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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: 12-Pack of Top Games

The Swami AP

In 17 days — 16 if you’re a degenerate like me who counts Abilene Christian at Georgia State the day before — the 2014 college football season kicks off, with all eyes focused on Texas A&M, playing its first game without Johnny Manziel under center since 2011, traveling to Columbia to face what could very well be the best team Steve Spurrier‘s had in what will be his 10th season at South Carolina.

As we have been and will continue doing throughout the month of August, CFT trudges on with previews of the upcoming season, with the 12 games that could have the biggest impact on both key conference races and the national landscape.  Said national landscape will include, for the first-time ever, a College Football Playoff.  Of course, the reality once we get into the season can change greatly from the preseason perceptions — see: 2013 Auburn Tigers — but the following 12-pack should form some sort of solid guide through what’s certain to be yet another eventful season in the great game of college football.

So, without further ado and for your reading pleasure, here’s a sampling of some of the top games on the 2014 slate.  And, as always, you can whine/bitch/moan in the comment section that your team was snubbed…

TEXAS A&M AT SOUTH CAROLINA, AUG. 28
LAST MEETING: First meeting
SERIES RECORD: 0-0
THE SKINNY: This contest has a handful of firsts going for it.  Most importantly to the business side of the conference, it will be the first-ever football game televised on the fledgling SEC Network, a network that’s expected to drop tens of millions of dollars annually into the coffers of each conference member.  Additionally, as noted above, it’s the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.  And finally, both the Aggies and Gamecocks will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks for the first time in two and two-plus years, respectively, with the former going with (Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen) and the latter Dylan Thompson.  While neither Hill nor Allen have started a game at the collegiate level, Thompson at least has some experience in that capacity — he’s 3-0 in his career as a starter replacing Connor Shaw, and has thrown passes in 20 of the games in which he’s played the past three years.  Even as the Aggies will face a deficit in experience at the most important position on the field, it’s not their most pressing concern as Kevin Sumlin could probably throw you or I in at quarterback and still put up 30-plus per game.  Rather, it’s the defense that should cause the most consternation, especially facing a running back as talented as Mike Davis.  A defense that was suspect throughout 2013 is even more so in 2014, with attrition via dismissals, graduation, etc.  This game could be the beginning of an uneven season in College Station, which would be the first since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: South Carolina 41, Texas A&M 27

WISCONSIN VS. LSU IN HOUSTON, AUG. 30
LAST MEETING: Sept. 30, 1972, a 27-7 LSU win in Baton Rouge
SERIES RECORD: LSU leads 2-0
THE SKINNY: Any time teams from the Big Ten and SEC meet it’s a big deal, especially when it’s two programs that have been at or near the top of their respective conferences for the past few years.  At least football-wise, this game is the dictionary definition of unstoppable force vs. immovable object: the Tigers will bring their always-stout run defense ( 35th nationally, third in SEC in 2013) into the neutral site affair against a Badgers football that thrives on running the football (8th in rushing offense) and would much rather take a pair of steel-toed boots to the groin than pass it (93rd in passing offense).  Perhaps most importantly, especially as far as fans are concerned, this game will give the winning league bragging rights until bowl season as this marks the only marquee match-up between the Big Ten and SEC during the regular season.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: LSU 24, Wisconsin 17

MICHIGAN STATE AT OREGON, SEPT. 6
LAST MEETING: Sept. 2, 1999, a 27-20 Michigan State win in East Lansing
SERIES RECORD: Tied at 2-2
THE SKINNY: There might not be a game this season featuring a pair of teams that are such extreme polar opposites of one another.  The Spartans’ 2013 success was predicated on a physical, dominating defense complemented by a methodical and productive rushing attack, with the passing game managing games and putting up big numbers when necessary.  The Ducks are the antithesis of the Spartans.  UO is a balls-to-the-wall, pedal-mashed-to-the-floor offense that is equally adept — and deadly — at running or passing the football.  Oh, and the Ducks can play some defense as well, as evidenced by the fact that they finished 13th nationally in scoring defense last season (MSU was third).  This game has the potential to be one of the more fascinating matchups for the upcoming season, and it’s probably the non-conference game that I’m looking at with the most anticipation — even as I foresee a blowout in Eugene for the East Lansing boys.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 48, Michigan State 27

GEORGIA AT SOUTH CAROLINA, SEPT. 13
LAST MEETING: Sept,. 7, 2013, a 41-30 Georgia win in Athens
SERIES RECORD: Georgia leads 47-17-2
THE SKINNY: After being unceremoniously shoved to the side by Missouri last season, the Bulldogs and Gamecocks are once again expected to be the cream of the SEC East crop.  And, because of that, this game will go a long way in determining just who will represent the division in the SEC championship game against their West counterparts.  USC has won three of the last four in the series, with the lone blemish being the 11-point loss in Athens last season.  This year, and as is the case throughout the conference, both teams will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks.  The Gamecocks’ situation is a little different from most, though, as Dylan Thompson is a very seasoned backup with nearly two dozen games played and three starts. Hutson Mason, meanwhile, got a taste of what it’s like to be a starter in the SEC as he took over under center for the injured Aaron Murray the last two and a half games and performed well, throwing for over 800 yards and four touchdowns in that stretch.  The good news for both is that they will have very talented and accomplished running backs at their disposal, Mike Davis for the Gamecocks and Todd Gurley for the Bulldogs.  How those two go, so should their respective teams as this game could be a rarity these days: one that’s determined in large part by the running game.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: South Carolina 34, Georgia 21

