Cleat Geeks

College Football: Countdown to Kickoff

The Top 25 Coaches Poll has been released, College Gameday has released where they will be hosting from Week 1, all meaning we are less than one month away from kickoff. With a short time to go until before our Saturday’s are once again filled with football, it’s time to take a look at what the experts think the Top 25 should look like.

The Familiar Faces: 

The Coaches Poll released their Top 25 and there are a few surprises on the list, and then there are the normal names we see in there year after year. Teams like Alabama (1), Michigan (13), Florida (14) and Texas (20) are just a few of the familiar faces that made the list. Texas has not had good season the past few years, but made it in on their history and optimistic recruiting class from last season. Looking at the list teams such as Michigan, LSU and Stanford, they will have to take advantage of the early season Non-Conference games before they head into tough conference play. With other power-houses in their respective conferences ahead of them they will have work to do.

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The New Comers: 

Along with the familiar faces, there are a few surprises in the Pre-Season Top 25 to take note of. South Florida comes in at 21, and Charlie Strong looks to make the most of this ranking. Not a traditional Football Power-House, the team has one of the best Dual-Threat QB’s in the nation, Quinton Flowers. If they can make it through a fairly easy non-conference schedule, winning 10-12 games is in the picture for them.

Image result for quinton flowers

The other team not normally seen in the Top 25, Kansas State coming in at 19. A team that is normally middle of the road is looking to be one of the best under Bill Snyder. With a deep offensive unit, they could make a push to the top of the BIG-12 this year with teams such as Baylor and TCU falling off only Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. become their big competition.

The Overrated’s: 

USC comes in at an astonishing 4 in the Pre-Season Poll. The hype of Sam Darnold is lighting up the College Football world, and the USC team. They are a Top 25 team, and even at Top 10, but putting them at 4 over a team like Clemson who won the National Title last season is a little questionable. They should be good, and they will probably prove me wrong as overrating them, but they have yet to make the Playoffs under the new format.

Image result for sam darnold usc

Auburn comes in at 11 after having middle of the road seasons the last few years, and a huge question mark at QB. Coming in with a pack of SEC teams, they will be given the benefit of the doubt season after season over a solid Group of 5 team. They have a solid run game and defense to lean on this season, but it just is not a wow factor to put them at 11.

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Overall Thoughts: 

The Top 25 Coaches Poll released has a ton of traditional teams making the cut before the season, but it will be interesting to see how it pans out over the first few weeks. Teams can make a quick run out of the gate, or drop like a rock due to a few bad loses. If your team made the list it’s great, but if they didn’t it’s not the end of the world right now.

2017 College Football MAC (West Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The Mid-American Conference is generally one of the weakest conferences in Division 1 NCAA football. The Western Division was shined upon in the MAC thanks to Western Michigan’s undefeated regular season and going to a New Year’s Six Bowl game. There were 4 teams in the Western Division that went to a bowl game as opposed to 2 teams from the East. This season, the West is highlighted by a synopsis of each team’s passing game offense (in some scenario) and an average. With the Broncos experiencing a big personnel change, the Toledo Rockets are the team to fear not only in the West but in the entire MAC Conference. There may not be the same nationwide attention that Western Michigan pulled from their undefeated regular season but expect big things to come to this division.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

 Ball State Cardinals“Will the young players step up for Ball State this season?”
4-8; 1-7 in MAC in 2016

The Cardinals have to replace 6 starters on offense from last season as well as 7 starters on defense. Of the 5 starters on offense, the key positions have starting experience at Quarterback, Running Back, two Guards, and a Right Tackle (that can play left). They have the chance to become more explosive and efficient but most of their new expected starters and all their backups are sophomores or freshmen. The defense has a similar issue with youth and inexperience in their new starters. Defensive End Anthony Winbush is looking to not only be the energized leader on defense but also a rigorous playmaker than when he accounted for 8 sacks last year. The Cardinals were 126th in pass defense (319.7), this has to change.

 

Central Michigan Chippewas “How will the new offensive scheme affect the new Quarterback?”
6-7; 3-5 in MAC in 2016

With a new Offensive Coordinator for Central Michigan comes a new offensive scheme that will be brought on by new OC Chris Ostrowsky and Head Coach John Bonamego. They will be switching from the Pro-Style offense to the Spread offense. Cooper Rush was the leader of the Chippewas’ high-velocity passing game that was ranked 26th in the nation (276.1). They will need a new Quarterback, however, as Rush has graduated. The competition is either between former Michigan Wolverine Shane Morris or Tony Poljan, who distanced himself in a broad stance from the rest of the depth chart. The offense does return 9 offensive starters from last season including WR Corey Willis, who accounted for 1,091 yards and 9 touchdowns.

 

Eastern Michigan Eagles “Are the Eagles going to falter after their 1st taste of victory?”
7-6; 4-4 in MAC in 2016

The Eastern Michigan Eagles have not had the easiest football program in their career history. Before they went to a bowl game last year with a 7-6 record, they went 7-41 the previous 4 seasons. The only other time the Eagles went to a bowl was in 1987. Head Coach Chris Creighton and the Eagles must ensure they continue their success and build a program that will compete consistently in the MAC. The offense and defense return 8 starters each from the previous season, including QB Brogan Roback who passed for 18 touchdowns. They will have some younger players in their Secondary which will be a problem when they were ranked 108th in passing yards allowed per game (265.3).

