Game Review, 2019: Georgia Tech

The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT).

That happened. Yes, it did.

Links of interest (a lot of options this week):

Game story, The Post and Courier

School release from The Citadel

School release from Georgia Tech

AP game story

NCAA.com game story

Game story, Atlanta Journal-Constitution [headline over article: “Jackets Haunted and Stunned”]

Game analysis, CBS Sports

“The Citadel Adds To Illustrious History”

– Gwinnett players play role in shocker

Video highlights package from The Citadel

Postgame on-field interview of Brent Thompson (via Fox Sports South twitter)

Game highlights from the ACC Digital Network

– Postgame quotes (including those for Brent Thompson, which are at the bottom of the page)

Postgame press conference for Geoff Collins

– Postgame press conference for Georgia Tech players

“Condensed” video of The Citadel-Georgia Tech (about 23 minutes)

Box score

Key statistics:

The Citadel Georgia Tech
Field Position* 21.56 (-17.69) 39.22 (+17.69)
Success Rate* 39.72% 47.62%
Big plays (20+ yards) 3 6
Finishing drives (average points)* 4.0 4.6
Turnovers 1 0
Expected turnovers 1.72 0.66
Possessions* 9 9
Points per possession* 2.67 2.67
Offensive Plays* 72 42
Yards/rush* (sacks taken out) 4.76 7.59
Yards/pass attempts* (incl. sacks) 5.20 6.73
Yards/play* 4.79 7.29
3rd down conversions* 8 of 15 (53.3%) 3 of 8 (37.5%)
4th down conversions 1 of 1 0 of 1
Red Zone TD%** 0 for 2 (0%) 1 for 1 (100%)
Net punting 38.0 35.0
Time of possession 41:50 18:10
TOP/offensive play 34.86 seconds 25.95 seconds
Penalties 5 for 55 yards 8 for 80 yards
1st down passing* 0/1 5/7, 97 yards, sack
3rd and long passing* 0/1, interception, sack 0/3, sack
4th down passing 0/0 0/0
1st down yards/play* 5.45 9.45
3rd down average yards to go* 7.40 7.25
Defensive 3-and-outs+* 2 3

*overtime stats not included; Georgia Tech’s kneel-down at the end of the first half also not included
** Georgia Tech’s end-of-regulation drive not included in Red Zone TD rate

After I had finished compiling the above stats, I just shook my head. The Citadel finished second-best in all of the “Five Factors”, and did not fare well in many of the other categories.

Yet in actuality, the Bulldogs maintained control of the game throughout the contest. It could also be argued that if Brandon Rainey had not been injured, The Citadel probably would have won in regulation.

That time of possession advantage the Bulldogs had was incredible and ultimately decisive; essentially, the entire game turned on the basic fact that Georgia Tech couldn’t score if it didn’t have the ball — and the Yellow Jackets rarely possessed the pigskin.

A few quick notes:

– Without the 3rd-and-31 situation in the second quarter, The Citadel’s average yards-to-go on 3rd down would be 5.7, a much more palatable number.

– Besides time of possession, the other key stat was third down conversion rate (and of course those two categories are inter-related). When you include the Bulldogs converting their sole fourth down attempt, The Citadel eventually moved the chains 9 out of 15 times it faced third down in regulation play.

I don’t know what The Citadel’s record is for time of possession in a game, but I’m going to guess that 41:50 is the new standard for the Bulldogs’ contests against FBS teams.

– Georgia Tech’s first-half penalties were critical (and mostly inexcusable) mistakes, and also out of character. The Yellow Jackets had only committed four penalties *total* in their first two games.

Random thoughts:

– The Citadel became the first FCS squad this season to beat a team from a “Power Five” conference.

– I am fairly sure The Citadel is the largest underdog (26 points) to win outright so far this year in a game involving at least one FBS team.

– Georgia Tech’s decision to punt on 4th-and-5 at the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line on the Yellow Jackets’ first drive of the game set the tone for the contest, and not in a good way for the home team. That is absolutely a “go for it” situation, particularly in a game in which possessions are going to be limited.

Naturally, the punt was a touchback, and (almost as naturally) The Citadel immediately embarked on a nine-play drive that resulted in the game’s first touchdown.

That drive included two tough third-down runs from Rainey and Clay Harris.

– Conversely, Brent Thompson should receive credit for his decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from The Citadel’s own 34-yard line, with less than six minutes remaining in a tie game and a backup quarterback at the controls.

A punt there would have handed the ball back to a Georgia Tech offense that had the momentum. It was worth the risk, and Thompson wound up with the reward after a two-yard run by Harris.

– The end-around to Raleigh Webb on the next play was also an excellent call that built off of the fourth-down conversion.

– The TD pass from Rainey to Webb was on a 2nd-and-6 down-and-distance situation, and just two plays removed from Nkem Njoku’s 25-yard run into Yellow Jackets territory. It was an excellent time to call a pass play.

– Chris Beverly managed to knock Tobias Oliver out of bounds on his long kick return, and it was a good thing, because I believe otherwise Oliver may have gone all the way.

– Geoff Collins seemed miffed at the officials for how the end of the fourth quarter played out, prior to the pseudo-TD and subsequent tying field goal.

I re-watched it. This is what happened:

  • The clock stopped with 34 seconds remaining after an injury to Bulldogs defensive tackle Dewey Greene IV (who had a huge sack two plays earlier).
  • Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason then rushed 18 yards to The Citadel’s 12-yard line for a first down. The clock was halted with 27 seconds left to move the chains.
  • The clock re-started, and then with 23 seconds left Georgia Tech was called for a snap infraction, penalizing the Yellow Jackets five yards.
  • That necessitated a 10-second runoff, to 13 seconds. The referee announced that information, and then stated the clock would re-start on the “ready to play” signal — which it did.
  • Collins then called a timeout just before the ball was snapped, at the 6-second mark.

I think Collins was upset because he did not think the clock would re-start at the 13-second mark. That isn’t what the referee said, however.

As a result, the Yellow Jackets went from having the football at the 12-yard line with 23 seconds left and one timeout, to having it at the 17-yard line with 6 seconds left and no timeouts — and they didn’t even run a play.

Georgia Tech had used a timeout very early in the 3rd quarter when there was confusion over an offensive formation on the second play of the half. The Yellow Jackets could have used that timeout at the end of the game.

– I was always relieved when Tobias Oliver wasn’t playing quarterback for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets seemed more dynamic whenever he was in the game, including as a kick returner. The stats reflect that as well.

I don’t think the flip-flopping of the QBs helped Georgia Tech much, including in the overtime session, when Lucas Jackson came in at quarterback on 3rd down and promptly got sacked by Joseph Randolph II.

– On the positive side of the ledger for Collins, his hat was nice — very clean look. I also liked the cap he wore for a game earlier this season that just had the “T” logo.

– With 1:13 remaining in the game and Georgia Tech driving, a chant of “DEFENSE!” from the crowd could clearly be heard on the TV audio feed. Major props to the fans (and cadets) in attendance.

– It was a rough-and-tumble football game, with more than a few injuries for both teams. I hope that the Bulldogs came out of it without any serious issues. Obviously, the injury to Brandon Rainey will be something to watch.

Just a few tweets to consider (I could have linked several thousand)…

 

Now the players and coaches have to forget about this victory, great as it was, and get ready for Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers led a good North Carolina A&T team in the fourth quarter on Saturday before losing 27-21. That one won’t be easy.

I’ll write about that game later this week.

2019 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Georgia Tech

The Citadel vs. Georgia Tech, from Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field in Atlanta, Georgia, with kickoff at 12:30 pm ET on September 14, 2019. 

The game will be televised on the ACC Regional Network and on ESPN College Extra. It will be streamed on Fox Sports Go and ACC Network Extra. Tom Werme will handle play-by-play, while James Bates supplies the analysis. Lyndsay Rowley 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 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

Check your local listings for TV information. The game will be televised on various regional networks — Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Midwest, etc. It will also be streamed; depending on where you live, you can stream it on Fox Sports Go or ACC Network Extra.

It will also be part of the “ESPN College Extra” package, which is available on some cable/satellite systems.

