Archive for September, 2009

On College Football: Week 2

September 19, 2009

by John Furgele

Level The Field Please:  As usual, week two of the college football season was a crazy as ever.  Houston’s victory at Oklahoma State had to make old Bill Yeoman proud.  The Cougars, once a valued and top member of the old Southwest Conferecne stunned the Cowboys, who one week earlier beat Georgia to open the season.  More than ever, college football has seen much more parity.  yes, the big dogs still dominate, but for a Conference USA school to beat a Big 12 school on the road has to say something about the talent pool that exists in the game today. 

Of all the games, all the announcing and all the commentary, perhaps the best came from the color commentator at the Lehigh-Villanova Division 1-AA game.  I watched the game on FCS, and forgive me for not knowing and therefore not giving credit to the commentator, but his comment concerned scholarships at the 1-AA level. 

In Division 1-AA, the maximum number of scholarships is 63 (at Division 1-A it is 85).  Because of that, we are seeing more 1-AA teams not only compete, but beat Division 1-A teams.  Villanove beat Temle and Richmond and William andMary also posted wins over Duke and Virginia respectively. 

In Division 1-AA, there are several conferences that do not permit theior members to give it all or any scholarships.  The Ivy League does not allow its members to award any type of athletic scholsarship.  Now, that certainly doesn’t mean that players don’t receive grants, academic scholarships, but unlike a Delaware, which can have 63 full scholarships, the Ivy League schools have to be more creative in getting quality athletes to their schools. 

I’m not sure that bothers the Ivy league.  This league plays by its own set of rules. For years, teams could only play on Saturdays, their seasons could not begin until the third September, and members would play 10 games with the last game being the Saturday before Thanksgving.  Recently, the league has allowed some Friday night games to get some TV exposure, but the other rules remain in place.  And, the Ivy league champion does not participate in the 1-AA playoffs.  There has been some talk about the Ivy League entereing the 1-AA playoffs but nothing serious has come out of it.

The Patriot League is like the IvyLeague.  They can offer grants and academic scholarships, but cannot offer atheltic ones.  But, unlike the Ivy League, they do participate in the 1-AA playoffs and 2003, Cogate appeared in the championship game, losing to Delaware. 

The Northeast Conference, featuring the likes of Albany, Monmouth, Wagner and Central Connecticut only recently began allowing its members to award athletic scholarships, but instead of having 63, they permit 30.  The NEC is eligible for the postseason, but they do not get an automatic bid and through 2008 has never had a member make the playoffs.  That will change in 2009, when Division 1-AA expands its playoffs from 16 to 20 teams.

Here’s the point.  The NCAA, whch oversees 1-AA football (that’s why there’s a playoff) should get everybody on the same page.  If you want to play 1-AA football, you have to award the full compliment of scholarships.  If not, drop down to Division II or form a 1-AAA league where the Colgates, Bucknells, San Diegos and Cornells can play each other each week.  Watching Albany play Massachusetts can be just as tough as watching Charleston Southern venture into Florida. 

The commentator kept emphasizing how solid the Patriot League is without the use of scholarships and he stated that if the Patriot League allowed its members to have them, they would be right on par with the Colonial Conference, which is considered by most as the best and deepest 1-AA conference in the nation.  These were not just the commentators words, they came from Villanova coach Andy Talley. 

Many of you do ot care, but Division 1-AA is very important to the fiber of college football in America.  Not every city and town in the country can have a major univesity with a 75,000 seat stadium.  For towns like Newark, Delaware, Statesboro, Georgia, Boone, North Carolina, and Missoula, Montana, Division 1-AA football is a big time event.  I lived in Delaware and was fortunate enough to attend three UD games, where over 20,000 packed old Delaware Stadium to see their beloved Blue Hens play. 

When you watch Ball State play Penn State, you assume that Penn State will win, but you know that both schools have 85 scholarship players.  It should be the same when Albany takes on Massachusetts or Bucknell plays Cornell or lehigh plays Villanova.


On College Football: Week 1

September 9, 2009

by John Furgele

The best team of the year has arrived with the start of the 2009 college football season.  Often, too much is made of how teams look in the first week, resulting in fans getting too excited or too down too soon.  Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the season.

The Oklahoma Mets?:  Sports Illustrated picked the New York Mets to win the World Series this year, but injuries to several of their key stars derailed that.  Is the same thing in store for the Oklahoma Sooners?  In their 14-13 loss to BYU, they lost both quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Griffin.  The injury to Bradford’s shoulder is likely more serious than what’s coming from Norman and at the least, Bradford will miss three weeks if not much more. 

