but to trounce a defending Conference Champion who’s a favorite to repeat their success (shred, shred, shred), is farely rare.  Granted, W. Kentucky is an up-and-coming program with a new coaching staff and a promising future but, Bowling Green’s time is now, or so we thought.
While breaking 5 FBS records, the Hilltoppers operated at will against Bowling Green in their 59-31 victory.  Jeff Brohms head coaching debut will go down in W. Kentucky and NCAA history as his team racked up an eye popping 702 yards of total offense, 1 of the 5 new school records.  The 59 points scored was also a new FBS record.  The Hilltoppers success was spread fairly equally throughout the offense albeit with a pass heavy offensive game plan as QB Brandon Doughty stole the spotlight setting the other 3 FBS school records and skillfully leading his team to a convincing win.  Doughty completed an FBS record 46 passes on 56 attempts, a record 6 TD’s, and the final record 569 passing yards.  Those are video game numbers and it makes one wonder how this guy isn’t playing for a D-1 school, and how overrated Bowling Green is this year?
BG Falcons TD
Doughty had alot of support in his record setting game as WR’s Taywan Taylor and Jared Dangerfield (no relation to Rodney) combined for 22 catches, 277 yards, and 2 TD’s.  Tack on Leon Allen’s 93 rush yards to the keep the defense honest and W. Kentucky’s gameplan worked to perfection.  Where are you Bowling Green defense??
The Falcon’s offense played well as QB Matt Johnson completed 25 of 36 passes for 313 yards and a TD while 6 Falcon receivers combined for those 313 yards and TD.  Dehrig Dieter, Roger Lewis, and Ronnie Moore led the Falcons in receiving with 17 receptions for 219 yards and  the TD.  RB’s Travis Greene and Fred Coppet contributed 156 rushing yards and 2 TD’s in the losing effort.
Falcon’s fans shouldn’t jump off the deep end yet.  A mid-major (even contending) running into a buzzsaw FBS school is fairly common although the biggest concern for Bowling Green is their defense who after struggling against the Hilltoppers will clearly struggle against bigger, faster, more athletic programs in the MAC.  The Falcon’s offense can be the best in the MAC but defense wins championships and their defense can’t go shot to shot if they hope to rebound and still make a run for the MAC Championship.  Luckily, conference play is what really matters and the Falcons have several more weeks to tune their defense before the wheels completely fall off.  There’s alot of football to be played and Bowling Green will look to right the ship week 2 at home versus the VMI Cadets who lost to Bucknell in their season opener 42-38 and should be easy picking’s for the Falcons.  Whatever way Bowling Green rebounds, the MAC smells their weakness and a new confidence and desire to take the Championship will result.  The MAC league continues to fluctuate and promises to entertain in 2014, especially once conference play begins.  An undefeated run is no longer in Bowling Greens future but a MAC contender they remain.  We’re just getting started with the 2014 football season folks so stay tuned for more from out here in MAC land!

Terps $4 Ticket Cheapest of all FBS Week One Games

If you have $4 and no plans on August 30, why not check out a Terrapins football game? Yes, you read correctly. The price of a ticket for Maryland’s first contest of 2014 is less than what you probably spent on your morning latte from Starbucks. Available through StubHub, the $4 tickets for the game against James Madison University are the cheapest of any week one college football game that has at least one FBS team playing. According to StubHub, a $4 ticket will get you a seat in one of the “Upper Sideline” sections.

Courtesy StubHub
The upper sideline sections are colored pink. Courtesy StubHub.com

The 3:30 pm kickoff will be the official start of Maryland’s inaugural Big10 season, although they do not face their first Big10 opponent until the team travels to Indiana to face the Hoosiers on September 27.
The Terrapin’s sixth-year senior quarterback C.J. Brown will be taking the field for his final season opener to lead the Maryland offense. Stud wideout Stefon Diggs will likely also be leaving the Terps after the conclusion of the season, as it is widely assumed the talented receiver will be entering the 2014 NFL Draft. Diggs and fellow starting receiver Deon Long both suffered season-ending injuries midway through last season and will be seeing their first game action since. Running back Wes Brown will also be returning to the team after serving a year-long suspension in 2013.
The Dukes of James Madison finished last season with a 6 – 6 record as members of the Colonial Athletic Association of Division I FCS, but have made a few changes that could increase their chances of success in 2014. Quarterback Vad Lee, a dual-threat like Maryland’s C.J. Brown, is a transfer from Georgia Tech and will start for JMU against the Terps. The Dukes also have a new head coach in Everett Withers. Terps fans may recall the name as he served as the head coach for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2011 after the firing of Butch Davis.
Hopefully Maryland can put away the Dukes relatively easily, but the team has struggled with FCS opponents in recent years. In 2012 Maryland barely squeaked out a 7 – 6 victory over the Tribe of William & Mary in the home opener. The previous season, the Towson Tigers made the short trip to College Park and hung with the Terps for much of the game, trailing only 7 – 3 at halftime before Maryland pulled away in the second half. Many Terps will also be shaking off some rust, including several key defensive players who missed significant time in 2013 as well the aforementioned offensive players.
There are many reasons to see the Terps in 2014 including their season opener against FCS opponent James Madison. Where else can you check out an FBS college football team for $4? On August 30, the answer is nowhere.

