The Southeastern Conference loves to portray itself as the best College Football conference in the nation. They trumpet the 8 straight BCS championships that the conference won, the multi-gazillion dollar television contract with CBS, and ESPN bending over to create the SEC Network which frankly I’ve yet to understand. Who the hell wants to watch Florida play Alabama in volleyball on a Wednesday night? If you care you are there. The rest of us, just don’t care.
On Saturday afternoons, CBS proudly displays a graphic going into and out of some commercial breaks on its SEC Games that the network features “The Best Game from the Best Conference.” Well, there are couple of things to remember about the SEC. One is that they haven’t won a National Championship in two seasons. The last two champions have come from the ACC (Florida State) and the Big Ten (Ohio State). And secondly, the conference’s November scheduling philosophy is an absolute joke. This week is the prime example of that.
It actually got started last week when Tennessee hosted a North Texas team that had just one win and came into the game deploying football’s version of the “4 corners offense.” North Texas had no intention of trying to score points although they did play hard, they just wanted to get in and out without being embarrassed. Mission accomplished, they were a 41 point underdog and lost 24-0. Texas A&M hosted Western Carolina. Western Carolina obviously needed some money for its football budget this year. They played two SEC teams in the same season.
Just check out the Pre-Thanksgiving Turkeys the SEC is serving up this weekend. Florida Atlantic at Florida, The Citadel at South Carolina, Charleston Southern at Alabama, Idaho at Auburn, Ga. Southern at Georgia and Charlotte at Kentucky. The SEC will tell you that the reason they do this is because these teams all have to play rivalry games next weekend. Florida plays Florida State (and FSU is even participating this weekend by hosting Chattanooga), South Carolina plays Clemson, Alabama and Auburn meet, Georgia plays Ga. Tech, and Kentucky plays Louisville. That might be the dumbest argument the alleged “best conference” could ever make and it is as judges have told me about some of my arguments “unavailing”. I don’t know what “unavailing” means, I just know it comes right before the losing. Ohio State plays Michigan next week, but this week plays Michigan State, Virginia Tech plays Virginia next week, but this week plays North Carolina. Michigan plays Ohio State, but this week plays Penn State. USC and UCLA play next week, but this week the Bruins face Utah in Salt Lake City, and USC is on the road at Oregon. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are headed for what appears to be a game for the Big 12 championship next week. They aren’t warming up on tomato cans this weekend though as Oklahoma hosts TCU and Oklahoma State plays Baylor. The bottom line is that the SEC can dispense all the crap it wants to out of his home office in Birmingham, Alabama, but anybody with half a brain can see that this type of November scheduling is specifically designed to ensure that your playoff contenders don’t stumble in November and I don’t care how many championships you’ve won in a row, you aren’t the best conference doing that.
After this weekend, there are just two weekends left of college football (not counting the Army-Navy game which rightfully gets its own day on December 12th). Most of the countries’ teams will be done next weekend with December 5th left for a few straggling regular season games and conference championship games. This week is going to an emotional one in Blacksburg as Frank Beamer coaches his 180th and final home game as Virginia Tech hosts North Carolina. Beamer’s team still needs to win 1 more game to push their bowl streak to 23. The best chance for that is next weekend at Virginia. It doesn’t appear to be this week because North Carolina comes into Lane Stadium having scored 125 points in just the last two games against a Va. Tech team that hasn’t really been able to tackle anyone. While it would be nice to send coach Beamer out a winner at home, I’m not seeing it. Emotion can only carry you so far and North Carolina is clearly better so the Tarheels move to 10-1 with a game next week against N.C. State remaining. North Carolina isn’t getting much love from the playoff committee and that’s rightfully so. They played two FCS teams this season, and I still can’t figure out how they lost to South Carolina in the opener. However, if they win out the ACC title game between a 11-1 North Carolina and 12-0 Clemson could be fantastic.
