McAlister Musings: 2017-18 SoCon play begins for the Bulldogs

Link of interest:

The Citadel plunges into “scary” SoCon play

The Citadel is 5-7 so far this season, though only two of the Bulldogs’ victories have come against D-1 opposition. The big news in the early part of the schedule was negative, as 2017 SoCon Freshman of the Year Preston Parks was dismissed from the team and will transfer.

This post will cover the first three games of the SoCon campaign — December 30 versus Western Carolina, January 4 at Furman, and January 6 at Wofford.

First, some statistics. I decided to look at the numbers from the six games The Citadel played against “similar” opposition — in other words, none of the games played against non-D1 teams, and none of the contests against power-conference schools.

The games I selected:

The Citadel’s stats in those six contests (I’ve included national averages in some categories for comparison):

Poss Pts %2pt %3pt %FT 2M 2Att 2FG% 3M 3Att 3FG% eFG%
N.C. A&T 89 73 60.3% 20.5% 19.2% 22 46 47.8% 5 33 15.2% 37.3%
HPU 77 79 43.0% 38.0% 19.0% 17 39 43.6% 10 25 40.0% 50.0%
Marist 90 91 37.4% 49.5% 13.2% 17 37 45.9% 15 42 35.7% 50.0%
UMBC 78 72 50.0% 25.0% 25.0% 18 40 45.0% 6 29 20.7% 39.1%
JMU 80 84 52.4% 39.3% 8.3% 22 35 62.9% 11 24 45.8% 65.3%
Campbell 74 77 57.1% 27.3% 15.6% 22 48 45.8% 7 26 26.9% 43.9%
Avg 81.33 79.3 49.6% 34.0% 16.4% 19.7 40.8 48.2% 9.0 29.8 30.2% 41.2%
Natl. Avg. 69.9 49.5% 31.4% 19.1% 49.9% 35.0% 50.9%

 

FT FTatt FTA/FGA FT% OR DR TR OR% A A/FGM
N.C. A&T 14 21 26.6% 66.7% 17 25 42 40.5% 8 29.6%
HPU 15 23 35.9% 65.2% 15 21 36 41.7% 13 48.1%
Marist 12 17 21.5% 70.6% 10 25 35 28.6% 18 56.3%
UMBC 18 29 42.0% 62.1% 15 23 38 39.5% 15 62.5%
JMU 7 11 18.6% 63.6% 3 27 30 10.0% 18 54.5%
Campbell 12 16 21.6% 75.0% 12 24 36 33.3% 12 41.4%
Avg 13.0 19.5 27.6% 66.7% 12.0 24.2 36.2 33.2% 14.0 48.8%
Natl. Avg. 33.9% 70.7% 29.2% 53.0%

TO TO% A/TO Blk Blk% Stl Stl% PF
N.C. A&T 18 20.2% 0.44 1 2.2% 9 10.1% 20
HPU 17 22.1% 0.76 5 12.8% 11 14.3% 14
Marist 12 13.3% 1.5 1 2.7% 9 10.0% 19
UMBC 10 12.8% 1.5 1 2.5% 9 11.5% 18
JMU 18 22.5% 1 4 11.4% 12 15.0% 20
Campbell 6 8.1% 2 3 6.3% 6 8.1% 19
Avg 13.5 16.6% 1.04 2.5 6.1% 9.3 11.5% 18.3
Natl Avg. 19.2% 9.4% 10.8%

 

The Citadel’s opponents’ statistics in those six games:

Poss Pts %2pt %3pt %FT 2M 2Att 2FG% 3M 3Att 3FG% eFG%
N.C. A&T 89 92 65.2% 22.8% 12.0% 30 43 69.8% 7 22 31.8% 62.3%
HPU 77 77 64.9% 19.5% 15.6% 25 53 47.2% 5 12 41.7% 50.0%
Marist 90 100 34.0% 54.0% 12.0% 17 23 73.9% 18 40 45.0% 69.8%
UMBC 78 98 40.8% 49.0% 10.2% 20 34 58.8% 16 42 38.1% 57.9%
JMU 80 82 48.8% 29.3% 22.0% 20 43 46.5% 8 25 32.0% 47.1%
Campbell 74 87 57.5% 27.6% 14.9% 25 48 52.1% 8 21 38.1% 53.6%
Avg 81.33 89.3 51.1% 34.7% 14.2% 22.8 40.7 56.1% 10.3 27 38.3% 49.8%
Natl. Avg. 69.9 49.5% 31.4% 19.1% 35.0% 50.9%

 

FT Ftatt FTA/FGA FT% OR DR TR OR% A A/FGM
N.C. A&T 11 15 23.1% 73.3% 6 41 47 12.8% 25 67.6%
HPU 12 12 18.5% 100.0% 14 27 41 34.1% 15 50.0%
Marist 12 17 27.0% 70.6% 6 37 43 14.0% 24 68.6%
UMBC 10 16 21.1% 62.5% 21 36 57 36.8% 24 66.7%
JMU 18 22 32.4% 81.8% 15 27 42 35.7% 18 64.3%
Campbell 13 20 29.0% 65.0% 16 35 51 31.4% 20 60.6%
Avg 12.7 17 25.1% 74.5% 13 33.8 46.8 27.8% 21 63.3%
Natl. Avg. 33.9% 70.7% 29.2% 53.0%

 

TO TO% A/TO Blk Blk% Stl Stl% PF
N.C. A&T 22 24.7% 1.14 3 7.0% 8 9.0% 18
HPU 20 26.0% 0.75 10 18.9% 12 15.6% 22
Marist 25 27.8% 0.96 6 26.1% 3 3.3% 17
UMBC 15 19.2% 1.60 4 11.8% 5 6.4% 23
JMU 17 21.3% 1.06 4 9.3% 10 12.5% 16
Campbell 9 12.2% 2.22 5 10.4% 3 4.1% 10
Avg 18 22.1% 1.17 5.3 13.1% 6.8 8.4% 17.7
Natl Avg. 19.2% 9.4% 10.8%

 

Observations based on those numbers (keeping in mind, it is just these six games, so sample size must be considered):

  • In these contests, The Citadel got more points as a percentage of its offense from 3-point shooting (34.0%) than does the average D-1 squad (31.4%). Free throws have not been a major part of the offense, at least compared to the rest of the country. Somewhat curiously, that has also been true for The Citadel’s opponents in this survey; in all games, however, that definitely isn’t the case.
  • The Bulldogs need to improve from the charity stripe, not just in quantity but in quality. The Citadel’s 66.7% rate isn’t good enough (and that number doesn’t significantly change when all games are included).  Conversely, Bulldog opponents are making their free throws at a solid rate.
  • Besides not shooting free throws all that well, The Citadel isn’t making a high enough percentage of three-point shots; the Bulldogs have been erratic at best from beyond the arc. That is why The Citadel has a below-average effective field goal percentage.
  • The Citadel’s offensive rebounding rate isn’t half-bad. Also, while the defensive rebounding rate for all games is terrible, when just these six games are surveyed, the Bulldogs look much better in that category. In other words, The Citadel is more or less holding its own on the boards against “like” opposition. The Bulldogs’ opponents have more rebounds mainly because The Citadel has missed more shots.
  • On offense, the Bulldogs’ turnover rate is acceptable. The defense is forcing its fair share of turnovers but needs to create even more, particularly of the “live-ball” variety.
  • The Citadel’s assist-to-made basket rate is slightly below average. Opponents are doing better than the Bulldogs in this area.
  • The steal rate for the Bulldogs is good, but is not nearly as impressive when the games against non-D1 teams aren’t counted.
  • According to kenpom, The Citadel’s average height (that is, the average height of the players on the court at any given time) is shorter than all but one D-1 team. (In case you were wondering, Southern Mississippi is 351st.) Therefore it is not much of a surprise that the Bulldogs do not block a lot of shots, and that their opponents will have an advantage on the other side of the court as well (the stat only takes 2-point shooting into account).

A few other points worth mentioning:

  • The Citadel’s bench minutes (all games) is second in all of D-1, behind only Northwestern State. This is reflected in the average minutes played by each player on the roster, with eleven Bulldogs averaging 10 or more minutes per game.
  • In terms of experience, the Bulldogs — well, they don’t have a lot. Per kenpom, The Citadel is 344th out of 351 teams in that category. That said, the Bulldogs do have a reasonable amount of returning experience, as their “minutes continuity” (the percentage of a team’s minutes played by the same players from last season to the current campaign) is basically average.

