2018 Football, Game 10: The Citadel vs. Alabama

The Citadel vs. Alabama, to be played at Bryant-Denny Stadium, with kickoff at 12:00 pm ET on November 17, 2018.

The game will be televised on SEC Network. Dave Neal will handle play-by-play, while D.J. Shockley supplies the analysis. Dawn Davenport 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 new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Cal McCombs. The sideline reporter will be Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/100.7FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

The benefits of playing Alabama

Saban and Thompson agree: Tua should play!

Central Michigan morphed into the Crimson Tide

– Game notes from The Citadel and Alabama

– SoCon weekly release

SEC weekly release

– Brandon Rainey and Aron Spann III receive SoCon player of the week honors

“The Heat” — Samford edition

– AFCA FCS Coaches’ poll

– AP Top 25 poll (FBS)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/13 press conference

Nick Saban’s 11/12 press conference

My game review of The Citadel’s victory over Samford

My game review of the last time The Citadel played an SEC opponent (bonus: the Twitter response)

While The Citadel is through with its SoCon campaign, the league title race (and the automatic bid to the FCS playoffs) has not yet been decided. The possibility of a tie for the title between two or three teams still exists.

Naturally, because this is the SoCon, there has been some controversy over the tiebreaker that could be necessary to determine the auto-bid.

This tiebreaker is based on points allowed in conference play. It is an odd way to break the tie, inasmuch as you would think points allowed among the affected teams would be a more appropriate way to resolve it (or point differential, for that matter), but this is the SoCon and that is how the league set it up. Of course, it is hard to tell what the conference’s original intent was in terms of points allowed, given how the tiebreaker scenario is described:

That is a muddle, isn’t it?

It reminds me of another SoCon tiebreaking debacle, this one in hoops. At the end of the 1985-86 basketball season, there was a three-way tie for seventh place in the league. At that time, there were nine teams in the conference, but only eight advanced to the SoCon basketball tournament. Therefore, one of the three tied teams (VMI, The Citadel, and Furman) had to be eliminated.

The conference did not have a clear rule as to what to do in a three-way tie, so then-league commissioner Ken Germann ruled that VMI and Furman would play in the tournament, while The Citadel was out. However, Bulldogs AD Walt Nadzak appealed to the conference’s basketball committee, which reversed the commissioner’s ruling and put The Citadel in the conference tourney, at the expense of the Paladins.

That led to a memorable quote by Furman basketball coach Butch Estes, who said “If the commissioner had any backbone, we would play it off on a court like gentlemen.”

I always enjoyed that particular line, with the coach stating the situation should be resolved “like gentlemen” while in the same sentence saying that the league commissioner didn’t have a spine.

Germann retired the following year.

While at Bryant-Denny Stadium, The Citadel’s football team will dress in the visitors’ locker room, which is known as The Fail Room. Yes, you read that correctly.

It is actually named for a longtime Crimson Tide benefactor, James M. Fail. As the story goes:

“This naming opportunity came at Mr. Fail’s request,” said Mal Moore, Director of Athletics. “Mr. Fail has been such a strong supporter of ours and had already made a significant gift to name our media suite in memory of his late father-in-law, former Birmingham Post-Herald sports editor Naylor Stone. But he had always been hesitant to use his unique name for a naming right until the right opportunity came along.”

 

“Anything I’ve done would not have been possible without the University of Alabama,” [Fail] said…”Now, many years later, I am honored to give back to the school that means so much to me. Earlier this year, when I saw the visitors’ locker room as a potential naming right, I figured it was the most appropriate opportunity I would ever have to use my name.”

Fail made his gift in late 2008, a little over a year before his death at age 83.

Bryant-Denny Stadium currently seats 101,821, though I don’t expect it to be filled to capacity for the game on Saturday. That said, there is a good chance the stadium will host the largest crowd to ever see The Citadel play a football game. The current record in that category is 90,374, for the Bulldogs’ game against Florida in 2008.

When Denny Field (named for George H. Denny, the school president who spearheaded its construction) opened in 1929, it had seats for 6,000 fans. It has expanded numerous times since then. The stadium was renamed Bryant-Denny Stadium in 1975, while Paul “Bear” Bryant was still coaching the football team.

Alabama’s proposed athletic facility renovations include an upgrade to the stadium, one which could slightly reduce its seating capacity:

The plan is highlighted by renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium that will cost more than $250 million. The precise cost of renovations may still change in the years to come, and exact dates for renovations haven’t yet been set. All facilities plans are subject to approval by the board of trustees, and fundraising goals must still be met.

The first phase, which is expected to include changes to the Mal Moore building and include some of the renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium, could begin during the fall of 2019 or after the 2019 football season. The first round of renovations to the stadium are estimated to cost $78 million. It is likely to reduce seating to less than 100,000 from its current capacity of 101,821, [AD Greg] Byrne said, but the exact capacity after renovations isn’t known.

It will add a student terrace in the stadium’s south end zone, with a large, new video board positioned over the student section. Byrne said he doesn’t anticipate cutting down on the total number of seats in the student section. The north end zone will also receive two new video boards for those who can’t see the video board in the south end.

Bryant-Denny Stadium has only been the primary home stadium for Alabama over the last 20 years or so. For decades, the Crimson Tide generally split home games between Bryant-Denny and Legion Field in Birmingham, with the larger Legion Field hosting most of the “big” SEC games (Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, etc.). Most non-conference games and select SEC matchups (including Mississippi State and Vanderbilt on a regular basis) were played at Bryant-Denny.

Once Bryant-Denny’s expansion reached a point where it was just as large (if not larger) than Legion Field, Alabama started playing all of its home games in Tuscaloosa.

This partly explains Bear Bryant’s amazing 72-2 career record at Bryant-Denny Stadium, as he only faced the Auburn/LSU/Tennessee triumvirate one time on that field (a 1980 game versus LSU, won by the Tide 28-7).

On the other hand, 72-2 is still a remarkable statistic. The two losses were to Florida in 1963, and to Southern Mississippi in 1982. The latter contest was the final game Bryant coached at the stadium.

His first game (and victory) at Bryant-Denny, in 1958, came against a Southern Conference opponent — Furman. The Paladins lost two games to Bryant at the stadium. Two other Palmetto State schools, South Carolina and Clemson, were both 0-3 against him there.

Lately, the Saban vs. Bryant debate has (on at least a national level) swung heavily in favor of the current Alabama coach. Now, it’s quite possible Nick Saban may make this a moot point if he coaches for another decade and keeps winning games and titles at his current pace, but I think a lot of people are engaged in recency bias when it comes to evaluating Bryant’s career.

One of the common observations is that Saban has won in a “more competitive” era. I’m not sure I buy that, for several reasons, not the least of which is defining Bryant’s career as a singular “era” is rather difficult.

For one thing, Bryant coached roughly half of his career when substitution was restricted, and the other half when unlimited substitution became the rule. He was one of the great coaches in the time of limited substitutions, and he was the first dominant coach when free substitution became the order of the day.

Another issue with defining his “era” that has to be mentioned:  Bryant coached all-white teams that won championships, and he coached integrated teams that won championships. His on-field success in making that transition could be considered somewhat unusual.

Bryant’s ability to adapt was probably his outstanding trait as a coach. He won with great passing quarterbacks like Joe Namath and Ken Stabler, and he also won after switching to the wishbone in the early 1970s.

He had two spectacular runs at Alabama. It is rare for a coach to basically have a “second act” at the same school (especially when he never left), but Bryant did just that.

In a seven-year period from 1960-66, he lost a total of six games. Then, after a bit of a slump in 1969-70, he went on another extended roll, going 107-13 from 1971 to 1980.

Bryant also won the SEC title at Kentucky in 1950, the only time that school has ever won the conference crown in football (not counting a 1976 shared title, which included an after-the-fact forfeit win). That has to give him a bonus point or two.

The other undeniable thing Bryant had going for him was an incredible charismatic presence, perhaps best demonstrated by this amazing TV commercial for a telephone company. The last line — “I sure wish I could call mine” — was a complete ad-lib by the coach.

Nick Saban himself is quite comfortable on TV, and is not devoid of personality, but surely no coach of any era has had Bryant’s gravitas, or his voice for that matter (which is probably for the best, given how many thousands of Chesterfields must have contributed to that tone).