UCLA AT ARIZONA STATE, SEPT. 27
LAST MEETING: Nov. 23, 2013, a 38-33 Arizona State win in Tempe
SERIES RECORD: UCLA 18-11-1
THE SKINNY: For everything that Oregon-Stanford is as far as the Pac-12 North is concerned, Arizona State-UCLA is fast becoming the same for the South.  Like 2013 when ASU tripped up UCLA to help stake its claim to a spot in the conference championship game, 2014 should be no different.  Both teams will feature very experienced and extremely talented quarterbacks, Taylor Kelly for the Sun Devils and Brett Hundley.  Both could, or even should, be in the thick of the Heisman chase when this game rolls around, which would be a testament to both their individual performances and their team’s success.  The Bruins, though, easily return the most talent with 18 starters (eight each on offense and defense to go along with both kickers) coming back while the Sun Devils return just 10, including a paltry two on the defensive side of the ball.  Is that advantage, along with being at home this around, be enough to put the Bruins back in the title game?  Time will tell, although USC may have a little something to say about the latter before it’s all said and done.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: UCLA 48, Arizona State 38

OREGON AT UCLA, OCT. 11
LAST MEETING: Oct. 26, 2013, a 42-14 Oregon win in Eugene
SERIES RECORD: UCLA leads 39-27
THE SKINNY: Depending on how things play out, this very well could be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game.  The Bruins’ loss to the Ducks last year, the second of back-to-back conference losses, all but handed the South division to Arizona State.  Getting UO in Los Angeles should make the task a little less treacherous, but not much as the Ducks are expected to be the class of the league and the odds-on favorite to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff.  Last season’s win was Oregon’s fifth straight in the series; a sixth straight could further push the Ducks toward their ultimate postseason goal, while snapping that skein would go a long way in helping the Bruins get back to the top of the conference — and perhaps climbing back on to the national stage for the first time in a very, very long time.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 49, UCLA 31

STANFORD AT OREGON, NOV. 1
LAST MEETING: Nov. 7, 2013, a 26-20 Oregon win in Stanford
SERIES RECORD: Stanford leads 43-30-1
THE SKINNY: In all three years of the Pac-12 championship game, either the Cardinal or the Ducks have been the North’s representative — 2012 and 2013 for the former, 2011 for the latter.  That’s not expected to change in Year 4 as both teams are, once again, the class of the division.  UO, in fact, may end up being the class of college football at year’s end.  Both teams return a ton of starters, 15 (nine on offense) coming back for the Ducks and 14 (seven on defense) for the Cardinal.  Four of the starters who don’t return to The Farm, however, come from the offensive line, so David Shaw and his offensive staff have to hope the new players plugged in have gelled into a cohesive unit by the time this game rolls around.  Even if that happens, can the Cardinal keep pace with a high-powered offense triggered by Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota?  The answer was resounding “hell yes!!!” in 2013; whether that’s the case in 2014 will go a long way in determining which team takes this game — and which team likely punches its ticket to another conference championship game.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 41, Stanford 27

ALABAMA AT LSU, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Nov. 9, 2013, a 38-17 Alabama win in Tuscaloosa
SERIES RECORD: Alabama leads 48-25-5
THE SKINNY: This one of those games where, when the schedule comes out, you always check to see when it will be played.  For all of the hype it receives, however, it’s been a bit lopsided of sorts of late, at least results-wise.  The Tide was won three straight in the series, including the BCS title game following the 2012 season and a blowout win last year.  There are very few certainties in college football, but here’s one you can just about chisel in stone: there won’t be many points scored when the two teams clash in Tuscaloosa in early November.  Thanks to what’s ofttimes a pair of suffocating defenses, just once has a team scored more than 30 points — the Tide in its 38-17 win last year — in the last eight meetings.  In the last thirteen meetings, one or both of the teams failed to score at least 20 points a whopping 10 times.  The microcosm of the series?  The 9-6 Battle of the Kickers in 2011 that was the epitome of the defensive duels between the two SEC West programs.  As both teams reload their respective defenses the way most people change their underwear, and both offenses will be manned by first-year starters at quarterback, it should be lather, rinse, repeat on the defensive front once again.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Alabama 24, LSU 14