I’m still trying to decipher the myriad statistics provided via subscription by Synergy Sports, so I’m not going to do any serious breakdowns based on those numbers. (Synergy’s definition of a possession appears to be different from the one used by kenpom and most other analysts, which has complicated things.) That said, here are a few pieces of information to digest (all 12 games are included for these stats):

  • The Citadel is average to below average in most situational categories, but the Bulldogs are better than average at scoring when there is less than 4 seconds remaining on the shot clock. The Citadel is also better than most teams on the defensive side of the ball when the shot clock is about to expire. I’m not sure why that would be the case; perhaps routinely playing a chaotic style of basketball lends itself to keeping one’s head when the shot clock hits 5. Also, there is a sample size issue, since the shot clock is rarely a factor when the Bulldogs are playing.
  • The Bulldogs are good at running offense on out-of-bounds plays from under the basket, but are not nearly as good when in-bounding from the sidelines.
  • The Citadel’s most successful offense in the half-court is finding players coming off screens. Isolation plays and cuts to the basket have also been profitable.
  • The Bulldogs are below average on put-backs directly coming from offensive rebounds, and are not good at all running the pick and roll (the “roll man” only gets the ball 22.9% of the time on that play, if I’m reading the numbers correctly).
  • Defensively, The Citadel has struggled coming out of timeouts. Also, the Bulldogs have been poor defending out-of-bounds plays under the basket.
  • The Bulldogs have done a good job against the pick and roll. Conversely, spot-up shooters have fared well against The Citadel.

According to Synergy Sports’ statistical breakdown, the two most efficient offensive performers for the Bulldogs have been Matt Frierson and Alex Reed. In related news:

Freshman Alex Reed has earned a starting spot with his recent play, scoring 11 points in a Dec. 19 loss at Ohio State.

“Alex has turned into a really good player for us,” [Duggar] Baucom said. “He’s shooting well from 3-point range, gets to loose balls and is in the right place at the right time on defense.”

I’ll discuss more of the Synergy stuff when I more fully understand all the information, assuming I will actually manage to get to that point…

Below is a table of full-season D-1 only statistics of note for The Citadel (I’ll be using this same format when discussing the Bulldogs’ opponents). Keep in mind that A) this doesn’t include stats from the games against Oglethorpe, Trinity Baptist, and Point; and B) there are 351 teams in Division I.

– The Citadel’s adjusted tempo: 81.5 (second nationally; Savannah State is first)

The Citadel Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 99.3 257 113.2 334 103.5
Effective FG% 46.2 307 59.8 343 50.8
Turnover % 17.5 81 20.6 107 19.2
Off. Reb. % 26.9 239 37.3 345 29.2
FTA/FGA 25.5 325 26.8 44 33.9

Okay, let’s take a very quick look at the next three upcoming opponents:

Western Carolina — December 30, 1:00 pm ET, McAlister Field House

Western Carolina is 4-8, with two non-D1 wins. Seven of its eight losses are to kenpom top-150 opponents; the exception is a home loss to High Point.

WCU also has victories over Appalachian State and UNC-Asheville. Those are both decent wins (UNCA has beaten both Wofford and UNC-Greensboro).

– WCU’s average adjusted tempo: 70.5 (138th nationally)

WCU Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 98.1 275 108.3 271 103.5
Effective FG% 46.7 292 56.6 322 50.8
Turnover % 21.9 300 20.9 89 19.2
Off. Reb. % 26.0 263 35.5 331 29.2
FTA/FGA 28.9 281 42.2 303 33.9

Western Carolina doesn’t get to the foul line too often, but its opponents do. The Catamounts also struggle keeping opponents off the offensive glass.

WCU does force a lot of turnovers on defense, but it also commits way too many on offense.

Per one source that deals in such matters, Western Carolina is a one-point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 170.5.

The prediction from kenpom: The Citadel 88, Western Carolina 87

Furman — January 4, 7:30 pm ET, Timmons Arena

  • Streaming: SoCon Digital Network

Furman is 9-4 so far this year. The Paladins have some solid wins (UNC-Asheville, Elon, Northeastern). Three of FU’s four losses are to kenpom top-50 opponents, all on the road — Butler, Duke, and Tennessee. The game against the Volunteers wasn’t decided until the final seconds.

The Paladins also lost at home to Winthrop by 19 points. That seems to be an outlier.

Furman is led by reigning SoCon player of the year Devin Sibley, who averaged 17.7 points per game last season. So far in 2017-18, the senior from Knoxville is averaging 16.2 points per contest. If he can improve his free throw shooting, he has a chance to be a 50-40-80 player (FG%, 3FG%, FT%).

Before playing The Citadel, Furman will travel to VMI on December 30.

– Furman’s adjusted tempo: 70.1 (156th nationally)

Furman Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 105.5 123 101.8 136 103.5
Effective FG% 51.7 142 51.9 209 50.8
Turnover % 18.2 119 21.5 65 19.2
Off. Reb. % 29.7 164 33.4 302 29.2
FTA/FGA 28.0 300 29.9 99 33.9

Free throws seem to be an irregular occurrence in Furman games. Other than the lack of charity tosses, the Paladins’ offensive numbers are good across the board.

Furman’s opponents have had an edge on the offensive boards, but FU makes up for that by forcing plenty of turnovers.

The prediction from kenpom: Furman 96, The Citadel 78

Wofford — January 6, 7:00 pm ET, Richardson Indoor Arena

  • Streaming: ESPN3

Wofford is 8-4 this year, with the eighth of those wins a monster victory over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Terriers are 2-0 in the ACC this year, having also beaten Georgia Tech in Spartanburg.

WC’s losses are to South Carolina (in the game that opened Wofford’s new hoops facility), Texas Tech, California, and UNC-Asheville. All four of those defeats were by at least 14 points, which makes the success against the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets all the more unexpected (well, at least the UNC game — Georgia Tech has also lost to Grambling State).

– Wofford’s adjusted tempo: 65.9 (330th nationally; the Terriers and Bulldogs will be an interesting contrast)

Wofford Offense Rank Defense Rank Natl Avg
Efficiency 106.5 112 107.3 259 103.5
Effective FG% 53.1 98 56.4 316 50.8
Turnover % 19.2 182 20.8 93 19.2
Off. Reb. % 22 326 30 208 29.2
FTA/FGA 28.3 295 40.5 281 33.9

Wofford’s blowout losses tend to skew the Terriers’ numbers to a certain extent. Wofford shoots the ball very well, but has also allowed some high-efficiency scoring games from its opponents (teams have taken advantage of the three-ball to an unusual degree against WC).

The Terriers are led offensively by Fletcher Magee, who is averaging 24.9 points per game. He is shooting an outrageous 55% from three-land, and that’s with a fairly high volume of shots (102 in 12 games). Magee is a junior from Orlando.

Wofford has two upcoming games before playing The Citadel. The Terriers travel to UNC-Greensboro on December 30, and host VMI on January 4.

The prediction from kenpom: Wofford 92, The Citadel 78

Happy hooping!

Game Review, 2017: Western Carolina

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Notes section, The Post and Courier: “Instant replay comes back to bite Bulldogs”

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

By the numbers, The Post and Courier

SoCon sticking with flawed instant replay “rollout”

School release

Box score

Game highlights (video)

Saturday was not a good day for The Citadel. Five offensive turnovers (admittedly, just four in most SoCon stadiums) doomed the Bulldogs, along with a couple of big plays given up by the defense.

Those turnovers cost The Citadel the contest; there is no doubt about that. I also don’t think you can put the lost opportunities in the game down to youth and inexperience, as that wasn’t really the case. It made the offensive follies (particularly those in the red zone) all the more disappointing.

The Citadel had a good day rushing the football, controlled the clock (almost a 15-minute edge in time of possession), and finished 8 of 16 on third down attempts.

In addition, the special teams unit blocked two WCU punts and forced the Catamounts to “self-block” a third; that, against a team that had come into the game 4th nationally in net punting.

All of that should have been more than enough to win the game. It wasn’t.

I have rarely felt more frustrated after a game than I was last Saturday. Much of that frustration was related to the Bulldogs’ on-field play.

However, the instant replay issue has to be discussed. It cannot simply be ignored, because it hurt The Citadel on Saturday. Also, the league’s position and general attitude towards this aspect of its game administration leaves a lot to be desired.

First, let me quote a couple of things I’ve written before, just to prove this isn’t after-the-fact complaining.

From October 2016, after it was announced the league would not have replay until at least 2018:

The SoCon probably needs to have instant replay sooner rather than later, if only to have the same standard officiating procedures as the rest of FCS, but no one should be under the impression that replay will be a panacea. At times, replay has simply added another layer of error to the proceedings.

