Fiesta Bowl Shootout

Baylor will score at will against Central Florida in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, but does that mean I’m picking the Bears? And which mascot loves taking pictures of cheerleaders? Find out in my third bowl preview.


Sports Network Report Card: Who can challenge ESPN?

Fox Sports 1 came out swinging this August saying it was going to challenge ESPN and all that jazz. Big names were hired and studio sets were built. But the question remained; could Fox Sports 1 combat the ESPN monopoly?

Now that we are in December we have a big enough sample size to answer that question. Forget ratings as we are looking at overall quality. I now present the 2013 College Football TV Network Report Card.


Fox Sports 1 edged out ESPN in this category scoring a 9 out of 10. ESPN and CBS tied at 8. The big difference is Gus Johnson. When he calls a game you just feel like something big or crazy is going to happen. FS1 had to pay him more to steal him away from CBS so it made a few ads to promote its star in the last two years. The first one is kind of too violent to be effective if you ask me.

The second might be a little frat boyish.

ESPN would score a 9 in this category too if it didn’t have the worse announcing team in the game on Thursday nights of David Pollack and Jesse Palmer. Not only are these two captains of the obvious but Pollack has upset women around the country this year.

Here’s an example of Palmer and Pollack making me mute the TV.

Overall, ESPN has the deepest stable of announcers but also has the weakest outliers.

Studio shows

This includes pregame, halftime and post games shows. ESPN earned first place with 8 out of 10. College Game Day is a big reason why as Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit have developed a unique TV tradition leading to many entertaining moments.

Game Day may not give great information about your teams but it is clearly watchable. Tom Rinaldi’s in depth stories are top-notch and the background signs lead to funny moments like the one seen here at Florida State.

What did you say Tom? I was a bit distracted.

What did you say Tom? I was a bit distracted.

College Football Final with the Helmet Stickers is also a great watch. Seeing Lou Holtz boasting about a FCS player for scoring seven touchdowns while holding a helmet is compelling, comical, and somehow informative all at the same time.

While ESPN has had many years to polish everything, FS1 is still in the start-up process. Its pregame show comes across as lacking interesting information and entertainment. Nothing like a staircase background to stare at for two hours.

Look at that staircase, it's so ... sleepy.

Look at that staircase, it’s so … sleepy.

Having a round table discussion debating the BCS rankings is pretty much the best FS1 can do. Anyone can do that at a barbershop, water cooler, or lunch break. Satellite interviews with coaches on the morning of their games reveal nothing. This one with Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops is only noteworthy based on the facial expressions these band members made in the background. The giant Pizza Hut ad doesn’t help the matter.

Everybody make an awkard face for Pizza Hut behind Bob.

Everybody make an awkard face for Pizza Hut behind Bob.

Erin Andrews is a pretty face but what is unique about FS1 is she is the focal point of the studio corps. It’s truly different in a good way as I can’t think of another football show where a woman is the star. Placing Andrews as the captain does make the show distinguishable from the plethora of other sports shows. Problem is Andrews is the only established personality the network has. Seriously, the show would be better off if Andrews pulled an “Orphan Black” and cloned herself six times. Below, she jokes at the 1:05 mark about who Tim Tebow will replace on the show, in front of her nameless colleagues, after Tebow was cut in the NFL. Also noticed the giant Hooters ad that flashed on the screen early on as FS1 is desperately trying to cash in on everything.

There just is not anyone there outside of Andrews that’s noteworthy.

To cover up for this shortfall of name recognition, entertainment and content, it seems that the network goes out of its way to showcase Andrews and other female members. FS1 uses a female meteorologist and conducts several live interviews with female correspondents at their big games. Don’t get carried away as FS1 is not really a feminist leader. All these women make it appear that beauty is a prerequisite. Instead of “girl power” it comes across as a desperate appeal to gather the fraternity viewership. Hence the massive Hooters ad.

The FS1 pregame show is just unwatchable until it finds its groove. So much so that FS1 has shown NASCAR coverage in its place one Saturday morning. When morning racing is a bigger draw it’s time to regroup. I give FS1 a 5 out of 10 for its studio shows.

CBS is notable too. Tim Brando hosts a show prior to the channel’s SEC games and has the best catch phrase of all the studio shows. Describing a Non-BCS team (Northern Illinois and Fresno State) that could crack the BCS as a “fly in the ointment” and it never gets old. When my Ball State Cardinals are mentioned he calls them the “Fighting Lettermans” because David Letterman is our biggest alumnus. The pandering works as I give CBS a 7 as it reports useful information too.

