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Posted on 07/29/2014 8:31:34 PM PDT by Daniel Clark
The College Football Czar: 2014 Season Preview
a sports publication from The Shinbone
by Daniel Clark
Welcome to the 2014 season preview issue of The College Football Czar, a seasonal sports publication by the author and editor of The Shinbone. In the coming months, you will find weekly analyses of upcoming college football action posted at this site. To find out more, please see the Ground Rules.
This issue contains the Czar's rankings for all 128 teams in Division I-A football, as well as conference preview capsules, potential upsets to watch for, bowl projections, and a guide to help you locate head coaches on the move. Most importantly, it includes early nominees for the Lardhead of the Year Award, which the Czar never gets around to actually awarding, but for which he dispenses nominations copiously.
New coach .. arriving at .. previous position .. former coach
Blake Anderson .. Arkansas State .. off. coord. N. Carolina .. Brian Harsin
Jeff Monken .. Army .. head coach Georgia So. (I-AA) .. Rich Ellerson
Bryan Harsin .. Boise State .. head coach Arkansas St. .. Chris Petersen
Dino Babers .. Bowling Green .. head coach E. Illinois (I-AA) Dave Clawson
Bob Diaco .. Uconn .. def. coord. Notre Dame .. Paul Pasqualoni
Michigan .. head coach Drake (I-AA) .. Ron English
Charlie Partridge .. Florida Atlantic .. DL coach Arkansas .. Carl Pelini
Bobby Petrino .. Louisville .. head coach W. Kentucky .. Charlie Strong
Mark Whipple .. Umass .. QB coach Cleveland Browns .. Charley Molnar
Chuck Martin .. Miami OH .. off. coord. Notre Dame .. Don Treadwell
James Franklin .. Penn State .. head coach Vanderbilt .. Bill OBrien
Charlie Strong .. Texas .. head coach Louisville .. Mack Brown
Bill Clark .. UAB .. head coach Jacksonville St. (I-AA) .. Garrick McGee
Steve Sarkisian .. USC .. head coach Washington .. Lane Kiffin
Derek Mason .. Vanderbilt .. def. coord. Stanford .. James Franklin
Dave Clawson .. Wake Forest .. head coach Bowling Green .. Jim Grobe
Chris Petersen .. Washington .. head coach Boise St. .. Steve Sarkisian
Jeff Brohm .. Western Kentucky .. off. coord. W. Kentucky .. Bobby Petrino
Craig Bohl .. Wyoming .. head coach N. Dakota St. (I-AA) .. Dave Christensen
ROLLING HEAD WATCH
The following coaches will have a difficult time hanging onto their noggins through the 2014 season:
Troy Calhoun, Air Force The former Falcon quarterback led his team to a 12-1 finish as a player back in 1985, but has only compiled a record of 49-41 as head coach, and thats with the help of some extremely self-serving scheduling. In 2012, he had his first losing season at 6-7, and he followed that up with a calamitous 2-10 campaign a year ago. The eighth-year AFA skipper had better be sure to keep a parachute handy, in the event that Colorado Springs should make like an ejection seat.
Dan Enos, Central Michigan In the four years before Enos arrival, the Chippewas were 38-17. During the four years of his tenure so far, theyre 19-30. To his credit, he has put together two consecutive non-losing seasons, but he cannot afford to regress. Back in Hazzard County, Enos was replaced by Boss Hoggs cousin Cletus after only three seasons, and boy, did that not go well. Perhaps that lesson is what CMUs Enos has to thank for his still be around for season five.
Will Muschamp, Florida If being a champ is a must, then hes rapidly running out of time. In his four years at a school thats used to competing for national titles, Muschamp is only 22-16, with half of those losses coming in 2013 alone. He doesnt seem to be trying anything dramatic to improve upon last years 18.8 point-per-game average, which means he risks not only disappointing the UF fans for another season, but continuing to bore them as well. If Floridian sports fans want to be bored, they already have the Marlins, the Orlando Magic, and jai alai. Theyve come to expect far better of Gator football.
Tim Beckman, Illinois Okay, so hes only in his third season, but so far hes just 6-18. Maybe the former Toledo coach will be given leniency because he took over a team led by scrambling QB Nathan Scheelhaase, and wasnt really at liberty to change the offensive scheme. This year, he welcomes former Oklahoma State slinger Wes Lunt, a dropback pocket passer whos about as different from his predecessor as you can get. Unfortunately, they only have Lunt for one season. If they dont have a good year, and then have to change the character of their offense again, they will appear to be flailing. Then it may be beck to the drawing board.
Charlie Weis, Kansas Is every former New England Patriots assistant accorded genius status for life, or can it actually be revoked at some point? The Offensive Goo did great for his first two seasons at Notre Dame, at which point he was 19-6, but since then, hes only gone 15-21 with the Irish, and 4-20 in two seasons in Lawrence. The conventional wisdom is that Weis just oozes offensive brilliance from everyplace youd rather not think about. Yet his team finished dead last in the Big XII last season in both scoring and total yardage. Now, his chances of survival hinge on his delegating his play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator John Reagan, who promises to run a thoroughly un-Weis-like spread offense. Maybe it will pay off, but if the most swellest, super-nucular offensive mind in the history of the game can only win by letting somebody else run the offense, then why is he there?
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia In 2012, after a sparsely attended win over Bowling Green in a monsoon, the prickly coach scolded, I dont know about this town. After two years of rapidly declining win totals and attendance, the town is rightly responding, We dont know about this coach. They will nevertheless have little choice but to be patient with the fourth-year skipper, who faces Alabama and Oklahoma in his first four games of 2014, but if he continues to lose to the likes of Iowa State and Kansas, the man the Czar once dubbed the Medusa of Morgantown just might lose his head.
