Photos from the stands: EKU at Ball State

Ball State defenders loved the ample chances for interceptions in this game.

Ball State defenders loved the ample chances for interceptions in this game.

Had the pleasure of meeting up with a few college friends this week to see my alma mater take on FCS Eastern Kentucky, my mom’s alma mater. So this game had family rivalry.

Both teams entered 1-1 and many thought the Colonels of EKU could make a game out of it. Shockingly, Eastern’s offense played worse at Ball State than it did at Purdue two weeks prior. Starting QB Bennie Coney was pulled with a 1 for 4 stat line of one yard and two interceptions. Something fans in the stands could have duplicated.

Maty Mauk, a transfer from Missouri, played better but was far from good. His best stats came in the fourth quarter in garbage time.

Eastern Kentucky committed 128 yards in penalties including a running into the punter that extended a Ball State drive that led to a touchdown. The Colonels practically blew themselves out.

Ball State won easily but the contest was more about how inept Eastern Kentucky was. The Cards were able to spread the ball around to three different receivers that had six receptions each. The defense does deserve credit for holding EKU to just three yards rushing. It helps though when you know a team can’t pass.

The best part of the day was Eastern Kentucky trying to fire themselves up on the sideline with a huddle after the third quarter. Problem is they were down 34-0. Cardinals would win 41-14.

Ball State did a great job of protecting QB Riley Neal.

Ball State did a great job of protecting QB Riley Neal.

Ball State QB Riley Neal

Ball State QB Riley Neal

EKU couldn't run the ball at all. Punting from their own 10 yard line occurred more than once.

EKU couldn’t run the ball at all. Punting from their own 10 yard line occurred more than once.

EKU covered signals with these flags I think to prevent people from stealing them in the press box.

EKU covered signals with these flags I think to prevent people from stealing them in the press box.




1st round NCAA tourney games to love and hate

The first round is all about upsets and mid-majors getting their chance. Sometimes the committee enables the upsets and other times they deny them. Here are some examples.

Love: 13 Seed Eastern Washington vs. 4 Seed Georgetown
Georgetown is becoming the punching bag for Cinderella teams in the past few years (VCU and Florida Gulf Coast) and Eastern Washington gets crack at extending the streak. The team strength of the Hoyas is protecting the rim but the Eagles are a top 10 3-point shooting team and can circumvent the size of the Hoyas. That makes this interesting and a must watch as the opportunity for the upset or a close game is there.

Hate: 12 Seed Wyoming vs. 5 Seed Northern Iowa
See the problem here? Both these mid-majors could top a power conference team but have been denied that opportunity with this pairing. I love Northern Iowa but it would not benefit the exposure and prestige of the program by beating Wyoming. Wish this game was against a Texas or an Indiana team so that the nation would respect UNI more for after a win.

Love: 15 Seed Belmont vs. 2 Seed Virginia
Virginia is one of the best defensive college basketball teams you’ll ever see, but tiny Belmont of the Ohio Valley Conference can score, score, score. Belmont is a top 50 offense and 3-point shooting team. If the Bruins heat up from the field, this little 15 vs. 2 bracket buster could become a very real.

Hate: 8 Seed North Carolina State vs. 9 Seed LSU
Some 8/9 games are compelling but this is not one of them. LSU just lost to a 14-19 Auburn team in its first game of the SEC tournament. NC State was eviscerated by Duke in the ACC tournament in a game that was never competitive. The winner will probably get Villanova but I would rather pass on this game involving two teams combining for 23 losses on the year.

Love: 13 Seed UC Irvine vs. 4 Seed Louisville
Welcome to the block party! Both UC Irvine and Louisville are in the top 50 in blocks per game. The Anteaters have a 7’6” center in Mamadou Ndiaye and if you have a guy like that you have a chance. Louisville is a strong defensive team but UC Irvine can shoot the 3. That’s enough intrigue for me.

Hate: 7 Seed Iowa vs. 10 Seed Davidson
You have no idea how hard it was to write that. How is Davidson the underdog here? The Wildcats went 14-4 in the Atlantic 10 and was rewarded with a 10 seed? Iowa is a 7 seed despite losing to bottom of the conference Penn State team in the Big Ten tournament. The only way this game is worth watching is if Davidson takes to Iowa and blows it out to rectify the poor seeding from the committee.