Of course, if Saban wins another four or five national championships, they won’t bother renaming the stadium after him — they’ll rename the school after him. Saban University, aight?

In that scenario, the stadium would presumably be renamed after Miss Terry…

Bear Bryant had one career victory over The Citadel. Nick Saban also has one win over the Bulldogs.

Bryant’s 1949 Kentucky team defeated The Citadel 44-0. That season, the Wildcats also had shutout victories over LSU, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida en route to a 9-3 campaign.

The next season, Kentucky won the SEC title and finished 11-1, including a defeat of top-ranked Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

In 2002, The Citadel played Saban’s LSU Tigers in a night game in Baton Rouge, with the Bayou Bengals winning 35-10. That season, LSU was only 8-5.

However, the following year LSU won the national title with a 13-1 record, defeating Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Hmm…

Alabama fans might want to start making plans for next year’s CFP title game, which happens to be in New Orleans, and they might also start thinking about how to distinguish between Alabama crimson and Oklahoma crimson.

Much of the discussion for this game from the Alabama perspective centers around starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (6’1″, 218 lbs.), the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Tagovailoa has had a marvelous season, throwing 28 touchdown passes while only being intercepted twice, with a 67.9% completion percentage.

The sophomore, who hails from Ewa Beach, Hawai’i, is averaging a ludicrous 11.7 yards per pass attempt (not accounting for sacks). When he throws the ball, 47% of the time the result of the play is a first down or touchdown.

However, Tagovailoa has been playing with a balky knee for the past few games, and while he will almost certainly start against The Citadel, how long he stays in the game is open to question. Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts (6’2″, 218 lbs.) is a more than capable signal-caller, to say the least (Hurts is 26-2 as a starter), but the junior from Houston is also injured and unlikely to see action versus the Bulldogs.

There is a decent chance third-string QB Mac Jones (6’2″, 205 lbs.) will see the bulk of the playing time for the Crimson Tide in Saturday’s game. Jones is a redshirt freshman from Jacksonville who was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. In other words, he is a very talented quarterback in his own right.

Among the plethora of outstanding players at the offensive skill positions for the Crimson Tide are sophomore wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (6’1″, 192 lbs.), who seems to be good for at least two long TD catches per game (he is averaging 20.6 yards per reception); freshman wideout Jaylen Waddle (5’10”, 177 lbs.), a big-play threat as a receiver (18.8 yards/catch) and an impact punt returner (14.6 yards/return); and running back Damien Harris (5’11”, 215 lbs.), a senior from Richmond, Kentucky, who is approaching 3,000 yards rushing for his career in Tuscaloosa.

It says something about the depth at Alabama that Damien Harris (a great player) may not even be the most talented running back named Harris on the Crimson Tide roster, because sophomore Najee Harris (6’2″, 230 lbs.) is a gridiron dynamo who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

Henry Ruggs III (6’0″, 183 lbs.), a big-play threat from Montgomery, has 28 receptions for the Tide this season, with 8 of the sophomore’s catches resulting in touchdowns. Then there is DeVonta Smith (6’1″, 173 lbs.), another sophomore, who is best known for hauling in the winning touchdown pass against Georgia in the CFP title game. Smith has missed time this season due to injury but still has 3 TD catches.

Alabama’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’5″, 313 lbs. Junior left tackle Jonah Williams (6’5″, 301 lbs.), a native of Folsom, California, has made 38 starts for the Crimson Tide during his career.

Starting center Ross Pierschbacher (6’4″, 309 lbs.), whose last name fits comfortably on the back of his jersey, has made 51 career starts for Alabama. Williams and Pierschbacher were both first-team All-SEC picks after last season.

Alabama has plenty of intimidating defensive players, but none are quite as frightening to opposing offenses as noseguard Quinnen Williams (6’4″, 295 lbs.). The redshirt sophomore from Birmingham has dominated all season; just check out this twitter thread of his play versus Mississippi.

Williams, the national defensive player of the week for his performance against LSU, has been so good some pundits have begun to suggest he deserves Heisman consideration. He may be The Citadel’s toughest obstacle in trying to run its triple option offense, though Williams will have plenty of help.

Isaiah Buggs (6’5″, 286 lbs.), an imposing defensing end from Ruston, Louisiana, leads Alabama in sacks with 9 1/2.  He had 3 1/2 of those sacks against Texas A&M, garnering SEC player of the week honors as a result.

Linebacker Dylan Moses (6’3″, 233 lbs.) leads the Crimson Tide in tackles this season, with 54, including 9 for loss (3 1/2 sacks). The sophomore from Baton Rouge is described by UA’s website as a “freak athlete”; before enrolling at Alabama, Moses won the 2016 high school version of the Butkus Award as the top prep linebacker.

Deionte Thompson (6’2″, 196 lbs.), a free safety from Orange, Texas, paces the Tide with 32 solo stops. The redshirt junior also has two interceptions, five pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

Christian Miller (6’4″, 244 lbs.), a redshirt senior, is having a fine season after missing much of last year with an arm injury (though he did see action late in the campaign, including the playoff games against Clemson and Georgia). The linebacker from Columbia, SC, has 7 1/2 sacks so far in 2018, and was the SEC defensive player of the week after recording 2 1/2 sacks versus Mississippi.

Miller will become the second member of his immediate family to face The Citadel, as his father Corey played for South Carolina when the Bulldogs and Gamecocks met in 1990. Corey Miller was arguably South Carolina’s best defensive player on that occasion, although it probably provided the elder Miller little solace.

Placekicker Joseph Bulovas (6’0″, 206 lbs.), a redshirt freshman from Mandeville, Louisiana, is 10 for 14 on field goal attempts this year. Last week against Mississippi State, he connected on a 49-yarder, his longest of the season. Bulovas also handles kickoffs for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama has employed two punters this season, including freshman Skyler DeLong (6’4″, 189 lbs.), a Ft. Mill native. DeLong has not punted in a game since October 13, however, as walk-on senior Mike Bernier (6’2″, 219 lbs.) has seen action in the last three games.

Mac Jones serves as the team’s holder on placements. As mentioned earlier, Jaylen Waddle is the primary punt returner (and a very dangerous one).

Alabama lists four different kick returners on its two-deep, including Najee Harris and fellow running back Josh Jacobs (5’10”, 216 lbs.), a versatile player from Tulsa who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Louisville. Jacobs leads Alabama in total touchdowns, with nine rushing, one receiving, and the kick return TD versus the Cardinals.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Tuscaloosa, per the National Weather Service:  partly sunny, with a high of 62 degrees.

– This will be the first gridiron meeting between The Citadel and Alabama, although Alabama’s media guide (in the “Series vs. 2018 opponents” section) credits the Tide with beating the Bulldogs twice, in 1939 and 1940. That is an error. I suspect it is a transposition mistake from last season, when the Crimson Tide played Mercer (which did play Alabama in 1939 and 1940).

– Other SEC teams that have yet to face the Bulldogs: Mississippi State and Missouri.

– Alabama’s winning streak against unranked teams (80 games) is the longest in FBS history and a fairly well-known statistic. What I did not know until perusing the Crimson Tide’s game notes is that Alabama has also dominated games against teams ranked outside of the AP top 15, losing only once to an opponent in that category since 2008. That happened in 2010, against South Carolina (a/k/a “The Stephen Garcia Game”).

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Alabama is a 51-point favorite versus The Citadel (as of Tuesday night). The over/under is 60 1/2.

Against the spread this season, The Citadel is 4-5. The over has hit in five of the nine contests, with one of the others a push.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams (also as of Tuesday night):  Samford is an 8-point favorite at East Tennessee State; Furman is an 8-point favorite at Mercer; Wofford is a 35 1/2 point favorite versus Presbyterian; Chattanooga is a 31-point underdog at South Carolina; and Western Carolina is a 30 1/2 point underdog at North Carolina.

Samford initially opened as a 10-point favorite against ETSU, but the line dropped two points in less than 24 hours.

– Also of note: Towson is a 3-point underdog against James Madison, and Charleston Southern is a 2-point favorite at Campbell.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 50th in FCS, up ten spots from last week, a fairly significant jump. Alabama, as you might imagine, is ranked first among all FBS squads.