WHAT'S NEW IN 2014
* The College Football Playoff The NCAA is finally switching to the plus-one format that was proposed several years ago, which brings back the winners of the two biggest bowl games for the national championship, to be played one week later. The College Football Czar has advocated this format all along, but with one proviso: Do not call it a playoff! The reason for this is simple. As long as its understood to be an extension of the bowl season, everyone accepts that there are four teams involved, and thats it. But a four-team playoff field, among 128 participants, is disproportionately small. Now that the NCAA has officially and wittily dubbed it the College Football Playoff, there is already a clamoring to expand the field to eight. Since there are more than eight conferences, and every champion must be invited in order to be fair, it will become a 16-team bracket before you know it, and it wont stop there. The bowl games, unable to compete for advertisers, will wither and drop away. As a result, there will be only weekend games, and nothing to watch on weeknights between Christmas and New Years. Moreover, there will be no more must-win, regular-season blockbusters, because the losing teams in those big games will be practically assured of making the playoffs anyway. Bama-LSU will carry no greater importance than a midseason Niners-Falcons game, which will leave fans with the worst case of buyers remorse since that whole hopey-changey thing. Thus endeth the Golden Era of College Football. And it was entirely avoidable.
* Yet more bowl games as if to deliberately sabotage the bowl season, the NCAA has approved not one, but four new games, at a time when bowl committees are already scrounging for eligible participants. The new games although the Czar is not convinced they will all get off the ground are the Bahamas Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl, the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, and the Miami Beach Bowl in the distinctly unbeachy Marlins Park. That makes 39 games, with 78 bowl berths, and only 50 Division I-A teams being left out. Of course, this many games cannot survive along with the current qualification rules, so get ready to see the rules changed to allow losing teams to play in the postseason. The greatest stumbling block to an extended playoff format has been the popularity of the bowl games. By staging the Rat Mouth Bowl between 5-7 Akron and 4-8 Memphis, the NCAA will be contriving a demand for the bowls to be discarded altogether.
* New names for old games Mostly due to expiring sponsorships, several bowl games are changing names this year. Some of them (St. Petersburg, San Francisco, Birmingham) are reverting to their original names on an interim basis, while searching for a new moniker by years end. The Peach Bowl, in recent years known everywhere but here as only the Chick-fil-A Bowl, will once again become the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, perhaps reclaiming its traditional name to elevate its stature as one of the rotating playoff games. Most interestingly, the Little Caesars Bowl has folded, and given way to a new game at Ford Field, known as the Detroit Lions Bowl. Its about time the Detroit Lions got involved in college football, and finally accepted the fact that theyre not cut out for the NFL.
* Autonomy whatever they think that means The five major conferences appear to have reached some vague understanding with the NCAA regarding their nebulous demands for autonomy, which is not so much a set of concrete proposals as it is a general demand that they be left alone unless its about something truly important. At a minimum, this should mean that the NCAA stop its capricious enforcement of rules that are unintelligibly written in the first place. The most substantial change would allow the schools to increase scholarships to pay for the conspicuously ill-defined full cost of attending college. This is intended to swing the pendulum back in the direction of the big leagues, after a decades-long trend toward parity. There can be no doubt, for example, that the full cost of attending UCLA will outweigh that of, say, Idaho. Such a policy cannot mitigate the great equalizer, however, which is television. The proliferation of televised games since the dawn of cable and satellite TV has essentially made every Division I-A team a major program, by assuring that all starting players will get national exposure. That wont be undone by the big schools sweetening the pot by a couple bucks.
* A new take on targeting This season, if a targeting call is reversed upon review, the 15-yard penalty will not be enforced at least in theory. In practice, the Czar does not anticipate a great deal of difference. As absurd as it seemed to still walk off the yardage after the targeting flag was picked up, the vast majority of those plays still involved late hits or other forms of unnecessary roughness. The new system will only create more controversy. After a targeting penalty is overturned, the referee will have to explain that theres still a personal foul, just not one that calls for an ejection. It wont be long before you start hearing lardheaded announcers hollering double jeopardy!
* The SEC Network It was only a matter of time. The greatest conference in college football, which never tires of telling us so, was not going to lag behind the Big Ten and Pac 12 in the television arms race for long. The new channel, which is part of the ESPN family of networks, already has carriage deals with Dish, Cox cable, and AT&T U-Verse. As of this writing, theres still no word on DirecTV, Verizon FIOS and Comcast. The new network will broadcast the very first game of the season, a Thursday, Aug. 28th clash between Texas A&M and South Carolina, at 6PM Eastern.
* Division I-A expansion The ranks of major college football grow to 128, with the addition of Old Dominion to Conference USA, and Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to the Sun Belt. In 2015, C-USA will also be adding Charlotte, complete with its hammer-and-sickle helmet logo which, unlike an Indian logo, is officially inoffensive.
* Irish go faux green Turf in Notre Dame Stadium? Thats like serving Turkeyburgers on the Fourth of July! As long as Fighting Irish fans take the removal of their iconic grass field lying down, the College Football Czar would thank them to stop yammering about their other team traditions as if they has been directly descended from Saint Peter. If the echoes are awakened to see this years opener against Rice being played on what looks like the home field of the Portland Timbers, their reaction will be to puke, gargle, and go back to bed.
* Early Pac 12 kickoffs In order to take advantage of the full breadth of the TV schedule, the Pac 12 has slated some games to kick off at 2PM Eastern Time, which in the coastal states is 11 oclock in the morning. That may be a wise move for television, but what about the convenience of the paying fans? Then again, theyre already used to their college football day starting at 9AM. On the flip side, they have nothing left to watch after about 10:30 at night. Yeesh! The College Football Czar could never live on the Left Coast, and not just because he isnt a granola-munching loon.
WHAT'S NOT NEW
* Conference realignment The Big Ten takes Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the American Athletic Conference. The ACC replaces the Terps with Louisville, also of the AAC. The AAC again raids Conference USA, adding Tulane and Tulsa. C-USA plucks Western Kentucky out of the Sun Belt. Not much compared to previous shakeups over the past five years, but still enough to lose track of the teams if you dont bone up before the season kicks off.
