College Volleyball Tournament Preview 2014: Happy Huskies

Can Colorado State be the mid-major that breaks through in this year's tournament?

Can Colorado State be the mid-major that breaks through in this year’s tournament?

The D-1 women’s volleyball tournament is here, and I’m a little late making my picks.

The bracket was not kind to Big Ten powerhouses Penn State and Wisconsin placing them in the same region. This means a rematch of last year’s championship match will most likely occur in the regional final.

Overall, Stanford is the top seed but Texas and Washington are right behind.

Through the RPI, the matches I was able to catch, and the college volleyball social media guide I did in August, I have to pick Washington to win it all over Stanford in the final. The Huskies gave the Cardinal its only loss and can do so again. Plus, Washington was one of the best schools in promoting volleyball over social media.

As far as upsets I think Nebraska is vulnerable to Kansas State, Creighton should have a good chance over Kansas and my big upset special is Long Beach State making it to the Sweet Sixteen through UCLA. My round one upset is Lipscomb over Ohio State.

I really wanted to pick Colorado State over Texas as the Rams have been the best mid-major this season. Just couldn’t do it so prove me wrong Rams. The selection committee did the Rams no favors with a likely meeting with rival Colorado in round 2.

Here are all my picks.

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FCS Playoff Preview 2014

It's that time of year. We're talking playoffs.

It’s that time of year. We’re talking playoffs.

Most of you will be watching your favorite rivalry game in FBS ball this weekend, but Saturday is also a big day for the FCS level. It’s the first round of the FCS Playoffs. Sixteen of the 24 teams will be in action and it’s time to break the field down.

1. Is New Hampshire really the best team?

The Wildcats went undefeated against FCS foes this year, only losing to FBS Toledo 54-20. While the CAA has three other teams in field, UNH did not play two of them. Villanova, the six seed, and James Madison were not on the schedule. Therefore, it’s hard to justify a CAA crown with that conference slate.

Its toughest opponent, Richmond, was a close three-point win. Last week, New Hampshire survived a 5-5 Maine team 20-12. Doesn’t really sound like the best team in the FCS. The Wildcats are good, you have to be to go 10-1, but the top seed seems generous.

2. What Top 8 Seeds are on Upset Alert?

There is always a team or two who go down in the second round as a top eight seed. The four/five seeds need to look out as Illinois State and Eastern Washington may have tough match-ups. Illinois State shared the Missouri Valley Football Conference (FCS best five teams in the field) with North Dakota State but may have to deal with a dangerous Northern Iowa club. UNI lost to Illinois State by 14 on Nov. 1 but the Panthers did beat North Dakota State and almost shocked Iowa.

Montana should cruise through San Diego and meet conference rival Eastern Washington in the second round. Again, EWU won the first meeting but it was close. Beating a team like Northern Iowa and Montana twice in the same year is not easy. Montana is number one in FCS in turnover margin at plus 16. Eastern Washington better protect the ball in that game.

Chattanooga, the eight seed, would be favored against the Eastern Kentucky/Indiana State winner but it will not be a cake walk. And if you think Villanova is looking forward to the winner of James Madison/Liberty you’re crazy.

3. Will North Dakota State make it four straight championships?

The Bison have the best defense in the field giving up just 255 yards per game. The question for them will be on offense. North Dakota State averaged 429 yards per game so it’s hard to see them struggling, especially at home. Their first two games should be a breeze as the semifinals and championship will be the only places for the Bison to falter. But there is one team I think can beat them.

4. The Dark Horse: Jacksonville State

The Gamecocks are number four in offense and number 14 in defense. That’s a juggernaut folks. Jacksonville State won at Chattanooga in week 2 and should be ready to challenge anyone, including North Dakota State. That’s why I’m picking Jacksonville State to win it all this year.

Now if it loses to Southeastern Louisiana in the second round then you never read this column. Here is my bracket.
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Down to the Wire Conference Crowns

Or three co-champions.

Or three co-champions.

With just two weeks to go in the regular season, some conferences and division titles are still up in the air. Here are the ones yet to be decided.

ACC Coastal

Georgia Tech is through ACC play with an impressive 6-2 record. Only Duke can catch Tech in the Coastal division at 4-2. Duke must win out against rival North Carolina (won’t be easy) and Wake Forest (a lock) all at home. The Blue Devils have the tie-breaker for the Yellow Jackets with a 31-25 win in Atlanta back on October 11. I think Duke will pull this one out and win back-to-back Coastal Division titles.