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Northern Illinois Huskies“How long will the QB competition continue during a tough schedule?”
5-7; 5-3 in MAC in 2016

Last season, the Huskies’ offense was inefficient and unable to overlook the lack of productivity on defense due to the fact that there were 3 Quarterbacks and none of them were efficient passers. The Huskies were ranked 73rd in the nation in passing yards per game (224). They will go into the season still with a huge Quarterback competition going into the Fall. Whoever will be the starting Quarterback will still be struggling thanks to the inexperience of the Wide Receivers. The Huskies only return 1 starting Receiver in Christian Blake, who accounted for 34 receptions for 457 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Toledo Rockets “Are the Rockets the new powerhouse of the MAC?”
9-4; 6-2 in MAC in 2016

Head Coach Jason Candle had great success in his first-year thanks to one of the MAC’s explosive offenses last season. There is plenty of good news this season for the Rockets as the leader of the high-power offense in QB Logan Woodside (4,129 yards and 45 touchdowns) returns along with two of their top four reception yard leaders. RB Kareem Hunt (1,457 rushing yards) will be missed and put more pressure on Offensive Coordinator Brian Wright and Woodside for a heavier pass-orientated offense. A Western divisional run and a MAC conference championship is possible but they will need to be sharp passing the ball and their defense, ranked 48th in points allowed per game (25.7) last year, will need to be efficient too.

 

Western Michigan Broncos“How hard will the Broncos fall with no passing game & experienced Head Coach?”
13-1; 8-0 in MAC in 2016

Last season, the talk of College Football (outside of the playoffs) revolved around the Broncos having a perfect season going to the Cotton Bowl (where they lost to Wisconsin). Head Coach P.J. Fleck was the main input for the tone and intensity, now he is gone from the program. Hiring a former player/coach in Tim Lester is a good move but it will be hard to duplicate the 9th ranked scoring offense (41.6 points per game) without an experienced Quarterback and Wide Outs. With Tom Flacco transferring to Rutgers, it will likely leave sophomore QB Jon Wassink for the starting job to lose. Lester and Wassink must work together so that they don’t turn from Conference contenders to a below .500% win percentage team.

College Football: Countdown to Kickoff

We are almost there, I can hear the loud stadium chants and cheers faintly in the distance. Now, there might not be any marquee games when teams kickoff on August 26th, but anything will fill the void until we reach Labor Day weekend games. In the final month until the season kickoffs, what is one to do? If you have followed my 3 step plan laid out in June, you should be getting ready for your teams to now report to camp in a matter of weeks. Now to countdown to kickoff here are five things you can do each week until the season starts.

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5. Watch Last Season Highlights:

Ready to see more exiting plays? Like Central Michigan beating Oklahoma St. on the road? Or Michigan and Ohio St. Double OT games. To get pumped for the upcoming season watch the Top Ten Plays for your team each week to get you pumped. Maybe even expand to the entire landscape of teams to see the awesome plays.

4. Dust off the Fan Gear: 

Let’s be honest, good or bad, there is something that you stored away from last season that you only bring out on Gameday during the season. It is time to dig that out of the closet and get ready for Gameday. Maybe test it out during Training Camp if you can make it for your favorite team and they have a Fan Day.

3. Find Your Watching Place:

If you can’t make it to all the games, like most of us can’t, find a place to watch it with your buddies. Let’s all be honest, watching every game from your couch can get old, but spending money on food every weekend can be expensive. Find a good happy medium, and maybe change it up this season.

2. Mark Gameday on Your Calendar:

You don’t want to miss a second of the action, the heart pounding plays, the thrill of kickoff. Mark the date, and time, on your calendar for each game to ensure you can watch it. Even if you work, you’ll want to know so you can follow along, as we all do now.

1. Remember to Have Fun:

 

Win, or lose, it is just a game and these players are just kids. Remember, if they lose there is always the following weekend, month, and season to cheer your favorite team on.

2017 College Football MAC (East Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The Mid-American Conference is generally one of the weakest conferences in Division 1 NCAA football. Last year in the East Division, there were only two teams that went to bowl games but only 1 actually came out with a winning record (Ohio). The East Division also lacks a certain amount of talent as the West Division as they have more 1st team All-Conference talent on offense and defense than the East. Both of these Divisions are expected to go through a power change from last year’s divisional winners. The winner of the MAC Conference Championship last season in the Western Michigan Broncos did go to a New Year’s Six Bowl game against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. This was of course because the Broncos were undefeated at the time. The winner of the conference might have to be undefeated again to receive any significant attention for a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Miami (OH) and Ohio are the only teams expected to go through winning seasons but the other 4 still have a chance for a bowl especially Akron.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Akron Zips“Will Thomas Woodson be back at Quarterback in time for the start of the 2017 season?”
5-7; 3-5 in MAC in 2016

The Zips were a close game (9-3 loss to Ohio) away from playing in a bowl game but the loss of Quarterback Thomas Woodson through five games of the season was too much for Akron’s offense to handle. This past February, Woodson would need surgery on his injured shoulder and was not able to pass until this June. During that time, Nick Johns has been taking the majority of the starter reps. Last season, the Zips were ranked 45th in the nation in passing yards per game (255.3) but were 73rd in points per game (27.4). Head Coach Terry Bowden will need to quickly establish if Woodson is fully healed enough or if Johns will be the new starting QB for a more stable offense.