* Commodore Cupcakes Almost nobody really plays a tough schedule anymore, but isnt it time that Vanderbilt stopped using its academic standards as a cheap and self-congratulatory excuse for cowardly scheduling? Vandy has been to three consecutive bowl games, and ended last season on a five-game winning streak. The Commodores cant help being in the SECs weaker division, but they sure couldve put together a more serious nonconference slate than Temple, Umass, Old Dominion, and I-AA Charleston Southern. When Stanford is a perennial national contender, Rice is a 10-game winner, and Duke is a division titlist, the smart-guys-finish-last excuse doesnt cut it anymore.
* Brent Musburger The 74-year-not-new broadcaster will still be working games this year for ESPNs SEC Network, but thats because hes been yanked from ABCs prime-time games, where hed been teamed up with Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox. Almost every fan has an opinion of the super-veteran play-by-play man, and many of those opinions are, frankly, cruel. The Czar, for one, thinks Musburger still calls a great game, until about midway through the fourth quarter. Then, his attention tends to drift away from the gridiron and toward Las Vegas. One can just imagine executives from both ABC and the NCAA being nervously glued to their TVs and saying, Dont mention the betting line. Dont mention the betting line. Dont mention the betting line. DOH! To make matters worse, he sometimes follows up those gambling references by congratulating himself on how subtle and clever he is for getting away with saying something naughty on the air. If Musburger is so conscious of the odds, then its no wonder the poor sap cant afford to retire. Now, hes been removed from the A-team, and relegated to sharing a booth with Jesse Palmer. That must have been one whale of a bet he lost.
LARDHEAD OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINEES
* Jameis Winston The Heisman-winning Florida State quarterback is legally off the hook for the sexual assault accusation that was leveled against him last year, but he ought to realize that he still has to contend in the court of public opinion. When youre trying to appear innocent, committing a crime of any sort is generally not helpful. Yet Winston was arrested during the offseason for, of all things, shoplifting crab legs and crawfish. What a shellfish thing to do.
* Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter for leading a ludicrous effort to unionize that schools football players. Colters case rests on the pair of totally contradictory proposals that (a) the concept of student-athletes is a fraud, therefore the scholarships awarded to college football players are without value, and (b) those same worthless scholarships constitute payment, which makes the players employees of the university. As if that inconsistency didnt refute his argument thoroughly enough, he chose to make this claim at one of the most respected academic institutions in Division I athletics. If it had to, Northwestern could call an endless parade of witnesses to attest to the genuineness of their student-athlete status. The sniveling sports media may wonder what terrible abuses drove Colter to take this course of action, but he has already explained how the subject came up. One of his Commie professors proposed the idea, and being a good collegiate sillyputtyhead, he obeyed. Then a senior, Colter is now on the preseason roster of the Minnesota Vikings, while most of his ex-teammates are left back in Evanston, dealing with the fallout from his theatrical dramatization of a weak freshman term paper on Cesar Chavez. The result of the Wildcats unionization vote is unknown for now because the NLRB has put the ballots under seal, but any player who has voted to follow Colter to where he doesnt have to go anyway is an even bigger lardhead than he is.
* Fox Sports for firing commentator Craig James after his first day on the job at FSN Southwest, purportedly because he had stated during an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate that same-sex marriage violates his religious beliefs. Naturally, you can see how this disqualifies him from analyzing Big XII football games. In explaining the firing, VP of Public Relations Lou DErmilio told the Dallas Morning News, We just ask ourselves how Craigs statements would play in our human resources department. He couldnt say those things here. James subsequent lawsuit for religious discrimination prompted Fox Sports president David Shanks to give a deposition, in which he acknowledged that DErmilio had made the statement, but claimed it wasnt true. Instead, Shanks said that he had personally intervened to fire James, for the incomprehensible reason that James reaction to the alleged mistreatment of his son at Texas Tech might have inflicted some unspecified bad feelings on his former employers at ESPN. Shanks had not spoken to anybody at ESPN to verify this, he explained, because he was only concerned with the perception that it was the case, and not with whatever had actually happened. Hows this for perception, Mr. Shanks? DErmilio didnt have any motivation to lie, but you did.
* Tim Tebow The Heisman-winning, somehow offensively Christian former Florida quarterback, who in his spare time is the sports medias Public Enemy #1, has taken a job co-hosting SEC Nation, a regional version of College Gameday to be broadcast on the SEC Network. That new channel is part of ESPN. You know, the network that has declared him to be the most polarizing figure in sports ever since he and his mother appeared in a completely benign Focus on the Family ad during the Super Bowl, to which nobody would object who is not one of the more disreputable relatives of pond scum. Cant he see that theyre only leeching off his celebrity in the short term, until the opportunity presents itself to set him up for a fall? Inevitably, the manufactured controversy will arise, and if it takes him by surprise, that will just prove him to be every bit the hick they think he is.
* People whose answer to everything is, Its all about the money! Not only do all lardheads think this is a brilliant thing to say, but they usually say it in a consciously authoritative tone of voice, as if they thought they were imparting the wisdom of Yoda. In truth, there are many things in college football, let alone the world, that are not about money at all. The NCAAs anti-Indian nickname jihad is but one of these. There are countless other things that are about money, without there being a stinkin thing in the world the matter with that. Okay, so the College Football Playoff is all about the money, but so was the NCAAs reluctance to disrupt the present bowl structure. The relevant issue is which model is better for college football, not that one or the other is inherently corrupt. If you happen to be an its all about the money lardhead, this is nothing personal, but there are gin-saturated, bridge-dwelling lobotomy patients licking lampposts for breakfast who have got more constructive things to add to a conversation than you have.