American Athletic Conference

East Carolina’s days as a top 25 team are long over after three losses in AAC play. Heck, no one in the conference is even receiving votes in the AP poll anymore. Memphis (5-1), Cincinnati (4-1), and Central Florida (4-1) are the top dogs now. Of those teams Memphis has the easiest schedule and with two home games against South Florida and UConn. Both have losing records.

Big 12

The Big 12 is down to Kansas State, Baylor and TCU. All have one loss in conference action but TCU has two games left while the others have three. Baylor and Kansas State still have to play each other in Manhattan. A K-State victory there will help but TCU has the tie-breaker against them. As long as TCU can get past Texas on Thanksgiving night it should be enough to win the conference and get a playoff spot.

Big Ten West

Four teams are alive in the West with Wisconsin (5-1) leading the way. Minnesota (4-2), Nebraska (4-2) and Iowa (4-2) have good odds too. Wisconsin still has to play at Iowa and host Minnesota. I think the Badgers will win out but a loss will cause plenty of chaos in this division.

MAC West

Northern Illinois (5-1), Toledo (5-1), Western Michigan (5-1) and Central Michigan (4-2) are slugging it out the final weeks in the MAC West. NIU is the typical favorite but has to go on the road to Western Michigan to close the season. Then again, Western still has to play at Central. Toledo hosts rival and MAC East champ Bowling Green Wednesday. I have to pick NIU, the defending MAC West champ, until the other schools prove themselves.

The Mountain West

This conference is wide-open with four teams in the Mountain division in Colorado State, Air Force, Boise State, and Utah State still going for the crown. The Rams are the only other ranked group of five team besides Marshall. The West is a three-way between 3-3 teams in Fresno State, San Diego State and Nevada. Boise State has the easiest schedule remaining in the Mountain and that’s where the conference champion will come from. If Colorado State wins at Air Force though, it should come out of the division. For now I have to go with Boise as Air Force is a tough out.

PAC-12 South

Arizona State’s upset loss at Oregon State has thrown this division into a flux. Arizona, USC, and UCLA (who I left for dead earlier) are also in the mix. I like UCLA as it hosts USC and Stanford. The Arizona’s still have to play each other and Arizona itself will have tough match at Utah.

SEC West

Alabama is back in the driver seat of the division after beating No. 1 Mississippi State Saturday. If Bama beats Auburn at home it will go to the SEC championship game. If Auburn pulls the upset that’s when it gets interesting. Mississippi State and Ole Miss still have to play each other too and the winner of that game would then become the division champion. That is of course if Ole Miss takes care of Arkansas and Mississippi State takes care of Vanderbilt this week.

SEC East

The SEC East is simple, if Missouri wins out the Tigers take the division. A loss to either at Tennessee or home to Arkansas and Georgia will win the division. The Bulldogs are through SEC play at 6-2 and but have the tie-breaker as they gave the Tigers their only SEC loss. Look for Missouri to drop a game giving Georgia the division.

Sun Belt

Georgia Southern and Louisiana are undefeated in Sun Belt action but don’t play each other. Georgia Southern has just one game remaining hosting 3-7 Louisiana-Monroe. The Ragin’ Cajuns have the tougher road hosting Appalachian State (5-5, 4-2) and at Troy (3-8, 3-4). I still think both teams will finish undefeated and we’ll have co-champions in the Sun Belt.

Bonus FCS Picks

Big Sky: Eastern Washington
Colonial: New Hampshire
Missouri Valley: Illinois State and North Dakota State
SWAC: Alcorn State

So Many Sports, So Little Time

With college basketball starting up we have four college sports in action this weekend. Welcome to November.

Soccer is having its first round of its big dance for the women and conference tournaments for the men this weekend. Volleyball is having regular season races nearing the finish line and we all know what’s at stake for college football teams this month. Saturday is huge for the SEC with Mississippi State and Alabama but the ACC and Big Ten have key games as well. Minnesota hosting Ohio State has upset alert written all over it and so does Florida State at Miami.

Here is my viewing guide as there is plenty to choose from over the next few days.
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Early Title Games for the Big Ten and Big 12?

Navi Sol 11-8The Fall sports season is reaching its climax as conference races are easy to picture now. Ohio State at Michigan State is virtually the Big Ten title game. Kansas State at TCU could be the same with the Big 12. I like Michigan State and Kansas State for those two. Alabama at LSU is always a big game that could go either way. Arizona State has a chance to stop Notre Dame’s playoff hopes in the afternoon. I’m picking the Sun Devils.

If women’s soccer is your sport than this is your weekend with conference tournaments. The Big Ten, ACC and SEC will have their title matches Sunday afternoon but look for smaller conferences on ESPN3.

