I love College Basketball and the NCAA Tournament is the best three weeks of the year, but there’s something special about College Football Season. By January 1st, most College Basketball teams will have played almost 12 games before diving into their conference seasons. College Football on the other hand provides just 12 guaranteed opportunities for players, coaches and fans. It comes just once a week and frankly for a lot of us, the hope of Saturday on the horizon is what pushes us through our mundane and boring jobs most of the time. There’s an old saying that you should take advantage of your opportunities when presented them, there are some teams and schools out there not doing that right now.
Rutgers University likes to bill itself as the birthplace of college football since the school hosted the first college football game. Right now, Rutgers is the birthplace of complete incompetence. This is a school that had to endure the video of former basketball coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing his players. That cost him his job and probably any real chance to coach again. Is any parent comfortable trusting their son to him? Not likely. Now comes the further adventures of football coach Kyle Flood, who appears to be nothing more than an overpaid “train wreck.” Rutgers has already kicked five players off the team for criminal issues, and now Flood has been suspended for three games because he was contacting professors at the University presumably to keep his players in good academic standing. Rutgers needs to let him go now. There’s no place in this great game where there are only 12 precious guaranteed opportunities for a coach who (1) can’t follow the rules, and (2) doesn’t even win enough games. I realize it is Rutgers and outside of the school probably few people actually care, but the point is that when there are just 12 guaranteed opportunities, the players, assistant coaches, fans and parents shouldn’t be burdened with off the field non-sense like this.
So on we go to Week 3. It opened last night with Clemson getting by Louisville 20 – 17 to drop the Cardinals to a surprising 0-3 on the season. I wouldn’t shovel dirt on Louisville just yet though. They aren’t going to win a National Championship, but that doesn’t make them any different from 120 + other teams out there. Tonight there are three games on the Schedule including Florida State traveling to Boston College. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is an out spoken critic of Friday night college football and frankly he should be. I’ll have more on that subject in a few weeks, but these schools need to stand up and tell ESPN “no” to Friday nights. In America, Friday nights are reserved for the high school kids. Let ESPN fill Friday nights with the Crossfit games or Major League Baseball. Regardless, I still think Fisher’s attitude not withstanding FSU still finds a way to beat BC. Boise State also big over FCS Idaho State and Arizona State over New Mexico also in Friday night games.
Onto to Saturday where the most interesting game to me is Ga. Tech and Notre Dame. This is the 35th time these two schools have played, but the first since 2007. It features two coaches who cut their teeth at lower levels. Ga. Tech’s Paul Johnson won two I-AA National Championships at Georgia Southern while Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly won two Division II National Championships at Grand Valley State in Michigan. Ga. Tech has been a machine against two over matched opponents rolling up 134 points in wins over Alcorn State and Tulane. Ga. Tech has also put up over 200 yards rushing in 16 straight games and needs just 43 yards this week to hit 30,000 yards rushing for the time period Paul Johnson has been their coach. You think of Ga. Tech as a great academic school and it is and that it’s probably difficult to get players into the school. Johnson and his staff have certainly solved that puzzle. In a state which cranks out high school football players by the boatload, 75 of the 118 players on Ga. Tech’s roster are from Georgia. The next closest state is Florida with 20 players. Notre Dame is breaking in a new quarterback after their starter went out for the season last week with a broken leg. I think this game is going to be a tight one, but when Paul Johnson was coaching Navy he ended Navy’s long losing streak against Notre Dame. I think he works his magic again and Ga. Tech leaves with a victory.
The most underrated game of the weekend to me is Memphis at Bowling Green. What? I hear collective head scratching going on right now, but it’s true. Memphis is off to a 2-0 start and Bowling Green is 1-1 after giving Tennessee fits and beating Maryland last week. Memphis has won its last 9 games dating back to last year which is the 4th longest win streak currently in FBS football. Consider that before coach Justin Fuente arrived on campus in Memphis in 2012, the Tigers were just 5 – 31 from 2009 – 2011. They are 19 -20 since. May not sound like much, but this is Memphis which is never going to be confused with Alabama when it comes to football. I think the Tigers push their current win streak to 10 with a win here setting up an early American Conference showdown with Cincinnati next week. The Bearcats were my pick to win the American, but “screwed the pooch” last week against Temple meaning Cincinnati cannot afford any more loses.