THE CZAR DECREES
If the College Football Czar could issue proclamations changing college football, these are some of the things he would do:
* If its encroachment, call it that Many casual fans dont understand the difference between offsides and encroachment, and no wonder, since so few referees accurately differentiate between the two. Offsides, of course, is when a defensive player has crossed the line of scrimmage at the time that the ball is snapped. The result is a live play, with the offense being given the option of declining the penalty if the result of the play is more favorable. Encroachment is a pre-snap penalty that is called because a defensive player has actually made physical contact with his counterpart, or has gotten into the opposing backfield untouched. An encroachment penalty is a dead-ball foul that nullifies any subsequent action and cannot be declined. The difference between the two penalties is not trivial, yet most referees lazily identify encroachment as offsides. One of a refs most important jobs is explaining penalty calls to the audience. Why are they allowed to get away with such consistent imprecision?
* Get a whole new GamePlan Its the 2014 season, and still, the ESPN pay college football package is not in HD. Many of the same games are available in HD online at ESPN3, which is great, but you cant just flick between games on your computer like you can with your TV remote. Besides, sports bars can only show the TV broadcast, not the streaming video. Furthermore, the number of conferences involved in the package has dwindled since it first went on the air. Anymore, there are plenty of early afternoon ACC, SEC and American Athletic games on, but the prime time Mountain West and Conference USA games have been gone for several years, due to those leagues new contractual obligations. Still, there are quite a few late afternoon MAC and Sun Belt games that are shown on ESPN3, but are not broadcast on ESPNs own GamePlan. With a dearth of competitive early-season matchups, the GamePlan schedules for the first three weeks are dominated by games involving lower-division teams. To make the package worthwhile again, ESPN has got to upgrade it to HD, coax the smaller conferences into scheduling more 7 and 8PM kickoffs, and actually show all of the real Division I-A games that they make available online. Theres no reason those things should be difficult.
* Ree-sto the O Remember when the Oregon Ducks were completely uncool, but they had some of the best uniforms in the world of sports? If theyre not going to return to the Rich Brooks-era emerald green and lemon yellow, they could at least go back to the original O helmet and something resembling their actual team colors. Those barely visible chrome duck wings on their helmets are not their logo. The oval O, which became one of Americas most recognizable symbols almost overnight, is. If Phil Knight thinks a third consecutive season without their real helmet logo is good marketing, then its a wonder you see any more Nikes walking around than PF Flyers.
* BEER! If a college football team plays its games off-campus, it is allowed to serve beer at the games, yet many schools continue to forbid it. The reason, as far as the Czar is able to discern, is to pacify Mothers Against Football, or some other such overzealous activist group. Oh, the universities insist that theyre curbing student alcoholism, but arent the vendors supposed to be carding people anyway? And if a student is 21 years old, why is it anyones duty to prevent him from having a couple beers at the game? Hypocritically, some facilities still allow alcohol purchases by the people-who-matter in their club seating, where there could be underage drinkers all the same. They still know whats best for us commoners, though. Its no secret that universities arent partial to the American way of life, but must they impose a caste system?
* Can Sweet Caroline The cloying Neil Diamond song is played incessantly at sporting events around the country, even though it is totally irrelevant, and it squashes whatever natural enthusiasm might have been buzzing among the crowd. As if the song itself, and the buffoons singing along with it, werent reason enough for a ban, consider this: Diamond says he wrote the lyrics (Warm, touching warm, reaching out, touching me, touching you) about Caroline Kennedy, after seeing her picture in the newspaper. He was 28 years old when he recorded the song; Caroline Kennedy was 11. In addition, its just plain unfair. Tens of thousands of people can stand up and sway and be purposefully abrasive while singing a dopey late 60s pop tune, and its presented as if it were some kind of a wonderful tradition. But if just one person does it, hell be treated like a criminal. The College Football Czar knows this because he once regaled the crowd with a rousing rendition of the 1967 Every Mothers Son hit Come On Down To My Boat, and was swiftly removed from the premises. Discrimination, I tell you!
TOP TEN (Please see original article for total rankings 1-128)
1.Oklahoma 2.Oregon 3.Alabama 4.Florida State 5.Auburn 6.Ohio State 7.USC 8.Michigan State 9.South Carolina 10.Texas
American Athletic Conference
1. Cincinnati Bearcats QB Gunner Kiel hauls his arsenal from South Bend
2. East Carolina Pirates 2 minutes for Ruffin is all McNeills offense needs
3. Central Florida Knights look to be Dublin win total vs. Penn St. in overseas opener
4. Houston Cougars pounced on loose balls for NCAA-leading +25 TO margin in 2013
5. South Florida Bulls Can ex-WKU coach Taggart get back to the top of the hill?
6. SMU Mustangs shouldve voted neigh on daunting nonconference schedule
7. Tulane Green Wave ready to make a big splash in their new outdoor stadium
8. Uconn Huskies passing game has a surprise in Storrs for unsuspecting foes
9. Temple Owls hooters booted close games with poor place kicking to go 2-10
10. Memphis Tigers Knock them down, step on their face. Theyre used to it.
11. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Tulsa time will pass slowly during long, long season
Outlook: Louisvilles departure for the ACC has left a vacuum at the top of the standings, which should make for a wide-open race among the top four teams. Cincys most formidable stumbling back is its own situation at quarterback, where ND-transfer Kiel should start over Jarred Evans, but popular ex-starter Munchie Legaux, who suffered a gruesome season-ending injury last year, will be vying for significant playing time. The big question for UCF is whether QB Blake Bortles was really that important, considering that their defense ranked #17 nationally.