OHIO STATE AT MICHIGAN STATE, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Dec. 7, 2013, a 34-24 Michigan State win in Indianapolis (Big Ten title game)
SERIES RECORD: Ohio State leads 28-14
THE SKINNY: This will easily be the most anticipated Big Ten game of the year, with the Buckeyes looking to avenge a double-digit “upset” loss to the Spartans in the Big Ten championship game.  A loss, incidentally, that both ended No. 2 OSU’s 24-game losing streak and knocked the Buckeyes out of a likely spot in the BCS title game against Florida State.  As was the case last season, one key in this year’s game will be MSU’s stifling defense’s ability to contain Braxton Miller.  While the OSU quarterback did rush for 142 and a pair of touchdowns, he was held to a paltry 8-of-21 passing for just 101 yards.  Connor Cook, on the other hand, riddled a porous Buckeyes pass defense for 304 yards and three touchdowns.  Throw in Jeremy Langford‘s 128 yards rushing, and MSU was able to flip a 24-17 deficit late in the third quarter to a 10-point win that propelled the Spartans into the Rose Bowl.  So, yes, “revenge” will be a key storyline heading into this game — along with MSU looking to prove yet again that it belongs on the national stage.  And one more tidbit: thanks to the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten and subsequent shifts in the divisions, this game will now likely be a contest for East supremacy and a spot in the conference championship game.  Just a little bit on the line in this game, in other words.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 24

BAYLOR AT OKLAHOMA, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Nov. 7, 2013, a 41-12 Baylor win in Waco
SERIES RECORD: Oklahoma leads 20-2
THE SKINNY: The Sooners have absolutely owned the Bears for the whole of the series, but the tide is certainly shifting.  After losing the first 17 meetings to OU — all but three by 12 points or more, and 11 by 20-plus points — BU has won two of the last three.  Included in that total was last year’s evisceration, a 29-point beatdown in early November that signaled the  Bears were the team to beat in the Big 12.  Can that trend continue?  If it does, it’ll do so with some new pieces in place.  The Bears must replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including a pair of first-team All-Big 12 performers and three members of its secondary.  Bryce Petty is still Bryce Petty and Art Briles‘ offense is still Art Briles’ offense, so the Bears will maintain the ability to outscore most of the defensive liabilities it may possess.  On the flip side, the Sooners return 14 starters, including quarterback Trevor Knight.  Whether that’s a positive or a negative remains to be seen as no one knows which Knight will show up: the one who struggled to hold on to his job throughout the season or the one who strafed Alabama’s defense in the Sugar Bowl.  The answer to that question will go a long way in determining who wins this game and, as a result, who controls the Big 12 and a likely spot in the College Football Playoff.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Baylor 38, Oklahoma 35

AUBURN AT ALABAMA, NOV. 29
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30, 2013, a 34-28 Auburn win in Auburn
SERIES RECORD: Alabama leads 42-35-1
THE SKINNY: The annual Iron Bowl grudge/hate match would make this type of list year-in and year-out.  After last year?  This one comes in at or near the top of the 2014 version of these lists.  Of course, I’m referring to the most memorable play of the 2013 season, “The Kick-Six” at Jordan-Hare that stunned the Tide and propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game.  The questions entering the season for AU are twofold: one, can they replace 1,800-yard rusher Tre’ Mason and, two, how many more miracles does Gus Malzahn & Company have tucked into their hip pockets?  The Tide has its own questions to answer as well, not the least of which is just who will replace three-year starter AJ McCarron under center.  The knowns, though are that AU will have Nick Marshall, who’s expected to do nothing but get better in his second season as a starting quarterback, while UA will have what’s become an annual twin tradition under Nick Saban: a punishing rushing attack with its stable of backs to go along with a physical, suffocating defense.  This year’s version may not match the drama of last year’s, but it’s still compelling, must-see TV.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Alabama 38, Auburn 31

MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE, NOV. 29
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30, 2013, a 42-41 Ohio State win in Ann Arbor
SERIES RECORD: Michigan leads 58-45-6
THE SKINNY: Regardless of the records or prospects of either or both teams, The Game is and always will be a destination event for college football viewers.  While the Wolverines have owned the overall series, it’s the Buckeyes who’ve owned That School Up North this century as OSU has won (on the field) nine of the last 10 and 11 of the last 13.  Both teams will enter the season with question marks littering the offensive line, with the Buckeyes needing to replace four starters while the Wolverines, which had significant issues in that group last year, must replace an All-American tackle and the starter on the other side as well.  Where this game may be won or lost is at the quarterback position, which bodes well for OSU.  Braxton Miller, the reigning two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, returns and looks to take his game to the next level as a senior, while the Wolverines will go with either the inconsistent, turnover-prone Devin Gardner or the unproven Shane Morris.  Decided advantage, OSU.  If the Buckeyes can cure its secondary woes, woes that are directly to blame for its two-game losing streak to end last season, they should have little problem in dispatching their bitter rivals and possibly continuing on a Big Ten/CFP title run.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Ohio State 45, Michigan 31

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Today’s one-handed catch video comes from Class of 2016 recruit

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 3.42.05 PM

It was just a few summers ago we were being flooded with college football-themed parody videos to the tunes of “Call Me Maybe” or “Gangnam Style” or the “Harlem Shake.” Thank goodness the best way to go viral these days seems to be by performing extraordinary feats of athleticism in short video form.

