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!

College Football 2017, Week #3: 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 ridiculously complex and decidedly opaque formula to produce game ratings; it is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

I’ll list the top 15 TF games of Week 3, excluding The Citadel-East Tennessee State, because comparing that much-anticipated matchup to less interesting games would be pointless.

Sometimes the best games of the week are the anticipated, high-profile contests, but often under-the-radar matchups are well worth watching. This include FCS games.

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

Here are the top 15 games for Week 3. All of them are being played on Saturday (as was the case last week).

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
UCLA Memphis 9/16, 12:00 pm ABC/ESPN3 86.1
Kansas State Vanderbilt 9/16, 7:30 pm ESPNU 84.2
Clemson Louisville 9/16, 8:00 pm ABC/ESPN3 84.1
LSU Mississippi State 9/16, 7:00 pm ESPNU 81.9
North Dakota South Dakota 9/16, 3:00 pm MidCo/ESPN3 81.4
Purdue Missouri 9/16, 4:00 pm SEC Network 81.2
Kentucky South Carolina 9/16, 7:30 pm SEC Network 80.0
Arizona State Texas Tech 9/16, 8:00 pm FSN-National 78.9
Tulsa Toledo 9/16, 7:00 pm ESPN3 76.4
Mississippi California 9/16, 10:30 pm ESPN 75.3
MTSU Minnesota 9/16, 3:30 pm BTN/BTN2Go 74.7
Stanford San Diego State 9/16, 10:30 pm CBS Sports Net 72.7
Troy New Mexico State 9/16, 8:00 pm FSN-AZ+/ESPN3 70.1
Texas Southern California 9/16, 8:30 pm FOX/FS-Go 68.2
Central Michigan Syracuse 9/16, 3:30 pm ACC Digital Network 67.8

 

Additional notes and observations:

– The three 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.

– The two BTN games will also be streamed on FS-Go.

– As was the case last week, none of the top 15 matchups are on the Pac-12 Network. Thus, most college football fans will be able to watch all of these games.

– Arguably the biggest surprise in this week’s rankings is the North Dakota-South Dakota game, which checks in at #5. It is the only matchup this week between ranked FCS teams.

– Several games in the top 15 have the potential to be very high-scoring, if a check of betting lines is any indication. Per one source that deals in these matters, the over/under of the Purdue-Missouri game at 77.5.

Other over/unders of note: Arizona State-Texas Tech (76), UCLA-Memphis (73), Mississippi-California (72), Central Michigan-Syracuse (67.5), Tulsa-Toledo (67.5), Texas-Southern California (67.5), Troy-New Mexico State (63).

– South Carolina is involved in a top 15 TF game for the third week in a row.

– The Tennessee-Florida game did not make the top 15, which may say something about the current state of those two programs.

This week, there aren’t quite as many high-profile matchups as last week, but plenty of gridiron goodness will still be on display. As always, the weekend can’t get here soon enough.

College Football 2017, Week #2: the top 15 matchups

From last week, an explanation of what this topic is all about:

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…

 

As noted before, I’ve created a very complicated (and secret) formula to produce game ratings; this matrix is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

I’ll list the top 15 TF games of Week 2, excluding The Citadel-Presbyterian, because it wouldn’t be fair to compare that game with less consequential pigskin contests.

Sometimes the best games of the week are the anticipated, high-profile contests, but often under-the-radar matchups are well worth watching.

Usually, those under-the-radar games would include includes FCS contests, but this week the top 15 are all FBS vs. FBS battles. Surprisingly, the North Dakota State-Eastern Washington game, a matchup of traditional and highly-ranked FCS powers, did not make the top 15. Perhaps the algorithm knows something we don’t know.

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

Here are the top 15 games for Week 2. All of them are being played on Saturday.

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
Auburn Clemson 9/9, 7:00 pm ESPN 88.1
Stanford Southern California 9/9, 8:30 pm FOX/FS-Go 87.9
Georgia Notre Dame 9/9, 7:30 pm NBC 87.5
Oklahoma Ohio State 9/9, 7:30 pm ABC/ESPN3 87.1
South Carolina Missouri 9/9, 7:00 pm ESPN2 81.8
Boise State Washington State 9/9, 10:30 pm ESPN 80.5
Northwestern Duke 9/9, 12:00 pm ESPNU 76.0
TCU Arkansas 9/9, 3:30 pm CBS 75.3
Iowa Iowa State 9/9, 12:00 pm ESPN2 72.1
Wake Forest Boston College 9/9, 1:00 pm ACC Digital Network 70.3
Mississippi State Louisiana Tech 9/9, 7:30 pm CBS Sports Network 68.1
Pittsburgh Penn State 9/9, 3:30 pm ABC/ESPN3 67.2
Nebraska Oregon 9,9, 4:30 pm FOX/FS-Go 65.9
Tulane Navy 9/9, 3:30 pm CBS Sports Network 65.0
Utah BYU 9/9, 10:15 pm ESPN2 63.8

 

Additional notes and observations:

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

– The Georgia-Notre Dame game will also be streamed on NBC Live Extra.

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

– Because none of the top 15 matchups are on the Pac-12 Network, most college football fans will be able to watch all of these games.

– As you can see, the top four games are all very closely rated by the system. All four have a higher rating than any game played last week.

– Perhaps the biggest surprise in the top 15 is the Wake Forest-Boston College game. When those two teams played two years ago, the Demon Deacons eked out a 3-0 victory.

