The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Week 1 - September 4, 2017

Welcome back to college football, the weekend was glorious, wasn’t it? We’re left with just Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech on the Week 1 schedule, so I think it’s a good time to play the Good, the Bad and the Ugly game with Week 1. Short of Tennessee losing and Butch Jones being left on a tarmac at Atlanta’s airport, nothing can top what we’re about to talk about.

The Good

Easily the best story in college football this week is UAB. After a three-year hiatus and my friends in Tuscaloosa doing everything in their power to prevent football in Birmingham, the Blazers have returned and were triumphant over Alabama A&M. On their first drive, UAB went 76 yards in fourteen plays and converted a touchdown on fourth down. Solid start.

UAB’s football schedule is mostly “easy,” but a solid showing against Florida on Sat Nov 18 could go a long way in bringing more of the right kind of attention to the program in 2017 and beyond.

Also, nice to see a record crowd for UAB in its return, but the long-term success of the program depends on constant support from fans and the community.

The Bad

This wasn’t a great opening weekend for three of the major football teams in Texas. Texas A&M was up on UCLA last night and forced the Bruins to score 34 points without a turnover is nothing short of amazing. Honestly, I turned the game off and switched to NASCAR then Netflix. If we started the evening with Jim Mora at the top of the coaching hot seat, he was quickly replaced by Kevin Sumlin.

Then there’s Tom Herman’s debut at Texas. For the record, I didn’t think Herman was ready for a job like Texas when he was hired and I’m not saying that Saturday’s loss to Maryland cemented that thought to me, because one game does not make a coach. Herman will have his team playing better, and as Chase will tell you this week there’s a lot that likely needs to happen behind the scenes for the Longhorns to get better. Turning non-Power 5 Houston around is a lot easier than turning Big 12 Texas around. That said, in the earlier three meetings between Maryland and Texas, Maryland had never scored; on Saturday they scored 51.

Last, we must talk about Baylor. I think we knew at some point all the shenanigans related to the off-field sexual assault was going to catch up to them in a big way. Coaching changes, players leaving or refusing to play there, negative press, and the constant stories hurt. Did I ever think it would show itself against FCS Lamar in Waco? absolutely not. Do I think this is absolute rock bottom for Baylor? Not even close.

The Ugly

99-0 was the score between St. John’s University and St. Scholastica (yes, she is real because I’m Catholic and I also checked Wikipedia.) in beautiful Collegeville, Minnesota. Per SB Nation, St. John’s used – and get ready for this one – almost 180 players in this game and wanted to play the fourth quarter with a running clock, but the men of Benedictine from Scholastica said, “No, thanks.”

Amazing.

And as a bonus: The Weird

Lane Kiffin. Down by 23 as his FAU Owls are facing the Midshipmen of Navy, the game is already in its third lightening delay and it is nearly 1am and Kiffin refuses to let the game go. He forces both teams to come back out, btw – Navy had already eaten their post-game meal, only to lose the game 42-19.

We get it, Lane – it’s still all about you.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Wikipedia

Campus Pressbox 63 | Talking Pac-12 Football And So Much More

It's tougher to win at some schools as opposed to others. Sometimes it's due to tradition and other times it's due to academic standards. Even if your school has tough academic entrance requirements, it's still possible to win at a consistent level. Schools like Stanford don't want to hear the excuses.

Who will replace Nick Saban when he leaves Alabama? That's a big question. Will it be an established head coach or will it be an up and coming young coach? Don't worry, Alabama fans. Saban probably isn't going anywhere for the next 3-5 years. But it's fun to talk about.

The entire point of recording this podcast was to talk about Pac-12 football. But as is the case when Damien (@damienbowman) and Seth (@sethmerenbloom) fire up the microphones, tangents are found and fun is had by all. The Pac-12 was discussed though. Damien likes the popular picks to win the divisions. Seth believes we're going to see a couple of surprises in the Pac-12 championship game. Seth did earn some extra credit since he knew who the new coach at California is without looking it up.

And somehow we found ourselves talking about the monetary worth of the country's politicians. How? Who knows! One thing is for certain. Money in politics has always been a key influencer. Politics is a rich person's game.

https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/fly.fourlights.fm/cpbx/CPBX063-8-3-17.mp3

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I Hate All of Your Teams Except for These 6

Every now and then some random person on the Internet asks me which teams I cheer for, which teams did I grow up watching and which teams I hate. Since we’re so close to the beginning of the season, I think this is a good time to pull back the curtain and tell you about the teams I’ll be cheering for this season. Note: I’m still not going to tell you my teams. Everyone has secrets.

Alabama Crimson Tide

This IS actually a team I grew up cheering for. I went to the 1993 Sugar Bowl where my guy Gene Stallings led the mighty Crimson Tide to a National Championship after defeating the hapless Miami Hurricanes. Keith Jackson, Bob Griese, Bourbon Street and tons of women. I don’t remember any of it, but I’m told it was all there.

Anyway, I expect the 2016 version of the Tide led by Nick Saban to, well, win another title. I am a Bama guy and Saban basically wins it every other year. There will be struggles – the obvious being: Who is the quarterback? Will the defense survive the season without a major injury? How many games will the Tide lose this season?

The last is the most important of those questions, so let’s get to it. Alabama will lose a game this season and it will mean something in the long run. Most likely, the loss comes to, yes, LSU and Les Miles on Saturday, November 5, in beautiful Baton Rouge.

I only give the Tigers a chance at this because I’m not stupid enough to pick against LSU at home, at night. That’s it. If this somehow turned into a 3:30 start (the time hasn’t been announced yet), I’d take Alabama without thinking twice.

On August 31, under the assumption Alabama plays LSU at night, I’ll say this is the Tide’s only loss. Won’t matter. LSU will have two losses and Alabama wins out the rest of the year and, yes, wins another championship. #BookMostOfThat

Navy Midshipmen

Again, this IS actually a team I grew up cheering for. I love Navy, how can you not? The Silent Service, the SEALs, the jets and yeah, Top Gun. Exactly. Navy will not win the American Athletic Conference, the Middies will not beat Houston (I won’t be mad if they do) and they will not make the AAC championship game.

Here’s what Navy will do: Beat Air Force, Beat Army and make Notre Dame shake in their shorts a little bit. None of those three predictions is surprising. I expect a down year for Navy after the graduation of Keenan Reynolds and transition to Tago Smith (probably).  As a result, I expect the overall offensive production numbers to be low.

If you’re available on October 8 and can get to Annapolis, then watching Houston play Navy is worth your trip.

Go Navy. Beat Army.

UCLA

I have a team in the Pac-12 I like, but it isn’t UCLA. I’ve also made it clear I think USC is overrated in every imaginable way. I don't care if my Pac-12 team and USC make me look stupid this year, but if they do, I’m still on the Josh Rosen train. I read Matt Hayes’ profile of Rosen [link http://thelab.bleacherreport.com/a-beautiful-brash-mind/] and it’s worth every moment of your time.

Rosen, much like me, comes across as a straight-shooter. He’s a, “It is what it is and they are who we thought they were,” kinda guy. Rosen knows he’s good and doesn’t give a damn. He says what he wants even if it might hurt him at the next level, but he’s there for his teammates and in the end that’s all that counts.

I’m sure there are other Josh Rosen’s in college football this season, but he has my attention right now and that’s all that counts. Can Rosen and UCLA head coach Jim Mora lead the Bruins to the Pac-12 Championship, sure.

I don’t think they will. I think Stanford has the best chance.

UCLA’s losses this season: vs. Stanford, vs. Utah, and at Colorado (only because it’s a Thursday night). Remember: USC will not be as good at the end of the season as people think they are now.

UCLA over USC.

Clemson Tigers

I have zero connection to the Tigers except for my friend who’s a Tigers fan, so I’ll take it. I also think the Tigers make the playoff this year, but I’m not sure they’ll make it past the semi-final. If Clemson makes it past Auburn this weekend (spoiler alert: they will) then the [Clemson] Tigers should run the table.

That includes beating Florida State in Tallahassee and whatever lower-level team Dabo Swinney and company face in the ACC Championship. Deshaun Watson, Dabo Swinney, and a workable schedule put the Tigers back in the playoff two years in a row.

That’s it. This pick is based purely on how many good starters Clemson is returning and a friendship. Go Tigers…or whatever they say in South Carolina.

