Sunday, July 20, 2014

GETTING READY FOR KICKOFF

THE FUGITIVE COMMISSIONER'S SHORT LETTER FROM SUMMER CAMP



Hello Football Fans,


No doubt, some of you have been thinking about the start of the football season (thank goodness World Cup “futbol” is done for four years; I watched 120 minutes of scoreless play – Argentina vs. Netherlands in the semifinals, before the outcome was decided by “free throws”.  Then I watched the final – 113 minutes before either team scored).  

College FOOTBALL games begin in just over a month and then one week later the NFL season kicks off Thursday, September 4th.

Enjoy, 

The Fugitive Commissioner 



COLLEGE KICKOFF WEEKEND (five days – Thursday through Monday)



THURSDAY “KICKOFF” GAMES
Note: “PS” and “LD” mean preseason rankings by Phil Steele (FBS) and Lindy’s (FCS), respectively.

PS#39 Texas A&M at PS#10 South Carolina                        Early SEC matchup                Thu, 8/28
PS#50 Boise State vs. PS#16 Mississippi      MW vs. SEC, neutral site Atlanta       Thu, 8/28
PS#65 Rutgers at PS#62 Washington State  Big 10 v. PAC-12, neutral Seattle       Thu, 8/28
PS#102 Tulane at PS#84 Tulsa                     American Conference matchup         Thu, 8/28
PS#98 Temple at PS#76 Vanderbilt               American v. SEC                                Thu, 8/28
PS#101 Wake Forest at PS#106 LA-Monroe            ACC vs. SBC                                      Thu, 8/28

NATIONAL TITLE IMPACT GAMES

PS#23 Clemson at PS#7 Georgia               ACC vs. SEC                                      Sat, 8/30
PS#15 LSU vs. PS#13 Wisconsin  SEC vs. Big 10, neutral site Houston             Sat, 8/30

Other selected FBS GAMES

PS#35 BYU at PS#115 Connecticut              Independent vs. American                  Fri, 8/29
PS#78 Colorado State vs. PS#81 Colorado  MW v PAC-12, neutral site Denver    Fri, 8/29
                                                                                    (88th Rocky Mountain Showdown)

PS#1 Florida State vs. PS#37 Oklahoma St ACC v. Big12; neutral site Arlington   Sat, 8/30
PS#2 Alabama vs. PS#60 West Virginia        SEC v. BIG12, neutral site Atlanta     Sat, 8/30
PS#3 Ohio State vs. PS#68 Navy     Neutral site Baltimore                                     Sat, 8/30
PS#79 Louisiana Tech at PS#4 Oklahoma    C-USA vs. Big12                                Sat, 8/30
PS#5 UCLA at PS#59 Virginia           PAC-12 vs. ACC                                            Sat, 8/30
PS#39 Arkansas at PS#9 Auburn      Early SEC West Division matchup                 Sat, 8/30
PS#52 Fresno State at PS#12 USC  MW vs. PAC-12                                              Sat, 8/30
PS#89 Rice at PS#17 Notre Dame    C-USA vs. Independent                                  Sat, 8/30
PS#121 Miami.OH at PS#19 Marshall                       MAC vs. C-USA                                 Sat, 8/30
PS#21 Central Florida vs. PS#54 Penn State            Neutral site-DUBLIN, IRELAND        Sat, 8/30
PS#125 Appalachian St. at PS#30 Michigan New FBS team (SBC) vs. Big10        Sat, 8/30
PS#114 Southern Miss at PS#34 Mississippi State   C-USA vs. SEC                      Sat, 8/30                     
PS#61 California at PS#27 Northwestern      PAC-12 v. Big10                                 Sat, 8/30
PS#92 Ohio U. at PS#109 Kent State                        Early MAC East Division matchup     Sat, 8/30
PS#118 UA-Birmingham at PS#112 Troy     C-USA vs. SBC                                  Sat, 8/30

Sunday: PS#82 SMU at PS#8 Baylor                       American vs. Big12                            Sun, 8/31

Monday night:           PS#37 Miami.FL at PS#26 Louisville Early ACC matchup   Mon, 9/1