Sure, you would like to think that with replay, Kailik Williams’ strip/recovery in the first quarter versus Wofford would have resulted in The Citadel gaining possession of the football, but we’ve all seen that kind of play occasionally upheld anyway because of a “down by contact” ruling (or because the whistle blew). Rudder Brown’s catch in the overtime period might have been tagged as “inconclusive”, and Jorian Jordan’s touchdown-that-wasn’t may have suffered the same fate, depending on the mood of the official in the booth.

Replay aside, what really needs to happen is that the league needs to significantly improve its on-field officiating. That is what the conference’s players, coaches, and fans deserve, rather than ludicrous decisions like (just to mention one example) this ridiculous call against Mercer earlier in the season in a game versus Tennessee Tech.

Then, the league decided it would have instant replay for the 2017 season, but that schools wouldn’t actually have to implement it until 2019. This led to only two schools (Mercer and The Citadel) having a system in place for this year. As I said last month:

Essentially, league games are being played under two different sets of rules this year, depending on whether or not a stadium has instant replay. I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: the decision by the SoCon to let conference schools off the hook for setting up replay until (at least) 2019 was dubious at best.

As soon as the league established this haphazard approach to instant replay, it was inevitable that it would lead to inequities. The Citadel got burned on Saturday because it was one of the two schools that actually did what the league wanted (an outcome that was oh-so-predictable).

If the game had been played in Cullowhee, Cam Jackson’s TD would have counted. Instead, game momentum changed in a major way, and not in The Citadel’s favor.

I bolded a couple of sentences above because I think they are relevant to the decision made on Saturday. Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier was good enough to ask the league a few questions about the replay situation.

Let’s go through a few things from that article…

According to SoCon commissioner Iamarino, the league’s game report said play was stopped for two minutes and 14 seconds from the time the official announced the play was under review until the review was concluded. A review of the ESPN3 broadcast put the time of the replay review at 3:56.

So, according to the commissioner, the game report included something that was demonstrably false, namely the length of time of the review. That really inspires confidence, doesn’t it?

Iamarino did concede that the review was “a bit longer than most.” However, he insisted that “the main objective for having replay in the stadium is getting the call right. The replay official concluded he had indisputable evidence to overturn the call of a touchdown.”

If it had really been indisputable, why did it take so long for the replay official to make the call? There was no real answer for that. (It is also worth noting the official on the field who signaled touchdown was actually in perfect position to make the call, something you can’t always say while watching a SoCon game.)

Other close calls haven’t taken nearly as long to review, or apparently haven’t been reviewed at all. Some of those might have benefited the Bulldogs with a longer look, too (a muffed punt in the Mercer game comes to mind).

That inconsistent use of instant replay is a major problem for the league. Of course, the lack of replay at seven of the nine league stadiums is the bigger issue.

Iamarino said he hopes that “five or six” SoCon schools are replay-ready by next season.

“The vast majority of FCS conferences have gradually had their institutions implement replay,” he said. “The Missouri Valley, CAA, Big South, Patriot League are all examples of conferences that had a staggered adoption of replay. The Southland is the one FCS conference I can think of that has gone all in at once.

“So what we are doing is not unusual at all. I hope we’ll have five or six on board next year and by 2019 all will be compliant.”

Just because other leagues decided to have different sets of rules depending on locale doesn’t mean the Southern Conference should repeat their mistake.

Iamarino “hopes” the league will have “five or six” schools with instant replay next year. That isn’t good enough, in my opinion. It seems to me that based on his statement, there is even a possibility that when 2018 rolls around, Mercer and The Citadel will still be the only schools with instant replay.

Personally, I don’t think The Citadel should cut on its system again until the entire league has instant replay. I know that isn’t going to happen, though.

Instead, we’re going to continue to see games decided in part on whether or not the stadium has instant replay. We’ll probably continue to see games where an overzealous replay official puts his or her stamp on the game in a negative way, too.

A few other items from the game:

– Was it just me, or was the speaker system louder (and thus more painful on the ears) than usual? Maybe it was just me.

– I think playing a home contest after the Homecoming game tends to lead to less attendance for that final matchup at Johnson Hagood Stadium. I suspect a fair amount of people bag the last game of the home schedule in that situation.

Next year, that won’t be an issue (if it actually is an issue), because the Bulldogs’ home finale, which is against Samford, is the Homecoming game.

– I was a little surprised Western Carolina didn’t bring more fans. The Catamounts are having a nice season, and are a relatively entertaining squad to boot. Maybe the home loss to Furman last week led to fewer people making the trip to Charleston.

– I’ll probably mention this next year before the first home game, but on my personal list of things I would like to see more of at Johnson Hagood Stadium: flags.

Yes, we have plenty of flags already. Let’s have even more of them! “Big Red” spirit flags, the D-O-G-S flags, every kind of flag. On the field and in the stands. Big, obnoxious flags, if at all possible.

I must admit this idea was inspired by the Curva Sud when I watched Roma play Udinese in September. I think half of the fans in that section of the Stadio Olimpico were waving giant flags before the game. They waved them after each goal, too, and at the conclusion of the match.

On the other hand, Johnson Hagood Stadium is a tobacco-free facility, and in that respect is definitely superior to Stadio Olimpico…

I’ll have my preview of the Furman game late Thursday night. The last two previews of this season probably won’t be quite as long as my usual production, which won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Here are this week’s pictures. They are not annotated, though they are in order (in terms of game action shots).

2017 Football, Game 9: The Citadel vs. Western Carolina

The Citadel vs. Western Carolina, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on November 4, 2017.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com. Kendall Lewis will handle play-by-play, while former Bulldogs linebacker James Riley supplies the analysis. 

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. 

Mike Legg (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2017 Affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/95.9FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Links of interest:

– Game preview, The Post and Courier

The next two games for The Citadel are fairly important

Aron Spann III was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Month for October

Spann spent most of October intercepting passes and recovering fumbles

– Game notes from The Citadel and Western Carolina

– SoCon weekly release

– Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Western Carolina’s website

– FCS Coaches’ poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked #32 if the poll went that far)

– STATS FCS poll (The Citadel is receiving votes, and would be ranked #35 if the poll went that far)

– Brent Thompson’s 10/31 press conference, including comments from Cam Jackson and Aron Spann III (video)

– Brent Thompson’s 11/1 radio show (video)

– Promo for Western Carolina-The Citadel (video)

Cam Jackson promo for Senior Day (video)

– ESPN3 replay of Furman-Western Carolina (video)

– Game story from Furman-Western Carolina

– My review of last week’s game against VMI

– Link to ESPN3’s streaming coverage of Western Carolina-The Citadel

Non-football links:

The Citadel Basketball 2017-18 “Hype Video”

The Citadel’s 2018 baseball schedule has been released

In my review of the VMI game, I made an error. I make plenty of mistakes as it is, but this one was particularly dumb and needs to be corrected.

The record for most wins over a three-year period is held by the 1990-1991-1992 teams, not the 1959-1960-1961 squads (as I incorrectly stated in my post). Therefore, the current Bulldogs still need one victory to tie the mark for most victories over three consecutive seasons. The current mark is 25 (7 wins in 1990, 7 wins in 1991, and 11 victories in 1992).

Over a four-year period, the record for most wins is 30. That has happened twice, in two overlapping stretches — 1989-1990-1991-1992, and 1990-1991-1992-1993.

As of last week, The Citadel has won 29 games over the last four seasons, with three games left in the 2017 campaign.

The Citadel needs one more victory this year to clinch a winning season. It would be the third straight winning campaign for the Bulldogs. There have been five previous occasions in which The Citadel strung together three consecutive winning seasons:

  • 1923-1924-1925
  • 1924-1925-1926
  • 1959-1960-1961
  • 1979-1980-1981
  • 1990-1991-1992

You may have noticed the first couple of three-year runs above include some duplicate seasons. That is because The Citadel actually had four straight winning seasons from 1923 through 1926, the only time in school history that has happened.

The record for most consecutive non-losing campaigns is five, from 1988 through 1992. Four of those years resulted in winning seasons, while the 1989 team went 5-5-1. The Citadel won 38 games during that period, the most ever by the program over a five-year stretch.

After reviewing the participation reports for the Bulldogs’ games so far this season, I believe that 15 “true” freshmen on the current roster have played in at least one game this season. The list:

  • Jalen Barr
  • Brandon Berry
  • Lane Botkin
  • Aaron Brawley
  • Micah Byrd-Brown
  • Jonathan Cole
  • Willie Eubanks III
  • Sean-Thomas Faulkner
  • Collin Flanders
  • Patrick Ivey
  • Jon Barrett Lewis
  • Keyonte Sessions
  • Matthew Taylor
  • John Wesley Whiteside
  • Wally Wilmore

In addition, two freshmen who have since left the team took part in at least one game for The Citadel.

