Budget games Week 1

Possible new logo for the Sun Belt Conference this week

Possible new logo for the Sun Belt Conference this week

College football is back, and while some match-ups are enticing this weekend, others are a cakewalk. Here are some games where a powerhouse football program is paying a FBS mid-major in need of funds (typically around $1 million) to take a beating.

Arkansas State at No. 8 USC

The Red Wolves went 7-6 last season and played in its fourth straight GoDaddy Bowl. That’s an impressive achievement for the ASU program. Unfortunately, the University of Southern California doesn’t really care about that. The Trojans see a Sun Belt program that should go down easy.

Arkansas State might actually make USC nervous for tiny bit but the Trojans should be able to score at will in this one. Three of ASU’s top four tacklers are gone from a year ago and that’s big problem against USC. Trojans roll.

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 9 Georgia

The good news for Louisana-Monroe is that it defeated a power conference school last season. The bad news is that was Wake Forest. The Warhawks went 4-8 last year and was held to under 100 yards in it’s 31-0 loss at LSU. ULM also lost at Kentucky 48-14. So I doubt Georgia will have much fear here.

Throw in the fact Georgia has won 17 of its last 18 home openers and you have a very long day for ULM in Athens.

Texas State at No. 10 Florida State

Texas State has been bowl eligible the past two seasons (did not get selected) and has a great chance to finally get in. That might not be seen in its opener at Florida State. The Seminoles are 10-1 all-time against current Sun Belt teams.

Florida State is in transition with a new quarterback so maybe Texas State can hang around in this game for a quarter or two. Eventually though, the Bobcat defense with four of its five best tacklers gone from last season will collapse. It won’t be pretty when it does.

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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

Budget Games of the Opening Week

Budget Games newCollege football schedules are driven by revenue and there are schools that need revenue badly. The first few weeks of the season are loaded with power conference programs paying mid-major FBS schools to serve as target practice. Such is life in the “Group of 5” (AAC, CUSA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt). Welcome to the “Budget Games” slackers, where the odds are never in your favor.

Georgia Southern at NC State, Aug 30.

The Eagles are entering year one as a FBS school and that costs money. Money North Carolina State is willing to provide to the tune of $700,000 for a home game. NC State went a dismal 3-9 last year and were uncompetitive against the likes of Boston College, East Carolina and Maryland. The Eagles beat Florida last year so taking down a FBS school like NC State is nothing new.

Georgia Southern has an opportunity here to get paid and score a win. I give the Eagles a 40% chance of pulling off the upset. That will be a happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas, and a happy New Year all over again.

Temple at Vanderbilt, Aug 28

The American Athletic Conference is now on the same level as the MAC and Conference USA. This means Temple is back to collecting cash and Vanderbilt is its first supplier. The Owls went 2-10 in 2013 but had decent showings in their final six games. While Vanderbilt has a new head coach in Derek Mason, it seems hard to believe they’ll drop a Thursday night game to a team like Temple. The pressure will be on running back Jerron Seymour to carry Vandy’s offense as the passing attack is inexperienced. I place Temple’s chances of an upset at 25 percent.

Appalachian State at Michigan Aug 30

Michigan is paying Appalachian State 1 million dollars to get a chance at revenge. Why else would Michigan schedule them? MAC schools surround the Wolverines so importing a Sun Belt program from North Carolina is a little obvious.

The Mountaineers are now in the FBS and their upset over Michigan in 2007 had plenty to do with that. App State went 4-8 last season but returns their starting QB, RB and offensive line. That could make things interesting. If Akron scared Michigan last year then you know Appalachian State has a shot. I give them a 20 percent chance.

Utah State vs. Tennessee, Aug 31

Utah State of the Mountain West will take its crack at a SEC school on a Sunday game. The Aggies have potential too coming off a 9-5 year. The Volunteers have not scared anyone in years and Utah State is coming to win. Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is better than anyone Tennessee has under center.

I view this as a coin-flip as Tennessee may panic at home if this is close late. I give the Aggies a 49 percent chance. Better bring your best game Tennessee.

FAU vs. Nebraska, Aug 30

Florida Atlantic opens the season at Nebraska and at Alabama. Now that’s an athletic department in need of funds. Bo Pelini is taking heat from Nebraska fans and a loss to a Sun Belt team in the opener will cause a revolt. Wyoming almost knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln last season and Florida Atlantic is not too far off in talent from Wyoming. The Owls also won their last four games in 2013 but I can only give them a 20 percent chance. The Cornhuskers would have to turn the ball over a lot to choke this one, but did I mention Nebraska was -11 in turnover margin last year. Whoops.

Rice vs. Notre Dame, Aug 30

Our third Owl team on the list and this is the best of them. Rice won Conference USA last season and will receive a 1.1 million dollar check to play Notre Dame. Rice lost their top QB, RB and its two best tacklers on defense to graduation so that’s a big mountain to climb in the first week. I give Rice a five percent chance of winning.

Idaho vs. Florida, Aug 30

Idaho is trying hard to recruit in Sun Belt territory and raise funds in the process. The solution is to play Florida for $975,000. The Vandals will be better than their 1-11 team from last season but Florida will be better too. If Idaho can’t stay close to Washington State in 2013 (42-0) then Florida should hold its own here. I give the Vandals a five percent chance to pull the upset.

Underdog of the Year

I’ve been making fun of Georgia State Panther football this year as it symbolizes a huge problem with big time college football. While the 0-4 Panthers have not reached the big time (and won’t anytime soon) they did upgrade their program to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The equivalency is moving out of an apartment and buying a house, or jumping from a Nintendo GameCube to a PlayStation 3.Budget Games new

Making this upgrade costs money. A lot of money.

What return has Georgia State received for shelling out the cash?

Three losses to Football Bowl Subdivision teams (FCS). The classification Georgia State had last year. Those three teams beat Georgia State with half of its budget. Also with half of its resources and half of the media attention Georgia State is entitled too. Georgia State was also destroyed playing a budget game at West Virginia 37-0. How can this program build a fan base? How can the program justify the expenses it now carries as a FBS school?

The Panthers went 1-10 last year playing a schedule of full of FCS schools. Now they are fighting out of its weight class and getting destroyed. GSU is ranked No. 208 in the Sagarin rankings behind 83 FCS schools.

Now comes Georgia States biggest challenge: No. 1 Alabama.

The Crimson Tide is a 55 and half point favorite over the Panthers. Almost eight touchdowns!

The game is unfair but GSU needs the paycheck from Alabama. Alabama needs the bye week Georgia State provides.

Some say sports are about winning and losing. That’s a sad black and white perspective if you ask me. For Georgia State it is about persevering and growth.

More like the Iraqi Air Force vs. the Death Star.

More like the Iraqi Air Force vs. the Death Star.

It’s why I enjoy cheering for the bad teams. For Alabama the only question is will it play as well as it’s capable of?
For Georgia State the questions are will it give up? Will it continue to play when the score 50-0? Will the team show any signs of progress?

Losing to a FCS school is comical. Getting creamed by the nation’s best team is cruel and painful. I hope the Panthers continue to fight and let something good come out of this.

The Panthers will be losers on the scoreboard Saturday, but if they refuse to give in they just might score the biggest win on the weekend. Their coach is Trent Miles, who turned around a gruesome squad at Indiana State. He’s been there before.

If you still think winning is everything. Watch Georgia State play Alabama. Particularly in 4th quarter. You’ll be proven wrong.

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.

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.