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The Preseason Slate of Games Made Only for True College Football Fans

College football season doesn’t truly begin until that first full Saturday of games.  This year, that’s September 1.  Some of us refuse to wait that long, though.  The good news for us is that we don’t have to wait.  It doesn’t matter that it’s Wyoming battling New Mexico State.  College football is college football (at least when it’s still August and we’re starved for it.)

So, I’m here with some reasons to dig into the seemingly unappealing and unimportant, appetite-whetting menu of taste-tester games taking place a week ahead of that most glorious of Saturdays.  While there’s not much to get overly excited about on August 25, when you’re this hungry, you’ll make do with just about anything.  At some point, you’re sure to be asking yourself, “What the hell am I watching right now?”  Well, here’s what: Continue reading The Preseason Slate of Games Made Only for True College Football Fans

What Happens When Michigan Actually Leaves Ann Arbor?

If you’re looking for something to dismiss or perhaps take with a grain of salt this College Football season, I might suggest checking out the Michigan hype train. Mind you, the Wolverines might actually be worth every piece of their top 5 ranking in the polls, but you can’t base that on anything you’ve seen to date.

No one is questioning how fluid their offense is, how bright their future appears to be, or how the sky’s the limit for Jabrill Peppers. Outscoring your opponent 114-17 through eight quarters of play is impressive, whether your opponent is from the Deep South or the Pacific Islands.

The issue at hand here is, what you’re seeing now, this isn’t the environment Michigan is going to be playing in when it matters. Obviously, you can say that about the majority of major programs in the Power 5 ranks right now, but it’s worth emphasizing in the context of Michigan. Jim Harbaugh tends to get people excited about some really mundane things, and I’m hoping fewer people fall for it this time around.

I know that the schedules are constructed years in advance, so there’s no pointing the finger at anyone currently in Ann Arbor for this, but this run of home games, five in all, doesn’t paint a true picture of what this team is. We won’t remember 2016 for its September, a month the Wolverines won’t leave Washentaw County. We’ll be well into the season of autumn by the time we see those white Jumpman jerseys for the first time, so what are we actually going to learn about Michigan this month?

There’s more to this sideways view of Michigan’s ascension to the top of the polls than level of competition. It’s the precedent they set a year ago, rebounding from a season-opening loss at Utah. They built on it, until the wheels fell off at the end of their game with Michigan State.

Home, Home, and Home Again

Michigan plays five straight home games to start the season. We’ve established that, but they do get progressively more difficult, even though they are all home games. With mid-major foes, Harbaugh had the luxury of being able to offer his freshmen and inexperienced student-athletes some valuable playing time. Colorado should be better, based on what I’ve seen, than anyone we’ve seen to date.  They are a Power 5, but haven’t really legitimized owning that label in the last decade.

I think we’ve seen that Penn State can be pesky and there’s no quit in James Franklin’s squad. While they’re a worthy opponent, I’m not sure they will do anything that resembles ‘giving Michigan all they can handle’ when they pop in on their friends at The Big House on September 24.

Wisconsin somehow convinced LSU to play them in Green Bay, and the Badgers were victorious. Was it a fluke, or is Wisconsin any good? For that matter, is LSU any good? Those questions, thanks to appealing Week 2 pairings with Akron and Jacksonville State, remain unanswered for now. When it comes Michigan and Wisconsin, the home team is 6-1 since 2002. Michigan will be the home team on October 1.

Alas, Michigan Plays an Away Game

Finally, on October 8, the schedule takes Michigan to Piscataway, New Jersey to play Rutgers in its sixth game of the season.

Last year, Michigan drilled Rutgers, 49-16, in Ann Arbor. This time around, Rutgers will be just seven days removed from its trip to Ohio State. You might expect a similar result, unless Harbaugh’s squad has trouble adjusting to the New Jersey atmosphere.

A Well Deserved Pre-Homecoming Bye

The trip spans 613 miles, but don’t worry about the fatigue from travel taking the polish off of Michigan’s shine. The scheduling gods offer them a week off before their next game, which happens to also be at home.  They host Illinois for Homecoming, and if Michigan is better than North Carolina, and I think we can assume they are, they will be better than Illinois at Michigan Stadium on October 22.

The Real Question

The bottom line is the real work begins when they travel to East Lansing on October 29. Until we’re given a reason to believe otherwise, the Big Ten goes through Michigan State and Ohio State. Neither of those games are at Michigan Stadium.

They’ll be away from The Big House for three of their last five games, with lay-up home games in between trips to Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State. I don’t care what the Wolverines did in the Who Cares Bowl, they’re still looking up at all three programs that played on the big stage in January.

Not only do they deal with a tall order in winning all of those games, but they need to defeat all three in their respective homes to even sniff anything more than a conference championship. We don’t know the answer, but we have to ask.