Other picks this week: Cincinnati over South Florida, Boise State over Air Force, Memphis over Temple, Rutgers over Army, Florida over Florida Atlantic, Indiana to beat Maryland, Middle Tennessee over North Texas, Michigan tunes up for Ohio State by beating Penn State, South Carolina over The Citadel, Iowa stays unbeaten over Purdue, West Virginia over Kansas, Kansas State over Iowa State, Minnesota over Illinois, Miami to beat Ga. Tech, N.C. State over Syracuse, U-Mass over Miami, Ohio, South Alabama over Ga. State, Western Kentucky over Florida International, BYU over Fresno State, Florida State over Chattanooga, Buffalo over Akron, Houston over Connecticut, Utah State over Nevada, Clemson over Wake Forest, Ohio State over Michigan State, Virginia over Duke, LSU over Ole Miss, Northwestern over Wisconsin. Arizona and Arizona State meet for the Territorial Cup in Tempe, Arizona this weekend. This is a match-up between Rich Rodriguez and one of his former assistants Todd Graham, who coaches Arizona State. I ran across an interesting story this week from a Tuscon newspaper. I didn’t realize that when Rodriguez took his Glenville State team to Ada, Oklahoma in 1993 to play East Central Oklahoma for the NAIA title, the coach at East Central was none other than Todd Graham. It was an interesting read. Check out this link if you are interested: http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/college/territorial-cup/2015/11/17/1993-naia-championship-shaped-asus-graham-uas-rodriguez/75948790/. La. Tech over UTEP, I like Utah over UCLA at home, USC to beat Oregon on the road, Southern Miss over Old Dominion, Pittsburgh over Louisville, Alabama over Charleston Southern, Auburn over Idaho, New Mexico State over La.-Lafayette, New Mexico over Colorado State, Washington over Oregon State, Navy over Tulsa and that sets up a big game next weekend between Navy and Houston for the Division Championship in the American Conference. Georgia over Ga. Southern, Arkansas over Mississippi State, Rice over UT-San Antonio, Tennessee finally figures out how to beat Missouri, Kentucky over Charlotte, Oklahoma State over Baylor, Texas A&M over Vanderbilt, Notre Dame to beat Boston College in a game at Fenway Park in Boston (home of the Boston RedSox). Too bad, it’s buried on the NBC Sports Network so no one will really be able to see it. SMU picks up win number two over Tulane, Oklahoma over banged-up TCU, Stanford over California, San Diego State over UNLV, Washington State over Colorado, and San Jose State over Hawaii.
The FCS season finishes this weekend and the playoff field will be announced on Sunday. The Ivy League doesn’t participate in the playoffs, but that doesn’t matter as our FCS Game of the Week features the 123rd playing of what is known as “The Game” between Harvard and Yale. This is a 2:30 p.m. kickoff in New Haven, Connecticut. Harvard enters the game tied for first place in the Ivy League at 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the conference. They need to win to secure at least a portion of their third straight Ivy League title. A Harvard win combined with losses by Dartmouth and Cornell would secure the title outright. Yale is 6-3 and 3-3 in the Ivy League and cannot win the conference title. The Bulldogs would probably be satisfied with just beating Harvard as Harvard has won 8 straight times in this match-up.
The Division II playoffs open this weekend. The playoffs feature 7 teams in 4 “Super Regions”. The top seed in each Region gets a first round bye while the remaining six teams play first round games. Our featured game comes from Super Region I where Slippery Rock the second seed in the Region faces the 7th seed Virginia Union. Slippery Rock is 10-1 and the champions of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Virginia Union – out of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – is located in Richmond, Virginia. Va. Union is 8-1 and making its first appearance in the playoffs in 24 years.
The Division III playoffs also open this weekend. Division III features 32 teams with 16 first round games an no first round byes. For 10 straight seasons, Wisconsin-Whitewater has faced Mount Union for the championship in Salem, Virginia. I guess the NCAA Division III Championship Committee has had enough of that. That can’t happen this year as Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater are in the same half of the bracket meaning if they play it will be in the semi-finals assuring that there is at least 1 new team coming to Salem this year for the 23rd straight year “The City of Champions” has hosted the game. Our featured game matches the 9-1 Titans of Wisconsin-Oshkosh against the 9-1 Saint Scholastica Saints from Duluth, Minnesota. St. Scholastica is a small private Catholic school which first fielded a football team in 2008 when they won just 1 game. In 2009, the Saints went 4-6, 7-3 in 2010, and in 2011 went 10-0 making the playoffs for the first time. This year, St. Scholastica won its fifth straight Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Championship securing an automatic berth into the playoffs. No bad for a school that didn’t even have a team less than a decade ago.
Finally, the NAIA playoffs also open this weekend. NAIA has 16 teams in the post-season, but not in a true bracket format. After the first round games, the championship committee meets again and matches teams up for the second rounds, and so forth until the final two teams meet in Daytona Beach, Florida in early December. Among this week’s first round match-ups is 8-2 Dickinson State of North Dakota on the road in Butte, Montana to face the 9-1 Orediggers of Montana Tech. Montana Tech is officially named “Montana Tech of the University of Montana” and was initially founded as a State Mining School in 1889. The Orediggers won the Frontier Conference championship this year. They face a Dickinson State team that has the most playoff appearances of any team in the NAIA field this year with 16 all-time appearances. The Blue Hawks won their first North Star Athletic Conference Championship this season and are in the post-season for the first time since 2010.
Next week gets started with a game on Thursday and a ton of them on Friday, including what figures to be a monster game in the American between still unbeaten Houston and Navy – which is unbeaten in the conference. More on that when we return with football next week. I’ll likely have some thoughts on college basketball the first of the week. Until then, stay safe and have a great weekend…