Of the original list of signees, it appears that eight have not yet seen the field for the Bulldogs this season. Presumably, those eight players are likely candidates to redshirt this season.

Three of the players listed above were not on the signee list from last January — Collin Flanders, Micah Byrd-Brown, and Patrick Ivey.

At his first press conference as The Citadel’s head coach, I remember that Mike Houston discussed a personal desire to field “older teams…guys who have been with us for three or four years.” I assume that Brent Thompson has a similar philosophy, but it may be that some of the turnover on the roster following last season, especially in certain positions, has led to more true freshmen playing than might have been expected – or wanted.

Brent Thompson on what the team’s mindset needs to be in the red zone:

We’ve got to get off the football [line of scrimmage] and we’ve got to be able to grind out three or four yards at a time, no matter what the box looks like…

…maybe we need to come downhill more. Maybe we need to stop tricking them, and doing this and that, and let’s just line up and show them the whites of our eyes and let’s play football.

That’s a good line — “show them the whites of our eyes”. Part of Thompson’s education at Norwich obviously included a study of the battle tactics of William Prescott.

On Friday, six new members of The Citadel’s Athletic Hall of Fame will be honored at the annual dinner (which had to be rescheduled after Hurricane Irma disrupted on-campus events earlier this year).

Reading through the bios of the inductees, I naturally learned a few things I didn’t know before. For one, baseball player Steve Arrington won an unusual triple crown in 1973, as he led all Southern Conference batters in home runs and RBI, and also led the league in strikeouts by a pitcher. You don’t see that combination every day.

Francis “Pete” Grant played both offense and defense for The Citadel’s football team in 1965, the only member of that squad to do so. Given that the restrictions on unlimited substitution had been lifted for good by then, I have to wonder if Grant was the last Bulldog to regularly play both ways.

I did know that during his time at The Citadel, Cliff Washburn was named the SoCon player of the week in both football and basketball, the first person to ever pull off that double. I also knew that Kris Kut could really sling the javelin (three league titles), and now helps current Bulldog athletes throw it even farther than he did.

The two honorary inductees are Gil Kirkman, impresario of The Citadel Sports Network, and Andy Clawson, head athletic trainer for The Citadel. When Clawson was hired by The Citadel, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce.

Yes, Clawson has been around for a while.

As is almost necessary when discussing Western Carolina, the school must be harshly criticized for a decision made long ago that has had a lasting impact.

Back in 1933, the students and administration at the institution chose “Catamounts” as the official nickname for its varsity athletic teams. The runner-up choice was “Mountain Boomers”.

How in the world can you not pick “Mountain Boomers” as your nickname when you have a golden opportunity to do so? What a waste.

From reading between the lines in the school’s official account of how the nickname was chosen, it appears that the football coach at the time, a gentleman named C.C. Poindexter, influenced the final decision.

Poindexter wanted his players to have the “fierce spirit, savage attacks, and lightning quick moves” of a catamount. Alas, his football teams at the school compiled a record of 10-26-2 over four seasons.

I bet they would have won a lot more games as the Mountain Boomers.

As far as this Saturday is concerned, Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir had this to say on the game’s importance to his program:

This is probably our biggest week…maybe since our staff has been here…to decide [if] the culture, the expectations, the standards of this program [have] changed.

…Now that [we’ve] been knocked down and had a disappointing loss, are we a different team this week because we have two losses, as we were last week. Are we going to be a front-running team, or are we going to be a team that’s satisfied and complacent, or is this a football team that has truly made a change — and not necessarily even how the scoreboard comes out. We can…play a whale of a game this Saturday, and lose…because we’re playing a good football team in The Citadel, and we can go play great football and still get beat.

What I’m saying is we’re going to see as a staff, how this team comes [to] practice this week. How are we going to compete this Saturday…this may be our biggest week since we’ve been here. That is the challenge. What is the character of the 2017 Cats…this will say a lot about where we are as a program.

Western Carolina is 6-3 on the season, 4-2 in the SoCon.

  • WCU lost its opener 41-18 at Hawai’i, but actually outgained the Rainbow Warriors
  • The Catamounts then dismantled Davidson 63-17; WCU had 778 yards of total offense in the contest
  • Western Carolina won the next week at Gardner-Webb, 42-27; Detrez Newsome’s 146 yards lifted his career rushing yards total to over 3,000
  • WCU opened SoCon play with a big home win over Samford, 38-34 (incidentally, the game took 4 hours and 10 minutes to play)
  • At Chattanooga, the Catamounts bashed the Mocs 45-7
  • Western Carolina lost a tough game in OT at Wofford, 35-28 (a game marred by shaky officiating in the extra session)
  • In a 49-10 victory, WCU took care of business in the second half against East Tennessee State, scoring 21 points in both the third and fourth quarters
  • The Catamounts got past a stubborn VMI in Lexington, 26-7
  • Last week, Furman beat WCU in a rainstorm in Cullowhee, 28-6

Statistics of interest for Western Carolina through nine games:

WCU Opponents
Points per game 35.0 22.9
Rushing yardage 2239 1765
Average per rush 5.4 4.6
Average per game 248.8 196.1
TDs rushing 22 14
Passing yardage 1851 1504
Comp-Att-Int 144-243-8 129-265-10
Average per pass 7.6 5.7
TDs passing 16 11
Total offense 4090 3269
Total plays 659 647
Yards per play 6.2 5.1
Kick returns-yards 28-541 49-827
Punt returns-yards 20-135 13-94
Fumbles/lost 11/6 9/7
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 7.3/69.6 6.9/62.1
Net punt average 40.1 35.8
Time of possession/game 27:49 32:11
3rd down conversions 50/121 50/142
3rd down conversion rate 41.3% 35.2%
Sacks by-yards 19-135 22-129
Field goals-attempts 7-14 8-9
Red Zone touchdown rate (23-34) 67.6% (19-32) 59.4%
  • Western Carolina is 7th nationally in rushing offense, but 97th in rushing defense
  • WCU’s offense is 11th in yards per rush, while its defense is 89th in yards per rush allowed
  • The Catamounts are 31st in offensive third down conversion rate, and 42nd on defensive third down conversion rate
  • WCU is 19th in FCS in scoring offense, and 41st in scoring defense
  • Western Carolina is 34th in offensive pass efficiency, and 6th in defensive pass efficiency
  • The Catamounts have excellent special teams numbers, including 4th nationally in net punting and 8th in kick return defense
  • With three defensive TDs, Western Carolina ranks 12th-best in that category
  • WCU is one of the league’s more penalized teams, and ranks 49th in most penalties per game nationally

Key stats for The Citadel through eight games:

The Citadel Opponents
Points per game 24.4 17.8
Rushing yardage 2573 855
Average per rush 5.3 3.5
Average per game 321.6 106.9
TDs rushing 20 12
Passing yardage 705 1454
Comp-Att-Int 41-104-3 128-215-11
Average per pass 6.8 6.8
TDs passing 6 7
Total offense 3278 2309
Total plays 590 456
Yards per play 5.6 5.1
Kick returns-yards 15-281 18-441
Punt returns-yards 15-118 8-55
Fumbles/lost 16/5 9/5
Avg penalties/penalty yards per game 4.6/42.0 2.9/28.4
Net punt average 36.1 36.2
Time of possession/game 34:26 25:33
3rd down conversions 57/126 29/89
3rd down conversion rate 45.2% 32.6%
Sacks by-yards 16-87 5-33
Field goals-attempts 4-12 3-5
Red Zone touchdown rate (19/34) 55.9% (12/18) 66.7%
  • The Citadel is 14th in FCS in offensive third down conversion rate, and 18th in defensive third down conversion rate
  • The Bulldogs are 2nd in rushing offense (behind only Kennesaw State), and 19th in rushing defense (which leads the SoCon)
  • The Citadel is 14th nationally in yards per rush and 36th in yards per rush allowed
  • Offensively, the Bulldogs are 48th in yards per play; on defense, The Citadel is 39th in yards per play allowed
  • The Citadel is 2nd in FCS in time of possession (McNeese State leads in that category)
  • The Bulldogs are 67th in scoring offense and 14th in scoring defense
  • The Citadel has committed the 11th-fewest penalties per game in FCS

When it comes to individual performers, much of the focus this week for the game at Johnson Hagood Stadium has been on one player, Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams.

