Archive for December, 2013

Can the Snake Bitten Cowboys Get Over the Hump

December 27, 2013

by John Furgele

I always chuckle when it says, “Jerry Jones:  Cowboys owner, president and general manager,” because he is only qualified to be one of those—the owner.   But, it’s Jones’ team and if he thinks he can president and general manage better than others, then so be it. It’s his team and he can do what he wants with it.   I’m not sure Cowboys fans agree with me, but it is what it is.   I am surprised that Jones, who presided over the team of the 1990s with three Super Bowl titles wouldn’t want help to get back to the NFL mountain, but once again, that’s not my call.

Jones keeps saying that coach Jason Garrett is safe and I believe him because Garrett is a coach that he can control, a coach that won’t take the spotlight away from him like Jimmy Johnson and even Barry Switzer did.   This is a not a knock on Garrett, nor a knock on Jones.   As owner, Jones has to find a guy that he can work with even if the results are mixed.  Imagine how Jones would have handled the Mike Shanahan/Robert Griffin situation had he owned the Washington Football Club?   Washington owner Daniel Snyder is often compared to Jones, but in reality, that’s not fair.  Unlike Jones, Snyder is rarely quoted and further unlike Jones, he has a guy in Bruce Allen who handles the football operations.   But, like Jones, Snyder will have the final say as to whether Shanahan stays or goes at season’s end.

All this said no one is really sure as to what to make of the Dallas Cowboys.  Are they a good team?  It seems like every year, the last game of their season is an all-or-nothing affair.   Last year, they lost their finale at Washington and failed to make the playoffs.  In 2011, they went to New York in a win or go home game against the Giants and lost.   They lost to a Giant team that finished 9-7 and then went on to win the Super Bowl. Did that mean they were close or far away from the title?   This year, they’re home against Philadelphia (9-6) with a chance to make the playoffs again.   They come in with a less than glossy 8-7 record and needed a miracle fourth and goal from the 13 to beat the aforementioned Washington Football Club last Sunday to get to that 8-7 mark.

Are the Cowboys on the cusp or are they simply a mediocre team in what really is a mediocre league?  The NFL can sell parity all it wants and as long as the games are competitive and multiple teams have a chance to make the playoffs, the league will continue its soaring popularity.   The Cowboys can kick themselves for missed opportunities this year, but so can 10 other teams.   Look at Pittsburgh; they came out of the gate 0-4, but now have won seven of 11 and at 7-8 have a longshot chance to make the playoffs.   Even the 6-9 Buffalo Bills can point to three or four games they could have won.  They had New England on the ropes in week one, dominated Kansas City at home with their third string quarterback, gave a game away to Atlanta and so on and so forth.   I hate to do the what if, but maybe next year, they win those games and are sitting at 9-6 with a game to play rather than 6-9.   Give the Cowboys credit though because they can sell mediocrity.

For some reason, luck doesn’t seem to be on the Cowboys side.   As mentioned, they’re in the hunt every year, but they’re in the hunt with 8-7 records.    Every team always points to the one game that they let slip away and if excuses were candy and nuts, we’d all have a very happy Christmas, but the loss at home to Green Bay is really puzzling.  That said, and you can’t play the pre-determined outcome scenario here, even if the Cowboys had won that game, they’d be 9-6, the same record as the Philadelphia Eagles, and this Sunday’s game would have the same win or go home consequence.   And, Jones is smart enough to know this, that’s why he doesn’t make a big deal about it.  Fans do, but even had they won, then lost to Philly, they’d be 9-7 and out of the playoffs rather than 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

Tony Romo is a polarizing and puzzling figure.   When he wins, the pundits call him a top ten talent.  When he loses and throws that costly pick at the end of the game he’s the guy that can’t win the big one.   The latter is true, picks or no picks, Romo has not won a big game in his pro football career.   There was the bobbled snap on the field goal attempt that would have beaten Seattle and the home playoff loss in 2007 against the Giants that would have kept the Cowboys at home for the NFC Championship Game and of course the season ending losses at New York and Washington.

One had the feeling that this year might be different.  This year, the Cowboys are at home, but now, Romo is injured with a herniated disk in his back.   If he plays and the Cowboys win, he will be a hero; if he plays and they lose, they will say that Garrett should have not played him.   I’m sure the Eagles are expecting him to play, a Willis Reed like situation, but only time will tell.   The Cowboys aren’t a very good football team, but at home, I sort of liked their chances. Unfortunately, he won’t play and for Romo, another report card with a mark of incomplete.