Have College Football Rivalries Become Too Heated?

There were three examples Saturday of in-state rivalry games turning ugly. Two were in unconventional ways I’ve never seen before. Not to mention the fact they were beyond disrespectful.

Michigan at Michigan State

Michigan State is the defending Big Ten champions and are the pride of the conference yet again heading into November at 7-1. Michigan is 3-5 with little hope of making it to a bowl. So when Michigan took the field at East Lansing and planted a stake on the field it did not go over well. While Michigan may have thought it represented unity, the Spartans viewed it as vandalism to its turf.

Michigan’s head coach Brady Hoke apologized after the game but the whole act is tough to excuse. Michigan State fans shouldn’t feel bitter though as the Spartans won 35-11.

Texas Tech at TCU

Over in Fort Worth, TCU showed no mercy to in-state rival Texas Tech. The result was an 82-27 final score in favor of the Horned Frogs. The score was 68-27 at the end of the third quarter but TCU was still trying to tack more on, including putting the ball in the air six times in the quarter. Maybe it was because they were record hunting.

Passing the football late in the game with a huge lead is unacceptable. Just run the clock out and go home. The Horned Frogs had cupcake wins over FCS Samford and SMU and only scored 48 and 56 on those teams. TCU was just trying to embarrass a rival and went to great lengths to do so Saturday. Just because TCU could score 82 doesn’t mean it should.

Georgia Southern at Georgia State

Move over Georgia and Georgia Tech, the Peach State has a new college football rivalry that has more “clean, old fashioned hate” than you. Georgia Southern is tearing through the Sun Belt in its first season as an FBS team and has developed a passionate fan base thanks to decades of success on the FCS level. Georgia State is still an infant in the college football world and is going through the growing pains of just 2 wins in its last 25 games. Despite the contrast this is a heated rivalry. Both programs like to be called GSU, wear blue, and are in the same conference now. Although, the Panthers went into detail as to why they believe GSU is for Georgia State alone.

Georgia Southern wanted to really stick it to the Panther fans by traveling to the game wearing white Eagle’s shirts in a successful white-out in the stadium of its rival. You can see how many Georgia Southern Fans are behind the goal post here.

GA So takeover

Having more fans than the home team is one thing. Bringing a banner to the field after your win is not so innocent. The Eagles posed for a picture with a banner saying “Paulson Stadium North,” claiming the Georgia Dome as an affiliate to its campus venue. This photo is courtesy of Two Cents Radio.

Just think about it, the Eagles had to secretly carry that into the stadium and then take the time to pose for the camera like high school kids at prom. If that’s not enough for you, then what about T-shirts? For almost $17, you can buy a T-shirt of Georgia Southern Eagle holding a Georgia State panther upside down over the Georgia Dome. Oh, and the “GSU” battle comes up again at the bottom.

These types of shirts are common through fan sites, but this shirt is THROUGH THE SCHOOL. This is Georgia Southern merchandise! This rivalry is getting out of hand and it seems to appear that both sides have forgotten it’s just a football game, not a cure to solve trademark dispute. Georgia State does not have the ability to fight back in football today but what will happen if the Panthers become a power five years from now? This could really blow up.

I hope fan bases from all schools who are about to square off in November (looking at you Iron Bowl) don’t turn to blatant disrespect as their weapon of choice. What were once harmless jokes between fan bases got out of hand Saturday, and that’s probably not the last time that will occur this season.

The Two Sides of Every Hail Mary

A problem of living in the Eastern Time Zone is all the PAC-12 games happen late. Luckily, I’m a night owl and was able to see Twitter explode about a Hail Mary touchdown to propel Arizona to a 49-45 win over California. The Wildcats rallied from a 31-13 deficit at the end of the third quarter to break the hearts of Golden Bears fans everywhere. Three touchdowns came in the final 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

As you can bet, Arizona was excited on social media after the win. Like a comic book geek meeting Stan Lee level of excitement.