Adams (6’2″, 180 lbs.), a dynamic dual-threat QB, was injured last week in the Catamounts’ loss to Furman. The redshirt sophomore from St. Petersburg was sacked early in the second quarter and appeared to suffer a lower leg injury (on the ESPN3 broadcast, the play occurs at the 57:10 mark).

Despite what looked to be a potentially serious injury, Adams is still listed as the starter on the WCU two-deep. There are other indications that he may in fact play on Saturday. Brent Thompson stated during his radio show that the Bulldogs would certainly prepare for the game with the assumption that Adams would start.

If Adams does not play, Ray Smith (6’1″, 190 lbs.) will likely start. Smith, a redshirt junior who began his college career at East Carolina, entered the game against Furman after Adams went out.

Adams’ status is one thing, but Western Carolina has another impact player in the backfield, preseason all-SoCon selection Detrez Newsome (5’10”, 210 lbs.). Over the last decade, Newsome is the only Catamount running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season — and the native of Raeford, North Carolina has done so each of the last two years.

Despite missing three games this season, Newsome still has a chance at another 1,000-yard campaign, as the senior has amassed 736 yards in just six contests. Newsome is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

Newsome is also a threat as a kick returner, and leads the Catamounts in returns. However, he is not listed in that role on this week’s two-deep.

Western Carolina’s all-time leading receiver is redshirt senior Terryon Robinson (5’11”, 190 lbs.). The preseason all-league pick has 45 receptions this season, averaging 15 yards per catch, and has seven TD receptions.

In the 2014 game between WCU and The Citadel, Robinson caught 10 passes for 183 yards.

The average size of Western Carolina’s projected starters on the offensive line: 6’4″, 298 lbs. The tallest and heaviest member of that group is Nathan Dalton (6’7″, 315 lbs.). The redshirt junior from East Flat Rock, North Carolina was a preseason second-team all-conference choice.

Outside linebacker Tahjai Watt (6’5″, 215 lbs.) leads the Catamounts in tackles for loss (8) and sacks (6). The redshirt senior from Charlotte had only one career start before this season, but is clearly making the most of his final collegiate campaign.

The leading tackler for Western Carolina to this point in the season has been safety Marvin Tillman (6’1″, 195 lbs.). The native of Durham has 77 stops, and also shares the team lead in interceptions with three.

Keion Crossen (5’10”, 180 lbs.) was a preseason second-team All-SoCon pick. The senior cornerback is also a track star, as he won the league title in the 100-meter dash last year.

Redshirt junior Ian Berryman (6’0″, 205 lbs.) is one of the nation’s best punters. This season, Berryman has boomed 14 of his 44 punts for 50 yards or more, and has landed 20 of them inside the 20-yard line.

Berryman has also kicked off at times for Western Carolina, and is one of four different Catamounts to attempt field goals this season. Joshua Gibson (5’8″, 163 lbs.), the listed starter at the position, is 4 for 5 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 43 yards.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with an expected high of 78 degrees. The low on Saturday night will be 61 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, Western Carolina is a 1 1/2 point favorite over The Citadel. The over/under is 50 1/2.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: Mercer is a 2-point favorite over Samford; Wofford is a 12-point favorite over Chattanooga; and East Tennessee State is a 17 1/2 point favorite over VMI. Furman is off this week.

Around the Palmetto State, Clemson is a 7 1/2 point favorite at North Carolina State; South Carolina is a 24 1/2 point underdog at Georgia; Coastal Carolina is a 23 1/2 point underdog at Arkansas; Presbyterian is 17 1/2 point underdog at Monmouth; and Charleston Southern (ravenous for a league win) is a 10 1/2 point favorite at Gardner-Webb. South Carolina State is off this week.

– Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 47th in FCS (out of 124 teams), a drop of one spot from last week.

Western Carolina is ranked 35th in FCS, falling three places from last week. Overall (all college teams ranked), The Citadel is 197th, while Western Carolina is 177th.

Massey projects a final score of Western Carolina 26, The Citadel 24. The Bulldogs are given a 47% chance of winning.

Other FCS rankings in Massey of note: Furman is 16th (up seven places), Wofford is 21st (unchanged from last week), Samford is 31st (down nine spots), Mercer is 34th (up six spots), Charleston Southern is 49th, Chattanooga is 66th (up nine spots), East Tennessee State is 72nd (down five places), Presbyterian is 88th, South Carolina State is 100th, and VMI is 115th (down one spot).

The FCS top five in Massey’s rankings, in order: North Dakota State, James Madison, South Dakota, South Dakota State, and Northern Iowa.

– Since 1911, The Citadel has an ominously poor 4-11 record in games played on November 4.

The last time the Bulldogs won a game on that date, it was in 1989 against Samford. The Citadel won 35-16 in the first home game played at Johnson Hagood Stadium after Hurricane Hugo.

The Citadel’s offense only attempted two passes during that contest, completing one (the QB in question was Speizio Stowers). While starting QB Jack Douglas did not complete a pass in the game, he did rush for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Douglas, Tom Frooman, and Raymond Mazyck combined for 310 yards and five TDs (three by Frooman). Alfred Williams added 55 yards to a potent ground attack.

That 1989 game is The Citadel’s only November 4 home victory in the modern history of Johnson Hagood Stadium. Indeed, the Bulldogs have only won twice on that date since World War II, once at home and once on the road.

The November 4 road triumph was a big one, though. It was the 14-8 victory at VMI in 1961 that clinched The Citadel’s first Southern Conference title. Bill Whaley’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Henry Mura with 2:29 to play proved to be the difference. Earlier in the game, Whaley had scored from one yard out on a quarterback sneak.

You can watch video highlights of that 1961 contest on YouTube. The game-winning TD pass comes at the 1:36 mark of the clip. I’m not completely sure, but I believe Mura’s catch was his only career TD reception. He picked a great time for it.

– The Citadel’s two-deep for the Western Carolina game includes no changes on offense or defense, the fourth consecutive week that has been the case. On special teams, there are now no listed backups at placekicker or punter.

It should be noted that there will be one new starter on defense this Saturday, regardless of the depth chart listing, as Ben Roberts will be suspended for the first half after being called for targeting in the second half of the VMI game.

– Jacob Godek has had touchbacks on 19 of his 37 kickoffs this season. As a result, The Citadel’s touchback rate of 51.4% ranks 11th-best in FCS.

– Among Western Carolina’s notable graduates are comedian Rich Hall, former NFL referee/current ESPN officiating consultant Gerry Austin, and actor Sean Bridgers.

– The roster for Western Carolina (per its website) includes 58 players from the State of North Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (22 players), South Carolina (8), Tennessee (4), Florida (4), and one each from Alabama, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, and Virginia.

The eight Catamounts from the Palmetto State attended the following high schools: Blythewood (two), Spartanburg (two), T.L. Hanna (two), St. Joseph’s, and Rock Hill. Surprisingly, none of WCU’s South Carolina-based players attended historic gridiron superpower Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. Ronnie Carr would be very disappointed.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47 players), Georgia (29), Florida (6), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), Texas (4), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (2), New York (2), and one each from Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Saturday’s game will mark the end of The Citadel’s home slate. Will the final game of the season at Johnson Hagood Stadium provide a happy result for the home fans?

It’s possible, but there is a surprising amount of opaqueness when it comes to this matchup, despite the fact we are now in the month of November. I don’t have a very good read on what might happen. (Of course, that is arguably the case for every game.)

At any rate, there is quite a lot riding on this contest for the Bulldogs. That includes a possible winning season and a chance to make a late-season playoff push.

It’s time to start the stretch run of the 2017 season.

Game Review, 2017: VMI

Links of interest:

– Game story, The Post and Courier

– “Notes” section, The Post and Courier

– “By the numbers”, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

– Video from WCSC-TV, including postgame comments from Dominique Allen

– Video from WCIV-TV

– AP game story

– School release (The Citadel)

– School release (VMI)

– Extended box score

Game highlights, including postgame comments from Brent Thompson, Brandon Rainey, and Dominique Allen (video)

– ESPN3 replay of the game

The greatest trophy in all of sports, the coveted Silver Shako, will remain in Charleston for at least one more year. With any luck, the most lustrous of laurels shall continue to reside in the Holy City for many years to come.