Links of interest:

– Preview from The Post and Courier

Preview from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bulldogs tight end Elijah Lowe, a native of the Bahamas, talks about the devastation from Hurricane Dorian and how it has affected his family

– Game notes from The Citadel and Georgia Tech

– SoCon weekly release

ACC weekly release

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Georgia Tech’s website

Brent Thompson’s 9/9 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/11)

– The Dogs:  Episode 3

Geoff Collins’ 9/10 press conference

Press conference: Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker (9/10)

Press conference: Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (9/10)

South Florida vs. Georgia Tech (condensed game)

Sean-Thomas Faulkner is the reigning SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week

This preview is a little different from most of my other writeups, in that it will not include much in the way of statistics. There are a few reasons for that:

  • I’ve already covered a lot of The Citadel’s relevant stats in my two game reviews so far this season
  • This is an FBS vs. FCS game, which usually doesn’t lend itself well to statistical comparisons
  • Georgia Tech has a new coaching staff with a completely new offense, as you may have heard
  • So far this season, the Yellow Jackets have played #1 Clemson and a South Florida team that now has an 8-game losing streak dating back to last year
  • Two games of stats under a new coaching staff would make it hard to evaluate even if Georgia Tech hadn’t played a dominant team and another squad that is in a major downward spiral

The Citadel’s forward passing was the best that I have seen in any game, anywhere.

Georgia Tech head football coach John Heisman, October 5, 1912

That blurb is from the main game story in The News and Courier after Georgia Tech defeated The Citadel in Charleston, 20-6, during the 1912 season. The first two games in the series between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs were actually played in Hampton Park; the last eight matchups have been held at Grant Field/Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Note: 20-6 is the correct score for that contest. Georgia Tech’s media guide (and consequently its game notes) incorrectly lists the final as 20-16, a typographical error that is probably several decades old.

The game was tied 6-6 after The Citadel scored a third-quarter touchdown, but Heisman’s charges pulled away in the end. The Bulldogs’ TD came on a pass from team captain John Martin to Hugh Sease.

Sease, a native of either St. George or Orangeburg (sources differ), later transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy. He had a distinguished career in the Navy, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

As for John Heisman, he must have been relatively pleased to see an opponent use the pass to its advantage, even against his team:

Heisman walked away convinced [the forward pass] was the play that would save football from itself. As Heisman wrote, violent scrums based around bruising running plays were “killing the game as well as the players.”

In 1904-5, 44 players had been reported killed in football games, with hundreds sustaining serious injuries. Heisman said the forward pass “would scatter the mob.”…

…Heisman began to forcefully lobby Walter Camp, shepherd of the national rules committee. When Camp did not act swiftly enough, Heisman rallied other coaches and newspaper reporters to pressure Camp and the committee. In 1906, the forward pass was legalized with several constraints that limited its effectiveness. Heisman pressed on, and the restrictions were eventually lifted.

Heisman was the football coach at Georgia Tech from 1904 to 1919, and while there fashioned a record of 102-29-7. That included a retroactive but seemingly undeniable national title in 1917 and, of course, the famous (infamous?) 222-0 victory over Cumberland in 1916.

Besides being the namesake of arguably the most famous award in American sports, Heisman was also an actor of some repute. He is almost certainly the only head football coach to win a national title and perform in a featured role in a Broadway play, though I wouldn’t put it past Les Miles to match him someday.

Speaking of coaches who won a national title at Georgia Tech, I can’t post a preview of The Citadel-Georgia Tech without mentioning Bobby Ross, who was a head coach at both schools.

Ross was 103-101-2 as a college head coach, which may seem mediocre, but that includes his five-year stint at The Citadel (during a very difficult era to recruit at a military college) and his three years at Army (which simply didn’t work out).

In between, he won three ACC titles at Maryland and another league crown (and that national title) at Georgia Tech. Then he went to the NFL and took the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl. He even made the playoffs twice with the Detroit Lions.

I think Ross would be a very solid candidate for enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame, but as it happens, he is ineligible. That is because “modern” coaches have to have won at least 60% of their games to receive consideration. This same stipulation excludes Howard Schnellenberger.

Here are the FBS coaching candidates on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot:

  • Larry Blakeney (Troy)
  • Jim Carlen (West Virginia, Texas Tech, and South Carolina)
  • Billy Jack Murphy (Memphis)
  • Pete Cawthon Sr. (Austin College, Texas Tech)
  • Darryl Rogers (Cal State Hayward, Fresno State, San Jose State, Michigan State, Arizona State)

Nothing against those guys, but does anyone paying attention really think they are more deserving than Schnellenberger and Ross? Of course not.

Tangent #1: if the 1990 season had occurred in a 2019 environment, it is hard to imagine Colorado being anywhere near the top of the AP poll. I think the Buffaloes would have been lucky to finish in the top 5, much less gain a “split” of the national title. That fifth-down game against Missouri would have absolutely been considered an additional loss in this era of endless replays/discussion.

It was a very strange year in college football, with only the ridiculous 2007 season exceeding it in terms of sheer weirdness (in the last 50 years or so, anyway). Absent a playoff, however, Georgia Tech was the most deserving team when it came to recognition as the “national champion”.

Georgia Tech will be familiar with the offense The Citadel will run on Saturday because it’s what the Yellow Jackets used for 11 years.

It’s one of few certainties for Georgia Tech right now under new coach Geoff Collins.

The Yellow Jackets (1-1) used 27 different players on offense and 27 on defense in last Saturday’s 14-10 victory over South Florida. Five walk-on players saw action, Jahaziel Lee played on both the offensive and defensive lines, and 176-pound freshman defensive back Kenan Johnson took snaps at defensive end.

It’s all part of the process as Collins remakes the program.

“This is a monumental transition unlike what’s probably happened in college football in a long time,” Collins said. “Every single day we’re a work in progress in every phase of everything we do.”

Georgia Tech used 61 players in all against South Florida. Against Clemson, 63 Yellow Jackets saw the field.

Geoff Collins isn’t just changing Georgia Tech’s offense. He is essentially trying to establish the Yellow Jackets as Atlanta’s college football team.

Collins has spent much of his time trying to build up Georgia Tech’s brand among the locals. The Yellow Jackets rarely sell out games and have been largely overlooked in Atlanta’s crowded sports landscape.

Looking to change that, Collins has taken up nearly every offer to speak in the community, promoted the Yellow Jackets relentlessly on social media, drawn attention of his love for local favorite Waffle House, and tried to reach new fans by taking his players and staff to games hosted by the city’s pro sports teams.

It’s all part of what he calls the “404” culture — a reference to Atlanta’s area code.

“I love this great city,” Collins said. “We want to embrace it. The elite players in the country should be coming to Georgia Tech to play ball.”

The coach is a native of Conyers, so he has local ties. Collins went to Western Carolina, where he was a linebacker in the early 1990s. This is actually his third tour of duty with Georgia Tech, as he was a graduate assistant from 1999 to 2001, and then served as the tight ends coach in 2006.

Collins was the defensive coordinator for FIU, Mississippi State, and Florida before becoming the head coach at Temple, where he had a record of 15-10 in two seasons. Georgia Tech hired him in December of last year to replace the retiring Paul Johnson.

He has faced The Citadel eleven times as either a player or an assistant coach. His teams have won five times, lost five times, and tied once.

Collins is named after Geoff Hurst, an English soccer star of the 1960s and 1970s who is the only player to have scored a hat trick in a FIFA World Cup final (in 1966, against West Germany).

Tangent #2: Admittedly, Hurst’s second goal in that match should not have counted, but he got a knighthood anyway. The referee and linesman who teamed up to award England the goal have inspired several generations of Southern Conference football and basketball officials.

Georgia Tech’s offensive and defensive coordinators are also familiar with The Citadel.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude was the OC at Coastal Carolina for five years (2012-16). In two of those years, CCU played The Citadel (with the Bulldogs winning the second of those two games in a memorable FCS playoff matchup).

Incidentally, during his press briefing Patenaude mentioned that he would like the Yellow Jackets to be a little more balanced offensively against The Citadel.

Georgia Tech only had 76 yards passing (on 21 attempts) versus South Florida. The Yellow Jackets had 47 runs and 23 pass plays in that contest.

Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker was a defensive back at Furman from 2004 to 2007. Both Thacker and Patenaude came over with Collins from Temple when he took the job with the Yellow Jackets.

Collins and Thacker have experience defending the triple option, as Temple played Army in 2017 and Navy in both 2017 and 2018. The Owls lost in overtime to Army but defeated the Midshipmen twice.

