College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 2

This is a list of every game played during week 2 of the 2019 college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school. All games are listed, televised or not.

For the streamed/televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline reporters (where applicable). I put all of it on a Google Documents spreadsheet that can be accessed at the following link:

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 2

Additional notes:

– I include streaming information for games on CBS Digital, ESPN.com, ESPN3, Fox.com, Fox Sports Go, NBC Live Extra, Pac-12 Digital, Facebook, Stadium, and FloSports.

– I also list digital network feeds provided by various conferences. For some of these feeds, the audio will be a simulcast of the home team’s radio broadcast. Other online platforms have their own announcers.

For now, the digital networks I am including in the listings are those for the Big Sky (Pluto TV), NEC (Front Row), WCCCUSAMountain West, and Patriot League. Some of the feeds for those conferences are provided by the Stadium platform.

Occasionally individual schools (almost always at the FCS level) provide video feeds. When that is the case, I list those as well.

– As I did last season, this year I am including pay-per-view telecasts and streams. These matchups are sometimes listed as “PPV” telecasts or (in the case of feeds from individual schools) “All-Access” streams, though an occasional stream with that description is actually free.

– I also note which games are on ESPN College Extra (those matchups tend to be released later in the week).

– BTN “gamefinder”:  Link

– AP Poll (FBS):  Link

– AFCA Coaches’ Poll (FCS):  Link

A lot of the information I use in putting this together comes courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s comprehensive and indispensable site College Sports on TV, a necessity for any fan of college football and/or basketball. Another site on the “must-bookmark” list is lsufootball.net, particularly for devotees of the central time zone.

I must also mention the relentless information gatherers (and in a few cases sports-TV savants) at the506.com. I am occasionally assisted as well by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.

Game Review, 2019: Towson

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

WCSC-TV game report (video)

School release

Game highlights (video)

Box score

Let’s look at some of the key stats:

The Citadel Towson
Field Position 21.78 (-15.2) 36.90 (+15.2)
Success Rate 54.05% 49.12%
Big plays (20+ yards) 1 6
Finishing drives** 4.00 5.25
Turnovers 3 1
Expected turnovers 1.72 2.10
Possessions 9 10
Points per possession** 2.33 3.11
Offensive Plays* 74 57
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 4.70 7.63
Yards/pass attempt (incl. sacks) 6.00 8.47
Yards/play* 4.77 8.19
3rd down conversions 11 of 17 (64.71%) 7 of 11 (63.64%)
4th down conversions 3 of 3 0 of 0
Red Zone TD% 3 for 4 (75%) 2 for 4 (50%)
Net punting 49.9 (2) 35.5 (2)
Time of possession 38:11:00 21:49:00
TOP/offensive play 30.96 seconds 22.19 seconds
Penalties 4 for 27 4 for 30
1st down passing 0/1, interception 10/13, 169 yards, 1 sack
3rd and long passing 1/1, 9 yards, TD 3/7, 34 yards
4th down passing 0/0 0/0
1st down yards/play 5.93 8.51
3rd down average yards to go 4.76 8.45
Defensive 3-and-outs+ 1 4

*kneeldowns not included in totals
**final drive for TU not included

I didn’t include the final drive for Towson in the ‘points per possession’ or ‘finishing drives’ categories because at that point in the game, Towson wasn’t trying to score, but rather keep the ball.

Some observations, based on the statistics above:

– Towson was not a particularly effective team on third down last season (38.86%). However, the Tigers were 7 for 11 on Saturday, including a stretch of four straight conversions during an 18-play drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth, taking up over seven minutes of game time.

Without that possession, The Citadel’s time-of-possession edge would have been even more lopsided. The Bulldogs’ inability to get off the field on that drive led to a TU field goal.

– The Citadel’s average yards to go on third down was excellent. If you take out the 3rd-and-23 play in the first quarter (that was the end result of the TD-negating chop block penalty), the average drops to 3.62. The Bulldogs had four 3rd-and-1 situations, and five 3rd-and-2 plays.

– The lack of big plays on offense for the Bulldogs was noticeable. Brent Thompson referenced it after the game, according to the game story in The Post and Courier. The Citadel needs to break more long gainers, as grinding out every drive for a score is not realistic (even in this offense).

A few of those big plays have to come via the pass.

– As far as the ‘expected turnovers’ go, The Citadel’s number is probably artificially low, because of the lack of passing. I’m just using the standard formula, but truthfully, I think the “real” expected turnovers for the Bulldogs was 2.50, not 1.72.

– Towson’s expected turnover total is based on the Bulldogs’ five pass breakups, which on average would have led to one interception — but while there were a couple of close calls, I can’t honestly say that The Citadel should have definitely had a pick.

– I suspect Thompson is going to be disappointed with the Bulldogs’ points per possession. The coach would undoubtedly prefer it be about a point higher, on average. (Well, he would really like it to be about 5 points higher on average, of course.)

– The field position edge for Towson was strictly a result of the turnovers.

Other thoughts, mostly random:

– There were not many penalties in the game — at least, called penalties. Towson got away with several false start infractions, as the officiating crew (yes, from the Southern Conference) were apparently unable to see a 6’4″, 360 lb. tackle move early. I guess he was easy to miss out there, being so little.

– It might have been a very different game if Chris Beverly had not forced a fumble near the goal line, with Towson poised to take a 24-7 lead. That was a big defensive play, and a badly needed one.

The Bulldogs probably needed one more play like that in order to win the contest.

– The sequence at the end of the first half was confusing. I went back and watched it on the ESPN+ video, and while the officials/timekeeper didn’t necessarily cover themselves in glory, I think Rob Ambrose might have second-guessed himself with his time management.

I did appreciate the timeout he called when The Citadel had the ball, just before the Bulldogs scored their second touchdown. That was intelligent, as it saved about 40 seconds for Towson’s offense.

However, I believe TU made two mistakes on the ensuing drive, one small, one large:

  • With two timeouts left, the Tigers probably should have called timeout after their first completion of the drive. It would have saved them about three seconds. Admittedly, this situation was messy, thanks to the clock having to be corrected — and that wasn’t the big mistake, anyway.
  • Towson apparently didn’t realize the clock was going to re-start after the first down pickup on the second completion. The receiver clearly didn’t go out of bounds before being tackled, though, and the Tigers lost eight seconds before calling timeout.

It is perhaps harder to argue that a second should be put back on the clock when there is a timeout sticking out of your back pocket.

– I liked the Bulldogs’ uniforms. The slightly elongated numerals were interesting, and I’m a fan of the Block C helmet logo.

It is true that, without an outline, the ‘C’ on the helmet and the jersey numerals could be hard to read in bright sunlight, and also in some of the longer-range TV shots. Still, the overall concept looked good.

– Forty-eight Bulldogs played in the contest. Five of them were “true” freshmen, including one starter — safety Andy Davis.

– The weather obviously put a damper on the attendance (announced at 8,008). On the other hand, it was almost as large a crowd as The Citadel had at Johnson Hagood Stadium for last season’s home opener (8,076), and larger than the home opener in 2017 (7,467).

– I thought the team ran out of the Altman Center and through the Block C a little too quickly. The timing with the smoke release was off. I guess the Bulldogs were really ready to play — either that, or perhaps there was an issue with trying to start the game on time.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I am disappointed in the loss, but not overly upset. It was ultimately a missed opportunity for The Citadel to pick up an impressive non-conference victory, but the season is still young.

One way to look at it: the Bulldogs were in the game and had a chance to win despite a turnover margin of -2, a penalty that wiped out a touchdown, not getting nearly enough pressure on the opposing quarterback, and only producing one big play on offense.

There were positives to be taken from the game, and there are certainly things that need improvement. Considering it was the opening week of the season, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

It does make the upcoming game at Elon all the more important, though. That will be a tough game, too, but The Citadel needs to win one of these difficult non-conference matchups.

As usual, I took pictures. As usual, most of them are lousy. There is a lack of focus in some of them (others actually look decent, clearly an accident). The intermittent rain/drizzle didn’t help, not that it would have mattered.

 

2019 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Towson

The Citadel vs. Towson, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 3:00 pm ET on August 31, 2019.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs quarterback Dominique Allen supplies the analysis. Emily Crevani is the sideline reporter. 

