I have more pictures from my first ever Summit League game as a photographer now on my Facebook page.
Life in the Summit League is not luxurious nor is it respected by the national media. Teams are scattered across the middle of the country from Indiana to Colorado, making it tough to form a regional identity. None of the nine teams are in the RPI top 100 and only one is in the top 150 (South Dakota State). That doesn’t mean there are not quality teams here. North Dakota State knocked off Oklahoma in the first round of the tournament last year and that NDSU team is looking good this season.
I knew that traveling to IUPUI, here in Indianapolis, was going to be a battle for them. And this past Thursday ended up being an overtime affair. Thank you to IUPUI SID Edgar Holdaway for the photographer credential to the game this past Thursday.
IUPUI in its first season of playing in Pepsi Coliseum at the state fairgrounds and it appears to be a good fit. The first thing I noticed is that IUPUI students are the ones who sit courtside here. How many other schools can say that about their student body? This is partly because the Pepsi Coliseum is built more for hockey, leaving space for the band and student body behind the baskets. The cheerleaders also stand by the sidelines like a football game while most schools have them positioned along the baseline. Little things like this make an IUPUI game unique and it gives the Jags support having the young spirited fans close to the court. They also have this type of DJ yelling “Lets go JAAAAGs,” every 10 minutes to keep people awake.
North Dakota State was the favorite and I got the impression they were the better team. The Jaguars were pressing a full-court defense most of the night trying to force turnovers. IUPUI got some but also let NDSU score easy baskets once their guards broke through the initial pressure. The Bison had more blocks and rebounds as the Jaguars had to settle for jumpers in its half-court offense.
At the same time though the Bison seemed to struggle to finish their drives to basket. Quite a few misses came at point-blank range from offensive rebounds. NDSU also only made 10 out of their 18 free throws.
IUPUI had a chance to win the game in regulation as guard Mason Archie had an open 3 with .8 seconds left but the shot went long. North Dakota State would outscore IUPUI 16-8 in overtime to put the game to bed.
NDSU would lose two days later to IPFW, who came in 1-5 in Summit League play. That’s how hard it is to win back-to-back road games in any conference within a 48 hour span. IUPUI would win against South Dakota Saturday to move to 4-3 in conference; just a game back from NDSU and 1.5 back from South Dakota State.
The Summit League bid is up in the air but don’t be surprised if these meet again in the conference tournament. Here are more pictures from Thursday.
This is the first Saturday of the season where basketball is in full control of the sports calendar. Sunday will be taken up by the NFL playoffs but will still have some fun games.
Saturday is expected to be a great day in the middle of the country as three Big 12 games between top 25 teams will take place. There will be bedlam in Oklahoma and West Virginia will make the journey to Texas. The nightcap will be Kansas at Iowa State to face some Hilton Magic.
Duke at Louisville is losing luster quickly after the Blue Devils took some losses in ACC play. Kentucky traveling to Alabama will be the game with the most upset potential as the Wildcats have been shaky on the road in SEC play so far.
College football is down to its final game tonight as the postseason has been underway for weeks. We all know the main headlines such the top SEC teams going down, TCU dominating and Florida State combusting into humiliating defeat in the Rose Bowl. There are facts that are not so prominent like leaving tickets for a celebrity. Trust me, it will make sense soon. Here are 13 overlooked stories from the college football bowl season.
13. Oklahoma Tries to Stay Positive
Oklahoma was pounded by Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl 40-6, but found a way to stay up beat on this Clemson touchdown.
When Oklahoma is clinging to hope of a play being reversed, you know it’s a blowout.
No. 12 Randomly meeting your favorite team on the beach
It was a great New Years for Georgia Tech with its Orange Bowl win, but a Georgia Tech fan had an even better time as she had this chance meeting with her favorite Yellow Jackets.
No. 11 Arkansas and People Watching
Arkansas really enjoyed its 31-7 Texas Bowl win over Texas and that deserves bonus points when you beat a team the bowl is named after. The Razorbacks began giving shout outs to fellow athletic teams and signs from fans that trashed their opponent.
Seriously, you don’t see any other athletic department people watch like this, but when you’re winning you can do whatever you want.
No. 10 Pep Rallies upon pep rallies
Bowl games always try to have some pep rallies for the fans, and there is also the chance of having the pep rallies turn into a band duel. Like here in the Fiesta Bowl between Arizona and Boise State.
I guess the Boise band did better as the Broncos won a close Fiesta Bowl game.
No. 9 Underdogs Dominate
It was not a good bowl season to be the favorite.
No. 8 Oregon Football Reflected in Rose Bowl Commercial
The Ducks were winners in another area too, promotional advertisements. This ad that aired during the Rose Bowl was among the best commercials for a school during bowl season as it matched the football team to the university seamlessly.
No. 7 Bowl Banners
It’s always interesting to see how the mid-majors promote their bowl teams. It’s pretty much their season for some of these teams. The Mountain West celebrated its postseason thanks to their record number of bowl teams.
The best mid-major conference was actually Conference USA who had a 4-1 mark in bowl season.
No. 6 West Virginia and the King
West Virginia play Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. You can’t visit Memphis without an Elvis joke and that’s what West Virginia did here.
Good thing the King didn’t show as the Mountaineers lost.