In 2017, Temple held Navy to 4.4 yards per play. The following season, the Midshipmen averaged 5.1 yards per play, but uncharacteristically were considerably more successful via the pass (11.9 yards per attempt) than on the ground (2.6 yards per rush).

The Black Knights averaged 5.7 yards per play versus Temple in their matchup, but needed a 16-yard TD pass with one second to play in regulation in order to force OT.

In all three games, the service academy teams had an edge in time of possession, but it was not an enormous differential.

FCS history of no particular relevance:

  • Collins was 1-1 versus FCS teams in his two seasons at Temple; both games were against ranked Villanova squads (a 16-13 win in 2017 and a 19-17 loss in 2018)
  • Georgia Tech is 33-1-1 against FCS teams; both the tie (in 1986) and the loss (1983) came versus Furman

Geoff Collins, like most coaches, emphasizes turnovers.

Well they come in waves, turnovers do. Coach [Andrew] Thacker and our defensive staff do a great job emphasizing that. They incentivize what we emphasize. And so the turnover board, the turnover graphics to post on social media, all of those things. We start every single meeting in the defensive meeting room talking about turnovers. Showing the plays we get turnovers every single practice. We left two on the table, too. There were two we should have had on Saturday and they just didn’t bounce our way. But that is one of the calling cards of our defense and the thing that stands out is the effort. Interceptions are going to happen. The coverage, or if they get a bad read, or we make a really good athletic play. The ones that I’m the most proud of are the caused fumbles, the effort plays to get to the ball and recover the ball, and I’m really proud of the way the defense is doing that, flying around.”

Oh yes, the turnover board:

It’s a different spin on the “turnover chain”, that’s for sure.

Georgia Tech also doesn’t use a traditional depth chart. Instead, Collins rolls with something called “Above The Line”. It is both a play on the “ATL” moniker for the city of Atlanta and a way to motivate players (at least, that is the intent).

The Yellow Jackets don’t release their “Above The Line” listings for the upcoming game until Thursday; here is the one for the matchup versus The Citadel.

As for some of the players to watch for on Saturday…

Georgia Tech will probably play three quarterbacks against the Bulldogs. Lucas Johnson (6’3″, 215 lbs.), a redshirt sophomore from San Diego, started against South Florida, but Tobias Oliver (6’2″, 190 lbs.) and James Graham (6’1″, 192 lbs.) both saw action as well.

Oliver was the starter versus Clemson. The redshirt sophomore from Warner Robins rushed for 876 yards last season despite starting only one game. That was against Virginia Tech, and Oliver rushed for 215 yards on 40 carries versus the Hokies.

Running back Jordan Mason (6’1″, 219 lbs.) rushed for 99 yards on 20 attempts against USF. He had 72 yards on 13 carries versus Clemson (and scored touchdowns in both contests).

Six different players caught passes for the Yellow Jackets in both games. There were a total of eight “Above The Line” wide receivers for the Yellow Jackets when they faced South Florida.

One of those eight players, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Adonicas Sanders (6’1″, 195 lbs.), won a state title as a basketball player at Burke High School in Charleston. He then attended Fort Dorchester in North Charleston for his final two years of high school, where he was part of a state championship team on the gridiron as a junior.

The offensive linemen who started versus South Florida average 6’4″, 304 lbs. However, there could be some changes on the line against The Citadel, as both left guard Mikey Minehan (6’3″, 297 lbs.) and center Kenny Cooper (6’3″, 317 lbs.) were injured early in the game against the Bulls. Georgia Tech had to use redshirt sophomore walk-on William Lay III (6’2″, 305 lbs.) at center for the majority of the game versus USF.

This week, any further reshuffling of the line might prevent an unusual two-way player scenario from re-occurring. Jahaziel Lee (6’2″, 300 lbs.), a senior from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, started at left tackle last week — but he also filled in on the defensive line.

Andrew Thacker explained Georgia Tech’s philosophy on player positions (for this season, at any rate) during the defensive coordinator’s press briefing:

“When we get into those situations, we can be really creative with who we put on the field. We don’t have Von Miller on our team. We don’t have Khalil Mack, so we’re not going to be confined by body types or tradition.”

That is probably a good mindset when you’re in a transition phase like Georgia Tech is right now, but in the long run having a 176 lb. freshman defensive back occasionally line up as a DE (as Kenan Johnson did against South Florida) is not likely to be a sustainable solution.

Georgia Tech’s star defensive player last week was 6’2″, 210 lb. linebacker Charlie Thomas (conveniently from Thomasville, Georgia). The sophomore, a converted cornerback, was named the ACC linebacker of the week after a nine-tackle performance that included two sacks and a forced fumble.

Redshirt sophomore defensive back Tre Swilling (6’0″, 200 lbs.) intercepted a pass against Clemson, nearly returning it for a touchdown. Swilling is the son of all-time Tech great Pat Swilling, the former New Orleans Saints all-pro defensive lineman.

Swilling’s two uncles also played for Georgia Tech, and were members of the 1990 national championship team. That team also included All-American defensive lineman Coleman Rudolph, whose nephew Thompson Rudolph (6’0″, 195 lb.) is a redshirt freshman DB. The younger Rudolph was a safety and quarterback for Spartanburg High School.

Starting punter Pressley Harvin III (6’0″, 245 lbs.) is a junior from Sumter. He was a second-team all-ACC selection last season despite being, as described in his bio on the Georgia Tech website, “one of the nation’s least-utilized weapons”.

Redshirt sophomore Brenton King (6’0″, 176 lbs.) started at placekicker for the Yellow Jackets last week. He was 2 for 2 on PATs, but missed his only field goal attempt (albeit a 51-yarder). King is also the kickoff specialist.

Against Clemson, Wesley Wells (6’0″, 205 lbs.) was the placekicker, making two extra points. Wells finished last season as Georgia Tech’s kicker, a year in which he did not miss a field goal attempt or a PAT.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Atlanta, per the National Weather Service: partly sunny, with a high of 90 degrees and a 20% chance of showers and/or thunderstorms.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Georgia Tech (as of Wednesday evening) is a 26-point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 57 1/2.

When the line debuted on Monday, the Yellow Jackets were 36-point favorites (and the over/under was 61 1/2). There has been a surprising amount of line movement for the Bulldogs’ first three games.

In this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few folks started looking at recent trends involving triple option teams and reacted accordingly.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams:  Furman is a 21-point underdog at Virginia Tech; Wofford is a 10 1/2 point favorite versus Samford; East Tennessee State is a 19-point favorite against VMI; Chattanooga is a 28-point underdog at Tennessee; Western Carolina is a 10-point favorite versus North Greenville; and Mercer is a 6 1/2 point favorite against Austin Peay.

– Also of note: Towson is a 3 1/2 point underdog at Maine; Charleston Southern is a 13 1/2 point underdog against North Carolina A&T; and Elon-Richmond is a pick’em.

South Carolina State is a 24 1/2 point underdog at South Florida.

The biggest favorite in a D-1 matchup this week is LSU, with the line for its game against Northwestern State at 51 1/2 points. In games between FBS teams, the largest spread is 35 1/2, with Auburn favored over Kent State.

In contests between FCS teams, the biggest favorite is James Madison, a 33 1/2 point favorite over Morgan State. I also thought it was worth mentioning that North Dakota State is a 28 1/2 point favorite on the road over a ranked team (Delaware).

Georgetown and Delaware State are both playing non-D1 teams this week, and both are favored by over 40 points. This might be the first time in decades (if not in history) those two programs are both favored by that much in the same week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 196th in D-1 (66th in FCS), while Georgia Tech is 52nd in D-1 (51st in FBS).

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have a 2% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Georgia Tech 43, The Citadel 10.

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

Dartmouth is 6th. Neither Princeton or Dartmouth have played yet, of course.

The Ivy League schools begin their respective seasons next week. Massey has seven of the eight Ivies ranked in the top 60, which seems instinctively wrong.

Other FCS rankings this week of varied interest: Towson is 16th, North Carolina A&T 27th, Kennesaw State 30th, Elon 34th, Furman 37th, Mercer 46th, Wofford 50th, Chattanooga 62nd, South Carolina State 64th, East Tennessee State 71st, Samford 76th, North Alabama 79th, Western Carolina 92nd, Campbell 95th, VMI 99th, Charleston Southern 100th, Davidson 108th, Gardner-Webb 113th, Presbyterian 125th, and Robert Morris 126th and last.

