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LOOK: Akron busts out the turnover… pencil?

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It takes all kinds, I guess — especially world of college football.

In recent years, turnover props have become all the rage in college football, the most notable of which may have been Miami’s gaudy but very apt gold chain.  There has also been Boise State’s throne, Louisville’s boxing gloves, Memphis’s Ric Flair-inspired robe, Tennessee’s trash can, Tulane’s beads and Boise State’s throne, which is so damn awesome it deserves a second mention.  Multiple nods to professional rasslin’/boxing with championship belts for the likes of Alabama and Ohio State among others have become the norm as well.

Not to be forgotten is Virginia Tech, whose lunch pail is arguably the granddaddy of all props; to be forgotten was Florida State’s turnover backpack, which was mercifully retired before the 2019 season kicked off.

Saturday, it was Akron’s turn to put another notch on the turnover prop bedpost as the MAC school debuted, appropriately enough for an educational institution, a giant turnover pencil (not pictured).  Yep, a pencil.  Good ol’ No. 2.

And, you know how your mom always used to tell you that “you’re gonna put somebody’s eye out with that thing?” Yeah, that almost happened on the pencil’s first sideline go ’round.

So, the Zips have that going for them.  Which is nice.

First-year head coaches (barely) finished above .500 in 2019 debuts

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For those FBS schools that made changes at the top of its program last year and on into early 2019, the results, at least for the opening weekends of the college football season, were decidedly mixed.

Entering Weeks 0/1, a total of 26 head coaches were in their first games (two coaching a second first game) with their respective schools. Of those 26, 15 won their opening matchups while *uses fingers to do the math, takes off shoes when fingers run out* 11 dropped their openers.

Seven of the head coaches new to their current schools — Akron (Illinois), East Carolina (NC State), Houston (Oklahoma), Liberty (Syracuse), Texas State (Texas A&M), UMass (Rutgers) and Utah State (Wake Forest) — led off with Power Five opponents; not surprisingly, all seven of those ended up exiting Week 1 with a loss.  Exactly half of the 26 kicked off against FCS schools, and just one, Western Kentucky to Central Arkansas, failed to come away with a win.

At the other end was Louisville and North Carolina leading off with matchups against Power Five foes, Notre Dame for the former and South Carolina the latter.  The Cardinals extended their nation’s-worst losing streak to 10 in a row while the Tar Heels got past the Gamecocks in Mack Brown‘s return to Chapel Hill.

Oh, and there was Hugh Freeze‘s official return to coaching from a hospital bed up in the coaches’ box in Liberty’s loss to Syracuse.

WIN (15)
Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State (beat East Tennessee State, 42-7)
Scot Loeffler, Bowling Green (Morgan State, 46-3)
Jim McElwain, Central Michigan (Albany, 38-21)
Brad Lambert, Charlotte (Gardner-Webb, 49-28)
Mel Tucker, Colorado (Colorado State, 52-31)
Les Miles, Kansas (Indiana State, 24-17)
Chris Klieman, Kansas State (Nicholls, 49-14)
Mike Locksley, Maryland (Howard, 79-0)
Mack Brown, North Carolina (South Carolina, 24-20)
Thomas Hammock, Northern Illinois (Illinois State, 24-10)
Ryan Day, Ohio State (FAU, 45-21)
Rod Carey, Temple (Bucknell, 56-12)
Chip Lindsey, Troy (Campbell, 43-14)
Matt Wells, Texas Tech (Montana State, 45-10)
Neal Brown, West Virginia (James Madison, 20-13)

LOSS (11)
Tom Arth, Akron (lost to Illinois, 42-3)
Mike Houston, East Carolina (NC State, 34-6)
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech (Clemson, 52-14)
Dana Holgorsen, Houston (Oklahoma, 49-31)
Hugh Freeze, Liberty (Syracuse, 24-0)
Scott Satterfield, Louisville (Notre Dame, 35-17)
Manny Diaz, Miami (Florida, 24-20)
Jake Spavital, Texas State (Texas A&M, 41-7)
Walt Bell, UMass (Rutgers 48-21)
Gary Andersen, Utah State (Wake Forest, 38-35)
Tyson Helton, Western Kentucky (Central Arkansas, 35-28)

Clemson still claims FBS-best winning streak at 16 straight, but who’s next at 10 in a row?

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The defending national champions continued its college football dominance in Week 1, while a fellow ACC school wrested the “top” spot for losing ways away from a Big Ten program.