WMU: Breaking Down the Defense

Defense?  Are you there?  Has anyone seen the defense?  The defense is missing!…  Well, that’s not completely fair the Bronco secondary did rank 4th in the nation while allowing just 169.2 yards per game through the air albeit if teams were too preoccupied running the ball down their throats.  Allowing a back-breaking 250 rushing yards per game in 2013, WMU’s line left alot of gaping questions (prayers) to be answered.  Head coach P.J. Fleck delivered the goods as you read last week for the offense but despite indeed filling some glaring holes the recruiting on defense isn’t nearly as glamorous as the offense.  Let’s hope a chance of scheme and some added bulk will be enough to “protect the boat” in 2014.
Coach Fleck doesn’t return a huge amount of experience altogether but will benfit from a strong secondary that returns 6 of 7 starters.  Unfortunately, his defensive line and linebacker crews weren’t so lucky returning just 4 of the 10 contributing D-lineman and zero of the linebackers.  The line does receive a boost as redshirt freshman Khairi Bailey and Andre Turner return at defensive end.  Bailey, 6’3″/251lbs., was a 3-star recruit in 2013.  Also returning for the D-line, is junior Jarell McKinney who played in all 12 games of 2013 making 30.5 tackles (4.3% teams total).  Sophomores David Curle and Keion Adams also return and will look for playing time after bulking up over the offseason.   The secondary, in 2014 anyways, is the deepest, most experienced unit on WMU’s football team.  With 6 0f 7 starters returning and 5 of those being seniors, coach Fleck should be able to focus his attention on stopping the opponents run game.  Senior FS, defensive leader, and football stud Justin Currie leads the Bronco secondary racking up 86.5 tackles in 2013 a whopping 12.3%  of the teams total tackles.  Currie started all 12 games while also contributing a sack, 3 INT’s, and 2 forced fumbles.  Patroling Currie’s left and right sides are fellow defensive studs, senior, and fellow defensive leader CB Donald Celiscar and junior CB Ronald Zamort.  Celiscar also started all 12 games while racking up 47 tackles, 3 INT’s, 1 forced fumble, and 9 passes defended (PBU).  His 47 tackles came to be 6.7% of the teams total tackles.  Zamort was equally impressive and an absolute nuisance to opposing receivers starting all 12 games while collecting 44.5 tackles and an incredible 18 passes defended earning him the 4th best mark in the nation.  With any relevant pass rush and a handle on the run game WMU’s secondary is poised to be a game changer.  The issue remains the defense “inside the box” and hopefully Fleck’s brought in enough “beef” to be sufficient and effective.
Defense The defensive recruiting class may not be as deep nor as glamorous as the offense, but it served its purpose and we all hope will be much improved as a unit in 2014.  We know the secondary will be solid so it’s a good thing that Fleck’s defensive pearl plays defensive end.  Nathan Braster hails from Fort Wayne, IN and at 6’5″/253lbs. plans to feast on MAC QB’s and RB’s.  Rated the 16th best recruit in IN., Braster possesses a scary size/speed combination with long arms and a capability for advanced mobility.  The 3-star recruit will likely see extensive playing time from day 1 and lets hope helps bring the heat!  Also looking for some P.T. at defensive end will be Jacari Faulkner, a 2-star recruit out of Detroit, MI.  Bolstering the interior D-line will be defensive tackle Kenny Finley, 6’4″/255lbs. a 3-star recruit from Muskegon, MI.  Possibly the smartest move (and biggest break) comes in 5th year senior transfer, nose guard Richard Ash.  Ash comes from Big10 powerhouse Michigan and at 6’3″/314lbs. brings immediate respect and experience to a young, depleted D-line.  Also adding experience are Fleck’s two junior college (JUCO) transfers at LB, Jason Sylva and JaKevin Jackson.  Both entering their junior seasons, Sylva led his JUCO team in tackles and has a knack for making the big hits.  Jackson comes in as the 73rd best recruit in the nation and is athletic and rangy, covering the field from sideline to sideline.  Freshman OLB Delshawn Phillips and CB Antione Stone round out the defensive recruits.  Phillips has talent and will likely find a niche while stone has size, speed, the physicality to play safety or CB as well as return kicks.  Playing secondary, Stone will probably see limited time but will benefit greatly learning from and watching such an experienced unit and with 5 seniors stands to see major P.T. in 2015.  As I said, not a lot of flash, but there’s enough talent at the right positions to make the defense considerably better if not downright stingy!
Defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham will combine his 30 years of experience with Coach Fleck to attempt to bring together a solid defensive unit in 2014.  Changing the scheme from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3, the clear focus is on shutting down the run game.  Allowing over 3000 yards via the ground in 2013 (6th worst of 123 FBS schools) the Bronco’s hope an extra down lineman and some much needed bulk will slow the run game and open up turnover opportunities in the secondary.  Amassing a grand total of 7 sacks, the lowest amount in the nation, and the only team to not reach double digits (Navy, N. Mexico St, and UMass finished with 11), the problem was fairly obvious.  Fleck’s shiny new offense may score enough points that the defense will be an afterthought but it’s good to know there’s potential for a solid showing.  If Fleck and his staff can somehow bring these players together, and get the best out of each one, he just might “Row His Boat” in 2014.  There’s only room for improvement on this side of the ball, and it’s going to be interesting and exciting to watch how it all plays out.  Stay tuned as next week I’ll break down the schedule and give my predictions on the Bronco’s upcoming season.  Until next time from out here in MAC land…