Four is probably enough, but I’ll throw two more teams in for shits and giggles:

Michigan State – I like Mark Dantonio a lot and I like Tom Izzo a lot. I think the Spartans have a lot of work to do in a reloading year, but I think having Michigan and Ohio State at Spartan Stadium works in their favor. The primary goal this year should be to defeat Ohio State since the Buckeyes will beat Michigan in Columbus this year.

Create Big Ten chaos, Mark. It’s been forever.

Arkansas – This is sort of a shot in the dark. I like Bret Bielema and I sort of feel like he’s the kid at school that will do whatever it takes to get just a tiny bit of attention. I think that’s why he embraces ‘Bert’ and says stupid things like his kids will never get in trouble.

The Razorbacks might also be the only team in the SEC – and maybe the country – that faces five ranked teams with four at home. It won’t matter, Arkansas will get slaughtered by Alabama and Ole Miss. And ya know what, there’s a chance they face a sixth (SIXTH!!) ranked teams this season.

Look, I know a lot of people think Bielema is in over his head at Arkansas, but as I said earlier this week, it won't matter who else is coaching in the SEC West as long as Nick Saban is there.

That’s it. Those are the six teams I’ll be cheering for this season.

Roll Tide

Go Navy!

Bruin Up (or whatever)

Go Tigers (that fits everywhere)

Sparty On (I wonder if the MSU people like that?)

Woooooooooo, Pig! Sooie!

E-mail me at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com, follow me on Twitter @damienbowman or if you think you’re good enough, join the staff.

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Let Freedom Ring: Time for College Football and for Nick Saban to Retire

Welcome back to college football. Thursday begins five straight days of football, cheerleaders, marching bands and what I believe to be America’s favorite sport [footnote]The NFL has nothing – well maybe gambling and fantasy football – on college football’s superiority[/footnote]. Today, I’ll tell you why the Big Ten East is the most competitive division in college football, the best time for Nick Saban to walk away and four games you need to watch this weekend.

The Big Ten East

The Big Ten’s East division is easily the most competitive division in college football right now. It was the most competitive in 2015 and I expect it to be as competitive in 2016. Between its three major competitors, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, the road team won every game last season.

This season underrated Michigan State and underappreciated Mark Dantonio have both Michigan and Ohio State in East Lansing. To me, they have the toughest row to hoe, but I believe Dantonio to be the best in-game coach of the three.

I give the least amount of weight to Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, and not because I’m sick of hearing about him when he hasn’t won anything at Michigan while Dantonio continues to be the best (football) coach in the state (we know Izzo is the best coach in the state), but because of the losses last season. The last-second punt returned for a touchdown against Michigan State and the embarrassing blowout against Ohio State. I know the Wolverines lost to Utah in the beginning of the season, but those early games don’t count, right? RIGHT??

The last and continual favorite to win the East are the Ohio State Buckeyes and Urban Meyer who some say is currently the game’s best coach. We’ll save that argument for another day, but what’s important is that in the short time he’s been at Ohio State he’s been the best coach in the conference and has recruited the best talent, and when you have the best talent with a good coach there’s a very good chance you’ll win more games than everyone else. What also helps is that Ohio State has not lost a road game under Meyer and face both Michigan and Michigan State on the road. Ohio State’s only home game versus a division opponent is against Rutgers on October 1. Who draws up these schedules?

Here’s where I make a complete ass of myself:

The predicted order of finish of the Big Ten East – Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland.

Most likely to be fired – James Franklin, Penn State.

Most likely to have the craziest ending in at least two games – Michigan.

Most likely to lose an important game because of an interesting officiating decision – Michigan State.

When Will Saban Go?

I talked with Bird and Seth about Nick Saban in last week’s SEC 411. Other than Bird, who is an Auburn fan, almost every other college football person I know agrees the SEC West is Nick Saban’s to lose until he retires. The obvious question becomes, when will Saban retire? My guess is, only God knows. The 64-year-old from West Virginia shows no signs of slowing down heading into his tenth season in Tuscaloosa, and really that’s a shame. Not that I want Saban to slow down, because getting old isn’t fun, but because I like to see new challenges and really, there’s no challenge for him in T-Town anymore. Although, Paul Finebaum and Dan Wolken disagree about the lack of challenges this season.

I’m an admitted Alabama fan, and though the Tide hasn’t won the championship every year Saban has been there, it certainly feels like it has. So, when’s a good time for him to retire? Well, if you ask me it's 66 so he can collect Social Security, or after he wins the championship this year. Shots fired.

Four Games in Five Days

There are four really important games to watch this weekend, so put these on your calendar and watch the rest of the nonsense when you can.

Oklahoma at Houston (Saturday, 12p) There are three games between ranked teams on Saturday and this is the biggest one. This game is between two of college football’s proven commodities. Houston begins its second season with Tom Herman leading the way and welcomes Bob Stoops and Oklahoma to NRG Stadium to start the day. Oklahoma lost in the semi-final last season to Clemson. Houston beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. This game will be entertaining and flashy, but Oklahoma wins it. And Oklahoma wins every other game this season except for the last one.

USC at Alabama (Saturday, 8p) Everyone wants this to be the biggest game of the weekend, but it isn’t. It isn’t close to the biggest game. The Notre Dame people will be surprised it's not them for once, but USC is the most overrated, over-ranked and over-appreciated team in college football. The Trojans are the poster boys for shooting their load early. USC continually beats easy teams at the beginning of the season then shits the bed when it’s time to play real teams. Well, that won’t happen this season because Nick Saban and former USC head coach Lane Kiffin are making this game personal. Roll. Damn. Tide.

Louisiana State University vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field (Saturday, 3:30p) This is the only Big Ten-SEC matchup on the board this weekend, so I’m hoping it’s decent. Living in Big Ten country, I always hear the natives complain that SEC teams won’t travel to the north because of X and Y or this and that. Well, here it is, LSU making the trip north to play one of the Big Ten’s bellwethers in its home state. No, this game isn’t at Camp Randall, but beggars can’t be choosers. As long as LSU has Leonard Fournette and Darius Guice to carry the ball, then I don’t imagine there’s a ton Wisconsin can do. Wisconsin's best prayer is that LSU’s Les Miles does something stupid and the Badgers can capitalize.

Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday, 7:30p) A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have given Texas a chance to win this game, but now the Longhorns could win it. Six Notre Dame players were arrested last week and while I’m not 100% sure what their impact would have been, enough has been made of it to make me reconsider blindly giving this game to the Irish. Texas lives on its football tradition, but it doesn’t compare to Notre Dame’s and at the end of the day, I think tradition, hard work and Brian Kelly overcome any obstacles those arrests or related distractions may have caused. I love Charlie Strong, but he isn’t long for Texas, which is too bad because I think he’s a very good football coach. It’s them, Charlie, not you.

Links of Love

Q&A: How ESPN's Week 1 college football TV lineup came together [Daniel Uthman/USA Today] I know this type of stuff isn’t always sexy reading, but it’s interesting. ESPN is broadcasting all five of the big neutral site games this weekend. And my guess is all five will be good enough. The best one is listed above. Scroll up, then scroll down.

History says Huskers must get tough at the top (administration, too) to return to the peak [Lee Barfknecht/Oklahoma World Something or Other] The line that says everything about championship-winning football teams, “I’m a firm believer that coaches win games while administrations clear the way for championships.” I think it’s safe to say a few things about Nebraska: it’s doubtful they’ll win another national title in their current form and the administration needs to do what it can to help football be great again. Start with a great coach and stay out of his way. P.J. Fleck seems like the perfect youngster to lead that team. Hire him tomorrow.

With a Friend Nearby and a Big Job Ahead, Brady Hoke is Ready to Fix and Oregon Defense in Serious Need of Repair [Lindsay Schnell/Campus Rush] I like Brady Hoke. He seems like a solid guy who was on the path to be a successful head coach before he landed at Michigan. People rarely turn down their alma mater, especially when that alma mater is Michigan, so I get it [footnote]I didn’t forget about Less Miles or this infamous presser [/footnote]. And to be fair to Hoke, the expectations at Michigan were unreasonably high considering what Rich Rodriguez left for Hoke and the people at Michigan can be unreasonably arrogant.