FBS vs. FCS

LD#10 Chattanooga (FCS) at PS#97 Central Michigan                                            Thu, 8/28
LD#17 Eastern Illinois (FCS) at PS#55 Minnesota                                                    Thu, 8/28

LD#16 Villanova (FCS) at PS#57 Syracuse                                                              Fri, 8/29
LD#19 Jacksonville State (FCS) at PS#11 Michigan State                                       Fri, 8/29

LD#3 North Dakota St. (FCS) at PS#77 IOWA STATE                                            Sat, 8/30
LD#4 Montana (FCS) at PS#107 Wyoming                                                               Sat, 8/30
LD#5 New Hampshire (FCS) at PS#67 Toledo                                                         Sat, 8/30
LD#6 South Dakota St. (FCS) at PS#42 Missouri                                                     Sat, 8/30
LD#11 Northern Iowa (FCS) at PS#32 Iowa                                                              Sat, 8/30
LD#12 William & Mary (FCS) at PS#29 Virginia Tech                                              Sat, 8/30
LD#15 Wofford (FCS) at PS#46 Georgia Tech                                                         Sat, 8/30
LD#21 Montana State (FCS) at PS#110 Arkansas State                                          Sat, 8/30
LD#24 Bethune-Cookman (FCS) at PS#123 Florida International                            Sat, 8/30

Key FCS matchup

LD#1 Eastern Washington vs. LD#18 Sam Houston State                      SATURDAY, AUGUST 23, 2014
Game will be nationally televised.  Last year, the EWU Eagles beat Oregon State to start their season.
SHSU lost its former HC Willie Fritz to new FBS member Georgia Southern; replacing him will be K.C. Keeler, fired from Delaware in 2012 despite taking the Blue Hens to three FCS title games in 11 seasons.


COLLEGE RULE CHANGES

Following are the two rule changes for the 2014 season:

            When the Instant Replay Official reverses the disqualification of a player for “targeting”:
If the targeting foul is not accompanied by another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for targeting is not enforced. If another personal foul is committed in conjunction with the targeting
foul, the 15-yard penalty for that personal foul is enforced according to rule.”


When a player is disqualified for “targeting” in the first half:
At the option of the conference or by pre-game mutual agreement of the teams in inter-conference games, during the intermission between halves the referee will be provided a video of the play in question for his review in the officials’ private secure location. The referee will review the video to determine whether the disqualification will be reversed. The decision of the referee is final.
Note: The video source and the location of the review will be determined prior to the game through mutual agreement of the teams and the referee.”

Proposed change not yet finalized for 2014 (this is already a rule in the NFL):

Low hits on passers
When an offensive player is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground, no defensive player rushing unabated shall hit him forcibly at the knee area or below. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit this opponent in the knee area or below. [Exceptions. (1) It is not a foul if the offensive player is a runner not in a passing posture, either inside or outside the tackle box. (2) It is not a foul if the defender grabs or wraps this opponent in an attempt to make a conventional tackle. (3) It is not a foul if the defender is not rushing unabated or is blocked or fouled into this opponent.].

Proposed rule change that was tabled (not a rule change for 2014; for discussion at next year’s rules meeting):
With the 40-second play clock running, except with fewer than two minutes remaining in a half, a team may not snap the ball until the play clock reads 29 seconds or less. [Exception: If the referee interrupts the 40-second play clock count and orders the play clock to be re-set to 40 seconds.]
PENALTY—Dead-ball for delay of game. Five yards from the succeeding spot.

Experiment:
Last year, the NCAA allowed the Big 12 Conference to experiment with an eighth official during conference games, positioned in the offensive backfield opposite the Referee to assist in detecting infractions on the offensive line (such as holding, chop blocks, blindside hits on the quarterback, etc.) as well as spotting the ball and monitoring substitutions.

The Big 12 will use the 8th official again during the 2014 season, and the Southeastern Conference will join in the experiment this year.

COLLEGE TEAMS - STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Let’s address this topic just before the season starts (football letter in August).


