Tag Archives: oregon football

The New Era of College Football: The Haves Trump The Have-Nots

The evolution of college football has created a new reality. Thanks to the college football arms race in facilities, fan support, and money as well as the nascent playoff system, there are two types of college football programs:

  1. Those that have a chance to win a national championship
  2. Those that have no chance to win a national championship

There is no migration between the types of programs. You either have a chance to win it all or you don’t. The rich teams get richer, everyone else treads water or drowns.

While there are two types of college football programs, there are three types of college football fans:

  1. Those fans who correctly recognize that their teams have a chance win a national championship
  2. Those fans who correctly realize their teams have no chance to win a national    championship
  3. Those fans who incorrectly believe their team has a chance to win the national championship, when in reality, they have no chance.

No convinced? Take a look at the following videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVC3UziHeGk and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU4NXtu2T5E.

These are, theoretically, facilities for college students. But we all know what these really are. Recruiting tools to draw top athletes to Texas and Texas A&M. These are “in-kind” payments to players who are ostensibly amateur athletes.

I have no doubt that the other programs with a chance to win a national championship have (or will soon have) facilities on par if not better than these. We all know the names of these programs – Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Ohio St, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, & Oklahoma. You could probably add Oregon, Tennessee, Notre Dame and a small handful of other programs to this list, but that’s it. No other programs have a chance.

It is not shocking for fans of programs like Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College, Vandy, Kansas, and Northwestern that they have zero chance to win a national championship…ever. I think the fans of these programs understand that they will never have facilities like Texas or Texas A&M. They will never compromise their integrity to the extent that the contending programs must to get the numbers of top players needed to compete for a national championship. Fans from these programs and many more like them realize their role in the world of college football. They are fodder for the teams with a chance to win it all. They can have successful seasons and win bowl games, but they will never hoist the national championship trophy. Maybe that’s okay. The point of college, after all, is to educate young minds, not win national championships. College athletics is supposed to be entertaining, so if you recognize your place and revel in reaching the heights of success within the boundaries of your possibilities, college football is a great deal of fun.

What might be shocking to the vast majority of the fans of programs not listed above, is that their teams also have no chance to win a national championship. None, zero, zilch, nada… they just don’t realize it. Many programs fit this description…we can all name these programs with perpetually frustrated fans who mistakenly think they are on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of college programs – Virginia Tech, NC State, UNC, West Virginia, Michigan State, South Carolina, TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas St, and Arkansas among many others, have no chance to win a national championship. Unfortunately, their fans think they do.

Think about how excited fans of these programs are when they land a big-time recruit. A 5-star or high 4-star kid who is a “can’t miss” prospect. There are high-fives all around and dreams of winning the college football playoff. The sad reality is, the teams that have a real chance to win it all, get at least a half a dozen of these players – every year. Not one per year or every other year like the wannabe programs. So the teams with a real chance to win it all have 30 or more can’t-miss players on their teams. The wannabe teams might have 5.

None of this is lost on the best coaches in the industry either. Do you think Nick Saban is going to leave Alabama to coach Northwestern anytime soon? Urban Meyer going to Wake Forest? Which programs have huge donor bases that make space-age locker rooms possible? (hint: it’s not Duke and it’s not Virginia…nor NC State or West Virginia) The best coaches go to the programs with the biggest donor bases that pay the biggest salaries & fund the best facilities, which draw the best talent…and so the cycles continues.

Like gambling in Vegas, the college football game is rigged. Over the course of any season, there will be exciting times when wannabe teams beat the odds and score big upsets. But over the course of a full season (including the playoffs), a single wannabe program cannot beat the system. There are too many 30+ mega-recruit teams out there, getting better every day and one of those teams will win the national championship every time. It’s why house wins over time in Vegas. The swanky trappings of the Bellagio are not there because gamblers go home winners. The odds favor the house, so it always wins. The system favors the top programs, so they will always win.

As we begin the 2017 college football season, we could create a list of 18-20 programs with a chance to win it all. It would be the same list from 2016. The participants in the football championship will be from that list – with no chance for an upstart to crash the party. It’s like the list to get into the VIP section of a popular night club. Not on the list? Not getting in.

