Saturday, August 23, 2014

GETTING READY FOR THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL KICKOFF



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,
 
The FBS college football season starts in 5 days - Thursday, August 28th.  Attached is a strength of schedule
R.I.P. Kent State's Bitsko, starting center
analysis and other sundry items regarding college football for your leisurely reading.

And don't forget the quiz questions at the end.
 
Enjoy,
 
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
 
PS  I'm hoping to send a kickoff letter for the NFL season by Sunday, including strength of schedule analysis, several rule updates, and the usual minutia.
 
COLLEGE KICKOFF WEEKEND (five days – Thursday through Monday)

This is a repeat of the list of games reported in my previous letter of 7/19/14, and adding the preliminary point spreads on the listed games.  Remember, a negative number is attached to the favorite and a “plus” number is assigned to the underdog.  If neither team is favored, it’s a “pick’em” game (Pk).

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

PS#39 Texas A&M (+10h) at PS#10 South Carolina        Early SEC matchup                Thu, 8/28
UPDATE: This will be the first-ever FB game televised on the new SEC Network,
                        for which NFL-unemployed Tim Tebow works as an analyst (doing well
                        early).  This is the first-ever matchup between these two schools,
                        and both teams will be breaking in new QB’s.

PS#50 Boise St (+10) vs. PS#16 Ole Miss    MW vs. SEC, neutral site Atlanta       Thu, 8/28
PS#65 Rutgers (+8) at PS#62 Washington St           Big 10 v. PAC-12, neutral Seattle       Thu, 8/28
PS#102 Tulane (+4h) at PS#84 Tulsa                        American Conference matchup         Thu, 8/28
PS#98 Temple (+16) at PS#76 Vanderbilt                 American v. SEC                    Thu, 8/28
PS#101 Wake Forest (-2h) at PS#106 LA-Monroe   ACC vs. SBC                          Thu, 8/28

NATIONAL TITLE IMPACT GAMES

PS#23 Clemson (+7h) at PS#7 Georgia                 ACC vs. SEC                          Sat, 8/30

PS#15 LSU (-4) vs. PS#13 Wisconsin                     neutral site Houston                Sat, 8/30
UPDATE: This is the only “marquee” matchup between the SEC and Big 10
                        conferences during the 2014 regular season, and result could be used by
                        the CFP selection committee as a determining factor in the 4-team playoff.

Other selected FBS GAMES

PS#35 BYU (-16h) at PS#115 Connecticut               Independent vs. American      Fri, 8/29
PS#78 Colorado St (+3) vs. PS#81 Colorado; MW v PAC-12, neutral site Denver Fri, 8/29
                                                                                    (88th Rocky Mountain Showdown)

PS#1 Florida St (-17h) vs. PS#37 Okla St     ACC v. Big12; neutral site Arlington   Sat, 8/30
PS#2 Alabama (-25h) vs. PS#60 West VA    SEC v. BIG12, neutral site Atlanta     Sat, 8/30
PS#3 Ohio State (-17h) vs. PS#68 Navy       Neutral site Baltimore                         Sat, 8/30
PS#79 Louisiana Tech (+37h) at PS#4 Oklahoma    C-USA vs. Big12                    Sat, 8/30
PS#5 UCLA (-21h) at PS#59 Virginia           PAC-12 vs. ACC                                Sat, 8/30
PS#39 Arkansas (+21) at PS#9 Auburn        Early SEC West Division matchup     Sat, 8/30
PS#52 Fresno State (+21) at PS#12 USC     MW vs. PAC-12                                  Sat, 8/30
PS#89 Rice (+20h) at PS#17 Notre Dame    C-USA vs. Independent                      Sat, 8/30
PS#121 Miami.OH (+24) at PS#19 Marshall             MAC vs. C-USA                     Sat, 8/30
PS#21 Central FL (-1) vs. PS#54 Penn St     Neutral site-DUBLIN, IRELAND        Sat, 8/30
PS#125 Appalachian St. (+34) at PS#30 Michigan   New FBS team (SBC) vs. Big10        Sat, 8/30
PS#114 Southern Miss (+30) at PS#34 Miss St        C-USA vs. SEC                      Sat, 8/30                     
PS#61 California (+10) at PS#27 Northwestern        PAC-12 v. Big10                     Sat, 8/30
PS#92 Ohio U. (+3) at PS#109 Kent State    Early MAC East Division matchup     Sat, 8/30
PS#118 UA-Birmingham (+1) at PS#112 Troy          C-USA vs. SBC                      Sat, 8/30

Sunday: PS#82 SMU (+32h) at PS#8 Baylor                       American vs. Big12                            Sun, 8/31

Monday night:           PS#37 Miami.FL (+3h) 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.





