Friday, September 30, 2011

Week five: College football predictions

Last week: 9-1
Season record: 40-10 (.800)

Texas Tech over Kansas. The Las Vegas bettors must know something I don't as the line here is only Tech by seven. Given how porous Kansas' defense was against Georgia Tech, it's hard to understand how Tech's offense won't light up KU. It's a huge understatement to say this is a pivotal game for KU--they're at home against an opponent who, at least before the season, seemed to be a possible "W." After this, the Jayhawks must journey to Oklahoma State and then play Oklahoma--a 2-4 record headed into the Kansas State game on October 22. Tech by 14.

Baylor over Kansas State. Who knew that the game of the week in the Big 12 this weekend would be the undefeated Baylor Bears versus Kansas State, fresh off their road upset of Miami. Baylor's offense, which has scored 154 points in three games, will be a huge test of KSU's D--the Bears are explosive and can score quickly. Conversely, they gave up 31 points to Rice in their last game. This will be a close one--Baylor by 4 on a late RGIII touchdown.

Iowa State over Texas. Here's your upset special of the week. This game is in Ames, Iowa State has been a surprise, and Texas could be looking ahead to OU next week. Plus, Texas was impressive in their last game over UCLA but still is a team looking to find itself a bit. Iowa State by three.

Texas A&M over Arkansas. This inter-conference game in Arlington previews a future SEC conference match-up. Both teams are coming off hard losses--Arkansas against Alabama and A&M against Oklahoma State, a game where they blew a huge lead at home. Arkansas, like OSU, can put up big numbers through the air but I suspect that A&M will bounce back with a four-point win.

Oklahoma over Ball State. The line is 37.5. I'd still take OU to cover the spread. Oklahoma by 38 in Norman.

Notre Dame over Purdue. The Irish win again against the Boilermakers--Notre Dame by 13.

Wisconsin over Nebraska. It's Nebraska's first conference game in the Big Ten and you'd better like the color red if you happen to be in Madison. It's the #7 Badgers versus the #8 Cornhuskers and, for NU, it's the chance to win a big game--something which hasn't happened much under Bo Pellini. For Wisconsin, it's an opportunity to stake their claim as the favorite to win the league. Wiscy by three.

TCU over SMU. Old Southwest Conference rivals do battle with rumors swirling that TCU may truly be a Big 12 expansion target, even though SMU is the school which has said "invite us and we'll come." TCU continues its recent dominance in this series with a 14 point win.

Navy over Air Force.
Could these teams be headed to the Big East? That's another of the latest conference realignment rumors. Navy by three.

Ohio State over Michigan State. All the attention in the Big 10 will be focused on Nebraska-Wisconsin but this should be an interesting game as well. Ohio State by four.

Utah over Washington. Utah is hosting a Pac 12 game for the first time. The Utes will win this one by 10.

Game of the week--Alabama over Florida. Florida got whipped last year in Tuscaloosa and you can bet that Will Muschamp has reminded the Gators of that game all week. The sexy pick here is Florida but I'll go with Nick Saban over Muschamp's debut in this rivalry--Alabama by a touchdown.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Football rivalries and realignment

In an interesting twist of irony today, a front page Sports section headline from USA Today read "Emmert: Conference drama embarrassing." The story quoted NCAA president Mark Emmert who took to task 100 plus athletics directors who have gathered for meetings in suburban Dallas.

Next to the article was USA Today's regular "snapshots" feature, which today listed out the "most played Football Bowl Subdivision rivalries." Minnesota and Wisconsin have the most played rivalry, at 120 games, followed closely by Kansas-Missouri at 119, Kansas-Nebraska at 117, Texas-Texas A&M at 117, and North Carolina-Virginia at 116.

The irony, of course, is that the Kansas-Nebraska rivalry is no more, given NU's flight to the Big Ten, and the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry will likely go away as well due to A&M's acceptance into the SEC. Should Missouri follow A&M into the SEC, that would also likely stop the KU-MU "border war."

Seeing long-standing rivalries being tossed aside is, indeed, "embarrassing."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Layups, first downs and penalty flags

- Layup: Bill Self had to be squirming in his seat yesterday as the defensive-minded Kansas head coach saw little "D" on the floor at the Legends of the Phog game. The contest, in front of a standing-room only capacity crowd in Allen Fieldhouse, featured highlight reel dunks, Globetrotter-esque passes, and appearances by guys named Pierce, Chalmers, Rush, Collison, Valentine and others. The atmosphere was electric and the outcome perfect after Pierce and Chalmers made late threes to end the game in a 111-111 tie. As Self said in his pre-game address to the crowd, "Only at Kansas."

- First down: Robert Griffin III, Baylor's all-everything QB, is having a season which is the stuff of which legends are made. RGIII threw five touchdown passes against Rice and now has more TD passes this season than he does incompletions.

- Penalty flag: Minnesota pulled a Kansas yesterday--they were upset by North Dakota State. The Gophers fell, at home, to the same NDSU team who ruined KU's home opener last season.

- Layup: Speaking of Baylor, The Sporting News' preseason college basketball magazine has the Bears as the favorite to win the Big 12 followed by Kansas and Missouri.

- First down: I can't help but laugh at Direct TV's commercial featuring Deion Sanders where Deion, as the small football angel, says "slow your roll, baby" to the woman who thinks he's cute.

- Penalty flag: It was the "Hot Seat Bowl" and Mark Richt of Georgia beat fellow, much-criticized coach Houston Nutt of Mississippi. One has to believe that Nutt will be gone after this season and Richt may be there with him. Ole Miss is currently 1-3 and Georgia 2-2.