Massey projects Alabama will win the game on Saturday, with a predicted final score of 57-0.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey: Colgate (6th), James Madison (8th), Towson (11th), Kennesaw State (12th), Elon (15th), Wofford (22nd), Furman (31st), East Tennessee State (34th), Samford (36th, a fall of 13 spots), North Carolina A&T (42nd), Chattanooga (49th), Mercer (51st), San Diego (58th), Holy Cross (60th), Richmond (64th), Duquesne (69th), South Carolina State (74th, a 13-spot jump), Western Carolina (82nd), North Alabama (87th), Campbell (88th), Charleston Southern (89th), VMI (99th), Gardner-Webb (101st), Lehigh (105th), Davidson (117th), Presbyterian (123rd), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads: North Dakota State, Princeton, Dartmouth, South Dakota State, and Eastern Washington.

As I noted last week, Massey tends to overrate the top Ivy League programs, a quirk that is almost certainly due to the lack of connectivity in scheduling between the Ivy League and the rest of FCS. Dartmouth managed to rise from 5th to 3rd in the rankings after beating a 3-6 Cornell team by 11 points. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Biggest movers in FCS this week: William and Mary moved up 18 spots (from 58th to 40th) after winning at Villanova, 24-17. Meanwhile, Austin Peay fell 17 places (from 66th to 83rd) after getting pummeled 52-21 by Eastern Illinois.

Massey’s top ten FBS teams (in order): Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, West Virginia, UCF. Some other notables:  Florida is 12th, Kentucky 15th, Mississippi State 17th, Auburn 19th, South Carolina 22nd, Utah State 26th, Northwestern 29th, Boston College 30th, Tennessee 34th, North Carolina State 35th, Duke 36th, Army 37th, Georgia Tech 42nd, Appalachian State 50th, Wake Forest 52nd, Troy 58th, Maryland 60th, UAB 62nd, Florida State 65th, Memphis 71st, Air Force 83rd, Toledo 85th, Arkansas State 87th, North Texas 88th, Georgia Southern 89th, Louisiana-Lafayette 94th, North Carolina 95th, Louisville 102nd, Navy 103rd, Coastal Carolina 104th, Liberty 107th, Old Dominion 113th, Charlotte 114th, Rutgers 116th, South Alabama 128th, and Rice 130th and last.

Biggest movers in FBS this week:  Minnesota rowed the boat up 16 places (from 82nd to 66th) after a 41-10 beatdown of Purdue. San Diego State and North Texas each fell 17 spots after losing to UNLV and Old Dominion, respectively.

– Among Alabama’s notable alumni: writer Gay Talese, actor/singer Jim Nabors (“Shazam!”), actress Sela Ward (who was a cheerleader at Alabama), and legendary baseball announcer Mel Allen (“How about that!”).

Bernie Madoff went to Alabama, but left after just one year in Tuscaloosa, so we won’t hold him against the school.

– Alabama’s roster includes 39 players from from Alabama. Other states represented on its squad:  Texas (12 players), Florida (12), Louisiana (11), Georgia (7), California (6), Maryland (5), South Carolina (4), Mississippi (4), Tennessee (2), Kentucky (2), and one player each from Ohio, Nevada, Virginia, Utah, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, and Hawai’i. Linebacker Terrell Lewis is from Washington, DC.

Alabama scours the country for footballing prodigies, which is rather apparent when the roster includes players from 23 states plus the District of Columbia. Just eyeballing the list, I am mildly surprised there are only four Mississippians on the team, along with two natives of Tennessee. That seems a touch low for those two border states.

There are four South Carolinians on the Crimson Tide squad — punter Skyler DeLong (Nation Ford High School in Ft. Mill), linebacker Jaylen Moody (Conway High School), defensive lineman Stephon Wynn Jr. (from Anderson; transferred from T.L. Hanna to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year in high school), and linebacker Christian Miller (Spring Valley High School in Columbia).

However, there are no players from internationally renowned pigskin powerhouse Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. This is profoundly mystifying, given the Tide’s hunger for gridiron superstars. When the dynasty ends (and all dynasties do at some point), there is no question that the biggest reason for Alabama’s downfall will be its failure to recruit talent from the famed maroon and orange.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47), Georgia (28), Florida (9), North Carolina (5), Texas (5), Tennessee (4), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

– This week’s two-deep changes:  There aren’t many changes from last week’s depth chart. Lorenzo Ward and Keyonte Sessions are again listed as starters. Raleigh Webb is now listed as one of the two primary kick returners.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of just 2-10 for games played on November 17. The Citadel is 2-5 on the road on that date. While those totals are very poor, there is a silver lining — the Bulldogs have won their two most recent games played on November 17 after losing their first ten contests.

A brief review of those two victories, as we travel back in time on the TSA Wayback Machine:

  • 2007: At Lexington, Virginia, The Citadel clobbered VMI 70-28 to retain the coveted Silver Shako. Tory Cooper scored three touchdowns and Tim Higgins scored twice. Other Bulldogs to find the end zone that day included Andre Roberts, Bart Blanchard, Ta’Mar Jernigan, Taylor Cornett, and Cam Turner. Cooper had 176 yards rushing, while Roberts had 128 receiving yards. Mike Adams converted all ten of his PATs. The Citadel finished the afternoon with 509 total yards of offense.
  • 2012: The Citadel defeated Furman at Paladin Stadium, 42-20. I was there and wrote about the game. VanDyke Jones rushed for three touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Dalton Trevino, Domonic Jones, and Ben Dupree also scored TDs. A key play in the contest was a fake punt successfully executed by Cass Couey. The defense was led by James Riley, who had 12 tackles.

– Alabama claims seventeen national championships in football, under five different head coaches — Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Gene Stallings, and Nick Saban. Bryant is credited with having coached six national title teams, while Saban has coached five Crimson Tide squads to a #1 finish (he also has a sixth title from his tenure at LSU).

The Citadel has only two claimed national titles in football (1871 and 1906), though like Alabama, the Bulldogs have won championships in two different centuries. While The Citadel’s 1871 crown is essentially undisputed, the 1906 title is a more recent claim and is shared with two other schools (Yale and Princeton).

Brent Thompson, at his press conference on Tuesday:

Obviously, this is a very important football game for us, for a lot of reasons. We want to just go out there and make a great showing, compete our butts off, as best as we possibly can, on such a big and grand stage. It’s going to be a exciting atmosphere for us. They are a very, very good football team, the best we’ve probably ever seen. There are not a whole lot of deficiencies [for Alabama] on either side of the ball, they’re extremely fast, they’re extremely physical, they play very strong. It will be all that we can do to be able to move the ball and to stop them from scoring, but we certainly will give them everything that we’ve got.

I feel confident that the Bulldogs will play very hard, and will compete to their utmost. The issue is how effective that effort will be against a team as comprehensively talented as Alabama.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I think The Citadel will acquit itself well on Saturday. I’m not predicting the biggest upset in modern college football history, but I think the Bulldogs will surprise some people.

I certainly hope so.

Go Dogs!

During the 2018 season, which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Other links related to The Citadel’s upcoming gridiron campaign:

Preseason rankings and ratings

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium: the annual review

For the sixth consecutive season, it’s time to examine this momentous topic. Below, I’ll list which teams The Citadel’s opponents face before and after playing the Bulldogs, along with various other items of interest (other schedule-related information, a little history, some trivia, etc.).

Naturally, the review begins with the opener. This year, the Bulldogs will begin their gridiron campaign in the upstate of South Carolina.

September 1: The Citadel opens on the road, and in conference play. The Bulldogs (and their fans) will be in Spartanburg, where they will face Wofford.

Two years ago, The Citadel also opened its season on September 1 with a conference road game (against Mercer). The Bulldogs emerged victorious, and kept winning until they had captured the league title.

Wofford begins its 2018 season under new coach Josh Conklin with consecutive home matchups with military colleges, as VMI comes to Gibbs Stadium on September 8. The following week, Wofford travels to Wyoming.

In fact, after playing the Keydets, the Terriers don’t have another home game until October 20, when ETSU is the opponent (for Wofford’s Homecoming).