SNEAK PEAK AT SOME GAMES COMING UP IN FUTURE WEEKS

Phil Steele (http://philsteele.com/Blogs) picked up some early lines from the MGM in June, and I’m just regurgitating a few of the games and the preliminary point spreads posted back then.  Some of these lines will change significantly based on how the season progresses.

Sept 6th                       USC (+3h, underdog) at Stanford (-3h, favorite)
Sept 6th                       BYU (+6) at Texas (-6)
Sept 6th                       Michigan State (+13) at Oregon
Sept 6th                       Michigan (+3) at Notre Dame

Sept 13th         UCLA (-8) vs. Texas in Cowboy Stadium, Arlington, TX
Sept 13th         Iowa State (+9h) at Iowa
Sept 13th         Georgia (+3) at South Carolina

Sept 20th         Clemson (+17) at Florida State
Sept 20th         Florida (+21) at Alabama

Oct 4th             LSU (+6h) at Auburn
Oct 4th             Arizona State (+11) at USC
Oct 4th             Wisconsin (+7) at Northwestern
Oct 4th             Alabama (-9) at Ole Miss
Oct 4th             Baylor (-3) at Texas
Oct 4th             Stanford (-6) at Notre Dame

Oct 11th                       Oregon (-3) at UCLA
Oct 11th                       Texas (+9) vs. Oklahoma in Dallas, TX

Oct 18th                       Notre Dame (+24) at Florida State     (BIG underdog Irish)
Oct 18th                       Missouri (+3) at Florida

Oct 24th                       BYU (-3) at Boise State
Oct 25th                       Michigan (+7h) at Michigan State
Oct 25th                       Ohio State (-9) at Penn State

Nov 1st                        Stanford (+10) at Oregon

Nov 8th                        Alabama (-2h) at LSU
Nov 8th                        Ohio State (+1) at Michigan State  (line before QB injury)
Nov 8th                        Iowa at Minnesota (pick’em)
Nov 8th                        Baylor (+11) at Oklahoma

Nov 15th          Nebraska (+7) at Wisconsin

Nov 20th          UNC (-3) at Duke
Nov 22nd         USC (+4h) at UCLA
Nov 22nd         Wisconsin (-6) at Iowa

Nov 28th          Arizona State (-1) at Arizona
Nov 28th          Stanford (+3) at UCLA
Nov 28th          Nebraska (+1) at Iowa
Nov 29th          Notre Dame (+10) at USC
Nov 29th          Florida State (-17) at Florida
Nov 29th          Georgia Tech (+14) at Georgia
Nov 29th          Illinois (+9h) at Northwestern
Nov 29th          Kentucky (+15) at Louisville
Nov 29th          NC State (+20) at North Carolina
Nov 29th          Michigan (+8) at Ohio State   (line before QB injury)
Nov 29th          Oregon (-13) at Oregon State
Nov 29th          South Carolina (-3) at Clemson
Nov 29th          Washington (-4h) at WA State
Nov 29th          Auburn (+6) at Alabama
Nov 29th          Kansas (+25) at KSU
Nov 29th          Nevada (-5) at UNLV

Dec 6th                        Kansas State (+6) at Baylor
Dec 6th                        Okie State (+11) at Oklahoma

Dec 13th          Navy (-13) vs. Army in Philadelphia

COLLEGE PRESEASON POLLS

In June, I calculated the average of the preseason rankings from four different magazines – Lindy’s, Athlon, Sporting News, and Phil Steele.  The averages are summarized in the first column. Listed in the 2nd and 3rd columns are the Preseason Associated Press (sportswriters) and USA Today (coaches) rankings (with #1 votes in parentheses).  “NR” means “not ranked in Top 25”