Last season, the score was 17-14. For some reason, however, the algorithm really likes that matchup this week.

– This is the second week in a row games involving South Carolina and Navy have cracked the top 15.

This should be a great slate of college football games, especially in the late afternoon and evening. It should be filled with compelling matchups.

Can’t wait.

Twitter postmortem: The Citadel 23, South Carolina 22 — the timeline

Yes, this is well after the fact. On the other hand, The Citadel’s 23-22 victory over South Carolina on November 21, 2015 won’t be forgotten by Bulldog fans anytime soon (or by supporters of the Gamecocks, for that matter).

The idea for this post occurred to me recently when I saw a stray tweet from the day of the game (it was an old re-tweet). I then realized that I had never really paid a lot of attention to the in-the-moment reaction on Twitter to the events unfolding at Williams-Brice Stadium, mainly because I was at the game.

Months later, I took a look back. It was something to behold.

I decided to “curate” a list of tweets related to the game, just for those (like me) largely unaware of what was happening on Twitter. It is by no means a complete list; for one thing, there were plenty of interesting tweets that were a bit too profane for me to include in this set.

I also decided to mostly skip over tweets that referenced things the majority of fans of The Citadel know all about, like Mike Houston’s postgame interview with Paul Finebaum (and the subsequent presser with the rest of the media). For a more thorough overview, the “links of interest” section in my game review might be worthwhile for some readers.

What follows are tweets from media members, fans, former players (on both sides), and a few other observers. The tweets start from around 2:53 pm ET on that Saturday, the moment Tyler Renew scored the go-ahead touchdown for The Citadel in the fourth quarter. The series concludes almost eight hours later.

Note: it takes a few seconds for all the twitter links to download. Patience is a virtue.

Game review, 2015: South Carolina

So that happened…

Links of interest (a comprehensive, but by no means complete, list):

Game story, The Post and Courier

Game photos, from The State

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Mike Houston, Eric Goins, Dominique Allen, Tyler Renew, Mitchell Jeter, and Mark Thomas

Video from WCIV-TV

Video from WCBD-TV

Video from WLTX-TV

The guys on the 1990 team also enjoyed this victory over South Carolina

Did you know Tyler Renew once sold peanuts at Williams-Brice Stadium?

No, seriously, Renew sold peanuts; trust me (video)

Renew’s 4th-quarter TD run, with no peanuts involved (video)

This post-game celebration by the team is apparently called a “turn-up” (video)

Mike Houston’s post-game locker room speech, and more celebrating (video)

Another celebration video (longform); same scene, featuring very happy offensive coordinator Brent Thompson (video)

AP story on The Citadel’s win over the Gamecocks

ESPN highlights package of the game (video)

Clip from Mike Houston’s halftime speech (video)

Paul Finebaum’s post-game interview with Mike Houston (video)

Mike Houston, post-game [great and well-deserved “what did you just say?” look from his son just after the 2:00 mark] (video)

South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott, post-game (video)

Game highlights package from the school (video)

Radio calls by Mike Legg of key late-game plays

“Sacrificial Dog”: “Consider The Citadel game as a cupcake semi-final…”

“We lost. I know we lost…Yes. It’s The Citadel. How we lose to The Citadel?”

Post-game notes package

Box score

Links of interest, playoff edition:

Bulldogs are “built for a post-season run”

FCS playoff bracket

The Citadel to play at Coastal Carolina in the first round

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Mike Houston, Sam Frye, and James Riley

Video from WCIV-TV

Tickets being sold through The Citadel’s ticket office; also available through CCU

And he is short! Short of the first down! And The Citadel Bulldogs are going to win the football game!

Wildly random thoughts on the victory over South Carolina:

– For you triple option groupies (and you know who you are), the game-winning touchdown run by Tyler Renew came after an audible by Dominique Allen. According to Allen, the original play call was for an inside veer, but when the Gamecocks “bumped down to a bear front”, he switched to an outside veer.

Good decision.

– Don’t let some upset Gamecock fan try to tell you they got “cheated by the refs” on the non-play at the end of the game. Well, a few fans may whine anyway, but they should get no sympathy.

On replay, the whistle can clearly be heard before Pharoh Cooper even catches the pass from Perry Orth, and multiple individuals on both teams had stopped playing by that point. The call was also correct, as the South Carolina slot receiver on the right side of the formation was obviously not set before the snap.

You could also make an argument that at least two other Gamecocks didn’t get set before the center snapped the ball to Orth.

The delay in announcing the call, which I admit just about drove me crazy, was simply a case of the officials trying to determine how much time should be put on the game clock after the mandatory 10-second runoff. (Incidentally, they got it exactly right.)

– Apparently the SEC Network has realllllllllly long commercial breaks. The game took 3:19, despite the fact The Citadel only threw three passes.

– Did you know there is a large building at the State Fairgrounds named after a former Bulldog football great? Link

– Per South Carolina’s post-game notes, the Gamecocks had won 22 straight non-conference home games before losing to The Citadel on Saturday.

Of course, those notes also mistakenly state that South Carolina has “wins in seven-straight contests” against the Bulldogs. In actuality, The Citadel has won two of the last three matchups.

– The Citadel rushed for more yards against South Carolina (350) than it had averaged per game prior to facing the Gamecocks (343.7).

