Tag Archives: NCAA Football

Notre Dame and Michigan Renewing Rivalry

After a hiatus, Notre Dame and Michigan will renew their rivalry on the football field to start the 2018 season.

The two teams last met in the 2014 season with Notre Dame winning that matchup 31-0 in South Bend. The rivalry was put on pause due to the agreement that the Irish have with the Atlantic Coast Conference. That agreement states that Notre Dame has to put five ACC schools on the schedule every year. This forced Notre Dame into a decision between keeping Michigan, Navy, USC, and Stanford on the schedule. It would not be possible to retain schedule flexibility while having all four rivalries in addition to five ACC games.

The reunion on the gridiron isn’t permanent, but it opens the door for more future matchups. The two meetings scheduled for 2018 and 2019 are all that are on the docket for now, but that is certainly something that could change.

Obviously, 2018 a few seasons away, but looking ahead, Notre Dame certainly has made things difficult for that season. The Irish will have Michigan, Stanford and Florida State in South Bend, and road contests against Virginia Tech and the Trojans of Southern Cal. As hard as it is to predict what level teams will be playing at in future years, these programs have certainly given no reason to think they won’t be playing at a high level.

Aside from setting up a difficult 2018 schedule, this matchup brings back a little bit of life that college football was missing. That’s not to say the game suffered without the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry not there, but it will always be a welcomed rivalry.

In today’s world Jim Harbaugh has become one of college football’s most polarizing figures, both on the field and in the Twitter world as well. Harbaugh and the Wolverines are in the spotlight regularly, as is Notre Dame. Both of these games are locks to be nationally televised. The first matchup will be on NBC, as every Notre Dame home game is, and it is highly likely that Fox or ESPN will pick up the rematch in Ann Arbor the second year.

This will be a chance to renew a great rivalry with both teams trending up. As I said earlier, there is no telling how strong the teams will be when 2018 arrives, but the safe money is on both of them being relatively powerful. I could even say we will see a game with national championship implications, but I’d just be guessing as would anyone else.

It certainly was sad that Notre Dame had a tough choice to make when it came to which rival ties needed to be cut with, and the debate over whether or not they picked right will rage on forever. It is refreshing to see the Wolverines back on the schedule for Notre Dame. Hopefully this will be able to set up the teams playing at least four times a decade. The fact that the Big Ten is going to a nine game conference schedule may further complicate things as well. In order to make this happen they had to cancel a home-and-home they had previously set up with Arkansas.

2018 is a long way away, but this matchup is something for college football fans to look forward to.

I too, hope Jim Harbaugh breaks out his khaki shorts when the 2018 season gets here.

Promotion and Relegation in College Football

In my last column, we explored what realignment into 16-team power conferences might look like.  And, when I posted it on my Facebook page, some friends responded with their own ideas.

First, there was my cousin, Chris Creguer, who suggested blowing up the Big 12 and dispersing its teams into the four remaining Power 5 conferences.  That could work and I can see the NCAA falling in love with that system.

That’s too easy, though, too neat and tidy, too realistic.  So when a college buddy of mine, Ryan Schadewald, floated his idea of getting rid of the conferences altogether and going to promotion and relegation style, similar to that of the English football pyramid, I knew I’d found my next project.

Divisional Structure

From now until the end of football (which is probably much closer than any one of us is willing to admit), the college game will consist of multiple 15-team divisions playing a 14-game round robin regular season schedule over a 15-week period.

Opening Week 2016 is August 22-28.  Closing Week 2016 will be November 28 – December 3. Games are to be played on Saturdays only.  Each division will have one primetime game per week.

The top four finishers in the Division I standings will compete in the Division I Playoff.  First round games are the week following the conclusion of the regular season (December 10, 2016).  After a bye week, the winners of the first round meet in the Division I Championship Game (December 24, 2016).

The bottom four teams in the standings are relegated to Division II and replaced by four D-II teams for the following season.

In Division II and below, the top finisher in the standings earns automatic promotion into the next highest division.  The Playoffs in these divisions will determine the other three promotion spots with second place facing seventh place, third meeting sixth, and fourth playing fifth, in a single round, the week after the regular season.

Postseason Play

Once the regular season is over, schools which have not qualified for any playoffs may compete against each other, across the divisions.  In other words, if former rivals want to get together but one is in Division I and the other’s in Division IV, now’s the time for that to happen.

Call them friendlies, bowl games, whatever.  They’re essentially the same thing.  These contests are completely optional and must be mutually agreed upon.  They also may not be scheduled on Saturdays, which are reserved for the Playoffs.

When the Playoffs are completed, all teams are available for postseason play.  If the Division I champ wants to accept a challenge from the D-II regular season champ, I’m sure many would tune in.