We have seen backflips while catching footballs be a rather big thing this offseason. Baylor’s Shawn Oakman’s vertical jump while holding 70-pound weights was impressive as well.  Well, today we take a look at three-star recruit Khaleke Hudson. Hudson, from McKeeseport, Pennsylvania, has a good number of schools on his offer sheet right now. Among the schools with interest include Tennessee, Michigan State, UCLA, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Ohio State. After seeing this video he shared on Twitter, it is easy to see why coaches from around the country are fascinated by his athleticism.

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Petrino putting together deep QB position with another 4-star commit

Getty Images

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is starting to fill up his quarterback depth with some good quality. The Cardinals added a verbal commitment from four-star quarterback recruit Tylin Oden on Monday. Oden is now the top-rated player in Louisville’s growing Class of 2016. He announced his commitment the way all kids make their announcements these days; on Twitter.

“I would like to thank my family, friends, school, and teammates for being with me every step of the way,” Oden said in a miniaturized statement on Twitter. “I’m honored to announce that I’ve officially committed to the University of Louisville. L’s up.”

Oden, a dual-threat quarterback from Tennessee, is the seventh-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country and the sixth-bets recruit from the state of Tennessee according to Rivals. The 6-foot-5, 175-pound recruit is Louisville’s 10th in the Class of 2016, and second four-star quarterback recruited by Petrino since his return to the program. Louisville’s Class of 2015 added Lamar Jackson from Florida.

Per The Courier-Journal, Oden chose Louisville over offers from Mississippi State and West Virginia. Louisville had been considered the favorite.

Louisville will bring back Will Gardner in the fall, as well as Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin. Former junior college and Penn State quarterback Tyler Ferguson will also be eligible to play at Louisville this season.

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Troy adds former Auburn defensive back via transfer

Auburn Spring Game

It was not so long ago we learned Auburn would be losing defensive back Kamryn Melton to a transfer. Now we know where he is heading.

Melton announced on his Twitter account Monday he is moving from Auburn to Troy, of the Sun Belt Conference. The former three-star recruit of Auburn in 2013 did not play in 2014. His freshman season had been cut short due to a knee injury, limiting him to just three games played Troy has a habit of adding transfers at defensive back. Melton will be the fourth transfer defensive back on the roster, joining junior college transfers Tray Hall and Jalen Rountree as well as former UAB Blazer LaMarcus Farmer.

Despite not playing in 2014, Melton will still have to sit out the 2015 season at Troy due to NCAA transfer rules unless he files for a waiver and has it approved.

On a related note, can we talk about how sexy that Troy football helmet is? Because it is pretty darn sexy.

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McGuire’s Memorial Day Mailbag

Tim Beckman

You may not be receiving any mail from the United States Postal Service today, but that does not mean there is not any mail to sort through today. With it being Memorial Day (be sure to read John’s touching post from this morning, it’s an annual tradition here at CFT) and a slow news day on the college football front, I decided to field questions on Twitter and throw them into a mailbag post. We do not typically do these around here at College Football Talk, but like I said, it is a slow day and not much else is going on. So humor me, will you?

Let’s get right to it.

Always an excellent question, and it could go one of a few different ways. Do you pick a power conference team struggling to meet expectations, or go with a non-power program in need of a quick change. Last year’s first coaching change took place at SMU when June Jones stepped aside on September 8. Kansas let go of Charlie Weis later that same month. I am going to stick in the Big Ten and suggest Illinois head coach Tim Beckman has a very small margin for error at this point. Despite managing to get the Illini into a postseason bowl game last fall, the offseason stories regarding his treatment of players is not a good look, and Beckman does not win enough to get away with that kind of attention. If things do not go well, Illinois could be staring at a 1-3 record before Big Ten play, with Nebraska and Iowa on deck before a bye week. That seems like a good time to make a change if needed.

Excellent question, especially since I have been going through with some schedule commentary this weekend. The Michigan State-Oregon game is one of the top draws on the non-conference schedule, and for good reason. It will be given the primetime treatment with two of Lee Corso‘s favorite mascots, Sparty and the Oregon Duck. I guess the biggest question is what exactly should be the expectations for Oregon this year? Do they take a step back in the early going in the post-Marcus Mariota era? Two games in for a new starting quarterback on the road at Michigan State feels like a bad spot, even for an experienced transfer like Vernon Adams.

So where does this one in particular rank among other non-conference clashes? I would say it is a lock for top five, and a very strong candidate for the top three. I would probably give Alabama-Wisconsin but Michigan State-Oregon is right in that conversation. I also throw Louisville-Auburn in the conversation.

Aside from Navy joining the American Athletic Conference and Charlotte officially joining Conference USA in football this summer (July 1 is the official realignment day), we are going through another year with only minor ripples on the realignment Richter scale. This is a good thing, as it seems the monumental changes on the realignment phase seems to have settled in. The only thing left to wonder is when it could potentially happen again. Much to the chagrin of programs like BYU, UCF and Cincinnati, I honestly don’t see anything happening in the near future. The Big 12 appears to be content with 10 members, and the need to expand is non-existent in the Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC and ACC at this stage. Perhaps the only thing that could change things is if there ever comes a time when Notre Dame decides to abandon independence, at which point the Big Ten, ACC and maybe even the Big 12 would be making sales pitches. And I don’t think that’s going to happen either. I have said before though I can envision a scenario in which BYU returns to the Mountain West Conference.