Sources: NCAA's Ole Miss investigation expands beyond Laremy Tunsil [Pat Forde/Yahoo!] I’m really just getting caught up here, and well, this can’t possibly end well for Ole Miss, can it? Although North Carolina has managed to avoid the brunt of any sanctions from the NCAA, I don’t think Ole Miss will be as evasive. The texts about $300 for Tunsil’s mom aren’t good and the fact that investigators are offering immunity is worse. I suspect the NCAA will do whatever it needs to ensure that this case doesn’t end up like Nevin Shapiro and Miami, but I’ll say this, if anyone on the current roster is part of this then the entire team should be sanctioned immediately. I’m not a fan of imposing bowl bans on student-athletes that weren’t part of the problem, but if there are some here that were, then thanks for stopping in Ole Miss and Mr. Freeze here’s your show cause.

Last, I’d like to thank Kristen Botica, Mitch Gatzke, Bob McDonald, and Seth Merenbloom for taking over a lot of the day-to-day stuff that I used to try and do on my own at Campus Pressbox. They’ve stepped up to give me hours, days and soon a week completely detached to focus on life outside of Campus Pressbox. The entire staff of Campus Pressbox has been exceptionally great also and now begins the chapter where everyone knows our name.

If you haven’t signed up to be a Campus Pressbox Insider, please do. Our $2 per month special runs through the end of the month, then the price goes up to a whopping $3 per month. Benefits include early access to content, our Insider-only comments section, and knowing that you’re helping writers who don’t write at the big site write about their favorite college teams. Also, subscribe to our two podcasts, Campus Pressbox and The SEC 411.

E-mail me at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com, follow me on Twitter at @damienbowman, and if you’re crazy enough to disagree with me then join the staff.

Five Teams with Zero Chance of Winning the Conference Title in 2016

It’s the second half of August which means we’re mere weeks away from the start of college football. While everyone is going to tell you which teams will make the playoff or win the conference championship, I’m here to tell you about five teams that have absolutely no chance to win a conference championship this season. Be angry.

ACC

There are two really good teams in the ACC and then there’s every other team. Unfortunately for all of us,  Clemson and Florida State are also in the same division. In 2016, I think Florida State has the most talent on both sides of the ball, but at this very moment, I think Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is a better coach than Jimbo Fisher. And, I think that’s where the difference lies. Here's where all this gets interesting: I believe after Clemson beats Auburn in Week 1 (Hi Bird), the Tigers will run the table, and win the Atlantic division en route to beating whichever team loses the least amount of games in the Coastal Divison. Here's where the rubber meets the road: I also believe that when these two teams meet Halloween weekend at Doak Campbell, I think Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will lead the Tigers to its first win in Tallahassee since 2006.  There will be rain, wind, and shenanigans. Get ready.

Big 12

This one is a bit tougher to pick, because, honestly no one knows how good Baylor will be [footnote]They’re playing football despite all the nonsense that’s been going on, so let’s stick to the prize right now – football.[/footnote]. I would be absolutely out of my mind to think Oklahoma would have no chance to win the Big 12 in 2016, but ‘No Game’ Bob Stoops, as I call him, hasn’t had two awesome seasons back-to-back in well…ever. BUT, and a Baby Got Back type of BUT(T), I will take the Sooners in 2016 to win the Big 12 because not only will they blow the doors off Oklahoma State, they will find a way to beat Ohio State in Week 3 and roll to their first 12-win season since 2010. So the question becomes which team has zero chance to win the Big 12, and we're not gonna step on Iowa State or Kansas more than we need to, but it's TCU. TCU with Gary Patterson (who I like a lot, but needs to eat less brisket) has absolutely no chance despite how much the media is pumping their chances. Baylor, in its current state of disarray, has a better chance than the Horned Frogs. The purple and white will lose to following teams this season: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas. Yes, the Frogs will be 2-2 in against the state of Texas and will be no closer to the winning the Big 12 this year as they have been in the past five years*. Where the hell is TCU anyway? Wherever that is, stay there and watch from the middle of the pack. Send the brisket! Calm the hell down. I know exactly where TCU is, but no one who doesn't watch college football knows that it's in Fort Worth.

Big Ten

Is Ohio State the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten in 2016? No. Are the Buckeyes the most experienced team in either division? Yes. Michigan State is the closest in experience and that brings us to the team that has absolutely zero chance of winning the Big Ten in 2016: Michigan. Michigan doesn’t win the East and the conference because of, yep, the Harbaugh Effect. This is not Harbaugh’s year. I do expect Michigan to finally beat Michigan State for the first time since 2012 and the first time in East Lansing since 2007 [footnote]Maybe Brady Hoke was as bad as they said he was? Nah.[/footnote]. It all ends for Michigan on November 12 when the Hawkeyes of Iowa slip one past the goalie and beat the Champions of the West in Iowa City. Oh, and Michigan isn’t beating Ohio State, but keep dreamin’ that dream. I’m one of the few non-Ohio State fans that live in Ohio and even I can’t get behind Michigan beating Ohio State. That first victory since 2011 needs to happen in Columbus, not the whore known as Ann Arbor.

Pac-12

This is also very tough to pick because I don’t know which team is the best in the Pac-12. Here’s what I will tell you, no Pac-12 team will make the playoff because the Pac-12 is not good this year. The season will begin and one team (you know which one) will start strong by beating the Little Sisters of the Poor, then BOOM, they’ll lose on a Thursday night like all overhyped Pac-12 teams do. This is the phenomenon known as Pac-12 Suicide. That’s right, USC will lose to Cal on Thursday, October 27 sending its season into the familiar nosedive we’ve become used to over the past half-decade. No, USC will not beat Alabama (#DontBeStupid) but they will beat Stanford, survive Arizona in Tucson and will lose to UCLA and Notre Dame. Mathematically, they will probably still have a chance to win the division but mentally the Men of Try will not beat the Pac-12 North representative, thus losing the Pac-12. Look, this is totally a stretch, but UCLA and Cal are moving forward while USC lives on hype. Prove me wrong, please.

SEC

This is the easiest pick of them all. The SEC will continue to be won by a team from the West until Nick Saban retires. I’m not suggesting Alabama will play or win the SEC Championship Game, but he’ll single-handedly make every other team in the division get better. That means there can only be one team with zero chance to win the SEC in 2016: Tennessee. I’m a closet Tennessee fan. I enjoy Neyland Stadium. I enjoy listening to the Pride of Southland Band perform Rocky Top 50 times before kickoff, but no, Tennessee is not winning the East and the Vols will not be appearing Atlanta. I’m not on the Josh Dobbs hate train like Seth. I believe the biggest hindrance to the Big Orange’s success in 2016 is Butch Jones. Tennessee will lose to BOTH Florida (no surprise here) and Georgia because Butch Jones does something incredibly stupid. And since the games are back-to-back (Sep 24 and Oct 1), before Alabama rolls the Volunteers in Knoxville on October 15, Butch Jones will officially be at the top of college football’s chopping block. Tennessee would owe Jones $2.5 million every year through 2020 if fired without cause, and Jones can save some face by beating Alabama, but there’s no chance in hell they beat Florida AND Georgia in 2016. If they do, it would be the Vols’ first championship game appearance since 2007. It last won the championship game in 1998.

There it is, five times that have zero chance to win a conference title in 2016. If you're a smart college football fan, I've played Captain Obvious for the almost 1200 words, but for everyone else, don't stop believin'.

*Update: Reader Sam e-mailed to remind me (I honestly forgot and so did my editor) that TCU split the Big 12 with Baylor in 2014. I personally don't consider a split as winning, but I'm including the note because Sam took the time to write a respectful note.

E-Mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Can the ACC Network Finally Force Notre Dame to Join the ACC in Football?

For many, many years I was among a large group of college football fans who insisted that Notre Dame need not join a conference to remain competitive, but I’m starting to shift my thinking. The creation of the ACC Network, the Irish signing their grant of rights away until 2036 and the College Football Playoff have created a perfect storm that might lead to end of Irish independence. Obviously, Notre Dame wouldn’t do anything until its home television contract with NBC expires in 2025, but by then it will either be painfully obvious it needs to join a conference or that it can survive on its own*. The College Football Playoff contract also expires in 2025.

One of the reasons, other than being different, that I like Notre Dame being independent is because it spreads great football games across networks that aren’t tied to ESPN. I really had hope that the Big Ten would do something similar and break at least partially away from ESPN and give its rights to FOX (which partially owns the Big Ten Network) or NBC. It didn’t happen, and while Notre Dame’s contract with NBC made a lot of sense initially, the school now makes less than almost every other Power 5 school.

