Let the Party Begin

Yes! College football is back. This is like Christmas morning for some.

About five years ago I went to my first college football game as a student. The result was the nerdy sign you see below. Poor planning cause me to run out of space to write Northeastern on one line. Epic Fail.

Me in the middle proud of my crappy sign. Who cares! It's college football baby!

Me in the middle proud of my crappy sign. Who cares! It’s college football baby!

My Ball State Cardinals pounded Northeastern on a Thursday before labor day weekend in 2008. The Cardinals would go on to have a 12-0 regular season. Northeastern would scrap their football program a year later. Such is the life of a FCS program I suppose.

Enjoy it folks. There is not much better than the regular season of college football. It’s the only sport where the regular season means more than the postseason. Yeah that’s messed up but somehow it works for it.

Here are some things to watch for in week one.

Upsets

Some cheap FCS school (like and episode of Stargate Universe) is going to find a way to beat a BCS team (like and episode of Stargate-SG1). It will happen. We all remember when Appalachian State knocked off Michigan. It made the sports weekend. I’ll never forget watching it on television.

Blowouts

There will be plenty of teams playing inferior opponents this week. While a few may pull off the upset, most of these underdogs are going to get creamed. These games are more about seeing how some players have improved over the spring and summer.That aspect fuels talk of how far your team will go. Therefore, a blowout in week one is more watchable than a blowout in week 11.

Set back and enjoy. We have a nice three months ahead for us.

Worried Watch: Week 1

Superior college football teams love to schedule an easy home game, but what if that underdog knocks them off? Here are a few favorites that might be worried heading into the opener.

1. Rice at Texas A&M, Saturday

He's blue and worried. just like Kentucky football fans when their team is the favorite.

He’s blue and worried. Just like Kentucky football fans when their team is the favorite.

The Rice Owls went 7-6 last year but have almost the whole team back. Texas A&M has plenty of distractions with their quarterback Johnny Manziel, and lost most of the their defense. Rice is predicted to be near the top of Conference USA and has a senior quarterback in Taylor McHargue ready to slug it out with Manziel. It would not be too much of a stretch to suggest Rice can steal a win. Crazier things have happened.

2. Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky, Saturday

The Hilltoppers went into Lexington last year and beat the Wildcats 32-31 in overtime. On Saturday they play in a neutral site in Nashville, Tenn. so the odds might be even more in Western Kentucky’s favor. It’s really hard to call this an upset really. I’m sure Kentucky fans would be happy with a win period.

3. Indiana State at Indiana, Thursday

I live in about an hour away from the two schools and this is not a hard one to figure out. Indiana has never been good at football and while some are calling for an improved year their defense is … not good. Most magazines I’ve seen has the Hoosiers near the bottom of the Big Ten in defense. The Sycamores should be able to move the ball and stay close like they did last year before losing 24-17. Just another play here or there and maybe Indiana State wins it.

4. Southern Illinois at Illinois, Saturday

Another FCS school taking a Big Ten neighbor. Illinois, like Indiana has a bad defense. Just three starters back on that side of the ball.  Ouch. In nerd language that’s like playing Call of Duty with a couple of teammates who have never touched a controller before. Southern Illinois may just have a shot here to pull off the upset. It’s hard not to yell for a team called the Salukis anyway.

5. Northern Illinois at Iowa, Saturday

Not to be outdone by their southern counterparts, Northern Illinois plans to down a Big Ten team too. To me a Northern Illinois win at Iowa would not be an upset. For a team that went to the Orange Bowl a year ago the Huskies better beat the Hawkeyes (4-8 last year). Still, Iowa won this game in 2012 on a neutral site and are the Big Ten team going up against a MAC. Will call this a game where both fan bases are worried.

On deck: Utah State at Utah, Northern Iowa at Iowa. FIU at Maryland, Arkansas vs. UL Lafayette, Austin Peay at Tennessee.

2013 Fantasy Football Advice

I love August. Not only is it the month where college football starts, and the month of my birthday, it’s also fantasy football time. I love a good fantasy football draft and the fun that comes with it the next 17 weeks.