What happens when Michigan actually leaves Ann Arbor?

Featured Photo, courtesy of Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy (via Flickr)

The Mountain West’s Best Football Games of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Nevada @ Hawaii (Saturday, October 1)

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy Nathan Rupert

NCAA Tournament: South Region Round Two Notebook

The Second Round in the South Region brought the close of an era, as Wichita State’s brilliant four-year run ended at the hands of Miami.  There also would be no more magical Cinderella ride for Connecticut, as Kansas quickly disposed of what many hoped would be a third title run in the last six years for the Huskies.  After what took place the rest of the evening around the bracket on Sunday, the South turned out to be pretty standard procedure.

Hurricanes Avoid a Natural Disaster

Miami looked like it was going to blow away the Shockers in the opening game of the Second Round on Saturday.  This year’s rendition of Wichita State isn’t as talented as the 2013/14 squads that Greg Marshall sported and Miami was making it clear early on.  Credit the Shockers for being patient and not attempting to get the entire 21-point deficit back at once.  They slowly but surely worked their way back into the game.

Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet once again showed the calm leadership they have for four years.  They should be applauded for what they’ve done to force mid-major basketball into the collective consciousness of America.  On the flip side, give Miami its due for taking punch after punch from Wichita State, and holding on.  The Hurricanes looked like they were going to buckle under the pressure, but Angel Rodriguez was magical, and Sheldon McClellan made big shot on top of big shot.  Miami is in a good spot to last in this tournament.

Jayhawks’ Execution Puts UConn to Death

Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks appear to have taken past tournament failures to heart in their first two games, handling their business with relative ease to proceed to the Sweet 16.  Execution was the key against the Huskies.  From the jump, Kansas harassed the UConn guards on and off the ball, hounding them into mistakes.  Offensively, the Jayhawks methodically built a 22-point lead by running crisp sets, leading to clean looks at the basket.  Perry Ellis was his usual self, calmly navigating around the paint, and Wayne Selden did damage both inside and out.

UConn’s offense being restricted to the perimeter was sorely exposed by the Jayhawks.  As Kansas built the lead, the Huskies were typically relegated to getting only one shot on offense as Landen Lucas dominated the defensive boards.  A brief lull by the Jayhawks in the second half allowed UConn to creep within single digits, but there was no real threat of a comeback.  Kansas looks fine tuned to contend for the National Title.

Threes Better Than Twos for Nova

The pace was at full throttle right off the tip when Villanova and Iowa met on Sunday afternoon.  Iowa ran some excellent offensive sets leading to easy buckets.  But Villanova’s outside shooting quickly made the Hawkeyes chase a double-digit deficit and they simply couldn’t keep up.  By the time halftime rolled around, the Wildcats had extended to a 25-point lead, and cruised to the finish.  They shot nearly 60 percent for the game from the field, and better than 50 percent from the three-point arc, going 10-19.

Villanova was extremely physical and aggressive on defense, terrorizing the Hawkeyes into turnovers which led to immediate transition buckets.  This was exactly the type of game that Villanova wants to play, and a style which could beat anyone in the field.  The question as always for them will be whether they can continue to hit perimeter shots at an alarming rate.  If not, how will they generate offense?  Fortunately for the Wildcats, their next opponent Miami plays a very similar style.  Nova vs. Miami will be played at a break-neck pace when they meet up in the Sweet 16.

A Tale of Two Terrapins, Part 2

Sunday’s game between Maryland and Hawaii was eerily similar to the Terrapins’ First Round game with South Dakota State, only this time their better half showed up later rather than sooner.  Hawaii brought the fight right to Maryland in the first half, with Michael Thomas doing the majority of the damage for the Rainbows early.  The Terps struggled to find any real rhythm offensively, but were able to hold a slim lead at halftime, mainly by getting back to the basics, and leveraging Diamond Stone in the paint for easy buckets.

For a large portion of the second half, it looked as if this game would come down to the wire.  However, some of the careless mistakes that Hawaii made against Cal began to creep into this game.  The difference is Maryland made them pay.  The Terrapins went on a 14-0 run, powered by Rasheed Sulaimon, which essentially put the game away without much fanfare.  Once again, Maryland will need all of what they displayed in the second half, and very little of what we saw in the first half, if they’re to knock off Kansas in the Sweet 16.

While the South lacked the insanity which took place in both the East and West regions on Sunday night, it’s set up well for some outstanding Sweet 16 games, with legitimate contenders emerging from the pack.  Thursday and Friday can’t come fast enough.

Email Damon at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DamonKnowsSports.