The owner, president and general manager of the team tooted his own horn Tuesday by stating for all to hear that “we gave Kyle Orton $10 million over three seasons for situations like this one and we expect good things from our well-paid backup quarterback.”  Jones negotiated that contract and if Orton plays —and wins—Jones will certainly and in a way rightly so, take a bow for acquiring the man who lost his starting job to Tim Tebow, who was bypassed for 41 year old Jon Kitna when the Cowboys went looking for a third string quarterback.

The Dallas Cowboys might not be America’s Team for its won-loss record, but they do make for exciting Week 17 drama, don’t they?

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The Triple Option Lives…..Monken Taking Over at Army

December 24, 2013

by John Furgele

Jeff Monken is leaving Georgia Southern and bringing the triple option to West Point.   Late Tuesday evening, Monken accepted the head coaching position for the Black Knights and will be formally introduced at a presser on December 30.   In four seasons at Georgia Southern, the Eagles went 38-16, making the Division 1-AA semifinals two times.   This year, GSU played as a transitional school but did beat Florida in its finale.    In 2014, Georgia Southern moves to the Sun Belt along with old rival Appalachian State.  

Army is coming off a 3-9 season and lost to Navy for the 12th straight time on December 14.   Former coach was Rich Ellerson was dismissed the next day.  

Source:  CBS Sports.

 

 

WIll the Triple Option Stay at Army

December 24, 2013

by John Furgele

The coaching search at Army continues into the holidays.  Like Air Force and Navy, Army incorporates the triple option as its offense.   In fact, they prefer it.  The question is will the next coach there continue to run it or will they try a different offense?   The last two non option coaches, West coast disciple Todd Berry and former NFL coach Bobby Ross did not have success at West Point.   In fact, the offense under Berry was so bad, that he was replaced after seven games in 2003.   Ross believed in the pro set and that too, did not come with good results.

We all know the strengths and weaknesses of the triple option offense.  The obvious is that because most schools don’t use it or play against it, it’s tough to prepare for and therefore, an undersized Army can have success by running it.  That said, the fired Rich Ellerson believed in the triple option and didn’t have success winning games with it.

It’s not a difficult offense to install and at Army it would be easier for the players because they’ve been running it for years.  Quarterback A.J. Santiago just finished his first year as the starter and will be a junior next fall.  He knows the offense and should only get better with more snaps.  If the triple option is not used, I’m not sure if Army is big enough up front to pound the ball or more, protect Santiago or whoever is dropping back to pass.  The West Coast offense is famous for using short passes as runs and that could help Army by spreading things out and using short, quick passes.   But, the WCO is also famous for bloated quarterback stats without substance.   How many times have you seen a quarterback line of 14 of 20 for 93 yards and nine points?  There are many times where the quarterback completes 2 of 3 passes and on fourth down, the team punts.

What will the interviews sound like?  Will the Army brass insist that if hired, “you must run the triple option offense,” or “how do you feel about adopting the triple option as your offense at West Point?   The answers will be fascinating to be sure.   Former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has expressed an interest in the job.  He certainly has the West Point look, but what offense does he prefer?  Current Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken is rumored to be a candidate, but my question is why?  Of course, West Point is unique, a special place and Monken runs the triple option at GSU.  But, the Eagles beat Florida this year in their last year in Division 1-AA (FCS) and are preparing to jump up to Division 1 (FBS) and the Sun Belt Conference.  One would think that Monken would want to lead Georgia Southern into the top level of college football.

Army is a Division 1 school in name only.  If Army played Division 1-AA in the Colonial Athletic Association, they would have a very difficult time going 4-4 in conference games.  If they played in the Missouri Valley Conference, they would have a difficult time going 4-4 in conference games.   Next year, they play two 1-AA opponents in Fordham and Yale.   They will struggle with Yale, but they should win and they will likely be an underdog against a Fordham team that gives athletic scholarships and just went 12-2 with a 1-AA playoff appearance in.    Grobe is unemployed and though he resigned at Wake Forest because he had simply run his course, he apparently is eager to coach again.  His hiring would make sense and would likely be welcomed by the Army brass.   For Monken, it would be a step down, but the allure of coaching at the Academy may be in his blood.   There are certainly less headaches coaching cadets over the regular student athletes that attend Georgia Southern or just about any other Division I school.