- Penalty flag: The uniqueness has worn off of Maryland's multi-uniform look. The Terps dropped their second straight game yesterday in a 38-7 rout at the hands of--get this--Temple.

- First down: And, on that note, Temple's Bernard Pierce had five TDs and 149 yards in the Owls' win.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Top college tailgates

Not only does the SEC know how to play football but, if you believe a magazine titled Tailgater Monthly, the conference schools also know how to party before, during and after the game.

SEC schools dominated the top 20 list of best tailgating venues. Tailgater Monthly had these nuggets for each experience:

1. Ole Miss: The Grove has been described as the "Holy Grail of Tailgating."

2. Florida: The stadium, the "Gator Chomp," and "it's Florida."

3. Clemson: "...located in the nation's barbecue belt." (Huh? Did the author ever visit Kansas City?)

4. Washington: "...much of the Husky tailgating scene takes place on water" given the stadium's proximity to Lake Husky.

5. Ohio State: "The tailgating scene is a sight to behold..."

6. Tennessee: "One part tailgating on water, one part smoky barbecue pit, and one part Southern hospitality."

7. LSU: "Night games at LSU rival the insanity that is common to Oakland Raider games."

8. Notre Dame: "Tailgating is a family event."

9. Auburn: " take tremendous pride in the Auburn experience."

10. Oregon: "Remember to bring your rain gear when you come to Eugene..."

11. Alabama: "Pork practically the official food of Alabama."

12. Wisconsin: "Students and fans...don't tailgate as much as they front door-gate" given the proximity of Badger Stadium to the campus.

13. Texas: One of the friendliest tailgating venues, those in burnt orange often offer a beer and food to fans from opposing schools.

14. Arkansas: " Arkansas home game is a special experience."

15. Oklahoma: "No foie gras here. Just steaks, ribs, burgers, dogs, beer and a heck of a good time..."

16. Michigan: A diverse scene, from the "socioeconomic background of the fans to the physical terrain where they tailgate."

17. Colorado: "Part old west ruffian outpost, part granola munching hippie enclave..."

18. Penn State: The tailgating scene here is so "over the top" that school officials have banned the consumption of alcohol after kickoff.

19. Georgia: "Girls look damn good in red and black and tens of thousands of them are all over town on game day."

20. UCLA: The Rose Bowl--nuf sed...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week four: College football predictions

Last week: 15-3
Season record: 31-9 (.775)

Kansas Jayhawks fans can breathe easy--KU has a "bye" week this weekend, so let's focus on the rest of the Big 12 and other key games across the country.

Oklahoma over Missouri: Missouri has not won in Norman since 1966. Oklahoma lost last year in Columbia. OU showed poise and confidence in pulling away from Florida State late in last week's 10 point win in Tallahassee. A MU win would be huge. It's not going to happen--OU by 18.

Miami over Kansas State: Another team coming off of a big win is Miami, 24-6 winners last week over Ohio State. Jacory Harris is back at QB for the Canes and the U's line, on both sides of the ball, will be too much for KSU. Miami by 17.

Game of the Day--Oklahoma State over Texas A&M: A&M is the home favorite in this battle of high-powered offense (Cowboys) versus stingy defense (Aggies.) OSU must establish enough of a run threat to open up their passing game, which is averaging 408 yards per game. Oklahoma State by two.

Baylor over Rice: It's an old Southwest Conference match-up but Rice will be no match for this newly revitalized Baylor program. The line is 20.5 but it'll be worse than that as Robert Griffin III continues his Heisman campaign--Baylor by 25.

Texas Tech over Nevada: Seth Doege completed 40 of 44 passes last week for Texas Tech, reminscent of Mike Leach's offenses in Lubbock. This one could get ugly--Tech by 21.

LSU over West Virginia: This could be a really interesting game. LSU travels to West Virginia to face a team they only beat by six last year in Baton Rouge. This will be a low-scoring game with LSU prevailing six.

Clemson over Florida State: Don't underestimate how important last week's game against OU was to Florida State. It was a tough loss and Clemson, conversely, beat the defending national champion, Auburn, at home. Clemson's playing with confidence; Florida State's confidence is fragile. Clemson by three.

Notre Dame over Pittsburgh: The Irish beat up on their Big East basketball brethren. Oh wait, Pitt is leaving the Big East in hoops too? Notre Dame by 10.

Arizona State over USC: How good is Arizona State? The jury's still out after last week's loss to Illinois. The Sun Devils will win at home by six.

Alabama over Arkansas: Roll, Tide, home by 10 over Arkansas. Is Alabama on course to face Oklahoma in the national title game?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The geography of realignment

Four, maybe five, super conferences; major television markets equating to major network deals; bringing together the best which thus stimulates new rivalries and enhances traditional ones. These are some of the reasons being floated for the crazed college athletics realignment world in which we live.

Rarely has the word "geography" or even "proximity" been used in what we've seen publicly. Let's take a look, shall we, at just how expansive some of these conferences will become if realignment becomes a reality.


The name of this conference, by the way, is the "Atlantic Coast Conference." That league will now feature Pittsburgh, from the hill country of Pennsylvania, which is roughly 380 miles from the Atlantic seaboard. The new league, with the addition of Syracuse and Pitt, will cover 10 states and a distance of 1,750 miles, north to south--the approximate mileage from Syracuse, N.Y. to Miami, FL. The good news? All of the schools are in the eastern time zone.

Big Ten

The Big Ten seems content--at least for now--to remain at 12 teams. (Don't even get me started on conference branding and the numbering system.) The granddaddy of all conferences covers nine states, two time zones, and a 1,230 mile trip from Lincoln, NE to State College, PA.