It is certainly not going to hurt, although we also should not expect Pitt to turn into a second coming of some of the top Michigan State defenses we have seen in recent seasons under Pat Narduzzi. I like what Narduzzi is doing with the Panthers but there are still some things that will be unknown until we see how he coaches the team as a head coach. Pitt was eighth in the ACC in total defense last season and tied for last in total takeaways. Look for that to be a big focus for Narduzzi. The Spartans led the Big Ten in takeaways last season with 34 and tied for the most takeaways in the conference the previous season too.

That was a good way to kill some time today, so thanks for sending in your questions. Who knows, maybe we’ll even give this another try some day. The fun does not have to stop here though. Keep your questions coming in the comments section or feel free to lob some my way on Twitter.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: Four teams get a bye week before facing Alabama

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on from the sidelines during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

It seems every year one school has a legitimate gripe with the scheduling within its conference. This year it may just be Alabama, which will surely cause many to break out the tiny violins for Nick Saban and company. Four of Alabama’s opponents this year will have the benefit of a bye week leading up to their respective match-ups with the defending SEC champions, including three within the SEC. Another school will get a few extra days to prepare for the game, while two more will be coming off virtual bye weeks against FCS opponents before facing Alabama.

Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and LSU all have a bye week before facing Alabama. In the case of LSU, Alabama also has a bye week before hosting the Tigers in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State will be coming off a Thursday night game (at Missouri), so Dan Mullen, Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs will have a couple of extra days to prepare for Alabama. Georgia plays an FCS opponent the week before hosting Alabama. Auburn will host Idaho the week before playing the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Here are some other brief thoughts on the schedules in the SEC this upcoming season.

Much to the disgust of some, the back-end of the SEC schedule is once again loaded with cupcakes. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina each finish the season with a game against either an FCS or Sun Belt opponent the week before taking in their in-state ACC rivals. Alabama and Auburn each dive into the FCS or Sun Belt pool before the Iron Bowl. Alabama and Auburn counter those late cupcakes with a filling main course in week one. Alabama faces Wisconsin in Arlington and Auburn takes on Louisville in Atlanta in week one.

We will be sure to hear gripes about this SEC scheduling practice, just as we seem to every season as the season draws to a close. The advantage of scheduling lightweights later in the season comes in helping to save teams from a late loss to keep rankings in order. Complaints from the Big Ten and Pac-12 fans may come, but there is nothing stopping their conferences from doing the same. Hey, that sounds familiar.

Florida and Georgia each get a bye week before facing each other in Jacksonville for The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (not sorry, I’m still calling it that). It will be the third straight game that sees Florida playing outside of Gainesville.

How many power conference opponents will the SEC play this season in non-conference play? The SEC East will play seven games against power conference opponents, including Missouri’s game against BYU in Arrowhead Stadium (the SEC will recognize BYU as a power conference opponent by the way). The SEC West has five games scheduled against power conference opponents, with three of those taking place in big spotlight neutral site venues in the opening week. In total, the SEC has 12 games scheduled against power conference opponents. The ACC has 21 games thanks to the addition of Notre Dame on a rotating schedule. The Big Ten has 19 power conference opponents, followed by the SEC’s 12. The Pac-12 has 11 power conference opponents and the Big 12 has eight (although each conference has smaller membership compared to the ACC, Big Ten and SEC).

Biggest non-conference upset alert game for the SEC? Tossing those neutral site games and ACC rivalry games to the side, keep tabs on Tennessee’s season opener in Nashville against Bowling Green. The Falcons have some work to do to make a return trip to the MAC championship game but the offense is developing into the mold of the Oregon Ducks. If Tennessee stumbles out of the gate, Bowling Green may be able to pull an upset if the defense doesn’t fall apart. That would put a rising Tennessee program in a difficult spot with Oklahoma coming to Knoxville the following week. South Carolina’s home game against UCF could get interesting as well.

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Georgia Tech recruit says he lost Ohio State offer when someone else commited

Photo credit: Rivals

This sort of stuff happens all the time at this level of college football, and it most certainly will not be the last time it occurs either. Incoming Georgia Tech defensive end  Anree Saint-Armour explained he lost a chance to go to Ohio State when the offer that was extended to him was later pulled.

“Missouri was leading as my senior season started,” Saint-Armour told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Then more offers started coming in. Then it was Ohio State for a little bit until that offer went away because somebody else committed there.”

Ohio State added four defensive ends in the Class of 2015. Two four-star players (Jashon Cornell and Dre’Mont Jones) and two three-star recruits (Joshua Alabi and Rashod Berry) were part of Ohio State’s impressive recruiting class, leaving little need for another defensive end in the class. Berry was the last of the four to commit to Ohio State, doing so in October. Ohio State added another defensive line recruit in December with defensive tackle Robert Landers giving his verbal in the middle of December.

