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.




MACtion Fights Perceptions

Sticks and stones may break my bones but linebackers will never hurt me.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but linebackers will never hurt me.

Readers of my site know I have a soft spot for mid-major conferences and it goes double for the Mid-American Conference as I went to Ball State. So it’s pretty cool when the MAC tries to advertise itself or rebrand the schools in the league.

That’s pretty much the goal of the ad developed by 160over90. First, lets take a look at how the MAC tried to portray itself in the past. Most little commercials for the conference have tried to focus on sportsmanship pr unspecified traditions. Just like this ad for example.

Yep, nothing says #MACtion like a breakfast diner. Still, it’s a lot better than this throwback gem from 1998. Just hit it.

Now that you have a baseline you can see why the MAC could use some help here. Check out the finished result.

The ad taps into the Midwest angst and feeling of invisibility giving it an edge. MAC fans are used to being the underdog and that will probably never change.  We kind of like it that way. The site explains the perceptions a little further.

You can also create memes with school colors

if you want some trash talk with Big Ten fans.

While this campaign emphasizes the MAC does not need spotlight, it’s obvious some spotlight will help. MAC football has generally struggled in the attendance category, especially in November when schools play games during the week in frigid temperatures.  Fan passion varies from school to school as Northern Illinois and Western Michigan have passionate bases. Eastern Michigan not so much.

MACtion may speak louder than words but people have to see the MACtion first. Anything that can assist with being seen is a plus but the only success on the field will ultimately change perceptions. And we all know the latter is the hard part.

2014-15 College Sports Social Media Awards

All I do is win, win, win no matter what.

All I do is win, win, win no matter what.

I hope you enjoyed the appetizer of the ESPYS because it’s time to recognize the more important stuff. The social media masters in our NCAA bubble. Social Media award

Last year, my post was a big hit and I went all out this time. No I didn’t see everything on Twitter and Facebook and if I did I would be a synthetic on Humans. Trust me, I saw enough, but feel free to let me know if there was something you think I should have recognized. Now let’s take a look at these manufactured awards.

Best way to embarrass your players: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt had a great spring sports season with baseball and tennis, so with all the excitement can you blame the track team for taking a nap to recharge? Apparently, their own teammate could not. Anchor down means staying on the internet forever.

Worst use of a statistic: UConn Football
I get it UConn football, you are constantly trying to get your team out of the shadows of the best basketball programs in the country. The countdowns though are coming across as desperate.

That’s right, we are counting down to play a FCS team! Not Rutgers, not Boston College, not even Temple but FCS Villanova. Get your tickets now!

Even worse was the punting statistic. In a 12-game season 66 punts is 5.5 punts a game. That’s a problem as UConn gave up the third highest points in American Athletic Conference play last season. Roughly 30 points per contest. Don’t brag about forcing punts when you are being scored on every other possession.

Best use of democracy: Georgia Tech
Who knew the Yellow Jackets would go to the public for fashion advice?

Best presentation of starting lineup: Missouri
There were plenty of great designs out there for starting lineups in basketball but I like what Missouri did here with the black and white contrast. Now that’s some good layering in the photo edit.

Best soccer starting lineup: East Tennessee State
While I liked what Missouri did for basketball I have to give ETSU credit for their soccer efforts. I gotta have more tactical lineups like these.

Most insecure: North Dakota State
I seriously don’t know what I did. I was a big fan of the Bison winning numerous FCS titles and getting on College Gameday too. This hurts NDSU.

No longer on the Christmas card list.

No longer on the Christmas card list.

Best prognostication: Georgia State
In what ended up being the most entertaining game of the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers knew that an upset was in order thanks to an official box score. Sorry Baylor.

Most shameless advertisement: FIU
FIU has always been in need of cash and well… let’s have a word from our sponsor.

Selfie of the year by mascot: Kentucky
Here is a school not in need of cash. Why every team should have a midnight madness like Kentucky.

Best at making announcements: Northern Illinois
NIU is developing a tradition of making a big deal about future football games. And I have to say #SchedulePalooza is pretty cool. The Huskies drop hints making fans work a digital scavenger hunt to determine the teams NIU will play in a few years.

Worst graphic: Arizona
The defensive player of the week has NO EYES! What an incredible performance by her!

Worst logo placement: Siena
You may accuse me of having my mind in the gutter but a woman’s waistline should never be used for branding. Or a man’s for that matter. Siena is a great follow but this post was not one of the best.

Best costume by a media member: Shae Peppler
Going back to a Miami school with Shae Peppler of Campus Insiders somehow pulling off an Al Golden for Halloween. Didn’t know his tie was so iconic.

Best female media personality to follow: Nicole Auerbach
Auerbach is one of the few who covers college basketball and football equally. She is also one of the few women to be on television as a college football expert for the Big Ten Network. Plus she retweeted me last year. So all the power to her.