My teams typically finish in the middle. I can’t think of a time where my team was horrible. Then again rarely do I finish in the top 2. I guess that makes the Star Trek Deep Space Nine of fantasy football teams. So take from the following advice what you want.

 Position, Position, Position

When it comes to fantasy football leagues, most have scoring systems that value running backs. In these cases it is vital to grab a running back as quickly as possible. Others value quarterbacks by giving more points for completions and passing yards. Some love punt and kickoff returners. Don’t make a mistake having a weak spot on your team that is critical to the scoring system. This is why you never see a kicker go in the first few rounds.

Mock Draft

If you’re new to fantasy do a mock draft to find out when specific players are typically coming off the board. This will also get you used to the quick decision time you have for your pick. Mock drafts can contribute to the next point.

Supply and Demand

Find out what positions are short on talent but high on demand. This typically falls to the running backs. Not every team really tries to run the ball and the ones that do split carries between different backs. The ones who go solo have the most value. In the NFL there are only about 10 of these backs and that might be generous.

This year is no different. After a guy like Trent Richardson who is ranked No. 10 on Yahoo! you’re guessing who will get carries. If you’re in a league with 12 teams you better get a top 10 back otherwise you’ll have a huge weak spot.

For a good strategy you have confess to yourself your fantasy team is probably not going to be loaded at every position. For that you need to pick a weak spot you can survive with. Here’s a hint.

Don’t worry about Wide Receiver

While running backs have a lack of depth wide receivers are the exact opposite. Once you get past Calvin Johnson the difference between receivers is small. Even better many more receivers will emerge as the year goes on that you can pick up on the waiver wire. Having a weak wide receiver position is not ideal, but it is something a team can overcome by loading up elsewhere. Better to have a revolving door at receiver than at quarterback and running back.

Load up on rookies near the end of the draft

If you have a weak receiver spot then draft some of the rookies that might turn out into a top 20 guy during the year. After round 10 you have nothing to lose so you might as well. Here are some rookie receivers to take a look at with their Yahoo! ranking.

Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams. No. 30 WR

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans, No. 52 WR

Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings, No. 61 WR. Check out his kick return at the 1:08 mark of the above video.

Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans, No. 90 WR

Well that should get you started if you needed help. Good luck.

The Budget Games: Week 1

College football is a game but at the same time it’s a business. That’s where the budget games come into play. I define budget games as anytime a far superior team makes a deal for an inferior team to come to their house.The powerhouse school gets an easy win, a great fundraising opportunity with their boosters, and a great chance to showcase the program to recruits and fans. The inferior teams receive a fat check between $500,000 and one million dollars and the exposure from playing a big name team.Budget Games new

It may not be sexy to play a game where the outcome is never in doubt, but these are the budget games punk. Where the odds are never in your favor.

1. Buffalo at No. 2 Ohio State

Tiny Buffalo from the Mid-American conference will make the trek to Columbus where it will be slaughtered on national television. At least the Bulls will be paid a million bucks to take the pounding.

Is this game worth watching? Yes.

Buffalo did go 4-8 last year but put up a fight against SEC juggernaut Georgia last season before losing 45-23. The Bulls have plenty of returning starters and Ohio State’s coach Urban Meyer is under a great deal of pressure thanks to off the field issues with his players. The Buckeyes will win going away but I doubt it will be 70-3. Enjoy the check Buffalo.

2. Massachusetts at No. 23 Wisconsin

UMass is entering its second year as an FBS member meaning teams like Wisconsin see an easy way to pad to their win total and become bowl eligible. How much did it take to line the Minutemen up for the beating in Madison? How does $900,000 sound? That’s a lot of coin but I doubt it covers the added expenses of playing FBS ball. Should have stayed in the FCS Minutemen.

Is this game worth watching? No.

A few college football magazines have UMass as the worst team in the FBS and this game should show why. Wisconsin will score at will in this one impressing their boosters, pollsters, and recruits. No one else should watch this execution.