Pac 12

Let's make the leap that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech are headed to the Pac 12. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see the wackiness of any Texas school aligned with a conference that has the word "Pacific" in its naming convention. This expanded group of schools covers eight states but spread over three time zones. And, look out for that Austin, TX to Seattle, WA trip--that journey totes up to about 2,500 miles!


The new member in the SEC will be Texas A&M, if legal issues are worked out. That means that the conference will encompass 10 states and two time zones. The trip to avoid is from Lexington, KY to College Station, TX--about 1,060 miles.

Big 12/Big East

The runt of the realignment litter is the discussion about mashing-up Big 12 leftovers with remaining Big East football schools. For the sake of discussion, let's consider the league of Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, TCU and West Virginia. (This assumes that Connecticut and Rutgers will eventually defect to the ACC, following Syracuse and Pitt.) That's eight states, two time zones and a 1,425 mile trip from Ames, IA to Tampa, FL.

What's it all mean? Not much as little to no consideration seems to be given to travel schedules for student-athletes or the former convenience for fans to drive to away games. Who's surprised? Nothing has seemed logical over these past several days of long-standing conference relationships being blown up and long-time rivalries being cavalierly dismissed. As I keep thinking, it's sad...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Conference realignment--what Kansas and Missouri should do next

If ever there was a time for two bitter rivals to come together for the greater good, it's now. The University of Kansas and the University of Missouri are on the precipice of being left behind in the Armageddon which is conference realignment--or in a conference they don't desire--if they don't act together now by approaching the Big Ten and emphasizing the following:

- "We can deliver you--the Big Ten--the market of Kansas City and this community's avidity for college sports. And, by the way, we also have the facilities (Arrowhead, Sprint Center, historic Municipal Auditorium) and infrastructure which know how to host Mens and Womens post-season conference basketball tournaments, post-season football championships and in-season neutral site games. (Please note--you need Kansas as part of this package deal in order to deliver highly rated viewership in the Kansas City market. There are many more Kansas alums living in Kansas City than Missouri alums.)
- We (Missouri) can deliver the St. Louis market.
- We offer you the longest-running football rivalry west of the Mississippi.
- We offer you the most tradition-rich basketball program in the country, thus improving the overall status and power rating of the league's basketball.
- We offer you two excellent academic institutions, both of whom are in the Association of American Universities and at no risk of being booted out. (See Nebraska, who lost their AAU status this past year.)
- We offer you geographic proximity to your other member institutions.
- We offer you the chance to easily expand to 16 teams, thus matching your rivals in the ACC and Pac 12 who are recruiting schools as we speak. Make your sweetheart deal with Notre Dame, bring us on, then select someone else who is deserving. (By the way, we strongly suggest you look no further than Iowa State, another member of the AAU, who has a spirited rivalry with Iowa, another Big Ten school.)"

Rivals make for strange bedfellows but, if KU and MU don't partner on this, we likely will see KU in a cobbled together conference which includes Big 12 castoffs coupled with the remaining Big East schools, and Missouri will go to the SEC where they'll be in a conference where their football program becomes mid-tier and the academics don't rival those of the Big Ten.

Brady Deaton, Bernadette Gray-Little, Mike Alden and Sheahon Zenger need to have Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney on a conference call as soon as possible, if it hasn't happened already.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Greatest college football teams ever

The latest issue of The Sporting News has a distinguished panel of writers, players and coaches who have selected the ten best college football teams ever. The old Big Eight conference--or, at least, two of the eight--is well represented.

The 1971 Nebraska team was chosen as the best ever. That was the team who waged the epic "best game ever" with Oklahoma for conference supremacy, then whipped number two Alabama by 32 in the Orange Bowl. The Big Eight that year finished nationally at one-two-three--Nebraska ranked first, followed by Oklahoma and Colorado.

The 1974 Oklahoma Sooners were ranked third on the list followed by the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers in fourth. Bud Wilkinson's 1956 Oklahoma Sooners were rated fifth.

The top ten list is:

1. Nebraska - 1971
2. USC - 1972
3. Oklahoma - 1974
4. Nebraska - 1995
5. Oklahoma - 1956
6. Ohio State - 1968
7. Army - 1945
8. Alabama - 1961
9. Miami - 2001
10. Miami - 1987

The '71 Cornhusker team was dominant--they averaged 39 points per game while allowing only eight.

College football: Week three predictions

Last week: 9-2
Season record: 18-6

Tonight/UConn over Iowa State. Look who’s at the top of the Big 12 standings—Iowa State! The Cyclones are 2-0 and are coming off an emotional win over in-state rival Iowa. Iowa State will face a UConn team which beat Fordham at home before losing by three last week at Vanderbilt. It’ll be close but UConn will win by a late field goal.

Georgia Tech over Kansas. Georgia Tech wants revenge for last season’s loss in Lawrence. Kansas wants to silence those who still doubt, even though the Jayhawks are 2-0. KU must find some way to shore up a defense which is giving up 33 points a game, 96th in the country. Both teams like to run the ball—Tech is third in rushing yards nationally and Kansas is tenth. Key stat: When James Sims rushes for 100 yards, Kansas wins. The line is 15 but I think it’ll be closer—Tech by 8.

Kansas State over Kent State. K-State has had two weeks to stew about their less-than-upbeat performance in a 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky in the opener. They’ll be facing an 0-2 Kent State team on Saturday before going on the road to Miami. In a “fixer-upper” game, KSU wins big by 17.

Missouri over Western Illinois. MU lost the battle in the desert against Arizona State last week but QB James Franklin found loads of confidence in leading a late Missouri comeback. MU by 21.