With a woodshedding of Georgia Tech in the opener last Thursday night, Clemson extended its nation’s-best winning streak to 16 in a row. Clemson’s last loss? Against Alabama in one of the 2017 College Football Playoff semifinals, a loss it avenged in the 2018 title tilt.

Just one other school has a current double-digit winning streak, and it likely who you wouldn’t immediately be thinking of as Army has won 10 in a row in a stretch that began the week after the service academy’s seven-point overtime loss to then-No. 5 Oklahoma Sept. 22 of last year. Extending that streak to 11 straight won’t be easy to say the least as Army travels to the Big House Saturday to face No. 7 Michigan.

Ohio State and Appalachian State will take seven-game winning streaks into next weekend’s action, while four schools (Florida, Stanford, Texas A&M, Wyoming) have won five in a row and another four (Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, TCU) have claimed four straight.

At the opposite end of the streaking spectrum is Louisville, which is the only program with a double-digit losing streak at 10. The UofL had the ignominious honor of unseating Rutgers, which had dropped 11 in a row prior to a win over UMass. It’s worth noting that RU still hasn’t beaten a Power Five schools since dropping Maryland in early November of 2017.

USF (seven); Akron and Colorado State (six); Coastal Carolina and Oregon State (five); and Kent State, Pitt and Texas State (four) are all in the midst of extended losing streaks as well.

In addition to Rutgers, UConn (nine in a row); Colorado, Georgia State — AGAINST TENNESSEE — and New Mexico (seven); and UTSA (six) all snapped lengthy losing streaks in Week 1.

One final note: A total of 65 of the 130 FBS teams have either won one game “in a row” (50) or will carry a one-game losing “streak” (15) into Week 2.

CFT Cheat Sheet: What to know for Week 1

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A quick primer on who, what and where to look for/at as college football kicks off its first full weekend of the 2019 season.

WEEK 1 STORYLINES

  • On Nov. 6, 1869, with a young Bill Snyder in attendance, Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 in what is considered the first “modern” game of college football.  A century and a half later, the sport is one of the most popular in the country and this 150th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the 2019 season.  The sesquicentennial of a sport that generated quotes such as “this college is a failure; the trouble is we’re neglecting football for education” and “I would like to build a university of which the football team could be proud” will be feted over the next few months, with ESPN, of course, leading the way with myriad specials highlighting the colorful, ofttimes controversial but never, ever boring history of college football.
  • Several new rules will be in effect for the 2019 season, from targeting (replay officials required to either confirm or deny all targeting fouls; any targeting foul that cannot be confirmed by video review will now be overturned) to blindside blocks called as personal fouls to two-man wedge formations on all kickoffs.  Another aspect of the targeting rule that’s been changed could have a sizable impact as well, with a player who is penalized for targeting three times in a season being suspended for one full game after the first offense, and an additional game for every offense thereafter.  Additionally, new overtime rules are in play thanks to last year’s LSU-Texas A&M marathon. If a game reaches four overtimes and remains tied, the outcome will be decided by alternating two-point conversions that are snapped from the three-yard line.
  • Because of injuries, Alabama will very likely open the 2019 season with a pair of true freshmen starting in its linebacking corps.  Starting weakside linebacker Josh McMillon suffered a knee injury two weeks ago that will sideline him indefinitely, perhaps even the entire season; he’ll be replaced by four-star 2019 signee Christian Harris.  Preseason All-American Dylan Moses sustained a torn ACL this week and is expected to miss all of 2019; four-star 2019 signee Shane Lee will take his place at middle linebacker not only position-wise but calling the defensive signals as well.  Add in three other starters suspended for the first half of the opener, and Alabama’s matchup with Duke — the Crimson Tide are around a five-touchdown favorite for the neutral-site matchup — at least becomes mildly interesting.  Or it’ll prove yet again that, Nick Saban‘s protestations notwithstanding, ‘Bama can indeed s**t another player and everything will be perfect.
  • There are 26 head coaches who are entering their first seasons at their new schools, with two of them (Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech and Manny Diaz at Miami) already losing their debuts.  This Saturday, more than half of the 24 remaining first-year coaches (13) will lift the lid on the 2019 season against FCS opponents; at the opposite end of the spectrum is seven Group of Seven Group of Five coaches lead off with a Power Five school — Akron (Illinois), East Carolina (NC State), Houston (Oklahoma), Liberty (Syracuse), Texas State (Texas A&M), UMass (Rutgers) and Utah State (Wake Forest). Colorado and Ohio State will kick the campaign off against Group of Five schools Colorado State and Florida Atlantic, respectively, with Louisville opening against Notre Dame and North Carolina tangling with South Carolina in P5 vs. P5 matchups.