January 1 is the new cutoff for the college football season.  Sitting around all day watching football is a New Year’s tradition.  It’d be a shame to cancel that, but after the first we need to move on.

Standings and Overtime

No college football game shall ever end in a tie.  Don’t worry.  The overtime structure is so nearly perfect the way it is.  The only change is that possessions will now begin from the 50-yard line, not the 25.  This will take away the comfort of knowing that you’ll still have a makeable field goal attempt even if you lose five yards.

Since there will be no single points earned through draws, as in soccer, it took some creativity to come up with a system for keeping standings.

  • 1 point in the standings for an overtime loss
  • 2 points for a win in overtime
  • 3 points for a win in regulation
  • 1 bonus point for winning a game by 36 points or more
  • 1 bonus point for scoring 50 points or more in a game
  • 1 bonus point for a shutout

Therefore, the “perfect game” would be a regulation shutout win by at least 50 points.  Such wins are awarded another extra point in the standings, for a total of seven (3 for win, 1 for 36-point win, 1 for scoring 50, 1 for the shutout, and 1 for the “perfect game”).

Scoring in such a way will lead to more dynamic movement than seven teams earning two points each for a win, and eight teams (including the team with a bye) earning no points.

Awarding bonus points for those achievements within the game works because this system lends itself to more parity than we see now when Power 5’ers host FCS squads.

Division Breakdown

Chances are you’re wondering where your team fits in all of this madness.  Many of you are going to be angry with me for putting your team where it belongs, but keep in mind the beauty of this system.

Each and every team in the entirety of college football has an opportunity to play its way up the ladder.  If you don’t like playing D-IV football, then earn promotion into D-III.

Keeping all that in mind, here’s the breakdown of the initial divisional splits:

Division I Division II Division III Division IV Division V
Alabama Georgia Washington State Arizona Navy
Ohio State LSU California Arizona State Indiana
Clemson Utah Arkansas Texas A&M Illinois
Oklahoma USC Auburn Mississippi State Louisiana Tech
Stanford UCLA BYU Boise State Central Michigan
Notre Dame Michigan State Nebraska Western Michigan Bowling Green
Florida State Wisconsin Penn State Northern Illinois Akron
Florida Oklahoma State Texas Tech Marshall Ohio
Ole Miss Texas Pittsburgh NC State Nevada
Oregon Louisville Duke Minnesota Air Force
Houston North Carolina Memphis Kansas State Colorado State
TCU Miami (FL) Western Kentucky South Florida Kentucky
Michigan Temple Arkansas State Cincinnati Southern Miss
Iowa West Virginia Toledo San Diego State Appalachian State
Tennessee Northwestern Washington Virginia Tech Baylor

Whine and complain all you want, but understand that placing the teams is the least important aspect of the plan.  In three years, the whole thing would look totally different.  Cool your jets.

Obviously, these are only the top 75 teams.  There are 128 teams currently in FBS, 125 in FCS, 171 in Division II, 248 in Division III, and 86 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

From the big boys all the way down to University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas with an enrollment of 400, that’s a grand total of 758 teams in all of college football.  The list above represents just 10 percent of the participants under the new system.

Conclusion

There you have it, the system that would bring college football into a new era of equal opportunity for all.  I’m sure there are holes in my theory, but I’m so convinced that this would be the greatest thing in sports that I haven’t even fully thought it through, to be honest with you.

Promotion and relegation makes every week of the season fun for all teams in all divisions.  No matter where you are in the standings, you’ve always got something to play for.  That’s why I think this is the way to go forward.

Now, let’s hear your take.  I love having people explain to me why I’m an idiot.  Find me on Twitter @GreatGatzke, or e-mail [email protected]

Feature Image

Irish Survive Scare From Eagles

Fenway Park was built for baseball.

Notre Dame should have left it as a baseball sanctuary.

The Fighting Irish did not have their best night of the season against Boston College at one of baseball’s most famous diamonds, but they did find a way to win. The win wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but what did Notre Dame fans expect would happen in cursed green jerseys?

DeShone Kizer certainly did not have his best night, especially early on, but he did recover nicely and ended up throwing for 320 yards and two scores to go along with the three interceptions that he tossed. Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, both of whom had touchdown receptions for Notre Dame, bailed him out. Brown finished with seven catches for 104 yards, and Carlisle snagged six passes for 97 yards. Star wideout Will Fuller was quiet for the entire first half, but did have three grabs for 72 yards in the second half. Fuller also had three drops, including one on third down and another that would have gone for six.

Nov 21, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver William Fuller (7) runs after the catch while wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (16) blocks as Boston College Eagles defensive back John Johnson (9) defends in the third quarter at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver William Fuller (7) runs after the catch while wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (16) blocks as Boston College Eagles defensive back John Johnson (9) defends in the third quarter at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, Notre Dame did keep the abysmal Boston College offense at bay for most of the evening. A missed assignment was attributed to QB Jeff Smith’s 80-yard scamper, and Boston College’s other touchdown drive came with the Irish in prevent defense.