Oklahoma State over Tulsa. How good is OSU’s offense? The Cowboys are second in passing yards nationally and eighth in points per game. Tulsa will be no match—OSU by 17.

Texas over UCLA. Last year, Texas was 3-0 and ranked seventh entering the game with UCLA. The Longhorns lost and went 2-7 over the rest of the season. This year, Texas re-enters the top 25 after starting 2-0 but will face UCLA with a new starting QB (Case McCoy in place of Garrett Gilbert) and starting tailback (Malcolm Brown over Fozzy Whitaker.) McCoy will share time with David Ash but will play the majority of the minutes. Texas revenges last year’s loss in a close game—UT by three.

Texas A&M over Idaho. Pick a score number. A&M by 35? Sounds good…

Texas Tech over New Mexico. Almost as bad but not quite as big a margin—Tech by 21.

BYU over Utah. These two rivals will slug it out after tough losses—BYU by one to Texas and Utah by nine to Pac 12 foe USC. BYU is at home and will win by four.

Clemson over Auburn. Auburn’s bubble finally bursts—after finding ways to win over Utah State and Mississippi State, the Tigers come back to reality with a four point loss to Clemson.

Colorado over Colorado State. Colorado may be flinging the ball all over the field (ranked 11th in passing yardage) but the Buffs are still 0-2. Colorado State is 2-0 and has only allowed 12 points per game. CU wins by seven in this rivalry game in Denver.

Florida over Tennessee. It’s been six years since Tennessee has beaten Florida. And, you can now make it seven. Florida by eight.

Maryland over West Virginia. What wacky uniform combo will Maryland unveil tomorrow? In one of the better games of the day, West Virginia will win by two.

Notre Dame over Michigan State. After last week's sensational finish in Ann Arbor, the Golden Domers take on that "other" Michigan team. ND's fortunes will change with their first win of the season--a touchdown margin over Michigan State.

Miami over Ohio State. This is the game which provides all sort of comedic fodder for the travails of college football this past off-season--"Little Luke" and his escapades versus "Tattoo-gate." Jacory Harris returns to lead the Hurricanes at quarterback--Miami by three.

Game of the Day: Oklahoma over Florida State. Maybe this game will help everyone remember that Oklahoma still plays football. Of late, the reason for watching OU is to see what the school's administration decides--stay in the Big 12 or head west to the Pac 12? Number one versus number five. The biggest game in Tallassee in years. Last year, OU won by 30 over FSU--revenge the loss, win this game, and the 'Noles are in the thick of national championship talk. OU by four.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Things that make you go "hmm..."

In today's "things that make you go 'hmm...'" department, we have the topic of conference realignment--the news item which has been dominating sports pages and radio talk shows for the past several weeks.

So, our "things that make you go 'hmm...'"

- Have you heard the term "student athlete" used in any of the discussions? Aren't they the ones playing the sports which will be affected by conference affiliations?

- Out of close to 500 players on rosters of Texas schools in the Big 12, over 400 are from the state of Texas. With dissolution of the conference, those players will end up playing the majority of their games in front of fans outside of the state of Texas.

- Why is it that arguments like "more travel days" and "too much time away from class" are used as reasons why there isn't a national championship "tournament" in college football, yet you never hear those concerns voiced about conference alignments where University of Kansas players might travel to Syracuse, N.Y. (if the Jayhawks end up in the Big East) or Missouri footballers would journey to Gainesville, FL (if MU would end up in the SEC?) Geographic proximity, with current conference alignments, does reduce travel...right?

- Did I miss the phone call or mail survey asking my opinion on the matter? After all, I have been a season ticketholder at Kansas for a long, long time and contribute to the University's Williams Educational Fund. Just like the above point on student athletes, I've noticed little acknowledgment about the role of the fans.

- Does tradition matter? If Kansas and Missouri go to separate conferences, the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi will likely end. The oldest continuous football series (Kansas-Nebraska) in the west has already been stopped with NU's departure to the Big Ten.

- And finally, it's long been said that "sports are the front porch of the University." No where is that more true than at Kansas State, who saw interest in the school and resulting enrollment increase once the Wildcats achieved success in football and became more of a national brand. If KSU does not end up in a BCS conference--a distinct possibility--then the resulting enrollment, and giving, will decline. There has been little public acknowledgment, by those making the comments, about the impact of conference realignment beyond what happens in the stadiums and arenas across the country.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

College football: Week two predictions

Last week: 9-4

Tonight/Oklahoma State over Arizona. Oklahoma State will continue to put up huge numbers but is facing a QB who isn’t too shabby—Nick Foles. Foles threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns against Northern Arizona in week one but will face an OSU defense whose starting lineup only allowed two field goals last week. OSU, at home, by 17.

Friday/Arizona State over Missouri. The last time MU played in Tempe, they lost to Iowa in the 2010 Insight Bowl. On Friday, the Tigers will face another tough test in this Phoenix suburb, particularly given the late (9:30 CDT) start and Friday night date. Both teams are banged up—Arizona has already lost three starters to season-ending injuries and Missouri will play without DE Jacquies Smith and LB Will Ebner, among others. Arizona State by four.

Kansas over Northern Illinois. Make no mistake—this is a good Northern Illinois team. NIU won 11 games last season and is favored to win the MAC which is why they are six point favorites over a team which is still suspect, even though the Jayhawks had impressive moments last week against McNeese State. Kansas must shore up its issues on defense—the Jayhawks did not force a turnover last week, had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, and routinely over-pursued. Look for KU to work, once again, to establish the run and thus control time of possession. I’m being an optimist and going with KU by three in this one.