With the offer from Ohio State vanishing, Georgia Tech came along at a good time. More importantly, Georgia Tech was the right fit at the right time for Saint-Armour.

“I started thinking about being close to family, and that Georgia Tech offered the same kind of education as Stanford,” Saint-Armour said to the AJC. “As I thought about it more seriously, in terms as the whole aspect of going off to college and instead of playing football – that’s when Georgia Tech took the lead.”

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This Memorial Day, take time to remember

Memorial Day III AP

(Reprinted and reposted with permission for a sixth straight year from, well, me.)

You have to admit that, despite the financial woes and political in-fighting and every other really crappy thing going on, we have a pretty damn good life, living in these United States of America.  It’s a far-from-perfect country, but, dammit, it’s ours.  Ours because our own have and will continue to shed their blood in the ultimate sacrifice.  Gave and will continue to give their lives, their hopes, their dreams so that we — and our children and our children’s children and their children — may live and realize ours and theirs.

As you go about your day today, doing whatever it is that you do on Memorial Day, take a second or two or sixty — or more — to reflect on what exactly this day is all about.

Please.  Just take a moment.  Take a moment to God bless those who have given so much.

God bless those who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy day-in and day-out.

God bless those hundreds of thousands who’ve lost fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in the ultimate sacrifice paid forward to every single one of us, for our freedoms.

And thank you — thank you, thank you, thank you with every fiber of my being — to those who continue serving this country and keeping this great nation safe.

And, again, God bless families torn apart and made lesser by the heartbreaking losses, hellish and unthinkable holes in the soul that allow us to do whatever the hell it is we want to on this day and every other day of the year…

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Catching up with former Clemson receiver Daniel Rodriguez

Georgia State v Clemson

Back in 2012 Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Daniel Rodriguez officially joined the Clemson football program. Now he is looking to make it in the NFL.

As noted by our pals over at Pro Football Talk, Rodriguez is hoping to take advantage of his latest opportunity with the St. Louis Rams. Rodriguez was undrafted but still has a chance to grab a spot on the roster in St. Louis. He had landed on the radar of the franchise at the Medal of Honor Bowl and his pro day at Clemson. He was invited to try out with the team at a rookie minicamp.

Rodriguez served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and intended to join Clemson as a walk-on in 2012. The NCAA needed to clear a waiver for his eligibility for that to happen since he was attending Clemson on the G.I. Bill and not on a scholarship. This was one situation the NCAA made the right call. Last year Rodriguez’s story was picked up for movie rights and he later received the Armed Forces Merit Award.

If things continue to go well, perhaps there will be another story to be made into a movie.

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Quick offseason schedule thoughts: Can Big Ten carry over momentum?

Urban Meyer

Go back to Week 2 of the college football season last year. This was the Big Ten’s big opportunity to make a statement in nationally televised spotlight games, and the conference came up empty. Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. Michigan State let one get away from them at Oregon. Michigan was no match for Notre Dame. On top of that, Nebraska needed Ameer Abdullah to provide a miracle to avoid overtime against McNeese State and Northwestern was defeated at home by Northern Illinois. It was a rough day for the Big Ten, and many around the country were quick to write the conference off as a result. Well, we know how that all worked out.

This offseason has been nothing short of renewed praise for the Big Ten’s resurrection, but the conference is still quite top heavy at the moment. Sure, the Big Ten may be heading in a positive direction and the expectations are high for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan and continue to rise with James Franklin at Penn State, but there is still plenty of work to do to follow-up the way last season ended for the Big Ten. Following up one of the more successful postseason runs by the conference, highlighted by Ohio State’s national championship and supplemented by Michigan State’s tremendous effort in the Cotton Bowl, the Big Ten is now tasked with keeping the momentum going.

Here are some of the key games the Big Ten will need to win in order to keep things going its way at the start of the 2015 season.

Michigan at Utah (September 3): The Harbaugh Era kicks off in Pac-12 territory. Utah roughed up Michigan last season so there is a bit of a revenge factor at stake. And winning against the Pac-12 to open the season always helps with the image.

Minnesota vs. TCU (September 3): On the same night, Minnesota hosts Big 12 favorite TCU. The Horned Frogs may very well leave with a win, but the Gophers can put up a fight. If they can’t win it, keeping it competitive and close will still represent the Big Ten well in this one.

Nebraska vs. BYU (September 5): BYU may not be in a power conference (as much as they would love it), but they are not exactly a cupcake either. A win by Nebraska over BYU is worth respect, especially now that conferences like the ACC and SEC recognize the Cougars as a power conference-equivalent opponent.

Northwestern vs. Stanford (September 5): The academic bowl between the Wildcats and Cardinal could be a tough one for Northwestern, but they get the home field advantage. A win against one of the top programs in the Pac-12 the last few years would not go unnoticed.

Wisconsin vs. Alabama (September 5): Here is the biggie of the opening week. The Badgers take on defending SEC champion Alabama and will hope to be able to do what Ohio State did in the Sugar Bowl. It would also give Wisconsin the rare opportunity for a Big Ten team to have consecutive wins against Auburn and Alabama. A win would be huge for the Big Ten on the big stage in Arlington.