– In 1990, The Citadel had 396 total yards in a victory over the Gamecocks. In 2015, The Citadel had 387 total yards in a victory over the Gamecocks.

And in 1950, The Citadel had…118 total yards in a victory over the Gamecocks. Of course, the Bulldogs blocked two punts for TDs in that one. Special teams, baby.

The Citadel only committed one turnover in those three games — combined.

That came in the third quarter of the 1990 game, when the Bulldogs lost a fumble. South Carolina fumbled it right back to The Citadel two plays later.

– The Citadel now has four victories in its history over SEC opponents. The previous three came in 1962 (against Vanderbilt), 1979 (Vanderbilt again), and 1992 (Arkansas).

– “Tyler Renew used to sell peanuts at Williams-Brice Stadium” is this year’s “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit”, as far as storylines involving The Citadel are concerned.

– Your guess is as good as mine as to what South Carolina hoped to accomplish on that two-point conversion lateral to offensive lineman Brandon Shell. Shy Phillips did a good job making the tackle, which was akin to chopping down a giant redwood.

– The Citadel’s defense held the Gamecocks to 2.9 yards per carry, a major factor in the Bulldogs’ victory. Tevin Floyd and James Riley tied for the team lead in tackles on the day, with seven each.

All seven of Riley’s tackles were recorded as solo stops. The last of those came on a 4th-and-10, with Riley tackling Brandon Wilds two yards short of the first down the Gamecocks had to have.

– Will Vanvick had a fine day punting, saving his best effort for last, a 36-yarder downed on the Gamecocks 3-yard line late in the game. Aron Spann also should be credited with making a nice play to down the ball.

– Eric Goins also had a memorable afternoon, with a career-long field goal of 48 yards and a tackle on one of his kickoffs. That may have been a touchdown-saving stop, too.

I held my breath on The Citadel’s kickoffs, as several times it appeared South Carolina was very close to breaking a long gainer. The Bulldogs need to work on that this week as they get ready for the playoffs.

Ah yes, the playoffs.

I watched the selection show. It wasn’t one of ESPN’s smoothest efforts; it included a reference to “College of Charleston Southern” and another announcer confusing Western Illinois with Western Carolina.

However, the actual bracket was even rougher. I think the selection committee did a poor job.

I’m glad The Citadel is in the tournament, obviously, but I am disappointed in the regionalization of what is supposed to be a national tournament. I don’t necessarily expect teams to be sent across the country on a regular basis, but the committee overdosed on rematches this season.

It is a disservice to The Citadel, Coastal Carolina, and Charleston Southern to play a three-team mini-tourney right off the bat, with those teams already playing each other during the regular season. The committee set up multiple potential second-round rematches besides that one, including possible meetings between Richmond and William & Mary, Chattanooga and Jacksonville State, Western Illinois and Illinois State, and Montana and North Dakota State.

Would it have been so terrible to flip The Citadel and Duquesne, with the Bulldogs playing the Tribe and the Chanticleers hosting the Dukes? Or to switch CCU and Chattanooga in the bracket?

Why does Colgate and New Hampshire have to play each other in the first round, after playing earlier in the season? That isn’t supposed to happen, and it really shouldn’t happen.

I was also puzzled by the inclusion of 6-5 Western Illinois in the field (one of those five losses came to Coastal Carolina, by the way). Not only is WIU in the playoffs, it will play non-scholarship Dayton in the first round — a draw that would have been desired by almost every other team playing in the tournament’s first round.

A cynic might suggest Western Illinois is in the tournament instead of North Dakota or Towson because it is close enough to Dayton that the team can be bused to the game, rather than having to fly (and costing the NCAA more money).

It also appears the committee wanted to avoid having a final featuring teams from one conference (as was the case last year). That can be the only reason all five MVFC teams are on the same side of the bracket.

At any rate, The Citadel has a game on Saturday in Conway. Making sure the team is mentally and emotionally prepared for that contest after beating the Gamecocks is going to be a challenge for the coaching staff.

It’s a problem, albeit a nice problem to have.

It better not be a problem for the fan base. I know people have made plans in advance for Thanksgiving weekend, but playoff bids don’t come along for The Citadel every year, and this team certainly deserves all the support it can get. There needs to be plenty of light blue in Brooks Stadium when the Bulldogs take the field.

I think there will be.

Get your tickets early, though. Brooks Stadium currently has a seating capacity of under 10,000.

I’ll have a preview post for the Coastal Carolina game later in the week. I am not going to have a lot of time to do it, but I’ll figure something out.

This week’s review is almost completely picture-free. After almost a decade of taking mostly bad pictures, my camera more or less died in the first quarter on Saturday. That may be a blessing. I’ll gladly trade the demise of an old, mediocre camera for a victory over the Gamecocks.

I will include one shot I took with my cellphone, though. I was quick to snap it, and I had to be, as South Carolina rather amusingly “wiped” its scoreboard only a few seconds after the game was over.

The game happened, though. Yes, it certainly did.

scoreboard TC-SC

 

2015 Football, Game 11: The Citadel vs. South Carolina

The Citadel at South Carolina, to be played in Columbia, South Carolina, at Williams-Brice Stadium, with kickoff at 12:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 21. The game will be televised on the SEC Network [alternate feed], with play-by-play from Taylor Zarzour, analysis by Charles Arbuckle, and reporting from Paul Finebaum.

The game 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. WQNT will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze. Jay Harper will report from the sidelines; he will host the first hour of the pregame show as well.