Arizona is still unraked but remains one of seven undefeated teams in the PAC-12. This is what the celebration looked like in the locker room. Zona will travel to No. 2 Oregon on Thursday Oct. 2 in a game that will test the team’s resolve even more. But as Coach Rich Rodriguez said, they’ll “enjoy the Hell out of this one.”

That confident crew you saw there is a sharp contrast from the prayer they made before the Hail Mary.

California could only pump out a short final score tweet after the game and rightfully so. It’s easy to say something you shouldn’t after giving up 36 points in a fourth quarter. The Bears did respond brilliantly with this retweet after some breathing time.

It’s a shame too as California was on the brink of tripling its win total from last year. In the competitive PAC-12, the Sensor Scans Golden Bears will need every win to reach bowl eligibility. Colorado comes to Berkely Saturday in what appears to be the easiest game remaining on Cal’s schedule. A rebound against the Buffaloes is a must to avoid a season letdown.

Pirates Own the Tar Heels

It was a surprise when East Carolina defeated Virginia Tech a week ago but the Pirates decided to pummel another ACC school to validate themselves. ECU destroyed North Carolina 70-41 Saturday. SEVENTY!

Phil Steele along with other experts picked North Carolina to win the Coastal Division in the ACC this year. The beatdown was a big black eye for the conference as fellow members Miami, Syracuse and Pittsburgh lost to Big 10 schools too. East Carolina has positioned itself as the best school in the state for recruiting. The only other school that could compete with it is Duke and it’s a basketball school. As for ECU hanging 70 on a team, well it’s been a while since that last occurred.

The American Athletic Conference went 7-1 in non conference play Saturday and is having a great year overall.

Purdue Forgets How to Win

The Boilermakers have had a tough couple of years in football but won its second game of the year against FCS Southern Illinois. The school appears to be out of practice as some newbie in the athletics department hung the “W” flag upside down over Ross-Ade Stadium.

The bright side to all this is how Purdue won’t have to raise another “W” flag this season as the Boilers will be a underdog the rest of the season.Northwestern on November 22, however, will be Purdue’s best chance for a Big 10 win.

Volleyball and the 700 Club

The New Hampshire women’s volleyball team defeated Rhode Island Saturday in five sets (23-25, 25-20, 26-24, 26-28, 15-12). The real story though is it was 700th victory of Coach Jill Hirschinger and the photo-op was on. This tweet shows how the Wildcats used their tall volleyball bodies to spell out 700.

UNH has started the season 6-9 but should do well in conference play as the Wildcats are the defending American East champions.

Minnesota is “Dressed for Kill”

Check out these shirts Minnesota passed out to fans in their game with San Jose State to play with the name of its coach Jerry Kill. The Golden Gophers handled the Spartans 24-7 Saturday to move to 3-1.

Look for Kill and his team to go bowling for a third straight year and perhaps give Wisconsin trouble in the Big Ten West.

Kentucky and Lincoln

Kentucky and Louisville is one of the biggest rivalries in college athletics but the men’s soccer matchup caught my eye this week. The two teams meet tonight and Wildcats are going with a famous historical figure to trash Louisville.

That’s right; Kentucky is saying Abraham Lincoln was a Cats fan. The school will pass out shirts that say exactly that in the soccer game. Fans are encouraged to manufacture a top hat and other 19th century garb to dress up like the 16th president himself.

Better than Vampire Hunter

Better than Vampire Hunter

In a way it’s a cool idea as Lincoln was born in Central Kentucky. Problem is the University of Kentucky was not established until 1865, the year Lincoln was assassinated. Louisville was around when Lincoln was born so I’m sure Cardinal fans are ready to argue. Still, it’s a pretty cool marketing technique connecting sports to history of the Commonwealth in a nerdy way. Hard to beat that. Plus, if Lincoln was born today where he was there is little chance he’ll be pulling for Louisville. You’re on an island Jefferson County.

Popcorn Galore

Every wondered what 200 containers of popcorn looks like? Well East Tennessee State gave away free popcorn to 200 fans at its soccer match this weekend.