Iowa over Iowa State. It’s the annual state rivalry game and once again the Hawkeyes are favored. This game, in Ames, will be closer than expected. Look for Iowa to win by a touchdown.

Texas over BYU. This should be one of the better games of the day. The win over Rice unveiled a new look Texas offense but this week’s opponent is much stronger, thus given head coach Mack Brown a better understanding as to his team’s progress. BYU will be looking to knock off a second straight BCS conference opponent after last week’s 14-13 win at Mississippi. Surprisingly, UT is 0-2 all-time versus BYU but should get its first series victory on Saturday—Texas by 10.

Cal over Colorado. Colorado was not impressive in its opening loss to Hawaii last week and now must visit California, one of the Buffs’ new Pac-12 brethren. Cal by six.

Notre Dame over Michigan. A six-hour home game loss, a starting QB who’s been benched—it’s not been a good week for Notre Dame. So, a trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan, who won 34-10 last week over Western Michigan, may not be what the doctor ordered. I suspect that ND will bounce back and, in a close one, prevail by a field goal.

Auburn over Mississippi State. Mississippi State is a rising program in the SEC. Auburn survived week one against Utah State. Auburn looks for a fourth straight victory over the Bulldogs, ranked 16th in the country. Win in Auburn and Mississippi State establishes itself as a legitimate SEC contender. It won’t happen—Auburn by three.

South Carolina over Georgia. Could Mark Richt’s seat get any hotter? After an opening game loss to Boise State, the Bulldogs must turn around and play SEC foe South Carolina. Georgia has won seven of the last eight from SC but won’t make it eight of nine—Carolina wins by four in Athens.

USC over Utah. Welcome to the Pac-12, Utah. The Utes journey to the Los Angeles Coliseum to do battle with the Men of Troy. USC by 10.

Game of the week: Alabama over Penn State. It’s a classic inter-sectional matchup—Paterno versus Saban, Big Ten against SEC—and it’s a rivalry which hasn’t been played since 1990. Penn State will have home field advantage; Alabama will get the victory. Crimson Tide by 10.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quote of the week

Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, said this to the St. Petersburg Times on the death of Lee Roy Selmon, Hall of Fame defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this past week: "He didn't play at Miami or Florida. He was from Oklahoma and he came to Tampa and played nine years and they named an expressway after him. That's all you need to know about Lee Roy Selmon."

Monday, September 5, 2011

If it's good enough for Oregon...

Don't look now but other schools are emulating the multiple uniform combinations look of the University of Oregon. The Ducks' variety of uniforms has been building over the past 15 years in the school's long history with Nike and it culminated with Oregon's national championship game appearance versus Auburn. Ironically, Oregon played a school--Auburn--who has done little, if anything, to its traditional uniform look over the past few decades. Auburn, like Penn State, USC, Oklahoma and Nebraska, has eschewed the changed uni look in favor of taking a more traditional approach to outfitting its football team.

Now that Oregon has successfully pulled off the multi-uniform approach, other schools are following suit as are other uniform and equipment providers. This year, Oklahoma State--another Nike school--has adopted the multiple helmet, jersey and pants look as have Arizona State, Wyoming and Washington State. Not to be outdone, Maryland has copied the approach with Under Armour as has South Carolina. And, Adidas is doing the same for North Carolina State.

Rob Mullens, Oregon's athletics director, said this of the school's branding effort, "We used to be ridiculed for being out there, but now you look across college football and it's the trend."

(Source: Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

For love of the game

Yesterday, for the 51st year, by my count, I journeyed to my favorite college town in America--Lawrence, KS--to take in the opening of the college football season at my alma mater, the University of Kansas.

To be a football fan at Kansas is, well, hard to explain...or justify. We Kansans have reveled in the glory of some of the best to ever play the game--Gallopin' Gale Sayers; John Hadl, who was an All-American both as a running back and then as a quarterback; John Riggins, the middle brother of the wild Riggins clan; Nolan Cromwell, the best athlete I ever saw, who came to Lawrence from tiny Ransom, KS; and more recently, Touchdown Todd Reesing, the small kid nobody recruited, from Austin, TX, who only walked away as the most prolific quarterback in the school's history and the engineer of the most unlikely season in KU history, which was capped by a BCS bowl victory in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

We Kansas fans have also suffered through more than our fair share of ignominy. We've had the messy exit of Mark Mangino; the 39-year losing streak to Nebraska; a loss in the 1968 Orange Bowl due to having 12 men on the field on the final, clinching play; and years when we put an embarrassing product on the field and lost to teams such as North Dakota State, San Diego State, Kent State and other "directional" schools.

Yet, yesterday, just like I've done for all these years, I put on my crimson-and-blue gear, loaded the car with tailgate supplies, and set off for "the Hill," four hours ahead of game time.

I owe this love of the college game to the man who first took me over to KU those many years ago--my father. And, it was my dad who I called this afternoon so that he would have my eye-witness report on how the team looked.

My Dad is grayed, stooped, and battling a variety of health concerns. The topic of college football in the fall, and basketball in the winter, is just the antidote, though, to cheer him up. He had to quiz me about the young Jayhawk running backs, and, of course, regale me with how that 1961 backfield of Hadl, Curtis McClinton, Doyle Schick, and Bert Coan was "the best I've ever seen;" lament that the radio broadcast missed one of the touchdowns due to a commercial; and ask "what are we going to do about that defense?"

When I, with Dad and Mom, would drive the 45 miles to Lawrence, we'd park on a side street, unfold our old lawn chairs, and eat the sandwiches Mom had made--our 1960s version of a tailgate. The four-block walk to the stadium would be over brick-lined sidewalks and through fallen leaves of orange and brown. As we got closer to the stadium, students would be hawking game day mums for the ladies and pennants and caps for kids like me.