My Thoughts on the New Playoff System

cfp
In my last article, I mentioned in passing that we would talk about the new playoff system later in the season when it would be more relevant, but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself questioning how it would work. I mean, we do know how it will work in theory, but will what has been conceived on paper really work as everyone expects?
I’m curious if the committee that was assembled to implement a playoff might secretly have as many questions about it as the average fan. As fans, the only thing we really have invested is the hope that this whole thing will produce more dream match-ups capable of “instant classics” on a more regular basis. It really doesn’t matter to me which teams or conferences are paired up, especially if the teams have earned a playoff spot. I say that cautiously, with the requirement that those teams don’t play a predominately soft schedule with the sole intention of securing a spot in the postseason. Some teams will have a softer schedule than others, that’s just how it is. A team should be rewarded with a bowl game if they put together a good season, but it doesn’t mean they deserve a spot in the playoffs.
I’ve always felt there are certain teams that might intentionally schedule “cupcakes” to manhandle just to look impressive enough to collect votes in the polls. Gun to my head, I’m looking at Boise State in particular. I’ve never felt they deserved the attention they receive. Maybe with Peterson having moved on, this may change.
Before I continue to ramble away from the subject any further, Boise State is just one example of teams that certainly deserve a bowl game if for no other reason than their record; but the schedule they play shouldn’t be worthy of a playoff spot. Everyone will schedule a few soft games, maybe because teams that could strengthen their schedule aren’t available on the required date or possibly just to schedule an “easy win,” or “scrimmage” after playing through a difficult stretch in the schedule. I guess I could live with it either way.
That is to say, I can live with it provided every possibility is explored before scheduling an FCS team for the sole intention of a “guaranteed win.” We’ve all seen an FBS slip up though (Michigan, anyone?), but if your team isn’t in a rebuilding phase, there’s no reason to intentionally schedule what you perceive to be a “freebie.”
This is my main concern with the playoff system. We’ve been assured that it will improve upon the “BCS Format,” but I’m sure there will be glitches. Human error will most likely play a role. We’re headed in the right direction, but a four team playoff won’t please everyone. There will still be teams left out, and until an eight team playoff is installed, I believe we’ll see it happen pretty often. More often than not, there will be more than four teams in a given season that will successfully navigate a tough schedule only to be left on the outside looking in. I’m not a fan of the overwhelming number of bowl games each season, but that makes me wonder how the committee arrived at only four playoff spots considering how many teams receive an invitation to an obscure bowl game.
I really don’t think I’m alone on this. Virtually everyone I’ve spoken to about the playoff system is satisfied that we are finally seeing it happen, but believe that four spots should be a starting point, not set in stone. The general consensus among those with even a casual interest is that an eight team playoff would allow the proper number of spots in a given season so that any teams with an impressive record and credible strength of schedule receive a chance at playing for the championship. While four is an acceptable starting point, eight teams would allow more than one or two conferences to have equal footing. Generally, although not always, many of the top eight teams at season’s end are separated by only tenths of a point in the old BCS format. This problem should be resolved as the system evolves. The good news is that teams ranked third in the polls no longer have to sit home and watch a team they have beaten to earn title game berth. I would think this should please teams like Oklahoma State in particular, since they won’t have to campaign (beg) for something that isn’t very likely to happen. I’m sure my opinion will change as the system grows. If it is allowed to evolve into what we all hope to see, I’m sure we’ll see many classic games. We just have to keep in mind that as entertaining as the games can and likely will be, the goal is to provide eligible teams a fair chance at playing for the National Championship, at least from a fan perspective. As we all know, in today’s sports world, money is a driving force, and this whole thing could be profitable, both financially to the powers that be, and, for us normal folk, maybe emotionally profitable for the fan bases involved.
Agree of disagree with me? Follow me on Twitter @KevinHicks77 if you’d like to discuss this topic or anything else in the sports world.