Bowling Green Falcons “Is another horrific start for Bowling Green likely to happen again in 2017?”
4-8; 3-5 in MAC in 2016

Last season, the Falcons went through a 1-8 record before winning the final three games of the season. The defense was appalling through those 9 games by being ranked 118th in points allowed per game (38.8). Also, the Falcons had 6 games where they gave up 40 points each including the two losses to Ohio State and Memphis where they gave up 77 points each. Defensive Coordinator Perry Eliano must make sure that his defense doesn’t give up this many points again. This season though, the Falcons have to play non-conference games against Michigan State, Northwestern, and Middle Tennessee and a cross-divisional game against Toledo. A rough start to the season is likely again for Bowling Green.

Buffalo Bulls“Will experience be a big plus of getting through the rebuilding process?”
2-10; 1-7 in MAC in 2016

2015 was a decent season for the Bulls at 5-7 but last season was a big letdown with a 2-10 record. There was a lack of definitive talent throughout the roster and more so this season as they try to look for players who can make an impact at Wide Receiver and Running Back. LB Khalil Hodge accounted for 123 tackles last season. He will certainly need be to the leader of a defense that was ranked 124th in rushing yards allowed per game (253.3) last year. The defense does return 8 starters from last year’s squad. It will take more time for Head Coach Lance Leipold (in his 3rd season) to make the program more successful than expected.

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Kent State Golden Flashes“Can the Golden Flashes get a quick turnaround with, hopefully, a more balanced team?”
3-9; 2-6 in MAC in 2016

The Golden Flashes had the 67th best scoring defense (28.7 points average allowed per game) while on offense, they 117th in points per game (20.6). Kent State’s 5th game of the season, they switched Quarterbacks to former slot Receiver Nick Holley, who finished the season with 868 passing yards and 920 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. This season, Head Coach Paul Haynes is looking to make his offensive production match the intensity and effectiveness of the Flashes defense. The defense will once again be one of the best in the MAC conference, it is now the offenses’ turn to be one of the best to make the team more balanced.

Miami (OH) Redhawks “Are the Redhawks ready for a consistent team & season?”
6-7; 6-2 in MAC in 2016

Last season, the Redhawks started 0-6 but then finished the season with a 6-6 record in the regular season. The Miami (OH) Redhawks are the first team in NCAA history to start out 0-6 but finished with a 6 game win streak. After a Quarterback change with Gus Ragland, the Redhawks offense was more productive on the scoreboard. With a full off-season to reevaluate their team, the Redhawks are not only looking for consistency (which they believe they had the last 6 games of the season) but also high-efficiency. The Redhawks defense was ranked 31st in the nation in points allowed per game (23.8). With 8 returning defensive starters, the defense is destined to be the best in the conference.

Ohio Bobcats“Will the offense be efficient enough for another MAC Championship run?”
8-6; 6-2 in MAC in 2016

The Bobcats had an identity problem on offense last season as their first starting Quarterback was injured and an athletic dual-threat Quinton Maxwell was forced into the starting lineup. While he had the proper pieces around him, he was not a dominate playmaker as the Bobcats were hoping. The run game also did not progress the offense by being ranked 75th in the nation in rushing yards per game (167.9). The Bobcats were a touchdown away from winning the MAC Conference Championship game against the Western Michigan Broncos (12-0 at the time). The Bobcats will need to properly utilize their offense through the off-season to the start of the season against Hampton and at Purdue.

Do you believe that the 5 Mid-Major Conferences in College Football are to often overlooked? Would you like to see those Mid-Major teams get more television exposure? Are you tired of seeing the same few teams from the same 5 “Power Conferences” every Saturday? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to read the article Are Mid-Major’s Too Often Overlooked in College Football? Give us your opinion, and let your voice be like a Power 5 and be heard!

Are Mid-Major’s Too Often Overlooked In College Football?

When someone turns on the TV during the fall and it’s a Saturday around 11 A.M. you’re most likely going to see games from the Power 5 conferences. ACC, SEC, BIG-TEN, BIG-12, and PAC-12. But, every so often you will see someone from the Mountain West, MAC, or even the SUN-BELT take center stage for those games. Out of the 5 Mid-Majors, American Athletic, and Conference USA being the other two, there are only a handful on teams in these conferences combined that have made it center stage for College Football.

Only one Mid-Major has ever won a National Title, BYU in 1984 when they were part of the Western Athletic Conference. Since then there have been 11 Bowl Games featuring a Mid-Major in what was considered a “BCS” Bowl Game. In these games they hold an impressive 8-3 record, begging the questions why are they so often overlooked?

Many people have debated this topic for years, citing lack of competition level for Mid-Majors, not drawing in enough money for National TV Games, among other issues. To be fair, the NCAA has tried to make sure these teams are in when they should be, but very against their will sometimes. For the 11 big time Bowl Games that have featured Mid-Majors there are many regular season games featuring two Mid-Major games that are overlooked.