While all this sounds negative, the positive news for Notre Dame is that they still found a way to win. They certainly didn’t gather any style points. When the task is the nation’s number one defense, should style points be expected?

I think Notre Dame should be happy with a win, especially considering the five turnovers the Irish committed. Good teams find a way to win when they are not playing at their best, and that is exactly what Notre Dame did at Fenway.

Injury Front

This season has seen many injuries to Irish players, and Saturday night was no different.

Running back CJ Prosise exited the game in the first half with a high ankle sprain on his left leg. Prosise was seen on crutches, and the extent of the sprain has not been announced yet. The injury looked eerily similar to the play that Malik Zaire fractured his ankle on against Virginia. The hope for Notre Dame is that Prosise will not miss the remainder of the season. The running back position is one spot that Notre Dame certainly could not afford to have an injury at. Tarean Folston has been previously lost for the season and Greg Bryant was removed from the team for academic reasons. True freshmen Josh Adams and Dexter Williams will be asked to carry the load for Notre Dame in the event that CJ Prosise can’t go.

image

KeiVarae Russell exited the game against Boston College in the second half due to a stress fracture in his foot. There is no timetable for Russell’s return at the point of this writing. If Russell cannot go, it would be expected that Devin Butler would replace him in the starting lineup.

News & Notes

Boston College was previously 2-1 all-time against Notre Dame when the Irish have been ranked in the top five. That alone should have been reason for Notre Dame fans to worry.

The Irish have now won five consecutive contests against Boston College.

Next week Notre Dame will travel to Palo Alto to take on Stanford. This should be a matchup of two top 10 teams. Stanford was ranked 11 this week, but should move up with the losses of both Ohio State and Oklahoma State ranked three and six, respectively. A win against Stanford for Notre Dame would go a long way in helping them find themselves in the College Football Playoff. A loss would almost certainly eliminate them from contention.

Biggest Scandals In NCAA History.

In the wake of the Syracuse basketball program getting slapped with NCAA infractions and receiving penalties such as having to vacate 108 wins, 12 less scholarship offers, and Boeheim being suspended for nine ACC games earlier today, I couldn’t help but think of some of the biggest scandals throughout college sports history.

There have been many infamous scandals that involve big-time programs throughout college athletics; paying players, school ineligibilty, and sometimes, sadly, you get the occasional rape or murder accusations/charges.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest sports scandals throughout history.

The University of Michigan Mens Basketball Scandal or Ed Martin Scandal: This scandal had apparently been going on during the 80’s, but it didn’t seem the get any kind of steam until “The Fab Five” ran the basketball world back in the early 90’s, specifically when it involved “Fab Five” member Chris Webber.

According to the investigation that seemed to have gotten started after an automobile accident that involved Mateen Cleave’s during a recruiting visit, it was revealed that there was some sort of relationship between the Michigan basketball program and a booster named Ed Martin. It was revealed that during “The Fab Five” era that Chris Webber received more than $200,000 between 1988 and 1993.

In September 2002, Webber was indicted on five charges, including obstruction of justice and lying to a federal grand jury, for having misrepresented his relationship with Martin. Each charge was punishable by five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He vowed to fight the charges.

In the fall of that year, Michigan decided they were going to impose their own sanctions. The most noticeable sanction was that they would remove the banners from the 1992 and 1993 Final Four, which “The Fab Five” led them to.

Kentucky Basketball gets the death-penalty (well, kind of): Kentucky basketball didn’t play one minute in the 1952-1953 season due to a point-shaving scandal that they were involved in a few years earlier. Although the Wildcats didn’t actually get the “death-penalty” pretty much because the penalty didn’t exist back then, they were banned from Southeastern Conference play, and it has been said that the NCAA pressured a lot of schools not to schedule them.

The Duke Lacrosse Scandal: In March of 2006, three lacrosse players were accused of raping an exotic dancer at a party one night. The scandal got nationwide attention that eventually led to the rest of the season being cancelled and it also led to the resignation of the team’s coach.

Although the charges would be later dropped due to many holes in the accusers story, the scandal hurt the schools reputation and the members of the lacrosse team.

The 1978-1979 Boston College Point-Shaving Scandal: This is one of the biggest point-shaving scandals in NCAA history.

The scheme was started by brothers Rocco and Tony Perla from Pittsburgh, PA. The Perla brothers were small-time gamblers who saw the 1978–79 Boston College basketball season as a perfect opportunity to earn a lot of money. Through a middle-man, they contacted Henry Hill, a Lucchese crime family associate from New York.

The scheme involved many Boston College basketball players at the time that the brothers and Hill recruited and bribed to ensure that the team would not win by the required margin, in other words they were paid not to cover the spread.