A couple of other games catch my eye this week. Florida travels to Kentucky after coach Jim McElwain had a “out of body experience” last week during his team’s game with East Carolina. Hey it happens and emotions get he best of you sometimes. But, it occurs to me that perhaps the holdover players from the Will Muschamp Error at Florida aren’t exactly buying in to what McElwain and his staff are preaching. Before the infamous “throat slashing” incident of last week which caused McElwain to go off, players were showing up for practice unprepared in that they didn’t even have their ankles taped. That shows me that the knuckleheads recruited by Muschamp don’t care. If that’s the case, this is not a good week to take that attitude as Florida goes to Kentucky. The Wildcats just beat South Carolina and haven’t beaten Florida since 1987. This is Kentucky however where the arena was full this week for the alumni basketball game against North Carolina alums which shows you were the collective minds of the Commonwealth of Kentucky are most of the time. Despite the attitude problems, Florida still has better players than Kentucky and so I like the Gators to pick up a win here.
South Carolina is on the road at Georgia. These two annually meet during the first few weeks of every season. South Carolina is coming off a loss to Kentucky and you should never underestimate the coaching ability of Steve Spurrier and let’s face it Georgia has some issues at Quarterback. I’m not convinced that Greyson Lambert is the solution. He washed out at Virginia. But, what Georgia does have is a serious running game behind a powerful offensive line and that should be more than enough to get the Dogs on track.
Then comes Ole Miss and Alabama. Ole Miss has scored 73 points in back-to-back games. Neither one of those games were against Alabama’s defense. Reality hits in a big way this week as the Rebels fall back to earth and back to moving toward what figures to be a .500 season.
Other games this week., Va. Tech makes its first ever trip to the State of Indiana to face Purdue. In fact, Va. Tech hasn’t faced a school from Indiana since they played Indiana in the 1993 Independence Bowl which was the first bowl game in the Hokies current 22 game bowl appearance streak. I remember that game well as Va. Tech was coming off a 2-8-1 season the year before, the administration had made Frank Beamer make coaching changes to his staff and had essentially told him to get it done or else. The Independence Bowl might as well have been the Super Bowl to Va. Tech that day as they wiped out Indiana 45-20 setting them up for the run they went on which capped with an appearance in the National Championship game. This Tech team isn’t going to win any national championships, but they are more than good enough to head into Ross Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana and beat Purdue in a battle of two schools with pretty good engineering programs.
Quickly through the other games: Akron over Savannah State for its first win of the year; Wake Forest to beat Army on the road; Florida Atlantic over Buffalo; Maryland shakes off the Bowling Green hangover to beat South Florida; Michigan big over UNLV; Michigan State over Air Force; Minnesota over Kent State; Missouri over Connecticut in a game that mysteriously is being televised by ESPN; North Carolina simply cannot afford to lose another game if they have any hope of doing something this season. Illinois is better than I thought given the disaster of firing their coach a week before the season, but I like North Carolina to win. If the Tarheels lose, this is going to be a long year in Chapel Hill; Oklahoma over Tulsa; Texas A&M over Nevada; Northwestern over Duke on the road in Durham. This is a tough call, but I like what Pat Fitzgerald is doing with Northwestern; Syracuse over Central Michigan; Ohio over the Lions of Southeastern Louisiana; Oregon big over Ga. State; Rice over North Texas; Ball State over Eastern Michigan; Kansas State over La. Tech; Temple stays unbeaten with a win over U-Mass (when’s the last time you could use Temple football and unbeaten in the same sentence?); LSU over Auburn; Marshall over Norfolk State; Miami to beat Nebraska in a game in Miami where most of the stadium will probably be Nebraska fans; Cincinnati over Miami, Ohio; Navy to beat East Carolina; Ohio State over Northern Illinois; Oklahoma State over UT-San Antonio; Virginia notches is first win