That’s 200 reasons why it’s cool to live in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Enjoy the Check Kent State, Southern Miss and Wyoming

This is a soft slate of college football games this week as Georgia vs. South Carolina is the only match-up between Top 25 teams. There is a reason why the College GameDay gang is at North Dakota State tomorrow and that’s because there isn’t a better place to go. So that means it’s time to see what mid-majors are bold enough to get paid and destroyed by the big boys. Welcome to the Budget Games.Budget Games new

Kent State at Ohio State

The Buckeyes will pay the Golden Flashes $850,000 to travel to Columbus and take a beating Saturday. Or will they? Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is trying to fill in for injured Braxton Miller and has thrown 4 picks. Three of which came in its 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech.

Kent State though couldn’t break 300 yards of offense against Ohio and South Alabama so the Ohio State defense will be a mountain. This upset is simply not happening as I give 0-2 Kent State a 2 percent chance.

Southern Mississippi at Alabama

Say hello to a beating Golden Eagles. Southern Mississippi was trashed by Mississippi State 49-0 and No.3 Alabama is better than Mississippi State. Southern Miss barely survived FCS Alcorn State 26-20 so this game is going to get ugly and get ugly fast. This has a zero percent chance of an upset.

Wyoming at Oregon

Just think about this moment when Oregon is up 56-14 Wyoming fans.

Just think about this moment when Oregon is up 56-14 Wyoming fans.

No. 2 Oregon just had a huge win over Michigan State and Wyoming just had a huge win over… Air Force. Wyoming is 2-0 but the average margin of victory is 4.5 points. That includes a tight 17-12 decision over FCS Montana. Oregon had nearly 500 yards of offense against a strong defense in Michigan State while Wyoming had 300 yards against Montana. Not good. Zero percent chance of upset.

Other Budget Games: UL-Monroe at LSU, Miami U at Michigan, UMass at Vanderbilt, Louisiana at Ole Miss

FCS Defenders: Where the Upsets Will Happen

Because Photoshopping logos onto a tank is harder.

Because Photoshopping logos onto a tank is harder.

The first few weeks of the year is the only time college football has a March Madness flavor to it as FCS schools get a crack at the big boys. Fourty-six FCS teams will square off against FBS counterparts this week and roughly half have a chance of pulling off the upset. The big schools can’t recruit everyone and the FCS programs benefit greatly from transfers. FBS schools have a recruiting edge in grabbing the scarcity of quality linemen but skill positions (quarterbacks and receivers) are roughly the same quality in FCS.

Losing to a FCS school carries various degrees of shame. When a MAC school loses to a FCS squad, it is embarrassing, like losing to a 6-year-old at a video game. When a Big Ten school loses to a FCS program, it is crippling, like being interviewed by Chris Hansen on Dateline. See Michigan versus Appalachian State as exhibit A. Here are a few FCS vs. FBS games to look at in the opening week.

Abilene Christian at Georgia State

The season officially starts for FBS schools with a potential upset. The Panthers went 0-12 in 2013 and lost to three FCS programs in the process. Georgia State hopes to snap its 16-game losing streak against Abilene Christian, who lost most of its offense from a year ago.

ACU did finished 18 spots higher than GSU in the Sagarin rankings last season and appears to have a beefier offensive line. This is a 50/50 game but I have to give it to Georgia State. They have been marketing it like it’s their Super Bowl and they’ll need that mindset to end the losing streak.

UT-Martin at Kentucky

I know it’s a popular to pick an underdog over Kentucky but the Wildcats are 10-0 all-time vs. FCS programs. The only chance the Skyhawks have is hoping for complete incompetence from the Cats at quarterback. Kentucky is going with redshirt sophomore PatrickTowles who has little game experience. This opens the door for UT-Martin but don’t bet on it. Kentucky should win this one by at least a couple of touchdowns as Kentucky returns most of its defense.

Youngstown State at Illinois

Illinois went 4-8 last season and will be breaking in a new quarterback. The Fighting Illini also lost most of its receivers. In terms of size on the line of scrimmage Illinois is bigger but not by much. No. 21 FCS Youngstown State also lost its starting quarterback from last season so the QB position is a wash.