The stadium experience is far different now. There are big screen scoreboards in high definition. Hospitality tents dot the Hill which formerly, back in the day, was packed with those vying for a view of the game, but without paying for a ticket. I don't park on a side street anymore--I join the regulars in Lot 50 as a parking pass is now part of the price of season ticket admission.

What stays the same is the love of a fall Saturday in a beautiful college town, watching a sport played by young men wearing the colors of my school. My father exposed me to this game, explained the "X's and O's," and, most importantly, taught me what it means to be a fan. You see, in his eyes, a true fan is one who is always there--not only for the glory years of Reesing, Hadl and Riggins, but also for the years where success was measured by beating Kansas State and/or Missouri and hoping for off-season success in recruiting.

I will be forever grateful to my Dad for sharing his passion for this game with me. The sport is tarnished with the various off-field scandals and conference realignment talk dominating the sports pages but one thing remains constant--when they play between the lines, those representing our schools are galvanizing alumni and fans and giving us all hope for a taste of something special...and a chance to remember our own "best backfield we ever saw."

Touchdowns, first downs and penalty flags

Week one is in the books and I went 9-4 on my predictions for the week. Here are our award winners for opening weekend.

Touchdown: Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB, engineered a huge lead in Friday night's Baylor win over TCU only to see the Bears fall behind late on a Griffin fumble and TCU score. Griffin returned to the field and engineered a drive which culminated with a Baylor field goal. This was a huge win for Baylor's confidence and hopes for a second straight bowl season.

Penalty flag: Notre Dame not only endured a game which took almost six hours to complete, due to weather delays, but they also laid an egg in their 20-23 home opener loss to South Florida.

First down: Luke Fickell made his debut as interim head coach of Ohio State and the Buckeyes shut out Akron, 42-0.

Touchdown: Let's give it up to the Rice band who, at halftime, performed in a "$-E-C" formation during the Owls' game with Texas. Thank goodness someone is making fun of all this conference realignment hysteria.

Penalty flag: Let's throw the flag on University of Oklahoma president David Boren who publicly came out and signaled that OU had multiple options when it came to conference affiliation. Is there some reason why University presidents and some Athletics Directors feel compelled to play out this mini-drama in public? In OU's case, Boren's comments were the opposite of the solidarity remarks previously offered up by Joe Castiglione, OU's A.D.

First down: Kansas proved that all of the off-season talk about running the ball wasn't a smoke screen. The Jayhawks employed four young backs--a sophomore and three freshmen--to gain 301 yards in 55 attempts against McNeese State.

Touchdown: Suspensions? What suspensions!? LSU ran away from Oregon in Arlington, TX, 40-27, last night and clearly established themselves as a national title contender.

Penalty flag: Missouri's colors are Old Gold and Black. Why then can't the school and Nike make a uniform that is just that--uniform--in its use of the proper gold? The gold in the helmet's "M" and on the jersey is correct but the yellowy mustard color of the pants is not.

First downs: Missouri's defense; Kellen Moore, Boise State QB; Matt Barkley, USC QB; Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State QB; Landry Jones, Oklahoma QB; and Auburn's kicking game.

Penalty flags: The weather, which disrupted games in South Bend, Ann Arbor and Lawrence, among others; Ol' Miss and Georgia, the only losers in the SEC's opening games; and Kansas State's offense, which committed five turnovers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

40 reasons why we like college football

1. Between the hedges. Games played at Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia are said to be played "Between the Hedges" due to the hedges, which stand around the field. Other schools in the south have followed suit.

2. Ohio. The Ohio State band marches out a script “Ohio” prior to all OSU homes games. The honor of dotting the “i” goes to a Ohio State tuba player.

3. Play Like A Champion Today. The sign leading out of Notre Dame’s locker room was prominently featured in the movie “Rudy.”

4. Death Valley at night. LSU’s home field is a scary place to play at any time of day but, at night, there is something extra special about the Tigers’ roar.

5. The rock at Clemson. In the early 1960s, the rock was given to then head coach Frank Howard by a friend, Samuel Columbus Jones (Clemson Class of 1919). It was presented to Howard by Jones, saying "Here's a rock from Death Valley, California, to Death Valley, South Carolina." Howard didn't think anything else about the rock and it was used as a door stop in his office for several years. In September 1966, while cleaning out his office, Howard noticed the rock and told an associate, "Take this rock and throw it over the fence or out in the something with it, but get it out of my office." Instead, the rock was placed on a pedestal at the top of the east endzone hill that the team ran down to enter the field for games. On September 24, 1966, the first time Clemson players ran by the rock, they beat conference rival Virginia, 40-35. Howard, seizing on the motivational potential of "The Rock", told his players, "Give me 110% or keep your filthy hands off of my rock." The team started rubbing the Rock for the first game of 1967, which was a 23-6 waxing of ACC foe Wake Forest. The tradition has since lived on.

6. Toomer’s Corner. Hanging over the corner in Auburn, AL are two massive old-growth southern live oak trees, and anytime anything good happens concerning Auburn, toilet paper can usually be found hanging from the trees. Also known as "rolling the corner", this tradition is thought to have originated in the 1950s to celebrate away game victories; however, in recent years it has become a way to celebrate anything good that happens concerning Auburn. On January 10, 2011 when Auburn Football won the BCS National Championship game, a celebration was held at the corner which involved the traditional papering.

7. Homecoming. Both Baylor and Missouri claim to have started the Homecoming tradition, a specially marked game day where alumni are encouraged to come back to campus. At MU, this year’s Homecoming will be its 100th.