– Per Bill Connelly’s SP+ ratings, Georgia Tech has a projected margin of victory of 25.7 points over the Bulldogs, with The Citadel given a 7% chance of pulling the upset.

– The Yellow Jackets have only been flagged for four penalties so far this season.

– Georgia Tech’s notable alumni include government official Orson Swindle (who was also a prisoner of war for seven years), dance instructor Arthur Murray, and comedian Jeff Foxworthy.

– The Ramblin’ Wreck’s roster includes 74 players from Georgia. Other states represented: Florida (10 players), Tennessee (7), South Carolina (6), Alabama (4), Louisiana (4), New Jersey (3), and one each from Arkansas, California, Hawai’i, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There is also one Yellow Jacket from Belgium, freshman defensive lineman Sylvain Yondjouen.

No member of Georgia Tech’s team is an alumnus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. If Geoff Collins is truly serious about recruiting elite players to The Flats, he obviously must make repeat visits to the lower midlands of South Carolina, and do so sooner rather than later. Collins cannot afford to miss out on the incredible gridiron talent perennially suiting up in the famed maroon and orange.

– 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).

– The Citadel has a running back named Dante Smith. Georgia Tech has a running back named Dontae Smith.

– There are no changes from The Citadel’s two-deep for the Elon game to the one for the matchup with the Yellow Jackets.

– Sean-Thomas Faulkner has blocked four punts in his last eight games.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 4-1 for games played on September 14. Among the highlights:

  • 1974: The Bulldogs defeated Presbyterian 6-0 in the season opener, with the game played in damp conditions after a downpour just before kickoff (and intermittent showers during the contest). The Citadel’s touchdown came in the third quarter; Gene Dotson from one yard out. The PAT attempt narrowly missed hitting one of the linesmen standing underneath the goalposts. Brian Ruff had 18 official tackles, though it seemed like he had many more, as the P.A. announcer at Johnson Hagood Stadium regularly called out his name on defense. Kemble Farr also had a good game for the Bulldogs (12 tackles). The game story in The News and Courier listed the attendance as both 8,700 (the copy) and 8,000 (the box score), while the media guide claims it was 8,775. I guess nobody knows for sure how many people were there that day. I just know that I was one of them; it was the first football game I ever attended.
  • 1996: The Citadel edged Richmond 13-10 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Stanley Myers rushed for a one-yard TD with 44 seconds remaining for the winning score. Justin Skinner had two field goals for the Bulldogs. Andrew Green and Kenyatta Spruill combined to rush for 249 yards. Attendance: 13,069.
  • 2002: As mentioned above, Stanley Myers scored with 44 seconds left to lift the Bulldogs to victory on September 14, 1996. Exactly six years later, Nehemiah Broughton scored the winning touchdown for The Citadel from one yard out…with 43 seconds to play. Broughton’s TD (his second of the day) capped a 21-play, 91-yard drive that took 7:35 off the clock, including two fourth-down conversions (one at The Citadel’s own 18-yard line). The Bulldogs’ leading rusher on the day was Nate Mahoney (128 yards), while Scooter Johnson added 116 receiving yards (and a TD). Travis Zobel kicked two field goals for The Citadel.
  • 2013: Ben Dupree rushed for 126 yards as The Citadel outlasted Western Carolina in Cullowhee, 28-21. The game featured several odd plays, including an accidental fake punt by Eric Goins that set up a TD. Meanwhile, a would-be WCU punt was fumbled into the waiting arms of Tevin Floyd, who waltzed into the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown return. The decisive play of the contest, however, came with the Catamounts driving for a potential tying touchdown. Brandon McCladdie deflected a pass; the football then ricocheted off the knee of Derek Douglas, and was eventually corralled by Julian Baxter for the game-clinching interception.

According to The Citadel’s game notes, the freshmen members of the Corps of Cadets will be travelling to Atlanta to support the Bulldogs, which is excellent news.

The trip had already been planned, but after last week’s Hurrication I was uncertain whether or not it was still going to happen.

This has been a tough start to the season for The Citadel, which on the whole has not played badly, but doesn’t have a win to show for it. Picking up the initial victory of the season against a Power 5 opponent is a tall order.

It isn’t impossible, though. The challenge is not quite as daunting as the Alabama game was last season, and the Bulldogs acquitted themselves fairly well in that contest.

That said, even with a coaching transition (and a major change in offense), Georgia Tech has the advantage in many areas of this matchup.

The Citadel must begin the game well. A slow start, as has been the case for the Bulldogs in both games this season, would be ominous.

Avoid turnovers, control the clock, and all of the other clichés do apply. One other thing that has to happen, though, is that The Citadel’s offense has to break off multiple big plays. That is practically a must if the Bulldogs want to stay in the game with a chance to win it.

In the end, this is a great opportunity for the Bulldogs. I hope they make the most of it.

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

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

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

Homecoming at The Citadel — a brief gridiron history

– Also of note, an interview of new Southern Conference commissioner Jim Schaus by Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier. Here is a friendly tip for the incoming commish:  we do not want Tuesday and Wednesday night football games.

Just say no.

For the seventh consecutive season, it is time to comprehensively review this all-important topic!

Below, I’ll list which teams The Citadel’s opponents face before and after playing the Bulldogs. I’ll also discuss other items of varied importance, including schedule-related information, history, trivia, and other completely useless facts. There is also an audience participation segment. You’ve been warned.

For reference purposes, I’ve compiled the master schedule for the SoCon in a Google spreadsheet. I hope this may come in handy for anyone interested:  Link

This year, the Bulldogs will play 12 games, with one bye week. We begin with the opener, which will be held at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium.

August 31: The Citadel opens at home against Towson. The last time the Bulldogs played their opener at home versus a D-1 opponent, in 2015, they defeated Davidson 69-0. My guess is that this game will be more competitive than that one. The Citadel has only played twice on August 31 in its football history, losing both of those contests.

The Tigers were last seen on the gridiron losing at home to Duquesne in the FCS playoffs, 31-10. Towson won its opening game last year against Morgan State, one of seven victories in 2018 for Tom Flacco and company (including a 44-27 win over The Citadel).

After playing the Bulldogs, Towson returns home the following week to face North Carolina Central. On September 14, the Tigers begin CAA play at Maine. The overall schedule for the Tigers looks imposing; it features a game at Florida.

Incidentally, future Towson games versus FBS opponents include road contests against Maryland, West Virginia, and (somewhat curiously) San Diego State. That latter game is scheduled to take place in 2021; even though it is still two years away, I am going to confidently nominate Towson-San Diego State as the most random D-1 matchup for that season.

September 7: The Bulldogs goes on the road to play Elon, the second of four consecutive non-conference matchups for The Citadel to begin the year. The Bulldogs are 1-3 all-time on September 7.

The Citadel last played Elon on November 9, 2013, when the Bulldogs prevailed on the road 35-10. In terms of the calendar, this will be the earliest meeting on the gridiron between the two schools. The only other September encounter was an 18-15 Phoenix victory at Elon on September 24, 2011.

While Elon made the FCS playoffs last season, the Phoenix are looking to break a three-game losing streak that put a damper on the 2018 campaign, including a 19-7 postseason defeat at Wofford. The game against the Bulldogs will be the 2019 home debut for the Phoenix, after an opening game on the road versus MEAC power North Carolina A&T.

Elon starts CAA play the week after facing The Citadel, traveling to Richmond to face the Spiders on September 14. That contest is followed by a matchup at Wake Forest and a home game against James Madison.

Few teams in FCS have a tougher August/September slate than the Phoenix. It is also worth mentioning that Elon has a new head coach — though there is program continuity, with former defensive coordinator Tony Trisciani assuming the role.

Unlike The Citadel, Towson, and many other FCS teams, Elon will only play 11 regular-season games in 2019.

September 14: The Citadel travels to Atlanta to square off against the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech. It will be the Cadets’ first September matchup versus a P5 opponent since 2014 (Florida State).

This date has historically been relatively kind for the Bulldogs, as the program has a 4-1 record on 9/14. On the other hand, The Citadel has never beaten the Yellow Jackets in ten attempts (with the last meeting occurring in 2001).

Georgia Tech opens the post-PJ era with a Thursday night game (on August 29) at Clemson, a difficult way for new head coach Geoff Collins to begin his tenure. After a home game versus South Florida (also a tough test), the Yellow Jackets play The Citadel before a bye week on September 21.

By then, Georgia Tech fans should know just how difficult the transition away from the triple option attack will be.