Image via Flick/Phil Roeder

NCAA Tournament: South Region Notebook

Day two of the NCAA Tournament proved to be even more insane than Day one.  The South Region didn’t enjoy quite the same level of Madness as the Midwest did with Michigan State losing, but the region still rounded out with plenty of excitement, and competitive spirit from the lower seeds.  Here’s a brief review of what we witnessed, and what may lie ahead on Saturday and Sunday.

The Huskies Are At It Again

We’ve seen this act from UConn twice in the last five years, but are they up to old tricks again?  After an underwhelming regular season, Kevin Ollie was able to push the Huskies through the AAC, and snag the automatic bid to the Dance.  For most of the first half on Thursday, it appeared that Colorado would quickly send UConn packing.  Not so fast.  Ollie made one major adjustment at halftime to turn the game around.

The Huskies packed into the lane on defense, surrounding the Buffaloes only weapon, John Scott.  The perimeter players for Colorado seemed unwilling to even consider shooting jump shots, and the Huskies seized control, forcing turnovers, and scoring in transition in order to seal the victory.  Kansas looked the part of the top overall seed, so they will likely end the Huskies march (pun intended); but we’ll see if UConn can recapture the magic of 2011 and 2014, for another improbable Final Four run.

Baker and Van Vleet Won’t Be Denied

I admit, I grossly underestimated the sheer will of Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet.  Despite the fact that I’ve been a huge fan of what Wichita State has done over the last four years, I didn’t think the supporting cast was good enough to allow the Shockers to enjoy another successful NCAA Tournament.  Baker and Van Vleet ensured that I was wrong.

The win of Vanderbilt was impressive, but not unexpected.  However, I truly thought that the material on the court that Arizona has, would simply be too much for this version of Wichita State.  The Shockers just flat-out wanted it more than the Wildcats on Thursday night, diving for every loose ball, launching themselves for balls going out-of-bounds, and playing every minute with intensity.

Although I had Zona making an Elite Eight run, there’s no arguing that Wichita State is a joy to watch, particularly Baker and Van Vleet; so I’ll be rooting for them to make this last hurrah a great one.

Just Short for the Second Straight Year

Last year, Buffalo was able to push West Virginia to the brink in the opening round, before falling 68-62.  The Bulls put forth another valiant effort this year, hanging with the No. 3 seed Miami Hurricanes the entire way, before ultimately succumbing to the pressure, 79-72.  It was a fairly business-like performance by the Hurricanes, who will need to come with their A-game when they take on Wichita State next, who have everything clicking right now.

Bathed in Rainbow Light

Hawaii pulled off the big upset of the South Region, leading pretty much from start to finish, in a 77-66 victory over No. 4 seed California.  This wasn’t a big surprise to me, as I picked Cal as my early exit in my bracket breakdown on Thursday.  Give the Golden Bears credit; they did battle despite several levels of adversity.  They lost Tyrone Wallace earlier in the week, Jabari Bird was banged up shortly before the game, and they’re dealing with some off the court issues.

Freshman Jaylen Brown was shaky from the start, quickly turning the ball over, and picking up an early offensive foul.  Brown was in foul trouble the entire way, and simply was awful in what may be his only NCAA Tournament game.  Fellow frosh Ivan Rabb was better, but struggled early to handle Hawaii’s star Stefan Jankovic; who showed off a variety of skills.

Hawaii was able to weather the storm despite Jankovic picking up his fourth foul with about 16 minutes to play in the game; and played well despite him sitting for about 12 minutes.  It’ll be interesting if Hawaii can clean up some of the silly mistakes they made.  If so, there’s no reason they can’t take out Maryland as well.

A Broken Play, a Bad Shot, and Nobody Boxed Out

Like almost every team in the country over the course of this season, Iowa looked great for parts of their game against Temple; and lost their minds in others.  After jumping out to a double-digit lead early in the first half, Iowa handed it back, and allowed the Owls to get within one point by halftime.  The Hawkeyes grabbed leads by a couple of possessions several times in the second half, but never seized it.  The near meltdown culminated with Anthony Clemmons foul on Quenton DeCosey, while he was shooting a three pointer with just 13 seconds to play, which forced OT.

With the game tied at 70, the Hawkeyes didn’t really run any semblance of an offensive set, and when Mike Gesell tossed a horrid shot at the rim, the Temple players were unable to box out Adam Woodbury, who dropped in the game winning bunny from point-blank range.  There was a lot of contention that there may have been a push-off by Woodbury on the final play, but hey, in that situation you’ve just got to be tougher.

The Hawkeyes will be hard pressed to dispatch another Big 5 team in Villanova next.  The Wildcats allowed UNC-Asheville to hang around for a bit, but got their three-point shooting going to end the first half, and never looked back.