During the regular season it is all about the Power 5 match-ups and Top 25 games. These are the ones taking the Prime Time slots on TV and being talked about all week leading up to College Gameday, but Mid-Majors have some prime games as well. One example is Western Michigan and NIU in the MAC. This is one of the biggest rivalries the MAC has during the season. But, this game is normally delegated to MAC-TION on a Wednesday or Thursday night during the regular season on ESPN or ESPN2. If the NCAA truly cared about promoting these smaller conferences, they would hold games like this on a Saturday during a Prime Slot.

Image result for 5 Mid-Majors

Sometimes Boise St. out of the Mountain West will get placed on a decent slot during a non-conference game, but they have to be playing a Power 5 team to get this honor. It is a flawed system that favors the “Big Dogs” who will draw the ratings. Mid-Majors have proven they can hang with the “Big Dogs” though in Bowl and Regular Season games. NIU almost beat Ohio St. a few years ago in Columbus. Yet, NIU just got those mid-week MAC-TION games for the remainder of the season as National TV slots.

Sadly, these conferences will be overlooked moving forward since they do not draw like the Power 5 teams do. Maybe, just maybe with a bit of marketing and dedication on the NCAA’s part they could get these teams to draw like the Power 5, because let’s be honest. As good as the Power 5 games can be, they have just as many snooze feasts as Mid-Majors can have.

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2017 College Football C-USA (East Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The C-USA is one of the non-power 5 conferences that is generally overlooked because of their status as a conference and how little of an impact they leave against higher established programs. In the 3 years of the College Football Playoffs, no team from a non-power 5 school has made the playoffs. Teams from the C-USA are at a slight disadvantage but they are not ruled out from the beginning. A portion of the teams in the East Division of the C-USA are new to the conference as well as a football program with Charlotte 49ers being in their 5th year as a program and Old Dominion Monarchs in their 9th season after 69 years of not playing competitive football. For the past three seasons, a team from the East division has won the conference championship with Western Kentucky winning the title in 2015 & 2016 and Marshall winning in 2014. With the Hilltoppers possibly on a rebuilding season, this could be a great opportunity for overshadowed teams like Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic, and Middle Tennessee to go into the 2017 season and win the East. The winner of the conference (depending on their record) could earn an invitation to the New Year’s six Bowl games.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Charlotte 49ers“When will the 49ers get their first taste of success as a young program?”
4-8; 3-5 in C-USA in 2016

This will be the 5th year for the Charlotte 49ers as a football program as well as the 3rd year at the FBS level. During their time as a program, the 49ers have never had a season where they have won at least 50% of their games on the schedule. Head Coach Brad Lambert has a chance to bring in some big wins and build on success for this upcoming season. After a long off-season, QB Hasaan Klugh should be more comfortable leading the 49ers offense to be more dominant as opposed to their ranking 94th in points per game (25.2) last season. With more experience and better recruiting on their team, the 49ers can build a team that can actually be competitive in the C-USA conference championship this season.

Florida Atlantic Owls“Will the Owls be an immediate Offensive powerhouse this season?”
3-9; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

In one off-season, the Florida Atlantic Owls may have become one of the most dangerous and efficient offenses in the C-USA. Former Tennessee and USC Head Coach and Alabama Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin will take another shot as a Head Coach with Florida Atlantic. Joining him is former Baylor Bears OC Kendal Briles at the same position. In 2015, Briles led the Bears to be the most high-power offense in the nation (1st in PPG – 48.1). With former Florida State Quarterback De’Andre Johnson predicted to take over as the starting QB, the Owls can be an immediate offensive powerhouse in the C-USA and possibly the nation.

Florida International Panthers “Will Butch Davis’ return to College Football be impactful for FIU?”
4-8; 4-4 in C-USA in 2016

After several years of being a College Football analyst, Butch Davis is back as a Head Coach after being fired from a successful stint with North Carolina due to academic misconducts. This will be his first Head Coaching job in 7 years. Coach Davis will have a lot on his plate including a likely rebuilding season. The Panthers return 9 defensive starters from last year as well as 6 Offensive stars. There is potential for the Panthers with their roster but a lack of experienced coaching will likely derail a successful season. A lot of the defensive starters are young so they will need to build on experience as well.

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Marshall Thundering Herd“Will Marshall fix their internal flaws to fix their program?”
3-9; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

From 2013 to 2015, the Thundering Herd have accounted for 10 win seasons with two of them winning the East (2013 & 2014) and winning the conference in (2014). Last season, the Thundering Herd had too much talent to account for a 3-9 season. There have been talks that the team had been experiencing internal problems. After an off-season to recover, Coach Holliday and Marshall are hoping to look past their growing pains and become threats in the C-USA. Quarterback Chase Litton (Jr.) will be starting in his 3rd year season with Marshall and will look make the offense more efficient than their 80th ranked scoring offense (26.4 points per game) last season.

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders – “Can the Blue Raiders beat out the Hilltoppers as kings of the East?”
8-5; 5-3 in C-USA in 2016

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are the favorites to win the East Division of the C-USA but many seemed to have overlooked Middle Tennessee. Not only do the Blue Raiders have much more upside than WKU but they have more starters returning. On Offense, they have QB Brent Stockstill, who led the Blue Raiders to the 12th ranked scoring offense (39.7) and 8th ranked passing offense (325.8 PYPG) last season. On defense, they have 8 returning starters and they bring in former Syracuse Defensive Coordinator and Head Coach Scott Shafer as their DC. Joining the Blue Raiders as well is Missouri transfer DE Walter Brady, who accounted for 7 sacks his freshman year.