Odds and ends:

– Saturday’s game had a lot of similarities with the last matchup between the two teams at Johnson Hagood Stadium:

  • The Citadel won the toss and deferred in 2015 and 2017; VMI defended the north end zone to open the game both times
  • Cam Jackson scored on the Bulldogs’ third play from scrimmage in 2015; Grant Drakeford scored on the Bulldogs’ third play from scrimmage in 2017
  • The Citadel held VMI’s offense to 87 rushing yards in 2015 and 72 rushing yards in 2017
  • VMI had 212 yards of total offense in 2015 and 219 yards of total offense in 2017
  • VMI threw 36 passes in both games
  • The Keydets punted 7 times in 2015 and 6 times in 2017 (and would have punted 7 times on Saturday, but a punt snap got mishandled)
  • In 2015, The Citadel ran 71 plays from scrimmage, VMI 70; in 2017, both teams ran 68 plays from scrimmage
  • The Citadel was 0 for 5 scoring TDs on red zone opportunities in 2015; the Bulldogs were 1 for 5 in 2017

When it came to the red zone, the difference between the game on Saturday and the 2015 contest was that in the latter game, the Bulldogs converted on all of their field goal attempts.

– Speaking of the red zone:

“There were a couple of times we got inside the red zone and shot ourselves in the foot,” said [Brent] Thompson, whose team totaled 407 rushing yards against VMI (0-9, 0-8) and 405 in last week’s 20-14 win at Chattanooga. “We had some opportunities to put the ball in the end zone, and that’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all season. And that’s something we are usually pretty good at.”

The Bulldogs’ red zone TD rate for the season is 55.9%, which is actually slightly better than last season (52.1%). However, in SoCon play The Citadel’s red zone TD rate is only 45.8%.

– I was a little surprised that Brent Thompson elected to try another field goal late in the game. From a “game theory” point of view, I probably would have gone for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal, even from the six-yard line.

If the Bulldogs punch in the TD in that spot, they go up by three scores and completely ice the game. A successful field goal wouldn’t have altered the two-vs.-three score dynamic.

Also, if The Citadel didn’t make it, VMI probably would have wound up with the ball around or inside its own 5-yard line. The odds of the Keydets marching 95+ yards down the field (just to get within one score) were not good.

However, game theory aside, there is also something to be said for sending a message to your kicker, which in effect was this: “You’re struggling, but you’re still our kicker, and we are still counting on you and have confidence in you.”

Thompson also might have decided that whether or not the Bulldogs could go up two/three scores was irrelevant, because his defense wasn’t going to give up any more points anyway. If that was in fact his thought process, it was a very reasonable assumption.

– Brandon Rainey and Lorenzo Ward combined for 25 carries from the B-back position. Between them, they averaged 8.2 yards per carry. That will work.

From the quarterback position, Dominique Allen and Jordan Black combined to tote the football 20 times for 93 yards. The A-backs had 11 carries for 113 yards.

– Even though he was only 1 for 8 passing, I thought Dominique Allen threw the football fairly well. VMI made a couple of good defensive plays, and Bulldog receivers could have (and perhaps should have) caught at least two other pass attempts.

– VMI entered the game committing fewer penalties per game than any other FCS team, and didn’t hurt its reputation on that front against The Citadel. The Keydets were only whistled for one infraction all afternoon.

– It was good to see members of the VMI band make the trip. As usual, the Keydets brought a decent number of fans to Charleston. Considering the geographic distance, school size, and the program’s record over the last few decades, the fact that VMI often meets or exceeds other SoCon opponents in terms of “traveling” is very impressive.

– I have a suggestion: no matter where The Military Classic of the South is played, Charleston or Lexington, each team should wear a solid-colored jersey. In other words, it should be color-on-color, with The Citadel wearing light blue jerseys and VMI sporting red tops.

I think it would look great. The schools’ colors are not dissimilar to those for UCLA and Southern California, which have had well-received color-on-color matchups the last few years.

It is likely such a move would require league approval, but I don’t see why the SoCon would have any issues with it.

– I enjoyed the “Meet The Bulldogs” event for the basketball team held on the plaza at Johnson Hagood Stadium prior to the football game.

Along with the players, the cheerleaders and Spike the Bulldog showed up for the festivities. A bunch of kids had a good time, and it appeared that the players did as well.

I have no idea what kind of getup Spike was wearing, though…

– It was fun to watch all the reunion classes “march” into the stadium before the game. I was impressed to see several graduates of the Class of 1952 on the field, armed with a giant flag and a sign that read ‘1952’.

– The ceremony after the game is nice, but the P.A. announcing got a little bit behind the action. That caused some confusion (and also led to the start of The Citadel Alma Mater being drowned out).

– After the presentation, the colors were lowered. Those in the stadium (and on the field) stood silently as the flag was removed from the pole. In fact, it was so quiet that you could hear the cranking as the flag was lowered.

In a way, I was appreciative of the fact you could hear the crank. On the other hand, it may be time to break out the WD-40.

– During the postgame press conference, the assembled media learned that Dominique Allen has a “small budget”. Much hilarity ensued.

(Check out his postgame interview session on the second of the two WCSC-TV links listed above for context.)

– With the victory on Saturday, The Citadel has won 24 games over the past three seasons. The Bulldogs won 9 games in 2015, 10 games in 2016, and 5 games (so far) in 2017.

That total of 24 wins is one short of the record for victories over a three-year period. The Citadel won 25 games in the 1990-1991-1992 seasons.

I took quite a few photos this week, including a few related to some of the activities surrounding Homecoming. Some of the pictures are actually half-decent.

 

College Football 2017, Week #4: 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 somewhat byzantine and truly murky formula to produce game ratings; it is called “Tingle Factor”, or TF. The higher the TF, the better.

On the surface, this week does not have a great slate of games, but sometimes the craziest weeks are the ones that on first look seem less than stellar.

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 4. All of them are being played on Saturday, as has been the case for the last three weeks. There haven’t really been that many intriguing Thursday and Friday night games so far this season, though the Utah-Arizona game on Friday night could be worth watching.

Road Team Home Team Gametime (ET) TV/Streaming TF
Mississippi State Georgia 9/16, 7:00 pm ESPN 81.2
TCU Oklahoma State 9/16, 3:30 pm ESPN 80.1
UCF Maryland 9/16, 3:00 pm FS1/FS-Go 79.8
Texas Tech Houston 9/16, 12:00 pm ABC or ESPN2 79.6
Washington Colorado 9/16, 10:00 pm FS1/FS-Go 75.0
Wake Forest Appalachian State 9/16, 3:30 pm ESPN3 73.8
Samford Western Carolina 9/16, 3:30 pm ESPN3 73.1
Toledo Miami (FL) 9/16, 3:30 pm ACC Regional Nets 71.8
Notre Dame Michigan State 9/16, 8:00 pm FOX/FS-Go 69.8
Duke North Carolina 9/16, 3:30 pm ESPNU 69.3
N.C. State Florida State 9/16, 12:00 pm ABC or ESPN2 69.1
Michigan Purdue 9/16, 4:00 pm FOX/FS-Go 67.3
Arkansas State SMU 9/16, 7:00 pm ESPN3 66.1
Florida Kentucky 9/16, 7:30 pm SEC Network 64.8
Cincinnati Navy 9/16, 3:30 pm CBS Sports Network 63.1

 

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.

– The first five games on the list feature matchups between undefeated teams — including UCF, which has only played one game to this point in the season.

– Miami (FL) has also played only one game this year to date, and will host a Toledo squad that is averaging 46 points per game.

– This week, one FCS game sneaks into the top 15, and it’s a surprising one, a matchup between two offensive-minded teams in Samford and Western Carolina. The over/under is 74 for this Southern Conference clash.

– Other games in the top 15 that the oddsmakers think could be high-scoring include UCF-Maryland (over/under of 67), Texas Tech-Houston (71), Arkansas State-SMU (73), and TCU-Oklahoma State (68.5).

– Against Rice, Houston had a 22.5-yard edge in average field position for the game, the biggest advantage in that category for all of last week’s FBS matchups.

– Even though Georgia and Mississippi State were both charter members of the SEC (founded in 1932), there have only been 23 football games between the two schools. UGA leads the all-time series 17-6.

– After Saturday, there are no more scheduled meetings between Notre Dame and Michigan State until at least 2026. The two programs have met on the gridiron 78 times since 1897.

– This is the first time Duke and North Carolina have ever played each other in football in the month of September. The earliest date the schools had faced each other before this season was October 10 (a game played in 1925).

Other than an October 20 meeting in 2012, 77 of the previous 78 meetings had occurred in November.

– Saturday’s Cincinnati-Navy game is the first gridiron meeting between those two schools since 1956. They will meet more often in the future, now that both are football members of the American Athletic Conference.

In the last ten years, Navy has an overall record of 79-41. Cincinnati has an overall record of 78-41.