A Tale of Two Terrapins

Maryland and South Dakota State wrapped up the South Region by early evening, but it wasn’t uneventful.  This game was a mirror image of what the Terrapins displayed throughout the season.  They had moments of brilliance, followed by some questionable decision-making, which almost led to their downfall.  For the vast majority of the game, we saw the good Terrapins.  They worked the ball inside-out with Diamond Stone, and Robert Carter.  Melo Trimble was taking distributing with aplomb, and Jake Layman was knocking down shots, creating the mismatches we all know he can.

Then with about six minutes to play, it all began to unravel.  The Jackrabbits started to find their range, and Maryland forgot what got them a huge lead.  Trimble picked up two really poor fouls within 45 seconds of each other, including a three point foul, which allowed George Marshall to bring the game within two points with a minute to play.

Fortunately for the Terps, Keaton Moffitt made the ill-advised decision to pick up his dribble in no-man’s land, and Rasheed Sulaimon sealed the victory with a steal and dunk.  Maryland better hope they show up with the squad which played for the first 34 minutes of the game; otherwise the Rainbows may get their second NCAA Tournament win in history.

We’re in store for a hell of a close to opening weekend, with Kansas and UConn going head-to-head; along with what should be an electric Wichita State/Miami tilt.  Maryland and Hawaii; and Iowa vs. Villanova will wrap up round two on Sunday.  The South Region is about to get wild.

Email damon at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DamoKnowsSports.

Image via Wikipedia

NCAA Tournament: South Region Preview

The South Region certainly has a number of the household names when it comes to College Basketball programs.  However, scanning the group from top to bottom, it doesn’t appear that anything is going to come easy in this part of the bracket.

Path of Much Resistance

Outside of top seeded Kansas, who should be able to navigate fairly easily through the first couple of rounds into the Sweet 16, there could be some serious bumps for the rest of the region.  Maryland, Villanova, and even Iowa spent a portion of the season ranked among the elite.  While Villanova was very close to plucking a top seed, they’re not typically built for tournament play.  UConn is at its old tricks again, underwhelming us during the regular season, only to become a thorn in everyone’s side in March.  I doubt they can make a deep run, but we’ve seen it too recently to completely dismiss them.  Arizona is another blue blood that had an up and down year, but has the talent on hand to cause problems.  And then there’s Miami.  The Hurricanes are a difficult team to trust, but Jim Larranaga has the ability to coach these guys up, and has made a run before.  The South could become a mosh pit with these squads tripping over each other on the way to the Regional Final.

Can Maryland recapture their Mojo?

As I mentioned, for a portion of the season, the Terrapins were considered to be right up there among the elite teams.  Mark Turgeon is a strong coach, and for much of the season, looked ready to ride this talented bunch straight to the Final Four.  However the stretch run was less than stellar, going 5-5 over their last 10 games.  Can they get back to early season form?  The talent is there, but can they put it together?  The Terps are one of the more balanced teams in College Basketball.  Melo Trimble is one of the best point guards in the country, and his running mate Rasheed Sulaimon is experienced and provides additional scoring.  They also have a ton of size up front with Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, and Damonte Dodd.  Carter and Stone are capable post scorers, and hit the glass.  Then there’s the X-factor in Jake Layman, who at 6-9 can stretch the defense on the perimeter, or contribute on the interior as well.  Maryland better show up with their best to avoid an early upset.  If they do, watch out.

Ghosts of Tournaments past Haunt Villanova

Despite the fact that Jay Wright has brought an awful lot of success to Villanova since he arrived in 2001, the Wildcats never seem to live up to their full expectations.  Part of the reason is that Wright’s style of play lends itself to winning a ton of regular season games; but not necessarily for the grind of the three-week tournament.  Nova is always perimeter heavy, so if they get cold from the field, they can be gone in the blink of an eye.  Last year they got out muscled by the big frontcourt of North Carolina State.  That tends to be the other major issue for Villanova.  The perimeter players are wrapped around one big – Daniel Ochefu this year – and when they run into a team with a powerful, skilled frontcourt, they struggle.  Fortunately their road doesn’t appear as fraught with danger early on, so they may be able to win a couple of games, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t.

Will the Shockers make one more run from the Play-in Game?

It’s been a really fun couple of years for Wichita State.  As a big fan of the Missouri Valley Conference, and of Mid-majors getting their shot at glory, I’ve really appreciated what the Shockers have been doing since 2013.  This year they have to start in Dayton against Vanderbilt, a team who woefully underachieved.  Does Wichita State have one last gasp in them?  It’s hard to pick against them winning a couple of games with Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker in control.  Will this group pull it all together after an inconsistent year, with the possibility that this is also Greg Marshall’s last season on the bench at Wichita State?  If other schools are smart, it’s only a matter of time before one of the power conference schools gives Marshall the right offer.  This version of the Shockers definitely doesn’t have the talent around Baker and Van Vleet that they’ve had in the past.  But with so much parity in College Basketball this year, they may just have enough gas left in the tank for a valiant run.