Old Dominion Monarchs “How will the Monarchs handle their team after a 10 win season in 2016?”
10-3; 7-1 in C-USA in 2016

This will the 9th year of the Monarchs as a program back from a 69 year hiatus and their 4th year in the conference. Last year was their 2nd year that the Monarchs accounted for a winning season with a 10-3 season in the FBS. It will not be easy for Old Dominion to go for another 10 win season with them having to replace a Quarterback in David Washington who passed for 2,836 yards and 31 touchdowns. The Monarchs do return RB Ray Lawry, who rushed for 1,255 yards last season. Head Coach Bobby Wilder and Offensive Coordinator Brian Scott are entering their 9th season together with Old Dominion so their experience with the team will be steady and should be able to create a high-power offensive performance each game.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers “Will the Hilltoppers win again or sink with QB Mike White back?”
11-3; 7-1 in C-USA in 2016

Last season, the Hilltoppers were one of the most dynamic and explosive offenses in the nation by being ranked 1st in points per game (45.5) and 5th in total yards per game (523.1). Quarterback Mike White is one of the most established, high-velocity passer in the nation and is expected to lead the Hilltoppers to another C-USA conference championship. White does lose his two top Wide Receivers in Taywan Taylor (1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns) and Nicholas Norris (1,318 yards and 14 touchdowns). WKU also lost RB Anthony Wales (1,621 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns). This season will be a challenge for White and the Hilltoppers offense. The loss of so much talent could slow down Western Kentucky for a 3rd consecutive East Division title.

2017 College Football C-USA (West Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The C-USA is one of the non-power 5 conferences that is generally overlooked because of their status as a conference and how little of an impact they leave against higher established programs. In the 3 years of the College Football Playoffs, no team from a non-power 5 school has made the playoffs. Teams from the C-USA are at a slight disadvantage but they are not ruled out from the beginning. The last time a team from the West division won the conference was in 2013 when the Rice Owls beat the Marshall Thundering Herd. There will be more teams in play for the division title than the teams in the East for their respective title. Joining the West division in competition is a familiar face in the UAB Blazers who was disbanded by the University President after he believed the program wasn’t making revenue. After 6 months of financial rebuilt, the football team was brought back to life and permitted to play this season by the NCAA. Many believe the winner of the West will beat the East in the Conference Championship this season.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Related imageLouisiana Tech Bulldogs “How will the Bulldogs handle the passing game on both sides of the ball?”
9-5; 6-2 in C-USA in 2016

Last season, the Bulldogs were one of the gifted passing offenses in the nation with QB Ryan Higgins ranking 2nd in the nation in total passing yards (4617 yards). Two of their Wide Receivers in Trent Taylor (1803 yards) was 1st in Receiving yards and Carlos Henderson (1535 yards) was 5th in the nation. Now they are both gone with many other experienced players. On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs only return 1 starting Defensive Back in a unit that was ranked 116th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (274.7). The Bulldogs must ensure that these units play well in order to be a threat in the West.  The Bulldogs do return the 3rd leading sacker in the nation in DE Jaylon Ferguson (14.5), he will make an impact on defense.

North Texas Mean Green“Will North Texas continue to revamp their program?”
5-8; 3-5 in C-USA in 2016

In his first season as Head Coach, Seth Littrell turned a 1-11 squad into a bowl contending team (with a 5-7 record). The offense has promise with a sophomore Quarterback in Mason Fine with a year under his belt and a Running Back who almost rushed for 1,000 yards if he hadn’t been injured for two big games. The defense is likely to look past their developing season of adapting to the 3-3-5 defensive front. The Mean Green was 27th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (200.2) but must get better at defending the rush being ranked 117th in rushing yards allowed (239.5).

Rice Owls“Is this season Coach Bailiff’s last chance at Rice?”
3-9; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

Coach David Bailiff has had a good career with the Rice Owls, if he wants to continue as Head Coach, he’ll have the Owls win again this season. The Owls’ last winning season was 2014 with an 8-5 record and before that was the conference title in 2013. Now the program faces uncertainty as they are looking with little room to improve on last year’s 3-9 record. The Owls return 5 Offensive Line that had been battling through multiple injuries as well as a scattered defense that was ranked 114th in points allowed per game (37.3). Bailiff does have two years left on his contract, but he may not make to 2018 if Rice continues to lose.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles “Is this the year Southern Miss goes back to the golden years?”
7-6; 4-4 in C-USA in 2016

In the 2011 College Football season, the Golden Eagles accounted for their 18th consecutive winning season and a conference title. Southern Miss suffered through a 4-32 record through the following 3 years. After a short recovery, the Golden Eagles are ready to get back into the C-USA title race. They are predicted to finished 2nd in the West division. In order to finish out better, they must play more efficient against average opponents and not give away yards so carelessly. Despite being ranked 62nd in the nation in rushing yards per game, RB Ito Smith rushed for 1,459 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Eagles might have to rely on Smith more and not pass the ball first now that a new Quarterback is coming into place.

UAB Blazers “How will UAB respond after a two-year hiatus?”