8. USC Song Girls. Is it shallow that this made the list? Perhaps. But, is there a better cheerleading unit in the country, dressed in their classic white sweaters and skirts?

9. Boise State’s blue field. Personally, I’m not a fan but Boise State’s blue field is as identifiable with their program as is their recent top ten success.

10. Army-Navy. One of the great traditions in all of sports is the march of the cadets and the midshipmen into the stadium prior to this annual rivalry game—usually the last major game of the college regular season.

11. Ralphie. There are many great college mascots but a buffalo running out onto Colorado’s Folsom Field, with six handlers gamely hanging on, is quite a sight.

12. The 12th Man at Texas A&M. The first recorded instance of the term "12th Man" being used was to describe E. King Gill and his actions in Dallas on 2 January 1922, at the Dixie Classic, the forerunner of the Cotton Bowl Classic. Texas A&M played defending national champion Centre College in the first post-season game in the southwest. In this hard fought game, which produced national publicity, an underdog Aggie team was slowly but surely defeating a team which boasted three All-Americans. Unfortunately, the first half produced so many injuries for A&M that Coach D. X. Bible feared he wouldn’t have enough men to finish the game, so, he called into the Aggie section of the stands for E. King Gill, a reserve who had left football after the regular season to play basketball. Gill, who was spotting players for reporters at the time and was not in football uniform, willingly volunteered and donned the uniform of injured player Heine Weir. When the game ended with an A&M victory, 22–14, E. King Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies. Gill later said, "I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me." Although he did not actually play in the game, his readiness to play was noted. As there were 11 men on the field, E. King Gill was the 12th Man, hence the term.

13. ESPN College Game Day. There is no better college sports show than ESPN College Game Day featuring Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Rocket Ismail and wacky Lee Corso.

14. The Grove. At the University of Mississippi, students and alumni take tailgating to a whole different level in The Grove.

15. Fifth Quarter in Madison, Wisconsin. The band doesn’t stop playing when the game ends at the University of Wisconsin.

16. “You are looking live…” Love him or hate him, Brent Musberger’s classic line to open every college football broadcast has taken over for the former colloquialisms we all loved from Keith Jackson.

17. Big Bertha bass drum at Texas. Everything is big in Texas including the band’s drum, used during pre-game and at halftime.

18. Red River Rivalry. The Texas State Fair, capped off with Oklahoma-Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

19. Ohio State-Michigan. One of the best rivalries in all of sports.

20. UGA. What’s not to like about a bulldog mascot, particularly one who can be found lounging on a bag of ice during hot early season games at the University of Georgia?

21. Chief Osceola’s spear at Florida State. It’s the pre-game tradition in Tallahassee for Osceola to ride his horse to midfield and plant a burning spear.

22. The orange-and-white end zones at Tennessee. The checkerboard endzone is as much a tradition at Tennessee as the boats dispensing fans off of the Tennessee River outside the stadium.

23. Tim Tebow. Only college football could create a player like Tebow or those who came before him, e.g., Herschel, Bo, Davis and Blanchard, Grange, et al.

24. The Iron Bowl. “War Damn Eagle!” “Roll, Tide, Roll!” They take football seriously down Alabama way.

25. Touchdown Jesus. The most tradition-rich stadium in the country can be found at Notre Dame.

26. Campanile Hill. Kansas’ football history is up-and-down but there are few better spots to spend a fall afternoon than in Memorial Stadium during a fall Saturday, looking up Campanile Hill at the beauty of Mt. Oread.

27. The Border War. Kansas versus Missouri. This one dates back to Civil War hostilities.

28. “Hail to the Victors.” The best college football fight song belongs to the University of Michigan, “the champions of the West.”

29. The Game (Stanford-California.) Any rivalry simply called “the Game” has to have something going for it.

30. The Rose Bowl. No matter who’s playing, no bowl game can match the Rose for color, pageantry, the setting, and the tradition.

31. Overtime. In college, there are no ties and the overtime system is equitable—not determined by a coin flip.

32. Stanford’s marching band. The Cardinal marching band takes all that is traditional and good about college marching bands and, well, makes it wacky.

33. Boats bringing fans to the game in Washington. Husky Stadium offers one of the better venues in college football.

34. “Video game football.” A friend of mine coined this term about his team’s offense but it also points to the variety of schemes and looks one sees in college football compared to the NFL.

35. Heisman Trophy. Not only is it a way cool trophy but winners are, forever, announced as “Heisman Trophy winner (fill in the name.)”

36. Tailgating on a college campus. Yes, I know venues like Arrowhead Stadium and Lambeau Field tout great tailgating. But, nothing beats tailgating on a college campus and taking in the sights and sounds of beautiful venues on a fall Saturday afternoon.

37. The Gator chomp in The Swamp. It's SEC football at its best when teams venture into the University of Florida's stadium in Gainesville.

38. Texas schools’ hand signals. What is it about Texas schools that they all have funny little hand signals—the UT “hook ‘em horn,” the “gig ‘em Aggies,” Baylor’s “Sic ‘em,” Texas Tech’s “pistol?”

39. Massive stadiums with cool names. The Big House. The Shoe. The Swamp. Death Valley. The biggest stadiums reside in college football, not the NFL.

40. Rivalry jokes. One of my favorites is typically used for the University of Tennessee. “Why does Tennessee have orange as its color?” “Well, they can wear orange to the game on Saturday, hunting on Sunday, and the road crew on Monday.”

Friday, September 2, 2011

College football: Week one predictions

It’s here—college football is back! That sport rife with scandal and off-field posturing about conference alignments is finally back to playing games. Thank, thank goodness.