Army will get itself a coach and it will get itself a good coach, but will they choose one that will run the old Triple option?   That is the ultimate question.

On College Football: Bowl and Championship Edition

December 22, 2013

by John Furgele

The bowl season kicked off yesterday with Colorado State rallying in the New Mexico Bowl, Louisiana-Lafayette holding off Tulane in the all-state battle at the New Orleans Bowl, San Diego State smashing Buffalo in the Potato Bowl, and USC showing the world that they meant business in the Las Vegas Bowl.   In addition, Northwest Missouri State was winning the Division II title, Wisconsin-Whitewater beat old foe Mount Union in the Division III final and North Dakota State and Towson reached the final of the Division 1-AA (FCS) title game.      

 

If you like college football, this is a wonderful—and a bit crazy—time of the year.   And, for the most part, it actually looked like the attendance at these venues was good.   The Vegas Bowl looked packed and over 54,000 were in the Superdome to see a Bayou Battle between Tulane and ULL.   Let’s face it, there are a lot of bowl games, probably too many, but it definitely makes college football unique.   The bowl games love them or not, have been part of the fabric of the sport for years.   The good thing is there will be a four team playoff next year and the other good thing is that the bowl games will also remain.

 

Division 1-AA (FCS) has and still has a playoff and this year, 24 teams vied for the title.   On January 4, Towson will battle North Dakota State for the championship, and for North Dakota State, a chance for a threepeat.   Towson used to be a 1-AA bottom feeder, but yesterday’s thrilling last second win at Eastern Washington has the Tigers on the map.  

 

1-AA football fascinates for many reasons.   First, it’s good football.  Schools can have 63 scholarship players, so the level of play is quite good.   Joe Flacco and Tony Romo are both 1-AA products, so to say that 1-AA doesn’t produce pro players would be wrong.   At the same time, 1-AA football makes you wonder.   Does 1-AA success mean anything?   In Division II and III, it’s different.  NW Missouri State won the Division II title.  All their sports play at the Division II level, a level that allows for 36 football scholarships.  NWMS is not going anywhere.  But, all 1-AA football schools play at the Division I level in their other sports.   As good as Towson is, they can be national 1-AA champions, but if they make the NCAA tournament in basketball, they will be competing with Duke, Louisville and Syracuse.  They don’t do that in football, and for that reason, the 1-AA classification has always been a bit odd.  Why not give these schools the obvious choice: if you play Division I, you play Division I in all sports, if not, you play Division II.   Why is there a 1-AA level at all?   Yes, there are lots of schools that are Division I in sports but don’t have football.  That is why the 1-AA level exists, I get it.  It gives schools like Georgetown and Villanova the opportunity to have a football team.  If these schools had to be Division II in football and all other sports, they would drop football, so to encourage more college football, this hybrid level was created.   When you think about it, it makes sense. 

 

Getting back to 1-AA success meaning anything?  Towson coach Rob Ambrose was upset when 4,200 fans were in attendance for a home playoff game.   What does that mean?  Do the students care?  Do local fans really care about this level of football?  And, with Towson being so close to Baltimore, do pro sports dominate so much that 1-AA football just gets lost?   In small towns, 1-AA football is part of the local culture and it is important.   There is great pride in Montana when the Grizzlies are at the top of the 1-AA mountain, same in the state of Delaware and in Fargo, ND, where the Bison are the two time defending champions. 

 

Look at Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, who have won six and three 1-AA titles respectively.   Both are moving up to the 1-A (FBS) level next year and will be members of the Sun Belt Conference.  If they win their conference title, they will likely be playing in the New Orleans Bowl and will likely never, ever play for the CFP championship, no matter how glossy their record is.   Which is better?   Winning national titles at the lower level or being a little guy in the big guy world?  North Dakota State has been so dominant that some are asking whether the Bison are contemplating a move up to 1-A.   As of now, the leaders of the school say no, and moving up is not that easy as it takes millions of dollars to facilitate such an adventure.  