Bulls, Jackrabbits and Rainbow Warriors

Who’s capable of pulling the big upset?  That’s a question everyone asks while filling out their bracket.  For all of the talk about College Basketball lacking an elite team, I have a feeling that we may have a chalk-laden bracket this season.  However, in the South Region, keep an eye on Buffalo, South Dakota State, and Hawaii.  Buffalo was in the Tourney last year, and pushed West Virginia to the brink before getting eliminated.  Much of that team returns, so the Bulls could certainly do the same to Miami this year.  South Dakota State has the right mix to be a dangerous tournament team.  The Jackrabbits love to shoot the three, have senior guards, and they have a presence on the interior in 6-9 Mike Daum.  A slow start from Maryland coupled with hot shooting, and the Jackrabbits could be a Cinderella.  Hawaii gets the benefit of being hidden away out west, where most of us never see them play all season.  Even their conference title game didn’t start until 11:30pm in the East.  Similar to the Jackrabbits, the Rainbow Warriors have that necessary mix of a veteran backcourt, coupled with a strong big man in Stefan Jankovic who puts up 15 ppg, along with 6 boards.  If you’re looking to take a shot in the dark on a double-digit seed, one of these may be your play.

The South Region will get started on Tuesday night with what should be the best of the First Four games between Wichita State and Vanderbilt.  In classic March Madness fashion, I suspect we’ll be in for a bumpy ride.  It’s going to be fun seeing how this Region starts to take shape after Thursday and Friday.  Let the games begin.

E-mail Damon at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DamoKnowsSports.

Photo: laserbub/Flickr.

Cal State-Northridge take on Hawaii at home

California State University Northridge [CSUN] will host the University of Hawaii in a game that pits Big West Conference [BWC] standings leader Hawaii against 6th place CSUN Matadors. Tip off is at 7PM PST

Hawaii are off to a fast start and have only one loss in BWC play, That loss however was at home and in front of a sold out crowd. Hawaii were easily disposed off by Cal State Long Beach by 14 points. They made up for that by beating then co-leader UC Irvine by 22 points.

Hawaii are unlikely to lose to any BWC template team. By template I mean a typical BWC team that plays slow, half court system. In fact Hawaii have beaten every typical BWC team without any trouble.

Where Hawaii have shown weakness or vulnerability is against non-typical teams such as Long Beach and CS Fullerton. Both of the aforementioned are fast, fluid and uptempo teams that match up well with UH. As mentioned earlier, UH were soundly beaten by Long Beach and had to go to OT against last place Fullerton, in a game that could have been a lose had it not been for a last gasp 3 that tied the game.

2015_16_MBB_Team_Photo_slightly_smaller_

In CSUN, Hawaii will face an athletic squad that runs the floor well and has speed. CSUN have increased their offense from the 3-point range considerably after a couple of years of relying on drawing fouls as a main weapon.

To win this game, CSUN must attack the center of Hawaii’s defense repeatedly to force leading scorer and center, Stefan Jankovic into foul trouble early while rotating Zacarry Douglas and Olalekan Ajayi on him. The instructions should be to harass but avoid fouling Jankovic.

Hawaii have very capable guards in Aaron Valdes and Roderick Bobbitt but CSUN have their own dangerous duo in leading scorer Kendall Smith and wrecking ball Aaron Parks who hold the BWC single season record for most free throws attempted and made in a game. If Parks is given the light to attack the basket good things can happen.

Beating Hawaii is not out of question at all. CSUN have to play an aggressive game and swing often. Pressing the opposing point is recommended. Hawaii prefer to shoot 3s and are adept at attacking the paint. For CSUN to win the game, they MUST do what they did against Irvine and more, that is to attempt 75-80 filed goal attempts with at least 25 from the 3 range. I believe if CSUN have a good shooting night and play as suggested, a win will be in the cards.

Keys for a CSUN win:

Aggressive offense, aggressive 3-point shooting, man defense, full court press when leading, minimize errors, Jerron Wilbut’s 3-pointers.

Recommended formation:

G- Aaron Parks

G- Kendall Smith

G- Michael Warren

C- Zacarry Douglas

F- Tre-Hale Edmerson

E-mail Vince at [email protected]

The College Quickie: Judgment Calls

There are rules in football that are black and white – like grabbing a receiver to prevent him from catching a ball – and there are rules that officials should be able to use their best judgement. The ending of the Colorado and Hawaii game proved the latter. By rule, the clock only stops on first downs so officials can place the ball, then it starts immediately thereafter. I like this rule. A lot. What happened on Thursday between the two mentioned teams was unacceptable, and I don’t blame the officials or the two teams playing. I don’t blame the rules or even the rules committee.

