Thursday, July 11, 2013

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON SUMMER UPDATE



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.
                                            Tough
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:

                              MOUNTAIN                      WEST
                              Air Force                           Fresno State
                              Boise State                       Hawaii
                              Colorado State                  Nevada
                              New Mexico                      San Diego State
                              Utah State                        San Jose State
                              Wyoming                          UNLV

          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).



CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

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


Steele                     Lindy’s

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

Steele                               Lindy’s                                       
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

Coaches:
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.









ANSWER #1:
Ohio State and Iowa State.

ANSWER #2:
Notre Dame, UCLA, and Southern California.

ANSWER #3:
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.

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