2014 was the year that the UAB Blazers football team were supposedly dead in the water. After a 6 month financial rebuild, the program came back and was approved by the NCAA to compete in 2017. There were a lot of young players and coaches that stuck by the program to make sure they rebuilt properly. OLB Shaq Jones is the only returning starter from the 2014 College Football season, so his leadership will be a big virtue. Transfers will also help the Blazers win now especially with former Buffalo WR Collin Lisa and Middle Tennessee QB A.J. Erdely. There may not be much to celebrate for UAB in terms of winning games this season but they can celebrate the availability of a 2nd chance to play again.

UTEP Miners “Will the Miners be steadier on offense and defense in 2017?”
4-8; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

Leadership is a virtue that is on UTEP’s side this upcoming season with the Offense having Quarterback Ryan Metz and returning 3 Offensive Line and the Defense returning ILB Alvin Jones. The Miners faced an incredibly tough schedule last year but still showed many signs of inconsistency. The Miners only made 5 field goals last season, mostly due to Offensive inefficiency. This will be a more difficult objective to accomplish without RB Aaron Jones, who was the 4th highest rusher in division 1. The Miners do return 3 of their 4 main starting Defensive Backs from last year that was ranked 41st in passing yards allowed per game (209).

UTSA Roadrunners“Are the Roadrunners the surprise team in the conference?”
6-7; 5-3 in C-USA in 2016

Not only are the Roadrunners looking for their 4th winning season in their 7-year program existence but they are looking to clinch the West divisional title and possibly the conference title. Of most of the teams in the conference, UTSA is certainly the more balanced team in terms of talent and experience. On defense, they return their Defensive Ends, their two-star Linebackers, and 3 of their 5 Defensive Backs in their 4-2-5 front. On offense, they return their entire interior Offensive Line, two Wide Receivers, and Quarterback Dalton Strum, who threw 20 touchdowns last year. That November 25th final game at the end of the season on against Louisiana Tech could decide the West.

College Football: Is Playoff Expansion Worth It?

After years of the BCS snubbing teams for a chance to play in the National Championship Game, College Football reached a four team playoff format a few seasons ago. Now they have a system in place with fans and critics alike debating about how the system should be changed and modified for the sport. Most are on the side of adding more teams to the playoffs, but this can lead to scheduling issues with Bowl Games and leaving teams out of a Bowl Game completely. So, what are the hiccups with expanding the playoffs?

Right now the playoffs consist of four teams while rotating each season between six Bowl Games. It is a small fix for the time being, makings sure a team who might lose a conference title game are not left out for a chance to play for the National Title. One of the biggest pros to adding more teams is extending the playoffs to shadow more of an NFL format for the players. The downside of this would be determining which Bowl Games are delegated for the playoffs, or if they split off into their own postseason format and leave the Bowl Games for non-playoff bound teams.

Do you take a non “BCS” Bowl game earlier in the Bowl Season and delegate it as a playoff game and save bigger named games such as the Rose or Sugar Bowl as semi-final game? The problem with this is kicking some teams out that are Bowl Eligible, but now have to yield to the large schools in more prominent bowl games.

This leads some to talk about a branch off and making the playoff games their own separate entity. It would become, and eventually mold, into a NFL style format with the National Title game becoming like the Super Bowl. Again, many logistical issues arise with this. Where do you place these games within the Bowl Season? You can’t push it off until after the first weekend in January and try to compete with the NFL Playoffs. If more games are added, with people complain more with the already exhaustive Bowl Game Schedule?

Image result for 2016-17 college football bowl games

 

The 2017-2018 season will have 40 Bowl Games alone, another long list much like the 16-17′ season and people already complain about this being too many. Add the issue of finding enough Bowl Eligible teams to fill the slots right now, and it becomes one big headache for the NCAA.

So, we have a laundry list of problems that would face the NCAA in looking at expanding the playoffs, and the question comes down to would it be worth it? Long run for the NCAA, yes. Players, Coaches, and Fans alike have been wanting something like this format for years. It adds another dynamic to the sport in the postseason. If they can continue to figure out how to schedule the games when the field is expanded, it could become a staple for the sport.

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For now it will stick the the four team playoff format using the six game rotation until expansion can be figured out. With the ever changing landscape of NCAA Football look for an expansion to come sooner, rather then later.

 

2017 College Football Big Ten Conference (West Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The Big Ten is the only conference other than the ACC and SEC that has had a team every year in the College Football playoffs. The West Division has not had the same success as teams from the East Division in terms of winning the Big Ten Championship and making it to the playoffs. Ohio State (2014 & 2016) and Michigan State (2015) have made it to the College Football Playoffs. The Wisconsin Badgers (2014 & 2016) and the Iowa Hawkeyes (2015) are the two teams to win the West Division of the conference within the past three years. Recruiting has been on a big downside with 5 teams of the 7 teams in the bottom half of the Big Ten conference coming from the West Division. Nebraska is ranked 5th in recruiting and Wisconsin is 7th in recruiting in the conference. If the competition continues to stay light then it could be a big chance for a team in the West to win the Conference and easily make the College Football Playoff.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Illinois Fighting Illini“Does the Illini have enough talent to get to a bowl game?”
3-9; 2-7 in Big Ten in 2016

It has been years since the Illinois Fighting Illini had legitimate talent to compete for a Big Ten division title. Of the 5 Offensive starters returning, the leading Running Back in Kendrick Foster has only run for 720 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2016. WR Malik Turner has recorded for 712 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. While on defense, the leading returning tackler, LB Tre Watson, has 102 tackles but they also only have two players to record a player with a sack and one player to account for an interception. If the Illini want to make themselves relevant in the Big Ten, their recruiting needs to be better especially a team coached by Lovie Smith.