over William and Mary (or Bill and Mary as I like to call it); Wisconsin big over Troy; Western Kentucky over Indiana on the road; Mississippi State over Northwestern State; Vanderbilt finally gets a win over the I-AA Governors of Austin Peay; Idaho over Wofford; Washington over Utah State; Florida International over North Carolina Central; Ga. Southern over The Citadel; Central Florida over Furman; Charlotte over Middle Tennessee State; Arkansas over Texas Tech; Arkansas State over Missouri State; Colorado State to beat Colorado in Denver; N.C. State over Old Dominion; Tennessee beats Western Carolina in the first ever meeting between two schools separated by 121 miles; Texas State over Southern Miss; Western Michigan over Murray State; Texas over California. I can’t give you one solid reason to pick Texas at home other than the fact that they trimmed 200 pounds of excess fat from their Athletic Department this week when the school fired Steve Patterson as athletic director who accomplished little in 22 months, but pissing off the school’s big donors.; San Diego State over South Alabama; Pittsburgh over Iowa; UTEP over New Mexico State; Oregon State over San Jose State; Penn State over Rutgers (see above for thoughts on the dumpster fire know as Rutgers athletics); TCU beats SMU in the game with the best name this weekend “The battle for the Iron Skillet”. I’ve been to both campuses and loved both of them. SMU will get better but not enough handle TCU just yet; Toledo continues Iowa State’s misery (but hey, Wrestling season is just around the corner); Tulane over Maine; USC has scored points in bunches against two inferior opponents. Now comes Stanford. A little better competition, but USC still wins; Washington State over Wyoming; Utah over Fresno State; UCLA over BYU (I keep picking against BYU and they keep making me look foolish); Arizona over Northern Arizona; and finally a game with late night newborn feedings in mind as Hawaiit beats U-C Davis in a game that begins at 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Now to the lower divisions. Our FCS Game of the Week welcomes the IVY League back to college football. The IVY is the latest starting Division 1 league in the country. The conference doesn’t participate in the post-season and plays just 10 games. Yale opens its 143rd football season this weekend on the road at Colgate. The Bulldogs play ten straight games culminating with “The Game” against Harvard the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
I dare you to find a better “nickname” match-up than our Division II game of the week matching the Gorillas of Pittsburg State against the Ichabods of Washburn University in Pittsburg, Kansas. Pittsburg State is one of Division II”s annual powers having appeared in 5 National Championship games and winning titles in 1991 and 2011. Over their history of football, 36 Pittsburg State players have played in the NFL and for five years, they were coached by Dennis Franchionne, who went on to coach at TCU, Alabama, and Texas A&M. He also had an assistant coach named Jerry Kill, now the head coach at Minnesota. I just want a Gorillas’ T-Shirt to wear around Tennessee. That would be awesome.
For Division III, I’ll stay local with the Fighting Scots of Maryville College taking on the Wasps of Emory and Henry in a 6:00pm game in Emory, Virginia. Maryville is 2-0 after beating East Tennessee State last week. Emory and Henry had a week off after trouncing Ferrum in its opener. Emory and Henry is coached by former Va. Tech Offensive Line Coach Kurt Newsome who was essentially shown the door in Blacksburg. Toward the end of his tenure there were jokes going around town that Newsome’s offensive line “couldn’t block an artery.” Unfortunately, there was some truth to that, but the E&H alum has found a home in Division III and there’s nothing wrong with that.
NAIA features the top ranked Marian University Knights on the road at Robert Morris College in Illinois. Marian is number one in the NAIA rankings and is based in Indianapolis. The Knights are 2-0 and first started playing football in 2007. All they’ve done since is win a championship in 2012 and finish runner-up in 2014.
Finally, our Junior College game of the week. The JC top 20 this week features 5 schools from the State of Mississippi Copiah-Lincoln from Wesson, Mississippi is number one facing Southwestern Mississippi.
Enjoy the weekend and a Samuel Adams Octoberfest or two….