It is also possible to listen to the action with a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

– The Citadel confident in its playoff résumé

– 25 years later, The Citadel’s upset of South Carolina still resonates

– Game notes from The Citadel and South Carolina

SoCon weekly release

SEC weekly release

Mike Houston on the SoCon teleconference

Shawn Elliott discusses The Citadel (video)

– Gamecocks have reason to be wary of The Citadel

– South Carolina defensive coordinator Jon Hoke discusses The Citadel’s triple option (video)

Mike Houston’s 11/17 press conference (with comments from Mitchell Jeter and Tyler Renew)

The Mike Houston Show (video from his radio show)

– Preview of The Citadel-Chattanooga from The State (video)

– Everette Sands coaches against his alma mater on Saturday (with video)

– Triple option challenges South Carolina’s defense

– Quinlan Washington and Eric Goins added to “watch lists”

FCS Coaches’ Poll

Besides being televised on an alternate feed of SEC Network (611-1 on DirecTV, and available on most cable/satellite systems), the game between The Citadel and South Carolina will also be the site of the “SEC Nation” pregame show. The on-air crew will include Joe Tessitore, Marcus Spears, Tim Tebow, and Paul Finebaum.

In addition to his duties on the pregame show, Finebaum will also be the SEC Network’s sideline reporter for the football game that follows. It will be the first time Finebaum has assumed that role:

“I thought it’d be fun, a non-traditional approach. I imagine it’ll mostly be chatter about next week [when the Gamecocks host No. 1-ranked Clemson].”

Essentially, then, he won’t be paying attention to the game on the field. I find that extremely disappointing, both from Finebaum and ESPN.

The last time The Citadel played South Carolina, in 2011, I wrote about a great gridiron victory by the Bulldogs over the Gamecocks. I didn’t write about the 1990 game, though. Instead, I focused on the 1950 clash, which was played at Johnson Hagood Stadium and may have been an even bigger upset.

 

Instead of doing a copy/paste job, I’ll just link that year’s preview post. The first half of the post is a story on that 1950 contest, won by The Citadel 19-7: Link

Okay, let’s talk about the FCS playoffs…

First, the basics. Twenty-four teams will make the playoffs; ten will get automatic bids, fourteen will be at-large selections.

Sixteen of those teams play in the first round. The eight teams that advance from that group play eight “seeded” teams in the second round (in other words, those seeded teams get byes; they also will be the automatic host teams for the second round unless something strange happens).

From there, teams advance to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. The title game will be played January 9, 2016, in Frisco, Texas.

Three conferences do not get automatic bids. The Ivy League doesn’t participate in postseason football action, while the SWAC and MEAC champs will play in the new Celebration Bowl instead.

However, one caveat: SWAC and MEAC teams can receive at-large bids. A team could finish 2nd in the MEAC, for example, and go to the FCS playoffs, while the champion of that league plays in the Celebration Bowl.

This year, that could be an issue, at least in the MEAC. I’ll get to that later.

Here are the leagues that get automatic bids, and the teams that have clinched bids so far:

Patriot League – Colgate
Ohio Valley – Jacksonville State
Pioneer League – Dayton
Southern – Chattanooga
Southland – McNeese State
Big South – Charleston Southern
Colonial
Big Sky
Missouri Valley
Northeast

The Northeast Conference title will be decided in a winner-take-all game between St. Francis (PA) and Duquesne. No other school in that league will get a bid.

The other three leagues that haven’t had auto-bids decided yet will have multiple teams in the field.

Here are the teams that are “locks”. No matter what happens Saturday, these teams will have their names called on Selection Sunday:

Colgate, Fordham, Jacksonville State, Dayton, Chattanooga, McNeese State, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, William & Mary, James Madison, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Illinois State, Portland State

The winner of St. Francis-Duquesne also gets in, obviously, so that’s fifteen teams in the field. There will be nine more that make it. Here, in roughly the order I think they would be in if the season ended today, are the contenders for those nine spots. I believe there are sixteen teams that still have a shot:

Southern Utah
Sam Houston State
Northern Iowa
Richmond
Montana
Northern Arizona
Eastern Washington
The Citadel
North Dakota
Central Arkansas
Villanova
Towson
Eastern Kentucky
Eastern Illinois
New Hampshire
Bethune-Cookman

Four of these teams (Southern Utah, Montana, Northern Arizona, and Richmond) could grab auto-bids. The latter three have to win and hope other results go their way; Southern Utah just has to win its game to be the outright Big Sky champion.

Now, I’m going to list the games Bulldog fans should be following on Saturday, including times (ET), lines, and TV/streaming options, with teams to pull for (if you root for The Citadel) mentioned in bold.

The matchups are (very) roughly in order of importance, but don’t make too much of that. There aren’t any absolute must-wins (or losses) on the board as far as The Citadel is concerned, and you could also make an argument in two of these matchups that it would be better if the other team won the game.