 

There is also talk of a purer Division 1-A separation.  Currently, there are 10 1-A conferences, the big five consisting of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC, and the other five consisting of the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, American Athletic, and Conference USA.  There is potential of having the big five play at their level and the other five AND all 1-AA schools playing at their level.  In theory, all would be Division I schools and the 1-AA classification would be gone altogether.   All schools would be eligible for the CFP, and those that don’t make it would be play in Division I bowl games. 

 

In this case, a Georgia Southern could make the CFP or play against a Minnesota, Tulsa or North Dakota State in a bowl game.   This would no different than Georgia Southern playing Minnesota or Duke in college basketball or soccer.  In the end, it might be more beneficial for the current 1-AA schools because every bowl game is on television; not every 1-AA playoff game is.  Furthermore, because every football school would be Division 1, Alabama can schedule Chattanooga without being mocked.  The Crimson Tide gets to look at their second and third team players while Chattanooga gets the thrill of playing in front of 90,000 and takes home a nice $500,000 for their participation. 

 

Division 1-AA schools make noise, plenty of noise.  The question remains:  does anybody hear it and if not, is there a new sound on the horizon?  

 

 

Get Ready to be Bowled Over

December 19, 2013

by John Furgele

They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and if you like college football, it’s time for holiday cheer and bowling.  Truth be told, most college football fans would prefer a 16 team playoff and a few bowl games, but that’s never going to happen anytime soon.  And, if it does, there may still be some bowl games left for those teams that don’t qualify for the playoff.

ESPN certainly enjoys bowl games.  As it is called in the business, these bowl games provide inventory and the more inventory ESPN has the more they charge cable TV companies who in turn, can charge you more money.  One would hope that more broadcast companies would get involved, but that’s not likely to happen, although Fox Sports 1 may eventually throw some money into the mix.  Currently, there are only three bowl games not on ESPN:  the Sun (CBS), Capital One (ABC) and Cotton (FOX).  Once again, because Disney owns ABC and ESPN, it is a deliberate effort to move these games from free to cable TV. Even the Rose Bowl, which vowed to stay on free TV, moved to ESPN.  The reason:  inventory.   In the end, it doesn’t matter, but I’ll throw a little nostalgia by remembering the 1970s and 1980s, when ABC had the Sugar; CBS the Cotton; and NBC the Rose and Orange, all on January 1.  It also is peculiar that CBS, which broadcasts SEC games, the best conference in the nation, only has the Sun Bowl.  One would think that the network would want more involvement than just that game.

There are 35 games to choose from, and the best thing about most of these games is that they provide good background noise at holiday parties, present wrapping and taking down holiday decorations.   In the end, does it really matter if the 8-4 Houston Cougars beat the 8-4 Vanderbilt Commodores in the BBVA Compass Bowl?  Probably not, but if you’re just sitting around, why not watch some of it?

There are some interesting games out there, and unfortunately there are too many 6-6 teams participating.  I just don’t understand how finishing 6-7 and saying you played in a bowl game is a good thing?  To me, finishing 6-6 means you should be home, preparing to not finish 6-6 in 2014, not going to a bowl game.  But, it is what it is and with 70 of the 128 FBS teams qualifying, it isn’t easy to make sure everybody has a winning record.

The Las Vegas Bowl is certainly an intriguing matchup between one loss Fresno State and the somewhat resurgent Southern California.  The question is the motivation level of the Trojans.  One would think they would be fired up, but you never know.  As for Fresno State, they were a few points away from an undefeated season, and they will want to prove themselves against a BCS team.

The next bowl of intrigue is the Poinsettia Bowl which is played in beautiful San Diego.  Northern Illinois played in the Orange Bowl last year and went 12-0 before getting thumped by Bowling Green in the MAC Championship.  Their quarterback Jordan Lynch has been a terrific college player and he’ll get one more chance to impress the pro scouts (both NFL and CFL).  Utah State is a mid-major program on the rise; they gave Fresno State all they could handle in the MWC title game.

The Fight Hunger Bowl pits a pair of 8-4 teams with BYU taking on Washington.  BYU is an independent, so they treat every game the same way and Washington will play the game without Steve Sarkisian who left for USC.  These teams have played each other in the past, and though they’re not Notre Dame, BYU does have some sort of national following. Of course, when I think of BYU in bowl games, I harken back to the Holiday Bowl shootouts and of course, the Mizlou Television Network.