The Campus Corner: The FCS Problem

This weekend, Twitter was set ablaze with constant trash talk concerning the scheduling of FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) opponents by some of the beasts of the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision).

Most of that hatred was spewed at the Ohio State Buckeyes, who have a weak schedule already and thrashed the Florida A&M Rattlers by a final score of 76-0, but other schools were the targets of scrutiny as well.

Florida State and Jameis Winston smacked around FAMU’s archival, Bethune Cookman, by a score of 54-6 while the Miami Hurricanes defeated the Savannah State Tigers by a final score of 77-7 and agreed to play for just 12 minutes in the fourth quarter.

In addition to Saturday’s match-ups, Alabama, the winners of three of the past four National Championships, has an FCS opponent (Chattanooga) scheduled later in the season and Oregon, the number two team in the country, beat up the FCS Nicholls State Colonels earlier this year by a final score of 66-3.

While these couple of games are nothing but laughable, the FCS has made their mark this season against many FBS opponents.

In the first week of the 2013 season, eight (EIGHT!) FCS teams beat FBS opponents, including Samford over Georgia State, Northern Iowa over Iowa State, North Dakota State over Kansas State, Eastern Washington over Oregon State, Eastern Illinois over San Diego State, Southern Utah over South Alabama, Towson over UConn and McNeese State over South Florida.

This record-breaking weekend for the former Division I-AA squads brings up the question, how does the FBS handle the FCS problem?

If FCS teams can beat FBS teams, does that exonerate Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Miami for beating up on FCS opponents?

Of course, about six years ago, this question was all but answered when the Appalachian State Mountaineers strolled into the Big House and became the first FCS team to beat a ranked FBS team in the history of college football.

Now, however, with 76-0 victories abounding for top 10 teams against FCS squads, the question lingers on.

Obviously, when breaking down this topic, there are positives and negatives and each is pretty clearly stated.

For the FCS teams, the positives include a massive financial gain- normally in the six-figure range- and the opportunity to play in some of college football’s most historic venues. Of course, they stand almost no chance in the game, but experience it nonetheless and take home the massive paycheck.

The FCS has a win, win, win, scenario. They get the money, the opportunity to play in The Big House, the Shoe, Death Valley, etc. and there are no expectations for them on the field, so any sort of fight they put up would be considered a massive success.

The FCS isn’t really a part of this problem, however.

The problem is the effect it has on the FBS schools.

The FBS has almost the opposite problem.

When an FBS school schedules an FCS opponent, they lose a lot of money and they play a game in which nothing they do goes unnoticed. If they run up the score and win 76-0, it’s looked upon as unfair and unsportsmanlike, but if they lose or play a close game, it’s looked upon as an embarrassment.

College Football Round TableFCS vs. FBS and Penn State Reductions

On top of it all, it’s not fun for the fans. They come for a half an hour, watch a beat down and leave, looking forward to next week’s matchup.

Nothing good comes from an FCS opponent taking on an FBS opponent. Nothing.

So why do some of the best teams in the FBS continue to schedule the FAMU’s and Chattanooga’s of the world?

It’s a question not many of us are able to answer.

I guess the idea of a “tune-up” game is a sufficient reply to the question at hand, but why not make that into a preseason game that doesn’t count on the regular season schedule?

Make it into a “fall game”- essentially, a spring game that doesn’t count against an FCS opponent and happens just before the season. That would make much more sense for the FBS teams.

Teams could work out the kinks before the regular season begins in a game against an FCS team, pay them just as handsomely as they would during a regular season game and let them leave without humiliation of a 70-point loss on their schedule.

Play it like a normal football game, but just don’t make it count.

Heck, they have four preseason games in the NFL, why not have at least one in college football?

To say Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Miami or Florida State should be embarrassed for scheduling an FCS opponent is a little silly. There are so many scheduling conflicts and issues that force most of the teams in the FBS to schedule an FCS opponent here or there.

It happens and it’s understandable.

In the future, however, straying away from FCS teams or creating the preseason “tune-up” game against an FCS opponent would certainly be the path better served for the FBS.

Until then, however, we’ll just have to endure the wrath or avoid the inevitable during the annual FBS vs. FCS match ups.