It was clear to anyone who watched the end of the game live that the officials were doing their best to set the ball so Colorado could attempt a game-tying touchdown in the closing seconds of the game. It was also clear that a Hawaii player trying to get into position unintentionally hit the ball preventing the placement of the ball and Colorado’s final play.

“After a thorough review via the standard procedures of the Mountain West/CFO West infrastructure, it has been determined the MW officiating crew employed the appropriate mechanics on the final play of the Colorado at Hawaii game and were in no way deficient in the proper execution of their responsibilities,” the Mountain West said in a statement provided to ESPN. “There is also no evidence the Hawaii player intentionally interfered with the placement of the ball and thus no action by rule was warranted.”

Full stop.

This is where the common sense comes in. Keep reading, if you’re smart you know where I’m going with this.

The officials should be able to stop the clock properly to set the ball and immediately start the clock. No, we don’t need the help of replay and no neither team should be able to substitute. This is grey area and potentially highly unpopular.

Until this scenario plays out with your team on offense.

Or in December or January.

Imagine a scenario in the national championship game that’s similar to the one above. Imagine Ohio State is on offense and Alabama is on defense. Worse, imagine if a player does intentionally get in the way of the ball and by rule the officials can’t do anything about it?

The rule book is written in such a way that teams are supposed to be treated equally, but the book isn’t written to take all into account every scenario possible. In limited situations, officials should be given the ability to make judgments based on fairness and advantage/disadvantage. This grey area is exercised in almost every other football play.

Football officials are very good at determining if holding plays have an actual impact on the play because they’re allowed to exercise their judgement. They should be given the ability to exercise the same judgement in the above mentioned scenario as well.

Colorado and Hawaii aren’t nationally popular teams, but as I mentioned before, if this scenario had played out on national television, the reaction to the play would have been totally different.

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damiEnbowman.

Top Five Coaching Jobs in College Football

Ranking things is difficult.  The first step in ranking anything is deciding what the criteria should be.  This is often the root of any disagreement that stems from an attempt to develop a hierarchy.

If nothing else, I’d like us all to, at least, come close to an agreement upon what makes a college football head coaching job attractive.

It boils down to five categories: prestige (history), winning (chance of success), culture (fan base), challenge (building from scratch), and leeway (free rein to do it your way).

Now, people are going to value each of these to different degrees.  For example, if you’re a person who wants to start with next to nothing and build up your program, chances are you won’t be doing it at a prestigious football school.  Those opportunities just don’t come around often.

Considering these five categories, here’s the five most desirable head coaching jobs in college football.

Warning: This list is not going to be a simple rundown of the top programs in the country.  Remember, prestige is only one of the criteria here.

Number Five: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

You think I’m crazy, but hear me out.

There is little winning history at Hawaii other than an undefeated 2007 regular season, which the Warriors followed up with a 41-10 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  Win a New Year’s Day bowl game and you’ve just completed the program’s best season ever.  There’s no serious pressure, as long as you finish .500 or above people will be thrilled with the performance.

Winning right away at Hawaii would be tough.  Recruiting would involve a ton of travel, but after establishing yourself as a serious place to come play football it shouldn’t be too hard to convince the west coast’s best high school players to come spend four years at a vacation destination.  Once you’ve done that take a look at your conference competition.  Boise State is the only speedbump on that road.

The culture surrounding Hawaii football isn’t notable, mostly because the wins haven’t been there.  It takes a diehard to genuinely root for a team that rarely wins anything significant.  The locals don’t strike me as people who would waste their time following a loser.

The challenge and the leeway categories are why you take the job at Hawaii.  As mentioned in the history section, there’s hardly any precedent or much to work with.  This is a good thing though.  It’s a blank slate with which you colt-brennan-hawaiican try out pretty much anything you’d like.  I don’t expect anyone to complain too much, as long as you can prove your method works.  The only way to do that is by winning.

You want to take the job in Hawaii because expectations are low and there’s nothing but room for improvement.  There’s only one team in your conference that will perennially give you trouble.  Your team wears some of the sharpest-looking jerseys around.  You get to live in Hawaii.  And the toughest part of the gig would be trying to convince high school kids to come play their ball in a literal paradise.  I’ll take that challenge.

Number Four: Baylor Bears

Baylor hasn’t been this good in thirty years.  The Bears have won the last two Big 12 championships (2014 title shared with TCU).  Other than those trophies, there’s not much to speak of.

They’re coming into this season as a favorite to make it to the playoff.  Their chance of winning right away is the best on this list.

20259246_BG1If you won a national championship, Baylor fans will love you forever.  Texans live and die with their football teams, even in the eastern part of the state.

The Bears don’t need to be built from the bottom.  They’re already near the top.  This is the biggest plus about the Baylor job.