Looking at common opponents, Youngstown State lost to Michigan State last season by 38. Illinois lost to Michigan State in 2013 by 39. Uh Oh! These teams are close to even and that is not a good sign for Illinois. I’m picking the Penguins because I always wanted to stay that.

Delaware at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh went 7-6 last season and lost some big pieces on defense and its quarterback. Is that enough for the Delaware Blue Hens to capitalize on? Senior quarterback Trent Hurley returns after throwing 22 touchdowns in 2013 to only seven interceptions. That’s a big problem for the Panthers.

However, Delaware will be severely undersized at the line of scrimmage and this team was blown out by Navy a year ago. A team Pittsburgh defeated. I expect Delaware to stick around but I can’t pick the upset.

Montana at Wyoming

Wyoming is rolling the dice playing the No. 5 FCS team in Montana. The Cowboys return most of its team but will have a new starter a quarterback along with a new coach (Craig Bohl). For the Griz, quarterback Jordan Johnson returns after throwing 32 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Montana will have to overcome a moderate size difference up front but this will be a close one. I’ll pick Montana because of the coaching transition at Wyoming.

Plus how can you go against a school that has a hype video with a Batman style soundtrack.

Montana State at Arkansas State

Arkansas State won a bowl game last season and welcomes No. 17 FCS Montana State on Saturday. The Red Wolves lost a big chunk of its offense including quarterback. Montana State nearly took down FBS SMU last season and have a decent chance here too. It does not help that the Bobcats will be giving Dakota Prukop his first start at QB. The Bobcats are larger at offensive line and the Red Wolves went through a coaching change. Arkansas State’s defense will have to hold on to prevent the upset and I think they will against a new quarterback. I predict the Bobcats will come up short again.

Northern Arizona at San Diego State

Our third FCS school from the Big Sky on this list is No. 25 Northern Arizona. San Diego State was crushed by FCS Eastern Illinois last season 40-19 and lost most of its defense. However, the Lumberjacks don’t have an amazing quarterback like Eastern’s Jimmy Garoppolo. I’m calling the Aztecs to survive this one.

New Hampshire at Toledo

Toledo is a favorite to win the MAC but CAA New Hampshire is No. 4 in FCS. The Rockets have a new starter at quarterback but return most of its defense. The Wildcats have two quarterbacks that are experienced. I look for Toledo to hold on as New Hampshire barley lost to MAC foe Central Michigan last season. A team Toledo crushed. Plus, if these fans show up then the Rockets should feel safe.

Chattanooga at Central Michigan

Speaking of Central Michigan, it plays No. 16 Chattanooga in what should be a tight game. Central returns most of its team and is predicted to have a breakout year in the MAC. That doesn’t mean losing to a talented FCS program is out of question. Junior quarterback Jacob Huesman had 25 total touchdowns last season compared with five interceptions for the Mocs. They also want to get the bad taste of the Alabama beating they took at the end of last season 49-0. Huesman was unable to play much in that game due to injury. Central does not appear to have much of a size advantage on the line. I think it will come down to skill positions and that’s why I’m picking Chattanooga.

Bethune-Cookman at FIU

No. 23 Bethune-Cookman beat Florida International last year 34-13. While FIU returns most of its players from its disastrous 1-11 campaign in 2013, the Panthers are going to be challenged to make up three touchdowns. Bethune-Cookman is 3-0 all time against FIU and that will probably be 4-0 after Saturday. FIU is giving away food and tuition to bring out fans. Good luck with that.

Cal-Poly at New Mexico State

New Mexico State went 2-10 last season and lost its top passer, rusher, receiver and six of its top seven tacklers. I don’t know if Cal-Poly, 6-6 in 2013, can take advantage though. The Mustangs will be undersized and that might prevent them from having much rushing success in its triple option. Not sure if their two quarterback system will work well in this one. Have to give the edge to the Aggies.

North Dakota State at Iowa State

Save the best for last and that’s the Bison, who have won three-straight FCS titles. They shocked Kansas State in 2013 and play a weaker Big 12 team this season in Iowa State. Did I mention Iowa State lost to FCS Northern Iowa last season 28-20?