  • Villanova-James Madison, noon, MadiZONE streaming video (on JMU’s website); James Madison favored by 6 points
  • William & Mary-Richmond, noon, CSN-MidAtlantic/SNY; William & Mary favored by 4 points
  • North Dakota-Cal Poly, 9:05pm, Big Sky Digital Network; Cal Poly favored by 7 points
  • Florida A&M vs. Bethune-Cookman (in Orlando), 2:30pm, ESPN Classic; Bethune-Cookman favored by 19 points
  • Montana-Montana State, 2:10pm, Root-Southwest/Rocky Mountain/Northwest; Montana favored by 7 points
  • Southern Illinois-Northern Iowa, 5:00 pm, ESPN3; Northern Iowa favored by 11 points
  • Northern Arizona-Southern Utah, 5:00pm, Big Sky Digital Network; Southern Utah favored by 10 points
  • Portland State-Eastern Washington, 5:05pm, Big Sky Digital Network; Portland State favored by 5 points
  • Rhode Island-Towson, 2:00pm, Towson All-Access (on TU’s website); Towson favored by 20 points
  • Maine-New Hampshire, 1:00pm, pay-per-streaming (on UNH’s website); New Hampshire favored by 10 points
  • Eastern Kentucky-Eastern Illinois, 2:00pm, ESPN3; Eastern Illinois favored by 4 points
  • Sam Houston State-Central Arkansas, 7:00pm, ESPN3; Sam Houston State favored by 4 points

Quick notes on some of these games:

– A loss almost certainly knocks out every non-bolded team on this list, with the possible exception of Richmond. The Spiders would be 7-4 with a loss, against a respectable schedule, and also have a road win over James Madison.

Richmond’s issue is that it would have finished the season on a three-game losing streak, and would be competing with New Hampshire and/or Towson to be the 3rd CAA team in the field (having lost to New Hampshire, and having not played Towson).

– I believe the winner of Sam Houston State-Central Arkansas gets in, and the loser is left out. Part of me would root for Central Arkansas in this game, because UCA has a lopsided loss to Samford on its résumé, so The Citadel would compare favorably if that is taken into consideration.

However, my fear is that both SHSU and Central Arkansas could get in if UCA wins this game, despite Sam Houston State only having 6 D1 wins in that scenario. The problem is that the Bobcats are a “name” in FCS, and are currently ranked 12th.

I think it might be better for The Citadel if Sam Houston State won this game, essentially punching its ticket, and the Southland gets its standard two teams in the playoffs — rather than risking three Southland postseason entrants.

You could argue it either way.

– The loser of Eastern Kentucky-Eastern Illinois is out. The winner may get in, but it wouldn’t be a lock. The Citadel has a better case than either of them anyway, in my opinion.

– North Dakota has a victory over an FBS team. Admittedly, that FBS team is Wyoming, which probably wouldn’t finish in the top 3 of the Big Sky this season, but any FBS win will look good to the selection committee. I could see UND making a late move up and grabbing a bid, especially if it can win on the road at Cal Poly.

– Right now, I think The Citadel would be in with a couple of spots to spare. However, the Bulldogs could be “jumped” by a few teams. I am worried about the logjam in the Big Sky (a league that has historically fared well when bids are handed out) and the CAA (with a couple of last-gasp pushes by Towson and New Hampshire).

– Bethune-Cookman is the wild card in all of this, and may be the team that concerns me the most. The Wildcats are playing 1-9 Florida A&M on Saturday, and a win would move B-C to 9-2 on the season, with 8 Division I victories.

Bethune-Cookman is unlikely to get the MEAC’s bid to the Celebration Bowl even if North Carolina A&T loses this week, because of the tiebreaker setup in that conference. However, if B-C ties for the league title (or even if it finishes second), it would not be completely surprising to see B-C’s name on the bracket on Sunday.

I don’t think it would be deserving, as the Wildcats’ schedule strength is not good at all, but I’m not on the committee.

There is also the issue with the MEAC electing not to send its champion to the playoffs any longer, and instead having it represent the conference in a bowl game. Some members of the selection committee might consider that decision an abdication of participation by the MEAC in the FCS playoffs, regardless of its non-champion teams being eligible.

Let’s assume The Citadel makes the playoffs. Where would the Bulldogs play? Could they host?

Generally, the NCAA prefers to break things down regionally when it comes to placing teams in the FCS playoffs. It’s not unlike the college baseball tournament in that respect.

The Citadel would not get a seed, even with a victory over South Carolina on Saturday. Possible first-round opponents include Coastal Carolina, William & Mary, James Madison, and Richmond. I don’t think the Bulldogs would play Charleston Southern in the first round (if CSU didn’t get a bye), but I could see the bracketing leading to a potential second-round matchup with the Buccaneers (in fact, that might be likely).

Incidentally, Coastal Carolina’s hopes at getting a bye were all but dashed with its loss on Thursday night to Liberty. That could increase the possibility of a Coastal Carolina-The Citadel first-round game, with the winner playing Charleston Southern.

The home/road situation for the first round is usually determined by which school made the highest bid to host. From the first link in the “Links of Interest” section:

Meanwhile, The Citadel has put in its bid to host a first-round game on Nov. 28, submitting a bid higher than the $30,000 minimum, according to a school source. And Citadel athletic director Jim Senter is working the phones.

Excellent.

Also excellent: this effort by the Media Relations staff. Very well done.

I think The Citadel has a very reasonable chance of getting an at-large bid. The numbers largely break in the Bulldogs’ favor.

As long as there aren’t a lot of weird results on Saturday (or some political maneuvering in the committee room), The Citadel should be a part of the selection show (which airs on Sunday at 11:00 am ET on ESPNU).

Of course, The Citadel could make all of this analysis moot by winning on Saturday. That would be fine with me.