The Russell Athletic Bowl on paper looks like one of the best 2013 games as 11-1 Louisville plays 9-3 Miami at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.  Most think Teddy Bridgewater will be off to the NFL after this game, and it will also be Louisville’s last game in the American Athletic Conference.  Next year both Miami and Louisville will be ACC members.

The Alamo Bowl will be the final time that Mack Brown coaches the Texas Longhorns, and he will face the high octane Oregon Ducks, who despite finishing 10-2 showed they were a bit soft.  This will be a tough matchup for Texas because they haven’t done well against two speed offenses they’ve played this year, Baylor and BYU which ran like crazy on the Horns.

The last bowl game of 2013 is an eye catcher with Duke facing Texas A&M.   The Aggies will showcase the 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, likely for the final time, while Duke, at 10-3 surprised everybody by winning the ACC Coastal Division and securing a place in the ACC Championship.   The game is in Atlanta and because bowl games are rare for the Dukies, one has to believe that alums are making plans to spend New Year’s Eve in Atlanta.

In addition to these games there is some new blood this year, which is one reason why college football bowl games can be fun. It’s always great to see a new team get to go bowling. Rice is one of those teams. As Conference USA champions, there was genuine excitement in their locker room when they were extended an invitation to play in the Liberty Bowl. Other teams that haven’t been to bowls in recent memory include the Buffalo Bulls (Potato), Tulane Green Wave (New Orleans against in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette); Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (Armed Forces), and both UNLV Rebels and North Texas Mean Green in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, played at the Cotton Bowl.

As mentioned earlier, January 1 used to be reserved for the old four: the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton Bowl.  The Fiesta Bowl used to be played on December 25, but eventually moved to January 1.  The Cotton Bowl then lost its status as an elite bowl, but still played on New Year’s Day.  Now, there are six games on New Year’s Day, but only two (Rose and Fiesta) of the big ones.  This will change next year with the introduction of the College Football Playoff with two of the big four serving as CFP semifinals.  The CFP title game will be played a week later at what used to be Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  That will be an interesting time for sure, but for now, settle in and get ready to bowl, 35 games worth.

Your arm will only be sore from using the remote.

Who Goes to Texas….and Army?

December 17, 2013

by John Furgele,

Did Mack Brown deserve better?   Perhaps, but in the business of college football, getting to go out on your own terms is not easy, nor should it be.  For 16 mostly wonderful seasons, Brown did things the right way.  He won and won often.  In fact, he enhanced the brand that is Texas football so much that they now have their own television network.  He won a BCS championship in 2005, in what most say was the best BCS title game of them all, when Vince Young ran for 200 yards and passed for 267 as Texas upended Southern California.   He also brought Texas to the BCS title game 2009, only to lose both Colt McCoy and the game to Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Throw in a Fiesta Bowl win over Terrell Pryor and the Ohio State Buckeyes and that’s not too bad of a platter.

When the boosters want you out, you’re going to be out, and the Texas boosters started squawking about Brown’s tenure as early as 2011.   When longtime loyal Brown supporter, former athletic director DeLoss Dodds retired, the writing on the wall began to dry.   After a 1-2 start, Texas won seven of eight to get to 8-3 and played the final game against Baylor for the Big 12 title.  But, that’s not good enough at Texas.   Sure, a Big 12 title and banner is never a bad thing, but Longhorn nation wants BCS championships.  They want the Longhorns to start 9-0 or 9-1 and be in contention for what was once the BCS title game and now will be the four team College Football Playoff.   Sitting at 8-3 with a game to play just won’t satisfy UT supporters no matter who the coach is. 

As for Brown, he was paid handsomely and he certainly delivered.  With the pay comes the expectations, and when you’re not producing enough, the method of departure is irrelevant.  Many think Brown should have been able to go out on his terms or even coach until he had enough, but that is a poor argument.   Brown is a big boy and he did handle the (forced) resignation with class and dignity because he is a man with class and dignity.   When Brown took the job, no matter the success, the end will come and very few get to the dictate the ending terms.  

The more important question is who the next coach will be.   It is a crucial hire because college football is entering a new era, the playoff era.  And, even though Texas is a tremendous job with tremendous resources, it’s not automatic that Texas remains a top five program.   Ohio State is a player as is Auburn,  LSU and half the SEC.   Florida State is going through a resurgence and there’s the Oklahomas, Michigans USCs and Stanford.   Texas has some advantages, but Texas A&M, once the second class program in the state is in the SEC,  the premier conference in the nation. 