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Ted Byrne. The sideline reporter will be Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2019 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450 AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470 AM/100.7 FM
Sumter: WDXY 1240 AM/105.9 FM

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

Notes from The Post and Courier

Willie Eubanks is the modern-day E.F. Hutton for The Citadel’s football team

– Game notes from The Citadel and Towson

SoCon weekly release

CAA weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

Preview on Towson’s website

Preview from Towson’s campus newspaper, The Towerlight

– Bulldogs’ defense must do a better job against Towson QB

Brent Thompson’s opening-week press conference (8/26)

The Dogs:  Episode 1 — Camp

Football-related stuff I’ve written this summer:

– Success on 4th down brings national renown

– Ruminating about ratings: preseason numbers for The Citadel, SoCon, FCS, and more

– “Advanced” statistics from The Citadel’s 2018 football season

– Inside the Numbers, Part 1: The Citadel’s 2018 run/pass tendencies and yards per play statistics, with SoCon/FCS discussion as well

– Inside the Numbers, Part 2: The Citadel’s 2018 4th down decision-making, plus Red Zone stats, 3rd down conversion info, etc.

– Football attendance at The Citadel (and elsewhere) — an annual review

– 2019 preseason rankings and ratings, featuring The Citadel and the rest of the SoCon

– During the 2019 football season, which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

– Homecoming at The Citadel — a brief gridiron history

Although The Citadel doesn’t open until October 1, many cadets have already signified their intention to compete for places on the eleven, and manager [Frank] Eason will not lack for candidates. The soldier laddies are very enthusiastic about football, which was strictly prohibited until last session, when the Board of Visitors relented and allowed the classes to play one another.

It will be the initial season for the Citadel boys on the gridiron, and it is superfluous to add, the best wishes of many score young ladies are with the soldier laddies in their ambition to defeat other football teams.

The Evening Post, August 29, 1905

This season, The Citadel will only have radio affiliates in Charleston, Columbia, and Sumter. It will be the first time in many years that the network will not have a presence in the Upstate.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to see how that compared to other SoCon teams. As it turns out, The Citadel still has one of the larger affiliate networks in the league.

  • Western Carolina: Asheville, Sylva, Franklin, on-campus
  • Furman: Greenville, on-campus
  • UTC: Chattanooga
  • ETSU: Johnson City (“tri-cities”)
  • Mercer: Macon
  • Wofford: online only
  • VMI: online only (from what I can tell)
  • Samford: none

All of the schools (except Samford, obviously) simulcast online. VMI has had an affiliate network in the recent past, but it is not mentioned in the school’s 2019 media guide, leading me to believe it no longer exists.

Western Carolina appears to be the only school besides The Citadel to have radio affiliates in multiple markets.

Ted Byrne will serve as analyst for the football games this season. Byrne, of course, has been a radio voice in the Lowcountry for a long time, and had stints as the “Voice of the Bulldogs” (in the early 1990s) and as play-by-play man for College of Charleston hoops. He also spent several years in the radio booth at Georgia Southern.

In recent years, Byrne has co-hosted The Citadel’s tailgate show. He worked as an analyst for Bulldogs football in 2006 as well.

Byrne’s first association with The Citadel dates back to 1982, when he called baseball games at College Park. He filled in for the original “Voice of the Bulldogs”, George Norwig, for a 1984 football game against Georgia Tech, and was a sideline reporter in the mid-1980s.

Thus, he has been an on-again, off-again radio presence at school athletic events for 37 years. The only other person I can remember with a similar stretch was Norwig, who was in the booth for the Bulldogs from 1948 to 1985. Of course, Norwig’s run was mostly continuous.

(My thanks to Charleston media expert Joe Wright for the information about Byrne’s early days in the Lowcountry radio scene.)

The Citadel’s director of athletics, Mike Cappacio, sat down with Lowcountry personality Quintin Washington last month for a 15-minute interview. You can view it on YouTube.

They discussed football, baseball, basketball, and the endowment, among other things. To be honest, I wasn’t pleased at all with one of Capaccio’s comments about hoops, but I’ll put that aside for the time being. For this post, I’ll stick to his football-related observations.

– “We need to work with our schedule to be more realistic, I will say….we don’t need to be playing two ranked teams, or three ranked teams, and then an ACC team, and then go into our conference, because our conference is a monster…so, not that we [want] an easy schedule, but we need a little break…”

I understand what he is saying here, but four years ago nobody knew how good Towson and Elon were going to (potentially) be. There is an element of the unknown when it comes to college football scheduling.

Besides, going out of its way to schedule the Little Sisters of the Poor is not really how The Citadel has ever operated. After all, the military college has fought an uphill battle for over 80 years as a member of the Southern Conference. At various points in the football program’s history, Clemson, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, East Carolina, and Marshall have all been league opponents (just to name a few).

The Bulldogs didn’t back down from those challenges then, and they shouldn’t now. It isn’t part of the school’s ethos.

– “We want to play close to home…three to five hours [away] at the maximum…We don’t need to be taking a trip to Towson…Our philosophy is changing, and we want to play close [to home].

I think this outlook is mostly about budgeting. Capaccio also referenced the ability of fans to travel to away games, which is a legitimate consideration.

Let me present another point of view, however. In 2009, I made the trip to New Jersey to watch The Citadel play Princeton. As I wrote then (and still believe now):

One thing that needs to happen, though, is that every few years the school needs to play a game in the northeast. The contingent of alums and other supporters that came to cheer on The Citadel at Princeton was truly impressive. Those folks deserve to see more games, and I hope that administrators at The Citadel keep that in mind.

It also doesn’t hurt to promote the school in other parts of the country. After the game I took the train back to New York, and sat next to an intelligent young Princeton student who was very proud of her school. She wanted to make sure I liked the campus (which I did). She was blissfully unaware a football game had been played that day, which didn’t really surprise me that much. She also had never heard of The Citadel, which did surprise me a bit.

Of course, there are people in South Carolina who have never heard of Princeton (and there are almost certainly people in New Jersey who have never heard of Princeton, as well as people in the Palmetto State unfamiliar with The Citadel).  I also realize that one person doesn’t make a survey.  Still, it’s a reminder that it doesn’t hurt to get the school’s name out there.

That was true then, and it is still true. Also, it really isn’t that much different, logistically, to travel from The Citadel to either Towson or Samford — and the football team makes the road trip to Birmingham every other year (including this season).

– Capaccio mentioned future opponents would include Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Campbell, and Presbyterian. All of those were publicly known except perhaps for Presbyterian. He did not mention other scheduled matchups that have been reported in various places — Clemson, Mississippi, and Appalachian State.

– He also named South Carolina State as a good potential opponent for The Citadel, and in that I concur. Cappacio also mentioned wanting to continue the series with Charleston Southern. I am fine with that as well, as long as those games are always played at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Otherwise, no way.

– Capaccio likes the idea of playing Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, and similar (Group of Five) teams in the region, because he says A) the money isn’t much different from playing an ACC/SEC school, and B) The Citadel can be more competitive against those types of schools.

Here are the guarantees The Citadel will be receiving from FBS schools over the next few years:

  • 2019: Georgia Tech — $400,000
  • 2020: Clemson — $300,000
  • 2021: Coastal Carolina — $315,000
  • 2023: Georgia Southern — $320,000
  • 2024: Clemson — $300,000
  • 2025: Mississippi — $500,000

I believe the package for the games against Clemson also includes tickets for The Citadel to sell, which is not insignificant.

I guess a case could be made that from a net revenue perspective, playing Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina is almost as beneficial as playing the P5 schools. However, there is quite a difference between $315,000 and $500,000.

As far as being competitive is concerned, I would suggest that the Bulldogs have been quite competitive at times against certain SEC schools in recent years (one in particular).

Also, the difference in what I might call “national awareness” between P5 and G5 teams is substantial — and that carries over into recruiting, branding, recognition, etc.

When it comes to scheduling, The Citadel’s goal should be to have a non-conference slate that best positions it for a possible bid to the FCS playoffs. That means playing an all-D1 schedule, but not necessarily loading up on multiple FBS opponents per year. There has to be a balance.

I don’t think there is anything structurally wrong with this year’s schedule. It is difficult, but everyone knows that. If the Bulldogs have a successful season, they will likely make the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t. That is how it should be.

– With regards to the East stands, “it’s all about fundraising right now”. Capaccio noted that The Citadel Real Estate Foundation is involved. He also said the school had put together “a detailed plan” to begin a $2 million fundraising campaign “to get that project off the ground”.

– The new artificial turf is supposed to be installed at Johnson Hagood Stadium in late November. I hope the installation is delayed by about a month.

– “I’ve empowered a lot of our senior staff to take different roles so I can get out and raise money…if you’re going to make a difference here, it’s going to come through fundraising.”

I wish Capaccio all the best in that endeavor.

Towson was 7-5 last season. After a 6-1 start (which included a 44-27 home victory over The Citadel), the Tigers lost four of their last five games, including a playoff loss to Duquesne.

Three of the losses were probably understandable. Towson lost a shootout at Delaware, a tough game versus Maine (a team that specialized in winning tough games), and a home contest to James Madison (which was simply a better team).