Atlantic Coast Conference (atlantic)
1. Florida State Seminoles* Jameis steals the show, along with assorted crustaceans
2. Clemson Tigers loss of QB Boyd, leading RB & WR ought to give them paws
3. Louisville Cardinals many defensive holes to fill in The Ville, including head coach
4. Syracuse Orange veteran roster keeps them on Otto-pilot
5. Boston College Eagles Coach Addazio can addazero to his side of the scoreboard
6. Nc State Wolfpack They cant Raleigh be serious about that nonconference slate
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons new coach Clawson must scratch up some playmakers
Atlantic Coast Conference (coastal)
1. Miami Hurricanes Running back Duke is the oil in this offensive machine
2. North Carolina Tarheels WR Switzer must continue to chew as a punt returner
3. Virginia Tech Hokies/Gobblers rushed for a poultry average of 120 ypg in 2013
4. Pitt Panthers experienced OL means fewer Pitt-falls in their running game
5. Duke Blue Devils not with a dress on, but instead wore the pants in the division
6. Georgia Tech Ramblin Wreck wishbone snaps need luck, with new QB and center
7. Virginia Cavaliers swordsmen could use more swash and less buckle on offense
* projected conference champion
Outlook: The parity in this league should make for lots of great games with exciting finishes, but the last-ever BCS champion Seminoles are the only team capable of contending for the new trophy this season. If Miami stumbles, the Coastal division title is up for grabs among everybody but Virginia. Clemson cant afford to spend any time rebuilding, with their first two road games of the season against Georgia and FSU.
Big Ten Conference (east division)
1. Ohio State Buckeyes* Cue ESPNs annual, obnoxious Braxton for Heisman campaign
2. Michigan State Spartans There arent 300 of them on defense; it just seems that way
3. Michigan Wolverines RBs need to have a breakout year in the Big House
4. Indiana Hoosiers candelabra-heads are finally starting to see the light
5. Maryland Terrapins receivers return from having pins knocked from under them
6. Penn State Nittany Lions need Nittin needles to stitch together a patchwork O-line
7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Will new coordinator Friedgen say no mas to Nova at QB?
Big Ten Conference (west division)
1. Wisconsin Badgers The Big Bad Gers go smaller with new defensive approach
2. Iowa Hawkeyes namesake Pierce would be proud of non-confrontational schedule
3. Nebraska Cornhuskers N-men have no easy Ws on the road this year
4. Illinois Fighting Illini Wes Lunt = less punt, with Okie St. transfer at quarterback
5. Minnesota Golden Gophers couldve gone pherther if not for QB Nelsons trans-pher
6. Northwestern Wildcats lost 7 straight last season, and now they expect to be paid?
7. Purdue Boilermakers Honest engine, this just isnt a very good football team
* projected conference champion
Outlook: The lumpy nuts must regain their defensive form after yielding 115 points in their last three games of the 2013 season. MSU has taken over as the leagues premier defensive team, but lacks the offensive power to pull away from lesser opponents. Badger coach Gary Andersens emphasis on defensive speed will invite controversy, after UWs big, bruising defenders held seven opponents to 10 points or fewer a year ago.
Big Twelve Conference
1. Oklahoma Sooners crowned themselves Crimson Kings in Sugar Bowl vs. Bama
2. Texas Longhorns look to emulate coach Strong, as in powerful, not pungent
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys New team leaders must man-up, even though theyre not 40
4. Baylor Bears starting 10 sophomores may lead to youthful Boo-Boos
5. TCU Horned Frogs Up-tempo offense will make foes exclaim, Leaping lizards!
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders defense cant turn JUCOs into Cujos overnight
7. Kansas State Wildcats Gronks cheers are heard in Manhattan for sophomore FB
8. Iowa State Cyclones new O-coach Mayor of Oz is not really and sincerely dead
9. Kansas Jayhawks hope ailing O will be made welllll by new coordinator Reagan
10. West Virginia Mountaineers coaches more threatened than couches this year at WVU
Outlook: The Czar picks the Sooners #1 nationally not because they appear to be the best team, but because their schedule offers far fewer hazards than those of Oregon and Alabama. Their highest hurdle, again, is Texas, whom they face on Oct. 11th in Dallas. Rebuilding projects in Stillwater and Waco give the Frogs a chance to jump back into national contention. Another brutal year of travel for WVU sees them open the season in Atlanta against Alabama, followed by conference road games against Tech, OSU, Texas and Iowa State. Just in case youre wondering, the Mayor of Oz is former Jayhawk coach Mark Mangino, who is now the offensive coordinator at ISU.
Conference USA (east division)
1. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders* MT-head backfield is chock full of ground-gainers
2. Marshall Thundering Herd prolific QB Cato isnt just loafing on O.J.s couch
3. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Petrino prodigy Brohm replaces his former coach
4. Florida Atlantic Burrowing Owls Can coach Partridge make them cmon-get-happy?
5. Old Dominion Monarchs They float like a butterfly, sting like their QB
6. UAB Blazers U, AB, a female B or at least theyve been playing like it
7. Florida International Golden Panthers answers elude the International Men of Mystery
Conference USA (west division)
1. Rice Owls Bailiffs locked up in a new contract, after his second 10-win season
2. UTSA Roadrunners One (1) Acme Quarterback away from a conference title
3. North Texas Mean Green less mean and more green than their veteran 2013 squad
4. Southern Miss Golden Eagles Where Eagles Dare? In Tuscaloosa, Sept. 13th, but why?
5. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs offensive machinery in Ruston could use some WD-40
6. UTEP Miners last years team met the same fate as the canary
* projected conference champion
Outlook: Each division appears to be a two-team race, with the East potentially being decided by a rematch of last years 51-49 Thursday night donnybrook, except that this time, the Herd have home field on Oct. 11th. The West could come down to which team is first to settle on a new starting quarterback. Brian Wright, who went 4-0 as head coach at FAU after Carl Pelinis firing, has decided to stay on as offensive coordinator, unlike Ed Orgeron at USC. In the Czars book, Wright is right, and Orgeron is erongo.