Normally, in this part of the preview I would compare the opposing team’s season statistics to those of The Citadel. However, since South Carolina is an FBS squad that plays in the SEC, that comparison struck me as largely irrelevant.

I’ll just note a few things that caught my attention while going over South Carolina’s numbers. The Gamecocks’ advanced statistical profile looks very much like a team with a 3-7 record.

– South Carolina does have some talented players on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Skai Moore (6’2″, 218 lbs.) leads the team in tackles (and tackles for loss). Moore is arguably the main reason North Carolina is not undefeated (well, maybe he shares that honor with Marquise Williams).

– On his radio show, Mike Houston mentioned that 12 different Gamecocks would rotate along the defensive line, including Gerald Dixon Jr. (6’3″, 327 lbs.), a massive nosetackle. Houston also noted the fine play of free safety Isaiah Johnson (6’0″, 209 lbs.), who is second on the team in tackles. Johnson will probably be an important player for the Gamecocks when defending the triple option.

– The defense has not been very good against the run, ranking 105th in rushing defense, allowing 5.04 yards per carry (110th nationally). The Gamecocks have been better at home in that category, however, allowing 3.86 yards per rush in Williams-Brice Stadium.

– On 3rd down and between 7 and 9 yards to go, South Carolina ranks next-to-last in rushing yards allowed. Opponents have run the ball nine times against the Gamecocks in that situation, gaining 81 yards. Obviously, that’s not much of a sample size.

– If The Citadel can keep the game close, perhaps this chart will come into play. It includes some situational statistics regarding South Carolina’s defense against the run:

 

Situation G Att Yards Avg. TD
SC winning By 15+ Pts 1 2 -7 -3.5 0
SC winning By 8-14 Pts 2 5 12 2.4 0
SC winning By 1-7 Pts 6 66 304 4.61 5
Tied 8 95 498 5.24 5
SC losing By 1-7 Pts 10 119 705 5.92 4
SC losing By 8-14 Pts 6 79 326 4.13 3
SC losing By 15+ Pts 4 35 185 5.29 2

– South Carolina has not been good at finishing drives, averaging 4.1 points per possession inside the opponents’ 40-yard line. That ranks 110th out of 127 FBS teams.

– Starting quarterback Perry Orth (6’1″, 203 lbs.) has an older brother, Calvin, who played baseball at The Citadel from 2011-14.

– Average size of the projected starting offensive line for the Gamecocks: 6’5″, 296 lbs.

That projected group of starters includes 6’8″, 295 lb. Blake Camper, a freshman expected to start at right tackle in place of Mason Zandil, who suffered a high ankle sprain last week.

Left tackle Brandon Shell (6’6″, 328 lbs.) is an NFL prospect. He has made 46 starts along the line during his college career.

– I would imagine South Carolina’s offensive strategy in this game will be fairly simple. The Gamecocks will undoubtedly run Brandon Wilds (6’2″, 220 lbs.) and David Williams (6’1″, 222 lbs.) behind that huge offensive line, grinding out first downs and trying to control the clock. When not doing that, South Carolina will probably get the ball in the very talented Pharoh Cooper’s hands at every opportunity.

At least, that’s what I would do. Cooper (5’11”, 207 lbs.) is really good. He has 51 catches for 700 yards this season, and is also averaging 6.1 yards per carry in limited rush opportunities.

South Carolina has an excellent placekicker/punter combo in Elliott Fry (6’0″, 164 lbs.) and Sean Kelly (5’10”, 189 lbs.).

Fry is 16-23 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 52. He is a Type 1 diabetic who has managed to carve out a fine career at South Carolina.

Kelly (who is also the holder for placekicks) is averaging 43.3 yards per punt. Of his 47 boots, 21 have landed inside the 20-yard line, against only 3 touchbacks. He has had 12 punts of 50+ yards this season.

The Gamecocks have dangerous return men. Pharoh Cooper is the primary punt returner, while freshman Rashad Fenton (5’10”, 180 lbs.) ran a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown against LSU.

Odds and ends:

– South Carolina isn’t really excited about mentioning the 1990 game, if its game notes are anything to go by:

The teams met every year from 1907 until 1937, and 11 more times from 1940 to 1954, but got together just twice in the ‘60s and three times in the ‘80s. This is the second matchup between the two schools since the turn of the century. The Gamecocks posted a 41-20 win on Nov. 19, 2011 in the last encounter.

Let’s just gloss over the 1990s, shall we?

– Those South Carolina game notes also mention this factoid: in nine games against FCS opponents since 2006, the Gamecocks are 9-0, with an average score of 38-13.

– There are 40 players from South Carolina on the Gamecocks’ roster. Other states represented: Georgia (27), Florida (18), North Carolina (7), Alabama (5), Virginia (3), Maryland (2), California (2), and one each from Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, South Carolina is a 20-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 57.

Other lines involving SoCon teams: Furman is an 8-point underdog at Wofford; Western Carolina is a 14-point favorite at VMI; Samford is a 3-point favorite at Mercer; and Chattanooga is a 30.5-point underdog at Florida State.

East Tennessee State is a 1.5-point home underdog against Kentucky Wesleyan on Saturday.

– Per the S&P+ ratings, South Carolina has a win probability of 93.1% on Saturday. Only five teams have a higher win probability this week: Middle Tennessee State (over North Texas), West Virginia (over Kansas), Florida State (over Chattanooga), Clemson (over Wake Forest), and Alabama (which has a 99.9% win probability over Charleston Southern).