However, the home loss to Duquesne in the first round of the FCS playoffs was harder to explain. The favored Tigers lost 31-10.

One possible factor: it rained heavily during that game, and Towson’s offense struggled mightily in the wet weather. Star quarterback Tom Flacco was 10-33 passing for 127 yards, and was sacked four times.

As far as the end-of-season decline in Towson’s fortunes was concerned, head coach Rob Ambrose thinks he knows what happened.

“Last year, we set the finish line too short, and it was obvious,” Ambrose said. “They wanted to win, they wanted to get respect, they wanted to beat national competition, and we did. But we got to the playoffs and were like ‘All right, we did it.’ No, that was just the beginning.”
Ambrose says his team can no longer be so easily satisfied — it has to strive to be among the best FCS programs in the country.
“From my perspective, the big-picture goal is not to make the playoffs,” Ambrose said. “The big picture goal is to make the playoffs every year, … which is where James Madison has been. It’s where Delaware has been historically.”

He reiterated that during Monday’s CAA conference call.

It seemed like we were inadvertently pleased with crossing the finish line, one that shouldn’t have even existed. So we’ve kind of moved that finish line back a little bit. Understand that the grind is a little bit longer. We go about it with a workmanlike attitude, that we have a lot of work to do, that we want to be explosive in how we do it, we want to be composed, and we want to have fun. And these guys have…held up to that bargain pretty well.

When asked about the Bulldogs’ offense and defense, Ambrose stated:

We’re going in with a little bit of unknown, especially versus their defense, and a natural schematic challenge on how well we can be disciplined to defend the triple option.

He was also questioned about playing The Citadel in Charleston:

We’re talking more about how to prepare for the weather…football fields are football fields, fans are fans. We’re going to play as hard as we can play until they tell us we can’t play anymore.

I broke down Towson’s 2018 season from a statistical perspective in various key categories, separating the seven FCS wins from the four FCS losses.

First, the victories:

Offense Plays Yds/Play Rush attempts Rush yds/play Pass plays Pass yds/att RZ TD conv RZ TD attempts
at Morgan St 67 5.98 35 5.03 32 7.03 3 7
at Villanova 90 5.87 49 4.76 41 7.20 4 5
The Citadel 64 9.50 41 8.15 23 11.91 2 6
Stony Brook 68 6.46 35 3.43 33 9.67 4 6
Wm@Mary 68 6.71 38 7.03 30 6.30 4 6
at Albany 81 6.94 40 6.28 41 7.59 5 8
at Elon 83 5.86 34 5.85 49 5.86 5 6
7 games 521 272 249 27 44
6.68 5.81 7.63 61.36%

 

Defense Plays Yds/play Rush attempts Rush yds/play Pass plays Pass yds/att RZ TD conv RZ TD attempts
at Morgan St 61 2.74 35 2.23 26 3.42 0 1
at Villanova 60 8.17 23 5.08 37 10.08 4 4
The Citadel 87 4.64 71 4.80 16 3.94 1 2
Stony Brook 64 5.38 30 3.83 34 6.74 2 2
Wm&Mary 73 3.19 33 3.18 40 3.20 1 3
at Albany 57 8.18 23 5.78 34 9.79 2 2
at Elon 59 4.03 37 6.19 22 0.36 1 2
7 games 461 252 209 11 16
5.08 4.43 5.85 68.75%

Towson ran the ball 52.21% of the time in its seven wins. The Tigers averaged slightly over 74 plays per game in those contests.

Win or lose, Towson was not particularly good at converting on third down. In its victories, TU only succeeded at a 37.5% clip (which was actually a lower percentage than in the Tigers’ four FCS losses).

Now, the same statistics in those losses to Delaware, Maine, James Madison, and Duquesne.

Offense Plays Yds/Play Rush attempts Rush yds/play Pass plays Pass yds/att RZ TD conv RZ TD attempts
at Delaware 83 5.43 40 5.65 43 5.23 3 7
Maine 77 4.77 35 4.86 42 4.69 2 5
JMU 84 6.13 30 5.57 54 6.44 1 3
Duquesne 80 4.46 43 5.81 37 2.89 0 4
4 games 324 148 176 6 19
5.22 5.49 4.98 31.58%

Defense Plays Yds/play Rush attempts Rush yds/att Pass plays Pass yds/att RZ TD conv RZ TD attempts
at Delaware 63 5.40 31 1.13 32 9.53 5 6
Maine 61 6.69 27 7.11 34 6.35 3 3
JMU 69 8.35 45 9.27 24 6.63 4 6
Duquesne 70 6.09 49 6.00 21 6.29 2 3
4 games 263 152 111 14 18
6.66 6.17 7.32 77.78%

Towson’s offense really struggled in the red zone in its four losses, with a poor 31.58% TD rate. The difference in red zone success in the Tigers’ wins and losses was dramatic.

Not on these charts, but definitely worth mentioning, is Towson’s defensive third down conversion rate. In TU’s victories, opponents only made third down conversions 33.33% of the time. In these four losses, however, that rate jumped up to 46.67%. Towson’s D was less effective in the red zone, too.

TU ran the ball 45.68% of the time in those defeats.

Usually, turnovers are a big factor in a team’s wins and losses, but that wasn’t the case for Towson in 2018. Against FCS teams, TU had a turnover margin of zero (13 giveaways, 13 takeaways). The Tigers were +1 in their seven wins and -1 in the four losses.

Towson didn’t really have a lot of turnovers in its games, offensively or defensively.

Last season, Towson was picked to finish 10th in the 12-team CAA. The Tigers wound up with a 5-3 conference record, good for a tie for 3rd in the league.

This year, TU is the preseason #2 pick in the conference, behind James Madison. Clearly, there are high expectations for the program in 2019.

Towson’s offense is led by New Jersey native Tom Flacco (6’1”, 205 lbs.), a redshirt senior who spent time at both Western Michigan and Rutgers before finding his way to TU.

Last year, Flacco (the younger brother of former Ravens and current Broncos QB Joe Flacco) had an outstanding campaign, completing 61.3% of his passes, with 28 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt, not accounting for sacks (Towson quarterbacks were sacked 35 times in 12 games).

In last season’s game against The Citadel, Flacco completed 15 of 22 passes for 253 yards and 2 TDs. He was intercepted once. However, he hurt the Bulldogs even more with his running ability, as he finished with 15 rushes for 185 yards (including a 78-yard run).

Saturday’s game will not be the first time Flacco has suited up for Towson in the Charleston metropolitan area. Flacco played baseball for Towson this past spring, serving as the Tigers’ right fielder.

In a late-season series at Patriots Point against College of Charleston, he was 3 for 9 in three games, with a stolen base, two runs scored and an error. Towson lost all three contests to the Cougars.

Versatile all-purpose back Shane Simpson (5’11”, 190 lbs.), a redshirt senior from Easton, Pennsylvania, is Towson’s first option out of the backfield. He rushed for 64 yards and a score versus the Bulldogs in last year’s game, and also caught three passes.

Simpson was the CAA’s Special Teams Player of The Year, and made several All-American teams as a kick returner. He had a 96-yard kickoff return for a TD versus Stony Brook.

Towson has a deep corps of receivers, and the top two targets from last year both return.

Redshirt senior Shane Leatherbury (5’11”, 190 lbs.) had 67 receptions for the season, with 7 of those going for touchdowns. Leatherbury, who hails from Salisbury, Maryland, previously attended Seton Hill College and Wor-Wic Community College. He was a first-team all-CAA pick in 2018.

Jabari Allen (6’4”, 205 lbs.), a junior from Spotsylvania, Virginia, had 53 catches in 2018, including 8 TDs. Allen, who became more of a factor as the season progressed, can be a very difficult matchup for opposing defensive backs.

Several other wideouts are potential gamebreakers, ranging from the small (5’7″, 160 lb. sophomore speedster D’Ago Hunter) to the large (6’3″, 205 lb. freshman Daniel Thompson IV).

TU’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4”, 317 lbs. The o-line will not be as experienced this season, as the Tigers lost three starting offensive linemen from last year’s squad – the center, right guard, and right tackle.

Towson thus brought in a lot of offensive linemen in the offseason. That group includes several transfers and, interestingly, two players from Europe.

Roman Wahrheit (6’6”, 335 lbs., from Germany) and Vaino Paakkonen (6’5”, 325 lbs., from Finland) are both big, and though they are a sophomore and freshman respectively, they are definitely not teenagers. According to one website that I perused which focuses on overseas football players, Paakkonen is at least 22 years old.

I should also mention that Paakkonen’s previous football team (in Finland) was the Porvoo Butchers.