1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish QB Golsons return wont bring back mighty 2012 defense
2. Brigham Young Cougars out to Provo a point to Big XII by repeating beating of Texas
3. Navy Midshipmen will go as far as QB Keenan Reynolds sea legs will carry them
4. Army Black Knights If this keeps up, the dragon is going to demand a rematch
Outlook: Last year, the Irish were still plenty respectable on defense, at #31 nationally, but now they must replace five of their front seven, as well as coordinator Bob Diaco. BYU has seemingly given up on its ambition of becoming the Notre Dame of the West, as Coach Mendenhall is practically begging to be allowed into the Big XII. The Iowa State of the West just doesnt have the same ring to it.
Mid-American Conference (east division)
1. Bowling Green Falcons* de-Clawsoned but still dangerous after 10-4 season
2. Akron Zips Roos WRs could give them the jump on their divisional rivals
3. Buffalo Bulls cattle drives will be led by beefy, experienced offensive line
4. Ohio Bobcats This season will be a round end, following a 5-year hi in the middle
5. Kent State Golden Flashes jumped out of the pan and into the fire, in 2013 burnout
6. Miami OH RedHawks The Red House welcomes ND-transfer Hendrix at QB
7. Umass Minutemen MAC misfits audition for an ambivalent AAC
Mid-American Conference (west division)
1. Toledo Rockets 16 returning starters make them a big fish in the Glass Bowl
2. Ball State Cardinals Coach Lembo refuses to lower the bar as offense rebuilds
3. Northern Illinois Huskies defense could go to mush, with four lead dogs departed
4. Central Michigan Chippewas beatable big-league foes make things Pleasant on the Mt.
5. Western Michigan Broncos Coach Fleck leads horses to water, but cant make em row
6. Eastern Michigan Eagles still have lots of ysplainin to do in Ypsilanti
* projected conference champion
Outlook: BGSU junior QB Matt Johnson becomes the MACs premier passer, now that Jordan Lynch, Keith Wenning, Tyler Tettleton and Terrance Owens have all moved on. The Zips finished strong in year two under Terry Bowden, due mostly to a rapidly improving defense. If BG were in the West where it belongs, Bowdens bunch would be at least co-favorites to claim the East.
Mountain West Conference (mountain division)
1. Utah State Aggies round up the USU-al suspects as injured QB Keeton, RB Hill return
2. Boise State Broncos good thing theres no BCS left to bust, because they cant
3. Colorado State Rams buttheads build on an improbable bowl comeback vs. Wash. St.
4. New Mexico Lobos versatile QB plays game of Gautsche with unsuspecting defenders
5. Air Force Falcons thunderbirds cant stagger through another season like 2013
6. Wyoming Cowboys with schematic shakeup, new coach from Fargo has far to go
Mountain West Conference (west division)
1. Nevada Wolf Pack* UNR must stop the r-u-n to contend for conference title
2. UNLV Rebels without a cause no more, with bowl ban recently lifted
3. Fresno State Bulldogs The Phantom appears, as a graduate transfer from Duke
4. San Diego State Aztecs need all the pyramid power they can get on the road this year
5. San Jose State Spartans special teams cant help much if opponents dont have to punt
6. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Norm Chow knows that aloha also means goodbye
Outlook: This could be a pivotal season for Boise State, which can either reestablish itself as a national power, or else settle into the position of a perennial also-ran, depending on whether their defense can bounce back from last years fall. The Pack, who got bagged early in 2013 by UCLA and Florida State, has a friendlier schedule that gives them a chance for a win or two against the Pac 12. USU, with a rebuilding offensive line, will rely heavily on their remaining Hefty Hefty Whimpey Whimpey brother at left tackle.
Pac 12 Conference (north division)
1. Oregon Ducks* another injury to QB Mariota could lead to a backup quackup
2. Stanford Cardinal D-coach Mason parted on the square, to take head job at Vandy
3. Oregon State Beavers wont be mistaken for groundhogs, after 94 ypg rushing average
4. Washington Huskies O is as empty as a steakhouse in Seattle
5. Washington State Cougars Will QB Halliday play Santa Claus to opposing DBs?
6. California Golden Bears If Jimi played Berkeley this year, Jimi would win
Pac 12 Conference (south division)
1. USC Trojans no Orgeron among the oranges, but there should be plenty of O
2. UCLA Bruins QB Hundley handily led team in rushing, but is that good?
3. Arizona State Sun Devils Sparky needs to plug too many holes on defense
4. Arizona Wildcats may start Anu, with freshman Solomon behind center
5. Utah Utes pass defense was practically Uteless during last years 5-7 campaign
6. Colorado Buffaloes Ralphie barfs buckets while watching them in conference play
* projected conference champion
Outlook: As long as Marcus Mariota remains healthy, the Fighting Ducks may be the best team in the nation, but we saw what happened last year when an injury took away his running ability, and the same could happen this season. The South could very well be decided by the Nov. 22nd rivalry game between the Los Angeles schools, which ought to generate lots of interest, without the NFL even having to buy them a stadium.
Southeastern Conference (east division)
1. South Carolina Gamecocks Who will step up to fill Clowneys big shoes?
2. Georgia Bulldogs Dont expect sugar and spice and everything nice from RB Gurley
3. Vanderbilt Commodores schedules bilt to take them to bowl game, no matter what
4. Missouri Tigers Takeaways aside, their defense got taken throughout last season
5. Florida Gators Are they Everglade the 2013 season is behind them
6. Tennessee Volunteers LB Maggitt will make ball-carriers drop and give him twenty
7. Kentucky Wildcats not very rich in talent in Commonwealth Stadium
Southeastern Conference (west division)
1. Alabama Crimson Tide* fans are fit to be Tide after last season ended with a Bam
2. Auburn Tigers got Burned by the conference schedule-makers this year
3. Mississippi State Bulldogs Cowbell Boys dont fear the reaper, or anyone else
4. LSU Tigers changing too many stripes in their spotty receiving corps
5. Ole Miss Rebels QB Bo Wallace has to wipe the Egg Bowl off his face
6. Texas A&M Aggies They have the 12th Man, but have they a 1st quarterback?
7. Arkansas Razorbacks stubbled and bumbled to losses in their last nine of 2013
* projected conference champion
Outlook: Once again the West will dominate, with arguably 6 of the best 8 teams in the conference. The Tide may not be as talented as they were a year ago, but Nick Saban will see to it that they finish the season stronger. Auburn may be a slightly better team than Bama, but its two opponents from the East this year are Carolina and UGA, whereas the pachyderms pound Florida and Tennessee.