Iowa Hawkeyes“Can the Hawkeyes be elite without an experienced passing game?”
8-5; 6-3 in Big Ten in 2016

Within the past couple of seasons, the Hawkeyes’ offense has never had the need to pass the ball deep down the field in a consistent manner. This season will be difficult to start that trend with a new Offensive Coordinator in Brian Ferentz, the son of head coach Kirk Ferentz. Not only do the Hawkeyes still have to find a starting Quarterback but they need to find a reliable set of first-string Wide Receivers with no starting experience. Last year under QB C.J. Beathard (a 3rd round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft), the Hawkeyes were 118th in the nation in passing yards per game (153.2). If their offense wants to be more successful in 2017, they will need to implement a more dynamic passing game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers“With so much potential, can P.J. Fleck lead his team to be Big Ten contenders?”
9-4; 5-4 in Big Ten in 2016

One of the biggest hires during the offseason was P.J. Fleck getting hired from Western Michigan. Considering the controversy, Minnesota hiring Fleck was not only a good move for the team but also for the University. Now Fleck has to take a program that has underperformed but has the potential for a Big Ten West Division title. The defense ranked 21st in points allowed per game last year (22.1), returns only 4 starters but one of them accounted for 7.5 sacks in LB Jonathan Celestin. Offensively, they return a Running Back who rushed for 1,158 yards and 16 touchdowns last year and 4 Offensive Line. Scheduling is questionable with easy games followed by a trip to Michigan and a Northwestern.

Nebraska Cornhuskers “Who will be the heart and soul of the Cornhuskers’ offense?”
9-4; 6-3 in Big Ten in 2016

Tommy Armstrong Jr. has been the leader for the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the past 4 seasons. Now he is gone as well is the leadership and high-power playmaking for Nebraska. This season, the Cornhuskers are looking for players at Quarterback and Running Backs that have experience in some way but doesn’t yet have the star potential. Former Tulane Green Wave QB Tanner Lee is expected to start over freshman Patrick O’Brien. The good news for the Cornhuskers is that they have a highly experienced and efficient Defensive Backs that will be great leaders for the Cornhuskers defense.

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Northwestern Wildcats“Is a great defense on the verge for Northwestern this 2017 season?”
7-6; 5-4 in Big Ten in 2016

Last season, the Northwestern Wildcats defense was ranked 24th in the nation in points allowed per game (22.2). This was with a defense, specifically at the Defensive Backs units, that was ranked 109th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (265.2). Now this season, the Wildcats return 3 of their 4 starting Defensive Backs from last season. On top of the 3 returning Backs, they also return 3 of their 4 starting Defensive Line. Overall, they return 7 players from last year’s team. If the pass rush and the Defensive Backs get better, the Wildcats can have one of the most dangerous defenses in the Big Ten.

Purdue Boilermakers“Can both sides of the ball be fixed during the off-season in time for the 2017 season?”
3-9; 1-8 in Big Ten in 2016

Purdue was ranked in the bottom half of the major stats in the Big Ten conference, both offensively and defensively. Offensively, the Boilermakers were 101st in the nation and 11th in the Big Ten in points per game (24.6) and 125th in the nation and 14th in rushing yards per game (96.2). Defensively, the Boilermakers are in the bottom half of the Big Ten conference in every category including 117th in points allowed per game (38.3) and tied for 92nd in total sacks with only 21 sacks. New Purdue Head Coach Jeff Brohm did come from a Western Kentucky team that was ranked 1st in the nation in points per game (45.5) last year. Purdue will need to be efficient and active on both sides of the ball to get better.

Wisconsin Badgers“Will Hornibrook be the elite Quarterback that can break other Big Ten defenses?”
11-3; 7-2 in Big Ten in 2016

Last season, the Wisconsin Badgers started and played two Quarterbacks throughout the 2016 College Football season in senior Bart Houston and freshman Alex Hornibrook. Despite the 11-3 record and the Cotton Bowl victory, the Badgers encountered an unsteady offense because of the two different Quarterback style and scheme. Wisconsin was 104th in the nation in passing yards per game (179.1). With a full offseason under the training and preparation under Hornibrook, the Badgers offense will be more efficient and be able to be successful with Hornibrook as the starting Quarterback. Once Hornibrook becomes the leader and profound QB for Wisconsin, he can be the QB that other Big Ten teams will be weary of.