Best male media personality to follow: Pat Forde
Until Seth Davis covers other sports besides basketball, Pat Forde is and will always be the man.

Most Harsh: UTEP
This about sums it up.

Best food promotion: Iowa State
Now that is a social media promotion.

Best photo shoot: Tie between Pepperdine and Bowling Green State
Yeah I whiffed with a tie but how are you supposed to choose between these two?

Best social media rivalry: MAC vs. the Sun Belt
A great way to have the other bowl games be more impactful is to have the conferences duke it out Twitter. Well done MAC and Sun Belt. Well done.

Best tweet: Jacksonville State
Now this photo demonstrates what college sports should be all about. Playing for your school, having fun and getting that degree. You can stop advertising NCAA. We have found your marketing tool.

Best team selfies: Niagra Women’s Basketball
Have you ever been stuck on the interstate for 24 hours because of a snowstorm? No? Well here is what it looks like.

Best way to celebrate a milestone: New Hampshire
Reaching 700 wins in any sport is a big deal. You truly have to put your body into it.

Best to chat with: Southern Miss
Want to chat with your favorite Golden Eagle? You don’t even have to leave your laptop.

Best video series: American Athletic Conference
American Rising hosted by Hali Oughton became the most informative regular on my news feed this year. The AAC is still new and an odd mix of schools so this media effort helps get it organized for fans.

Best conference on Facebook: Mountain West
For Facebook, I want to see photo galleries. The Mountain West does a tremendous job of providing exactly that for most of its games. This Facebook banner is pretty good too. MWC 7 teams

Best conference to follow: Big West
The Big West celebrates every holiday, offers plenty of photos for every sport and how can you beat this?

Best video by a school: South Florida
A great way to promote a sport like volleyball. This promotion idea was cute and I hope that more videos like these will increase interest for the volleyball program at USF.

Best game show by a team: Florida State Sand Volleyball
On the other side of the state, FSU tried some video ideas of its own with a game show theme. I’m all for getting sand volleyball more attention even in cheesy ways like this, but I don’t think you need two parts here. Still, the effort is to be applauded.

Best school to follow on social media No. 5: Georgia Southern
Now to the top five schools to follow on Twitter. The Eagles made some nice info graphics for their teams this year. Here is a look at a soccer example.

Best school to follow on social media No. 4: Western Kentucky
WKU promoted their sports equally with photo shoots and other promotional graphics. The Hilltoppers had fun too with this color coordinated seating chart.

Best school to follow on social media No. 3: Oregon State
No school made better use of its color scheme on social media than the orange and black of Oregon State. Their posts were hard to miss.

Best school to follow on social media No. 2: Colorado State
Colorado State did an excellent job using photography. It always seemed to grab my attention with the bold colors the Rams would use.

Best school to follow on social media No. 1: Kansas State
The best combination of game updates, photography, promotions, statistics and design has to be Kansas State. The Wildcats were active promoting every game from every team and every result. I feel like I’m in the know about K-State despite living a few states away.

Plus how do compete with a promotion like this?

5 Mid-Major Games to Watch

There are quite a few intriguing games going on Saturday that are outside the Top 25. Here are some mid-major contests with plenty at stake.

2 p.m. – Western Michigan at Central Michigan
Toledo may be in first place in the MAC West at 6-3 but these two directional Michigan schools are right behind at 5-4. Both the Broncos and Chippewas are hovering near the RPI top 100 and did I forget to mention they hate each other. Buckle up for a pure rivalry in the MAC.

4 p.m. – UNLV at Colorado StateObscurity Report new
UNLV is 13-9 and still has a chance at the tournament thanks to a quality win at Arizona, but the Rebels need this one. A win at Colorado State, No. 29 RPI, will rocket UNLV up. A loss means UNLV is running out of chances to make its move.

7 p.m. – Vermont at Stony Brook
Vermont is currently second in the American East and Stony Brook is third. First place Albany appears unreachable at a perfect 10-0 but this battle for second place is important. Stony Brook is a game and a half back of Vermont and needs this one to catch up.

7:30 p.m. – Louisiana Monroe at Georgia Southern
The No. 2 team in the Sun Belt at the No. 1 team in the Sun Belt. Yeah it’s a kind of a big game here. Especially for ULM who lost the first meeting at home 57-53.

8 p.m. – Louisiana Tech at Middle Tennessee State
Among mid-major conferences, Conference USA is extremely competitive. Louisiana Tech is 17-6 but with a No. 92 RPI is a bit of a stretch for the NCAA Tournament. A win a Middle Tennessee State should be a boost though as the Blue Raiders are 13-10. A loss will put any at-large dreams to bed and damage NIT hopes too for the Bulldogs.

Conference Races Hit Top Speed

Moving into late October we have a large enough sample size to gauge how the conference races will shake out.