Sun Belt Conference
1. South Alabama Jaguars lots of moving parts to versatile offense in Mobile
2. Texas State Bobcats LB Mayo (Nnaise!) leads his mates through obstacle course
3. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns must prevent hits on Broadway for show to go on
4. Arkansas State Red Wolves How long will the latest leader of the pack last?
5. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks belligerent birds take on three SEC opponents this year
6. Troy Trojans The old college Troy wont be good enough this time around
7. New Mexico State Aggies veteran D-coach Coyer to fortify crumbling adobe wall
8. Appalachian State Mountaineers road opener at Mich. shows they cant go home again
9. Idaho Vandals road slate takes them everywhere but the gates of Rome
10. Georgia Southern Eagles big league foes no longer have any bone to pick with them
11. Georgia State Panthers GSU needs G-u-s, the mule, if they want to score very often
Outlook: The Jags and Bobs are relative newcomers to this conference, but so is almost everybody, so why shouldnt they contend for the title? The Cajuns have won three straight New Orleans Bowls, but are no gah-rohn-tee to return. ASU will be playing for its fifth head coach in as many years. At what point does continuity become a problem? Geographical misfits NMSU and Idaho find refuge after being left in the wreckage of the WAC. The Vandals road schedule makes West Virginias look enviable, with nonconference trips to Florida and Ohio, to go along with league games in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
The College Football Czar has no idea who he will end up picking to win the following games, but he highlights them now as possible upsets which threaten to ensnare some of the nation's most prominent programs. The favored teams appear in bold face.
Virginia Tech at Ohio State What figures to be a defensive slugfest could be decided by a key turnover or special teams play. Braxton Miller will be joined by an unproven running back behind an unsettled line, and facing a Gobbler D that ranked fourth in the nation a year ago. Besides, that square-root-of-one logo on Techs helmets is bound to befuddle the boys from Katzenmoyer U.
East Carolina at South Carolina This textbook trap game falls on the Gamecocks schedule between blockbuster SEC battles against Texas A&M and Georgia. ECU relishes these games against neighboring big-league opponents, and their quick strike offense can make complacency costly. In short, Carolina cant get cocky.
Florida State at Nc State Conventional wisdom has it that if the Seminoles win their conference opener against Clemson, theyll already have the division title sewn up. Youd think theyd be leery of NCSU, having lost on their last two trips to Raleigh, but last years easy 49-17 victory is the only previous meeting that Jameis Winston remembers. The Wolfpacks weenie nonconference schedule should build confidence for QB Jacoby Brissett, a transfer from Florida. Winston, however, might be a bit rusty after returning from suspension. No, wait a minute the sophomore QB was only suspended for three games in baseball, not football. Evidently, grand theft seafood does not technically violate Jimbo Fishers team rules.
Alabama at Ole Miss Last years meeting betrayed its buildup, as the Tide routed the Rebels 25-0. This time, Mississippi enters the game as the more battle-tested team, whereas Nick Saban will have some unanswered questions, starting with whether the hiring of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator will make for a tough transition. Still, its not as if theyd hired Monte, too.
Oklahoma vs. Texas The pointy cows burst OUs bubble last year in a 36-20 romp, during which Jonathan Gray rushed for 123 yards, and Malcolm Brown another 120. Both backs are still wearing the burnt orange this season. When will the Sooners learn that in a game between Oklahoma and Texas, Dallas is not a neutral site?
Michigan State at Indiana Last year, the Hoosiers tied for the most points scored against the mighty MSU defense all season, albeit in a 42-28 defeat. That meeting, however, was in East Lansing, home of the Spartans, Spartan Stadium, Sparty the mascot, and all things Spart. This one will be in Bloomington, where IU averaged 48 points per game against quality competition in 2013. Indys offensive tempo wont be new to the Spartans, who face Oregon in Week 2. The question is whether that game will make it easier for them to handle the Hoosiers, or give coach Kevin Wilson a blueprint for beating them.
Cincinnati at Uconn Whomever the Huskies settle on at quarterback will have plenty of targets to throw to, which could make this season more closely resemble the last three games of 2013 than the 0-9 start. A week after a track meet with East Carolina, the Bearcat defense might not expect an equally serious challenge to its stamina from their former Big East rivals. Conn Men always claim that they have a system, but maybe this time, they really do.
Oregon at Oregon State When the Ducks and Beavers collide, its time to platypus-up or however the rest of that goes. For the Fighting Ducks, the really alarming thing about last years Civil War game was not the 36-35 final score as much as the fact that the Beavers usually a one-dimensional passing team gnawed through their run defense for 5.9 yards per carry. When OSU was at its peak, these rivals were unable to win on each others home field from 1999-2006, until the Beavs finally won in Eugene in 07. By the end of this season, perhaps their resurgence will return them to somewhere near the same level as their foes from UO.
Just for fun, the Czar takes his best preseason guesses at how the postseason might turn out.
Bowl .... Date .... Matchup .... Projection
New Orleans .. Dec 20 .. Sun Belt vs. MWC .. Texas St. vs. Fresno St.
New Mexico .. Dec. 20 .. MWC vs. C-USA .. Boise St. vs. Marshall
Las Vegas .. Dec. 20 .. MWC vs. Pac 12 .. Nevada vs. Washington St.