The downside of this could be that as more college football fans realize the game is rigged against them, fans will lose interest and the game’s popularity could begin to fade. Then again, Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be losing its steam and state lotteries continue to be wildly popular. Maybe the fans of the wannabe programs understand their fate better than they let on. Maybe they are like the lottery players, thinking that someone is going to win this jackpot, if I buy a ticket it might be me, so every season, misplaced hope springs eternal. Unfortunately, the odds of winning the Powerball are better than their team winning the national championship.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

Third and 36, a Metaphor for Virginia Football

3rd & 36. What comes to mind when you think of a 3rd & 36 situation? For most football fans, it is a certainty that the ball is about the change hands. Virginia fans aren’t most football fans and the Virginia program is not any ordinary program. Virginia is different because Virginia gives up 3rd & 36 and its fans while dreading it, aren’t that surprised at its conversion. On Saturday, just for good measure, Virginia also give up 3rd & 12 not with just a first down but a 77-yard touchdown pass.

3rd & 36 might be a good metaphor for the Virginia football program, at least as it stands today. Saturday night’s 3rd & 36 certainly was representative of what Virginia fans have endured since the days of the ever caustic Al Groh and the affable, but ineffective Mike London. While we are only two games into the Bronco era, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Fans expected change and maybe even a few wins. Allowing 3rd & 36 conversations was to be part of our football past, not our football present, but maybe we should not be so quick to judge.

The 2016 season opened with an air of optimism not seen for decades of Virginia football. It would be easy to toss all of the enthusiastic optimism out the window as Virginia lost handily to the Oregon Ducks. In a microcosm of what is Virginia football, Virginia’s defense had the Ducks facing a 3rd & 36 while the game’s outcome still was mathematically very much in doubt. A quick investigation into the probability of an offense converting a 3 & 36 will show that statisticians don’t even track such circumstances. However, the probability of converting a 3 & 20 is a mere four percent. Converting 3rd & 36 just doesn’t happen, or at least it doesn’t happen to other programs. Oregon completed a 44-yard pass, for a first down. A couple of plays later the Ducks capped a 99-yard scoring drive with a statement touchdown, letting Virginia know that they were in for a long night.

If Saturday’s game against the Oregon Ducks had been a final scrimmage before the start of the  season, it would have been a positive experience, a barometer of relative development. Unfortunately, instead of an instructive scrimmage, Saturday’s trip to Eugene was the second loss in what has been a disappointing start to the Bronco Mendenhall era of Virginia football. The defense was shredded for 634 yards, looking a bit like the UNC defense of 2014.

However, as much as Virginia fans are conditioned to look for and expect the worst, all was not lost in Virginia’s convincing loss to Oregon. There were clear signs of progress and Virginia fans had to be pleased with several results from the game.

Virginia moved the ball well all night generating 400 yards of offense. The Virginia running game was impressive and at times dominant. Kurt Benkert continued to hone his quarterback skills making several superb throws to a talented and determined posse of receivers. Benkert was effective in his ability to move the pocket and take off running when necessary. He still holds the ball too long at times and needs to have a better feel for the integrity of the pocket. On balance however, the offense was much improved, reasonably effective, and fun to watch.

Without going into details, the defense was everything the offense was not. 634 yards allowed a 99-yard touchdown drive which included to the aforementioned 3rd & 36. A friend of mine with no ties to Virginia football but a true football junkie who stays up watching the late games just to get his fill of college football texted me during the game. “3 & 36. Really?” Yes really. I wanted to text back all the things we were doing well and while we were losing I saw real progress in this game, but it’s too hard to explain and almost impossible to understand unless you’ve been there and lived the Virginia football experience. To be kind, the Virginia defense was ineffective. However, in all fairness, the Oregon offense is impressive and will hang a lot of points on some very good teams this year. Virginia is still figuring out the new 3-4 schemes, but on Saturday, the defense was more aggressive and looked like a team that was executing & playing more than thinking about what is was supposed to do.

I will accept that 3rd & 36 might represent the state of Virginia football for now but I do not think it will for long. As disappointed as I was with the result of Saturday’s game against Oregon, I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and determination of the Virginia team throughout the game. There was no quit on the field and no sulking on the sidelines.

Bronco has an uphill climb to keep his streak of consecutive bowl appliances alive with this Virginia football team, but I am not betting against it. At least not yet. I think Bronco’s first win is on the horizon and maybe along with it a 3rd & 36 conversion by the Virginia offense.

Tweet @dmrayner or e-mail David at [email protected].

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!