The scandal became exposed when Hill was arrested and indicted on drug trafficking in 1980 where he later turned informant to avoid jail time. Hill offered to come clean about the full story if he were to gain immunity, which was granted to him. After the four-week trial, Tony Perla was sentenced to ten year imprisonment while his brother, Rocco, received just a four year imprisonment.

The Boston College basketball team ended its 1978–79 season with a 22–9 record. It is unclear how much money the players involved in the point-shaving scheme were paid. Hill reportedly cleared over $100,000 and bettors higher up the line were said to have made up to $250,000

Baylor Basketball Murder: During the summer of 2003, Baylor player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by then teammate Carlton Dotson. Dennehy and Dotson got into a heated argument with one another while they were practicing firing their guns in the Waco, Texas area, which then resulted Dotson shooting and killing Dennehy.

After the murder, then basketball coach Dave Bliss ordered the players on the team to lie about the story and to tell investigators that Dennehy was a drug dealer in attempt to cover up NCAA violations that would come to surface during the investigation of the murder.

This attempt did not work and the NCAA came down on Baylor hard by giving the Bears probation, loss of scholarships, recruiting restrictions, and a ban from non-conference schedule from the 2005-2006 season. Baylor also was slapped with smaller penalties as well.

Reggie Bush Returns His Heisman Trophy: After listing the previous stories, perhaps returning your Heisman trophy isn’t all that bad.

The majority of the nation knows the story. It came out after he was long gone from Southern California, running back Reggie Bush and his family had received more than $300,000 from various benefits during his time at USC. Bush was later stripped of his Heisman trophy as a result of this.

Penn State and Jerry Sandusky: I’m not going to go into detail as to what happened because I’m pretty sure we all know what happened. When something as scandalous involving a coach and the raping of many innocent children over a spam of many decades that involve one of the biggest, most reputable schools in the country and a college football icon such as Joe Paterno, to me, it’s not called a scandal, it’s called a tragedy that shocked the nation.

Oklahoma and Everything: Nearing the end of the Barry Switzer era, it seemed as if that the Oklahoma football team just couldn’t stay out of trouble. Oklahoma was busted for, pretty much, everything you could possible think of; paying players, cheating (the cliche stuff), rape allegations, failed drug test, players shooting each other, and then quarterback Charles Thompson getting busted for selling cocaine to an undercover cop. Does anybody remember that infamous Sports Illustrated cover with Thompson wearing an orange jumpsuit in handcuffs?

In the following months of all that insanity, the NCAA banned all athlete  dorm rooms, where the majority of this madness had allegedly took place.

“Loss of Institutional Control”: This term really sounds like some sort of gang just walked into the University of Miami and took over the entire school.

There have been many scandals involving the University of Miami, but nothing seems to sticks out more than the Pell Grant scandal in 1995. It was revealed that over $250,000 dollars we given away to many Miami football players under false pretenses . While this was going on, several players pooled their money together and awards were given out to the best player who had the best tackle in a game.

While this remains the only major infraction from Miami since 1987, it is the fifth largest single infraction in NCAA history which resulted in a single year postseason ban, a loss of 31 scholarships, and three years probation.

SMU Football Gets The Death Penalty: What they did may not be as bad as what I have mentioned earlier, but the SMU Mustangs is the first and only school to have received the death-penalty in college football.

As a result of paying players, the SMU football program became one of the best college football programs during the 1980s. However, the success would not last long. After getting busted by the NCAA the first time for pay-for-play, SMU just seem to not care what so ever and continued to do so. SMU would continue to do pay-for-play over the next several years even after the NCAA busted them and handed them many penalties.

After multiple times of handing SMU just small penalties, the NCAA just decided that it was time to lay down the hammer on them, and decided to give them “the death penalty”, in which SMU was unable to have a football program during the 1987. Even though the Mustangs could have fielded a team in 1988, SMU decided not to have a football season during that. SMU football would have a football program in 1989.

From 1989 to the 2008 season, SMU would go on to have one of the worst football programs in college football. In the 2009 season, it appears that SMU are starting to become a great team again as they have gone on to have winning season since then.