September 21: The fourth and final regular-season non-conference opponent for the Bulldogs is Charleston Southern. While September 21 was great for Earth, Wind, & Fire, with blue talk and love and a lot of dancing, it hasn’t been a date to remember for The Citadel, which is 1-7-1 all-time on 9/21.

The Bulldogs will try to chase the clouds away for the second year running against the Buccaneers. Last season’s game was postponed from an original September 15 kickoff to November 29, a rare Thursday night game at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Citadel won 43-14.

Charleston Southern’s 2019 slate begins with a trip to Furman and a game at South Carolina. CSU will host North Carolina A&T the week before it plays The Citadel, and will have a bye week following the game against the Bulldogs.

New CSU head coach Autry Denson may have wished for a more manageable stretch of games to begin his career. He will also be the third straight first-year coach The Citadel will face during this part of the season.

September 28: The Citadel starts SoCon play at Samford. The Cadets are 5-5 on September 28, with the first victory on this date a 1-0 forfeit win over Fort Moultrie in 1912.

In case you were wondering about that one, the soldiers led 13-7 in the 4th quarter when The Citadel scored a tying touchdown. However, before the Bulldogs could kick a PAT that would have given them the lead, Fort Moultrie’s players walked off the field in protest, as they felt the TD had been scored with the help of fan interference.

The opening paragraph of the game story is suggestive:

[On] Saturday afternoon, at Hampton Park, despite the protests of the police and other officials, it proved a hard matter for bashful spectators to tell whether the enthusiastic rooters or the elevens from The Citadel and Fort Moultrie were playing the game. This deplorable state of affairs was the cause of the boys from the island forfeiting the game with a technical score of 1-0 in favor of the Cadets, in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Practically every spectator present appointed himself a field judge, and proceeded to interfere with the players throughout the game, in the meantime taxing his lungs in an endeavor to announce decisions to the State at large.

The Charleston Evening Post, September 29, 1912

Samford’s first game of the season will be on August 24, one week before any of its conference brethren, as the Birmingham Bulldogs play Youngstown State in the FCS Kickoff game. That matchup will be held at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.

SU then travels to Tennessee Tech on August 31 before enjoying the first of two bye weeks. Samford’s season resumes with a game at Wofford on September 14, followed by three consecutive home games — against Alabama A&M, The Citadel, and Furman.

Samford, like all but two SoCon schools, will play 12 regular-season games in 2019. SU’s final game of the campaign is at Auburn.

October 5: It will be Parents’ Day at Johnson Hagood Stadium, and VMI comes to Charleston. The Citadel is 6-4-1 on October 5, with the tie coming in 1985 — against none other than VMI.

The Keydets open their season at Marshall in the Lee Moon Invitational, followed by a home game versus D-2 Mars Hill. VMI starts its SoCon campaign at East Tennessee State before stepping out of conference again for a game in Lexington versus Robert Morris.

After another home game, this time against Wofford, VMI travels to Charleston for the Military Classic of the South, the legendary battle for the coveted Silver Shako. The Keydets are at home versus Samford the following week, so VMI will have consecutive games against teams called Bulldogs.

VMI plays two FBS games in 2019, with the second a November 16 matchup at Army. The Keydets’ only win in that series came in 1981, coincidentally (or perhaps not so coincidentally) the last time VMI had a winning season on the gridiron.

October 12: The Citadel plays Western Carolina. The program is 6-8 all-time on October 12, with the most notable of the six victories a 20-14 win at Army in 1991.

It was the first time The Citadel had ever defeated the Bulldogs of the Hudson, and it spoiled Homecoming Day at Michie Stadium for the home fans. Jack Douglas and Everette Sands both scored touchdowns, and Rob Avriett kicked two field goals. Meanwhile, the defense forced five turnovers.

Western Carolina opens the 2019 season by hosting Mercer. The Catamounts take on North Carolina State the following week before returning to Cullowhee to face D-2 North Greenville. After a bye week, Western Carolina is at Chattanooga on September 28, and then home to Gardner-Webb the week before playing The Citadel.

For the Catamounts, the game against the Bulldogs is the first of three straight contests versus Palmetto State opposition. On October 19, Western Carolina is at Wofford, and the following week WCU entertains Furman for Homecoming.

Western Carolina finishes the season with a relaxing matchup at Alabama.

In a bit of a scheduling fluke, five of the SoCon’s nine teams are off on October 12. There are two league games, WCU-The Citadel and Samford-VMI. Everyone else is on cruise control.

October 19: One of the teams with a bye week on October 12 is Furman, which will be The Citadel’s opponent on October 19. It will also be the Paladins’ Homecoming.

The Bulldogs are only 4-10 on this date, though one of the wins was a scintillating 66-0 victory over Porter Military Academy. That came in the same year (1912) The Citadel was awarded the aforementioned 1-0 forfeit victory over Fort Moultrie, establishing the Bulldogs as the top football-playing military outfit in the Low Country.

The News and Courier‘s headline above the game story described Porter as ‘plucky’ and also stated that the “game was a good one in spite of the score…Porter played [a] hard game, while Cadets’ work was loose in spots”. Whatever you say, nameless sportswriter (who undoubtedly had a relative playing for Porter).

On the same page of the game story, there was also an advertisement for castor oil with the tagline “Children like it — it does ’em good”. Sure.

Okay, back to the 21st century…

Furman begins its season by hosting Charleston Southern, and then plays consecutive road games against FBS opponents. The Paladins travel to Atlanta to face Georgia State, and then journey to Blacksburg to tangle with Virginia Tech.

FU plays three straight SoCon opponents (Mercer, ETSU, at Samford) before that bye week. After its game versus The Citadel, Furman has two straight road contests, playing Western Carolina on October 26 and Chattanooga the following week.

Furman’s last two regular-season games are at Wofford and home against Point University, an NAIA school located in West Point, Georgia. The Paladins wanted a sixth home game, and wound up with the Skyhawks, which were 3-8 last year.

While there has been some gentle (and not-so-gentle) online mockery of Furman for scheduling that game, I am slightly more sympathetic to the Paladins’ plight — there are limited options when you have an open date the final week of the season. I also have to wonder if the league office could have rearranged the conference slate a little bit in order to help Furman out.

On Point’s website, I noticed that while the football team’s season opener at Kennesaw State (yes, the Skyhawks are playing two FCS teams this year) is just noted as a regular game, the matchup versus the Paladins is listed as an “exhibition game” — at least, for Point. That is something you see occasionally in college hoops when a D-1 squad plays a non-division opponent, but in football it is rather unusual. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve seen that before for a gridiron matchup.

Also, Point plays its home football games at Ram Stadium, which is located just across the state line in Valley, Alabama.

October 26: Homecoming at The Citadel, for the 92nd time. Mercer will become the Bulldogs’ 18th different Homecoming opponent. The Citadel is 7-6-1 on October 26.

This will be the second time in three seasons The Citadel has played its Homecoming game in October, after 50 straight years of the event being held in November. That is just one of many facts about The Citadel’s Homecoming history you can learn in this inspirational post: Link

Mercer is just one of two SoCon teams that is only playing 11 regular-season games (Wofford is the other). The Bears do have six home games, though.

MU opens at Western Carolina, and then immediately has a bye week prior to its home opener on 9/14 against Austin Peay. The Bears’ other non-conference home game is versus Campbell.

After a second bye week on October 12, Mercer plays consecutive games against military colleges, hosting VMI the week before facing The Citadel. The Bears then have a home game against Samford, so MU will also have two straight games against teams with the nickname “Bulldogs”.

(The “two straight Bulldogs” thing is about to become a theme, so get ready.)

After its own Homecoming against Wofford, Mercer will finish with two straight road games, travelling to East Tennessee State and North Carolina.

November 2: For the third straight week, The Citadel will be involved in a Homecoming game, as the Bulldogs make the journey to Johnson City to play East Tennessee State. On this date, the Bulldogs have an all-time record of 4-6.

ETSU opens the season at Appalachian State, then plays three straight home games, against Shorter (a D-2 school), VMI, and Austin Peay (joining Mercer as one of the two SoCon schools to host the Governors this season).

After a bye week on October 12, the Buccaneers travel to Chattanooga for a Thursday night game, then make the trek to suburban Birmingham to play Samford, prior to the game versus The Citadel. Thus, ETSU will also have consecutive games against teams nicknamed “Bulldogs”.