NFL

NFL GAMES FOR WEEK ONE

Thursday       Kickoff 2014   8:30PM Eastern
Sept 4th                       Green Bay at Seattle              “Revenge” matchup after replacement refs blew “TD”
                                                                                    call to give Seahawks victory over the Pack in Week #3                                                                                                of 2012, after which the permanent refs came back
Sunday                       Early Divisional Matchups:
Sept 7th                       Cincinnati at Baltimore
                                    Cleveland at Pittsburgh
                                    New England at Miami
                                    New Orleans at Atlanta
                                    Carolina at Tampa Bay
                       
Other matchups:
                                    Indianapolis at Denver (Sunday Night)           Peyton’s old team vs. new team
San Francisco at Dallas
Buffalo at Chicago
                                    Washington at Houston
                                    Jacksonville at Philadelphia
                                    Tennessee at Kansas City
                                    Oakland at New York Jets
                                    Minnesota at St. Louis
                                   
Monday Double Header       New York Giants at Detroit (7:10PM Eastern)
Sept 8th                                               San Diego at Arizona (10:20PM Eastern)


NFL RULE CHANGES

The NFL announced several rule changes for the 2014 season.  Here's a quick summary on what rules have changed, and a couple points of emphasis that referees will be looking for.

The NFL Competition Committee announced 13 new rule proposals, seven new bylaw proposals and one proposed resolution. The NFL’s owners voted at its league meeting on the potential changes, which we detail below.

SIX RULE CHANGES for 2014

1.  Extend the goal posts an additional five feet above the cross bar (no easy engineering feat).

2.  Protect players from getting the sides of their legs rolled up on — the rule already says a blocker 
            cannot hit an opponent in the back of the legs; this change will add “or side” to the rule.

3.  Allow the referee to consult with members of the NFL officiating department during replay reviews. The referee will be able to speak with Head of Officiating Dean Blandino at the command center in New York to help in reviewing a play.  Technically, the official on the field has the final say, but Blandino is the referees’ boss, so he will likely make the final calls.

4.  Reorganize the rules about what can be reviewed and what cannot be reviewed, including making the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play reviewable. (This is referred to as the NaVorro Bowman rule, after a controversial call in the NFC Championship Game.)

5.  Don’t stop the clock on a sack.

6.  Enforce defensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage from the previous spot, rather than from the end of the run or from the spot of the foul.

Proposed rule changes that were TABLED (not a rule change for 2014; will consider next year)

a.  Eliminate overtime in the preseason.

b.  Move the line of scrimmage for 1-point extra points to the defensive team’s 25-yard line.
            (2-point PAT’s would still have been spotted at the 2-yard line; this would mean a team would have to declare ahead of time whether they are going for 1 or 2 points).  During the first two weeks of preseason games, the point-after-TD kicks will be spotted at the 20-yard line (same distance as 38-yard FG) as an experiment.
Did you know?  During the 2013 NFL season, only 5 of 1267 extra point kicks were missed (99.6% success rate); and if the ball would be spotted at the 25-yard line for PAT kicks (43-yard FG), the success rate would still be about 83%.
Another alternative: just eliminate the point-after-touchdown try and give 7 points for a TD (it was discussed and considered, but not implemented -- yet).

c.  Modify pass interference so that it can be called within one yard of the line of scrimmage.

d.  Put 6 cameras on all boundary lines (sideline, goal line, end line), to guarantee coverage for replay reviews.

Proposed rule changes that FAILED to get enough votes for passage

A.  Move the kickoff to the 40-yard line (there was also discussion of just getting rid of the kickoff, but that would eliminate any “onside” kick opportunities as well as other objections to such a “radical” change).
B.  Expand instant replay to include personal foul penalties.
C.  Permit a coach to challenge any official’s decision, except scoring plays which are automatically reviewed (I would like to have seen this pass).




BYLAW proposals

Only one of seven PASSED

Changes the time of the roster reduction from 53 after the fourth preseason game from 6PM Eastern to 4PM Eastern.  All teams must have their list of final cuts in by 4PM.

Four were TABLED until next year

a.  Raise the number of active players on game day from 46 to 49 for regular-season games played on a day other than Sunday or Monday, excluding Week One.
b.  Raise the practice squad limit from 8 players to 10 players.
c.  Permit clubs to trade players prior to the start of the league year (in March)
d.  Permit each club to time and test up to 10 draft-eligible players at its facility, and allow any club to attend timing and testing at another team’s facility.

