College football’s 2013 one-third awards

Time to recognize some teams who have distinguished themselves so far in this young season. Both in good and horrific ways.

Cannon fodder award: Georgia State
Georgia State is in its second year as a FBS school yet the program has clearly gotten off to a rough start. Georgia State has dropped two games on the season to FCS squads. FCS teams that should have smaller budgets and should have inferior players. Problem is that has not been the case for GSU. The Panthers are ranked at No. 216 in Sagarin ratings out 252 D-1 schools. Did I mention only 125 of those are FBS? GSU is therefore the lowest ranked FBS school in the nation behind football powerhouses like FCS Yale. Ouch. It’s one thing to say you’re not smart enough to go to Yale. It’s another thing to tell kids in the football crazed southeast you’re not athletic enough to beat Yale on the field. This tweet from Georgia State athletics sums the high point of the season as Georgia State kicked a field to go into overtime with FCS Jacksonville State at home.

Panther pride! Losing in overtime to a team you should beat at home.

Public Enemy award: Clemson

The Tigers are 3-0 and are ranked No. 3 in the nation but are somehow No. 14 in Sagarin. That’s behind Georgia (No. 5) a team it defeated on opening week. Clemson appears to be the real deal and looked great in its win at North Carolina State. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is a Heisman frontrunner and the defense has been solid. Clemson just might bring the ACC back to glory in football. You know, if you forget the SEC exists.

Mediocrity award: Syracuse

Syracuse is 2-2 and is No. 62 in Sagarin. That’s right in the middle of the FBS teams. Syracuse has lost to the teams it was suppose to lose too (Penn State and Northwestern) and beat the teams it was suppose to beat (Tulane and Wagner). Syracuse will face a tougher schedule in ACC play so staying at .500 come Thanksgiving is doubtful. Until then Orange fans should rejoice. Your team is not bad. It’s just striving for mediocrity!

Bear Market team award: West Virginia

West Virginia lost a lot of firepower in the NFL draft (Tavon Austin and Geno Smith) so it’s not surprising it’s a regression year. But losing 37-0 to Maryland is a big red flag. The fact West Virginia’s only wins are against Georgia State (we know the story there) and FCS William and Mary is an even bigger red flag. Time to sell on the Mountaineers.

Bull Market team award: Northwestern

Northwestern is 4-0 but only ranked at No. 41 in Sagarin. Being off Saturday, Northwestern gets two weeks to prepare for Ohio State at home. It’s a perfect trap game for Ohio State on Oct. 5. All it’s attention is set on Wisconsin this Saturday night. If you want to jump on the Wildcat’s bandwagon now is the time to do it.

Best player you’ve never heard of: Jimmy Garoppolo Eastern Illinois quarterback.

Garoppolo is making a name for himself with his insane stats. The senior quarterback has 20 touchdown passes already through four games. He had 30 all of last year! He led FCS Eastern Illinois to a 40-19 thrashing at FBS San Diego State and nearly defeated MAC defending champion Northern Illinois last Saturday. Get to know this kid. He’ll save your fantasy football team a year from now. The “Fear the FCS” hash tag is not bad either.

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Hypocrisy on Cupcakes

Sure, it was not a great weekend of college football action. Contrary to what ESPN might tell you, I say there is nothing wrong with that.

Several top ranked schools loaded up on easy schools Saturday. No. 4 Ohio State pounded FCS Florida A&M 76-0 and had a whopping 34-2 edge in first downs. How do you only get two first downs? No. 16 Miami (The U) made a worthless statement beating FCS Savannah State 77-7. The game was shortened with a 12-minute fourth quarter to end the slaughter quicker. There were other cupcake wins for No. 8 Florida State over FCS Bethune-Cookman 54-6 and No. 7 Louisville at least played a FBS school blowing out Florida International 72-0. That’s sure to make the Sun Belt conference proud. Note FIU defeated Louisville 24-17 just two years ago.

Was it good football? No, but that does not mean these games should have been scheduled.

