FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
This letter is dedicated just to college football. I’ll send out a pre-training camp NFL letter separately in the next few weeks. As the season approaches in late August, I’ll kick out another letter for both NFL and college.
Some fans are already itching to see what the first week of the 2013 NCAA football season will bring. There is almost a full slate of games that week from Thursday, August 29th through Monday, September 2nd, including many FBS (Division I-A) vs. FCS (Division I-AA) games.
Here we go, Mick. Following is a partial list of games to kick off the season on the gridiron (preseason rankings are from Lindy’s magazine (listed first), and Phil Steele’s (PS) magazine; FCS rankings are Lindy’s and “NR” means not ranked in Top 25):
NATIONAL TITLE IMPACT GAMES
Georgia (#6;#9PS) at CLEMSON (#7;#15PS) Huge game: SEC vs. ACC Sat, 8/31
Alabama (#1;#1PS) vs VA Tech (NR;#12PS) SEC v. ACC; neutral site Atlanta Sat, 8/31
FBS RIVALRY GAMES and other good matchups
LSU (#8;#17PS) vs. TCU (#22;#21) SEC v BIG12, neutral site Dallas Sat, 8/31
North Carolina at S.CAR (#9;#14PS) ACC v. SEC Thu, 8/29
C.Michigan at MICHIGAN (#16;#24PS) MAC v. Big 10 Sat, 8/31
W.Michigan at MICH.ST (#20;#23PS) MAC v. Big 10 Fri, 8/30
Boise State (#17;NR(PS)) at Washington MW v. PAC-12 Sat, 8/31
Rutgers at FRESNO STATE (NR;#22PS) New AAC v. MW Thu, 8/29
USC (#25;#6PS) at Hawaii 13 games for Trojans; PAC12vMW Thu, 8/29
Miss. State vs. Oklahoma State (#11;#8PS) SEC v. BIG12; neutral Houston Sat, 8/31
Tulsa at BOWLING GREEN CUSA v. MAC; frontrunners Thu, 8/29
Northern ILL at IOWA N.ILL BCS Bowl last year Sat, 8/31
BYU at VIRGINIA Independent vs. ACC Sat, 8/31
Colorado State vs. Colorado MW v. PAC12; neutral site Denver Sun, 9/1
Utah State at UTAH MW v. 12-PACK Thu, 8/29
Kentucky v. W. Kentucky SEC v. Sun Belt; neutral Nashville Sat, 8/31
Mississippi at VANDERBILT SEC opener for both teams Thu, 8/29
FBS vs. Ranked FCS
North Dakota State (FCS#1) at KANSAS ST ND.St is current FCS Champ Fri, 8/30
Wofford (FCS#5) at BAYLOR (#19;NR (PS)) Sat, 8/31
E. Washington (FCS#6) at OREGON STATE Sat, 8/31
Towson (FCS#8) at UCONN Thu, 8/29
Villanova (FCS#9) at BOSTON COLLEGE Sat, 8/31
Northern Iowa (FCS#13) at IOWA STATE Sat, 8/31
N. Arizona (FCS#16) at ARIZONA Fri, 8/30
E. Illinois (FCS#18) at SAN DIEGO STATE Sat, 8/31
Illinois State (FCS#22) at BALL STATE Thu, 8/29
TOP 25 RANKINGS PRIOR TO ASSOCIATED PRESS (AP) VOTING
Following is a list of the preliminary Top 25 rankings and projected conference winners by two publications – Lindy’s and Phil Steele; both magazines were released in June of 2013. The third column is Phil Steele’s projection of difficulty of schedule for the year (based on his projection of this year’s opponent strength), with #1 being toughest and #126 being the easiest.
TOP 25 Lindy Steele Sched Comments
Alabama 1 1 40 Going for 4 national titles in five years; Ugh!