What we know: Notre Dame pulls about $15 million from NBC and another $6.2 million from the ACC/ESPN deal, as it stands right now. It’s believed another $5-$8 million in revenue from ACC Network will close the gap between it and most of the other Power 5 schools that aren’t in the ACC, but why the need for income source complexity?

Right. Tradition.

Let’s talk about tradition for a moment. I’m not a fan of Notre Dame playing Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, or any other team in the Big Ten. I really believe the only thing it promotes are the other schools its playing. Michigan and Ohio State provide no obvious recruiting benefit to Notre Dame. Since I didn't grow up watching Michigan and Notre Dame, it isn’t something I need to see every year.

Side note: I don’t want to see Michigan play Ohio State every year either, but television insists that it’s a great game, when clearly it is not.

I understand that the same history I just derided also says Notre Dame and Navy play each other and I understand the history the two schools have dating back to World War II. Fine.

Keep it.

But I really like when Notre Dame plays opponents that are out of their region and provide them a recruiting benefit. And this is where playing in the ACC will help them recruit. Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York. Seemingly everyone from the Midwest is traveling to those states to recruit and very few are traveling to the Midwest to recruit. Why? Because no one wants to live in the Midwest anymore and there’s no advantage for an up-and-coming prospect to live there.

So, while keeping their ‘traditional’ rivals would keep old school fans happy, it does very little to help recruiting or anything else that seems to matter.

The next, last and most important complication: The College Football Playoff. As long as the committee is going to put an emphasis on winning a conference then Notre Dame is going to take a perceived hit no matter what. Now that the Big 12 has decided to hold a conference championship game, the Irish can’t say they’re not the only team without a chance to play a conference title game.

Joining the ACC as a full time member and consistently facing Florida State, Clemson, Louisville is more important than playing region ‘rivals’ who impact nothing. Notre Dame will continue to sell out its home games and probably the stadiums of the teams it visits for the foreseeable future. The Irish will command – and receive – more money once they become full-time ACC members and the rest of us will wonder why we defended their lack of a conference home for so long.

All this is, of course, pre-mature, because I don’t suspect Notre Dame will be able to join the ACC while its contract remains with NBC. Under any other circumstances, NBC probably wouldn’t care if they joined a conference, but NBC pays all that money for a national schedule and beyond two or three non-conference games, the Irish cannot guarantee great home opponents as part of its conference schedule.

I did mention all of this is pre-mature? Right. Notre Dame will be a full participant in the ACC by 2025 at the latest.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: MGoBlog/Flickr.

Big Ten Links: We all hit Rock Bottom When Steve Spurrier is Wrong

I'm on vacation, but all that means is you'll get more words out of me. I hope you like my words. Here are a few of the happenings in the Big Ten along with a few podcasts I listened to this week. Have a great weekend. Is it September yet? Cornhuskers riding on Armstrong’s shoulder. Let’s get right to it. In order for Nebraska to improve from 2015’s 6-7, 2016 Tommy Armstrong has to be better. Setting career records for touchown passes and passing yardage will be for naught if he has another season of 16 interceptions. Half of that in the Big Ten won’t net many more than the six wins of last season and being lackluster at the end of the spring game doesn’t exactly instill confidence heading into the summer. Armstrong was 8-of-15 for 80 yards, while backup Ryker Fyfe 15-of-21. So, Armstrong will have to carry the Cornhuskers on his arm, and I guess his legs. He’ll have to work on ‘easy’ draw plays and be more precise. His timing will have to be better and he’ll have to grow up on and off the field. In January, Armstrong proposed to his longtime girlfriend and former Nebraska soccer star Jaylyn Odermann. Many in the Cornhusker fan base probably hope this among many other off-field moves will help settle his social life so he can focus on football. Armstrong’s goal is to have a marriage ring and also a Big Ten championship ring. Good luck with the latter.

Going to the Rose Bowl ins’t cheap, especially when you lose. Iowa lost in Pasadena not only on the field but in the bank account in January when the Hawkeyes played Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes are claiming a $228,000 deficit in spending that will make people wonder how a university in the Big Ten can lose money in a bowl game. The university received $2.5 million from its share of revenue for the bowl, but that wasn’t enough to cover these related costs:

  • About $1.9 million for expenses for the football team and athletics department staff.
  • About $663,500 for expenses related to the marching band.
  • About $166,000 for expenses related to Iowa officials and administrators.
  • UI is reporting total expenses of $2,728,445, leaving a deficit of $228,445.

Due to this and probably other unforeseen expenses throughout the athletic department, UI athletics will close out its fiscal year with a deficit. Iowa does not take student subsidies and is self-supporting, but its revenue is smaller than normal because its football season ticket sales are down despite how well the team performed last season. I guess, the fans want to see if last year was lightening in a bottle.

Small potatoes add up, and I’m sure none of these people could afford to pay their own way, but administrative officials accounted for $165,815 in costs related to tickets, transportation, meals and lodging, and ‘other transportation.’ You can assume ‘other transportation’ is the motorcade from the hotel to the stadium. Can’t have the president of the university or the sexual misconduct coordinator sitting at traffic lights like peons.

When the defensive backs coach compares his unit to being an alcoholic. "It's kind of like being an alcoholic: You have to figure out where you are. If you're rock bottom, then OK, now I've got a chance," said Rutgers defensive backs coach Bill Busch. (I’m sure he isn’t related to Adolphus Busch, but it would be appropriate). Rutgers’ pass defense was not good last year, and yeah, if that secondary wasn’t at rock bottom it was obvious they can see it from where they stand. The unit could get worse, and playing in the Big Ten East certainly doesn’t make their recovery any easier, but newly hired coach Busch seems like a man on a mission. He mentions Michigan State and Ohio State as the two toughest opponents the Scarlet Knights will face this season, and yeah…that’s probably accurate, but what’s more important is the building process. Making practice harder than the games and getting players to understand the decisions making process in practice is supposed to be harder than it is during the game is the ultimate goal.

The telling number: 118. Rutgers’ defensive secondary ranked 118th of 127 nationally in passing yards allowed. 118th.

More Busch:

"I talk to them all the time about how we stress them out here," Busch said. "We stress with the pace, how we go from drill-to-drill — everything is stress. Then I ask them, 'How hard is it on Saturday night when you're playing against Ohio State or Michigan?' The guys that played are like, 'It's really hard.' So you see our method and they get it. They understand that we're trying to prepare them for this fight they're going to be in."

Did I mention the Scarlet Knights were 118th in passing yards allowed in 2015?

When retired Spurrier says something he probably shouldn’t. I’m the biggest Steve Spurrier guy there is. I think he’s a national treasure and definitely one of the funniest guys in college football – retired or not – but sometimes it’s better to not speak on certain things. In many ways though, I think I’m a lot like Spurrier, if someone asks me something I’ll probably just say whatever and then realize after I’m halfway through my answer that I probably should have said, ‘no comment.’ Spurrier appeared on Paul Finebaum’s radio show earlier this week and was asked about the treatment of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno. His response:

"[Paterno] was treated the most unfairly of any coach ever," Spurrier said. "He had nothing to do with that scandal. Nothing at all, and amazingly, what they did to him was completely wrong. I've heard they're having talk of putting the statute back, and they should do that. They really should."

Well. I agree with some of this, and I agree that Paterno in the court of public opinion may have received a slightly raw deal, but Paterno did nothing to bring anyone to his side of the argument. Paterno was hung out to dry by the Penn State administration, but I still have an hard time believing he had no idea what Jerry Sandusky was doing. I’m not suggestion he had complete knowledge, but at some point you have to think to yourself, something about Sandusky and this situation doesn’t seem right. And I think this is where Spurrier and some of the Penn State fans and alumni jump the shark.

Joe Paterno was a great coach and probably a better man, but like all men (and women) everyone makes mistakes. It is not ill to talk of someone after they die if you’re simply pointing out obvious flaws and facts. It would have been better to point these flaws out while he were alive so he could respond to them, but when you’re in the inner circle I get that it’s hard to be honest with the icon in the middle. But what are friends for?

If Paterno and Spurrier were close friends, then Spurrier should have asked Paterno what the hell was going on with Sandusky, and why hadn’t Paterno done something meaningful about it when he found out about it?