Two Bylaw Proposals FAILED

A.  Eliminate the cut-down to 75 players during training camp and instead have just one cut-down from 90 players to 53 players.
B.  Permit more than one player to return to the active list from injured reserve (IR) so that any player on IR could return after six weeks.

The one RESOLUTION was TABLED

Would have permitted a home team with a retractable roof to open or close its roof at halftime, instead of having to determine at the start of the game whether it will be open or closed for the whole game.





NFL OVER/UNDERS FOR REGULAR SEASON

Below are the betting lines for the projected number of wins for each NFL team (that is, from a betting perspective, decide whether the team will have more (over) or less (under) wins than the oddsmaker’s “number” for the regular season), courtesy of Will Brinson of CBSSports.com on May 22nd (first column of numbers).  The 2nd column shows Brinson’s picks.  The 3rd column shows whether the bettors are betting more money on the “over” or “under”; the number in parentheses shows how heavy the bettors are betting on the favored bet.  Example: Denver bettors are favoring the OVER, and “(-140)” means that you would have to bet $140 on the “over 11 wins” to win $100 (or lose the whole $140 if Denver wins 10 or less games in the regular season); whereas, you would bet $110 to win $100 on a normal straight/even bet (you have to give the house a cut, the “juice” or “vig”).  The 4th column shows The Fugitive’s picks (based on my June 17th projections).

OV=Over                    UN=Under      T=Tie/Push     h=1/2
Note: these “over/unders” are dated, and can differ among gambling houses
                        May 22nd         May 22nd         May 22nd         June 17
                        Over/Under     Brinson            Bettors
Team   # of wins          CBSSports      Favorite           Fugitive           Comments

DEN    11                    OV                   OV (-140)        T (over)           Tougher schedule this year   
SEA     11                    UN                   OV (-145)        OV                   Super Bowl hangover?
NE       10h                  OV                   OV (-135)        OV                   Pats will fade some year “soon”
SF       10h                  OV                   OV (-120)        OV                   Tough schedule; 12-4 last year
GB       10                    UN                   OV (-145)        T (over)           QB Rodgers is healthy now
IND      9h                    OV                   UN (-150)        OV                   Bettors say 9-7 or worse
NOR    9h                    OV                   OV (-150)        OV                   Everyone likes the 2014 Saints
CIN      9                      OV                   OV (-140)        OV                   Can Bengals stay atop division?
PHI      9                      OV                   UN (-135)        OV                   Bettors leaning to non-winning 2014
PIT      8h                    OV                   OV (-120)        OV                   Steelers optimism abounds
BAL     8h                    OV                   OV (-120)        OV                   Need solid RB stable, or bust
ATL     8                      OV                   OV (-130)        UN                   Falcons’ resurrection?
MIA     8                      UN                   UN (-130)        OV                   New look offensive line
CHI      8                      OV                   OV (-140)        T (over)           Need resurgence of defense
DAL     8                      UN                   TIE (-110)        UN                   8-8 record for 3 straight years
SD       8                      OV                   OV (-120)        UN                   Tough schedule; 9-7 last year
CAR    8                      OV                   OV (-130)        OV                   New WR corps
DET     8                      UN                   OV (-150)        OV                   New coach to help?
KC       8                      UN                   OV (-120)        T (under)         Tough schedule; 11-5 last year         
HOU    7h                    UN                   OV (-145)        UN                   New coach brings resurrection?
NYG    7h                    UN                   OV (-135)        OV                   O-line, QB & RB’s must be better
WSH   7h                    OV                   UN (-145)        UN                   RGIII is healthy, but can’t play “D”
AZ       7h                    OV                   OV (-120)        UN                   Tough division; 10-6 last year
STL     7h                    OV                   TIE (-110)        UN                   Tough division; HC Fisher helps
TB       7                      OV                   OV (-120)        UN                   Pundits are predicting turnaround
NYJ     7                      OV                   OV (-125)        UN                   Jets 8-8 last year; QB Vick, or not?
TEN     7                      UN                   OV (-130)        T (under)         Bettors have Titans at 8-8 or better
BUF     6h                    OV                   OV (-130)        UN                   Bills are “due” to make playoffs
CLE     6h                    UN                   OV (-150)        UN                   Bettors must be hyped on Manziel
MIN     6                      UN                   UN (-125)        OV                   Vikes underrated, even with QB ?’s
OAK    5                      UN                   UN (-150)        UN                   Need one more year of cleanup
JAX     4h                    OV                   OV (-150)        UN                   Jags also need one more year, I think