This will be the earliest meeting of the season on the gridiron between The Citadel and Wofford. Previously, the earliest battle came on September 3, 1977, at Johnson Hagood Stadium, a game won by the Bulldogs 7-0. Lonnie Ford scored the contest’s only touchdown. Tyrone Roper helped preserve the shutout with a big stop on a late fourth-and-goal play; he also had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Incidentally, there were 35 policemen on hand for crowd control that night. This was a reaction to violence the week before at the Sertoma Classic (also held at JHS), which had led to 18 injuries among attendees.

However, there were no reported incidents for the matchup between the Terriers and Bulldogs. Indeed, police Major W.J. Tindal stated that “you could hold a church service out here”, perhaps not a scintillating advertisement for the game atmosphere. I suppose that was better than having another bloody skirmish in the stands, though.

September 8: The Citadel’s opener at Johnson Hagood Stadium is a matchup with Chattanooga. The Mocs begin their 2018 campaign with a Thursday night home game against Tennessee Tech, so Chattanooga will have a couple of extra days to prepare for the Bulldogs.

After playing The Citadel, the Mocs travel to UT Martin (which defeated UTC in Chattanooga last season). After that, UTC plays host to Samford.

The last time Chattanooga faced The Citadel in Charleston, in 2016, the Bulldogs held off the Mocs 22-14. In the game, Dominique Allen gained 15 yards on The Citadel’s first offensive play.

That would prove to be the most yardage gained on any single play from scrimmage all afternoon for The Citadel, but the Bulldogs won anyway.

The Citadel has triumphed in its last three games played on September 8, including a 76-0 rout of Webber International in 2007 and a 23-21 victory over Georgia Southern in 2012. While scoring 76 points in a football game is always pleasant, it was actually the latter contest that was more memorable (including Jeff Monken’s fire-breathing “they whipped our fannies” postgame comments).

September 15: The Bulldogs host Charleston Southern on Military Appreciation Day. It will also be Hall of Fame weekend.

The Buccaneers open their season at Florida on September 1, then have a bye the next week. Thus, CSU will have two weeks to get ready for its game versus The Citadel.

If you were asking yourself “does CSU usually have extra days to prepare before playing the Bulldogs?”, the answer to the question is, well, yes (at least in recent years). In the previous two regular-season meetings, Charleston Southern played Thursday night games the week before facing The Citadel.

Most of the other regular-season games between the two programs were season openers, with the 2002 meeting (delayed by a hurricane) the exception.

After the game against the Bulldogs, Charleston Southern hosts Elon in North Charleston.

September 22: The Citadel’s second road game of the season is against Mercer. The Bears play at Memphis to start the year, then host Jacksonville.

The first conference game for Mercer is at Samford on September 15, the week before MU hosts the Bulldogs. Mercer has a bye the week after playing The Citadel, then travels to VMI.

In fact, Mercer’s next home contest after facing the Bulldogs won’t be until October 20 (against Western Carolina).

The Citadel is only 3-5-1 alltime on September 22, but one of the wins was particularly noteworthy — a 27-14 victory at Vanderbilt in 1979. Stump Mitchell and Danny Miller combined for 229 yards rushing that day, with three touchdowns. The other TD came on a pass from Tim Russell to Byron Walker.

September 29: The Citadel travels north to play Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium. It will be the Tigers’ home opener after three road games (which are against, in order, Morgan State, Wake Forest, and Villanova). Towson has a bye the week prior to its matchup with the Bulldogs.

It will also be the designated celebration game for Towson’s “50 Years of Football”, a season-long commemoration of the school’s gridiron history. Part of the hoopla: a $50 season ticket promotion.

I bet Sean Landeta is excited about that.

Following its game versus The Citadel, Towson next plays host to Stony Brook, followed by another home contest in CAA play, against William and Mary.

October 6: The Citadel is off this week. In related news, I will be on vacation.

October 13: On Parents’ Day, The Citadel will host East Tennessee State. The Bucs have a three-game homestand prior to making the trip to Charleston, with games against Furman, Chattanooga, and (for ETSU’s Homecoming) Gardner-Webb.

After playing The Citadel, the Bucs travel to Spartanburg to face Wofford, completing a three-game stretch of games versus teams with canine mascots.

Where were you on October 13, 2007? Well, if you were at Johnson Hagood Stadium, you saw one of the crazier games ever played there.

The Citadel trailed Furman by 20 points in the second quarter, 17 points in the third quarter, and 10 points in the fourth quarter…but wound up winning in overtime, 54-51. Duran Lawson! Andre Roberts! Tory Cooper! Ta’Mar Jernigan! Joshua Haney! Mike Adams!

Also worth mentioning: on October 13, 1962, The Citadel upset Vanderbilt, 21-6. It was the first time the program had defeated an SEC team (but not the last). Vandy was a 28-point favorite at home, but the Bulldogs came to play. Mike Lane! Sid Mitchell! Charlie Brendle! Gene “Buzzy” Dice! Nick DiLoreto! Eddie Taylor!

October 20: The coveted Silver Shako will be on the line, as The Citadel journeys to Lexington, VA, to play VMI. It will be Parents’ Weekend for the Keydets.

The week before facing the Bulldogs, VMI is at Samford, the longest trip in the SoCon. That game is preceded (for the Keydets) by a week off.

After the Military Classic of the South, VMI travels to Chattanooga.

As for previous contests played on this day — well, there was a game played on October 20, 1990, that is fondly remembered by fans of the Bulldogs. All the opponent had to do to win, according to a local newspaper, was just show up. It didn’t quite work out that way.

The afternoon also included a pregame speech of note:

“He never said anything, but in the locker room he silenced all of us and said, ‘Don’t tell me if we took off our gear and met them at the 50-yard line, we wouldn’t win.’ The place just went crazy.”

I wonder whatever happened to the guy who made that speech…

October 27: The Citadel hosts Furman, the 98th meeting in the series. It will be the 53rd time the two schools have played in October; they have met 40 times in November, and five times in September.

After a September 22 contest versus East Tennessee State in Johnson City, the Paladins won’t play another road game until they meet the Bulldogs.

Following the ETSU matchup, Furman hosts Western Carolina, has a week off, then plays Wofford and Samford in back-to-back games in Greenville (with the second of those two contests on FU’s Homecoming). That is a key stretch for Furman as it attempts to return to the FCS playoffs.

After facing The Citadel the week after the Samford game, the Paladins return home and play Chattanooga before finishing the regular season with road games at VMI and Mercer.

November 3: The Citadel will be Western Carolina’s opponent for Homecoming in Cullowhee, the fifth time the Bulldogs will have filled that role for WCU since 2007.

The Catamounts, a “sleeper” pick to to win the SoCon this year in some quarters, have two road games before facing The Citadel. WCU travels to Mercer on October 20, and then plays at East Tennessee State on October 27.

Western Carolina has an early bye week in 2018 (September 8), so the meeting with The Citadel will be the Catamounts’ eighth consecutive football Saturday. WCU will stay at home the following week to play Wofford before completing its regular season schedule at North Carolina.

The Citadel’s last road win on November 3 came in 2001, a 20-17 double overtime victory at Chattanooga — on UTC’s Homecoming.

November 10: There will be a battle of Bulldogs at Johnson Hagood Stadium on November 10, as The Citadel hosts Samford.

As mentioned earlier, Samford will be at Furman on October 20. SU has a bye before hosting Wofford on November 3. It will be Homecoming for Samford, which will then face The Citadel on the military college’s Homecoming.

SU finishes its regular season slate with a contest at East Tennessee State. Johnson City proved to be a tricky spot for the Birmingham Bulldogs two seasons ago, as they were upset by the Bucs in a game which was also the season-ender that year.

The Citadel beat Mercer 10-0 on November 10, 1906. However, that would be the last time the Bulldogs were victorious on that date until 1973 (a win over Furman). In between, The Citadel went 0-6-2 on November 10.

The good news, though, is the Bulldogs have won their last five gridiron contests on the tenth day of November.

November 11: The Bulldogs finishes their regular season schedule with a trip to Tuscaloosa. The opponent is Alabama, a school that has never beaten The Citadel in football.

The Crimson Tide closes out the regular season with three straight home games. The Citadel is the second of the three opponents, and the second straight group of Bulldogs, as Mississippi State plays Alabama on November 4.

Nick Saban’s squad faces Auburn on November 18. Last year, the Crimson Tide lost at Auburn, which means The Citadel currently has a longer road winning streak against SEC opponents than does Alabama.