            (4-magazines combined)                    PRESEASON POLLS
RANK  AVERAGE (Avg. Rank)        Assoc Press    COACHES     COMMENTS

#1        Florida State (1.5)                   1 (57)               1 (56)              
#2        Alabama       (2.5)                   2 (  1)               2 (  0)
#3        Oklahoma     (3.0)                   4 (  1)               3 (  3)              
#4        Oregon          (4.5)                  3 (  1)               4 (  1)              
#5        Ohio State     (5.0)                  5                      6 (  1)               before QB injury
#6        Auburn          (6.25)                 6                      5
#7        UCLA            (7.0)                   7                      7
#8        Baylor           (8.75)                 10                    10
#9        South Carolina (9.5)                9                      9 (  1)
#10      Michigan State (10.25)           8                      8                      Top 10 is all the same teams
#11      Georgia          (10.5)                12                    12
#12      Stanford          (12.75)             11                    11
#13      LSU                 (14.0)               13                    13
#14      USC                (14.25)             15                    15
#15      Wisconsin        (15.25)             14                    14                    Top 15 is all the same teams
#16      Notre Dame    (15.75)             17                    17
#17      Mississippi       (18.0)               18                    19       
#18      Texas              (21.75)             NR                   24                    over 12 players exited program         
#19      Florida             (23.5)               NR                   NR                                                      
#20      Washington     (24.0)               25                    25                                           
#21      Clemson                                  16                    16                                           
#22      Nebraska                                22                    22                                           
#23      Central Florida                        NR                   NR                                          
#24      Arizona State                          19                    18                                           
#25      Kansas State                           20                    21
#26      North Carolina                        23                    23
NR       Texas A&M                             21                    20                                           
NR       Missouri                                   24                    NR

COMMENTS:
The Associated Press and USA Today polls are nearly identical, with the exact same Top 23 teams in a slightly different order (no more than one position difference for any team.  These voters are probably looking at Phil Steele’s magazine and then making their picks.  We’ll see later if the new Grantland Rice Power 16 Poll will provide a dissenting opinion.

There are eight SEC teams and six PAC-12 teams in the AP Top 25, and for the other “Power 5” conferences, only four from the Big 10 and three from the ACC and Big XII (plus independent Notre Dame).  That means there are ZERO non-Power 5 teams in the Preseason Top 25.



COLLEGE STRENGTH OF SCHEDULES (128 FBS teams)

One way to determine strength of schedule is to use last year’s win/loss records as the indicator.  Alternatively, Phil Steele uses his projected “strength of opponents” for this year as the indicator to get a more realistic picture.
(Note: the toughest schedule will be #1, and the easiest schedule will be #128)

To show the flaws in just using last year’s records, let’s compare Oklahoma and Florida International schedules for 2014.  The Sooners would have the #93 toughest schedule (an easy schedule), but they in fact face five road games against Power 5 teams, and face 9 Big XII teams and 1 SEC team (including three teams in the Preseason Top 25).  FIU would have the #18 toughest schedule, but the Golden Panthers face two FCS teams and only two Power 5 teams.  This is obviously a distortion.  Phil Steele tries to be more realistic with his analysis of the 2014 year factored into the strength of schedule numbers.



Following is the “strength of schedule” (SOS) difference between the two methods for these two teams:
                                                                       
RECORDS from
                                                STEELE          LAST YEAR

Oklahoma                               #49                  #93
FIU                                         #90                  #18

Phil Steele has a more extensive analysis, but suffice it to say that his SOS numbers provide more insight into the actual toughness of a team’s opponents for the 2014 regular season.  So I will report Steele’s rankings below.