– Among FCS teams, The Citadel is 19th in this week’s Massey Ratings. The ratings for other league teams: Chattanooga, 13th; Western Carolina, 23rd; Samford, 45th; Wofford, 49th; Furman, 54th; Mercer, 55th; VMI, 81st.

North Dakota State now sits atop the Massey FCS Ratings, followed by Illinois State, Jacksonville State, South Dakota State, and Dartmouth. East Tennessee State is 123rd, just ahead of Mississippi Valley State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Columbia, according to the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high around 58 degrees, a northeast wind around 7 mph, and a 20% chance of rain after 1 pm.

– Saturday is Military Appreciation Day at Williams-Brice Stadium.

– South Carolina is beefing up security for the game. Keep that in mind while deciding when to leave the tailgating areas and enter the stadium.

– The Citadel will wear white jerseys and hideous gray pants on Saturday.

The Citadel could win on Saturday. It wouldn’t blow anybody’s mind, at least not anybody who was paying attention.

That said, South Carolina, even with its struggles this season, is still an SEC team. It has huge resource advantages, and a lot of talented players.

In addition, the “look ahead” factor for this game is probably slight, despite Clemson coming to town next week. South Carolina wants to win a game — any game. It isn’t like the Gamecocks have 6 to 8 wins already and are cruising to a bowl game.

I think The Citadel will move the ball (at least occasionally) against South Carolina’s defense. I am concerned about the Bulldogs’ D, though.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to this one. For one thing, it’s a home game for me.

It is also a great opportunity for the team. Don’t be afraid to make a little history, guys.

Go Dogs!

Game review, 2015: Chattanooga

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Game story, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Video from WCSC-TV, including interviews with Mike Houston, Dominique Allen, and Tevin Floyd

Video from WCIV-TV

School release

Box score

Oh, well.

Dominique Allen said after the game that the Bulldogs “came out flat in the first half,” which was an accurate assessment. You can’t fall behind 21-0 on the road and expect to beat a good team, and that is what happened on Saturday.

The Citadel didn’t give up, though, and that last-gasp touchdown won’t hurt when at-large bids are handed out next weekend. It may seem like a stretch, but I would rather the playoff committee evaluate the Bulldogs with a 31-23 loss to Chattanooga rather than a 31-17 score.

Offensively, The Citadel moved the ball most of the afternoon. Averaging 5.2 yards per rush against a defense as good as UTC’s is solid. Failing in two red-zone opportunities in the first half was a problem, though. A big problem.

I think the Bulldogs’ defense has to be a little disappointed with its play. Jacob Huesman is an outstanding player, but he broke a few tackles that he really should not have. The Citadel did not record a sack, and only had one pass breakup.

The first play from scrimmage was a buzzkill, to say the least.

I had no issues with the playcalling or decision-making, though I did wonder about punting on 4th-and-2 from midfield with 11:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, down 24-14. Mike Houston was asked about that after the game, and his explanation made sense (basically, he considered it, but thought it was a little too early to take the risk).

However, Chattanooga did score on its ensuing possession. I tend to think the move in that situation might have been to go for it, but you could argue it either way. I’m not the coach, and everyone should be grateful for that.

I didn’t like that the Bulldogs had to burn a timeout before the punt, though.

Random thoughts:

– Chattanooga apparently doesn’t think one slightly rah-rah P.A. announcer is enough. At certain times of the game, another announcer would suddenly shout out something like “Let’s MAKE SOME NOISE CHATTANOOGA”. It was a little bizarre.

– The overbearing nature of the sound system (including music choices) at Finley Stadium was actually worse than what Bulldog fans have to suffer through at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Also, there were multiple occasions where the music didn’t stop before the Bulldogs lined up on offense; I think at least one warning should have been issued by the referee for that.

– I also had trouble reading the scoreboard, due to the sun (more on that yellow star when I get to the pictures).

– Chattanooga does allow its band to play occasionally, which was nice.

– Finley Stadium has a pretty good setup. I got in and out of the lot where I had parked easily, which was convenient (especially when making a long drive home, mostly at night). The tailgating scene was quite respectable. I bet the pavilion is a godsend during inclement weather.

– Plenty of Bulldog fans were in attendance. I wasn’t surprised, but I was happy to see it. The coaches and players deserved that kind of traveling support.

– The presence of around 250-300 freshmen cadets was greatly appreciated. Kudos to Jim Senter, Geno Paluso, and everyone else responsible for making that happen.

The cadets made quite a bit of noise, too. I was also glad to see that the cheerleaders made the trip.

Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me? Playoffs?! I just hope we can win a game! Another game!

That was Jim Mora’s famous rant in 2001. The Bulldogs have a much better chance of making the postseason than Mora’s Colts did that year, but I do hope The Citadel can win another game — namely, the one in Columbia this Saturday.

Later in the week, I’ll preview that game. The team analysis may not be too lengthy, but my post will include a breakdown of The Citadel’s playoff chances if it finishes the season with seven wins. Of course, if the Bulldogs defeat the Gamecocks, they certainly won’t have to sweat out Selection Sunday.

Below are the usual assortment of pictures. These are really, really bad, thanks to things being a little too sunny in Chattanooga. You’ve been warned.

The game photos are in sequential order, though I had to scrap a bunch because they were even worse than the ones included in this set. I’ve annotated a few of them.