Following two more league matchups, East Tennessee State will close its regular-season campaign with a game at Vanderbilt.

November 9: Better late than never, The Citadel finally gets a bye week. Ten straight games to open a twelve-game season is less than ideal.

The Bulldogs are the only SoCon team with a bye week in November. Those in charge of scheduling in the league office did The Citadel no favors, to say the least.

November 16: After the week off, The Citadel makes another trip to Tennessee, this time to play Chattanooga.

The Bulldogs are 7-9 on November 16. One of the seven victories for The Citadel was a 3-0 triumph over Clemson in 1916, a contest played on a Thursday afternoon in Orangeburg.

“JOY AND GLADNESS ARE SUPREME HERE” screamed The News and Courier‘s sports headline the following day. The newspaper extolled the virtues of the Bulldogs’ Johnny Weeks, “quarterback extraordinaire and captain unequaled…one of the greatest, if not the greatest gridironists ever turned out by the Marion Square institution.”

The victory all but clinched The Citadel’s second consecutive state championship, as the only remaining game on the Bulldogs’ schedule was against South Carolina, a Thanksgiving Day affair that the newspaper stated for the Gamecocks to win would take “more than a miracle”. (The scribe who penned that sentiment was correct, as The Citadel would go on to defeat South Carolina 20-2.)

Chattanooga has two Thursday night home games this season, its opener against Eastern Illinois and the game versus ETSU that was mentioned earlier in this post. The Mocs arguably have the most difficult non-conference schedule in the league, one that includes road games versus Jacksonville State and Tennessee and a home tilt against James Madison.

Those games are all in a row following the Eastern Illinois game. The Mocs then play two league games before a 10/12 bye week. UTC, like Mercer, has both the “Bulldog double” and the “Military College double”, as it finishes the season with a game at Samford, a home contest versus The Citadel, and then plays at VMI.

Prior to that three-game stretch, Chattanooga has back-to-back games versus Wofford (road) and Furman (home). That is a tough slate, and UTC will also be breaking in a new head coach (Rusty Wright).

Okay, here is the audience participation section of this post. Feel free to skip ahead to November 23 (but let’s be honest; if you’ve somehow come this far, you can read another extra few paragraphs):

The Citadel has played a few Friday night contests in its history, though not many after World War II. Several of them were games played at the Orangeburg County Fair.

I only know of two games played at the “modern” Johnson Hagood Stadium on a Friday. One was against Furman in 1953, and from what I gather was an experiment to see if more people would go to the game. (The answer to that question: uh, no.)

The other was the last game of the 1969 season, versus Chattanooga. I don’t know why that game was played on a Friday.

If anyone reading this does know why, I would appreciate it if you replied to this post with the reason (or you could tweet the explanation to me; just go to @SandlapperSpike).

Thanks in advance. Now to the final regular-season game.

November 23: The twelfth contest of the campaign is a home matchup versus Wofford. The Bulldogs are 6-7 all-time on November 23.

The Terriers are only playing 11 regular-season games, which is not a huge surprise, as Wofford hasn’t played a 12-game regular season schedule since 2002, eschewing four subsequent opportunities to add a 12th game.

Wofford has only five home games, as its three non-conference matchups include two road affairs — the season opener at South Carolina State, and a November 2 game at Clemson. The Terriers’ first bye week immediately follows the SCSU contest.

After the bye week, Wofford hosts Samford and Gardner-Webb before traveling to VMI. The second bye week of the season precedes a Homecoming game versus Western Carolina.

The Terriers finish the regular season with games against Furman and The Citadel (the latter contest in Charleston).

A quick summary:

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

Getting closer to the opening kickoff…

2019 preseason college football rankings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

A few links of interest:

Hero Sports FCS Preseason Top 25 (The Citadel is ranked 25th)

Hero Sports FCS Preseason All-American teams (Bulldogs punter Matthew Campbell in on the third team)

Homecoming at The Citadel — a brief gridiron history

 

It must be June, because the college football preview magazines are on the street. What follows is a quick review of the mags’ rankings from The Citadel’s perspective, with a few other tidbits thrown in for good measure.

Not included in this writeup: my annual look at the preseason Massey Ratings. I’ll discuss those in a future post.

Street & Smith’s FCS top 25 has James Madison at #1, with North Dakota State ranked second. South Dakota State is 3rd, followed by Eastern Washington and Jacksonville State. Four of those five teams were in the magazine’s preseason top 5 last year as well.

Wofford is ranked #8, and Furman is #14. Others of interest: Towson (9th), Elon (18th), and North Carolina A&T (19th).

The magazine’s preseason All-America squad includes Wofford offensive lineman Justus Basinger (named the SoCon’s top NFL prospect), East Tennessee State defensive back Tyree Robinson, and Furman specialist Grayson Atkins (honored as a placekicker on this list).

This year’s SoCon preview was authored by Pat Yasinskas, who is currently based in Tampa. In his reportorial career, Yasinskas (a native of Pennsylvania) has primarily written about the NFL, covering the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer and the NFC South for ESPN.com.

To be honest, I am unsure how much time the graduate of Saint Leo University has spent following the Southern Conference. I found two twitter accounts for him, both inactive.

At any rate, the league preseason rankings for S&S:

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

With regards to The Citadel, Yaskinskas writes that the Bulldogs have “a chance to be competitive, mainly because 10 starters return on offense. The development of quarterback Brandon Rainey will be a key.” He also references new defensive coordinator Tony Grantham and linebacker Willie Eubanks III.

Charleston Southern is projected to finish third in the Big South. Monmouth is the pick to win that league instead of Kennesaw State, which might raise a few eyebrows (and the Owls did not make Street & Smith‘s preseason top 25).

Towson is ranked second in the CAA, while Elon is picked to finish fifth.

S&S has South Carolina State finishing fourth in the MEAC, with North Carolina A&T the favorite in that conference. Other top-dog choices in FCS leagues include Eastern Washington, James Madison, Princeton, North Dakota State, Duquesne, Jacksonville State, Colgate, San Diego, and Nicholls.

In the shadowy world of FBS, Georgia Tech (which will host The Citadel on September 14) is projected to finish last in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

Lindy’s ranks North Dakota State #1 in its FCS preseason poll. The rest of its top 5:  South Dakota State, Kennesaw State, Jacksonville State, and UC Davis.

Wofford is ranked #13, East Tennessee State #17, and Furman #20. Other teams of note include Towson (6th) and North Carolina A&T (22nd).

The Lindy’s preseason first team All-America squad for the FCS includes Tyrie Adams of Western Carolina, who is listed not as a quarterback but as an all-purpose player. Two ETSU defensive stalwarts, defensive lineman Nasir Player and the aforementioned Tyree Robinson, are also on the first team. (Player is a product of Ridge View High School in Columbia.)

Towson quarterback Tom Flacco is the magazine’s first-team quarterback and its preseason MVP for the entire division. His teammate, placekicker Aidan O’Neill, is also on the first team.

The magazine also has a preseason second team, which includes Wofford offensive lineman Justus Basinger and Furman “bandit” linebacker Adrian Hope. Towson running back/kick returner Shane Simpson is the all-purpose designee on the second team.

The national preview (which focuses on North Dakota State) was written by George Gordon. I could not find any background information on him. I am assuming he is not related to any of the Civil War/British generals who also share his name; he presumably has no association with well-known law enforcement officer James W. Gordon or noted library sciences advocate Barbara Gordon, either.

The preseason SoCon rankings, per Lindy’s:

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

A brief blurb about The Citadel in the magazine states that defensive lineman Joseph Randolph II is “one of the league’s underrated players”.

On the one hand, ETSU is picked to finish higher in the league standings by Lindy’s than just about any other source. On the other, the magazine references Logan Marchi as returning at quarterback for the Buccaneers, which will not be the case.

Charleston Southern is the preseason #5 team in the Big South, while South Carolina State is picked to finish fourth in the MEAC.

Teams expected by Lindy’s to win their respective FCS leagues include Colgate, Duquesne, Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State, Nicholls, North Carolina A&T, North Dakota State, Princeton, San Diego, Southern, Towson, and UC Davis.

Georgia Tech is picked to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division, and is ranked the #90 FBS team overall.

As was the case last year, Athlon does not have an FCS conference preview section. Craig Haley of STATS FCS Football has again written the magazine’s national preview of the division, with a Top 25 ranking list, an All-America team, and projected playoff qualifiers. The entire section takes up only four pages in Athlon‘s 304-page tome.