No. 5 Missouri Valley Monopoly
The Missouri Valley Football Conference had its way in the FCS playoffs, as MVFC schools North Dakota State and Illinois State met in the FCS Championship game. Now that is a conference that should be boasting more than SEC fans.
North Dakota State would win a close game 29-27 to earn its 4th straight national championship. Check out the trophy presentation. Where else do the fans gather on the field and the players gather in the stands for the celebration.
No. 4 Coconut Shrimp and Bloomin’ Onion
The Outback Bowl was all about giving away bloomin’ onions or coconut shrimp based off of the winner of the bowl game. They even went so far to have people dress up as both foods.
No. 3 Marriage at the Rose Bowl
This Oregon couple had more than just a Rose Bowl victory to celebrate.
No. 2 Houston’s Comeback to Retweet
Houston had a triumphant fourth quarter comeback against Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Cougars wanted everyone to know they came back from 25 points.
No. 1 #MACtion vs. #FunBelt
The MAC and the Sun Belt have all the fun in bowl season. These bowls games are what the conferences are all about in the postseason to the point where it has become a bit of a rivalry. The MAC and the Sun Belt met twice with Bowling Green vs. South Alabama and Toledo vs. Arkansas State. Both games yielded fantastic barbs between the two leagues.
Here is an example of what the Sun Belt did when South Alabama scored a touchdown on Bowling Green.
Here is the MAC after a Toledo touchdown.
In the end the MAC won both games and went into boast mode.
Last year I used the Sagarin ratings to find a quantitative method of determining the best conference of college football. I like the Sagarin ratings because it gives a score and ranking for every team in both FBS and FCS levels. Sagarin splits conference rankings into divisions so I had to do some work to see how the conferences stack up.
I found a conference average and median then split the difference to determine a total score.
The results are going to make SEC fans very happy. The Southeastern Conference had 13 of its 14 teams in the top 50 leaving Vanderbilt was the weak link as an outlier. Eight teams were in the top 15. That’s right, over half the SEC is ranked in the top 15 of the Sagarin rankings.
Alabama’s loss to Ohio State only dropped the Tide to No. 4 but the big surprise was Georgia at No. 5. That is because the Bulldogs went 6-2 against top 30 teams including wins over Clemson and Louisville from the ACC. This doesn’t mean that everyone should view Georgia as a top five team, but it does mean Georgia beat many quality teams this season that should not be overlooked.
While SEC critics will point to the elite teams losing on New Year’s Day the conference did go 7-5 in bowls. While the front of the pack teams in Mississippi State and Ole Miss lost, they couldn’t fall far because teams they beat in the regular season (Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Tennessee,) all won. Ole Miss blew out a Boise State squad back in August and that win looks better after Boise won the Fiesta Bowl over Arizona.
Arizona’s loss is a blemish on a great bowl season for the PAC-12, who went 6-2 in the postseason. The PAC-12 is the SEC’s biggest competition just like last season as half the conference is among the top 25 teams. The PAC-12’s issue is the bottom half with Washington State, Oregon State and Colorado outside the top 80. Washington State dropped to two games out of conference and Oregon State won but struggled with Hawaii and FCS Portland State. Colorado had a dismal 2-10 season with close calls to UMass and Hawaii as well. This pulled the PAC-12 down just enough to give the SEC the edge.
The Big 12, ACC and Big Ten pretty much evened out. Although it’s important to note TCU is the No. 1 team here. I doubt being the No. 1 Sagarin rating team is going to make up for missing the playoff. All three conferences had too many teams dragging their rankings down. Looking at you Iowa State, Kansas, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Indiana and Purdue.
The most surprising find was the Missouri Valley Conference of the FCS being ahead of all five FBS mid-major leagues. Half the Valley made it to the 24-team FCS playoff and the league did well. North Dakota State will meet Illinois State for the title tomorrow in a battle between conference rivals.
NDSU defeated Iowa State handily to boost the valley. Northern Iowa was competitive enough with Iowa and Hawaii to make an impact as well. Middle of the pack Indiana State won at Ball State. The result is a FCS league with 70 percent of the teams with winning records.
I thought the Mountain West would be a little higher but Boise State was the only team in the top 50 at No. 37. Little things like Air Force struggling to beat Georgia State, Colorado State getting pasted by Utah, and UNLV having a dismal year added up. It’s not good win Fresno State carries the West division despite a loss to the No. 172 team in UNLV.
The American Athletic had the largest variety with teams in the top 50 like Memphis and teams outside the top 200 in SMU. Little improvement among the back of the league will go a long way next season.
Conference USA may feel cheated to learn that Marshall had the highest ranking among mid-major teams but did not get to play in the Fiesta Bowl. The problem for CUSA is the bottom eight of the 13 teams were outside the Top 100.
It’s hard to rate the Sun Belt with two of its top four teams being denied bowl opportunities (Georgia Southern and Appalachian State) but it somehow rated higher than the MAC. Northern Illinois was the highest ranked in the MAC at No. 71 and that’s lowest ranking for any No. 1 team of a conference. The entire MAC East was a disaster with Bowling Green being the best at No. 120.
Instead of UMass, or some other team back East, the Mid-American Conference should be looking at the Missouri Valley for expansion. Go west young MAC. Go west.
The Sagarin rankings could change a tiny bit after the championship games this weekend but not much as Oregon and Ohio State are both secured in the top 3. For that I have to go with Oregon and North Dakota State in the FCS title.