Here’s a look at week one matchups:

TCU over Baylor (Friday night). Even though this game is in Waco, this is a really difficult way for Art Briles’ Bears to open up a season where they have high hopes of returning to a bowl game. TCU is not the team which went to the Rose Bowl last year but Gary Patterson has another formidable, top 20 squad which will be playing its last season in the Mountain West. TCU by a touchdown.

Kansas over McNeese State. McNeese State will be a tougher opponent for the Jayhawks than last year’s home opener when Kansas lost to North Dakota State. It’s hard to imagine KU laying a second consecutive opener egg. KU by 13.

Missouri over Miami (Ohio.) The James Franklin era begins at MU but a stout defense could be the key to this year’s squad. Missouri by 20 in their home opener.

Kansas State over Eastern Kentucky. The Brown brothers make their debut in Manhattan and the Wildcats roll. KSU by 18.

Texas over Rice. Mack Brown has a sour taste in his mouth from last year’s season and the Owls are, unfortunately for them, the first to bear the brunt of a rejuvenated Longhorn team. Texas by 21.

Oklahoma over Tulsa. OU has its sights set on a national championship. Oklahoma by 24 over the Golden Hurricanes.

Oklahoma State over Louisiana-Lafayette. OSU will light up the scoreboard in Stillwater. The Cowboys will roll Saturday by 35.

Georgia over Boise State. Boise State once again ventures away from home to take on a name opponent in the season opener. This will be one of the best matchups of the day--a game which Georgia will win at home by a field goal.

BYU over Mississippi. A school who some feel could end up in the Big 12 after Texas A&M’s departure will win by a touchdown in Oxford.

Hawaii over Colorado. Colorado’s football struggles will continue even before playing a Pac 12 foe. Hawaii by 9.

Notre Dame over South Florida. Defense is the word of the day in South Bend and they will stymie South Florida’s “O.” ND by 14 at home.

Boston College over Northwestern. Boston College opens at home and will eke out a win against Northwestern. BC by 3.

Game of the Day: LSU over Oregon. These two national contenders open up the season with a match-up in Death Valley. It’ll be the second consecutive loss by Oregon to an SEC squad. Look for the Tigers to win by four.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Big 12 season preview

We've taken a look at Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri--here's a preview of what to expect from the other Big 12 football programs.

Oklahoma: The Sooners are picked as the preseason number one in the country by some media outlets and are the consensus pick to win the Big 12. Key returnees: Landry Jones, QB; Ryan Broyles, WR; Frank Alexander, DE. Schedule: Key games are September 17 at Florida State, September 24 at Missouri, the Red River Shootout against Texas on October 8, Texas A&M at home on November 5, and the season finale against Oklahoma State, in Stillwater, on December 3.

Texas A&M: In what will be their last season in the Big 12, look for the Aggies to finish second to OU. Key returnees: Ryan Tannehill, QB; Trent Hunter, FS; Cyrus Gray, RB. Schedule: The Aggies get Oklahoma State and Missouri at home along with Baylor and Texas. Key road games are at Texas Tech, October 8, and at Oklahoma, November 5. A&M plays Arkansas in Cowboys Stadium on October 1, a preview of a renewed rivalry with the Razorbacks once the Aggies make their move to the SEC.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys return key players from last year’s third-ranked offense nationwide. Key returnees: Brandon Weeden, QB; Justin Blackmon, WR; Shaun Lewis, LB. Schedule: OSU had no road losses last season but have to go on the road this year to Texas A&M, Texas, Missouri and Texas Tech. The toughest non-conference game will be at home against Arizona.

Texas: Oh, how the mighty fell and are now trying to get back up. The preseason pubs are skeptical about Texas but I have a hunch that they may sneak into the conference’s top four teams. Key returnees: Emmanuel Acho, LB; Garrett Gilbert, QB; Mike Davis, WR. Schedule: The key game is week two against BYU at home. The Longhorns need that win before heading west to play UCLA in Los Angeles. In the league, UT faces OSU, Kansas, Texas Tech and Kansas State at home—all winnable games.

Texas Tech: Tommy Tuberville brought in a top 20 recruiting class to Lubbock and has had a year to install his system and way of coaching. Key returnees: Lonnie Edwards, LG; Eric Stephens, RB; Delvon Simmons, DT, the highest-rated recruit ever to sign with the Red Raiders. Schedule: Last year, Tech went 1-5 against its former Big 12 South foes. This year, Texas Tech plays A&M, KSU, OSU and Iowa State at home and journeys to Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The game against Baylor on November 26 will be played at Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX.

Baylor: Baylor went bowling in 2010 and it tasted good—they expect to duplicate that feat in 2011 with a program which has crept back to respectability. And, head coach Art Briles brought in a new defensive coordinator—Phil Bennett, who formerly had been a DC under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Key returnees: Robert Griffin III, QB; Kendall Wright, WR; Elliott Coffey, LB. Schedule: Talk about a tough opener—Baylor starts off with TCU before two automatic W’s against Stephen F. Austin and Rice. In the league, their winnable games are on the road or at a neutral site—at Kansas State, at Kansas and Texas Tech in Arlington. Iowa State is at home.

Iowa State: It’ll be tough for Iowa State to get to a bowl with the round-robin schedule of the new Big 12 coupled with tough non-conference games. Head coach Paul Rhoads said, “If we don’t have the toughest schedule in the conference, we have one of the top two or three.” Key returnees: Leonard Johnson, CB; Jake Knott, LB; Darius Reynolds, WR. Schedule: Yep, it’s tough—Northern Iowa and Iowa at home followed by Connecticut on the road. In the league, ISU gets Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State at home, as well as Kansas—a key game if ISU has any hopes of a .500 season.