For the most part, Art Briles has been left to his own devices since taking over the Baylor program in 2008.  As is the case with Hawaii (and every other job for that matter) if you win you tend to get your way.

You want to hop on the Baylor train right now because the program is on the rise.  You could argue they’re the most underrated team of the past five years, despite choking in bowl games.  The Bears had a great season in 2014, and are poised to make another run at winning it all.  You want that job.

Number Three: Miami Hurricanes

We’ve all seen the four letter network’s documentary film on The U in the 80s (if you haven’t, I recommend it).  The football history is evident.  That would be a cool tradition to be a part of.

The Hurricanes need help with getting back to the winning part of their BCS Playofftradition.  They haven’t won a national championship since 2001.  14 years is a long time to wait for a team that won five title in 18 years from 1983-2001.  They haven’t even won a bowl game in five tries since 2006.

The culture, like the history, can’t really be questioned when it comes to Miami.  They love their football in Florida too, and with many of the top high schoolers staying in-state to play it becomes that much more interesting.

Taking over Miami football, at this point, is a daunting challenge.  There’s been a thick cloud of mediocrity encapsulating the program for years as everyone tries to figure out the Nevin Shapiro situation.

Politics seem like they play a big part in Coral Gables culture.  You could end up having significant pressure coming from the administration and the community.  Many have trouble behaving themselves in Miami.  You’ll surely have to deal out a degree of discipline to your players.

How fun would it be to bring back The U?  That’s about all you’d have to say.  Recruiting almost takes care of itself.  Like Hawaii, once you’ve got your players you get to the fun part of winning some games.  You can put yourself in the history books while restoring a once-great program.

Number Two: UCLA Bruins

Jim MoraThe powder blue tops and the gold accommodations make for the cleanest look in major college football, big plus.  Recently, under Jim Mora, the Bruins have been on an upward trend.  They’ve played in a bowl game three straight seasons, winning the last two

They’re part of a crowded Pac-12 South that looks like it’ll be the best division in college football this season.  They’ll contend, but their work is cut out for them with tough competition throughout the conference.

Playing six home games per season at the Rose Bowl would be supremely cool.  The atmosphere speaks for itself.

The Bruins aren’t far behind Baylor in terms of being ready to win now without too much work needed first.  UCLA will start the season ranked somewhere in the teens with Baylor in the top 10.

Thinking about working toward overshadowing USC would be more than enough to get me out of bed every day.  An inter-city rivalry is rare in college.  Playing for the bragging rights to Los Angeles is the biggest perk of the UCLA job.

Number One: Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols haven’t had a double-digit-win season since 2007.  The program won a vast majority of their games during the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, but has really fallen off since, with losing records in all but two of their last seven seasons.

Butch Jones has convinced some top recruits to finally believe in UT again.  The players are there, now it’s time for them to prove their worth.  Tennessee is my team to watch this season (says just about everyone).  They have the potential to win some games this year.

Baylor fans would love you for bringing them a championship.  Tennessee fans would worship you.  A vast majority of the fan base has only seen their most recent national championship back in ’98.  Neyland Stadium still sells out routinely, despite the team’s struggles.  Vol fans crave a title like your dog craves people food (and they don’t have your kid sister slipping them pieces of steak under the table).

Tennessee-neyland-stadium

All the challenge and leeway you can handle are both in Knoxville.  The team hasn’t won anything in a long time and the powers that be are ready to try almost anything to end the drought.

If you’re coaching Tennessee right now you’ve finally got some players on campus.  There’s room to build your own way and a passionate fan base that’s yearning to burst into celebration mode.  Things are looking up at UT and you’d be lucky to be a part of it.

On Wisconsin! (To Mediocrity)

Part of what makes college football great is its traditions.  However, unlike the “5th Quarter” that follows Wisconsin Badger home games, traditions do not always have to be an activity; they can be a mindset.  A Saturday at Camp Randall will be punctuated several times by the lyrics of “On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!” There is more to the song, but almost no one knows the words so for all intents and purposes, the entire song consists of “On, Wisconsin!” followed by skillful trumpet playing.  The presentation of this song during games is oddly symbolic of Wisconsin sports. Fans are very vocal about Wisconsin’s accomplishments before quickly fading away into self-doubt and an unwavering acceptance of mediocre results.