Summary O/U/Tie      20-12-0            24-6-2              14-13-5
                                                                                                (17-15 without ties)

2013 OV/UN results    16-16 ATS (50%)                    19-13 ATS (59.4%)    

Comments:
As it appears from the betting, the money is skewed toward the OVERS, with 24 of the 32 teams having more money bet on the “over” (75%).  This would make sense if the money were being bet totally by fans, because they tend to be optimistic about their favorite teams going into the season.  But the big money usually doesn’t have that bias, so I’m not sure why we’re getting that result from the bettors (at least in this preliminary look).

Bettors have been putting up the most money on the following “overs”:
At “-150” (bet $150 to win $100): NOR (9h wins), DET (8), CLE (6h), JAX (4h)
Also at “-150”, but favoring the “under” bet are OAK (5 wins) and IND (9h).
The next group of popular bets:
At “-145” ($145 to win $100):  SEA to get more than 11 wins
At “-145” ($145 to win $100):  GB to get more than 10 wins
At “-145” ($145 to win $100):  HOU to get more than 7h wins
At “-145” ($145 to win $100):  WSH to get less than 7h wins

Last year The Fugitive (me) picked over 59% correctly.  But this year, The Fugitive’s picks look amateurish, as I have almost all of the good teams picked “over”, and most of the weaker teams picked “under”.  We’ll see.
My “opponent” this year, Will Brinson, picked 20 “overs” out of 32 teams, whereas The Fugitive is more balanced with only 17 “overs”.


OTHER CATCH-UP  and MINUTIA OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Results of NFL Supplemental Draft

Last year, none of the 6 eligible players were drafted.  All of them had off-the-field problems, mainly academic and/or the fallout from acting stupid.  Again this year, none were drafted.  Four players were eligible:
SMU (formerly Texas) RB Traylon Snead (6’2”, 225#) has an injury history after being the #1 ranked JUCO running back
New Mexico WR Chase Clayton
UNC LB Darius Lipford
Virginia-Lynchburg DT Lakendrick Ross
These guys are now unrestricted free agents and may sign with any NFL team.

25 years ago, three players were selected in the first round of the supplemental draft – QB Steve Walsh (Miami.FL), QB Timm Rosenbach (WA.St) and RB Bobby Humphrey (ALA).  Two other players were selected in later rounds; overall, the five selections in one supplemental draft is still the all-time record.
Walsh was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, whose new coach was Jimmy Johnson.  A few months earlier in the regular 1989 NFL draft, the Cowboys had picked up a QB (Troy Aikman, you may have heard of him).  Jimmy had been Walsh’s head coach in college the previous year.  Aikman won the starting job; Walsh was traded to New Orleans the next year for three draft picks, including a 1st-rounder.

The last time a first round pick was used on a supplemental pick was in 1992.  The NY Giants selected Duke QB Dave Brown.



Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF)

The HOF Selection Committee elected seven individuals to the Class of 2014, bringing the total number of members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame to 287. The newest HOF members were selected from a list of 17 semifinalists (2 Senior selections, 15 modern-era candidates).

The 2014 induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 2nd (7PM Eastern), and the HOF Game between the New York Football Giants and the Buffalo Bills will begin at 8PM Eastern on Sunday, August 3rd at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, OH.

Following are the seven 2014 inductees, an amazing six of which played much of their college ball at small schools:

OLB Derrick Brooks College: FSU (All-American 1993 & 1994)                Presenter: Son, Decalon
Never missed a game during his 14-season career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995-2008). A six-time All-Pro selection and 11-time Pro Bowler, he was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002.  Brooks was one of only six players in the last 25 years to capture the NFL’s “Triple Crown” of humanitarian awards: Bart Starr Award (2004), Byron White Award (2004), and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (2000).

OLT Walter Jones     College: Holmes CC (Miss.), then FSU (1996)          Presenter: Son, Walterius
Stepped into a starting role as a rookie and excelled as one of the game’s finest tackles during his 12 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks (1997-2008). A member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, he was named All-Pro six times and voted to nine Pro Bowls.