MAC Weekly Roundup: Chippewas End Huskies Streak

Down goes N. Illinois!! In what will be one of the biggest wins in the MAC this season, the Central Michigan Chippewas went into Huskie Stadium Saturday and conquered N. Illinois 34-17 while ending several very impressive win streaks. The first streak being their nation leading 28-straight home victories dating wayyyy back to a loss vs. Idaho 34-31 on September 26th, 2009. The Huskies had also ripped off 24-straight MAC conference victories prior to falling to the Chippewas who happen to be the last team that defeated the Huskies in conference stretching back to October 1st, 2011 in a 48-41 finish. CMU also was the last MAC team to defeat the Huskies on their home field with a thrilling OT victory 33-30 almost 6 years ago in November of 2008!
CMU RB Rawls Chippewa’s running back Thomas Rawls absolutely dominated the Huskie defense racking up an eye-popping 270 rush yards with 2 scores while quarterback Cooper Rush (Ironic name for a QB!) threw for 269 yards and 2 scores of his own. The win is CMU’s 2nd MAC victory in as many weeks and puts them ahead of N. Illinois for 2nd in the MAC West at 2-1. Toledo leads the West at 3-0 despite losing Saturday against non-conference foe Iowa St. Despite their 2 very impressive win streaks coming to an end, the Huskies still own and can build on their MAC record 6 consecutive bowl game appearances while this season could make 7. Also, N. Illinois should have no problem starting up a new home win streak this weekend as a mediocre at best Miami(OH) comes for a visit to Huskie stadium Saturday. CMU will look to continue their win streak as a pesky Ball St. team comes calling. Ball St. has lost 5 straight games however, no loss has been by more than 10 points. The Cardinals are hungry and will be out for blood in Mt. Pleasant so the Chippewas better not have a let up after the big win or they may find themselves behind the eight-ball quickly in my “Trap Game of the Week”.
Moving on, WMU stud RB Jarvion Franklin went off again Saturday vs. that very same Ball St. team, shredding the D for 161 rush yards and 3 TD’s in the Bronco’s thrilling 42-38 comeback victory. This marks Franklin’s impressive 4th game of the season with 100+ rushing yards and 3+ TD’s, while it adds on to his already mind-boggling overall numbers making him tops or near the top in many FBS offensive categories. Through 6 games Franklin has 843 rush yards on 141 carries and has found the promised land 15 times (already 4 more than the Bronco’s RB’s had all last season!!). Moving up a spot or more in multiple categories, Franklin is currently ranked: 1st in TDs (15), 1st in Scoring (90 points), 6th in rushing yards per game (140.5ypg), and 6th in total rush yards (843).
Franklin and Coach Fleck’s Bronco’s improved to 1-1 in MAC play as they head to Bowling Green in one of this weeks Marquee Match-ups. Bowling Green is 3-0 in MAC play and holds a one game advantage on Akron (2-0) for the lead in the MAC East. The Falcons took care of business in a convincing 31-13 thrashing of the Ohio Bobcats who drop to 1-2 in conference. The Bronco’s can ill afford a 2nd loss in the extremely tough MAC West while going to a hostile Bowling Green and winning will be no easy task. The Falcons could “technically” afford a loss and still be sitting pretty but clearly no one wants to lose and they will be more than ready to play come Saturday.
There are 4 other MAC conference match-ups on tap this weekend including: Akron (2-0) at Ohio (1-2), Eastern Michigan (1-1) at U-Mass (1-2), Ball St. (0-2) at Central Michigan (2-1), and Miami(OH)(1-2) at N. Illinois (1-1). Army visits Kent St. (0-3) in the only non-conference game this week while Toledo and Buffalo are on bye weeks.
In a 2nd rather unexpected Marquee Match-up, 2-0 Akron travels to Ohio for an East Division clash with Akron looking to extend their promising start while keeping the pressure on Bowling Green. With Head Coach Terry Bowden earning his 150th career win in a 29-19 victory over lowly Miami(OH), the Zips are off to their first 2-0 start in conference since 2007 and just the 4th time since 1992! With 3 consecutive wins Akron is also 4-2 overall for the first time since 2000. Ohio is desperate for a win to keep their MAC hopes alive and it promises to be rowdy in Bobcat country. If the Zips can get the momentum somehow in the early going I think they just might make it 4-straight and give Coach Bowden career win 151.
In one final note i’d like to make a correction and an apology to the WMU Bronco’s as I incorrectly stated in last weeks article that they’d earned MAC Player of the Week awards in 4 of the 5 weeks thus far when in reality they in fact had a representative all 5 weeks! Very impressive and again i’m sorry to have misinformed my readers. Unfortunately however, the run did come to an end this last week as no Bronco got the nod although both Jarvion Franklin, and Bronco punter Jay Shreider both gave valiant efforts and had worthy games. I’m positive the Bronco’s will find their players on the list again very soon. Well folks, that’s all I’ve got for ya this week on the MAC but be sure to tune in this weekend to catch all the #MACtion and check back in next week to keep up on all that is the MAC from out here in MAC land!

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!