 

Gridiron countdown: what teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before facing The Citadel?

Ah, it’s a now-annual July topic. This season, I am delving a little further into the schedules, and noting which teams The Citadel’s opponents face after playing the Bulldogs.

Here we go…

September 5: Davidson makes its first appearance at Johnson Hagood Stadium since 1985, which was also the last time the Bulldogs and Wildcats met on the gridiron. As for 2015, it is the season opener for both teams, so Davidson naturally won’t have an opponent in the week prior to its trip to Charleston. The Wildcats’ most recent game was a 27-13 setback at Valparaiso to close out the 2014 campaign.

After playing The Citadel, Davidson will face Catawba the following week in its home opener at Richardson Stadium.

September 12: Western Carolina is the opposition for the Bulldogs, and the Catamounts will come to the Holy City after opening the week before in Cullowhee against Mike Houston’s alma mater, Mars Hill.

I don’t think WCU’s players and coaches will be looking ahead, not with The Citadel being the SoCon opener for both schools. However, a few of the Catamounts’ fans may do so, as Western Carolina plays at Tennessee on September 19.

September 19: The first road game of the season for The Citadel will be a short one, as the Bulldogs travel to Statesboro to play Georgia Southern. It will be the second home game of the season for the Eagles, as GS welcomes Western Michigan to Paulson Stadium on September 12.

Georgia Southern opens its season at West Virginia in a game that has “early upset potential” written all over it. I predict lots of Red Bull will be consumed in that contest.

In terms of scheduling, playing the Eagles after they come off games against WVU and Western Michigan (which will be one of the favorites to win the MAC) may not be such a bad thing for The Citadel. Of course, if Georgia Southern is 0-2 by that point, maybe it would be a bad thing. I don’t know.

Georgia Southern goes on a classic Sun Belt conference road swing after the matchup with The Citadel, travelling to Idaho and Louisiana (to play ULM) in consecutive weeks.

September 26: Charleston Southern comes to town to play the Bulldogs. Just like last season, CSU will play a Thursday night game the week before its game against The Citadel, giving it a couple extra days for recuperation and preparation.

The opponent for Charleston Southern on September 17 is another group of Buccaneers, as CSU hosts East Tennessee State and its resurrected football program. It will be ETSU’s first football road game since a contest at Wofford on November 8, 2003.

That game against East Tennessee State comes five days after Charleston Southern travels to Alabama to face a Sun Belt outfit, Troy. CSU begins its season with a home matchup versus North Greenville.

After playing The Citadel, Charleston Southern has a week off before beginning its Big South campaign with a home game against Monmouth.

October 3: There is no game this week for The Citadel. Not coincidentally, I’ll be on vacation.

October 10: Wofford is the Parents’ Day opponent this year for The Citadel. It will be the second SoCon game for both teams, as the Terriers will travel to Mercer on October 3 for their league opener.

Wofford’s early-season non-conference slate includes games at Clemson and (bizarrely, at least to me) at Idaho. After playing The Citadel, the Terriers host Western Carolina.

October 17: The Citadel makes the trek to Alabama to tangle with another group of Bulldogs, those representing Samford. It will be SU’s second meeting with a military college in back-to-back weeks, as it plays VMI in Lexington on October 10.

Samford opens with three home games (including a matchup with Chattanooga) before going on the road to face Louisville and VMI. There is an off week in between the games versus the Cardinals and Keydets.

After returning home to play The Citadel, Samford travels to Western Carolina. The October 17 game in Birmingham is SU’s only home contest between September 19 and October 31, a situation similar to that of the next opponent on The Citadel’s schedule.

October 24: Furman hosts The Citadel for the first time since 2012, with the Paladins having a week off before facing the Bulldogs. It will be Homecoming weekend at Furman.

The Paladins are at Chattanooga on October 10, and will travel to Samford on October 31. The game against The Citadel will be Furman’s lone home game between October 3 (South Carolina State) and November 14 (Mercer).

October 31: The Citadel hosts Mercer on Halloween (a day game, thankfully). It will be the second straight week the Bears will have squared off against a military college, as Mercer plays at home versus VMI on October 24.

The Bears are back in Macon on November 7, playing Chattanooga.

November 7: The final home game of the season for the Bulldogs is a big one. It will be Homecoming weekend at The Citadel, and VMI will arrive in Charleston to battle for the coveted Silver Shako.

The Keydets are at home against Wofford the week before making the trip to face the Bulldogs, and will return to Lexington the following week for VMI’s regular-season finale, versus Western Carolina.

November 14: The last SoCon game of the season for the Bulldogs is a road matchup against Chattanooga. As mentioned above, the Mocs are at Mercer on November 7. The week after playing The Citadel, Chattanooga meets Florida State in Tallahassee.

November 21: The Citadel travels to Columbia to play South Carolina. The two programs have split their last two meetings in the Palmetto State’s capital city.

The Gamecocks will be playing the second of three consecutive home games to complete the regular season. The contest versus the Bulldogs is sandwiched between games against Florida and Clemson.

The Bulldogs face one team coming off a “bye” week (Furman), and another that will have two extra days off (Charleston Southern). Obviously, Davidson won’t have played the week before facing The Citadel, either.

There is only one “triple option preview” situation this season. VMI will play Wofford the week prior to its game versus The Citadel, which incidentally was also the case last year.

Getting closer to kickoff…

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.