These were budget games for the smaller schools in need of revenue. It also provided a chance to gain exposure for programs that rarely receive it. Who knows, if Florida A&M put up a fight against Ohio State this is a different story.

But because we did not have another Alabama at Texas A&M this Saturday we have to complain. We as in the sports media from ESPN to NBC Sports Network. The latter a network 10 people watch.

This comes off the day ESPN Gameday celebrated North Dakota State with a party in Fargo.

So in about 12 hours ESPN went from talking up FCS programs only to tear them down after the Top 25 rolled to easy wins. There is nothing wrong with these games. If you want to complain it’s that all of them occurred one weekend. The reason is because most of these powerhouses wanted to rest up before conference play starts.

You can’t have it both ways sports media. Do want to praise a tiny school when it beats a juggernaut? Great! Just don’t discourage these games from even happening if the upset doesn’t come.

Thank You Akron Zips

In a week where everything wrong with college sports was exposed, one game Saturday made me proud of the NCAA again. While Sports Illustrated and Yahoo! reported stories of big schools from Alabama to Oklahoma State cheating to get ahead the tiny Akron Zips proved there are some good things left.

If placing a zipper on your helmet makes you a good football team then you do it dangit.

If placing a zipper on your helmet makes you a better football team then put it on there already!

Akron entered the largest stadium in the country against one of college football’s most prestigious programs in Michigan. Michigan had just defeated Notre Dame while Akron had not won against a FBS school since 2010. Needless to say Michigan was a huge favorite. A 37 point favorite to be exact.

The game was an obvious candidate for the budget games as I was pretty sure it was guaranteed win for the Wolverines. Michigan’s coach Brady Hoke thought so too apparently calling it a glazed donut game. It was more about how the school was giving away donuts to entice students for the early kickoff against a poor opponent but still.

Michigan scored quickly in the first to take 7-0 lead, but that was all the points it mustered in the first half. Akron had a chance to kick two field goals before halftime but bad clock management made them tough kicks. Both were missed and came back to haunt the Zips.

Akron then had two first and goals in the fourth quarter where it came up empty. One was a poor pass intercepted in the end zone and the other a turnover on downs as time expired. If the Zips had made one of those two previous field goals it would have only needed another one down 28-27. Instead it was 28-24 forcing a touchdown. In summary, Akron had four great chances to win the game and all slipped away.

Michigan had superior size clogging up the running game of Akron. Yet the skill positions, such as receiver, were even. The Zips ended with more passing yards (311-248) and more first downs (21-19). This was a team that was pounded at Central Florida and could barely beat FCS James Madison for God sakes!

Those passing stats from a MAC school should never happen against a Michigan team loaded with prized recruits. The players on Akron probably couldn’t get a scholarship offer anywhere else in FBS.

Michigan has blown games to inferior teams before at home. There was FCS Appalachian State, and then came Toledo out of the MAC. Saturday would have been the worse though. It should have been the worse as Akron deserved to win this game. Michigan did not.

The faces of the Michigan fans told the story. What was supposed to be a three-hour party for Michigan that involved boosters pledging money turned into a horror movie. Losing here would scar Michigan yet again. Ohio State fans would have new ammo to ridicule their rivals with for another decade. “Hey, remember when your boys lost to the last place MAC school at home in 2013?”

The things you find on Twitter. Click save image as Ohio State fans.

The things you find on Twitter. Click save image as Ohio State fans.

Akron reminded us what is great about college sports. While some schools will cheat to score recruits, some build programs the right way. It is why I love the lower levels of college football so much. Scandals occur in the MAC and FCS too but they are smaller and less frequent. The players are there because the big name programs did not want them. Agents and boosters are in no hurry to throw money at their way. A football scholarship means a lot to these kids.

So when an Akron with their zipper helmets (love the look) takes the lead in the fourth quarter against Michigan I was loving every second of it. It was more compelling than Alabama at Texas A&M. I wanted to see the Zips make history.

Thank you Akron. Thank you for reminding us what is right with college football.