The Return of the MAC

With 5 weeks in the books, college football ,as always, has been full of surprises, upsets, big plays, and crazy comebacks. The MAC has had it’s fair share of excitement so far as well, and entering the first full week of MAC play teams are hitting there stride and some competitive football is coming our way. Despite a few in conference MAC games already being played, very little has been decided other than a few bottom feeders claiming their territory and a surprise contender or two making some noise.
It’s been an entertaining first month of the season for MAC fans with ups and downs a plenty. The following is a condensed recap of the Highlights (and low-lights) of the season thus far:
Week 1: Starting off the season with a bang, MAC East preseason favorite Bowling Green got manhandled by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 59-31 in a shocker. Being a relatively quiet tune-up week for most schools not much else thrilling took place week 1 although its noteworthy that in an early conference match-up Ohio defeated Kent St. 17-14 while Eastern Michigan matched their 2013 win total knocking off Morgan St. 31-28.
Week 2: In what proved to be the biggest week of upsets so far, week 2 gave us a little bit of everything. Central Michigan went to Purdue and stunned the Boilermakers 38-17 after Purdue outlasted a scare from Western Michigan last week. Northern Illinois followed suit dismantling in-state rival and fellow Big10 school Northwestern 23-15. Ball St. came within seconds of a MAC trifecta frightening Iowa fans in a heart crushing last second 17-13 loss. U-Mass took Colorado to the brink before falling 41-38 while Toledo couldn’t keep up with #24 Missouri losing 49-24 although it was a much closer game that the score reflects. After getting their fans hopes up week 1, E. Michigan suffered the 2nd largest lopsided defeat of 2014 in an absolute beat down from Florida 65-0 (EMU also has the 3rd largest blowout as you’ll find out later).
Week 3: A rough week for the MAC as tougher schools came calling. The lone bright spot was in yet another Big10 upset as Bowling Green worked out some wrinkles and squeeked past Indiana 45-42. Kent St. didn’t fare as well against the Big10 getting punished by #22 Ohio St. 66-0. C. Michigan’s high from the Purdue win was short lived as Syracuse stomped them 40-3. Buffalo shared a similar fate getting smashed 63-21 at #8 Baylor. Toledo hung around yet again in another shootout but eventually fell 58-34 to Cincinnati. N. Illinois continued to impress taking down UNLV 48-34 albeit UNLV isn’t the major program the others listed are.
Week 4: Yet another rough week for the MAC as the non-conference schedules get tougher and tougher. Bowling Green found out what a “real” Big10 team plays like getting shredded 68-17 by #19 Wisconsin. Helpless E. Michigan received the same Big10 powerhouse thumping at the hands of #11 Michigan St. 73-14 (There it is). C. Michigan continued to struggle through a tough early schedule falling to Kansas 24-10. N. Illinois ran into a team they couldn’t hang with losing to Arkansas in a 52-14 drumming. Continuing their promising start, Toledo had the lone highlight of the week in defeating Ball St. (who’s off to a slow start) 34-23 in Toledo’s MAC opener.
Week 5: Akron flexed some surprise muscle to start week 5 conquering Pittsburgh 21-10 while half of the MAC entered conference play. WMU however, was not one of those teams and after doubling last years win total last week (2), the Bronco’s were brought back down to earth against Virginia Tech losing 35-17 although like Toledo, hung in longer than the score reflects. Sticking with Toledo, they rocketed past C. Michigan 48-28 continuing Centrals early woes and proving again to be a strong contender for the MAC West title. Also playing in conference, Bowling Green righted the ship beating U-Mass 47-42 while surprise Buffalo bullied Miami(OH) 35-27.
Entering the first full week of MAC play, it appears 8 teams have put themselves into my “contender” ranking: Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, N. Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, and W. Michigan. To date, Toledo, N. Illinois, and C. Michigan have played the toughest schedules which is why CMU still gets a nod despite being the only team named under .500. This week will provide us a much clearer view of who’s a real contender, and who’s just been pretending. It’s safe to say we can eliminate 1/2 of the East division from contention with 0-4 Kent St., 0-5 U-Mass, and 0-5 Miami(OH) not convincing anyone otherwise. E. Michigan can be put in this list too despite having a win, they lost their other 3 games a combined 155-17. The biggest surprise team not mentioned yet is Ball St. who despite their 1-3 record I can’t write off just yet but hasn’t earned contender status either. They should’ve beat Iowa and their 3 losses have all been by 10 pts. or less.
Despite some success, the majority of teams will be ready for, and looking forward to conference play. With understandable success against non-major conferences, the MAC still struggles against the major conferences not named Big10. Honestly, 3-8 versus the Big10 isn’t that high of a success rate either, but it’s considerably better that the 2-13 the MAC mustered up against all other major conferences (not including Marshall who is 3-0 vs. the MAC). The MAC is also 0-5 vs. AP Top 25 teams with the majority of the biggest blowouts coming at the hands of such schools. That being said, the MAC is getting better one season at a time as N. Illinois’ undefeated season last year, and P.J. Flecks 36th best recruiting class in the nation is proving in 2014. This week should be highly entertaining as MAC teams collide with eyes on the prize. Every game matters, but there are several marquee matchups on Saturday in the MAC including:
TOL vs WMU logos
A west division showdown between Toledo (3-2)(2-0 MAC) at Western Michigan (2-2)(0-0 MAC) in the Bronco’s MAC opener. The winner of this game gets my vote for MAC West division favorite. In an East vs. West collision, Ohio (3-2)(1-0 MAC) travels to C. Michigan (2-3(0-1 MAC) in whats become a must-win game for the Chippewas. Ohio could emerge with a 2nd MAC win vs. a fellow contender and a little more respect overall. Finally in an East division showdown, Buffalo (3-2)(1-0 MAC) locks horns with Bowling Green (3-2)(1-0 MAC) in a battle to remain on top of the East division. Only one can stay undefeated in conference while Buffalo can prove alot going on the road and earning a W in what would be an upset for the Bulls. All 3 games will be hard played and exciting to watch. I myself am attending the Toledo vs. WMU game and can’t wait to catch some live MAC action! Thanks for reading and be sure to tune in next week for all that is MAC from out here in MAC land!