Ohio St 2 2 67 Coming off undefeated season in 2012
Stanford 3 11 8 Cardinal gets to host the OU Ducks this year
Oregon 4 5 58 In 2011, #6 Ducks won at #3 Cards, 53-30
TX A&M 5 13 28 Aggies beat ‘Bama last year in Tuscaloosa
Georgia 6 9 23 12-2 last year, lost at S.C./ALA in SEC title game
Clemson 7 15 55 Plays FSU at home on October 19th
LSU 8 17 16 Road games at Georgia and Alabama
S. Carolina 9 14 14 Road game at Georgia Sept. 7th to shape SEC East race
Louisville 10 7 98 Soft schedule translates to top ranking
Okla. State 11 8 32 Play at Texas Nov. 16th & finish at home vs. Oklahoma
Florida 12 18 1 Toughest schedule in nation, per Steele
Florida St. 13 3 64 Road game vs. Clemson determines ACC Atlantic Division
Notre Dame 14 10 13 Ranking prior to ND losing QB for the year
Oklahoma 15 19 2 2nd toughest schedule in nation, per Steele
Michigan 16 24 29 Faces Ohio State at home on November 30th
Boise State 17 NR 91
Texas 18 4 15
Baylor 19 NR 22
Michigan St. 20 23 61
Nebraska 21 16 66
TCU 22 21 17
UCLA 23 NR 21
Miami.FL 24 25 60
USC 25 6 35
Virginia Tech NR 12 59
Wisconsin NR 20 69
Fresno State NR 22 107
COMMENTS ON STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
#1 Alabama faces two FCS opponents, does not have to play the toughest three teams from the other SEC division (GA, S.CAR, FL), and has no non-conference true road games. Plus, it has a bye week before both tough games within the SEC – at Texas A&M on September 14th and home vs. LSU on Nov. 9th. The Tide does have to play Virginia Tech on August 31st to start the season, but it is at a neutral site (Atlanta). This schedule was designed for success, with very little travel. Phil Steele says 40th toughest schedule (pretty weak for an SEC school).
#2 Ohio State faces 1 FCS opponent, avoids Michigan State and Nebraska out of the other Big 10 division, but at least faces a true road game in nonconference play at Cal on September 14th (albeit the Bears are supposed to be bad news this year). They get Wisconsin at home and have conference road games against Northwestern and then Michigan on November 30th to end the regular season. Phil Steele says 67th toughest schedule, a relative cupcake schedule and the Buckeyes should be 11-0 before heading to the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan to face the Wolverines (unless Iowa can pull off an upset in their homecoming game on October 19th).
Phil Steele’s projected toughest two schedules:
#12 Florida faces 1 FCS opponent, has a nonconference true road game at Miami of Florida (ACC) and has three tough road games within the SEC conference (LSU, S.CAR, GA). Phil Steele projects this as the toughest schedule in the nation.
#15 Oklahoma faces zero FCS opponents, has a nonconference true road game at Notre Dame, plus the Sooners face tough Big XII teams on the road (Texas-neutral site Dallas, Baylor, Oklahoma State on December 7th to wrap up regular season). Phil Steele projects this as the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation.
Playoffs? PLAY-offs??!!??” (Jim Mora, Sr. impression)
Yes, Division I-A football will have playoffs starting in 2014 under a new 12-year playoff agreement.
However, in 2013 for the last season ever, the BCS formula and BCS bowl game setup will continue in the same manner as last year.
CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT CONTINUES
First, let’s review the expansion of the number of FBS teams. In 2011, there were 120 teams. Last year four additional teams moved into the Football Bowl Subdivision – South Alabama (Sun Belt; Mobile, AL), Texas State (Sun Belt; San Marcos, TX), Massachusetts (MAC; Amherst, MA), and UTSA (C-USA; San Antonio, TX).
This year, Georgia State (in Atlanta) enters the FBS as the 125th team and a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Panthers will play their home games at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Former head coach Bill Curry (2010-2012, and formerly HC at Alabama, GA Tech, and Kentucky) turned around the football program, and now new HC Trent Miles (from Indiana State) takes over in 2013.
Old Dominion (Norfolk, VA) is the 126th team transitioning this year into the FBS as an “independent” in 2013. The Monarchs will play 7 FCS and 5 FBS opponents. Next year, they will become a member of Conference USA.
So, what was the shake-up in the conferences?
The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) is gone; it had been in existence since 1962. Most teams moved to other conferences. Two teams were left without an affiliation for 2013 and were relegated to “independent” status – Idaho and New Mexico State (both teams will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2014). Including Old Dominion, that makes seven independents for 2013 (BYU converted last year, plus ND, Navy, Army).