Saturday Reaction: Clemson, Big 10 and Mother Nature

It was a huge night of college football as the defending national champion was tested. While the story is and will continue to be Jameis Winston the real story should be how Clemson blew this game. Missed field goals and a bad fumble kept the Seminoles in it and now we have to listen to Winston talk for the next few months.

Coach Jimbo Fisher’s quote “We know how to win” at the end of the game on ABC is a stretch. Clemson helped FSU with a slow developing play call on fourth and one. The Tigers had a 407-318 lead in yards and still lost.

Florida State is still in the driver seat for the ACC title and a playoff spot. For college football as a whole though, Winston will continue to be a bad distraction. People don’t change this quickly and I’m bracing myself for the next bad report out of Tallahassee.

Winner: Sean Maguire, Florida State quarterback

Congratulations to Maguire for keeping the Seminoles alive for another national title. He did throw more picks (2) than touchdowns (1) but his 305 passing yards were unexpected for a guy who threw just 116 yards last season. That was probably in garbage time too. Florida State fans will always have respect for Maguire for years to come.

Loser: ACC

The conference looks weak outside of Florida State right now. North Carolina was rolled over by East Carolina in embarrassing fashion. Syracuse, Miami and Pittsburgh lost to Big Ten schools. The best win the conference had today was Duke over Tulane. Not going to move the needle with that one.

Winner: Samantha Ponder

Ponder gave a great take on Winston during College Gameday as she explained why his suspension was warranted. It was probably the best I’ve heard and that’s with everyone in the media giving their two cents. Please give her more time than David Pollack ESPN.

Loser: Florida State University

The school originally suspended Winston for just the first half of the Clemson game but changed course to a full game late Friday night. Nothing good is announced on a Friday night. The school came across as suspicious and incompetent. Better to stick to your original decision to than to try and sweep a new choice in past newspaper deadlines. It was bad public relations coming from a school that appears to not have any.

Winner: Mother Nature

Several games have been delayed due to lightning this year and more were impacted this week. Michigan vs. Utah, Illinois vs. Texas State and Toledo vs. Ball State were games that were severely delayed.

Loser: Michigan Athletics

Well this tweet from the Michigan Golf Club sums it up.

Should note that the golf club is not a varsity sport for Michigan but yeah, that’s disrespectful of the athletics department if that’s true.

Winner: Indiana

The Hoosiers got there first win against a Top 25 team under Kevin Wilson today after six unsuccessful tries. IU went into Columbia, Missouri and knocked off the No. 18 Tigers 31-27. This was huge for the Big Ten as the Hoosiers are the only school in the league with a win over an SEC school this year. SEC fans will go back to disowning Missouri on a convenient basis. Today, the Tigers are back in the Big 12.

The NCAA Continues to Stick to its Guns

Or on and off the lake.

Or on and off the lake.


On Sunday the NCAA had the national championship in women’s rowing just minutes away from me in Indianapolis. When I asked a friend if we should get tickets to a women’s rowing event I was met with some strange looks. I might as well have proposed watching the “Twilight” trilogy in one sitting. So I sat this one out.

Ohio State repeated as the Division I champ and congratulations to the Buckeyes. The Ohio State women’s rowing team is also the banner photo for the NCAA’s Facebook page. Here the phrase “Champions on and off the court” is displayed symbolizing academic success.

The NCAA is once again fighting to the bitter end that all of its athletes are students first. Highlighting a women’s rowing team is not going to go very far to persuade the masses that only see the football and basketball players skipping class. At this point, the campaign is comical.

Perhaps a better campaign would be “Providing Opportunities for the Youth of America.” That’s cheesier than a superhero movie but it allows the NCAA to claim credit for those who graduate while still being illiterate. Looking at you SEC football.

Here are some other things I noticed this past week…

CBS Makes Some Changes

Speaking of the SEC, CBS is trying to solidify their alpha dog position on the conference. CBS sports announced that Adam Zucker will be replacing Tim Brando on their College Football Today. A show that serves as a pregame for their SEC game of the week. Allie LaForce is taking the place of Tracy Wolfson as the lead sideline reporter in that game. Could this be a preemptive move to go younger to combat ESPN’s launch of the new SEC Network? The timing can’t be a coincidence.

Flooding on the Field

McNeese State had a wonderful 2013 college football season. It made the FCS playoffs and crushed FBS South Florida 53-21. Lets hope a little water doesn’t stop their momentum.

Only a marketing guy could turn a flooded football field into a chance to sell season tickets. Not sure if it will work but at least they’re trying hard. Just good luck kicking a field goal in that lake.