Game presentation

This is really where FS1’s inexperience shows. For those of us who have insufficient funds for a high-definition television, FS1’s scoreboard gets clipped off in the corner. Not only is this annoying, it almost makes the game unwatchable.

Who's winning? Can't tell because I'm watching FOX.

Who’s winning? Can’t tell because I’m watching FOX.

The font FS1 uses for the scoreboard can be difficult to read even on HD screens. Placing the scoreboard in the corner seems to get in the way more often as oppose to the standard bar format ESPN and CBS display.

When it comes down to it, watching a game on Fox takes more effort than watching on the other two networks. Plus, ESPN and CBS do a better job of telling side stories about the campus traditions and showing the atmosphere. CBS hammers it home about how passionate SEC fans are. ESPN literally gives you a taste of the campus with Todd Blackledge’s “Taste of the Town” segments. Fox is just completely outmatched in this category.

Quality of Games

This comes down to money as every network wants to score the best conferences. In college football it’s all about the SEC with CBS and ESPN shelling out the cash to obtain its rights. It’s not by chance that CBS seems to have a meaningful game every week.

While CBS takes the best piece out of the SEC pie, ESPN happily gobbles up the rest. The worldwide leader also has control on the pivotal games from the remaining power conferences. Fox has deals with the PAC-12 and the Big-12 but marquee games like Texas/Oklahoma and Stanford/Oregon aired under the ESPN flag. The best Fox can show is Baylor vs. Texas Tech. That’s not going to cut it.

Here is how I scored the three networks.

Network:                    ESPN     FOX    CBS
Announcing               8             9          8
Studio                        8             5          7
Presentation              9             5          9
Quality of Games      9              6         10
Totals                       34            25       34

Fox Sports 1 can still become a threat to ESPN but it is going to be a long process. ESPN has the power of habit on its side as sports fans automatically flip to its station. Fox must first clean up its game presentation and studio shows for it to even have a chance. But it may be years before those categories improve. Perhaps eternity.

So… who wants Tim Tebow?

The FCS gets it right

As the BCS rankings and match-ups were announced on ESPN Sunday night, the trinity of annoying studio commentators (Jesse Palmer, David Pollack and Kirk Herbstreit) said the BCS got it right.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

For the record, I agree Auburn should be ranked no. 2. That doesn’t mean other one loss teams are not more deserving.

Michigan State only has one loss too and folks north of the Ohio River say the Spartans should be in. Check out what Big Ten talking head Mike Hall had to say while watching the SEC championship game.

Nice sarcasm as both Auburn and Missouri were scoring at will. Even Purdue fans tried to make a case for Michigan State.

What about Baylor? The Bears only had one loss too. Heck, I still think Alabama is the best team in the SEC as Auburn won the Iron bowl in its own house. What if the game was on a neutral field? Alabama would probably be going for its third straight title.

Yes, it’s the last year of the BCS; but instead of media personalities saying the BCS got it right, we should be blasting it one final time.

Look at how much fun the second round of FCS playoffs were this weekend. Several top teams went down and its games were great.

  • Coastal Carolina had maybe the surprise win of the weekend going into a freezing Montana. Montana’s website gave detailed advice on how to handle the below zero wind chills. Now that’s extreme. Coastal Carolina came out on top 42-35 in what might be the biggest upset a road team has had in below zero conditions since the Empire took over Hoth.
  • No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois has been destroying people all year with its passing game. Even the mascot was burning calories on the sideline in its 55-10 drumming of Tennessee State.
  • Still better than "Insanity"

    Still better than “Insanity”

  • New Hampshire stunned No. 5 seed Maine 41-27 to take the important title of “Best FCS Team in New England.”
  • No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana survived its upset scare against Sam Houston State 30-29.
  • No. 6 seed McNeese State was not so lucky as it lost 31-10 to Jacksonville State. That’s what happens when you’re too busy putting the name of your school on the back of the jersey instead of the players.

Get in there McNeese! No not you. I was talking to McNeese.

Get in there McNeese! No not you. I was talking to McNeese.

Come on McNeese State, even Michael Bay is more creative than that.

The FCS playoffs are just juicer than the anticlimactic BCS. The regular season still matters as not that many teams get in. The idea that the BCS system protects the magnitude of the regular season is just a total fallacy.

It’s so easy to accept the BCS after the great couple of weeks of football that we’ve had. But conference championships and huge rivalry games would happen no matter what type of postseason format was in place.