The “Big East” is also no longer a conference. It has been renamed the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and wants to be called the “The American”. Pittsburgh and Syracuse left the conference and moved to the ACC. Boise State and San Diego State were planning to move into the Big East, but decided later to stay with the Mountain West. However, the new AAC conference did bring in some teams from C-USA for this year: SMU, Houston, UCF, and Memphis. In future years, there are other teams scheduled to exit and enter.
For 2013, the AAC becomes a one-division, 10-team conference, and in order of Phil Steele’s projected finish, the teams are: Louisville, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, SMU, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida, Memphis, and Temple.
OTHER CONFERENCE CHANGES
ACC Pittsburgh was added to the Coastal Division, and Syracuse was added to the Atlantic Division. Other changes are coming in 2014.
C-USA Lost 4 teams to the AAC, as mentioned above. Added SIX teams: Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, and North Texas from the Sun Belt and Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) from the defunct WAC.
Other changes are coming in 2014.
MW The Mountain West added two teams from the defunct WAC – Utah State and San Jose State. The conference now consists of two divisions of six (nice, simple division names), as follows:
Air Force Fresno State
Boise State Hawaii
Colorado State Nevada
New Mexico San Diego State
Utah State San Jose State
Do you see a commonality in how the divisions are split?
All of the Mountain Division teams are in the Mountain Time Zone, and the West Division teams are in the Pacific Time Zone (plus Hawaii).
The Mountain West will have a title game for the first time in the conference’s history.
Sun Belt As mentioned above, four teams were lost to the Conference-USA. Georgia State is being added from the FCS and Texas State comes from the defunct WAC. The SBC is now a one-division, eight-team league (ARK St, LA-Laf, LA-Monr, Troy, W. Kentucky, South ALA, TX State, and GA State).
Now that you have memorized the changes for each of the conferences, let’s move on to predictions for each conference.
Following are Phil Steele and Lindy’s 2013 projections of the divisional and conference winners:
Conference Steele Lindy’s
SEC West Alabama Alabama
SEC East Georgia Georgia
SEC title Alabama Alabama
Big 10 Leaders Ohio State Ohio State
Big 10 Legends Nebraska/Mich.St Michigan
Big 10 title Ohio State Ohio State
Big XII Texas Oklahoma State
Big XII Runner-up Oklahoma State Oklahoma
ACC Atlantic Florida State Clemson
ACC Coastal Virginia Tech Miami of Florida
ACC title Florida State Clemson
PAC-12 North Oregon Stanford
PAC-12 South USC UCLA
PAC-12 title Oregon Stanford
AAC Louisville Louisville
AAC Runner-up Central Florida Rutgers
MW West Fresno State Fresno State
MW Mountain Boise State Boise State
MW Title Fresno State Boise State
C-USA East Marshall East Carolina
C-USA West Tulsa Tulsa
C-USA title Tulsa East Carolina
MAC East Bowling Green Ohio U
MAC West Northern Illinois Northern Illinois
MAC title Northern Illinois Northern Illinois
Sun Belt Louisiana (Lafayette) Louisiana-Monroe
Sun Belt Runner-up Tie: LA-Monroe & Arkansas State
W. Kentucky & Arkansas State
PROJECTED BCS BOWL GAMES
Rose Bowl Oregon v. Nebraska Michigan v. Stanford 1/1/2014
Fiesta Bowl Texas v. USC Oklahoma St v. Oregon “
Sugar Bowl Georgia v. Notre Dame Texas A&M v. FSU 1/2/2014
Orange Bowl Florida St v. Louisville Clemson v. Louisville 1/3/2014
BCS TITLE GAME ‘Bama vs. Ohio St Tide vs. Buckeyes 1/6/2014
Pasadena, CA Rose Bowl
MISCELLANEOUS MINUTIA AND OTHER TIDBITS
For all of its men’s athletic teams, Hawaii has changed its team name back to the Rainbow Warriors. From 2000 through 2012, some of its sports teams were named just the Warriors. Then head coach June Jones (1999-2007) requested the change for his football team, and it was done.