2017 College Football Big Ten Conference (East Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The Big Ten is the only conference other than the ACC and SEC that has had a team every year in the College Football playoffs. The Ohio State Buckeyes won the first Playoff National Championship in 2014. The Michigan State Spartans joined the race in the 2015 season. In a controversial move, the playoff committee chose the Buckeyes (11-1 at the time) over the Big Ten champions in the Penn State Nittany Lions (11-2). The Buckeyes would suffer an embarrassing loss to Clemson 31-0 in the 1st round while Penn State battled USC in a Rose Bowl classic with a 52-49 loss. The East Division has made the most success recently in the Big Ten and other teams like Michigan and Penn State are ready to prove they are the team to fear in the East. This past season shows that just because you win the conference doesn’t mean you are the team to go to the playoffs. Watch for Cinderella teams like Maryland and Indiana to prove themselves as well.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Indiana Hoosiers “Will the Hoosiers even be hindered from their coaching change during the 2016 season?”
6-7; 4-5 in Big Ten in 2016

For the past two seasons, the Hoosiers have been to a bowl game but the coach responsible for that is no longer in Bloomington. Yet the Hoosiers are not expected to decline at all. Defensive Coordinator now also Head Coach Tom Allen has to be pleased with 9 returning starters on a defense that was ranked 45th in total yards allowed per game (380). Linebacker Tegray Scales recorded 126 total tackles and 7 sacks last season. While on offense, Quarterback Richard Lagow is coming off a 3,362 passing yard season. The Hoosiers are looking for their first bowl win since December of 1991, it could very well be this year.

 

Maryland Terps “How much will a lack of a passing game derail the Terps in a tough division and schedule?”
6-7; 3-6 in Big Ten in 2016

Last season, the Terps were ranked 106th in the nation in passing yards per game (178.2). To make matters worse for the Terps offense, they have to find a starting Quarterback and two Wide Receivers. The good news is that they do return a 1,000 yard rusher in Ty Johnson, 3 stud Offensive Linemen, and a speedy Receiver in D.J. Moore. Maryland does have an incredibly tough schedule, however, with games at Texas, at Ohio State, and a cross-divisional game at Wisconsin. There is promise in the Terps especially on defense but they must have an efficient passing offense to keep up in the Big Ten.

 

Michigan Wolverines “Will Harbaugh be able to lead a young & inexperienced team to success?”
10-3; 7-2 in Big Ten in 2016

Last year was a great chance for Michigan to make an early big leap to win the Big Ten and go to the College Football playoffs. While a 10 win season is not bad for Harbaugh’s first year, it does leave them at a tough position. The Wolverines only return 1 starter on defense that was ranked 2nd in the nation in points allowed per game (14.1) and 1st in passing yards allowed per game (142.5). Michigan has 12 sophomores (6 on offense and 6 on defense) predicted to start with 11 of them with no starting experience on the depth chart. This is a young team for Harbaugh which may be tough to compete against Ohio State and a hungry Penn State team in the East division.

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Michigan State Spartans“Are the Spartans ready for a comeback after a horrible 2016 campaign?”
3-9; 1-8 in Big Ten in 2016

One of the biggest letdowns in 2016 was Michigan State especially after making to the College Football playoffs in 2015. Head Coach Mark Dantonio hopes to build back the focus that made Spartans great in the previous seasons. The depth chart is lacking players with actual starting experience. Of the 5 starters returning, C Brian Allen and RB L.J. Scott brings a heavy offensive presence in the running and passing game. The Spartans only have 3 seniors that are expected to start as well, so experience is a virtue that will need to be added later on if they want to be a threat in the Big Ten in the future.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes“Is the Clemson loss motivation enough for this highly talented Buckeyes team?”
11-2; 8-1 in Big Ten in 2016

Despite that the Ohio State Buckeyes did not win the Big Ten, they got a College Football playoff spot last season. Ohio State suffered an embarrassing 31-0 loss to Clemson in the semi-finals. Not only do the Buckeyes want a playoff spot but they want revenge against other Big Ten schools. QB J.T. Barrett and RB Mike Weber lead an elite offense that was ranked 13th in points per game (39.4). The defense returns 7 defensive stars but only 1 secondary starter. If there is anything we learned from recruiting and the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes reload quickly at Cornerbacks. Ohio State remains a big favorite to win the East Division unless thrown off by a trip to Nebraska or rivals Michigan at the end of the season.

 

Penn State Nittany Lions “Are the Nittany Lions ready to be elite in that stats?”
11-3; 8-1 in Big Ten in 2016

What makes teams like Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson elite is that they are elite in the stats as well as the scoreboard. Even though Penn State won the Big Ten with an 11 win season, they were average (at best) in the stats sheet. Last season, they were 21st in points per game (37.6) but were 66th in rushing yards per game (171.9) and 36th in passing yards per game (260.7). They were also 47th in points allowed per game (25.4), 48th in rushing yards allowed per game (151.3), and 50th in passing yards allowed per game (216.5). Penn State also had 6 games where they were decided by 7 points or less. If they want to further their elite status, they have to light up the scoreboard and be dominate on the stats sheet.

 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights“Will the offense be efficient enough to avoid last place in the East again?”
2-10; 0-9 in Big Ten in 2016

The Scarlet Knights had no victories in the Big Ten because their offense was inconsistent as a unit. They were 127th (second to last) in points per game (15.7), 122nd in passing yards per game (138.3), and 128th (last) in total yards per game (283.2). The offense return only 5 offensive starters but did acquire former Northern Illinois and Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill as their Offensive Coordinator. If Kill remains healthy from his seizures, he can create a turnaround for the offense at Rutgers. The bright side is that Rutgers is 9th in the conference (out of 14 teams) in recruiting this season, most of them offensive stars.

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