– Not part of the TF rating, but definitely part of the story: Kentucky is trying to end a 30-game losing streak against Florida.

It should be another great week. Saturday is just around the corner!

During the 2017 season, which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

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

A quick glance at the 2017 SoCon non-conference football slate

– Inside the Numbers: The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and various per-play statistics, along with the highly anticipated coin-toss data

– A look at “advanced statistics” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign

– Preseason rankings and ratings

– The Citadel’s fans aren’t afraid to travel

For the fifth consecutive season, it’s time to take a look at this all-important topic. In this post, I’ll list which teams The Citadel’s opponents face before and after playing the Bulldogs, along with other items of interest (in terms of schedule “flow”).

I’ll also throw in a few odds and ends just for fun.

We start with the opener.

September 2: The Citadel opens at home against Newberry. The last time the Bulldogs played the Wolves (in 1997), they weren’t actually the Wolves — they were the Indians.

The only previous time these two programs met on September 2 was in 1995. The Bulldogs escaped that day with a 21-20 victory.

Newberry finished last season with a 35-33 loss at home to Tuskegee in the 2016 D-2 playoffs. That came after 10 consecutive wins for the Wolves, which finished with a 10-2 record.

After playing The Citadel, Newberry goes on the road again the following week, facing fellow D-2 squad Virginia Union.

September 9: Presbyterian comes to Charleston to play The Citadel. When the Blue Hose last squared off against the Bulldogs, in 2010, The Citadel prevailed 26-14.

The only other game in the series played on September 9 came in 1978, a 28-17 victory for the Bulldogs. It was Art Baker’s first game as head coach of The Citadel; 17,840 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium watched PC take a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored two unanswered touchdowns to make Baker a winner in his debut.

Presbyterian opens this season on Thursday night at Wake Forest, thus getting two extra days of preparation for the game against the Bulldogs. After the Blue Hose’s matchup with The Citadel, PC plays its first home game of the season, versus Campbell.

September 16: The Citadel’s first road contest of the 2017 season comes at East Tennessee State. It will be the second game played at ETSU’s new football stadium. The Buccaneers’ first game at their new home will be against Limestone in the season opener.

After playing the Saints, East Tennessee State goes on the road to play defending national champion James Madison. Following the Buccaneers’ game versus The Citadel, ETSU stays in Johnson City to play Mercer.

September 23: The Citadel is off this week. It’s a good time to take a vacation. At least, I think it’s a good time to take a vacation…

September 30: The Bulldogs go on the road to tangle with another bunch of Bulldogs, the group from Samford. In the series between the two schools, this will be the first game played in September.

SU itself must make travel plans in the two weeks prior to its game against The Citadel, as Samford faces Georgia in Athens and then Western Carolina in Cullowhee.

Samford then packs its bags for the longest trip in conference action, Birmingham to Lexington, Virginia (and a 1:30 pm ET kickoff). Two weeks, two games against military colleges.

October 7: It will be Parents’ Day at The Citadel, and the Bulldogs are hosting Mercer. Samford and Mercer will trade opponents, as the Bears play VMI in Macon the week before travelling to Charleston.

Incidentally, Mercer had the same scheduling setup with the two military schools in 2015. That year, the Bears lost 28-21 at home to VMI, and then fell 21-19 to The Citadel in Charleston.

October 14: The Bulldogs play Wofford at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Terriers open the season with two SoCon games (against Furman and Mercer), and then have a bye week before non-conference matchups against Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian.

Wofford hosts Western Carolina the week before playing The Citadel. The following week, the Terriers face Samford in Spartanburg, which is also Wofford’s Homecoming game.

October 21: The Citadel travels to Chattanooga for a matchup with the Mocs. It will be Military Appreciation Day at Finley Stadium.

The game against the Bulldogs is the second of a very difficult five-game stretch for UTC. After a home game against Furman, Chattanooga is at Mercer the week before playing The Citadel; the following two weeks are road games against Samford and Wofford.

Chattanooga gets a late-season bye week after playing the Terriers, which may come too late for UTC (though it conceivably could be well-timed, if the Mocs get through that four-game gauntlet unscathed).

October 28: This year, Homecoming comes in October for The Citadel, in a game against VMI. It is the earliest in the season the two teams have battled for the coveted Silver Shako since 1991, when the Bulldogs beat the Keydets 17-14 in the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk, Virginia. That contest was played on October 26.

VMI does not have a bye week in 2017. The Keydets play 11 consecutive games and end their season on November 11, at home versus Wofford. The week before that (and the week after playing The Citadel), the Keydets play East Tennessee State in Johnson City.

Prior to its game against the Bulldogs, VMI hosts Western Carolina.

November 4: Speaking of the Catamounts, WCU is The Citadel’s final regular-season home game opponent of the season. Western Carolina will play back-to-back games against Palmetto State schools, hosting Furman in Cullowhee the week before its game versus the Bulldogs.

Western Carolina is back in the mountains on November 11, playing Mercer.

November 11: The Citadel travels to Greenville to play Furman. The two programs have played on this date once before, in 1972, a matchup also hosted by the Paladins. The Citadel won that game 19-13, behind two touchdown runs by Harry Lynch and 102 yards rushing from Bob Carson (which included a 58-yard TD run). It was the final game at Sirrine Stadium for longtime Furman head coach Bob King.

The Paladins have a bye week before playing The Citadel this season, the only team on the Bulldogs’ schedule to have that benefit (not counting Presbyterian’s two-day head start after playing Wake Forest). Furman’s last regular-season game is at Samford.

November 18: The Bulldogs’ eleventh game of the campaign is against Clemson, the third straight year The Citadel will end the regular season against a Power-5 conference opponent. It will be Military Appreciation Day in Clemson (as was the case when the two programs met in 2013).

The Tigers face Florida State in Death Valley the week before hosting The Citadel. Clemson then travels to Columbia for its traditional season finale versus South Carolina.

A quick note on “option preview” situations in 2017:

  • Furman, Mercer, and Western Carolina all play Wofford before facing The Citadel, while the other league teams play the Terriers before taking on the Bulldogs.
  • Samford opens its season on Thursday night against another triple option team, Kennesaw State.
  • Clemson plays Georgia Tech on October 28 (and has a bye week before that game to prepare for Paul Johnson’s offense).

Just a few more weeks to go…

A quick glance at the 2017 SoCon non-conference football slate

Some other links related to the upcoming season for The Citadel:

Inside the Numbers: The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and various per-play statistics, along with the highly anticipated coin-toss data

A look at “advanced statistics” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign

Preseason rankings and ratings

The Citadel’s fans aren’t afraid to travel

This year, the SoCon cohort will have its usual share of games against major conference teams, along with several intriguing matchups with FCS squads in other leagues. While there are four games against Division II schools, at least two of those D-2 teams (possibly three) are of playoff caliber in that division.

That said, I think contests against non-D1 teams should be avoided by SoCon schools (the same is true for basketball). I realize that putting together a schedule can be a challenge, but from a playoff perspective, it’s important for league teams to have as many opportunities as possible to accumulate victories against D-1 opposition. From that standpoint, playing an FBS team and a D-2 squad in the same season is less than ideal.

Every SoCon team will play three non-league games, with the exception of Western Carolina. The Catamounts have four matchups against out-of-conference opponents, because one of those four games is at Hawai’i. Thus, with the “Hawai’i Exemption” in effect, WCU is playing a 12-game regular-season schedule.

East Tennessee State is the only conference team that will not face at least one FBS opponent. The Buccaneers are only in their third year since re-starting their football program. However, ETSU will play at Tennessee in 2018.

Of the eight schools that are playing FBS squads, seven of them have matchups with teams from Power-5 conferences. The only one that doesn’t is VMI, which has Air Force as its FBS opponent.

Which SoCon outfit has the toughest non-conference schedule? That’s an easy question to answer — it’s Mercer. The Bears tangle with two SEC teams this season.

Around the league:

– Chattanooga:

The Mocs open the season in “Week 0” with a nominally neutral-site matchup in Alabama against OVC kingpin Jacksonville State, with the contest billed as the “Montgomery Kickoff Classic” and televised on ESPN. Chattanooga has lost four games to JSU since 2012; all were close, with two going to OT (including a playoff meeting in 2015).

UTC plays all three of its non-league opponents in the first four weeks of the season. After the Jacksonville State game, Chattanooga has a week off before facing LSU in Baton Rouge. The Mocs then host UT Martin, which won 7 games last season and has finished in the top 3 of the OVC in each of the last five seasons.