At the end of the day, can you justifiably say that Auburn is better than a Michigan State or a Baylor? Like bet your car, house, and PS3 type justification? What’s the harm in having them play each other for that spot?

The excitement we’ve had in college football the past two weeks can be recreated for four more weeks if we had the eight-team playoff we should have. Sorry ESPN, the FCS gets it right.

Twin Sister Shootout

A better movie than Sister Act

A better movie than Sister Act

It was a great weekend of college sports and there is plenty to talk about. Auburn’s made for television win over Alabama was the star, but this blog plans to illuminate the cloaked gems the sports media was unable to display with its finite resources.

One story was a women’s basketball game between Marquette and Utah. Identical twin sisters played against each other as Marqutte’s Katherine Plouffe took on Michelle Plouffe of Utah. Both women play forward and are senior leaders of their teams. Strangely, Utah says Michelle is 6’4” while Marquette lists Katherine as 6’3”. Doubt one is taller than the other as Marquette says they are almost identical.

That leads me to believe Utah is exaggerating a bit with Michelle’s height. A classic move by athletic departments to make everyone seem taller.

It would still be an interesting game if both Plouffes were bench warmers, but the fact they are the best players on two division teams makes it highly compelling. Michelle has made the All-PAC-12 team twice. Katherine made second team All-Big East last year and we all know that’s a tougher basketball conference. See UConn as exhibit A.

Need more storylines? They are both from Canada! Hello Olympics

What about FIBA? The Plouffes are in that too.

What about the parents? Take a look at the divided shirts the Plouffes were wearing Saturday.

  If that’s not enough for you they also have an older sister, Andrea, who played basketball at the University of Washington. So when these two teams met it was expected that both sisters would bring their best and they did. Katherine led the Golden Eagles in points with 21. Michelle led the Utes in points (18) and rebounds (13). Problem is Michelle didn’t get as much help and shot 4-14 from the field. Marquette’s defense was able to zero in on her.

The result was a 72-65 win for Marquette (6-1) as the Golden Eagles are off to a strong start. Utah (2-4) may have a hard time following up its NIT runner-up season. Not that finishing as runner-up in the NIT for two consecutive years is a desirable goal. That’s like playing Halo with your friends and saying “I hope I only die no more than a few times.”

Still it was an interesting box score to a women’s basketball game in November. How many times does that happen on the same day Auburn plays Alabama?

Good luck to the Plouffes as I’m sure both will be playing professionally and representing Canada in the coming years.

New Mexico Loves Turquoise

It might be a regression year for the Lobos men’s basketball team as it’s coming off a first round loss to Harvard in the NCAA. HARVARD! I was so upset in March as I had New Mexico as a final four team in most of my brackets.

Since then its coach, Steve Alford, went to UCLA. Its best player, Tony Snell, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and is now a proud member of my fantasy basketball team.

So what’s left for the Lobos? Turquoise uniforms is what’s left and it’s for a good cause too. New Mexico shed their traditional gray and red threads for the turquoise Saturday in its win over San Diego. Turquoise, a color associated with Native Americans (yes, I had to do some internet research to figure that out) was used to raise awareness on obesity and diabetes in Native American youth.

So instead of awkward looking turquoise uniforms, the Lobos were supporting the Native American population in its state. The jerseys were auctioned off to raise money for Native American non-profit organizations. Nice work Lobos.

Happy to go 1-11.

Back to football, we had two programs that won their first game of the season. Congratulations to Southern Mississippi on getting its first win in… well… years.

Also congratulations to Hawaii. It was a somber day as a PLAYER DROWNED IN THE OCEAN ON GAMEDAY. Hawaii ran its first play in honor of Jack Willis Wilson.

The Warriors played hard, breaking out to a 28-7 halftime lead hosting Army. The third quarter was shaky as Army rattled off three straight touchdowns to tie the game midway through the third quarter. Next, Hawaii did something it hadn’t done all year, fight through the pressure. The Warriors scored twice to take a 42-28 lead going into the fourth and held on for the 49-42 victory. I can’t imagine playing a game on the day a teammate died but forfeiting would not honor anyone. Winning the game sure did.

Here’s Hawaii’s coach Norm Chow on what the win meant to the team. He even used the word “bitchin.”

Enjoy it Hawaii and Southern Miss. A 1-11 season is a thousand times better than 0-12. Just ask Georgia State and Miami University. Where a nice punt is worth tweeting about.