Haley’s top 5: North Dakota State, James Madison, South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, and UC Davis.

Wofford is 10th in this poll, and Furman is 16th. Those two teams are the only SoCon squads projected to make the FCS playoffs, and their meeting in Spartanburg on November 16 is one of ten “must-see matchups” listed by the magazine.

Also ranked:  Towson (#11) and Elon (#21). Both are also expected to advance to postseason play as at-large picks out of the CAA, with James Madison the pick to win that league. Other conference favorites include Colgate, Duquesne, Eastern Washington, Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State, North Dakota State, Nicholls, San Diego, and North Carolina A&T.

Athlon‘s preseason All-America team features just one SoCon player, with Nasir Player of ETSU again receiving recognition from a major publication. As was the case with Lindy’s, Towson’s Aidan O’Neill is the placekicker.

Georgia Tech fares no better in Athlon than it does in Street & Smith‘s or Lindy’s, as the Yellow Jackets are picked to occupy the cellar of the ACC Coastal Division (with a 4-8 overall record). The preseason national FBS ranking for Georgia Tech by the magazine is #75.

A couple of other notes:

– Phil Steele is not releasing an FCS preview magazine this season. I think the nation will survive.

– Athlon features a list of “The 100 Twitter Accounts to Follow” for college football. Shockingly, @SandlapperSpike did not make the cut. Clearly this an outrage.

While quite a few individuals on Athlon‘s list are represented on my own timeline, there are several people mentioned by the magazine that you couldn’t pay me to follow — in particular, the business/media analysis twitter picks, namely the deadly duo of Darren Rovell and Richard Deitsch. Frankly, life is too short to follow either one of those two killjoys.

Finally, my favorite tweet over the last week or so:

College Football 2017, Week 8: the top 15 matchups

An explanation of this post:

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…

Borrowing this idea, I’ve created a utterly byzantine and truly enigmatic formula to produce game ratings; it is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

To access a Google Document that has a complete schedule of televised/streamed D-1 college football games (including all the announcing teams), see this post: Link

I am excluding the game between The Citadel and Chattanooga this week, as that matchup looms over the rest of the slate to such an enormous degree that comparing it to the other games on the schedule is a wasted exercise.

Outside of that contest, here are the top 15 games for Week 7 that will take place on Saturday:

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
Southern California Notre Dame 7:30 PM NBC 83.6
Oklahoma State Texas 12:00 PM ABC/ESPN3 82.9
Michigan Penn State 7:30 PM ABC/ESPN3 82.8
UCF Navy 3:30 PM CBS Sports Network 79.5
Iowa State Texas Tech 12:00 PM FS1/FS-Go 77.2
Louisville Florida State 12:00 PM ESPN 70.8
North Texas FAU 5:00 PM ESPN3 69.5
Wake Forest Georgia Tech 7:30 PM ESPNU 69.4
LSU Mississippi 7:15 PM ESPN 69.2
Arizona California 8:00 PM Pac-12 Network 68.6
Iowa Northwestern 12:00 PM ESPN2 66.5
USF Tulane 7:00 PM ESPN2 64.9
Eastern Washington Southern Utah 7:00 PM Eleven Sports 64.7
Oregon UCLA 4:00 PM Pac-12 Network 64.6
Oklahoma Kansas State 4:00 PM FOX/FS-Go 64.1

 

Additional notes and observations:

– Southern California-Notre Dame will also be streamed on NBC Live Extra.

– CBS/CBS Sports Network games will also be streamed on CBS Sports Digital.

– The games on the ESPN “Family of Networks” will also be streamed via WatchESPN.

– Arizona-California and Oregon-UCLA will both be streamed on the Pac-12 Digital Network.

– The one FCS game to break into the top 15 this week, Eastern Washington-Southern Utah, will also be streamed on the Big Sky Digital Network.

– Of the fifteen highest-rated “TF” games on the board this week, Iowa State-Texas Tech (over/under of 68) is projected to be the highest-scoring. Other potential scorefests in the top 15 include Oregon-UCLA (over/under of 67.5), Eastern Washington-Southern Utah (66.5) and North Texas-FAU (66).

– The classic intersectional matchup between Southern California and Notre Dame has often been a bit streaky, but the two programs have split the last eight meetings. This is the 40th anniversary of one of the wilder team entrances in series history, the green jerseys/Trojan horse lunacy of 1977.

– Oklahoma State had a yards/play margin of +5.8 against Baylor, the largest such margin in any FBS game last week.

– Iowa State’s 20.5 yard field position margin advantage over Kansas was the biggest differential in that category for any FBS game last week.

– Arizona and California both ranked in the top 5 in “turnover luck” last week (the Golden Bears were #1 in that category). They play each other this week, so something has to give.

– Oregon has won six straight games against UCLA, including the 2011 Pac-12 title game. The Ducks have averaged 41.3 points per game over that stretch. Meanwhile, the average score of UCLA’s games this season is Opponent 40.5, Bruins 39.5.

– Eastern Washington’s last to trips to Cedar City, Utah have been adventurous. In 2014, the Eagles (then ranked 2nd in FCS) had to rally for a 42-30 victory. Two years before, the homestanding Thunderbirds upended a top-ranked EWU squad 30-27.

– USF is 6-0 for only the second time in program history. In 2007 the Bulls were ranked #2 in the country after six games, but USF lost its seventh game that season at Rutgers, 30-27.

– UCF is 5-0 for only the second time in program history, and the first time as an FBS team. The Knights have never started a season 6-0. Saturday’s game at Annapolis, a meeting between two teams with a combined record of 10-1, is the first time UCF has ever faced one of the service academies.

– Louisville and Florida State have met on the gridiron seventeen times, with the Seminoles winning fourteen of those contests. Before the Cardinals’ staggering 63-20 triumph over FSU last year (which catapulted Lamar Jackson to favored status for the Heisman Trophy, which he eventually won), Louisville’s previous largest margin of victory versus Florida State came in the first meeting in the series, a 41-14 decision in 1952.

The next season, Florida State beat Louisville 59-0.

– Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are playing for only the third time in the last ten years. Georgia Tech has won both of the most recent meetings, but the matchup before that came in the 2006 ACC title game, won by the Demon Deacons, 9-6. Sam Swank’s three field goals were all the scoring Wake Forest would need that afternoon.

– The most famous game in the history of the LSU-Mississippi series is, without question, the 1959 meeting. LSU was ranked #1; Mississippi, #3. The two teams had combined to allow only two touchdowns all season prior to the October 31 matchup. The Tigers won 7-3 on a legendary punt return touchdown by Billy Cannon, who subsequently won that year’s Heisman Trophy.

It should be a great day of college football. The primetime block of games looks particularly appetizing. Get all your chores done in the morning, grab your snacks, and spend the rest of the day and night on the couch…

College Football 2017, Week #7: the top 15 matchups

The weekly explanation of this post:

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…

Mimicking this idea, I’ve created a remarkably convoluted and studiously hazy formula to produce game ratings; it is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

To access a Google Document that has a complete schedule of televised/streamed D-1 college football games (including all the announcing teams), see this post: Link

I am excluding the game between The Citadel and Wofford this week, because that matchup dominates the rest of the slate to such an extent that it is unfair to compare it to other contests.

Outside of that matchup, here are the top 15 games for Week 7. All fifteen games will take place on Saturday.

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
Navy Memphis 10/14, 3:45 pm ESPNU 78.2
UCLA Arizona 10/14, 9:00 pm Pac-12 Network 77.1
Texas Tech West Virginia 10/14, 12:00 pm ESPNU 76.9
Oklahoma Texas 10/14, 3:30 pm ESPN 76.7
South Carolina Tennessee 10/14, 12:00 pm ESPN 76.1
TCU Kansas State 10/14, 12:00 pm FS1/FS-Go 75.9
Georgia Tech Miami (FL) 10/14, 3:30 pm ABC/ESPN3 75.2
UTSA North Texas 10/14, 7:00 pm ESPN3 73.8
Auburn LSU 10/14, 3:30 pm CBS 72.4
Texas A&M Florida 10/14, 7:00 pm ESPN2 72.1
Utah Southern California 10/14, 8:00 pm ABC/ESPN3 70.7
Toledo Central Michigan 10/14, 3:30 pm ESPN3 68.6
Boise State San Diego State 10/14, 10:30 pm CBS Sports Network 66.9
Villanova James Madison 10/14, 3:30 pm MASN2 65.5
Wyoming Utah State 10/14, 4:30 pm Facebook 65.1

 

Additional notes and observations:

– The Oklahoma-Texas game will be played in Dallas, at the Texas State Fair, where fans have the opportunity to gorge themselves on such food items as tamale donuts and funnel cake queso bacon burgers.