Ohio State at Virginia Tech (September 7): The Buckeyes take on the Hokies in primetime looking to avenge their only loss from last season. This Ohio State team should be much better than the one that stumbled last season, but a road victory in an ACC stadium would be a good way to cap the opening weekend.

If everything goes well for the Big Ten, and that is a big if, the conference could own wins against the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC (including wins against defending champions or co-champions in the SEC and Big 12) after just one week of play. Just putting together a winning record in those games would be a nice bragging point for the conference and would help carry over the momentum from last season. And that is just the start for the Big Ten. Week two sees Michigan State host Oregon and Michigan hosting Oregon State. Rutgers hosts Washington State to get in on the fun, and Iowa visits Iowa State. Iowa will also face Pittsburgh and Illinois will take on North Carolina. These are the types of games the Big Ten needs to win to move up the conference power rankings and prove the depth of the conference goes beyond the Buckeyes and Spartans.

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Netflix and live college football? Nope, not happening

FRANCE-ENTERTAINMENT-INTERNET-FILM-TELEVISION-NETFLIX-EUROPE

The advancement of live sports in media continues to see expansion in delivering live action through various live streaming outlets, but the most popular streaming service is not ready to get in on the fun. Netflix, in response to the possibility of helping the NFL out with a streaming option for a game to be played in London, pretty much slammed the door shut on the possibility of seeing college football or any other sports on the service for quite some time.

Ken Fang of Awful Announcing noted this morning Netflix has no intention of jumping in the bidding for live sports content and that business model may not change in the near future. Netflix is built on offering content on demand, and none of its content is ever live. The bottom line is bidding on live games is just too expensive.

“I will never say never, but I would say that where we sit today, I don’t think the on-demand to sports is enough of an addition to the value proposition to chase,” Netflix content boss Ted Sarandos explained, via re/code. “I think the leagues have tremendous leverage in those deals, so it’s not like we’re going to get in and de-leverage the leagues. We’re going to go in and overpay like everyone else does, so it doesn’t get me that excited. Not to say that it wouldn’t someday, down the road, make sense.”

What would be cool would be if some conference could broker a deal with Netflix to put a library of college football games on the service. This becomes complicated considering existing media rights deals with networks and other broadcast partners, especially when some of those partners have rights to the on demand archives. But hey, maybe some day it could happen. Why not watch “Orange is The New Black,” then an old Syracuse game against Louisville, and then load up “House of Cards?”

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Rutgers receiver arrested for armed robbery in Florida

Darian Dailey, Rivals.com

Two teenagers in Florida were arrested Sunday morning for their involvement in a robbery. One of them just so happens to be a Rutgers wide receiver.

Darian Dailey was one of the two arrested by police in Sarasota, Florida. He is accused of using a handgun to rob a bicyclist around 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Nobody was injured in the incident, and the victim reportedly handed over his money. How much was turned over was not reported, not that it matters in this circumstance. Police have charged Dailey and Trazelle Johnson of robbery with a firearm.

Dailey, 19,  is a native of Bradenton, Florida. Dailey was a two-star recruit in the Class of 2014 for Rutgers, and was expected to compete for playing time this season.

Photo credit: Rivals.com

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Indiana wide receiver Isaac Griffith jailed for OWI

Isaac Griffith

This Memorial Day weekend got off to a rough start for Indiana wide receiver Isaac Griffith. Griffith, 20 years old, was arrested and placed in jail early Saturday after being charged if driving while intoxicated.

According to The Indy Star, Griffith was arrested in Bloomington and charged of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated with endangerment, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content above 0.08, and illegal consumption. The arrest took place at 3:54 a.m. local time after a police officer saw his high beams were on. Griffith was pulled over and the officer on the scene observed the odor of alcohol.

Indiana has said it is aware of the situation and gathering information regarding the incident.

You may remember the last time we discussed Griffith a little more than a year ago. Griffith was in a medically induced coma after nearly drowning in the Gulf of Mexico in March 2014. He was saved by a friend and returned home after coming out of his coma.

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Rutgers focusing on getting B1Gger and stronger

150524_rutgers Getty Images

Jumping from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten was supposed to be a step up for Rutgers last season, and it was. The Scarlet Knights managed to hold their own enough to reach the postseason in a Big Ten debut season few expected to result in a bowl trip. Despite getting to the postseason, Rutgers saw firsthand just how far it still has to go before being able to make any threats in the Big Ten East Division and Big Ten Conference.

The gap was put on clear display against the top programs in the Big Ten last season; Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Rutgers lost to eventual national champion Ohio State 56-17 (it was 49-7 before Rutgers picked up a long field goal and a touchdown with six seconds left in the game). Ohio State outgained Rutgers 585-345 in that game, with 324 of Ohio State’s yards coming on the ground. Against Michigan State, Rutgers fell behind 35-0 at halftime before losing 45-3. The Spartans outgained Rutgers 520-234, with a 242-95 edge on the ground. Wisconsin sent Rutgers home with a 37-0 loss (298 rushing yards to Rutgers’ 76). The Nebraska loss was not quite as ugly, but Rutgers was on the wrong end of a 42-24 final score (and Ameer Abdullah).