Easy on Paulus:  Gre g Paulus seemed to make a nice transition from point guard to quarterback, but it is important to not get too carried away.  One, it was Paulus’s first game as a college quarterback and because of it, Minnesota had to preapre a vanilla defense for him.  The lack of film actually helped both Paulus and the Syracuse coaching staff,under first year head man, Doug Marrone.  Two, the game was at home against an average opponent.  This week, Paulus and the Orange travel to Penn State.  We’ll know a lot more about Paulus on Sunday.

Penn State Should be Ashamed:  If the Lions finish 11-1 and get left out of the BCS Championship Game, they will have no one to blame but themselves.  Is there a weaker non-conference slate in the nation than the one the Penn State athletic department put together?  Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois are on the slate this year.  The only case can be made for Syracuse.  When they game was scheduled, the Orange were in much better shape and the Big East is still a BCS conference.  But, Eastern Illinois is a 1-AA team, and both Temple and Akron are from the mid-major Mid America Conference.  We know why the big schools play a soft non-conference schedule, but playing one team of equal ability should be required.  Oklahoma playing BYU, Georgia traveling to Oklahoma State after going to Arizona State last year is an example of good and proper scheduling, so please, no complaining if you get shafted come bowl time.

The Big Least:  This summer, representatives from the Mountain West Conference petioned Congress to look at how fair the BCS is.  Senator Orrin Hatch is a big player on this committee, and he hails from Utah, a school that has had two undefeated seasons.  The Big East is a member of the BCS, but is the Big East better than the MWC?  I don’t think so, and I’m sure others agree.  The Big East has not one team ranked in the pre-season Associated Press Top 25, while BYU, picked by many to finish behind Utah and Texas Christian in the MWC is ranked 8th.  And, Colorado State won at Colorado, futhering the MWC case for an automatic BCS berth, a berth they should get.

Grohing Old at Virginia?:  Virginia unveiled a new spread (ho-hum) offense against 1-AA William and Mary.  The result was a 26-14 loss to the Tribe.  Yes, it’s early, but setiment for Al Groh was not overwhelming high before the season and to lose to a 1-AA opponent cannot be a good sign. 

There were also high expectations at Duke under second year coach David Cutcliffe, but the Blue Devils fell to 1-AA Richmond, 26-14.  Granted, the Spiders are the defending 1-AA champions, but games against 1-AA teams are scheduled for a reason—to win. 

A Bad Win?:  Navy has proven that it can play with anybody and last week’s 31-27 loss at Ohio State should not worry those in Buckeye Nation.  The Middies have trouble stopping people, but their option offense will move the ball on every opponent.  Some are calling it a bad win or a moral loss, but Ohio State survived Ohio last season and still wound up 10-2 and in the Fiesta Bowl.  This week, we will find out just how good the Bucks are when they host high powered Southern California.  The Trojans have talent, but they’re young and this is a game that Ohio State and the Big Ten need.

Does Notre Dame-Michigan Mean Something This Year?:  Both teams beat inferior oppenents as the Irish thumped Nevada and the Wolverines trounced Western Michigan, but both teams dominated in doing so.  Last year, Michigan lost at home to Utah, and Notre Dame stumbled to a 6-6 finish against the coach who has a “decided schematic advantage” in every game in Charlie Weis.  This week, Notre Dame is ranked 23rd as they travel to Michigan.  This is probably a bigger game for Rich Rodriguez who needs to get the dogs off his back after last season’s 4-8 finish and this year’s alleged practice time violations.  There are alos those who don’t like Michigan’s new offense, favoring the old three yards and a cloud of dust offense of yesteryear.  But, had UM gone 8-4, the offense would be great. 

America’s Teams:  Army, under new coach and option guru Rich Ellerson thumped Eastern Michigan (yes, they’re hapless) 27-14 and will host Duke this Saturday at Michie Stadium in West Point.  The Duke game is a winnable game and there are dreams of a 2-0 start.  But, Duke will come in angry after being bounced by 1-AA Richmond. 

Indiana State dropped its 28th straight game, losing 30-10 at Louisville.  The Sycamores opened the season against  NAIA school Quincy University and blew a 17-0 lead and lost 26-20 in overtime.  Another winless season is a reality.  Since the 2005 season, ISU is 1-46 and some message boards are calling for ISU to drop football.  That should not happen.  ISU is a 1-AA school and things can turn around.  Prairie View A&M is a classic example.  The Panther lost 80 consecutive games from 1989-1998, but now are challenging in the SWAC, and last year finished 9-1 overall.  There is hope for the ISU faithful.  They host Eastern Illinois this Saturday.