Player Spotlight: WMU's Jarvion Franklin

Jarvion Franklin’s mindset while running the football is to constantly keep his feet pumping and moving forward until the whistle blows, earning every inch the defense allows him.  I’d say young Jarvion has been true to himself thus far “keeping his feet moving” to the tone of an eye popping 542 rushing yards and 9 TD’s through just 3 games.  We know coach P.J. Fleck has brought in a highly-touted, highly-talented group of new recruits that includes Franklin, it was just a matter of letting the dust settle and allowing the best athletes to emerge on top.  Franklin has done just that quickly distancing himself from the rest of coach Fleck’s impressive recruit class and helping the Broncos to a 2-1 start to the 2014 campaign.
jarvion franklin bio picJarvion Franklin is 6’0″ even and a solid 220lbs. of speed and muscle.  Hailing from Tinley Park, ILL, Franklin attended Andrew High School where he played both Varsity football and basketball.  As a senior Jarvion racked up 1265 rush yards on 179 carries (just over 7 yards per carry not to shabby!) and 15 TD’s earning him 1st-Team All-Conference and an invite to play in the U.S. Army All-American game.  As one of Coach Flecks 3-star recruits, Jarvion has already received the bulk of the rushing duties and the true freshman has rewarded Coach Fleck and Bronco fans sooner than anyone could have imagined.
Through WMU’s first 3 games, Franklin has amassed 542 rush yards on 82 attempts, 5 catches for another 40 yards, while getting to the promised land 9 times.  That averages out to approx. 6.6 yards per carry, 180.6 rushing yards per game, and 3 TD’s per game.  Those are video game numbers folks!  To give some perspective on this the other contributing Bronco RB’s in 2014 have added an additional 291 rush yards on 48 carries (a 6.06 YPC average) and 2 more TD’s bringing the season total thus far to 833 rushing yards on 130 attempts and 11 TD’s.  Now, in 2013 WMU’s TOTALS for the season were 1394 rush yards on 389 attempts and just 10 TD’s.  Thats a meager 3.58 yards per carry and just 116 rush yards a game.  Those numbers landed WMU 12th of 13 schools in rushing in the MAC and clearly wasn’t efficient enough to help them win games.  N. Illinois dominated the MAC in 2013 rumbling for a school and MAC record 4161 rush yards and 39 TD’s!  Even at the pace WMU’s currently on, averaging 277.6 rush yards per game, they’d still only muster approx. 3400 rush yards total, however WMU would challenge the Huskies TD totals as they score 3.6 rushing TD’s per game bringing the season to total to about 43 scores.  Keep in mind of course that conference play will be tougher competition more often than not so maintaining their current numbers may prove to be easier said than done albeit there are several games the Broncos stand to go over their averages i.e. Miami of Ohio and Eastern Michigan. Teams will also start to game-plan their defense around stopping Franklin and the Bronco run game and you can assume Franklin will be the focus of many opposing teams practices this season.
Bronco fans were well aware of the potential and possibilities attached to Coach Fleck’s impressive recruiting class, however I don’t think anyone could predict that any one recruit would find so much immediate success and play such a large role so early on.  It’s an exciting time for Bronco fans after last years abysmal 1-11 finish, WMU has already won more games this year and has looked solid doing it.  Franklin’s early dominance has earned him the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week award twice already! (weeks 1 and 3 respectively)  While another Fleck recruit, Cleveland Smith, earned himself the MAC Defensive Player of the Week award week 2 giving the Bronco’s a representative each week thus far.  Franklin is also the 1st Bronco RB since Robert Sanford in 1997 to have 3-straight 100-yards rushing and 3 TD games and could become the 1st Bronco ever to make it 4-straight.  That might be a tough task however, as WMU travels to Virginia Tech this week for their final non-conference match-up of 2014.  VA-Tech is from the bigger, stronger, faster ACC and are coming off back-to-back home losses and obviously will be looking to get back on track before entering into a tough conference schedule.  It should be an exciting, well-played game between two up and coming teams while a win for WMU would go down as one of the biggest in school history and give the Bronco’s some serious momentum entering MAC play.  Unfortunately this writer thinks the Bronco’s will come up just short, losing to the Hokies 37-31 in a heartbreaker.  I do feel that Franklin will have another solid performance and could get his 4th-straight 100 yard game and maybe even find pay dirt 3 times again but it still won’t be enough to get a Bronco victory.  For WMU fans sake I hope the Broncos prove me wrong!  You can catch all the action on ESPN 3 @ 12:30 p.m. ET this Saturday and then be sure to read my article next week to keep up on all that is MAC from out here in MAC land!