3. New Mexico State at No. 15 Texas

Poor New Mexico State does not have a conference until the Sun Belt lets it in next year. Until then the Aggies need to find cash through being a punching bag to college football’s wealthy juggernauts. Texas, a team trying to find games for their Longhorn Network, saw a great opportunity to help out NMSU’s financial problems while pounding the #$%@ out of it.

Is this game worth watching? No.

Texas vs. a school that could not get into the Mountain West Conference to save its life. I think I’ll pass.

Honorable mentions

Louisiana Monroe at Oklahoma, Louisiana Lafayette at Arkansas, Central Michigan at Michigan, Elon at Georgia Tech.

TV networks prepare for battle

Remember when these two were going to carry the NBC Sports Network. I remember it like it was just six months ago.

Remember when these two were going to carry the NBC Sports Network. I remember it like it was just six months ago.

The college football season is a month away but the competition on the field will not be the only battle this season. Potentially, the most important war will be the networks that present the action. Finally a sports war for nerdy camera men.

This is the first year for the new FOX Sports 1 network. Combine that with the young NBC Sports Network and CBS, the mighty ESPN may have some trouble. In nerd language this fall will be a video game challenge between four kids who are ultra competitive. Mainly because they’re trying to splint millions of dollars from advertisers.

All four of these networks know college football is a great way to score ratings. Building a brand takes more time but once succeeded people around the globe will turn to you first for information.

This is ESPN’s strength. Their brand. ESPN is like the evil empire of sports programming. The other three networks wouldn’t even equal the rebel alliance combined.

NBC’s and CBS’s sports networks are on upper channels of most cable packages making them tough to find. Even the Olympics and the NHL playoffs do little to bolster the NBC Sports Network.

This leaves FOX as the best challenger to ESPN’s reign. Fox is relatively new to broadcasting college football games as they use to only televised the NFL. This left FOX Sports Net to cover non marquee games on a regional basis.

Last year FOX began broadcasting PAC-12 and Big 12 games on their local affiliates. These games carried championship implications, something FOX Sports Net never had. FOX even hired away famous sideline reporter Erin Andrews away from ESPN to host their studio show.

Now with their own network taking over August 17, one could say FOX now has all the ingredients to take a bite out of ESPN’s monopoly.

Maybe, but it’s going to take time. People are so use to changing the channel to ESPN that flipping over to another station like FOX will not come easy. If FOX can land big games again and have great coverage the rest of the week it just might work.

One thing for sure is FOX has confidence. Just take a look at their Twitter account.Fox sports 1

The weakest of these four networks is by far NBC. The NBC Sports Network covers the NHL, and international soccer. Something college sports fans from the South couldn’t care less about. Sure it covers the Olympics but that does not happen regularly enough to carry momentum.

The solution appeared to be stealing away ESPN personalities like Fox did with Erin Andrews. NBC Sports Network launch a new show called the Crossover in January starring Michelle Beadle. Beadle gained fame from her days on ESPN’s Sportsnation.

It looked the show could compete with the 6 p.m. Sportscenter from commercials, but watching the first few episodes were forgettable. Beadle and her co host Dave Briggs had no chemistry, and the content was stuff a kid could find on Yahoo! The best celebrity’s on the show were probably the first three picks of the WNBA draft. In the spring the show spent more time talking hockey than basketball because NBC had the rights to the NHL.

By May, Briggs had been kicked to the curb and Beadle tried to do the show on her own. Beadle even tried to say she didn’t want a co-host in the first place.

Thankfully, the Tour de France gave the show a three-week hiatus. Needless to say I didn’t miss it. Beadle comes across as cynical to the point where she is not very likable. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated has guest hosted the show numerous times now and may be a better fit. The Crossover is now nothing more than a salvage operation.

The only edge NBC Sports Network has left is the Dan Patrick Show, which is more entertaining and informative than ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, and far superior to Stephen A. Smith yelling on Frist Take. Then again an episode of Stargate Universe is superior to First Take and that’s saying something.

Building a brand in sports media is not easy. Let’s just hope Fox can learn from NBC’s mistakes.