SEC Favorite: Ole Miss
SEC Sleeper: Georgia

While the SEC West is getting all the attention, Georgia can still ruin everything and win the SEC championship game. The only team that can take the East from Georgia is Missouri and that’s only if the Tigers win out and Georgia loses a game. Going against Georgia in Atlanta for the SEC championship is a tough out. Ole Miss gets Mississippi State and Auburn at home so it is currently the favorite in the West.

PAC-12 Favorite: Oregon
PAC-12 Sleeper: Arizona

Oregon is the only team in the North with a winning conference record at 3-1. Stanford is close at 2-2 but still has to play at Oregon. The PAC-12 South is a traffic jam of four teams at one loss, but I like Arizona to come out of it. Arizona State must come to Tucson and traveling to UCLA on Nov. 1 seems less intimidating now for the Wildcats.

Big 12 Favorite: Kansas State
Big 12 Sleeper: West Virginia

The fact that the Big 12 does not have a championship game makes this conference race more interesting. While Kansas State is the last remaining undefeated team in conference play, West Virginia has a favorable schedule. The Mountaineers have just one conference loss and will host both K-State and TCU. If West Virginia can get past Oklahoma State in Stillwater Saturday then Mountaineer fans must like their chances of singing country roads a few more times.

Big Ten Favorites: Michigan State and Ohio State
Big Ten Sleeper: None

The Big Ten is straightforward, whoever wins the Ohio State at Michigan State meeting on Nov. 8 will win the conference. The Big Ten West is too shaky to pull off the upset this year as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska give different performances each week.

ACC Favorite: Florida State
ACC Sleeper: Duke

Florida State has practically won the ACC Atlantic but Clemson does have a small chance of catching up to it. The story though is in the Coastal where Duke is in the lead to repeat as division champions. The Blue Devils are down to two road games against Pitt and Syracuse (nothing to worry about) with Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest at home. Duke will be favored in all of those games and may sneak up on a napping Florida State in the ACC championship game.

Mountain West Favorite: Boise State
Mountain West Sleeper: Nevada

This conference is still fuzzy but Boise State is always a Mountain West favorite and gets San Diego State at home. The Broncos have already defeated Colorado State and should come out of the Mountain Division as Air Force has a tough schedule. San Diego State is 3-1 in conference play but has a tough slate ahead with Boise, Nevada and Air Force remaining. This opens the door for Nevada to come out of the West. The Wolfpack have defeated Washington State and BYU and should be favored in four of its final five games.

American Athletic Favorite: East Carolina
American Athletic Sleeper: Central Florida

The AAC is a two-team race with East Carolina being the pride of the conference so far at 5-1. UCF is 2-0 in conference play and will give the Pirates a test on Dec. 4. It’s hard to see any other school like Temple, Houston or Cincinnati winning the league but they are long shots.

Conference USA Favorite: Marshall
Conference USA Sleeper: None

It's just too easy for them

It’s just too easy for them

CUSA is all about Marshall and no one else. The last undefeated team among the mid-majors, Marshall is looking at an Orange Bowl bid. Louisiana Tech is 3-0 in CUSA play but has lost to a FCS school so it’s hard to call it a threat.

Mid-American Favorite: Northern Illinois
Mid-American Sleeper: Akron

The MAC is a mess of unpredictability as Northern Illinois lost to Central Michigan at home. Yet I don’t see another team taking them out in the West. Central fell to 2-2 in conference play and Toledo and Western Michigan are unproven. In the East division, Akron’s final five games will be against underdogs as it gets Bowling Green at home. The Zips beat Pittsburgh earlier in the year and is well coached under Terry Bowden.

Sun Belt Favorite: Georgia Southern
Sun Belt Sleeper: Louisiana

Georgia Southern at the top of the Sun Belt at 4-0 in the conference. Louisiana Monroe at home to the end the regular season appears to be its toughest remaining game. Louisiana is 2-0 in Sun Belt play though and will host Arkansas State Tuesday who is also 2-0. The Ragin’ Cajuns are playing well in the Sun Belt after a disappointing non-conference campaign. I’m picking Louisiana to win Tuesday and perhaps grab a share of the Sun Belt with Georgia Southern.

Conference Boasting Time

There can be only one! And it's not the ACC.

There can be only one! And it’s not the ACC.

Now that non-conference play is over for most teams, we can accurately judge how the leagues stack up. Here is my ranking of the 10 conferences.

1. SEC
Schools in AP Top 25: 8
Schools Receiving Votes: 2
Driver Seat: No. 3 Alabama
Worst team: Vanderbilt, No. 84 Sagarin
Think about it, 10 SEC teams are either in the Top 25 or close to it. Critics point out how LSU should have lost to Wisconsin, Missouri’s lost to Indiana and how flimsy the SEC East looks. But the conference has done damage to the ACC and Big 12. The only weak link is Vanderbilt, as Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas have made strides.