But the Cyclones have experience on offense now as the defense is the question. No one has a clear size advantage on the line of scrimmage making quarterback play pivotal. That could be a problem for NDSU as new starting quarterback Carson Wentz is unproven. However, the two quarterback system for Iowa State cost them 14 interceptions last season and you can bet at least one more will come Saturday. That should be all NDSU needs as I’m picking them to extend its 24-game winning streak.

That means I’m picking five FCS programs over FBS teams this week with a few more tight contests. Here are other FCS vs. FBS games with some upset potential this week. Villanova at Syracuse; Liberty at North Carolina; Portland State at Oregon State; Nicholls State at Air Force; Morgan State at Eastern Michigan

2014’s doormats of college basketball

We’ve reached the point of the year where some schools are gunning for top seeds. Others just want to reach the tournament or even the NIT. For these programs, however, they just want to win a game in their league.

Hey, it's a living.

Hey, it’s a living.

Here are the five schools (No. 1 being the worse) that have yet to win a conference game this season. Congratulations to Grambling State for just avoiding this list by getting its first SWAC win last week. Now if only you could get a football team that didn’t mutiny.

No. 5 Texas Christian: 9-15, 0-12 Big 12

What’s ironic is TCU had a 9-3 record in non-conference action, but is now associated with the poorest in the nation thanks to its Big-12 neighbors.

The lesson here is if you want to move up a conference for your football team then be prepared to ignore the hardwood if your program has no pedigree. Otherwise, you might end up with the nastiest promotion this season.

Fried pickles? FRIED PICKLES? TCU even followed up on the promotion.

I can’t believe three TCU students agreed to have their photo taken for free fried pickles. Baylor and Texas Tech fans should have this as their wallpaper image.

Can TCU win a Big-12 game? Doubtful

All of the other conference schools have a winning record. Oklahoma State at home on February 24 is probably its best bet.

No. 4 San Jose Stat: 0-13, 6-19 Mountain West

There are rebuilding efforts and then there is San Jose State. The Spartans have 13 players with six of them freshmen. Throw in a first-year head coach and the season can’t end fast enough.

When the school is boasting about having a halftime lead for the first time in a month it’s time to go home. San Jose State only scored nine points in the second half and lost to Wyoming 46-38.

Can San Jose State win a Mountain West game? Yes

Its last three conference games are against teams with losing conference records. Fresno State at home on March 8 looks promising.

No. 3 Illinois-Chicago: 5-21, 0-12 Horizon League

How bad are the UIC Flames? Just take a look at its Twitter account.

These people are on to me. If they don't tweet I can't make fun of them.

These people are on to me. If they don’t tweet I can’t make fun of them.

What’s worse? A division I program being inactive in social media or the fact that 26 people are following said inactive account.

The Flames have come close, losing in the final seconds at Oakland 76-75. UIC has also been blown out by basketball juggernauts Northwestern and Valparaiso at home. So baby steps.

Can UIC win a Horizon League game? Yes

UIC plays three of its final four games at home with two teams with losing records still on the schedule. Look for the first win to come against Oakland or Detroit.

No. 2 Citadel: 4-23, 0-12 Southern

Three of Citadel’s four wins have come against non-division I teams meaning it really is a 1-23 team. Things are so bad for the Bulldogs that it is an achievement to just be remotely competitive in a game.

That’s right, striking distance. Where else is being within striking distance against 8-17 Furman a good thing?

Can the Citadel win a Southern game? Yes

The Bulldogs have taken two teams into overtime so they can do it. At the very least Citadel should stay in “striking distance” of Samford and Georgia Southern.

No. 1 Southern Utah: 1-22, 0-14 Big Sky

Meet the worse team in college basketball, the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah is dead last in the nation in points per game at a measly 56.2, over two points less than the next team. The Thunderbirds are also in the bottom four rebounding. Just look at how exciting they get when they actually score.

When you forget the fact that Southern Utah is down by eight that three-pointer is almost a big deal. Southern Utah has yet to defeat a single division I team and has been blown out by the likes of Northern Arizona.

Can Southern Utah win a Big Sky game? Nope

Sorry, the Thunderbirds can’t score. Portland State at home this Thursday is a long shot and that might be generous.