Although many Green Bay Packer fans are Badger alumni, the attitude of these fans toward each team are markedly different.  Packer fans expect to win.  If the Packers lose two in a row, an odd tension permeates the entire state and fans begin to wonder what is wrong.  For almost all other NFL teams, two losses is business as usual.  In sharp contrast, Badger fans hope things break the right way.  Discussions about an upcoming Badger season or a game often begin with the word “if.”  Seasons have been and will continue to be filled with phrases like if (insert star running back’s name) has a big game or if (insert game manager quarterback’s name) throws multiple touchdowns or if we can beat Ohio State and Michigan.  There are never expectations of winning and seasons never begin with if we can stay healthy, we can go very far.  Trips to the Rose Bowl are outliers and occur when circumstances favor the Badgers, like when Ohio State receives a postseason ban.  In the process, Badger fans have accepted a “good” season as one that ends in a trip to a second or third tier bowl game like the Outback Bowl or the Alamo Bowl.  Their attitudes and demeanors reflect this acceptance.

This despicable acceptance of mediocrity is very visible in what fans wear to the games.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of older Badger fans often attend games wearing items that commemorate their Rose Bowl victory in 1994, a victory that occurred when the overwhelming majority of incoming freshmen weren’t born.  Younger fans often attend games wearing shirts that refer to one of the three consecutive Badger Rose Bowl losses following the 2010 through 2012 seasons. Remembering the accomplishments of past seasons is important, however, there is something “jinxy” about cheering on your team while wearing a shirt of a widely publicized Wisconsin loss.

For some, the internalization of mediocrity goes further.  Fans have come to accept the second- and third-tier recruits that Wisconsin lands instead of demanding more.  Even after three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, something that should have resulted in a recruiting boom, Wisconsin continued to assemble average recruiting classes.  Somehow, the practice of signing lesser athletes has become the “Wisconsin way,” a mantra that sometimes morphs into embarrassing and ultimately damaging claims that Wisconsin didn’t land a particular recruit because the recruit wasn’t smart enough.  A school that routinely assembles average recruiting classes can ill afford to gain publicity for ridiculing the mental acumen of recruits, something which occurred when the Badger basketball team failed to land 5-star recruit Diamond Stone.

Just below the prideful exterior of Badger fans lies an ever-strengthening tradition of accepting mediocrity and acting in a way that perpetuates those results.  Fans can’t mock the academic prowess of top recruits who choose another school and expect to land the best players in the country.  And fans can’t continually strengthen a tradition of accepting mediocrity and expect the Badgers to be anything more than a consistent participant in the Outback or Capital One Bowl.  Only when a critical mass of fans refuse to accept mediocrity will Wisconsin football become elite. Page Break

An Unwavering Commitment to Bad Football

More than any other mainstream sport, college football fans exemplify dedication.  Growing up in Hawaii, going to college at Wisconsin, and living in Milwaukee has provided a broad spectrum of fan tradition and dedication ranging from apathy to unwavering, steadfast dedication.

When a team is at its worse, the true nature of fans is most prominently displayed.  When the Milwaukee Bucks were well on their way to drafting Jabari Parker with the number 2 overall pick, their fans cared so little that I was able to attend a game and sit 4 rows behind the opponent’s bench for $26 dollars.  Having a conversation with Kemba Walker was a very real possibility from those $26 dollar seats.  In sharp contrast, games in November and December at Camp Randall routinely show shots of a sold out stadium with a graphic in the corner about how cold it is with the wind chill followed by images of fans draped in blankets as they willingly put their health on the line to cheer on the Wisconsin Badgers.

And then there is the University of Hawaii (UH), a school with a college football program that I feel best embodies fan dedication.  With a few exceptions, their team is atrocious.  They play their home games in what many people consider to be paradise at a very inviting sounding venue, Aloha Stadium.  Growing up it was a brown, dilapidated eye sore located off one of the main highways.  The interior featured suspiciously sticky floors and random puddles that looked like ideal mosquito breeding grounds.  It hasn’t improved.  In fact, it is so bad that it was rated number 20 in the worst places to watch a football game.  Watch a UH game and the field will be littered with paper and other bits of trash by the second half.  Attend a UH game and there is a chance you will observe something ridiculous like fans throwing ice at others for no reason or a random fight.  Yet, somehow, fans still attend.

College football fans have such an attachment to their team that regardless of the environment, they still show up.  Regardless of weather or record, fans still make the trek out to their stadium, brave the elements (if applicable), and yell and scream for 3 to 4 hours.  It is truly beautiful.  Perhaps it is the chance that a great game can break out at any time, or perhaps the feeling of seeing your team win on a Saturday afternoon makes all the losses worth it, but the passion that college football fans show is incredible.  While a fan of an NFL team that has no shot at the playoffs by week 8 suddenly has very open Sundays for the remainder of the season and spends increasing amounts of the work day looking at mock drafts, the same cannot be said about college football fans.  Win or lose, they don’t go into hiding until the following season, they prominently show their allegiance.  In a time where fans declare draft picks as busts after a few games, the unwavering dedication of fans to their favorite college is refreshing, and hopefully, a tradition that continues for all schools.

Send Derek an e-mail at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @BigTenAloha.