TOP 10 TOUGHEST SCHEDULES-2014
#1 Notre Dame (including true road games vs. FSU, Arizona State, and USC)
#2 Tennessee
#3 Arkansas
#4 West Virginia
#5 Auburn     (at Kansas State and tough SEC slate)
#6 Iowa State
#7 Virginia
#8 Utah
#9 California
#10 Texas

TOP 10 EASIEST SCHEDULES-2014
#128 Georgia Southern (Sun Belt Conference-SBC)
#127 Texas State        (SBC)
#126 Troy                    (SBC)
#125 Marshall             (Conference USA-CUSA)
#124 Arkansas State  (SBC)
#123 Buffalo               (Mid-American Conference-MAC)
#122 Appalachian State          (SBC)
#121 Northern Illinois              (MAC)
#120 North Texas                   (C-USA)
#119 New Mexico State         (SBC)

AP TOP 25
Florida State    #46
Alabama          #61 (that figures; CFP is going to force a change for Tide)
Oregon            #48
Oklahoma       #49
Ohio State       #36
Auburn            #5
UCLA              #11
Michigan St     #50
South Carolina       #30
Baylor              #57
Stanford          #16
Georgia                 #35
LSU                 #33
Wisconsin        #72      (easiest schedule in Big 10)
USC                #17
Clemson          #34
Notre Dame    #1
Mississippi       #20
Arizona State  #25
Kansas State   #44
Texas A&M     #12
Nebraska        #51
North Carolina #27
Missouri           #31
Washington     #52

EASIEST SCHEDULE FOR A POWER 5 CONFERENCE TEAM
Duke               #79 out of the ACC, not far ahead of Wisconsin

OTHER SELECTED TEAMS
Minnesota       #22
Colorado         #24
Arizona            #29
Illinois              #38
TCU                #40
Wyoming         #59
Boise State      #65
Iowa                #70      (very favorable schedule, no excuses Hawk fans)
BYU                #73
UTSA              #92
San Diego St   #94
Colorado State      #113

LAST YEAR - 2013 TOUGHNESS OF SCHEDULES (125 teams)
Just for a bit a hindsight, Phil Steele goes back to the prior year and analyzes the toughness of each team’s schedule after the games have been played and using actual results.  Following are the teams that faced the toughest schedules during the 2013 regular season.

TOP 10 TOUGHEST
#1 Florida
#2 Mississippi State
#3 California
#4 TCU
#5 Georgia
#6 Tennessee
#7 Arizona State
#8 Washington State
#9 Iowa State  (perennially in the Top 10)
#10 Colorado
AND SOME SELECTED OTHERS:
#17 Notre Dame
#21 Arizona
#23 USC
#24 UCLA
#33 Illinois
#38 Alabama
#41 Oklahoma
#46 BYU
#50 Iowa
#63 Oregon
#64 Wisconsin
#67 Nebraska
#69 Florida State “easy” road to National Title
#72 Ohio State
#84 Duke
#99 Wyoming
#102 Colorado State
#115 Louisville
#118 Marshall
#125 Northern Illinois

COLLEGE MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS TO START THE SEASON

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller is out for year after re-injuring his throwing shoulder (without contact).  He had surgery on that shoulder in February and was presumably making progress toward playing the whole regular season.  The Buckeyes Top 5 preseason ranking is in serious jeopardy.  J.T. Barrett, a red-shirt freshman, is slated to take over for Miller (if not redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones).
After the injury, Ohio State’s odds for winning the National Title went from about 10-to-1 to 40-to-1, and odds to win the Big 10 Conference ballooned from about 1-to-1 to 9-to-2, with Michigan State and Wisconsin becoming the “favorites”.

The AIRBHG (“Angry Iowa RB Hating God”) has struck again in Iowa City.  Starting Iowa fullback Adam Cox is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Former USC QB Max Wittek decided to leave the Trojans last year, and appeared to be headed for the University of Hawaii football team.  But it turns out he will not graduate from USC until December, so he will be ineligible to transfer to another FBS school and play this year.  This situation is on hold.

POWER 5 CONFERENCE SCHEDULES
The SEC and ACC and Big 10 play only EIGHT games within their respective conferences for 2014.  The Big 10 is set up to increase that to nine for the 2016 season.
The Big XII and PAC-12 have a NINE-game conference schedule for the current season.