Notre Dame lost its starting QB for the 2013 season. Everett Golson has been suspended for the 2013 Fall Term for what was called “poor academic judgment” (I believe he cheated on a final exam in May, but the school is being tight-lipped about the details). Golson had been a 22-1 shot to win the Heisman Trophy, but is now removed from the betting list. The team had been a 28-1 shot to win the BCS Championship game, but the odds have now fallen to 40-1. Note that the two magazines that I’m using in my charts above did not have this information at the time of their publication.
Speaking of the Irish, the school has signed a new TV deal with NBC to extend coverage of the team through 2025, with a minimum of 7 games to be broadcasted each year. Notre Dame Football’s first broadcast by NBC was in 1991.
Central Florida was originally assessed a one-year bowl ban for 2012 by the NCAA, but pending an appeal the ban was pushed back to 2013. UCF actually won its appeal, which was only to remove the bowl ban. The football program still had sanctions for major recruiting violations, including five lost scholarship for three years and probation. The Knights are heading into their first year in the AAC, and will be bowl eligible.
The FCS playoffs have been expanded from 20 teams to 24 for the 2013 season. The Pioneer League will join 10 other conference winners as automatic qualifiers. The top 8 teams will be seeded, receive 1st-round byes, and will host the 2nd round games. The other 16 teams will bid to host 1st round games.
The FCS has 124 teams this year, but the Ivy League and the Southwestern Athletic Conference choose not to participate in the playoffs. That leaves 24 playoff spots for about 100 teams (or so).
Early Heisman Trophy Odds to Win (this was back in February)
4 to1 QB Johnny Manziel TX A&M Won it last year; can he repeat?
7 to 1 QB Braxton Miller OHIO ST
9 to 1 WR Marquis Lee USC
10-1 QB Aaron Murray GEORGIA
10-1 RB De’Anthony Thomas OREGON
12-1 QB A.J. McCarron ALABAMA
12-1 RB Duke Johnson MIAMI.FL
12-1 DE Jadeveon Clowney SOUTH CAROLINA
12-1 QB Teddy Bridgewater LOUISVILLE
15-1 QB Tajh Boyd CLEMSON
15-1 QB Taylor Martinez NEBRASKA
18-1 QB Marcus Mariota OREGON
18-1 RB Ameer Abdullah NEBRASKA
18-1 RB T.J. Yeldon ALABAMA
20-1 QB Brett Hundley UCLA
20-1 RB Lache Seastrunk BAYLOR
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CLASS OF 2013
QB Tommie Frazier NEB (1992-96) Snubbed since eligible in 2006; amazing stats in 4 years, including 2 Nat’l Titles and a 33-3 record as starter
QB Danny Wuerffel FLORIDA 1996 Heisman winner; 2-time 1st team All-American
RB Ron Dayne WISCONSIN 1999 Heisman winner; 3-time 1st team All-American
OT Orlando Pace OHIO STATE 2 Lombardi awards and one Outland Trophy
LB Tedy Bruschi ARIZONA Later played for NE Patriots
RB Ted Brown NC STATE ACC’s all-time leading rusher & only 4-time All-Conf
DB Jerry Gray TEXAS
END Steve Meilinger KENTUCKY
LB Rod Shoate OKLAHOMA
LB Percy Snow MICHIGAN ST
QB Don Trull BAYLOR
QB Vinny Testaverde MIAMI.FL
Bill McCartney COLORADO
Wayne Hardin NAVY (1959-64), TEMPLE (1970-82)
COACHING and RULE CHANGES
I’ll do this in August before the season begins.
FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: Currently, only two FBS teams have beaten at least one Top 25 opponent on the road in the last three consecutive years.
HINTS: One is a big-time program; one is not. Neither is from the SEC (probably because they never play any tough teams in a true road game, except Florida and Georgia).
QUESTION #2: This may be a repeat question from last year. Do you remember the answer? Which NCAA Division I-A teams have never played an FCS (Division I-AA) team?
HINTS: There are three teams, and not so shockingly, none of them is an SEC team.
QUESTION #3: In 2012, for the first time in NCAA FBS history, one team tanked miserably by producing no wins after having won 12 games the year before (2011). Name the team.
Ohio State and Iowa State.
Notre Dame, UCLA, and Southern California.
Southern Mississippi; the Golden Eagles won the C-USA East Division outright in 2011 and were 12-2 overall. In 2012, they were 0-12.