A quick summary:

  • Teams that will have “extra prep time” before playing The Citadel: Chattanooga, Charleston Southern, Towson
  • Teams that have road games the week before playing the Bulldogs: Mercer, VMI, Western Carolina
  • Teams that play Wofford during the season before playing The Citadel (“option preview”): VMI, Furman, Samford
  • Teams that play Furman during the season before playing the Bulldogs (another type of “option preview”): East Tennessee State, Western Carolina, Samford

I can see something in the distance that looks like it might be a pigskin. We’re getting closer…

College Football 2017, Week #1: the top 15 matchups

On his college hoops ratings website, Ken Pomeroy has an algorithm called ‘FanMatch’, in which “games are rated for competitiveness and level of play with a lean towards higher-scoring games”. It is a way to rate the potential watchability of various basketball contests. There is just a touch of whimsy involved, which makes it even better.

I’m going to do the same thing (more or less) and rate the top 15 games of Week 1, excluding Newberry-The Citadel, because it wouldn’t be fair to compare that game with all the lesser gridiron battles.

Sometimes the high-profile contests really are the best games of the week, but often under-the-radar matchups are worth the attention of the viewing public. That includes FCS games.

I briefly explained this in a previously post, but basically I’ve created a super-secret formula (patent pending) to produce these game ratings; it is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

Of course, there are many games this week that are worth watching, because after all — they are college football games!

To access a Google Document that has a complete schedule of televised/streamed D-1 college football games, see this post: Link

Here are the top 15 games for Week 1 (Thursday through Monday):

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
Alabama Florida State 9/2, 8:00 pm ABC/ESPN3 86.73
North Carolina State South Carolina 9/2, 3:00 pm ESPN 84.20
Tennessee Georgia Tech 9/4, 8:00 pm ESPN 83.90
Virginia Tech West Virginia 9/3, 7:30 pm ABC/ESPN3 83.55
Tulsa Oklahoma State 8/31, 7:30 pm FS1/FS-Go 79.68
Richmond Sam Houston State 9/1, 7:00 pm ESPN3 78.11
Colorado State Colorado 9/1, 8:00 pm Pac-12 Network 72.15
James Madison East Carolina 9/2, 6:00 pm ESPN3 68.44
Temple Notre Dame 9/2, 3:30 pm NBC 67.18
Kennesaw State Samford 8/31, 7:00 pm ESPN3 66.95
Texas A&M UCLA 9/3, 7:30 pm FOX/FS-Go 65.60
Maryland Texas 9/2, 12:00 pm FS1/FS-Go 64.19
Eastern Washington Texas Tech 9/2, 4:00 pm FS Nets/FS-Go 64.03
South Carolina State Southern 9/3, 2:30 pm ESPN2 63.88
Navy Florida Atlantic 9/1, 7:00 pm ESPNU 63.79
  • Alabama-Florida State will be played in Atlanta, GA
  • Georgia Tech-Tennessee will also be played in Atlanta, GA
  • North Carolina State-South Carolina will be played in Charlotte, NC
  • Richmond-Sam Houston State will be played in Waco, TX
  • Colorado State-Colorado will be played in Denver, CO
  • Virginia Tech-West Virginia will be played in Landover, MD

Additional notes and observations:

– The top four games this week are all neutral-site Power 5 games. I think they would probably be more fun if played on a campus site, but money talks. At least these matchups will take place.

– It’s not surprising that Alabama-Florida State (a 1 vs. 3 matchup) tops the list, but watch out for North Carolina State-South Carolina. That should be a good game, and it is a bellwether contest for both programs.

– The game between Richmond and Sam Houston State was originally supposed to have been played last Sunday in Huntsville, TX, but was postponed and relocated due to Hurricane Harvey. Because of that, I had to resubmit the game into my computer program that produces the Tingle Factor ratings, and as a result it lost two TF points. It is still easily in the top 15 this week, however.

– If Tulsa can successfully replace Dane Evans at quarterback, look out (and as the over/under is 70, bet the over).

– Colorado State-Colorado strikes me as underrated, but perhaps instinctively the algorithm knows the game is being carried on the Pac-12 Network, and that very few people will be able to actually watch the game.

– James Madison, the defending FCS champion, is currently a 1-point favorite over homestanding FBS opponent East Carolina.

– Another FCS vs. FBS matchup, Eastern Washington-Texas Tech, features an over/under of 87.

– Navy-FAU barely sneaked into the top 15, but the algorithm doesn’t know the potential fun of having a military school face off against Lane Kiffin and a team described by one observer as an “Island of Misfit Toys”. This game might actually be top 10 material.

– One contest not in the top 15 is Michigan-Florida, and given that the Gators may struggle to put 11 players on the field at the same time on Saturday, that seems reasonable. BYU-LSU also didn’t make the cut.

– Tennessee State-Georgia State isn’t in the top 15 either, but it might be worthwhile to watch a few minutes of that game (it’s on ESPN3), if only to see the wonder of Georgia State playing at Turner Field (!).

It’s time for college football. Life is good.

With less than a month to go until football season begins, an odds-on look at Week 0 and Week 1

Please note: the information contained in this post is for entertainment purposes only. Use of this information in violation of any city, county, state, federal, international, interplanetary, or interdimensional laws is prohibited.

I’m basically going to do three things in this post: take a look at the sizable number of “lopsided” early-season contests; compare Massey Ratings projected game scores with early lines for various games of interest; and make a list of the best opening weekend (and pre-opening weekend) matchups.

Why am I doing this? Well, why not?

Lines are courtesy of an offshore site to be named later.

There are 136 contests in Weeks 0 and 1 that feature at least one Division I team. Among them are 44 FBS vs. FBS games; of those, 11 are games between Power-5 conference teams, 9 are Group of 5 matchups, and 24 are games in which a P5 team is playing a G5 opponent.

There are also 48 FBS vs. FCS matchups, 26 FCS vs. FCS contests, and 18 games in which FCS teams face non-D1 opposition.

Of those 136 games, 36 have an early-line spread of 30 points or more.

The breakdown of those 36 matchups:

  • FBS vs. FBS: 6
  • FBS vs. FCS: 18
  • FCS vs. FCS: 4
  • FCS vs. non-D1: 8

It’s not great that more than 26% of the D-1 games which take place prior to and through the Labor Day weekend are projected to be that one-sided. Of course, it could be argued that this is the best time for these matchups, given that the general football-loving public is starved for live gridiron action of any kind, no matter the blowout potential.

As of August 1, the largest point spread for any D-1 game in this time period is the Florida A&M-Arkansas contest on August 31, a Thursday night affair in Little Rock. The Razorbacks are favored by 51.5 points. Two games have 51-point spreads, Bethune-Cookman vs. Miami (the homestanding Hurricanes are favored, just to state the obvious) and an all-FCS matchup, Mississippi Valley State vs. North Dakota State (with the host Bison expected to prevail).

The biggest road favorite is Washington, favored by 30.5 points at Rutgers. Stanford plays Rice at a neutral site (Sydney, Australia); the Cardinal are 31.5-point favorites.

The other four FBS vs. FBS matchups with a spread of 30+ points: UTEP-Oklahoma (44 points, the largest spread in an all-FBS game), Kent State-Clemson (38.5 points), Georgia Southern-Auburn (35 points), and Akron-Penn State (33 points). To the surprise of no one, the home teams are all favored.

The other three FCS vs. FCS games with 30+ point spreads: Butler-Illinois State (36 points), Valparaiso-Montana (34 points; apologies to Adam Amin), and Delaware State-Delaware (33 points). Again, home teams are the favorites.

In the table below, I’ve included every FBS/FCS game in Week 0 (eight games played on August 26, and one on August 27), and a sampling of contests from Week 1 (August 31 through September 4). Just to reiterate, not every D-1 game from Week 1 is listed.

The first nine games in the table are from Week 0.