While the European players could wind up being mainstays for the program down the road, I’m not sure how much Towson is going to get out of either one of them right away as they acclimate to a new level of football (and a new country). That is particularly the case for Paakkonen, who was late getting to campus because of a visa problem.

One newcomer who is expected to start on Saturday, though, is a player who may be reasonably familiar with his surroundings.

Demarcus Gilmore (6’4”, 360 lbs.) should line up at right tackle for the Tigers. Gilmore went to Newberry High School, and played in the Shrine Bowl. He has spent the last two years at Pasadena City College in California.

One other note on the offense: last year’s offensive coordinator was Rob Ambrose’s brother Jared, who is now the OC at Delaware. Rob Ambrose is assuming the offensive coordinator duties this season.

There was also a coordinator change on defense for Towson, as last year’s DC, Lyndon “No, not that one” Johnson now oversees special teams for the Tigers. The new defensive coordinator is Eric Daniels, who was at Briar Cliff College (IA) last year. Daniels was once the linebackers coach at SMU when June Jones was at the helm of that program.

Defensively, Towson used a 4-3 front last season, but (like The Citadel) it is moving to a 3-4.

There is a lot of uncertainty about the personnel the Tigers will be featuring on defense. I believe that is at least partly (if not mostly) by design.

Robert Heyward (6’0″, 235 lbs.), a redshirt senior inside linebacker from Savannah, was a preseason first-team all-CAA selection. Heyward, who had 10 tackles against The Citadel last year, was singled out for praise by Brent Thompson during the coach’s press conference on Monday.

Redshirt senior Ricky DeBerry (6’2″, 245 lbs.), who started at defensive end last year, has (apparently) moved to linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. DeBerry, a native of Richmond who began his collegiate career at Oklahoma, was an active defender versus the Bulldogs, with 9 tackles.

Jesus Gibbs (6’4″, 275 lbs.) was expected to be an impact transfer for the Tigers on the defensive line, but the redshirt freshman (who spent the 2018 fall semester at South Carolina) reportedly has been struggling with an injury and may not play on Saturday. If he does play, he could be a difference-maker. As a high school senior, he was rated the 10th-best recruit in the state of Virginia by ESPN.

It seems likely that Bryce Carter (6’1″, 265 lbs.) will start, probably on the d-line, but possibly at outside linebacker. Carter is a redshirt junior from Steelton, Pennsylvania, who started all 12 games for Towson last season, leading the team with 6 1/2 sacks.

Another player of similar size who could see plenty of time at either DE or linebacker is Marcus Bowman (6’1″, 255 lbs.), a junior college transfer. Bowman was the #29-ranked player in Maryland as a high school senior.

This is speculation, but I would not be overly surprised if Towson employed a “big body” at nosetackle against The Citadel. Two candidates to fill that role are redshirt junior Tommy Danagogo (6’3″, 305 lbs.) and 6’2″, 285 lb. Tibo Debaille, who is from Belgium. Neither played much last season, to be sure.

Troy Vincent Jr. (5’11”, 205 lbs.), who played his first two years of college football for North Carolina State, can play linebacker or defensive back. Vincent’s father, Troy Vincent Sr., was an outstanding NFL cornerback who is now an executive with that league.

Robert Topps III (6’3″, 200 lbs.), a transfer from Kansas, can play both cornerback and safety, and probably will.

According to media reports out of New Jersey, Towson will eventually have the services of former Michigan defensive lineman Ron Johnson, who was originally going to transfer to Rutgers for this season. However, Johnson will instead transfer to Towson (where he will be immediately eligible). It seems unlikely the 6’4″, 267 lb. four-star recruit could play for TU on Saturday, but you never know.

Aidan O’Neill (6’1″, 195 lbs.), a senior from New Paltz, New York, will be Towson’s regular placekicker for a fourth consecutive season. O’Neill was 22 for 29 on field goal attempts last season en route to first-team All-CAA honors. He was 42 of 43 on PATs.

O’Neill has made 53 field goals during his career, with a long of 55 yards.

Towson will have a new punter this season, Marshall transfer Shane McDonough (6’1″, 210 lbs.). McDonough will also serve as the team’s kickoff specialist.

If you’re counting, that is now three guys named Shane who start for the Tigers. Alan Ladd would be so proud.

Odds and ends:

– Per the 1905 newspaper article referenced above, cadets apparently didn’t have to report to The Citadel that year until October 1. The first football game in that very first season was played on October 14.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny with a high of 86 degrees, and a 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms. Yikes.

I am a little bit worried about the chance for a lightning delay or two. The presence of Hurricane Dorian in the Atlantic is also of concern.

Per one source that deals in such matters, Towson-The Citadel is (as of Wednesday evening) a pick’em, with an over/under of 65 1/2.

When that line opened on August 6, the Tigers were only a 1 1/2 point favorite, but evidently much of the money wagered on the game for the next two weeks was on Towson, because at one point the spread moved to 4 1/2. However, it has suddenly (and substantially) moved in the other direction over the past two days.

By the time you read this, it may have moved another couple of points one way or the other.

Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Furman is a 20-point favorite over Charleston Southern, while Wofford is a 21-point favorite at South Carolina State.

Mercer is a 3-point favorite at Western Carolina; Samford is a 19 1/2 point favorite at Tennessee Tech; East Tennessee State is a 32 1/2 point underdog at Appalachian State; VMI is a 39-point underdog at Marshall; and Chattanooga is an 8-point favorite versus Eastern Illinois.

Samford is trying to rebound from a 45-22 drubbing last Saturday at the hands of Youngstown State in the FCS Kickoff Classic. None of the other league teams has played yet in 2019, obviously.

– Also of note: Elon is a 3 1/2 point favorite at North Carolina A&T, and Georgia Tech is a 36-point underdog at Clemson on Thursday night.

The biggest favorites in the FCS ranks are Kennesaw State (51 points over Point University) and North Dakota State (48 points over Butler). Incidentally, the game between NDSU and Butler is being played at Target Field in Minneapolis.

Furman will play Point University in its regular-season finale.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 50th in FCS, while Towson is 26th. For some reason, Samford’s loss last week cost the Bulldogs four spots in the rankings.

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 39% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Towson 34, The Citadel 30.

The top five teams in Massey’s FCS rankings this week: North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Princeton, and UC Davis.

Other rankings this week of varied interest:  James Madison 7th, Youngstown State 10th (up four spots), Villanova 13th (up 19 places), Kennesaw State 21st, Colgate 22nd (down 11 notches), Wofford 24th, Elon 32nd, Furman 36th (down 8 places), Samford 42nd (down 18 spots after its loss), North Carolina A&T 52nd, Mercer 53rd, Chattanooga 54th, East Tennessee State 61st, Western Carolina 79th, Charleston Southern 88th, South Carolina State 92nd, VMI 94th, Davidson 114th, Presbyterian 122nd, and D-1 “transitional” school Merrimack 126th and last.

– Towson’s notable alumni include actor Charles S. Dutton, television host Mike Rowe, and sports radio broadcaster Joe Miller.

– As was mentioned in the preview for last year’s matchup, varsity teams at Towson were generally known as the Golden Knights until the early 1960s, when the tiger began to become the preferred mascot among students and alumni. A leading proponent in favor of switching to “Tigers” was John Schuerholz, the Hall of Fame baseball executive who guided both the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves to World Series titles. Schuerholz, who graduated from Towson in 1962, is also a long-time benefactor to the school. Towson’s baseball stadium is named for him (and his father).

– Towson’s roster in its media guide includes 35 players from Maryland. Other states represented:  Pennsylvania (14 players), New Jersey (11), Virginia (8), New York (7), Delaware (4), North Carolina (3), California (3), Florida (2), and one each from Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and South Carolina. (The one product of the Palmetto State is, as previously mentioned, offensive lineman Demarcus Gilmore of Newberry.)

There are four Tigers who hail from outside the United States, representing Canada, Germany, Belgium, and Finland.

No member of Towson’s team is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. The absence of players who have worn the famed maroon and orange will undoubtedly come back to haunt Rob Ambrose. It is hard to imagine a school with designs on national honors failing to recruit anyone from one of the great pigskin powers of our time — or any other time, for that matter.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (53 players), Georgia (29), Florida (8), Texas (5), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Virginia, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In addition, there are two Bulldogs with listed hometowns in other countries — junior tight end Elijah Lowe (Abaco, Bahamas), and freshman linebacker Hayden Williamson (Okinawa, Japan).