WR Andre Reed        College: Kutztown U.                                      Presenter: Coach Marv Levy
Caught 951 passes for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns in his 16-season career (BUF 1985-1999, WSH 2000). He hauled in 50 or more passes in 13 seasons (only accomplished by one other WR – Jerry Rice).
Reed finally got voted in on his 9th try.  His claim to fame was his “YAC” (yards after catch) skills.

DE Michael Strahan  College: Texas Southern                                Presenter: Jay Glazer (FOX Sports)
Recorded double-digit sack totals six times in a nine-season span including a NFL single-season record 22.5 sacks in 2001 (still the all-time record). A five-time All-Pro pick, he amassed 141.5 sacks in his 15-season career with the New York Giants (1993-2007).

CB/Safety Aeneas Williams College: Southern U.                          Presenter: Father Lawrence
Four-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl selection, intercepted 55 passes during a 14-season career with the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals (1991-2000) and St. Louis Rams (2001-2004).  Great story; he didn’t even go out for the FB team at Southern until his junior year.  And with little experience in college, he wasn’t drafted until the 3rd round of the 1991 NFL Draft by Phoenix.

Senior Selections:

Punter Ray Guy         College: Southern Miss (‘72 All-American)          Presenter: Coach John Madden
Becomes the first full-time punter to earn election to the Pro Football HOF. An impact player throughout his entire 14-season career with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1973-86), he was named All-Pro six straight years.  He legitimized the term “hang time”, and of his 1,049 career punts, none were returned for a TD and only three were blocked (he set an NFL record with 619 in a row without a block).

DE Claude Humphrey          College: Tennessee State All-American     Presenter: Daughter, Cheyenne
Humphrey was named first-team All-Pro five times and earned six Pro Bowl nods during his career with the Atlanta Falcons (1968-1978) and Philadelphia Eagles (1979-1981). Although not an official statistic at the time, he is credited with 122 career sacks.

2014 HOF semifinalists not making it into the 2014 Hall of Fame Class (yet):
First cut (15 to 10): Morten Andersen, Tim Brown, Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., Tony Dungy (only coach since AFL/NFL merger to take his team to 10 straight years to the playoffs), and John Lynch
Second cut (10 to 5): Jerome Bettis, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Marvin Harrison, and Will Shields

UPDATE on College Football Hall of Fame Museum

The College Football Hall of Fame has been relocated to Atlanta and will officially open on Saturday, August 23, 2014.  Not coincidentally, that date is just ahead of the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game (start of college FB season) on Thursday, August 28th in Atlanta between Boise State and Mississippi.  Another Atlanta kickoff game will be played on Saturday, August 30th – Alabama vs. West Virginia.
The official name of the HOF will be “College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-Fil-A Fan Experience”, and you can guess that Chick-Fil-A is a major sponsor of the new HOF.  The modern facility will be “interactive, entertaining, and engaging”, and is located in downtown Atlanta near the Centennial Olympic Park.  The old site of the college HOF was South Bend, Indiana, but had been plagued by low attendance in recent years.

NFL Player Updates

Buffalo MLB Kiko Alonso suffered a torn ACL and is most likely out for the season.

Houston WR Andre Johnson is not happy with the front office (presumably based on the handling of the Texans QB situation in free agency and the draft).  He is their best player, and has asked for a trade.  This does not send out good vibes for the HOU Texans’ 2014 season – sorry, Tommy Boy.

The NOR Saints’ Jimmy Graham finally signed a contract with the team, after he was franchised tagged as a TIGHT END that would have paid him “only” $7 million for the 2014 season.  But he argued that he should be considered a WIDE RECEIVER, in which case he would have been paid significantly higher under the franchise tag rules ($12MM, give or take).  The arbitrator’s ruling on the disagreement between player and team (also an issue for NFLPA vs. NFL) ruled that Graham is a “tight end” (and not a WR) for franchise tag purposes because he lined up within 4 yards of the rest of his offensive line on greater than 50% of the Saints’ offensive plays last year.  His new contract renders that whole decision moot, and least for Jimmy and the Saints.  He gets $12 million now and a base salary of $1 million for the 2014 season, and overall it’s a 4-year, $40MM contract with ($20.9MM guaranteed).  In his four previous seasons in the NFL, Graham has earned a total of around $4MM.