– CBS/CBS Sports Network games will also be streamed on CBS Sports Digital, as will the Villanova-James Madison game on MASN2.

– The games on the ESPN “Family of Networks” will also be streamed via WatchESPN.

– The UCLA-Arizona game will be streamed on the Pac-12 Digital network.

– The three highest-rated “TF” games on the board this week are also projected by sources to be the highest-scoring games among the top 15. Navy-Memphis has an over/under of 70.5, slightly lower than UCLA-Arizona (over/under of 74.5) and Texas Tech-West Virginia (72.5).

– San Diego State had the largest advantage in field position in any matchup played last week (+18.8, in its game versus UNLV).

– ESPN’s College GameDay is in Harrisonburg, Virginia this week for the Villanova-James Madison game, a matchup which also landed in the TF top 15 (the only FCS game to do so). It is the second time JMU has hosted the show; Lee Corso and company were last in town in 2015. The Dukes hope to avoid what happened on the field that afternoon, when Richmond spoiled the party with a 59-49 victory.

– Bridger’s Battle, a/k/a the Wyoming-Utah State game, is the first TF top 15 matchup to be exclusively streamed on Facebook. The rivalry trophy is a .50 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle.

– Streaky: Central Michigan has lost seven straight games to Toledo, a streak dating back to 2010. The Chippewas had won the five games between the two teams prior to that run; however, the Rockets had won 10 straight in the series before that stretch.

– The last time TCU played Kansas State in Manhattan (2015), the Horned Frogs (ranked #2 at the time) escaped with a 52-45 victory after trailing 35-17 at halftime.

– Miami has never lost to Georgia Tech in the facility known as Hard Rock Stadium (which was previously Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium, and Sun Life Stadium). The Hurricanes are 4-0 against the Yellow Jackets there, regardless of the name.

– In the last five seasons, the Texas Tech-West Virginia game has averaged a total of 64 points per contest. WVU has won the last three games in the series.

– South Carolina has played five overtime games in its history, going 2-3 in those contests. All three of the losses were to Tennessee (and all by three points).

– The contest between Texas A&M and Florida will be only the fourth meeting in the series, and only the second since 1977. The Gators have won two of the previous three matchups.

– It is a shame the Auburn-LSU game is not being played at night. That probably lessens the chance for a repeat of the 1988 “Earthquake Game“.

It should be a fun afternoon of college football. There aren’t any standout games (at least on paper), but the day does feature a bunch of pigskin battles that have the potential to be very entertaining. Keep that clicker handy…

College Football 2017, Week #5: the top 15 matchups

The weekly explanation of this post:

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…

Mimicking this idea, I’ve concocted an exceedingly complicated and overly mysterious formula to produce game ratings; it is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

To access a Google Document that has a complete schedule of televised/streamed D-1 college football games (including all the announcing teams), see this post: Link

I am excluding the game between The Citadel and Samford this week, because that matchup is so clearly the biggest game on the board it would be worthless to compare it to the rest of the slate.

Outside of that contest, here are the top 15 games for Week 5. One of them is being played late Friday night, while the other fourteen are on Saturday. Three of them are FCS matchups between ranked teams.

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
Clemson Virginia Tech 9/30, 8:00 pm ABC/ESPN3 77.1
Memphis UCF 9/30, 7:00 pm ESPN2 75.7
Southern California Washington State 9/29, 10:30 pm ESPN 74.3
Oklahoma State Texas Tech 9/30, 8:00 pm FOX/FS-Go 72.1
Florida State Wake Forest 9/30, 3:30 pm ABC/ESPN3 69.8
Georgia Tennessee 9/30, 3:30 pm CBS 68.5
Sam Houston State Central Arkansas 9/30, 7:00 pm ESPN3 68
Mississippi State Auburn 9/30, 6:00 pm ESPN 67.1
Colorado UCLA 9/30, 10:30 pm ESPN2 65.7
Navy Tulsa 9/30, 3:30 pm ESPNU 65.1
South Dakota State Youngstown State 9/30, 7:00 pm ESPN3 64.2
North Carolina Georgia Tech 9/30, 12:00 pm ESPN2 63.5
South Carolina Texas A&M 9/30, 7:30 pm SEC Network 62.9
South Dakota Western Illinois 9/30, 4:00 pm ESPN3 62.5
USF East Carolina 9/30, 12:00 pm CBS Sports Network 62.1

 

Additional notes and observations:

– CBS/CBS Sports Network games will also be streamed on CBS Sports Digital.

– The games on the ESPN “Family of Networks” will also be streamed via WatchESPN.

– Per Bill Connelly, Clemson and Virginia Tech ranked 2nd and 5th in the category of success rate margin for last week’s games. In other words, both teams played very well (despite Clemson letting BC hang around for three quarters). This week, those two teams play each other in the top TF game on the board and are presumably in “good form” as our friends in the soccer world would say.

– Georgia crushed a good Mississippi State team last week, while Tennessee struggled to outlast winless Massachusetts. Nevertheless, even Butch Jones couldn’t prevent the UGA-UT game from landing in the top 15. We all remember the crazy ending to last year’s game between these two squads.

– North Carolina-Georgia Tech has been an odd series. UNC has won the last three games, after the Yellow Jackets had won 14 of 16 contests against the Heels. Average score in this game over the past seven years: North Carolina 36.5, Georgia Tech 36.4.

– Games in the top 15 that the oddsmakers think could be particularly high-scoring include Navy-Tulsa (over/under of 71.5), Colorado-UCLA (67), Sam Houston State-Central Arkansas (71), Oklahoma State-Texas Tech (84.5), Memphis-UCF (68), and USF-East Carolina (75.5).

– South Carolina and Texas A&M, historic SEC rivals, have only met three times in football. The only previous time the teams met in College Station, in 2015, the game featured 989 yards of total offense.

The winner gets to keep the James Bonham Trophy. Bonham is more of a hero in Texas (dying at the Alamo), as not a lot of people in the Palmetto State are overly familiar with him. Perhaps they should be, though. According to Wikipedia:

Bonham entered South Carolina College in 1824. In 1827, in his senior year, he led a student protest over harsh attendance regulations and the poor food served at the college boardinghouse. He was expelled, along with the entire senior class. In 1830, Bonham practiced law in Pendleton, but was found in contempt of court after caning an attorney who had insulted one of Bonham’s clients. When ordered to apologize by the sitting judge, he refused and threatened to tweak the judge’s nose. Bonham was sentenced to ninety days for contempt of court.

– South Dakota State and Youngstown State are both ranked in the top 5 of the FCS. SDSU is ranked #4 on the FCS Coaches’ Poll, and is a 3-point favorite over homestanding YSU, which is tied for fifth in that same poll. This is also a matchup between Jackrabbits and Penguins, and ought to have a bonus “Tingle Factor” point or two just for that.

– Texas Tech’s defense allowed 43.5 points per game last season. So far this year, the Red Raiders are giving up just 26.3 points per game. Admittedly, that is just a three-game sample. This week’s opponent, Oklahoma State, is coming off a home loss to TCU and can’t afford to drop two straight Big XII games. Last year’s contest resulted in a 45-44 victory for the Cowboys after Texas Tech scored what would have been the game-tying touchdown, only to miss the extra point.

– Last year, Navy beat Tulsa 42-40 in a game that featured 1077 yards of total offense. No fewer than 597 of those were rushing yards. Also, both quarterbacks had a rating that exceeded 215.

The two QBs from that game are gone, but the clash of styles between the two offenses remains.

– Memphis and UCF were supposed to play on September 8 (a Friday), but that game was postponed thanks to Hurricane Irma. Now the two AAC title contenders will finally meet.

– Florida State is winless. Wake Forest is undefeated. Could those two factoids still be true after Saturday?

It isn’t out of the question, though FSU is a 7.5-point favorite. The Seminoles just lost to a North Carolina school at home, however (NC State), and now have to play another Old North State team on the road.

It should be another excellent week on the gridiron. Don’t forget about that Friday night game!