SIX-PACK OF MUST-SEE GAMES

  • No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn in Arlington, Tex. — No offense to either school, but you know the Week 1 slate is on the lighter side if this is the first of the must-see matchups.  This game, coincidentally enough, is also the only one this weekend pitting ranked teams against each other.  As of this writing, the Ducks are a 3½-point favorite in a neutral-field affair that will see the Tigers start a true freshman, Bo Nix, under center for the first time in more than 70 years.  Oregon, meanwhile, has seen its receiving corps hit hard by injury.  This game will, though, feature one of the best positional matchups of the first full weekend of football, with the Ducks’ stout offensive line going up against the Tigers’ talented defensive line.
  • Houston at No. 4 Oklahoma — If you like offense, you should love this non-conference matchup.  Prior to going down with a knee injury in the Cougars’ 11th game of the season, a now-healthy D’Eriq King had put up 50 total touchdowns (36 passing, 14 rushing) and nearly 3,700 yards of offense as he passed for 2,982 and ran for another 674.  The Sooners, of course, have produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners and will see their offense triggered this season by Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts.
  • Boise State vs. Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. — This game was originally scheduled to be played on a “neutral field” in Jacksonville, but the looming threat of Hurricane Dorian forced the contest to be moved about 170 miles west to Doak Campbell Stadium.  This will mark the first-ever meeting between the two football programs, with the Seminoles coming off a year in which its bowl streak was snapped at 36 straight thanks to a 5-7 record and the Broncos coming off a season in which its bowl game was ruled a no-contest because of, oddly enough, weather.
  • North Carolina vs. South Carolina in Charlotte, NC Mack Brown is back for his second stint at North Carolina.  South Carolina’s head coach, Will Muschamp, served as Brown’s defensive coordinator at Texas from 2008-10. And thus ends the most intriguing aspect of this matchup as the Tar Heels won two games for the first time since 2003 and the Gamecocks were a pedestrian 7-6 in the third season under Muschamp.  This is also the third of three neutral-site games on this list, so it’s got that going for it.  Which is nice.
  • No. 9 Notre Dame at Louisville — This game is the only one being played Labor Day night, so by definition it’s a must-see affair for any avid fan of the sport.  Those expecting must-see action on the field will likely be disappointed, though, as Notre Dame is anywhere from an 18- to 19-point road favorite. The Fighting Irish were one of the four playoff teams a year ago, with the Cardinals stumbling and/or bumbling through a two-win season (their worst since 1997) that saw Bobby Petrino fired and Scott Satterfield hired.
  • Ole Miss at Memphis — Fun fact for the wagering degenerates in the audience: Memphis is 8-0 in the regular season under Mike Norvell in games that kick off at noon ET, including a pair of wins over Power Five schools (then-No. 25 UCLA in 2017, laugh-if-you-want-but-they’re-still-technically-a-P5-team Kansas in 2016).  Both of those wins, incidentally, came at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.  Right now, the Tigers are roughly a 5½-point favorite.

BEST/WORST WAGERS OF WEEK 1

  • BEST: It’s gotta be Memphis -5½ over Ole Miss, right?  Given that unbeaten noon trend under Norvell, you have to roll with what’s been a mortal lock the past three seasons.
  • WORST: Alabama at -33½ over Duke. The line had gotten all the way to 36 points at one point until Dylan Mosesseason-ending injury.  The Crimson Tide should still win very comfortably, but not nearly five touchdowns comfortable — although Nick Saban‘s PG-13 radio diatribe has me second-guessing this selection.
  • COVER SPECIAL:  Houston’s getting three touchdowns and a field goal, and I’m taking it.  The AAC school (likely) won’t beat Oklahoma outright, but they’ll cover.

HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH

  1.  Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson — The “It” player in college football ended the 2018 season with a national championship as a true freshman, and begins the 2019 season as the Heisman frontrunner until proven otherwise.
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama — There is one overwhelming question when it comes to the 2018 Heisman runner-up: can he stay upright and healthy for a full season?
  3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma — Back-to-back transfer quarterbacks from Oklahoma have won the Heisman, so this transfer quarterback from Alabama is going to start this season a little higher than he probably should.
  4. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State — The second straight transfer on the list, the true sophomore is entering his first season as the starter at the collegiate level after coming to OSU from Georgia.
  5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin — The positive: Taylor is just 2,235 yards away from becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher in just three seasons. The negative: A running back has claimed the Heisman just twice in 13 years.
  6. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas — Speaking of droughts, a player from the University of Texas hasn’t won the Heisman since Ricky Williams in 1998.
  7. Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska — When it’s all said and done, and if he stays injury-free, I truly believe this electrifying quarterback who can beat you with his arm and/or legs will end the season a lot higher on this list.
  8. Justin Hebert, QB, Oregon — Arguably the top player on the West Coast, Hebert eschewed the opportunity to enter the 2019 NFL Draft as a likely Top-10 selection and return to Oregon for one more season.
  9. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia — The seventh-year junior (OK, it just seems like he’s been in Athens forever), has quietly put up nearly 5,400 yards and 54 touchdowns in two seasons; a huge performance in the high-profile matchup with Notre Dame in Week 4 would boost his stiff-armed chances.
  10. JK Dobbins, RB, Ohio State — With Fields in his first season as a starter, Dobbins should see his carry rate rise (he averaged just under 12 a game his first two seasons)  especially early on as the new starter gets further acclimated to the offense.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH
Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that Oregon’s offensive line going up against Auburn’s defensive line will be one of the best positional matchups of Week 1.  As fortune would have it, our buddies over at Rotoworld have Auburn DT Derrick Brown vs Oregon OL Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson leading off its “NFL Draft Prospect Showdown” feature for the first week of the college football season.  For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.

Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list includes 2018 finalist Shea Patterson, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert

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And now for a quarterback award watch list that won’t include a certain starting quarterback form Clemson or Alabama. The Johnny Unitas Foundation has released the watch list for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually to college football’s top senior or fourth-year quarterback. This year’s watch list includes some recognizable names such as Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Former Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew was named the winner of the award in 2018. Just one finalist for the 2018 award is on the watch list this season. Michigan’s Shea Patterson is that player (UCF’s McKenzie Milton was a finalist last year but is not expected to play this season despite still being at UCF as he recovers from his season-ending injury from late in 2018).

Other past winners include Deshaun Watson (2016), Marcus Mariota (2014), Andrew Luck (2011), Matt Ryan (2007), Eli Manning (2003), Carson Palmer (2002) and Peyton Manning (1997).

2019 Golden Arm Award Watch List Presented by A. O. Smith

  • Jack Abraham, Southern Mississippi
  • Blake Barnett, University of South Florida
  • Woody Barrett, Kent State
  • Jake Bentley, University of South Carolina
  • Anthony Brown, Boston College
  • Kelly Bryant, Missouri
  • Joe Burrow, LSU
  • Stephen Buckshot Calvert, Liberty
  • Marcus Childers, Northern Illinois
  • K.J. Costello, Stanford Unversity
  • Jacob Eason, Washington University
  • Caleb Evans, University of Louisiana Monroe
  • Mason Fine, North Texas
  • Feleipe Franks, University of Florida
  • Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo
  • Jarrett Guarantano, University of Tennessee
  • Gage Gubrud, Washington State University
  • Quentin Harris, Duke University
  • Justin Herbert, University of Oregon
  • Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., Army
  • Tyler Huntley, University of Utah
  • Jalen Hurts, University of Oklahoma
  • Josh Jackson, University of Maryland
  • D’Eriq King, Houston
  • Brian Lewerke, Michigan State University
  • Jordan Love, Utah State University
  • Jake Luton, Oregon State University
  • Cole McDonald, University of Hawaii
  • Justin McMillan, Tulane
  • Steven Montez, University of Colorado
  • James Morgan, FIU
  • Riley Neal, Vanderbilt University
  • Kato Nelson, Akron
  • Shea Patterson, University of Michigan
  • Bryce Perkins, University of Virginia
  • Malcolm Perry, Navy
  • Peyton Ramsey, Indiana University
  • Armani Rogers, UNLV
  • Nathan Rourke, Ohio
  • Anthony Russo, Temple University
  • J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech
  • Nate Stanley, University of Iowa
  • Dillon Sterling-Cole, Arizona State University
  • Khalil Tate, University of Arizona
  • Zac Thomas, Appalachian State University
  • Skylar Thompson, Kansas State
  • Brady White, University of Memphis
  • Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech
  • Brandon Wimbush, University of Central Florida