The Big Ten and the Fly Sweep:  Helping the Running Game While Protecting the Quarterback  

When compared to their NFL counterparts, college quarterbacks are used in a far more reckless manner.  When he was at Auburn, Cam Newton routinely ran into the teeth of the defense.  He had 264 rushing attempts and netted 1473 yards in his Heisman winning 2010 season.  To put that in perspective, the leading rusher that season was LaMichael James who amassed 1731 yards in 294 attempts (stats from espn.com).  In 2013, Cam Newton was the leading rusher out of all NFL quarterbacks as he accounted for 585 yards on 111 attempts.
Using the quarterback as a weapon is something that has become more and more popular with the advent of the read option and its ability to skew the numbers in the offense’s favor.  Simultaneously, keeping a quarterback healthy is becoming more and more important.  Quarterbacks are being encouraged to slide or get out of bounds to protect themselves as opposed to diving headfirst or lowering a shoulder to pick up a few extra yards.  Although there are some exceptions where a backup quarterback comes in and performs as well, or possibly even better, than the starter (see Kenny Guiton of Ohio State when he replaced Braxton Miller last season), for the most part, protecting the starter and avoiding having to play a backup quarterback is the smart move.
Not all teams are lucky enough to land quarterback recruits who possess the ability to run and pass at a high level while avoiding big hits and injuries.  While teams are able to adapt and expand their playbooks to accommodate a quarterback who has greater mobility (see Wisconsin and Russell Wilson), most are generally set in the way they operate on offense.  The use of the jet sweep in offenses with a traditional pocket passer at quarterback is a way to reap almost as many benefits as the read option provides without putting the quarterback in blatantly precarious situations.  In the case of the Big Ten, with the exceptions of Michigan and Ohio State, top tier mobile quarterback recruits are usually not clamoring to spend their college careers in the Midwest.
As a response to the many pocket passers, Big Ten teams, most notably Wisconsin and Michigan State, have incorporated the jet/fly sweep look to add the threat of a run that attacks the edge to prevent teams from keying on more traditional running plays.  Both teams will bring either a receiver or a running back in motion which helps to determine the defensive alignment, create some adjustments, and ideally, result in mismatches.  Although it is not an option play in the traditional sense of the word, the jet sweep does give a team multiple options once the ball is snapped.  The quarterback can hand it to the receiver or running back who is running at full speed or nearly full speed, fake it to the player in motion and hand it to a running back, or run a play action fake using one or both players and look for an open receiver or tight end.  When teams add additional wrinkles to these general concepts such as the way that the line will block, the direction that the running back will run, and which gap the running back will run through, the defense has to properly anticipate and be in position for a multitude of possibilities.  The offense can then exploit out of position or overcommitting defensive players without putting the quarterback in obvious danger by making him the ball carrier.
Against the far faster and more athletic LSU defense, the jet/fly sweep looks that Wisconsin used in the first half were able to keep LSU guessing and even resulted in a long touchdown run.  When the Badger offense took the threat of a run to the outside out of its playcalling, the Badgers were routinely stopped on running plays after little to no gain.  The concept has received validation at the NFL level as the Seahawks used it to get the ball to Percy Harvin in the Super Bowl and against the Green Bay Packers.
With the exception of Ohio State and Michigan, most Big Ten teams do not land the most dominant athletes and, moreso than in other conferences, run a more traditional “pro style” offense.  Using the jet sweep or the threat of the jet sweep as part of the offense is a way that Big Ten teams can get the same type of hesitation, overcommittment, or out of position defenders that can be generated through the use of the read option and other schemes designed to take advantage of superior athletes and a mobile quarterback.  My personal belief is that most teams will move to a mobile quarterback/read option type of offense, but in the meantime, using the jet sweep and the variations that accompany this provide a unique way to best use existing personnel while trying to recruit the proper players that would best fit into a new, and supposedly more innovative and athletic, offensive philosophy.
 

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!