– This week’s two-deep includes seven Bulldogs who started all 11 games last season, five on offense and two on defense.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 0-2 for games played on August 31. The Bulldogs have only played five games in the month of August in their gridiron history, with two of those contests resulting in victories:

  • August 30, 2003: The Citadel walloped Charleston Southern, 64-10, before 15,219 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Ern Mills had 194 yards rushing (including a 90-yard scamper) and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs’ defense added two TDs of its own (Anthony Roberts’ pick-six was followed up by Julian West’s fumble return) and also picked up a safety.
  • August 30, 2008: There were 11,247 patrons were on hand to see the homestanding Bulldogs hammer Webber International, 54-7. Bart Blanchard was 12-14 passing with 2 TDs. Both touchdowns went to Andre Roberts, one for 78 yards. Roberts added a 64-yard punt return TD. The Bulldogs led 38-0 at halftime.

I think this is going to be a close game. It may be high scoring, although sometimes these early-season contests can throw a curveball when it comes to predicting how offenses will fare against defenses.

The Citadel has to control the football. It would also help if the Bulldogs could break some long gainers. In last season’s matchup, The Citadel had 87 offensive plays from scrimmage, but just four of them went for 20 yards or more. Towson had eight such plays while only snapping the ball 64 times.

Special teams play is often a key factor in season openers, and The Citadel has had some coaching turnover in that area. The Bulldogs had very good special teams units last season, and that needs to continue in 2019.

I hope Johnson Hagood Stadium is packed, though the weather could be a hindrance in that regard. The tailgating scene should be excellent anyway, as it usually is.

Is there anything more to say? No, there is not.

It’s time for football season. I’m ready, you’re ready, the players are ready, the coaches are ready, General and Boo are ready, everybody is ready.

Go Dogs!

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 1

This is a list of every game played during week 1 of the 2019 college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school. All games are listed, televised or not.

For the streamed/televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline reporters (where applicable). I put all of it on a Google Documents spreadsheet that can be accessed at the following link:

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 1

Additional notes:

– I include streaming information for games on CBS Digital, ESPN.com, ESPN3, Fox Sports Go, NBC Live Extra, Pac-12 Digital, Facebook, and FloSports.

– I also list digital network feeds provided by various conferences. For some of these feeds, the audio will be a simulcast of the home team’s radio broadcast. Other online platforms have their own announcers.

For now, the digital networks I am including in the listings are those for the Big Sky (Pluto TV), NEC (Front Row), WCCCUSAMountain West, and Patriot League. Some of the feeds for those conferences are provided by the Stadium platform.

Occasionally individual schools (almost always at the FCS level) provide video feeds. When that is the case, I list those as well.

– As I did last season, this year I am including pay-per-view telecasts and streams. These matchups are sometimes listed as “PPV” telecasts or (in the case of feeds from individual schools) “All-Access” streams, though an occasional stream with that description is actually free.

– I also note which games are on ESPN College Extra.

– BTN “gamefinder”:  Link

– AP Poll (FBS):  Link

– AFCA Coaches’ Poll (FCS):  Link

A lot of the information I use in putting this together comes courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s comprehensive and indispensable site College Sports on TV, a necessity for any fan of college football and/or basketball. Another site on the “must-bookmark” list is lsufootball.net, particularly for devotees of the central time zone.

I must also mention the relentless information gatherers (and in a few cases sports-TV savants) at the506.com. I am occasionally assisted as well by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.

Success on 4th down brings national renown

Last year, I wrote this before the season began:

I believe fourth down is underutilized in college football. Too many times, a team punts when going for it is the proper call.

It goes deeper than that, though. The best way to approach most offensive possessions, especially those that begin less than 70 yards from the end zone, is to assume that the offense is already in “four-down territory”.

Doing so means a team can be more creative with offensive playcalling. For a team like The Citadel, that can really open up the playbook.

In general, I was more than satisfied with Brent Thompson’s approach on fourth down in 2018. In eleven games, The Citadel went for it on 4th down 38 times, which was third-most in all of FCS. The Bulldogs were successful 23 times, for a better-than-average 60.5% (the mean for FCS teams last year was 47.2%). Among teams in the sub-division, only Southern Utah converted more often on 4th down than The Citadel.

Those were statistics that I covered earlier, in one of my many (way too many) statistically-oriented posts. What I would like to do with this particular post, though, is to illustrate the “power” of 4th down by taking a long look at one of the more amazing seasons in recent years from the perspective of fourth down conversions. I’m talking about last year’s Army team.

A quick summary of the Black Knights’ campaign: an 11-2 record, with one of the two defeats an overtime loss at Oklahoma. The victories included a sweep of Navy and Air Force and four other wins over bowl teams, the last of those a 70-14 destruction of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The schedule also had some soft spots (two FCS teams, a brand-new-to-FBS Liberty squad, and 1-11 San Jose State), but it was nevertheless a very impressive campaign, and one that featured a fourth-down philosophy based on analytical research:

The analytics come in mostly on fourth-down decisions. Army is among dozens of Division I football schools that subscribe to Championship Analytics, which provides weekly customized statistical breakdowns for each team based on opponent, with recommendations on when to kick, go on fourth down, go for 2 and more.

“I’m not a math guy,” [said Army head football coach Jeff Monken]. “I’m not an analytical thinker. I’m a PE major and proud of it.”

But when presented with the statistics that showed Army should be more aggressive on fourth down, Monken quickly embraced a by-the-numbers approach.

“It made way too much sense to me to argue with,” he said, adding. “I think it really fits what we do.”

Before discussing Army’s 4th-down decision-making and success rate, it is well worth mentioning the Black Knights’ 3rd-down statistics last season, which were outstanding on both sides of the ball. 

On offense, Army was 112 for 196 (57.14%) on 3rd down in 2018, best in all of D-1. It helped that the Cadets only needed on average 5.4 yards to go on third down, which ranked first in FBS. 

Defensively, Army held opponents to a 3rd-down conversion rate of 26.56%, fourth-best in FBS. Third-down success was based on what happened on the first two downs, as Army’s opponents averaged 8.4 yards to go on third down — and yes, that was the highest yards-to-go average for any defense in the sub-division.

Thus, the Black Knights’ enormous time of possession advantage (holding the ball for 38:33 per game, by far tops in D-1) wasn’t strictly because of its ball-control offense. The defense also contributed by forcing 4th downs and getting off the field.

There is a reason why Mack Brown, the new-old coach at North Carolina, hired Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman to become the new DC for the Tar Heels.

Now, that is what Army did on third down. However, the Black Knights weren’t automatically lining up in punt formation if they failed to convert on 3rd down. Far from it.

Army failed to gain a first down (or touchdown) on 84 of its 196 3rd-down attempts last season. So what did it do on the next play? Here is the breakdown:

  • 3 times: There was no next play, because Army turned the ball over on 3rd down (two interceptions and a lost fumble)
  • 12 times: Army tried a field goal (making 8 of them)
  • 33 times: Army punted
  • 36 times: Army went for it on 4th down

Yes, the Black Knights had more 4th-down attempts than punts. How unusual was that? Well, Army was the only FBS team to go for it more often than punt (two FCS squads, Davidson and Kennesaw State, also did this).

Georgia Tech came close (35 punts, 34 fourth-down attempts), and so did Florida Atlantic (+2) and Air Force (+4). On the FCS side of the ledger, The Citadel’s +14 (52 punts, 38 fourth-down attempts) ranked 8th overall in this particular “Punts vs. 4th down attempts” category, one that frankly I just made up because I thought it was interesting.

Florida Atlantic actually led FBS in 4th-down conversion attempts, with 44 (the Owls were successful 24 times). FAU was 5-7 last season, which raises the possibility that part of the reason Lane Kiffin went for it on 4th down so often was because his team was trailing at the time.

However, Florida Atlantic also led FBS in 4th-down conversion attempts in 2017 (39, tied with Northwestern). The Owls won 11 games that season, so being aggressive on 4th down appears to be a consistent strategy for Kiffin. The teams that are most likely to go for it on 4th down are generally option outfits, so in that respect FAU has been a bit of an outlier over the last two seasons.

Not surprisingly, Georgia Tech led the ACC in terms of being most aggressive on 4th down (Boston College was second). The SEC team most likely to go for it on 4th down last year was South Carolina, which was a return to form of sorts for the Gamecocks (which led the conference in this area in 2011, 2013, and 2014, albeit under a different coaching staff).

Teams that were more likely to punt (or attempt a field goal) than go for it included Fresno State, LSU, Utah State, Texas A&M (Jimbo Fisher has historically been very conservative in his decision-making), Central Michigan, and Maryland. Another team that did not go for it on fourth down as often as might have been anticipated: Georgia Southern.

The most incredible thing about Army and 4th down last year wasn’t the amount of attempts, though. It was the number of successful conversions. The Black Knights were 31 for 36 on 4th down, an astonishing 86% success rate that topped all of FBS. 

Nobody else in the country came close to combining such a high volume of attempts with that type of success. For example, Texas converted 80% of its 4th-down tries, second-best nationally by percentage, but only attempted 15 of them all season.