2. PAC-12
Schools in AP Top 25: 4
Schools Receiving Votes: 3
Driver Seat: No. 2 Oregon
Worst team: Colorado, No. 94 Sagarin
The best non-conference win so far has been Oregon over Michigan State. UCLA is a potential playoff team and the only schools with losing records are Washington State and Colorado. The PAC-12 has a decent chance of getting two teams in the four-team playoff. The concern though is that conference may beat each other up leaving no undefeated or even one-loss team left.

3. Big 12
Schools in AP Top 25: 5
Schools Receiving Votes: 1
Driver Seat: No. 4 Oklahoma
Worst team: Kansas, No. 115 Sagarin
Oklahoma State and Kansas State came close but missed great chances to pick up huge non-conference wins in Florida State and Auburn. Iowa State is 1-3 but did beat Iowa, leaving Kansas as the only weak school. The big question is TCU as the Horn Frogs will have a chance to rise up the rankings and help out Oklahoma and Baylor.

4. Big 10
Schools in AP Top 25: 4
Schools Receiving Votes: 1
Driver Seat: No. 10 Michigan State
Worst team: Purdue, No. 112 Sagarin
Nebraska is last remaining unbeaten team in the Big 10 and the Cornhuskers nearly lost to a FCS school. Northwestern, Purdue and Indiana have lost to MAC teams. However it’s not all bad as Nebraska, Iowa and Maryland have defeated an ACC program this year. Rutgers took out Washington State on the road to start the season and Indiana shocked Missouri. It will be tough getting conference frontrunner Michigan State into the playoff but it is more than a possibility.

5. ACC
Schools in AP Top 25: 1
Schools Receiving Votes: 5
Driver Seat: No. 1 Florida State
Worst team: Wake Forest, No. 118 Sagarin
After Florida State there is no one else who can make the playoff. The other schools with just one loss or less are Georgia Tech, Duke, NC State and Louisville. Not exactly a prestigious set of four. North Carolina gave up 70 points to East Carolina and Pittsburgh was non competitive against Akron out of the MAC. Don’t even mention Wake Forest. The Seminoles are in a tough spot as just one loss will probably be enough to keep them out of the playoff.

6. Conference USA
Schools in AP Top 25: 0
Schools Receiving Votes: 1
Driver Seat: Marshall
Worst team: Florida International, No. 155 Sagarin
Now that we have hit the mid-majors it gets tougher to distinguish but Conference USA is having a solid year. Even Southern Mississippi has defeated a Sun Belt school. Marshall though looks poised to go undefeated and snag a bid at a premier bowl. However, Louisiana Tech and FIU have lost to FCS schools. Still, expect Marshall to move up the Top 25 and give C-USA attention.

7. Mountain West
Schools in AP Top 25: 0
Schools Receiving Votes: 0
Driver Seat: Nevada
Worst team: New Mexico, No. 148 Sagarin
The Mountain West has no dominant team right now but does have depth. The league’s best wins have been Nevada over Washington State and Colorado State over Colorado. There have been few bad losses as no one has lost to a FCS school although UNLV escaped Northern Colorado 13-12. The parity will make the Mountain West fun to watch.

8. American Athletic
Schools in AP Top 25: 1
Schools Receiving Votes: 0
Driver Seat: No. 22 East Carolina
Worst team: SMU, No. 116 Sagarin
East Carolina is the real deal and could probably play in the SEC. Defeating Virginia Tech and North Carolina brought plenty of attention to the AAC. After that the conference is a mixed bag but schools like SMU, UConn and Tulane are weighing the league down. Tulsa losing to Texas State at home does not help either. The Mustangs of SMU have been the worst team in FBS so far.

9. MAC
Schools in AP Top 25: 0
Schools Receiving Votes: 0
Driver Seat: Northern Illinois
Worst team: Miami University, No. 116 Sagarin
The MAC has scored wins over the Big 10 and the ACC this season. Just hide the fact that Miami and Ball State lost to FCS teams. Bowling Green being humbled by Western Kentucky hurts. Kent State, UMass and Miami are winless and are looking at a long year. Even Toledo and Northern Illinois have been blown out this season. The MAC will have to make up for it bowl season.

10. Sun Belt
Schools in AP Top 25: 0
Schools Receiving Votes: 0
Driver Seat: Georgia Southern
Worst team: Troy State, No. 157 Sagarin
It’s a year of transition in the Sun Belt as several teams left and several teams joined the conference. Georgia Southern came close to beating ACC teams and UL-Monroe did beat Wake Forest. However, those are the only two schools above .500 in the league. Troy State and Idaho are currently winless and have had bad losses at home. The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana were a conference favorite but were no match for Louisiana Tech and Boise State.

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