– Mercer:

Uh, yikes. After a Thursday night home opener versus Jacksonville that shouldn’t be too treacherous, the Bears will travel to Auburn (September 16) and Alabama (November 18). Good luck with that.

An argument could be made that Mercer has the toughest non-conference schedule in all of FCS. There are arguably three other contenders for that “honor”: Northern Colorado (which plays at Florida and at Colorado), Delaware State (at West Virginia, at Florida State) and Alabama A&M (the only FCS squad to play three FBS opponents this year).

My vote goes to Delaware State, in part because the Hornets were winless last season. Kenny Carter has a tough row to hoe in Dover.

– Samford:

This may be one of the trickier out-of-conference slates in the SoCon, at least in terms of being more difficult than it appears on the surface.

Samford opens the season at home on Thursday night versus Kennesaw State, which you may recall beat Furman last year (though KSU also lost to ETSU in 2016). I think Kennesaw State may be a “sleeper” team this season in the Big South. At least one preseason publication ranked the Owls in its Top 25.

The Birmingham Bulldogs keep the home-on-Thursday thing going in Week 2, playing a weeknight contest against Division II West Alabama. The Tigers are a solid D-2 program, having averaged almost 7 1/2 wins per season since 2009.

Like UTC, Samford wraps up its non-conference campaign early, as SU goes between the hedges to play Georgia on September 16.

– Western Carolina:

As mentioned above, the Catamounts are playing four non-league teams this year as part of a 12-game slate. The game at Hawai’i is the season opener.

WCU’s other three out-of-conference opponents are all from the state of North Carolina. Western Carolina hosts Davidson on September 9, and then travels to Boiling Springs (the N.C. version) to face Gardner-Webb the following week.

The Catamounts conclude regular-season play with a game in Chapel Hill against North Carolina on November 18, the first football game ever between those two programs.

– VMI:

The Keydets’ meeting with Air Force (September 2) is the first of its kind on the gridiron between those two military schools.

VMI returns to the post the following week to play D-2 Catawba, which went 5-6 last year but was 9-3 the season before. That 2015 campaign for Catawba included a two-touchdown victory over Davidson, the last time the Indians faced a D-1 opponent.

On September 16, VMI travels to Moon Township, PA, to play Robert Morris. The Keydets are one of two Southern Conference teams to have scheduled the Colonials this season; those are the only two NEC-SoCon meetings this year.

RMU was 2-9 last season, with one of the losses coming to another Virginia squad, Liberty (41-7). VMI and Robert Morris last played in 2013, a 37-31 2OT victory for the Colonials in Lexington.

– The Citadel:

The Bulldogs open with two home games against familiar non-conference opposition. The Citadel has played Newberry and Presbyterian a combined 102 times in its football history.

Newberry was 10-2 last year, and made the D-2 playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Wolves have played two D-1 schools in the last three years (Jacksonville and Charleston Southern), losing the two games by a total of nine points.

Presbyterian was 2-9 last season, with just one win in Big South action (versus Monmouth). PC opens at Wake Forest on Thursday night before travelling to Charleston to face the Bulldogs for the first time since 2010.

The Citadel ends the regular season with a game at Clemson, which has been a fairly decent FBS program over the past couple of years.

– East Tennessee State:

ETSU opens at home against Limestone, a Division II school entering its fourth year of playing varsity football. The Saints were 5-6 last season. Limestone’s only D-1 opponent to date was a home game against Jacksonville in 2014; the Dolphins won 61-10.

The Bucs then play the defending national champion, James Madison. That game will take place in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

East Tennessee State closes out its non-conference action with a home game versus Robert Morris, three weeks after the Colonials host VMI.

– Furman:

The Paladins open the season with a conference game, travelling to Spartanburg to face Wofford. Furman’s first non-league opponent is actually a former conference foe, as Elon will be in Greenville on September 9.

The following Saturday, Furman will play North Carolina State in Raleigh. FU leads the all-time series between the two programs, 8-4-4. The two teams last met in 1985, a 42-20 Furman victory. In related news, N.C. State hired then-Paladins head coach Dick Sheridan after that season.

Furman’s next game will be in Hamilton, New York, as Colgate will host the Paladins. It’s a relatively unusual Patriot League-Southern Conference gridiron battle. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more meetings between teams in those leagues.

– Wofford:

As noted above, Wofford will open at home against Furman in a SoCon matchup. In fact, Wofford’s first two games are in conference play (the second is at Mercer), and then the Terriers have a bye week.

Wofford’s initial non-conference game of the season isn’t until September 23, when it faces Gardner-Webb in Spartanburg. The following Saturday, the Terriers make the short trip down the road to Clinton to play Presbyterian.

On November 18, Wofford will play its last regular-season game of the year at South Carolina, the third consecutive year the Gamecocks have hosted a SoCon team the week before South Carolina plays Clemson. Last year, the Gamecocks beat Western Carolina 44-31; in 2015, The Citadel defeated South Carolina 23-22.

As a whole, the SoCon’s non-league schedule compares favorably to other conferences in FCS.

Only the Big Sky has more matchups against Power-5 conference teams than the SoCon (11* to 8), and the western league has 4 more teams in its conference for football. All 13 of those Big Sky teams will play at least one FBS team this year, however, with three of the schools facing two FBS opponents.

*I’m counting BYU as a “Power-5” program.

Several of the Big Sky teams expected to contend for the league title are playing opponents from the Pac-12, including Weber State (California), North Dakota (Utah), and Northern Arizona (Arizona). I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those teams pulls an upset (Weber State having the best shot, in my opinion).

Another Big Sky power, Eastern Washington, plays at Texas Tech in its season opener. I hope there is enough electrical power available in Lubbock to run the scoreboard for that one.

EWU also has non-conference games against North Dakota State and Fordham, the latter on the road in the Bronx.

While teams in the CAA have a combined total of 12 meetings with FBS squads this season, only three of those are against Power-5 teams (Towson-Maryland, Delaware-Virginia Tech, and William & Mary-Virginia).

James Madison has to like its chances against an East Carolina team that was defensively challenged last season. In fact, one offshore site currently lists the Dukes as a 4 1/2 point favorite.

Maine is playing two FBS teams. One of the games, versus Massachusetts, will be at Fenway Park (box seats above the 30-yard line can be yours for just $99 each).

The MEAC has six games against Power-5 squads (including the aforementioned two for Delaware State), the OVC has five (one of which is Jacksonville State-Georgia Tech), the MVFC has four, the Big South has two (not counting Liberty’s game at Baylor), and the Southland and SWAC also have two. The NEC has one (Central Connecticut State-Syracuse).

While it doesn’t feature any games against Power-5 opposition, the Patriot League does have three games against FBS teams (Colgate-Buffalo, Fordham-Army, Holy Cross-Connecticut).

Incidentally, I’m a fan of the non-conference schedule Colgate put together this year — games against Furman and Cal Poly (the latter on the road), and then stepping outside the division to play a MAC school. Well done, Raiders. Rob Stone must be very proud.

None of the Ivies will play an FBS team this season, and the same is true for the teams in the Pioneer League.

Of the teams ranked in the Street & Smith’s preseason Top 25, only eight are not playing at least one FBS opponent this season. Those eight squads include three MVFC teams (North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Illinois State); two Southland outfits (preseason #1 Sam Houston State and McNeese State); CAA power Richmond; Patriot League favorite Lehigh; and defending Pioneer League champ San Diego.

It should be pointed out that at least in the case of North Dakota State, the absence of an FBS team on the schedule certainly isn’t about an unwillingness to play teams in the bowl subdivision; rather, it more likely reflects the fact that fewer and fewer FBS programs are interested in playing NDSU.

In addition, two of the eight teams play each other this season. Sam Houston State hosts Richmond on Sunday, August 27, an attractive matchup that will be televised on ESPNU. It will also be the sideline debut for new Richmond coach (and former UTC boss) Russ Huesman.

On September 9, South Dakota State travels to Montana State in an MVFC-Big Sky intersectional affair. Another non-conference matchup featuring teams from those two conferences is Illinois State-Northern Arizona, which kicks off in Flagstaff on October 7.

Lehigh hosts Villanova in what could be the Mountain Hawks’ toughest non-conference test. It is also the season opener for both teams. Lehigh also has a potentially difficult game against Penn; like the Villanova contest, it will be played at Goodman Stadium.

San Diego’s non-conference slate includes a long road trip to Princeton. The Tigers are expected to compete with Penn and Harvard for the Ivy League title this season, after sharing the crown with the Quakers last year.

We are now less than two months away from the start of football season for almost every FBS and FCS team (Ivy League excepted). Can’t wait…