If you add those 31 successful 4th down plays to Army’s already impressive 3rd-down numbers, you get a 3rd-4th down “combination conversion” rate of 73%, which is A) a stat I may have just created, and B) simply ridiculous. 

One reason Army was so good on 4th down is that it often did not have far to go for a first down. Of the Black Knights’ 36 attempts, 28 of them were 4th-and-1 or 4th-and-2 plays. Army was 25 for 28 in those down-and-distance situations.

The yards-to-go statistic on third down (5.4) I mentioned earlier in this post had a lot to do with that. Army set up a lot of short 4th-down plays by what it did on 3rd down.

What the Black Knights didn’t do quite as successfully, though, was get well ahead of the chains on first down (only 5.3 yards per play on 1st down, 101st in FBS). This was your classic “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense, except that Army played most of its games on artificial turf. Big plays were not a regular staple of the attack.

Below is a chart of all 81 of Army’s 4th-down decisions from last season.

  • # = 4th down situations
  • P = punts
  • FGC = made field goals
  • FGX = missed field goals
  • C = successful 4th-down conversion attempts
  • X = failed 4th-down conversion attempts

Army 2018          #          P        FGC        FGX         C         X
    4th and
1 25 2 0 0 21 2
2 5 0 0 0 4 1
3 9 5 2 0 2 0
4 5 4 0 0 1 0
5 4 1 0 2 1 0
6 4 2 2 0 0 0
7 5 3 1 0 0 1
8 3 1 1 0 1 0
9 6 4 0 1 0 1
10 2 2 0 0 0 0
11 2 2 0 0 0 0
12 4 3 1 0 0 0
13 1 0 0 0 1 0
14+ 6 4 1 1 0 0
Total 81 33 8 4 31 5

As you can see, Army only punted on 4th-and-1 twice last year. The circumstances that led to those punts were quite similar:

– Against Air Force, Army faced a 4th-and-1 on its own 41-yard line. The Black Knights led 14-0 at the time, and it was early in the third quarter.

– Against Navy, Army faced a 4th-and-1 on its own 12-yard line. The Black Knights led 10-0 at the time, and it was early in the fourth quarter.

In both games Army was up two scores, playing a rival, and there were a limited amount of possessions in each contest (due to the nature of the offenses). Thus, on both occasions, Jeff Monken elected to punt. This certainly made sense, particularly in the Navy game, when Army was backed up to its own 12. 

As it happened, Navy actually scored a touchdown on its ensuing series, so that decision to punt didn’t really work out for the Black Knights.

Incidentally, in both situations, Army faced a 3rd-and-6, gained five yards to set up a 4th-and-1, and then punted.

Army went for it all five times it had a 4th-and-2, making four of them. The one failure came against the Midshipmen, when a rush attempt at the Navy 43-yard line only resulted in a one-yard gain.

There was more variety on 4th-and-3. Five of the nine times Army faced that down-and-distance situation, it punted. The Black Knights also attempted two field goals (going 2-for-2), and went for it twice (succeeding both times).

Army led by at least a touchdown all five times it punted on 4th-and-3. The Black Knights also led by at least 7 points all four times it punted on 4th-and-4, and led by a TD the one time it punted on 4th-and-5.

The line of scrimmage for the four times Army went for it on 4th-and-3, 4th-and-4, or 4th-and-5:  its own 32, the opposition 47, the opposition 28, and the opposition 26. The Black Knights averaged 22.25 yards on those four plays (with one TD). 

That 4th-down play on its own 32 came in the season opener at Duke. Trailing 31-14 in the fourth quarter, Army gained 13 yards on 4th-and-3. This could be considered more of a “desperation” decision, as opposed to most of the other down-and-distance calls Monken made during the campaign.

I also decided to see how many yards Army gained on its successful 4th-and-1 and 4th-and-2 plays, just to see how many “explosive” plays the Black Knights garnered. There were not a lot (although the 52-yard gain against Air Force came in handy, as the Cadets scored on the next play):

  • 4th-and-1, opp 35: 1 yard
  • 4th-and-1, own 34: 3 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 21: 4 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 8: 2 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 34: 7 yards
  • 4th-and-1, own 49: 1 yard
  • 4th-and-1, opp 15: 7 yards
  • 4th-and-2, opp 46: 7 yards
  • 4th-and-1, own 46: 14 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 10: 2 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 32: 2 yards
  • 4th-and-2, opp 2: 2 yards (TD)
  • 4th-and-2, opp 9: 2 yards
  • 4th-and-1, own 42: 52 yards
  • 4th-and-1, own 49: 1 yard
  • 4th-and-2, opp 32: 7 yards
  • 4th-and-1, own 34: 14 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 25: 5 yards
  • 4th-and-1, own 17: 3 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 27: 2 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 2: 2 yards (TD)
  • 4th-and-1, opp 31: 1 yard
  • 4th-and-1, own 44: 5 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 14: 2 yards
  • 4th-and-1, opp 35: 3 yards

That 4th-and-1 play from its own 17-yard line came at Buffalo, with 1:05 remaining in the first half and Army leading 21-7.

What Monken and Army did last season may start to become a trend. This statistic was published following last year’s regular season (but prior to the bowl games):

Teams are going for it on fourth down an average of 1.683 times per game during the 2018 season, which is by far the highest rate over the last 10 years. Overall, it’s a 22.8 percent increase from the 2009 season when teams went for it on fourth down 1.371 times per game.

Of course, that average doesn’t apply evenly to teams. Army went for it on fourth down 2.769 times per game, which is obviously higher than average — but even higher when considering the percentage of fourth downs faced, because of the way the Black Knights limited possessions. Army went for it 44.4% of the time on fourth down.

This interactive chart includes similar numbers for all of the FBS teams. It’s a very interesting (and well-constructed) graphic.

(Of note, there is a small error in its stats for Army; I believe that is because a field goal attempted on 3rd down at the end of the first half against Liberty was counted as a 4th down situation.)

That graphic accompanies this solid article focusing on Washington State’s 4th-down tendencies under Mike Leach.

The Citadel went for it on fourth down 36.9% of the time on fourth down last season. That was the second-highest rate in the SoCon, behind only VMI (39.5%).

Davidson went for it 55.6% of the time, by a wide margin the highest percentage in D-1. Kennesaw State ranked 2nd in FCS (43.6%), while VMI was 6th, The Citadel 8th, and Samford 11th.

In case you were wondering (because I was), Davidson averaged just two punts per game, fewest in FCS. The Wildcats only attempted four field goals all season, tied for second-fewest (with Jacksonville) in the sub-division. Only Presbyterian (three) attempted fewer field goals in D-1.

Towson’s 25.3% rate ranked 23rd. The Tigers did not really punt that often, but they attempted 29 field goals, tied for second-most in FCS (only Arkansas-Pine Bluff tried more).

Charleston Southern (14.0%) was 100th in go-for-it rate. The Buccaneers had only 14 fourth-down conversion attempts in 2018.

Another 2019 opponent for the Bulldogs, Elon, had a go-for-it rate of 18.9%, which was 68th nationally, and slightly below the FCS average (20.6%).

What follows is a table of all the teams in the Southern Conference. This statistic includes all games, including non-conference contests:

Team 4th down go for it rate
VMI 39.5%
The Citadel 36.9%
Samford 32.5%
Wofford 22.9%
Western Carolina 19.5%
Chattanooga 18.6%
Furman 17.8%
East Tennessee State 16.0%
Mercer 12.7%

There is clearly a difference in approach among the league teams. For example, Mercer (112th nationally) only attempted 10 fourth-down conversions all season. Part of that may have had to do with the Bears’ outstanding punt unit, as Mercer led FCS in net punting in 2018.

In the interest of equal time, it should be pointed out that generally conservative decision-making can be successful, too.

As mentioned earlier, Georgia Southern took this path last season (12.4% “go for it” rate), and proceeded to win 10 games in a bounce-back season. Excellence in other facets of the game justified a more punt-driven philosophy. Just to highlight two areas of superiority:  GSU placekicker Tyler Bass was 19 for 21 on field goal attempts, and the Eagles only committed five turnovers all year (with no interceptions).

Two of the three lowest rates in the “go for it” category in FCS were James Madison (7.1%, lowest in the sub-division) and North Dakota State (8.5%). It didn’t seem to be a problem. Teams that frequently dominate games usually don’t have to take many risks.

Maine would never have been described as dominant last season. That said, the Black Bears won 10 games anyway, despite a 4th down “go for it” rate of just 13.6%, leading FCS in total punts (96, by far the most in FCS). The flagship school of the Pine Tree State parlayed an outstanding run defense (best in the nation) and gritty situational football into the undisputed CAA title.