Favorite Underdog Line Massey Differential
Colorado State Oregon State 3.5 34-31 0.5
BYU Portland State 32.5 44-13 1.5
Florida A&M Texas Southern 1.5 26-24 -0.5
Jacksonville State Chattanooga 6.5 28-26 4.5
Cal Poly Colgate 7 35-31 3
USF San Jose State 20 41-31 10
Stanford Rice 31.5 38-7 0.5
Sam Houston State Richmond 6.5 38-34 2.5
Hawai’i Massachusetts 1 33-31 -1
Wake Forest Presbyterian 39 35-0 4
Toledo Elon 37.5 43-7 1.5
Georgia State Tennessee State 18 38-17 -3
Arkansas Florida A&M 51.5 52-3 2.5
Mercer Jacksonville 21 42-21 0
Samford Kennesaw State 7.5 38-30 -0.5
Towson Morgan State 28 35-7 0
Oklahoma State Tulsa 17 42-33 8
Ohio State Indiana 20.5 31-17 6.5
Army Fordham 15.5 40-24 -0.5
Eastern Michigan Charlotte 12.5 35-27 4.5
Navy Florida Atlantic 13.5 42-28 -0.5
Colorado Colorado State 7 35-28 0
Clemson Kent State 38.5 44-3 -2.5
Texas Maryland 16.5 34-27 9.5
Oklahoma UTEP 44 49-13 8
North Carolina California 12.5 42-32 2.5
Villanova Lehigh 6.5 28-22 0.5
Pittsburgh Youngstown State 14 40-24 -2
North Carolina State South Carolina 5.5 28-17 -5.5
Notre Dame Temple 15 28-24 11
Georgia Appalachian State 14.5 21-18 11.5
Michigan Florida 4 24-20 0
Virginia William and Mary 19.5 33-14 0.5
North Dakota State Mississippi Valley State 51 52-0 -1
Texas Tech Eastern Washington 16.5 45-38 9.5
Mississippi State Charleston Southern 18.5 38-21 1.5
The Citadel Newberry 30 37-7 0
Wofford Furman 13.5 26-14 1.5
Gardner-Webb North Carolina A&T 7 28-21 0
Baylor Liberty 30 42-14 2
East Tennessee State Limestone 28.5 35-7 0.5
Auburn Georgia Southern 35 34-13 14
Air Force VMI 31.5 41-10 0.5
Alabama Florida State 7.5 33-21 -4.5
LSU BYU 13 21-7 -1
Southern South Carolina State 2.5 27-24 -0.5
Virginia Tech West Virginia 4 29-26 1
UCLA Texas A&M 3.5 25-28 6.5
Tennessee Georgia Tech 3.5 31-32 4.5

Odds (hey, a pun!) and ends:

  • Not listed: James Madison-East Carolina, which does not have a line at present for some reason. However, Massey projects FCS defending champ JMU to win the game 38-31.
  • Western Carolina’s season opener at Hawai’i also does not have a line (at least, not one that I could find), possibly because the Rainbow Warriors play a game at Massachusetts the week before.
  • The same is true for Coastal Carolina, which opens by hosting the aforementioned Minutemen.
  • Two teams in the table that are favorites (UCLA and Tennessee) are projected to lose by the Massey Ratings.
  • Massey projects several games to be considerably closer than the current lines, notably Appalachian State-Georgia, Maryland-Texas, Eastern Washington-Texas Tech, Temple-Notre Dame, and Tulsa-Oklahoma State.
  • On the other hand, Massey likes North Carolina State and Alabama even more than the offshore folks do.

On his college basketball ratings website, Ken Pomeroy has something called ‘FanMatch’, in which “games are rated for competitiveness and level of play with a lean towards higher-scoring games”. It is a somewhat whimsical way to rate the potential watchability of individual games on a given night.

I’m going to do the same thing here. However, I am purposely not going to rate Newberry-The Citadel, which from my vantage point is the most watchable game of the Labor Day weekend.

Below is a listing of the Week 0/1 games that I consider to be the twenty best in terms of quality/competitiveness. I’ve created a secret formula to produce these game ratings; it is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
Alabama Florida State 9/2, 8:00 pm ABC/ESPN3 86.73
North Carolina State South Carolina 9/2, 3:00 pm ESPN 84.20
Tennessee Georgia Tech 9/4, 8:00 pm ESPN 83.90
Virginia Tech West Virginia 9/3, 7:30 pm ABC/ESPN3 83.55
Richmond Sam Houston State 8/27, 7:00 pm ESPNU 80.11
Tulsa Oklahoma State 8/31, 7:30 pm FS1/FS-Go 79.68
Chattanooga Jacksonville State 8/26, 6:30 pm ESPN 75.41
Colorado State Colorado 9/1, 8:00 pm Pac-12 Network 72.15
Oregon State Colorado State 8/26, 2:30 pm CBS Sports Net 72.00
James Madison East Carolina 9/2, 6:00 pm ESPN3 68.44
Temple Notre Dame 9/2, 3:30 pm NBC 67.18
Kennesaw State Samford 8/31, 7:00 pm ESPN3 66.95
Texas A&M UCLA 9/3, 7:30 pm FOX/FS-Go 65.60
Hawai’i Massachusetts 8/26, 6:00 pm TBA 65.47
Maryland Texas 9/2, 12:00 pm FS1/FS-Go 64.19
Eastern Washington Texas Tech 9/2, 4:00 pm FS Nets/FS-Go 64.03
South Carolina St. Southern 9/3, 2:30 pm ESPN2 63.88
Navy Florida Atlantic 9/2, 8:00 pm ESPNU 63.79
Villanova Lehigh 9/2, 12:30 pm Patriot League DN 63.58
Colgate Cal Poly 8/26, 7:00 pm ESPNU 63.56

Notes:

  • Alabama-Florida State will be played in Atlanta, GA
  • Georgia Tech-Tennessee will also be played in Atlanta, GA
  • North Carolina State-South Carolina will be played in Charlotte, NC
  • Colorado State-Colorado will be played in Denver, CO
  • Chattanooga-Jacksonville State will be played in Montgomery, AL
  • Virginia Tech-West Virginia will be played in Landover, MD

The season is getting closer…and closer…

Kirk Herbstreit: the worst thing going on in college football?

Last Saturday, there was a segment on ESPN’s popular College GameDay show centered around FBS-FCS matchups. You can watch it here:

Link

With the exception of Lee Corso, the ESPN crew was highly critical of FBS-FCS games, particularly those occurring late in the season (an SEC specialty).

The segment began with Chris Fowler listing a series of recent SEC opponents from the FCS. Fowler then noted:

Of course, a year ago this week Georgia Southern went to the swamp and did stun Georgia, giving license to all the SEC coaches to talk up the virtues, the worthiness, of today’s opponents.

Fowler delivered this line with a great deal of sarcasm, concentrating so much on his delivery that he forgot Georgia Southern actually beat Florida last year, not Georgia.

ESPN then showed snippets of various SEC coaches discussing their opponents for this week. The clips were clearly selected to make it seem that the coaches were overhyping their FCS foes.

If you were really paying attention, though, there wasn’t that much sandbagging going on. Mark Richt was probably a little over-the-top in extolling Charleston Southern’s “fever” to win, but there was nothing fraudulent about Gus Malzahn saying Samford was a “good I-AA team” (it is), or Nick Saban stating that Western Carolina was “a much improved team” (certainly true), or Will Muschamp noting that Eastern Kentucky was a playoff team in “I-AA, or whatever we’re calling that now” (he was right, as EKU made the FCS playoffs).

Also, Muschamp lost to an FCS school last year. Why wouldn’t he be concerned with a matchup against another team from that division?

Heck, he had been fired earlier in the week. Why would he have bothered overselling the game anyway?

Arguably, though, the most misleading clips were those of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, as he discussed South Alabama, the Gamecocks’ opponent last Saturday. There was no mention by anyone on the set that South Alabama wasn’t actually an FCS school at all (the Jaguars are members of the Sun Belt).

Considering South Carolina’s struggles of late (particularly on defense), Spurrier had good reason to be respectful of his upcoming opponent.

“We’re not trying to belittle [the FCS],” said Fowler, after spending the previous two minutes belittling the FCS. He then criticized the SEC for playing these games. “It’s not good for the sport.”

After a short interlude with Corso, Kirk Herbstreit looked right at the camera and said:

This is the worst thing that goes on in college football.

Yes. He said that. The worst thing that goes on in the sport. FCS vs. FBS matchups. Not any of the myriad off-field issues, not the safety concerns on the field, none of that.