The Budget Games: Week 3, 2013

We have a few more lopsided affairs to look forward to this week in college football. Not every game can be Alabama at Texas A&M as some tiny schools need cash from the juggernauts. Welcome to the Budget Games, where the odds are never in your favor.Budget Games new

3. Akron at Michigan
The Akron Zips selected their nickname off of a zipper factory in the town. How they selected a kangaroo as their mascot is another story you can research on your own. Michigan is a prestigious college football program with a stadium the size of the Death Star. Take a guess as to who is favored.

Can Akron pull off the upset? Heck no.
You’re more likely to be abducted by aliens than the Zips chances of winning this game. Michigan is coming off a huge win over Notre Dame while Akron could barely survive a Football Championship Subdivision school at home. Akron is trying to pay the bills of a new stadium that opened in 2009 and cost over $60 million. A nice check from Michigan is a good move. Just don’t complain when the score is 70-0.

2. West Virginia vs. Georgia State
West Virginia will be reportedly paying Georgia State $550,000 to come to Morgantown and get smashed. I think that’s a bargain for West Virginia as some payouts for easy wins have gone for twice that. Georgia State is struggling in its second year in the Football Bowl Subdivision and they were not very good in their FCS days either.

Can Georgia State pull off the upset? It would take a miracle.
Georgia State lost to FCS Chattanooga last week at home and now plays at a Big 12 school. Its only hope is how sluggish West Virginia looked in their week one win against FCS William and Mary. Maybe the Mountaineers struggle on offense again opening the door… nah this game will be at least a three touchdown win for West Virginia.

1. Massachusetts at Kansas State
UMass is in its second year of the biggest mistake in their school history, I mean second year of their transition to FBS play. Kansas State will be paying $750,000 to the UMass athletic department in exchange for pounding the hell out of its football at home. Order your tickets now and Kansas State will run up the score an additional touchdown. Operators are standing by.

Can UMass pull off the upset? Might as well ask yourself if unicorns play video games.
Sure, Kansas State lost to FCS North Dakota State but North Dakota State is a good team. UMass is not. In fact the only player UMass has on some All-MAC rosters is their punter. That’s because he gets a lot of snaps. UMass just lost to FCS Maine last week and will continue to struggle at Kansas State.

Honorable mentions: UTSA at Arizona, Florida Atlantic at South Florida, Kent State at LSU, Savannah State at Miami.

Losing to a D-II school equals a long year

This is a new Monday feature called “Sensor Scans” where we find the hidden gems and Easter eggs from the college sports week.

While some fan bases are hitting the panic button after unexpected losses Saturday (Florida, Southern Cal, and Texas) a few others are trying to pretend their football team does not exist.

Mississippi Valley State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) a FCS program dropped a home game to a division II program Delta State 24-14. It’s the equivalent of a college student losing a chess game to a six grader. Maybe losing at Wii Bowling to a senior citizen.

The Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State has done the ultimate shame a D-I program can do on a football field to its fans, alumni and community residents of Itta Bena. Adding extra insult, Delta State even has the unique nickname of the “Statesmen.” Nothing like saying “Dude, we were owned by the Statesmen!”

Mississippi Valley State should have been able to recruit any kid on Delta State’s roster. Talent should have been on their side. I was shocked from this highlight video that Delta State has the all-time series lead as the Statesmen now has a 4-1 advantage after Saturday.

A few questions from that video.

1. Why is the Delta State coach having a curfew? You just beat a division I school. Go nuts Statesmen. He even said “We’re going to bounce back from this.” You only say that if you lose a game. Heck he even spent time explaining why his team executed a fake punt. You’re an inferior team on paper so there’s no need to defend a trick play.

2. It appears that Delta wore Mississippi Valley down. How is that possible? A division I program should have more players on their roster and therefore more depth.

3. Is Katie Smith single?

It is true that Delta State is a very good division II program with great postseason success but come on Mississippi Valley State. You can’t get owned by them at home. At least only 2,139 saw the game. How can the Delta Devils come back from this? I wish I had an answer and I bet Mississippi Valley State coaches wish they had one too.