It isn’t easy to win a road playoff game with double-digit totals in both punts and penalties (11 each), but that is exactly what Maine did last year at Weber State. The Black Bears did not attempt a fourth down conversion in that contest (and were only 3 for 15 on third down conversion attempts). However, Weber State was held to -1 yard rushing (a total that includes sacks).

Basically, there are a lot of ways to win a football game.

I’ll wrap this up with a re-post of my recommended fourth down decision chart for The Citadel. This is unchanged from last season.

4th-down decision chart

Assorted explanations and observations:

– There are six colors represented on the chart. Three of them are self-explanatory — green (go for it), yellow (field goal attempt), and red (punt).

– Another color, light green, indicates an area where the coach has to decide whether to go for it or attempt a field goal. This is dependent on game conditions, ability of the kicker, etc. Obviously, a chart like this should vary at least slightly for each game.

– The field goal parameters are based on a field goal unit with average accuracy and a realistic distance capability limit of 52 yards. Last year was obviously much better from a field goal kicking perspective for The Citadel, but I decided not to further adjust for accuracy due to sample size issues.

– There are two other color areas on the chart to discuss. One (which is light blue) is called “General’s Choice” and named after (of course) General.

This is a section in which the Bulldogs’ statistics from their most recent seasons tend to suggest that punting is probably the percentage play. The sample size is limited, however, and some available statistics suggest that going for it may be a reasonable decision.

– There is also a gray section that I named “Boo Territory”, after the reportedly more hyper and aggressive of the school’s two mascots.

Most of the time, punting is the play in this section. There are a surprising number of analytical sources which would advocate going for it in this area, though.

The Citadel’s historic statistical profile (“historic” meaning the last few years under Mike Houston/Brent Thompson) doesn’t truly justify that level of aggression, however. That is why the section isn’t green (or even light blue).

On the other hand, going for it in Boo Territory could be a game-changer — and faking a punt in this area could also be a consideration.

The season is here! The season is here!

We’re all grateful for that, so much so that we won’t even mind our team punting in opposition territory on fourth and short.

(Okay, maybe not that grateful.)

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 0

This is a list of every game played during week 0 of the 2019 college football season involving at least one FBS or FCS school. All games are listed, televised or not.

For the streamed/televised games (only live broadcasts are listed), I include the announcers and sideline reporters (where applicable). I put all of it on a Google Documents spreadsheet that can be accessed at the following link:

College Football TV Listings 2019, Week 0

Obviously, there are only four D-1 games this week (hence the “Week 0” usage). There will be a full slate of games next week.

Additional notes:

– I include streaming information for games on CBS Digital, ESPN.com, ESPN3, Fox Sports Go, NBC Live Extra, Pac-12 Digital, Facebook, and FloSports.

– I also list digital network feeds provided by various conferences. For some of these feeds, the audio will be a simulcast of the home team’s radio broadcast. Other online platforms have their own announcers.

For now, the digital networks I am including in the listings are those for the ACCCAABig Sky (Pluto TV), Big SouthOVCNEC (Front Row), SoConWCCCUSAMountain West, and Patriot League. Some of the feeds for those conferences are provided by the Stadium platform.

Occasionally individual schools (almost always at the FCS level) provide video feeds. When that is the case, I list those as well.

– As I did last season, this year I am including pay-per-view telecasts and streams. These matchups are sometimes listed as “PPV” telecasts or (in the case of feeds from individual schools) “All-Access” streams, though an occasional stream with that description is actually free.

– BTN (formerly Big Ten Network) “gamefinder”:  Link

– AP Poll (FBS):  Link

– AFCA Coaches’ Poll (FCS):  Link

A lot of the information I use in putting this together comes courtesy of Matt Sarzyniak’s comprehensive and indispensable site College Sports on TV, a necessity for any fan of college football and/or basketball. Another site on the “must-bookmark” list is lsufootball.net, particularly for devotees of the central time zone.

I must also mention the relentless information gatherers (and in a few cases sports-TV savants) at the506.com. I am occasionally assisted as well by helpful athletic media relations officials at various schools and conferences.

Ruminating about ratings — 2019 preseason numbers for The Citadel, SoCon, FCS, and more

Recent posts about football at The Citadel:

“Advanced” statistics from The Citadel’s 2018 football season

– Inside the Numbers, Part 1: The Citadel’s 2018 run/pass tendencies and yards per play statistics, with SoCon/FCS discussion as well

– Inside the Numbers, Part 2: The Citadel’s 2018 4th down decision-making, plus Red Zone stats, 3rd down conversion info, etc.

– Football attendance at The Citadel (and elsewhere) — an annual review

– 2019 preseason rankings and ratings, featuring The Citadel and the rest of the SoCon

– During the 2019 football season, which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

– Homecoming at The Citadel — a brief gridiron history

Other links of interest:

– Cam Jackson, playing American football in Turkey (and enjoying dessert)

Brandon Rainey talks about the upcoming season, and about closure

Dante Smith had a very good game against Alabama; is ready to have even more very good games this season

Bulldogs hold first scrimmage in the heat of Charleston

Usually, I discuss the Massey Ratings at the same time that I write about the preseason rankings from the various college football magazines. This year, because the ratings came out a little later, I decided to have two posts, one for rankings (which can be read here) and one for ratings.

I’m going to also briefly delve into several other preseason computer ratings for FCS teams. There will be a table!

For several years now, I’ve been incorporating the Massey Ratings into my game previews. For those not entirely familiar with this ratings system, here is an explanation:

The Massey Ratings are designed to measure past performance, not necessarily to predict future outcomes…overall team rating is a merit based quantity, and is the result of applying a Bayesian win-loss correction to the power rating.

…In contrast to the overall rating, the Power is a better measure of potential and is less concerned with actual wins-losses.

…A team’s Offense power rating essentially measures the ability to score points. This does not distinguish how points are scored, so good defensive play that leads to scoring will be reflected in the Offense rating. In general, the offensive rating can be interpreted as the number of points a team would be expected to score against an average defense.

Similarly, a team’s Defense power rating reflects the ability to prevent its opponent from scoring. An average defense will be rated at zero. Positive or negative defensive ratings would respectively lower or raise the opponent’s expected score accordingly.

…the Massey model will in some sense minimize the unexplained error (noise). Upsets will occur and it is impossible (and also counter-productive) to get an exact fit to the actual game outcomes. Hence, I publish an estimated standard deviation. About 68% of observed game results will fall within one standard deviation of the expected (“average”) result.

Preseason ratings are typically derived as a weighted average of previous years’ final ratings. As the current season progresses, their effect gets damped out completely. The only purpose preseason ratings serve is to provide a reasonable starting point for the computer. Mathematically, they guarantee a unique solution to the equations early in the season when not enough data is available yet.

As I’ve mentioned before, Massey has ratings for almost every college football team — not just FBS and FCS squads, but D-2, D-3, NAIA, junior colleges, and Canadian schools. This season, there are preseason ratings for 927 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, from Clemson (#1) to Vermilion Community College (#927).

Vermilion is located in Ely, Minnesota. The Ironmen were 1-7 last season (1-5 in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference).

This year, The Citadel is #176 overall in the preseason ratings. In previous campaigns, the Bulldogs had overall preseason rankings of 218 (in 2018), 130 (2017), 113 (2016) and 174 (2015).

The teams on The Citadel’s 2019 schedule are ranked in the ratings as follows (with the chances of a Bulldogs victory in parenthesis):

  • Towson: 151 (45%)
  • Elon: 161 (36%)
  • Georgia Tech: 54 (3%)
  • Charleston Southern: 245 (86%)
  • Samford: 148 (32%)
  • VMI: 249 (85%)
  • Western Carolina: 220 (75%)
  • Furman: 153 (34%)
  • Mercer: 181 (58%)
  • East Tennessee State: 192 (50%)
  • Chattanooga: 183 (47%)
  • Wofford: 138 (39%)

Going by the ratings, a Massey preseason poll for the SoCon would look like this:

1 – Wofford
2 – Samford
3 – Furman
4 – The Citadel
5 – Mercer
6 – Chattanooga
7 – East Tennessee State
8 – Western Carolina
9 – VMI

Massey’s FCS-only rankings (ratings) for select schools:

  • North Dakota State – 1
  • South Dakota State – 2
  • Eastern Washington – 3
  • Princeton – 4
  • Dartmouth – 5
  • UC Davis – 6
  • James Madison – 7
  • Northern Iowa – 8
  • Illinois State – 9
  • Weber State – 10
  • Colgate – 11
  • Harvard – 15
  • Kennesaw State – 19
  • Wofford – 21
  • Samford – 24
  • Towson – 26
  • Furman – 28
  • Elon – 33
  • Jacksonville State – 38
  • The Citadel – 46
  • Mercer – 49
  • Chattanooga – 51
  • North Carolina A&T – 54
  • East Tennessee State – 55
  • San Diego – 58
  • Duquesne – 59
  • Richmond – 61
  • Alcorn State – 70
  • Western Carolina – 75
  • Charleston Southern – 87
  • VMI – 91
  • South Carolina State – 94
  • Campbell – 96
  • North Alabama – 103
  • Gardner-Webb – 104
  • LIU – 110
  • Davidson – 114
  • Hampton – 117
  • Jacksonville – 118
  • Presbyterian – 122
  • Mississippi Valley State – 125
  • Merrimack -126

In the “overall” category, some schools of note:

  • Clemson – 1
  • Alabama – 2
  • Georgia – 3
  • LSU – 4
  • Oklahoma – 5
  • Ohio State – 6
  • Notre Dame – 7
  • Florida – 8
  • Texas A&M – 9
  • Auburn – 10
  • Syracuse – 15
  • Texas – 16
  • Washington – 17
  • Missouri – 18
  • Kentucky – 19
  • UCF – 20
  • Fresno State – 25
  • North Dakota State – 26 (highest-rated FCS team)
  • Stanford – 27
  • South Carolina – 34
  • North Carolina State – 35
  • Virginia – 40
  • Wake Forest – 42
  • Miami (FL) – 44
  • Appalachian State – 47
  • Vanderbilt – 49
  • Army – 50
  • Georgia Tech – 54
  • Southern California – 56
  • Florida State – 59
  • Ohio – 66
  • Marshall – 71
  • Air Force – 79
  • Georgia Southern – 85
  • Navy – 98
  • North Texas – 99
  • Rutgers – 103
  • Oregon State – 116
  • Coastal Carolina – 127
  • Liberty – 131
  • Laval – 155 (highest-rated Canadian team)
  • Connecticut – 169
  • Ferris State – 174 (highest-rated D-2 team)
  • Rice – 179
  • Laney College – 184 (highest-rated junior college team)
  • UTEP – 191
  • Mary Hardin-Baylor – 227 (highest-rated D-3 team)
  • Morningside (IA) – 237 (highest-rated NAIA team)

Of course, the Massey Ratings aren’t the only ratings out there. On his website, Massey himself lists 19 other services, some of which include FCS teams in their respective ratings. Not all of those have preseason ratings, however.

There appear to be five other ratings systems (on his list, anyway) that have updated preseason FCS ratings. I decided to create a table in order to compare the ratings (by rankings) of 17 different FCS schools — the nine SoCon institutions, along with The Citadel’s three non-conference FCS opponents this season (Towson, Elon, and Charleston Southern), two other instate schools (Presbyterian and South Carolina State), and three other solid programs in the league footprint (Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State, and North Carolina A&T).

Like any good table, there is a key:

Drum roll…

The table (remember, these are rankings only for the 126 FCS teams; i.e., VMI is the preseason #91 team among all FCS squads in the Massey Ratings):

Team A B C D E F
The Citadel 46 24 43 36 39 59
VMI 91 111 114 107 106 120
Furman 28 33 20 25 27 32
Wofford 21 22 13 17 13 13
Chattanooga 51 49 54 42 33 43
ETSU 55 56 31 65 83 19
Samford 24 23 25 24 20 52
WCU 75 82 86 78 76 99
Mercer 49 54 56 48 41 67
Towson 26 29 11 28 18 23
Elon 33 36 24 40 38 26
Ch. Southern 87 83 62 74 97 62
Presbyterian 122 115 115 112 112 114
S.C. State 94 85 88 81 71 71
Kennesaw St. 19 5 7 9 15 8
N.C. A&T 54 37 18 37 53 11
Jacksonville St. 38 26 6 12 10 16

While some teams have fairly small groupings in terms of rankings among the services (such as Furman, Wofford, and Presbyterian), others differ wildly (particularly East Tennessee State and North Carolina A&T).

I was perhaps most surprised by the generally solid rankings for Samford, which comes across as a borderline top 25 preseason pick in these ratings. That certainly isn’t how SU has been perceived in the various rankings that have been released this summer, either league or national.

A few other things I’ll mention that aren’t reflected in the table:

– Entropy System’s preseason #1 FCS team isn’t North Dakota State, but South Dakota State. Hmm…

–  CSL included Virginia University of Lynchburg in its rankings. VUL is not an FCS school, but the computer program that put together the list may have thought it was, given that the Dragons play seven FCS opponents this season (Merrimack, Davidson, Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View A&M, Hampton, Southern, and Morgan State).

All of those games are on the road — in fact, the Dragons will play ten road games in 2019. VUL, a member of the National Christian Colleges Athletic Association (NCCAA), has two home games this year.

For the purposes of this post, I removed Virginia University of Lynchburg from the CSL Ratings, so that all the teams ranked were actually FCS squads.

– LIU, which will field an FCS team for the first time (having combined varsity programs at its two branch campuses), is ranked #22 by CSL, probably because the then-Pioneers (new nickname: Sharks!) were 10-1 in D-2 last season. Considering LIU did not play a Division I team last season, that high of a preseason ranking seems a bit dubious. We’ll know rather quickly just how dubious it is, as LIU opens its season at South Dakota State.

The overall situation with LIU is quite interesting. Basically, a D-2 varsity athletics program is being folded into an existing D-1 setup. Not everyone was happy about that decision.

College basketball fans may be familiar with the LIU Blackbirds, which made the NCAA tourney a few times and once played home games in the old Paramount Theater in Brooklyn. Now there are no Blackbirds, and no Pioneers (from the LIU-Post campus). Everyone is a blue-and-gold Shark.

LIU-Brooklyn didn’t have a football team, unlike LIU-Post. Thus, the D-2 football program is simply moving up to D-1 — but because it is going to be part of an already existing D-1 athletics program, it doesn’t have to go through a “transition” period and is immediately eligible to compete for the NEC title and an NCAA playoff berth.

– Steve Pugh is the creator/publisher of the “Compughter Ratings”. He has a master’s degree from Virginia Tech, as does Ken Massey. Apparently VT grad students spend most of their waking hours coming up with sports ratings systems.

– The Laz Index also rates Florida high school football teams. It has done so since 1999.

– Along with college football, the Born Power Index rates high school football teams in Pennsylvania and New Jersey — in fact, it was used last year by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association to rank playoff teams in that state.

This didn’t go over too well:

There has been a tremendous amount of criticism heaped on the NJSIAA for the new United Power Rankings.  A complicated formula that no one is 100 percent sure is accurate at any time, it basically breaks the ranking of teams into numbers – The Born Power Index and average power points.

The Born Power Index has been around since 1962, and is a mathematical rating system which somehow, determines how good a team is. Somehow, I say, because the formula is proprietary, and William Born, its creator, is not sharing with the public. That lack of transparency has a lot of people bothered.

The index will apparently not be a part of the “power ranking” for the New Jersey high school football playoffs this season.

– Five of the six ratings systems have Princeton in the top 7. The exception is the Compughter Ratings, which has the Tigers ranked 19th. On the other hand, fellow Ivy League school Dartmouth is ranked 12th by the Compughter Ratings.

Entropy has both Princeton and Dartmouth in the top 5, and Harvard ranked 14th among FCS schools. Massey also has Princeton and Dartmouth in the top 5; Harvard is 15th in that service.

Ivy League schools with high ratings (and rankings) are the norm for most of these college football ratings services. I think this is a bug, not a feature.

Personally, I find it difficult to justify ranking Princeton and Dartmouth in the top five, or even the top 20 for that matter. That said, the Tigers and Big Green might be very good.

However, the Ivy Leaguers’ lack of schedule connectivity with the vast majority of their FCS brethren — particularly the more highly-regarded teams — makes it all but impossible to compare those squads to the elite outfits in the sub-division. For example, in 2019 none of the Ivies will face a team from the MVFC, Big Sky, SoCon, Southland, OVC, Big South, or SWAC.

Here is a list of all the non-conference games played by Ivy League schools this season against teams ranked in the STATS preseason Top 25:

  • Dartmouth hosts #13 Colgate
  • Cornell hosts #13 Colgate
  • Penn is at #22 Delaware

Princeton has been the standard-bearer for the league in recent years. The Tigers host Lafayette and Butler, and travel to Bucknell. Those three teams were a combined 8-25 last season; this year, their respective preseason Massey rankings in FCS are 100, 112, and 108.

It is very hard to say that Princeton is one of the best FCS teams in the country when there is no practical way to demonstrate the validity of such a statement.

At any rate, we’re getting even closer and closer to football season, which is all that really matters.