And for this reason alone, I cannot support the replacement of Paterno’s statue at Penn State. I don’t mind restoring records or wins because those are reflective of the student-athletes that won those games, but until I’m convinced Paterno had zero knowledge of what Sandusky was doing, then in my eyes, Paterno let a lot of people down.

What to listen to:

  • BuckAround episode 130 with Rich and Maxwell. They preview the Badger’s spring game tomorrow and Dylan from Pennsylvania wants to know if Wisconsin is a football or basketball school. Obviously worth your time.
  • What’s it like to be a Northwestern fan as an NU student, parts 1 and 2. The gang at Inside NU podcast a two-part series asking the tough questions surrounding Northwestern’s student fandom. Part 1 and part 2.
E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Corn Farmer/Flickr.

Big Ten Links: You'll Never Convince me to pay Student-Athletes

Things are looking up for Maryland. In what many would have considered an off-season disaster, head coach DJ Durkin turned a potential negative into quick positive. Last week, I wrote about Maryland defensive coordinator Scott Shafer leaving the staff after such a short time and how quickly Durkin hired Kentucky’s Andy Buh to fill the position. Not only did Durkin hire a new defensive coordinator in short shrift, he picked up verbal commits from three impressive recruits.

What’s the ceiling at Illinois? Lovie Smith is a man of change. From the NFL to college. From early morning practices to late-afternoon workouts. From being part of the NFL contract process to dealing with high school coaches and recruits. While I have no doubts about Smith’s ability to coach, ultimately what will define his tenure at Illinois is his ability to win. Six years at $21 million dollars is a lot of money, which he’ll easily return to the university within three years, but how high can the Illini go in the Big Ten? As a charter member of the Big Ten and second largest university (Minnestoa) in the West Division, expectations should be high. The only other team that’s been consistently good since the conference went to two divisions in 2011 has been Wisconsin. With Smith’s hire, there’s literally no reason Smith and the Illini shouldn’t compete for the division title every season.

Wisconsin, why so cheap? I guess I understand Wisconsin is successful in the West Division of the Big Ten despite paying what seems to be the least amount of money for football coaches. I guess that shows – excuse me Cleveland Indians fans – that a ‘team’ can act like a small market team and still be successful even if it’s going to cause a bunch of turnover every season. I still have tons of respect for Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank for saying Michigan and Ohio State are overpaying their coaches. For the record, I agree 100 percent those dudes are overpaid. As well as Nick Saban. But to totally contradict what I just said, Wisconsin needs to step its game up. While they can hang their hat on Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl appearances, how many of those have translated to wins? I’m sure coaching turnover has something to do with it.

You have until Friday to order Hawkeye’s season tickets. I can say I won’t be placing an order for season tickets, but based on last year’s success and the outlook for 2016, I expect Iowa to sell a lot more home tickets. Two items of note – 1. Iowa State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska visit Kinnick Stadium this fall. 2. There isn’t a chance in hell Iowa repeats what it did last season. I’d love to be wrong about that.

Jim Harbaugh: the next great commence speaker. “I’m not a football guy, but I know a great educator when I see one, and he always impressed me as a great educator and great leader.” Says Jim Vail president of New Jersey’s Paramus Catholic school where Jim Harbaugh will give the commencement speech this spring. I guess if the NCAA is going to ban satellite camps because of you, then you have to take your message around the country in a few other different ways. One way is to promote yourself and Michigan at commencement speeches. The NCAA had to approve this appearance, so I wonder if Harbaugh will be allowed to wear anything with the Block M on it or if he’ll have to submit his speech beforehand to make sure it doesn’t contain any recruiting subterfuge?

I don’t believe anyone understands NCAA graduate transfer rules. Here’s a smart podcast from our friends at Hammer & Rails as they try to tackle the transfer rule and how it relates to Boilermaker hoopster Kendall Stephens. Later in the episode, there’s a deep penetrating discussion about Tyler Summit, who apparently good at penetration, but bad on picking the people he penetrates.

Big Ten coaches aren’t and shouldn’t be united on camp ban. I think a lot of times we expect coaches from conferences to be a united front. Typically, their wishes are passed up the chain-of-command to university presidents through athletic directors and that’s how things become ‘law’ in college sports. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz doesn’t want satellite camps because he wants them to take place on campus. That’s a novel concept. Coaches like Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh (#duh) are in favor of these camps with varying degrees of restrictions. Is it surprising all the coaches aren’t on the same page? No. Is it surprising to publicly see all the coaches aren’t on the same page? Absolutely.

For the record, I was against the camps before I was for the camps. I’m against the camps in the way that Harbaugh used them as a means to take his kids from their spring break for a glorified recruiting trip. Now that I know many kids who aren’t going to play at the Michigan’s or Ohio State’s of the world are so affected by the change I’m against it. I’m never for taking scholarship opportunities from deserving student-athletes and if this means kids don’t have the chance to go exposure camps then this is bad for the sport.

No, Cardale, you shouldn’t be paid to play college football. You’re crazy if you thought I’d ignore this one. Cardale took to Twitter yesterday to voice his excitement at the prospect of being able to earn an income for playing football. I’m excited for Cardale and all the other student-athletes who will be drafted or signed later this month by NFL teams. It’s the culmination of years of hard work by the athletes, parents and coaches. The reward for missing summers with friends, tailgating before college football games, and spending Thanksgiving with dudes you probably don’t like. That said, I’m still a firm believer that playing college football is equivalent of an unpaid internship for student-athletes who gain on the job experience while earning and opportunity to play at the next level.

In fairness to Cardale, I do think his time at Ohio State has been nothing but a benefit and learning experience for him. I don’t know if last season worked out the way he wanted it to, but since his ‘we ain’t come to play SCHOOL’ tweet several years age, he certainly has appeared to have matured as a young man.

Isn’t that what going to college is all about – growing and learning? Even if you have to sacrifice in the near term to be successful in the long term?

E-Mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr.

Big Ten Links: How The Hell Do I Compete With Last Night?

Well, last night was a hell of a college basketball game. Neither team in the final is a member of the Big Ten, but congrats to Villanova and North Carolina for playing a national final that everyone will remember for probably the rest of their lives. For those of you into One Shining Moment, this is your moment of zen:

Harvey Perlman still hates Pelini; living in 2014

Remember Bo Pelini? He isn’t a fan of his old boss Harvey Perlman at Nebraska and apparently Perlman isn’t a fan of Pelini’s either. Perlman is retiring and when giving his final speech as chancellor of Nebraska-Lincoln, he couldn’t resist taking a shot at the former football coach:

“I’m not going to do a Bo Pelini.”

The audience laughed.

“Do you know what a Bo Pelini is?” Perlman continued. “It is defined in the urban dictionary as an expletive-laced rant expressing outrage on leaving a position you didn’t want anyway.

“Not going to do it.”

Bo Pelini is certainly in the right if someone asks him about his time at Nebraska and his relationship with Perlman, but Perlman is not in the right if he writes this into his speech. At some point, typically after like age 45, it’s time to be the bigger man and at least pretend you’re going to move on.

How do you leave your job after four months?

Ever start a new job and you hate it so much you can’t make it through probation? Apparently, that’s why Maryland’s defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is leaving the program after four months. Shafer cited personal reasons as the need for his departure, so I certainly hope all is right in his personal world, but is this the start of a troubling trend for new head coach DJ Durkin and the Terrapins? Hope not. After the disaster that was Randy Edsall the Terrapins cannot go back to anything resembling that nonsense.

Durkin and company have already answered the next question, ‘who will replace Shafer?’ If your answer was Kentucky special team’s coordinator Andy Buh, then you win $1,000. Buh leaving an SEC perennial bottom-feeder is good for him and hopefully a stabilizing force for Maryland. Good luck.

The Kahki King held his second Spring Game

It’s hard to believe it is time for spring football, but here we are. Michigan’s game was last Saturday and in a surprising and interesting move the Wolverine’s held the game at night. I have to imagine this is the first year the game was held at night as Michigan Stadium has only had lights for about five years, so this change is quite refreshing.