College Player Update

Have you ever heard of Cedric Ogbuehi?  You probably will during the football season, as he is the #1 ranked OT in college football this year.  And, he steps into the offensive left tackle spot at Texas A&M after the departures of OT Luke Joeckel (2013 #2 overall pick) and OT Jake Mathews (2014 #6 overall pick).  He probably stayed in school for several reasons, but Texas A&M gave him an additional reason.  They paid the premium for his insurance policy that covers him in case of a career-ending injury (that is, he’ll get a big payoff if he is injured before he gets drafted by an NFL team and gets a big contract).  And it’s legal, according to the NCAA rules.

Speaking of NCAA regulations, it is now acceptable for schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all Division 1 athletes if associated with athletic activities.  USC has already acted on this new regulation, putting up $1 million to help support its 650 student-athletes ($1,538 per athlete annually).

Updates on College Football Playoff (CFP)

I failed to mention a few things in the previous summary of the new 4-team playoff in college football.  The structure is set up for the next 12 years under a contract with ESPN, so theoretically expansion to 8 or 16 teams cannot happen until the year 2026.  But we’ll see if that holds up to the pressure brought to bear by various interested parties.  The Executive Director of the CFP (Bill Hancock) stated unequivocally, “It is going to be four (teams) for 12 years.  There is no talk in our group about (increasing the playoff field).”

Of course there is always money involved in these changes.  Each of the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big10, Big12, PAC-12, SEC) will get $50MM (and maybe more) in the first year of the CFP.  As a comparison, last year under the BCS system each conference received only $28MM.

And how do the non-Power 5 conferences (AAC, CUSA, MAC, MW, SBC) come out?  They will split $75MM (or $15MM average per conference).  That is five times the money those five conferences shared under the old BCS system, albeit it is significantly less than the Power 5 payouts.

Getting off the money part of the playoff system, remember that a 13-member selection committee will choose the four teams that will play in the CFP.  Teams are already starting to figure out that they will need to bolster the quality of their nonconference opponents, or otherwise risk being left out of the Final Four based on “strength of schedule”.  Alabama has traditionally controlled its schedule to great advantage, but even the Tide has scheduled a game in 2016 versus USC.  Of course, the Crimson Tide isn’t going to play a true road game – the game will be played at a neutral field in Arlington, TX (Cowboy Stadium) on September 3, 2016.
These two schools last met in the Aloha Bowl following the 1985 season.  Back in 1970, USC traveled to Tuscaloosa and beat ‘Bama 42-21, a game in which John McKay’s Trojans (with their all-black starting backfield) pounded Paul “Bear” Bryant’s all-white Crimson Tide.  That game, the story goes, forever changed Alabama football.

And for the record according to Lindy’s Sports magazine, the CFP is a Delaware limited liability company (“CFP Administration LLC”) managed by the 10 commissioners of the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.  This same management group concept was used to manage the BCS for its 16 years of existence.

Update on new Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll

The new poll is meaningless to the CFP process, but it gives fans something to look at.  Rankings will be released every Sunday throughout the season, along with the perennial AP and Coaches Polls (both of which also carry no weight in the CFP selection process).  There will be 41 “Super 16” Poll voters including members of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.  A few names you may recognize are: Phil Steele, Barry Switzer, Gil Brandt (NFL.com), Chris Ault, Don McPherson, and Dennis Dodd (CBSSports.com).

NFL Football Stadium

The San Francisco 49’ers will not play their games in Candlestick Park for the first time since 1970.  They have moved about 40 miles south to Santa Clara, and will play in new Levi’s Stadium, and have roughly doubled the ticket prices.  Nevertheless, the Niners have already sold out the entire 2014 season (however, the 49’ers have sold out every season since 1982).  The team will sell 1500 standing-room only tickets for each game this season to bring the total capacity of the stadium to about 70,000.

And, fans had to purchase a seat license ranging from $2,000 to $80,000 before even qualifying to purchase the tickets themselves, which range from $850 to $3,750 for the 2014 season.