“No due respect to the FCS and what they’re doing,” Herbstreit continued (with an unintentional but perhaps more accurate slip of the tongue), “…there should be a penalty [from the college football playoff committee]…when you play games like this. We need to eliminate these games when it comes to the non-conference [schedules]. They’re not good for the FCS schools, they’re not good for the SEC schools, or any other schools that play ’em. It’s just bad for the game. We have no games this weekend!”

“I hate it!” me-tooed Desmond Howard, who added that when he was in school, his alma mater (Michigan) didn’t play FCS schools. Of course, that changed after Howard left Ann Arbor, as the Wolverines rather famously played an FCS school in 2007.

Lee Corso then pointed out that the games are a financial boon to the FCS schools. Herbstreit’s response: “We’ve got enough money now…if it’s about the money, give ’em the money, just don’t schedule [these games].” Corso began cackling at the notion.

Let’s go through some of these comments:

– “There should be a penalty…when you play games like this.”

A team that schedules quality FBS non-conference opponents is probably going to be looked upon more favorably by the playoff committee than one that plays lesser competition. I’m not even sure that’s an issue.

Exactly how many FBS schools are going to be competing for one of those playoff spots in a given year, however? There are 65 FBS schools in the power five conferences (including Notre Dame in that group). How many of them are going to be serious contenders for one of four spots? What about the other 63 schools that compete at the FBS level? (Well, we probably know the answer to that last question.)

– “They’re not good for the FCS schools.”

This statement made me wonder if Herbstreit has ever talked to someone associated with an FCS school.

Besides the money aspect mentioned by Corso, FCS players almost always love playing these games. They like to measure themselves against top-level competition. They enjoy playing in large stadiums, in a “big time” atmosphere, often on television.

Fans of smaller schools usually like these games too, especially if they aren’t too far away. They are often used for alumni networking and fundraising.

Sometimes, there is an element of tradition associated with these contests. You don’t think alums from Furman or The Citadel enjoy occasional matchups with South Carolina or Clemson? I can assure you that they do.

– “We have no games this weekend!”

Well, I looked at the schedule. I saw plenty of games.

There may not have been a matchup between two ranked SEC teams, but keep in mind that various ESPN networks featured several prominent SEC battles early in the season, while other conferences were in the midst of their non-league schedules. It’s a trade-off.

The truth of the matter is there were a lot of quality games played last weekend. Maybe you had to look a little deeper into the world of college football to find them, but is that such a bad thing?

Also, remember Week 5 of this season? That Saturday, College GameDay wound up at the Missouri-South Carolina game, due to a perceived lack of quality matchups (both the Gamecocks and Tigers already had a loss at the time, with Mizzou having just lost at home to Indiana).

Was that slate of games so poor because of a bunch of FBS-FCS matchups? No. There were only two such games in that week: Army-Yale (a game won in double overtime by the Elis), and Eastern Illinois-Ohio (the Bobcats won 34-19).

Sometimes, the schedule for a given week just isn’t going to be that alluring. That has little to do with FBS-FCS games (which were only around 7% of the complete FBS schedule for the regular season anyway).

Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir watched Herbstreit and company before WCU played Alabama later that day, and he wasn’t happy.

Now, I think Speir was a little heavyhanded in his criticism of Herbstreit. The “silver spoon” reference was not necessary.

However, I fully understand Speir’s frustration, and he had every right to call out the former Ohio State quarterback for his remarks (particularly the “worst thing that goes on in college football” line uttered by Herbstreit, which was simply ludicrous).

I thought it was good of Speir to speak out, and to let people know that he was personally offended by the comments that were made. Too often the point of view from the FCS side of the aisle goes unheard.

After all, Speir has been a coach on the FCS level for most of his career, including a long stint as an assistant at Appalachian State. He was in Michigan Stadium that fateful day when the Mountaineers stunned the Wolverines.

In my opinion, the FCS-FBS matchups are largely good for college football, because college football is about a lot more than the schools in the power five conferences. This is something that appears to be hard for some people to understand.

The concept of what is best for the greater good of college football — well, it seems to be lost in certain quarters. I’ve said this before, but I honestly get the impression some members of the national college football media cabal think there should only be thirty or forty schools that play football, and that the rest should just give up the sport.

I’m not the only person who gets that vibe, judging from these comments by Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman:

Huesman was watching “Gameday” from his hotel room in Greenville, S.C., before the Mocs’ game against Furman, but he said he will not watch the show again.

“Herbstreit has bothered me for a few years now,” Huesman said. “Nothing to him matters except big-time college football. And then Desmond Howard jumped in, too, and that’s when I had had enough. I’ll never watch that show again.

“I thought it was absolutely ridiculous for them to put on a rant like that during the course of a show about college football. I thought it was disrespectful. He just alienated people.

It should be pointed out that the backdrop for Saturday’s ESPN discussion was an FCS game (Yale-Harvard), and that College GameDay visited the fine folks at North Dakota State earlier this season (for the second consecutive year). There are people at the network who clearly appreciate the FCS, along with other divisions of college football. I’m glad for that.

I just wish there were more of them, and that they were on camera.

Football, Game 11: The Citadel vs. Samford

Factoids:

— Gametime/location:  2:30 pm ET/Seibert Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama

— Both teams are known as the Bulldogs.  Really, one of the requirements for Samford to join the Southern Conference should have been for the school to change its nickname.

— Samford is 4-6, 2-5 in the SoCon; The Citadel is 2-8, 0-7.

The Citadel’s game notes

Samford’s game notes

I wrote this in my preview of the first game of the season (the game against Chowan):

While I am looking forward to the season, this year I am a bit apprehensive about what lies ahead for the Bulldogs on the gridiron.  The Citadel is going to the triple option on offense, with a head coach who has never run the offense (or any similar offense) before, and with players who were mostly recruited for a very different kind of system.

The players who were recruited with the triple option in mind, of course, are all true freshmen.  The quarterback position will likely be manned by one (or more) of those true freshmen. The “knob”-starting quarterback double is a rare one, and for a reason. It’s an exceedingly difficult combination.

The Southern Conference media and coaches agree that this season could be a long one for The Citadel, just as the last two seasons have been.  The media picked the Bulldogs to finish last in the league.  The coaches ranked The Citadel eighth out of nine teams, ahead of only Western Carolina.

So I guessed I called this one…

The Citadel is hoping to go out with a bang after a whimper of a season.

“Next season starts this week,” was Higgins’ message Monday at his final weekly news conference of the season, as The Citadel prepares for Saturday’s season-ender at Samford.

“We need to keep building on some of the things we’ve done and see if we can get next season off to a great start on Saturday,” Higgins said.

Higgins is using the bye week to make the Samford game the football equivalent of MayMester, which isn’t a bad idea.  Motivation is presumably an issue for both The Citadel and Samford, neither of which have a chance at a winning season, or a winning league campaign.

I would be cautious about making too much of the offense’s improvement against Elon.  I’m not sure what it says about the unit’s progress when just being able to successfully complete the center/QB exchange is considered a breakthrough.  (That said, I do think Mike Sellers shows considerable promise.)

Samford and The Citadel match up statistically in a lot of areas, including red zone offense and defense, third-down conversions, scoring defense, and rush defense. The Citadel has a better passing defense (by about 40 yards per game), but Samford is much more balanced on offense.  Of course, most teams are more balanced offensively than The Citadel.  In this case the result is Samford averaging about 80 yards more in total offense.

That said, Samford hasn’t really lit up the scoreboard in SoCon play much more than The Citadel.  While Samford hasn’t been shut out twice like the Cadets, it has only scored 20 or more points in two league games, not coincidentally the two games in the conference Samford has won.  One of those was a 38-7 rout of Western Carolina, while the other was a 20-13 upset of Georgia Southern.  Both of those games, interestingly, were on the road.  At home, Samford is averaging just 10 points per game.

The lack of point production comes despite the presence of Alabama’s all-time leading rusher.  That would be the State of Alabama’s all-time leading rusher, to be more specific.  Chris Evans will probably cross the 4,500-yard mark in Saturday’s game, which is more career rushing yards than Bo Jackson, Shaun Alexander, Mark Ingram, Sherman Williams, Johnny Musso, William Andrews, James Brooks, Lionel James, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Major Ogilvie…etc.