I’m not an X’s and O’s type of guy, but Tom Dienart of the Big Ten Network is, and here are his four observations from that game:

  1. It looks like Wilton Speight—yes, Wilton Speight—has emerged as the leader in the quarterback race to replace Jake Rudock.
  2. Running back Ty Isaac looks good.
  3. The defense looks VERY good.
  4. Michigan will have one of the best collections of tight ends in the Big Ten.

If you want more sights and sounds, ESPN’s Dan Murphy has you covered. Here are the Wolverine’s leaving the field after the game:

I really hope the Big Ten choses a television partner not named ESPN

I know the chances of the Big Ten signing a television deal with any network that isn’t ESPN is between slim and none, but I wish at the very least they’d consider all the possibilities. In my opinion, NBC offers the conference the best exposure for not only its mainline football and basketball games, but the broadcast network along with NBC Sports can augment those two sports as well as the non-revenue and Olympic sports. If NBC isn’t a viable option, again to me, the second best option is FOX. FOX is already a partner with the Big Ten in the Big Ten Network, so that relationship is built, but I think the Big Ten deserves its own place to shine. FOX also the primary broadcaster of Pac-12 games.

Do I think the conference should completely abandon ESPN? Of course not, but ESPN has primary rights or secondary rights holders’ agreements with every other Power Five conference and the Big Ten can shift some exposure in its favor by moving to NBC or FOX.

The Big Ten’s only big competition at NBC? Notre Dame.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Larry/Flickr.

Spring Break Should be Reserved for Breaking, not Footballing

I understand that college football coaches think their student-athletes need to be focused on football at all times, and I also appreciate the fact that those same student-athletes are paid with scholarships and a chance at the next level. Typically, I’m on board with whatever coaches want their kids to do when done so within the rules the NCAA has established. That said, taking away what little break time these young adults have to hold practice out of state when those same student-athletes can use the time to unwind is …wait for it… wrong. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey wants the NCAA to prevent Michigan from having practice in Florida later this month and while on the face of it, many may say he wants to prevent Michigan to gain any type of competitive or recruiting advantage, the long and the short of it is the same: spring break is for breaking, not footballing.

[College Athletes: Unpaid Interns and Indentured Servants]

There comes a time when coaches AND athletes need decompression time and if that time comes during their traditional spring break then so be it. There are things that should be sacred in life, one of those things should be the ability to limit the amount of time athletes are responsible to their program when that sport isn’t in session.

From the Pac-12 study that says student-athletes are 'too exhausted to study':

One unique note from the survey: Athletes want established what would essentially an eight-hour window where no practices could be held -- from 10 p.m.-6 a.m.

Other conclusions:

• Eighty percent of Pac-12 athletes say they missed a class for a game in 2014-15.

• More than half (54 percent) say they don't have enough time to study for tests.

• Almost three-quarters (73 percent) said they felt a voluntary activity was considered mandatory. Some reported coaches threatening to "kick athletes off the team for missing voluntary activities."

• Two-thirds say sports demands impacted their social lives. "Pac-12 athletes express a desire to make new friends outside of their sports teams."

Currently, FBS players are allowed a maximum of four weeks off per year when they aren’t responsible to their program. Not only is that not enough time, NCAA should mandate that holidays that you and I enjoy or traditional university and academic breaks not be included in that. So, four weeks would become five weeks and any reading time between classes and exams should be added on as well.

For the sake of other sports, I would define ‘aren’t responsible to their program’ as when the sport you participate in isn’t in session. So basketball teams traveling to Cancun over Christmas Break is clearly not an issue, but that same team mandating their basketball players travel to Italy in July should pose a problem.

Many already think it’s a joke to call these young men (in football) student-athletes when its reported many dedicate 50 hours per week to the program and have to find time to study and attend classes around that. The NCAA can do itself and many-student athletes a favor by mandating that typical academic time apply not only to students but to student-athletes.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Daniela/Flickr.

Celebration Bowl: I Hope the Band Stays on the Field

The Celebration Bowl, in Atlanta and sponsored by none other than ESPN. In reality, we have ESPN to blame for the major expansion in bowl games as they will televise about 98% of all bowls in the 2015/2016 season. That dissent aside Mitch told me to talk to you about this titillating match-up between the Aggies of North Carolina A&T (bonus if you know what A&T stands for) and the Braves from Alcorn State. Common sense would tell you to pick the Braves because they’re playing in the city of the Braves but neither Braves team is actually from Hotlanta. Alcorn State’s Braves are from beautiful Lorman, Mississippi and the Atlanta Braves are originally from Boston, but we’ll go with Milwaukee cause I’m a fan of the Beast.

“’The Beast’ tastes like I’m swishing around piss in my mouth.” - college bros all across America

I was kidding about being a fan of the beast.

Back to Football

North Carolina’s A&T has long been known for their spectacular band, but is efforting to change that with its first bowl appearance since its 36-13 Heritage Bowl loss to Alabama State in 1991. The Aggies last won a bowl game in 1980 (I wasn’t born until 1982) at the Gold Bowl 37-0 versus now FCS North Carolina Central.

Alcorn State is the defending 2014 Black National Champion (I’d like to see that ring) and is the back-to-back Southwest Athletic Conference champion and is facing North Carolina A&T for the first time since beating the Aggies in Lorman, 16-13 in 2004.

ASU’s (Hi, Sun Devil people) bowl record is 1-2 with its last appearance and win in 1968 36-8 over Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic.

The Orange Blossom Classic, which was seen as the mythical Black National Championship Game, hasn’t been played since 1978. The regular season game between Florida A&M and Florida International is called the Orange Blossom Classic, but Florida International isn’t a historically black college. Weird, but whatever.

I have to be completely honest with you here, I know absolute nothing about either team as they compete at the FCS level, but because Mitch ordered me to preview this game, I’ll talk about North Carolina’s band.

Leave the Band on the Field

The Blue and Gold Marching Machine is the largest of the Historically Black College and University bands in the country and features around 220 students. If this band wanted to be the Best Damn Black Band in the Land (Hi, Ohio State) it would mimic the Buckeye’s marching band and drop all those silly woodwinds and go all brass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=399Wlt10b5E

That’s the band’s 2010 performance of the Bed Intruder Song – which I had never heard of before I wrote this. I can only speak for myself, but making a song about rape and then having a marching band do a ‘cover’ of it only to have it go viral seems a bit out of place to me. Among other things.

Anyway, BGMM is a great band, and if I were good enough to be in a band in my collegiate days this is one that I would have approved of. My skills extend to super terrible percussion player and an even worse drum major, if such a thing exists.

Famous Alumni

What would a preview of an insignificant bowl be without mentioning the famous alumni of each school?

Alcorn State

  • Medgar Evers – civil rights activist; assassinated in 1963; wife portrayed by Whoopie Goldberg in ‘Ghosts of Mississippi’
  • Michael Clark Duncan – actor; played John Coffey in ‘The Green Mile’ and appeared in ‘Armageddon’ (which is a terrible movie); died of heart attack in 2010; his wife Omarose Onee Manigault (from Ohio – who isn’t at this point?) unsuccessfully gave him CPR.
  • Alex Haley – author of ‘Roots’; Chief Petty Officer (Go Navy, Who hasn’t beaten Army?) No relation to Charles.

North Carolina A&T

  • Ronald McNair – astronaut; died in 1986 on Space Shuttle Challenger
  • Jesse Jackson Jr. – son of senior (obviously); Illinois House of Representatives;
  • Jesse Jackson Sr. – father of junior; civil rights activist; 1984 candidate for President of the United States; stood feet away from Martin Luther King Jr when King was assassinated in 1968

If the game began and ended at halftime, North Carolina Agricultural and Technology University would be the clear winner, but Alcorn State’s history of superior football and great depth of alumni put them over the top in the first  Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Alabama Dominates Florida in 2015 SEC Championship Game

Florida is good, but they weren't today against Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Their offense was non-existent tonight and it shows the disparity between Alabama and everyone else. Buckeyes fans were hopeful that Alabama could be knocked off by Florida but they didn't stand a chance. Frustration came across in the fourth quarter through a pair of personal fouls against the Gators and there was little Jim McElwain could to turn the tide.

https://twitter.com/brucefeldmancfb/status/673290227830489089

Thats really the story of the second half. And the first half.

Florida's sequence of possessions: punt, safety, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt.

(I think the Gators just punted again.)

So, while Florida's Jim Mcelwain has certainly earned the Bear Bryant coach of the year award, his Gators simply got their ass kicked by Alabama tonight in Atlanta.