Famous Idaho Potato .. Dec 20 .. MWC vs. MAC .. Colorado St. vs. No. Illinois
Camellia .. Dec. 20 .. MAC vs. Sun Belt .. Akron vs. LA-Lafayette
Miami Beach .. Dec. 22 .. BYU^ vs. AAC .. BYU vs. S. Florida
Boca Raton .. Dec. 23 .. C-USA vs. MAC .. Florida Atlantic vs. Toledo
Poinsettia .. Dec. 23 .. MWC vs. Navy^ .. UNLV vs. Navy
Bahamas .. Dec. 24 .. C-USA vs. MAC .. W. Kentucky vs. Ball St.
Hawaii .. Dec. 24 .. MWC vs. C-USA .. Utah St. vs. Middle Tenn.
Heart of Dallas .. Dec. 26 .. C-USA vs. Big Ten* .. Rice vs. Arkansas St.
Detroit Lions .. Dec. 26 .. Big Ten vs. ACC .. Illinois vs. Boston College
St. Petersburg .. Dec. 26 .. American vs. ACC .. C. Florida vs. Syracuse
Military .. Dec. 27 .. ACC vs. C-USA .. Pitt vs. E. Carolina
Sun .. Dec. 27 .. Pac 12 vs. ACC .. Oregon St. vs. Va. Tech
Independence .. Dec. 27 .. ACC vs. SEC .. Duke vs. Florida
New Era Pinstripe .. Dec. 27 .. ACC/ND vs. Big Ten .. Notre Dame vs. Maryland
Holiday .. Dec. 27 .. Big Ten vs. Pac 12 .. Nebraska vs. Stanford
Liberty .. Dec. 29 .. Big XII vs. SEC .. Kansas St. vs. Missouri
Russell Athletic .. Dec. 29 .. ACC vs. Big XII .. N. Carolina vs. Oklahoma St.
Texas .. Dec. 29 .. Big XII vs. SEC .. Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M
Music City .. Dec. 30 .. SEC vs. ACC .. Vanderbilt vs. Miami
Belk .. Dec. 30 .. ACC vs. SEC .. Louisville vs. Ole Miss
San Francisco .. Dec. 30 .. Big Ten vs. Pac 12 .. Indiana vs. Arizona
Peach .. Dec. 31 .. At-large vs. At-large .. Mississippi St. vs. Clemson
Fiesta .. Dec. 31 .. At-large vs. At-large .. USC vs. Michigan St.
Orange .. Dec. 31 .. At-large vs. At-large .. Ohio St. vs. Auburn
Capital One .. Jan. 1 .. SEC vs. Big Ten .. Georgia vs. Wisconsin
Outback .. Jan. 1 .. SEC vs. Big Ten .. S. Carolina vs. Iowa
Cotton .. Jan. 1 .. At-large vs. At-large .. Texas vs. Cincinnati
Rose .. Jan 1 .. Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist .. Oklahoma vs. Florida St.
Sugar .. Jan. 1 .. Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist .. Oregon vs. Alabama
Armed Forces .. Jan. 2 .. Army^* vs. AAC .. N. Texas vs. Houston
Gator .. Jan. 2 .. SEC vs. Big Ten .. LSU vs. Michigan
Alamo .. Jan. 2 .. Big XII vs. Pac 12 .. Baylor vs. UCLA
Cactus .. Jan. 2 .. Big XII vs. Big Ten .. TCU vs. Arizona St.
Birmingham .. Jan. 3 .. AAC vs. SEC* .. SMU vs. Ga. Tech
GoDaddy.com .. Jan. 4 .. Sun Belt vs. MAC .. S. Alabama vs. Bowling Green
Championship .. Jan. 12 .. Rose winner vs. Sugar winner .. Oklahoma vs. Oregon
* Conference has no more eligible teams to fulfill commitment
^ If eligible
A not SEC champ? Not even in the title game?
Auburn was 60 seconds from continuing the dominance.
So let the games begin.
Here’s wishing Coach Franklin at PSU a successful season, even tho the NCAA tried to bury their football team.
The Barn has a meatgrinder schedule starting with LSU, which defends HUNH teams well. There are too many tough games and trap games in October and November for them to get through undefeated.
Hats off to FSU for kicking the SEC Network in the crotch by them denying them a SEC National Champion to crow about when they launch in a couple of weeks.
I know some Gamecock fans who are PO’d about the game start time. It’s too early for them on a weekday. A&M fans will still be in rush hour traffic at kickoff. The game was scheduled to be the 3rd one of the evening until the SEC network solidified it’s plans only a couple of weeks ago.
Let’s see how the SEC does without the Bowl Cupcake Series and now that college football is finally joining the rest of the amateur and professional sports world which determines finalists with playoffs, and not ‘experts,’ ‘SOS,’ computers, Tarot cards, etc.
Go look at the head to head games with other conferences.
LSU scheduled and beat Oregon in two regular season games.
I welcome the extra game but you’ll once again see the SEC dominate. It’s demographics. SEC dominates because of... slavery. More blacks in the SEC states = better football teams. Of course, also means more crime, poverty, etc.
While they’re at it, can the powers that be change the name of the “Fight Hunger” Bowl in San Francisco? What a ridiculous name for a football game. I get it, hunger is bad, but they might as well name a NASCAR race the “Smoking Kills” race. Save the editorializing and do-gooder gestures for a ladies tea and let football be football.
Then again, it is the home of Nancy Pelosi, the nation’s screwiest dizt.
I just swished down to the SEC rankings to see where they put Auburn and Alabama. Only game I will not miss in college football.
I really take offense to this statement.....However Tebow did have black players supporting him....He was by far not black. I use this as one example of many. Please keep your bigoted ideas to yourself...yes I am a Gator if you were wondering.
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