That’s not bad (and a cheat of a trivia question, too).

Two years ago Evans rushed for 174 yards against The Citadel and scored two touchdowns as Samford won easily at Seibert Stadium, 28-10.  Samford’s huge offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage in that game, and Evans took full advantage.  That’s something Pat Sullivan’s crew will try to do again on Saturday, and he’s bringing another sizable o-line to the proceedings.  Samford’s offensive line starters average a meatball over 298 lbs.

Last year, though, that plan of attack didn’t work out, as The Citadel beat Samford 28-16, and the defense limited Evans to 52 yards rushing.  That game featured a freshman starting quarterback named Tommy Edwards.

Tangent:  If you want to impress your friends, ask them to name the three quarterbacks to start against Samford for The Citadel.  The three QBs in question are Edwards, Jack Douglas (in the 1989 contest that marked The Citadel’s first game back at Johnson Hagood Stadium after Hurricane Hugo) and Cam Turner.

There will be another freshman starter for The Citadel this Saturday, as Ben Dupree will make his second consecutive start (and third overall).  Dupree didn’t turn the ball over against Elon, which was probably more than enough for him to get the starting nod again.

I don’t have any idea how the game on Saturday will go.  Samford is not a particularly good team, but it is better than Western Carolina, and it is good enough to have beaten Georgia Southern.  Samford will be playing at home, which should give it an edge, although that hasn’t been born out in its league results.

A win at Samford would be a nice way to close out the season for The Citadel, and would give its players and fans some positive vibes for 2011.  Let’s hope for the best.

Football, Game 10: The Citadel vs. UT-Chattanooga

Note:  it can be difficult to figure out what to call the athletic teams of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  Recently the school began using a ‘C’ mark, for “Chattanooga”.  The university’s teams have variously been referred to over the years as “UT-Chattanooga”, “Tennessee-Chattanooga”, “UTC”, and “Chattanooga”.

The nickname/mascot history is even more tangled.  A “moccasin” used to be a snake, then a shoe, then a cartoon Cherokee Indian called ‘Chief Moccanooga’, and now a mockingbird train conductor (and “moccasin” has morphed into “moc”, for mockingbird).

There is an explanatory page on the school’s website.  The page includes a quotation from Jimmy Fallon.  As you may have guessed, the quote is not very funny.

In the post that follows, I will call the school either “UT-Chattanooga”, or “UTC”, because that’s what I’ve always called it, and I see no particular reason to change.

Around this time last year The Citadel played UT-Chattanooga in Charleston.  It was Homecoming for the Bulldogs, and everyone expected a big win, since the Mocs were 1-9 (and would eventually finish 1-11).  At that time I wrote about how UTC had collapsed as a program after consistently challenging for league honors in its first 10-15 years in the Southern Conference.

Well, The Citadel did win that day, but barely, letting a team playing out the string with a lame-duck coach hang around and nearly steal the victory.  The Bulldogs survived thanks to Andre Roberts’ last-minute punt return TD, but despite winning the game, it was almost as poor a showing as The Citadel had for this year’s Homecoming.

UT-Chattanooga replaced Rodney Allison with Russ Huesman, who basically has the ideal background for a UTC head coach.  Huesman played high school football at famed Moeller High School in Cincinnati for Gerry Faust, who was destined to become a much-maligned coach for Notre Dame (albeit one who never lost to Navy).  Huesman then played college football for the Mocs, with his first two years under Joe Morrison and his last two under Bill “Brother” Oliver.

Huesman was a longtime assistant at William & Mary, where he coached the secondary (Huesman was a DB himself at UTC) and was later the defensive coordinator.  Players he coached while with the Tribe include longtime NFL interception magnet Darren Sharper, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, and Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.  That’s not a bad list of guys to have as references.

He then moved to Memphis for several seasons, including a stretch as recruiting coordinator for the Tigers, before spending five seasons as the defensive coordinator for Richmond, the defending FCS champions.

That’s a nice resume for any prospective head coach at the FCS level; being an alum is an even bigger bonus.  Huesman seems to have given the program some much-needed enthusiasm.  Home attendance has increased significantly, with three of the ten biggest crowds in Finley Stadium history so far this season.  There was even a bonfire on Wednesday night.

Another thing Huesman did was bring in a transfer from Tennessee to play quarterback.  B.J. Coleman has had a solid season for the Mocs, nothing flashy stats-wise but generally getting the job done.

Coleman has thrown fourteen touchdowns against six interceptions, although he did throw three picks last week against Appalachian State.  Five of his six interceptions for the season, in fact, have come in the last three games.  Coleman is a sophomore who will have two more years of eligibility after this season.

The Vols transfer has spread the ball around, although his favorite target is definitely Blue Cooper, who has 68 receptions and could conceivably make the All-SoCon squad ahead of Andre Roberts (Elon’s Terrell Hudgins is a lock for the other first-team spot at wide receiver).

UTC suffered a blow when running back Bryan Fitzgerald was injured and lost for the season.  Freshman Chris Awuah is the leading rusher for the Mocs, but he is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.  UTC is last in the league in rushing offense.

UTC has respectable, if not eye-popping, defensive statistics across the board, generally ranking in the upper half of the SoCon in most categories for conference-only games.  The Mocs have struggled, however, in defending 3rd-down conversions; the Mocs D is 7th in the league (The Citadel is 8th in the league, ahead of only Furman).  Another sore spot for the defense is red zone conversion rate; UTC is last in the SoCon, and has allowed 17 touchdowns in 25 opponents’ possessions inside the 20.

The Mocs are tied for the lead in interceptions in conference play with eight; free safety Jordan Tippet has five of his own.

One defensive stat that is very impressive for UTC:  sacks.  The Mocs have 24 sacks on the season; their 16 sacks in league play in second-best in the conference.  The primary sack-master is right defensive end Josh Beard, who has 10.5 of them so far this year.  His partner in crime on the other side of the line, freshman DE Joshua Williams, has 6.

Despite the mediocre 3rd-down defense numbers and lack of a rushing game, UTC leads the league in time of possession.  The Mocs don’t hurt themselves with penalties (second in the SoCon).  UTC is next-to-last in net punting, but features an outstanding placekicker in Craig Camay, who is 13-16 converting field goals this year, with a long of 52.  Camay is also a weapon for onside kicks; the Mocs have recovered four of five onside kick attempts in league action.

A few other odds and ends:

— I was surprised to find out that The Citadel is UT-Chattanooga’s most common opponent.  Saturday’s game will be the 43rd meeting between the two schools.  The school in second place on the Mocs most-played list?  Tennessee, which has faced UTC on 41 occasions.  The Vols are 37-2-2 in those games.

— UTC is 5-4, but if it has dreams of a winning season, it probably needs to beat The Citadel.  Next week, the Mocs play Alabama.  Yikes.

Tangent:  what is with the SEC and these late-season matchups against FCS schools?  Last week, there were four such games:  Tennessee Tech-Georgia, Furman-Auburn, Northern Arizona-Mississippi, and Eastern Kentucky-Kentucky.

Last year, of course, The Citadel closed out its season by playing Florida.  Why aren’t these games being played in the first couple of weeks of the season? I hope all of them were Homecoming games.

— UTC’s game notes reference The Citadel’s football stadium (on the same page) as “Haggod Stadium” , “Johnson Hagood Stadium”, and “Sansom Field”.

— The Citadel has never won four straight games against UT-Chattanooga.  The Bulldogs currently enjoy a three-game winning streak versus the Mocs.

It’s hard to say what The Citadel’s chances on Saturday are, since it’s hard to determine which Bulldog team will show up — the one that played Appalachian State and Furman, or the one that played Elon, Western Carolina, and Wofford?

It will be interesting to see who starts at quarterback.  If I had to guess (and it’s only a guess), I would say that Miguel Starks, even if just “85%”, will get the nod.  Just the thought of a gimpy Bart Blanchard sitting in the pocket as the two sack-happy UTC defensive ends converge on him is cringe-inducing…

I certainly hope that the Bulldogs are more competitive than they were last week.  This is a big game for UTC, which has a chance for a winning season.  Given that the Mocs won a total of six games in the previous three years, that would be a major accomplishment.  UT-Chattanooga will be ready to play on Saturday.  The Bulldogs better be ready as well.