What's next for Alabama?

https://twitter.com/tomfornelli/status/673302194091724800

We'll find out this weekend where and who Alabama will play in the playoff. Unless Clemson loses against North Carolina, I expect Clemson to remain No. 1. That likely means that the Crimson Tide will play in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Eve.

What's next for Florida?

Florida will likely play in the Sugar Bowl (yes, the best bowl) against a Big 12 team - which at this point has to be TCU.

What felt obvious in the first half is that Florida was happy to be in the game and only in Atlanta to cash a paycheck. But they showed signs of life in the second half, but it was too little too late.

For Ohio State fans they'll need North Carolina to beat Clemson handily to maybe get back into the top four, but the likelihood of that happening appears between slim and none.

Nick Saban solidified his place as the best coach in the modern era, but it would be hard to ignore the likes of Urban Meyer creeping up on him.

Photo: Bird LeCroy/Campus Pressbox

Damien's Top 10: Still Can't Forgive Oklahoma for Losing to Texas

First, I should apologize for my top 10 last week. It was complete trash. That said, here’s this my ballot for the mock playoff committee for week 12:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma State
  4. Ohio State
  5. Iowa
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Florida
  9. Michigan State
  10. Navy

Let’s get right into this. I think it’s safe to say that Clemson and Alabama are the two best teams in the country. The only advantage to being number 1 is that you have your choice of where you’ll play in the semi-final. I don’t see any scenario in which Clemson would opt for the Cotton bowl and I don’t think Alabama fans care about the first round of the playoffs no matter where they play.

Like they care because they’re going to talk trash no matter what, but in general, they only care about championship games.

Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State is good and in my opinion at this point, they’re the best chance for the Big 12 to get a team into the playoff this season. I’ve been the conductor of the Baylor train, but Oklahoma derailed that train last night. And, while Oklahoma State survived against Iowa State last night, they beat Texas (important later) and beat No. 8 Texas Christian. Oklahoma State and 48-year-old Mike Gundy only need to beat Baylor this weekend and Oklahoma on November 28 and I don’t see a scenario in which the Cowboys wouldn’t make the playoff.

Ohio State and Iowa

I’m not afraid to say I’m giving Ohio State the benefit of the doubt. The Buckeyes are arguably the most talented team in the nation, but we’ve only seen flashes of that this season. Buckeyes fans say they’re bored with the competition and will show up when games county. Well, it would be hard to argue they didn’t show up against Illinois. Yes, I know what the halftime score was, but at the end of the day, I think they’re easily one of the best 10 teams in the country.

The difference between them and Iowa is a lot less clear. Ohio State has played no one. Yes, they beat Virginia Tech on the road to open the season, but they didn’t beat No. 19 Wisconsin or No. 20 Northwestern on the road as Iowa did. In my opinion, Iowa and Ohio State are basically the same. Except for those road wins that I talked about.

I think all the speculation about Ohio State’s worth ends after the next two weeks once they play Michigan State this weekend then Michigan on November 28, but until then Iowa and Ohio State – to me – are joined at the hip.

Notre Dame and Oklahoma

This is simple. Notre Dame beat Texas; Oklahoma was destroyed by Texas. Yes, I’ve gotten over Alabama’s loss to now unranked Ole Miss, but I simply cannot forgive Oklahoma for Texas. Oklahoma beating Baylor certainly makes this thought process a bit suspect.

Notre Dame loses spots because Temple lost to South Florida in embarrassing fashion.

In Oklahoma’s defense, if the rankings hold, they will have played five ranked teams.

But that loss to Texas…

Navy

First, this is a foreign concept to some people: a service academy that’s good and inside the Top 20. Navy, currently at No. 20, should move higher this week and if we’re going to use ridiculously silly transitive property should be ranked higher than Houston because the Midshipmen destroyed Memphis and Houston merely survived 35-34. The rubber meets the road for this Group of 5 teams on November 27 when the two play at Houston.

#GoNavy

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

The 10-year Rule, Explained

I’ve often talked about the 10-year rule I think all college head coaches should abide by, but I’ve never written it, so here we go. In college sports and specifically at the FBS level, I think coaches should leave their institutions after 10 years. No matter how successful they are, because I think it gives the chance for the program to appreciate the accomplishments of the exiting coach and a chance for schools to reboot. What works in 2005, probably won’t work in 2015. This isn’t to say that some coaches can’t be successful for 15 or 20 years, but it’s super rare. Coaches who could coach for decades, well, decades ago, couldn’t do it in the current landscape. Bear Bryant couldn’t survive 25 years in the modern era and there isn’t a chance in hell Joe Paterno survives 45 years either.

As of November 3, 2015 this is the list of active coaches with 10 or more years at their current job:

Coach School First Season (years)
Frank Beamer Virginia Tech 1987 (28)
Bob Stoops Oklahoma 1999 (16)
Kirk Ferentz Iowa 1999 (16)
Gary Patterson TCU 2000 (15)
Mark Richt Georgia 2001 (14)
Gary Pinkel Missouri 2001 (14)
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State 2005 (10)
Bronco Mendenhall BYU 2005 (10)
Frank Solich Ohio 2005 (10)
Kyle Whittingham Utah 2005 (10)
Les Miles LSU 2005 (10)

 

That list is impressive. Of those coaches with 10 or more years of experience only two (Bob Stoops – 2000, and Les Miles – 2007) have national championships. If national championships were the only thing in which I based success the rate of turnover would be much lower than 10 years. It would probably be closer to 5.

As of September 2014 the average length of employment with same company is 4.6 years. I personally would have guessed that number to be closer to seven years, but I guess it makes sense. I haven’t been with my big named company for more than three years both times I’ve been employed by them.

It goes to reason that most coaches, and here we can use the national championship as the barometer, are the most successful in their first 4.6 years. Stoops won a national title in his first season and Miles in his second. Stoops’ last championship appearance was in 2008 season in his ninth year. Miles last appeared in a title game in the 2011 season; his sixth with the Tigers.

While Miles is only four seasons removed from his last title appearance but en route to a possible playoff appearance, keep in mind he is in his 10th season in Baton Rouge. Bob Stoops on the other hand has accomplished very little since his last title appearance.

As Dennis Dodd mentioned in his column about Mark Richt, “If you aren't going to win league titles, you at least have to beat your rival.” Stoops is 10-7 versus rival Texas. Side note (fair or unfair), former Texas coach Mack Brown led the Longhorns for 15 years, or seven years longer than he should have.

Many will say that coaches who’ve won national championships or have built solid programs should be allowed to leave on their own terms. That’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Those people are also the people who say athletic departments should be run like a business.

[Merenbloom: "Being 'all business' is not a bad thing"]

I’ll ask you this, when Microsoft basically ousted Steve Ballmer, did they do so because he wasn’t making money for the corporation or because he’d overstayed his welcome? Right, Ballmer’s Microsoft was a money-making machine but it couldn’t make headway into new areas of growth and couldn’t compete with Apple.

Bob Stoops continued Oklahoma’s winning tradition for many years, but in the past five or so the program has been listless. His nickname of ‘Big Game Bob’ has become a joke, one I refer to as ‘No Game Bob’.

Les Miles, who is at exactly the 10 year mark is now better known for being the luckiest coach in America who eats grass than for the consistent success he’s maintained. Full disclosure – in 2015, I think LSU is one of four best teams in America and I still believe Les Miles has a lot of years left in him, but in three years he will have overstayed his welcome.

And yes, in 2017, I will have said the same think about Nick Saban. Universities need to think about what’s best for their programs, not what’s best for coaches who are entrenched.

As Bird (@Autull) and I discussed in this week’s SEC 411, I believe Mark Richt would be an excellent fit at Miami. One, because he’s from there and two, is one of the most grounded and honest people in college football. He’s exactly what Miami needs and he leaving after 15 years is exactly what Georgia needs.

Despite the successful 2015 campaign, Kirk Ferentz should have been forced out of Iowa at least three years ago, but because of an exorbitant buyout he’s still there. I won’t knock Iowa’s 2015 schedule because they can’t control how poor their division is, but it’s fair to say that if one other team played consistently and Iowa had to face one of the three Big Ten East powers, they might be in a completely different position.

What do you think? Should entrenched coaches be allowed to stay as long as they want? What if their most successful season was a while ago, are you still inclined to keep them no matter what?