Ranking notes

The new AP top 25 poll is out with really no surprises. What did catch my eye is how the Miami Hurricanes were unranked prior to their win over Florida on Saturday. To go from unranked to 15 is an insane jump that makes me wonder if Miami boosters are paying the pollsters. Just kidding. Too soon?

Bowling Green State out of the MAC also stood out. The 2-0 Falcons are not ranked but did receive seven votes. For a team not many know about it is great to see them get some love from the pollsters. With more wins BGSU should crack the top 25.

FCS vs. the MAC
While Bowling Green is doing well some of its Mid-American Conference colleagues are not. Four MAC vs. FCS games took place on Saturday ending in a 2-2 draw. The MAC is just a notch above FCS and is vulnerable to any competent team. Akron slipped past James Madison 35-33 and Central Michigan rallied from 21-7 to beat New Hampshire 24-21. Central had to convert a 3rd and 15 to get into field goal range on its final drive.

The MAC schools who laid an egg include Western Michigan losing to Nicholls State 27-23. Nicholls State suffered injuries to key players including at quarterback and still won on the road. FCS Maine defeated UMass 24-14 in what should be no surprise as UMass was an FCS team two years ago.

Dogfight of the week
Best game from week 2 goes to Eastern Illinois beating Southern Illinois 40-37 in two overtimes. Eastern Illinois upset FBS San Diego State last week 40-19. Southern Illinois came close to beating Big Ten conference monopoly Illinois 42-34 last week too. These are two great FCS teams in Illinois. I don’t think either of them would have lost to Delta State. At home 24-14? Epic fail.

Georgia’s bad schedule

It was a great game that ESPN wanted. Clemson knocked off Georgia Saturday Night in what many believed to be Clemson’s start to a championship campaign. I’m not so sold but it was a great win.

The point is not so much about Clemson as it’s about making a good schedule. Georgia has done what might be the dumbest scheduling possible. Opening at Clemson and followed by South Carolina is insane. The Bulldogs have no chance to recover and for what? To play a game on national television against a school from South Carolina? That’s what they are doing this upcoming Saturday.

Asking a road team to come win a game here in the first week is like asking Batman to fight crime on Krypton.

Asking a road team to come win a game here in the first week is like asking Batman to fight crime on Krypton.

There is no upside to recruiting as they have that state covered by playing South Carolina. If Georgia scheduled Ohio State then it could score recruits in the Midwest. The Bulldogs would also have a chance to impress pollsters in an area that may not otherwise pay attention to them.

In other words playing Clemson was redundant and unnecessary for Georgia. Now they have a beat up team playing a rested South Carolina squad Saturday (Gamecocks played Thursday). The Bulldogs could be 0-2 next week.

If Georgia had won Saturday you might be thinking I would have called it a smart gamble. Even if Georgia won it would have a fleeting victory that would have been wiped out if it lost to South Carolina. That’s the game that matters as winning the SEC East to get another crack at Alabama in the conference championship is everything to Georgia. Well, that and beating the holy hell out of Georgia Tech.

Now to some awards for week one.

Public Enemy: Florida State
Florida State pounded Pittsburgh Monday night and looked great. Especially their new freshmen Quarterback Jameis Winston. Don’t get too full of yourself kid.

Cannon Fodder: Elon
Elon lost to Georgia Tech on Saturday 70-0. The Phoenix (yes, that’s their name) fumbled on their second play and gave up two interceptions for touchdowns. Elon did miss a field goal at the end of the first half so it’s not like they didn’t get a chance to score. That’s something? Right?

Headshot victims: Oregon State, Kansas State, South Florida, Connecticut, and Iowa State.
These BCS conference schools all lost to FCS teams. That’s like being a named a registered sex offender. Enough said.

Best Game: Ole Miss 39 Vanderbilt 35
Vanderbilt converted on fourth and 18, scored a touchdown to take the lead with a minute to go, and still lost. That’s like taking the lead in the Mario Kart with the finish line in view only to take a turtle shell from behind before crossing. I felt bad for the Commodores but I was so happy to see a great game on college football’s first day back. Man I missed it.