What did Rutgers learn from these games? The time to get bigger and stronger is now, and they have been attacking that this offseason.

According to a report from NJ.com, Rutgers football players broke 19 all-time program records in the weight room during the winter and the players are excited to get back at it on Tuesday for summer conditioning routines.

“Now we all know,” Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa said. “The coaches knew. We had an idea, but we didn’t really know. We got out there and we knew what we were up against. After the season, we knew what we had to work on and we attacked it.”

Of course, Rutgers can only improve so much in the weight room. The biggest impact the program will have as a member of the Big Ten is in recruiting. At least that is the hope for the program. Head coach Kyle Flood is focusing more on players that fit the traditional Big Ten mold that he will need on his roster to close the gap with the likes of Ohio State and Michigan State (and Penn State and Michigan) in what could be a stacked Big Ten East Division in the years to come.

“I don’t focus on the weight, I focus on explosion,” Flood said to NJ.com. “That’s really what I’m looking for and if we get bigger in the process, that’s fine. We’re looking for explosive athletes, and I can only point to the results. When you break 19 all-time records, that tells me that we’re moving in the right direction as a program.”

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PA lawmaker wants to name bridge after Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno

Get your hot takes ready, America. Pennsylvania representative Michael Regan is preparing to introduce a state bill that would name a bridge after former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. This led PennLive to ask whether it is safe to start naming things after Paterno. Proceed with caution.

The answer to that question will undoubtedly depend on a few things. First, are you a student or alumnus of Penn State? If so, you will probably say yes. Are you a fan of Penn State but did not go to Penn State? Again, your answer will likely be yes. Do you actively root against Penn State when given the opportunity to choose sides? If you said yes, then your answer will probably be no.

Any time the subject of Joe Paterno and his legacy come up, it remains a bit of a touchy subject given his connection to the unfortunate and disturbing Jerry Sandusky scandal we learned about four years ago. And that is the key. That tale unfolded four years ago this November. Has time healed enough wounds?

As far as strictly football is concerned, the NCAA has thought so. The NCAA lifted all parts of the sanctions dropped on Penn State’s program, including the restoration of 111 vacated wins from Paterno’s career win total, once again making him Division 1 football’s all-time wins leader with 409 career victories.

Per the PennLive report, Rep. Regan wants to rename a bridge on the Pennsylvania Turnpike over the Susquehanna River as the Joseph V. Paterno Memorial Bridge. The bill would need to be passed by Pennsylvania’s House and Senate and then be signed by the governor (Tom Wolf).

There was always going to be a time at some point where it would be appropriate and perhaps less controversial to begin looking back at Paterno’s legacy as Penn State’s football coach, with the benefit of hindsight and allowing time to pass by to allow for a broader perspective of the good and the bad. Perhaps this is the beginning of that time.

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The Pac-12 Networks seemed like a good idea at the time

The Pac-12 Network is not a doomed experiment in sports television and media just yet, but it may be fair to suggest it is not working out quite as well as it could have after three years on the air. It can still be saved and prosper, and it is far from being put on life support the way the short-lived Mountain West Conference network was, but it needs help if the Pac-12 is going to cash in on the lucrative media revenue the Big Ten and SEC receive through their respective networks.

“We are developing the way we hoped, but we still have a way to go to reach the full potential of our networks,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said to The Salt Lake Tribune. “We certainly realized it takes time to build, and we went in with eyes wide open.”

The San Jose Mercury Times reports the Pac-12 Network is received by 11 million homes. A similar report by FOX Sports estimated the subscriber total at 12.3 million. Whichever report you choose to go with, it is a far cry from the 60 million homes the network is technically available in. In contrast, the Big Ten Network and SEC Network are each over the 60 million subscriber total.

The Pac-12 Network launched on August 15, 2012 with seven smaller networks throughout the Pac-12’s regional footprint. It was an innovative idea at the time, offering regionalized content to cater to the specific fanbases within those various regions. The Pac-12 launched the network without the aid and support of a broadcasting partner. The Pac-12 wanted total control of the network, which was admirable. But the support the Big Ten received from FOX Sports for the revolutionary and innovative Big Ten Network and the tremendous amount of help the SEC Network has received through ESPN can be used as arguments saying the Pac-12 swung and missed on this one. The Pac-12 lags well behind both conference sports networks in subscriber totals, and thus revenue.

There is a benefit to the Pac-12 owning every portion of the Pac-12 Networks. As total owners of the networks, it keeps every penny the networks earn, which in theory leads to better revenue shares. But the network continues to struggle to get in enough homes to have that 100 percent ownership stake lead to max revenue shares in the conference. The network is still not carried by DirecTV, and some subscribers of the network do not receive the network in high-definition (myself included). Those are problems that have plagued the conference for nearly three years now.

At a time when the Pac-12 is on the rise on the football field, the pressure is continuing to mount to have Scott put these issues to rest, get the network available in more homes and start making it the cash cow it was envisioned to be. It’s not too late, and it’s not too late to seek help from an established media partner either.

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