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

On Steve Spurrier's Immediate Retirement

For months - and probably years - I've speculated that it was time for now former South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier to retire. That probably makes me a bad person, but frankly everyone has a shelf life. Without a doubt Spurrier has been one of my favorite and most entertaining coaches. I'd be lying if I said I remembered his time at Florida and like most fans rarely remember he won the Heisman Trophy in 1966.

Most of us in the younger generation of college football, Spurrier is known for his time at South Carolina, but let's not ignore the fact that he spent a lot of time at Duke, Florida and in the NFL with the Washington Redskins. A few weeks ago, Bird and I were talking about the Head Ball Coach and in all his years of in college football we discovered he'd only had one losing record - his first year at Duke in 1987. His record that year was 5-6.

When Seth (@SMerenbloom) dropped the news of Spurrier's retirement in our super-secret Slack group I can't say I was surprised. In fact, Bird (@Autull) and I both thought either this or next season would be his final year, but he'd find a way to avoid the pomp and circumstance of a farewell tour. Frankly, I didn't expect him to walk into Ran Tanner's office and drop his resignation on his way out the door like an expense report. Say what you want about Spurrier, he does what he want and does it in his own way - results be damned.

Thoughts from around the world of college football:

Dan Wetzel - Yahoo! Sports:

https://www.facebook.com/DanWetzelSports/posts/755573964554583

Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage/FOX Sports:

But to our generation of SEC fans he'll always be something more, an icon, a mythic figure from our childhoods who came to personify the game that so many of us grew to love, the fast talking smart aleck Southerner with a droll wit, the man who always had a play guaranteed to get you a first down no matter the down and distance, and the guy who always had an insult at the ready. The only thing faster than Spurrier's wit was his trigger on his quarterbacks. This was a guy so cocky that he switched quarterbacks on every play for an entire game.

Dan Wetzel and Pat Forde on the Wetzel to Forde Podcast:

Will Shelton of Rocky Top Talk:

Some younger fans today don't know what it's like to be up 30-14 in The Swamp and lose 62-37, then finish the year 11-1, then welcome the Gators back to Knoxville with the Vols ranked second in the nation...and fall behind 35-0 in the second quarter. It is still the only time I've left a game before halftime.

Mark Rogers of Last Word on Sports:

Steve Spurrier announced as head football coach for the University of South Carolina:

Arbys:

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Coaches on the Rocks and Coaches who Saved Their Bacon

Some quick thoughts on a bunch of things from this past weekend's college football action.

Texas should pretend every opponent is Oklahoma

https://twitter.com/Big12Refs/status/652927050475524097

This is arguably the biggest game on Texas’ schedule every year and they came out and dominated the first half. The second half was a bit shaky, but it was still solid nonetheless. I think we can silence all of the fire Charlie Strong talk for the rest of this season. The Longhorns’ second half schedule is a lot more manageable with only Baylor currently ranked.

Back to Charlie Strong. I don’t know him, but it’s obvious this was the biggest win of his career. You can talk about all the other stuff before Texas, but he needed this because as Seth (@Smerenbloom) said to me during the podcast the other day, lose this and the fire is all the way up. I’ve been the leader of the give Strong more time train, and I still think that no matter what, he gets this year and all of next before Texas considers a change. I don’t think it’s fair to give him less than four of his five years and I don’t think it’s fair to whomever the incoming athletic director is to fire him without giving him a fair evaluation.

So, no matter who the players (boosters) that don’t like Charlie Strong are, I hope you’ll get off of him and let the man do his work. There wasn’t a lot at Texas when he got there and as we know now there are plenty of Mack Brown’s players who aren’t fans of Charlie Strong’s players. This happens everywhere and this is why Charlie Strong deserves four years.

And...Texas ISN’T that important. Listen to the podcast and you’ll know why.

Everything is coming up Vols

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky rather than good. Tennessee was super lucky against the Georgia Bulldogs this week and ya know what, that’s ok. That’s good enough to maybe take a little bit of the pressure off Butch Jones and put it squarely on Mark Richt. Georgia was rocked by Alabama last week and lost to an unranked Tennessee team this week. Not a good look. Sure, Nick Chubb was injured and that’s a big deal, but Tennessee has been basically listless the first four weeks of the season.

Losses to Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas make things seem bleak for Jones, but in reality the only one of those losses that meant anything to the season was the Florida loss. Beating Georgia changes everything.

The Vols are off next week then head to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama. Whatever. I mean, they aren’t in the division, so even if they lose it really isn’t a big deal. The goal is to show meaningful progress week to week no matter who the opponent is.

Tennessee and Butch Jones are fine, and together.

On Randy Edsall

Randy Edsall was fired on Sunday. I live in Big Ten country and I know very little about Edsall or Maryland. I'm not a fan of living in the past, but I'll say this, Maryland shouldn't have fired Ralph Friedgen. The move wasn't popular at the time and it makes less sense now a few short years later. I can't say if Edsall was in over his head, if Maryland just isn't a great place to play football, or if being in the Big Ten East is the worst thing to happen to a new entrant in the conference.

All that said, I have a ton of respect for Edsall by standing up to a silly question from a reporter about shaking hands with his players after his defeat versus Ohio State on Saturday. When rumors emerged Thursday that Edsall was on the hot seat, I admit I was more than surprised. I don't know what the expectations are at a school like Maryland when that team has to face Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State every year. Sure, this is Maryland's second year in the conference and it sounds like Edsall's teams have been in underachievement mode for a long time, but what is really going to improve?

Trouble at Southern Cal with Steve Sarkisian; Pat Haden

I promise not to pile on and my issues aren't really with Steve Sarkisian. People have problems and it sounds like these problems have been well-known for some time. I think it's safe to say Sarkisian won't return to coach football at Southern California, and if he was indeed under the influence a few weeks ago versus Arizona State then that makes complete sense. I also know that because these issues may have been well known, the reason he hasn't been terminated (for cause) is because the American with Disabilities (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) Acts protect him, which is a good thing.

My immediate issues are with the coaches who may have known he was under the influence at Arizona State and didn't say anything, and if they did who did they say it to? Everything indicates athletic director Pat Haden didn't know he might have been intoxicated before or during the game, but now that he's been put on indefinite leave assistant coaches are leaking information they knew he was drunk.

I understand, you don't want to be the one who throws your boss under the bus, but at what point are you not being a friend by not speaking up? If there are coaches and staff who knew he was at work drunk then those people should be dismissed immediately. If Haden didn't know, then I don't directly fault him, but as the head administrator of USC athletics everything falls on his shoulders.

Everything.

If there is any indication that Haden knew anything of Sarkisian's alleged drinking problems at Washington and hired him without running that information up the flag pole, then he should be dismissed without question.

When USC officially dismisses Sarkisian (and it will happen), Haden should leave with him. He made Sarkisian his first priority when he arrived at USC and has hitched his wagon to him. It would seem that for a time Haden was the calm in the storm after Mike Garrett, Lane Kiffin, and all the Reggie Bush related sanctions. But based on what's going on with Sarkisian it could be time to move on.

Where Southern Cal goes from here is anyone's guess, but the first and most important step is to make sure they do right by Steve Sarkisian. Football will continue somehow, but in the long run that's the least of their worries.

What I left out

My original thoughts on Randy Edsall's presser on Saturday included two Les Miles videos, and I would be remiss if I didn't include them. Full disclosure, I thought Edsall had done enough to at least postpone his firing until the end of the season. But I am also of the same mindset as Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, "What should be done eventually, must be done immediately." So, in that regard, I'm glad Edsall won't be sort of lame duck coach until December.

The first is honestly my favorite Les Miles moment. Remember when he was to supposedly leave LSU to coach Michigan? His response in 2007:

The second comes at the end-of-season presser in 2010 when a retiring reporter asks Miles about being interviewed by Erin Andrews:

Podcasts you should listen to

Last week I had the pleasure of talking with our own Bird LeCroy (@Autull) who is the co-host of the SEC 411 about his five favorite SEC college football stadiums, and five college football stadiums I've never been to.

Later in the week, I talked with Campus Pressbox's Managing Editor Seth Merenbloom (@Smerenbloom) about a wide range of football topics including which coaches (other than Edsall) are on the hot seat, college football's super powers, and salaries of college coaches versus their president and provost bosses.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.