Candlestick Park Trivia:  The final musical concert at Candlestick will be performed by Paul McCartney (age 72, ouch to baby boomers) on August 14, 2014.  The Beatles’ final full live concert as a group was performed at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966 (although they made an unannounced appearance in 1969 at the top of the Apple building).
The Park’s capacity back then was 42,500, but only 25,000 tickets were sold, leaving large sections of unsold seats. Fans paid between $4.50 and $6.50 for tickets, and The Beatles’ fee was around $90,000.
Wow!

FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTIONS

QUESTION #1:  In what year did the NFL allow teams to start “going for two” after a touchdown?

QUESTION #2:  What college quarterback holds the all-time FBS record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass (38 straight games)?
Hint:  He is a successful NFL QB that is still playing and starting.

BONUS QUESTION:  What current college QB has the longest current streak of consecutive games (32) with at least one TD pass?  This is a tough one; he starts for a non-Power 5 conference team.
HINT:  He is a senior who plays in Conference USA, and Phil Steele thinks his team may go undefeated in the regular season this year (easy schedule).

QUESTION #3:  How well do you know college football teams (there are 128 FBS schools this year)?  Just to get warmed up for the college FB season, name the state in which the following college teams play their home games (and city, if you’re really good).  The lists start out with the easier ones, and are broken out between the Power 5 conference teams and the Little Five conference teams.  [I’d say 24 correct states out of 31 would be excellent, unless you are geography buff; FFHL’ers, if you get all of them right you are kicked out of our amateur handicapping league].

POWER 5 CONFERENCE TEAMS
Michigan State
Penn State
Stanford
Notre Dame (independent)
Northwestern
Vanderbilt
Auburn
Duke
Purdue
Baylor
Rutgers
Clemson

“LITTLE FIVE” CONFERENCES
San Jose State
Boise State
East Carolina (50-50 shot)
Bowling Green
Rice
Tulane
Air Force
Army (independent)
Navy (independent)
BYU (independent)
SMU (Southern Methodist)
Temple
Kent State
Ball State
Bowling Green
Marshall
Troy
Old Dominion
Appalachian State

ANSWER #1:
1994, the same year in which kickoffs were moved back to the 30-yard line to help promote scoring.
During the 1993 season, 18 of the 28 NFL teams scored an average of less than 20 points per game.  In contrast, during the 2013 season 25 of the 32 NFL teams averaged greater than 20 points per game.


ANSWER #2:
Russell Wilson (NC State 2008-2010 and Wisconsin 2011), the reigning Super Bowl winning QB of the Seattle Seahawks.
BONUS:  Rakeem Cato, who plays for the Thundering Herd of Marshall.  Phil Steele has him ranked as the #19 best NFL draft eligible QB for the 2015 NFL Draft.

ANSWER #3:
POWER 5 CONFERENCE TEAMS
Michigan State                                    East Lansing, Michigan
Notre Dame (independent)     South Bend, Indiana
Northwestern                          Evanston, Illinois
Vanderbilt                                Nashville, Tennessee
Auburn                                                Auburn, Alabama
Penn State                              State College, Pennsylvania
Stanford                                  Stanford, California
Duke                                       Durham, North Carolina
Purdue                                                West Lafayette, Indiana
Baylor                                      Waco, Texas
Rutgers                                               New Brunswick, New Jersey
Clemson                                  Clemson, South Carolina

“LITTLE FIVE” CONFERENCES
East Carolina                          Greenville, North Carolina
San Jose State                                   San Jose, California
Boise State                              Boise, Idaho
Bowling Green                                    Bowling Green, Ohio
Rice                                         Houston, Texas
Tulane                                     New Orleans, Louisiana
Air Force                                 Colorado Springs, Colorado
Army (independent)                West Point, New York
Navy (independent)                Annapolis, Maryland
BYU (independent)                 Provo, Utah
SMU (Southern Methodist)     Dallas, Texas
Temple                                                Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Kent State                               Kent, Ohio
Ball State                                 Muncie, Indiana
Bowling Green                                    Bowling Green, Ohio
                                                            (Western Kentucky is in Bowling Green, Kentucky)
Marshall                                  Huntington, West Virginia
Troy                                         Troy, Alabama
Old Dominion                          Norfolk, Virginia
Appalachian State                   Boone, North Carolina



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