The Big XII does not have a conference title game, since there are only 10 schools competing and each team faces the other nine teams during the regular season.  If there is a tie at the top and it cannot be broken by head-to-head or in-conference records, the 13-member CFP selection committee will break that tie.  This would not be for the purposes of determining the four playoff teams, but to determine which team would represent the Big XII in its conference championship bowl game against an SEC team.  We’ll look at this more toward the end of the regular season

CFP VOTING
The 13-member selection committee for the College Football Playoff voting has plenty of rules.  One such rule drawing attention is the RECUSAL Rule, which forces certain voting members of the committee to leave the room when the team with which they are “closely associated” is being discussed.  For example, Tom Osborne will be recused when talk turns to Nebraska, because he was previously the head coach and athletic director for the school.
If you would like to entertain yourself with the detailed protocol, go to www.collegefootball playoffs.com/selection-committee-protocol .
One thing seems clear: all members of the committee have been asked individually to check their allegiances at the door, and if someone gets a little off track, they will be quickly put back on track by another committee member.

Note that the committee has plenty of other duties besides selecting the four playoff teams for the year.
I’ll try to follow this process during the year, but their first official “preliminary” results won’t be released until October 28th.

FFHL RESULTS FOR 2013

KID RUST won in the 2013 Fantastic Bowl over MIGHTY DUCK to earn last year’s FFHL Championship.  THE ROUNDERS went 5-1-1 ATS in the Consolation Bowl and ended up getting 2nd place, since Mighty Duck didn’t “validate” in the final week.
For the non-playoff teams, KRAUT went 5-2 ATS and won the BFD Bowl.

THE ROUNDERS also won top prize in The Deuce (FFHL2) with 190.5 points, followed by 2nd place YO MAMA (172.0), 3rd place WILD MAN (152.5), and 4th place 1-800-OPPOSITE (150.5).  Fifth-place TOMMY BOY missed the money by one point with 149.5 points for the year, and was followed closely by MIGHTY DUCK (147.5), HAWKEYE (146.5), and KRAUT (145.5).

THE ROUNDERS captured the overall money winnings, including accumulating the most weekly money.


FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTIONS

QUESTION #1:  Nick O’Leary is a senior tight end for Florida State.  He is the grandson of a famous former athlete in another sport.  Can you name the grandfather?
HINT:  He lives in Florida, and he was one of the all-time greatest in his sport.
QUESTION #2:  Name the last non-Power 5 conference team (excluding Notre Dame) to win an NCAA national title (per Associated Press Poll and/or BCS system)
BONUS: Name the year, and the starting QB.

QUESTION #3:  Which of the 128 FBS teams are ineligible to participate in a bowl game for the 2014 season?
HINT:  To the extent that I know the answer, I believe there are five schools not eligible for the 2014 postseason.




ANSWER #1:
Jack Nicklaus

ANSWER #2:
BYU in 1984, with QB Robbie Bosco.
The Cougars beat Michigan 24-17 in the 1984 (season) Holiday Bowl, overcoming a 17-10 fourth quarter deficit to win the national title, finishing #1 in both the AP and Coaches Polls (no BCS system back then).

Mountain West Conference member TCU went 13-0 in 2010, but didn’t get picked for the BCS Title game, so didn’t win the NCAA title.
Mountain West Conference member Utah went 13-0 in 2008, but didn’t get picked for the BCS Title game, so didn’t win the NCAA title.

BYU QB Bosco led his Cougars in 1984 and 1985, taking over for former QB Steve Young.  Bosco got 3rd place in the Heisman Trophy voting, and was a 3rd round pick in the 1986 NFL Draft by Green Bay.  He was with the Packers for two years, but a shoulder injury ended his career.

ANSWER #3:
Here is the answer to the best of my knowledge.
Penn State is still serving a 4-year bowl ban based on the Jerry Sandusky debacle.
Idaho is ineligible due to low academic achievement by players at the school from 2009-2012.
Three schools are still in transition from FCS to FBS and hence not eligible, namely Old Dominion, Georgia Southern, and Appalachian State.

UNLV had originally been ruled ineligible due to their low Academic Performance Rating scores, but a recalculation (possibly done by one of the smarter football players) got them back in good standing with the NCAA.
UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) became a full-fledged FBS member for 2014, and is therefore eligible for bowl game consideration.  The Roadrunner’s first-ever football season was in 2011 as an FCS member.  After that, they spent the 2012 and 2013 as transitional members of the FBS, not eligible for the postseason.  The team is coached by former BCS Title winner Larry Coker (then coach of Miami of Florida), and will compete in the Conference USA this year.

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