The usual names have already been trotted out.   Nick Saban was courted and used that courtship to get more years and more money from Alabama.   Some say that Chip Kelly wants to return to college and install his crazy offense at UT.  Personally, I can’t see him jumping back to college after just one season with the Philadelphia Eagles, but stranger things have happened.   Some say Jim Harbaugh would be interested, but to me, he has unfinished business with the San Francisco 49ers.  He was so close to winning I would think he wants a few more years before even considering a return to college.  

One name that hasn’t surfaced as quickly as the others is the Mad Hatter, Les Miles, the current LSU coach.   The Hatter has the charisma and the gift of gab that would make for great Longhorn Network programming but would he be able to take the criticism of every odd decision that he has been known to make?  That stuff plays well in the Bayou, but in Texas?  

Brown is gone and there is an assumption that the future coach will be better than Brown, a feeling that it’s automatic.   It’s treated as a given because the big Texas program is seen as a can’t fail opportunity.

Not so sure that will be the case. 

 

 

Opening at Army

 

Rich Ellerson handled his firing at the United States Military Academy with equal class and dignity that Brown showed.  Ellerson knew after his Army team was drubbed 34-7 by Navy for the twelfth straight time and fifth under him, that he was doomed.  The one thing a coach has to do at Army is beat Navy and the one thing the Navy coach has to do is beat Army.  

It is not easy to win at Army.   It is tough to get accepted there and even tougher to play Division I football there.   Navy and Air Force have had more success than Army but not every school can go 8-4 each year and head to a minor bowl.  There have to be 3-9 teams, but in recent years, there have been too many of those at West Point.

Army needs a coach who can sell the uniqueness that is West Point.  He has to recruit with passion, sell and most importantly, motivate.   And, in addition to that, be able to outfox the opposing coach.  Army’s defensive line averaged 257 pounds, which is about 45 pounds lighter than most offensive lines in college football.  They’re going to get pushed around, which makes precise running of the triple option offense very important.   The best way to save your defense is to have a ball control offense. 

There will be plenty of up and coming assistants that will apply for this job, but there is one man out there that could be the perfect candidate, and his name is Jim Tressel.   Tressel has been a success everywhere he’s gone.  He coached at 1-AA Youngstown State, a school in a depressed city.  He overcame that handicap, recruited well and won four 1-AA titles.  He then moved on to Ohio State and all he did there was win and win big.  He dominated Michigan, played in three BCS Championship Games, winning in 2002.   He has the look of an Army coach.  Tough, strong, disciplined and at 61, he’s a year younger than the god Nick Saban.  

If Army were to hire Tressel they would have to show cause to the NCAA due to the sanctions given to him in the tattoo scandal at Ohio State, but it’s time to forgive him for that.   Currently, Tressel , is the Vice President of Student Engagement at the University of Akron where he earns about $200,000 per year.  Tressel’s show cause penalty expires in December, 2016 and he would have to sit out the first five regular season games plus a bowl game should he return.   One would hope that these sanctions could be reduced, because at his core, Tressel is a solid man who has shaped the lives of young men for over 30 years. 

Tressel would likely have to embrace the triple option and because he is a run first coach, the thinking is he could do so.   People are given second chances all the time in this country and Tressel didn’t murder, rob or embezzle.  He lied about some of his players getting tattoos in exchange for some Ohio State merchandise, in the grand scheme, not a big deal.  The only question is does Tressel want to coach again.   Based on recent comments where he stated that he misses the competition, the guess is yes.   Army is more like Youngstown State than Ohio State and that should suit Tressel just fine.   He would be a great leader for a great institution that’s pride is wounded.   Tressel restored the pride in the city of Youngstown and he did the same at The Ohio State University, and he could do it for The United States Military Academy.  

 

I hope he gets a phone call.   

Army Streak Reaches 12

December 15, 2013

by John Furgele

Unless you have some sort of tie to the Navy or the United States Naval Academy, you have to feel for the Black Knights of the Hudson as they lost to Navy for the 12th consecutive time, 34-7 in Philadelphia.   The Knights fell behind 17-0, but after stopping Navy on downs, marched 68 yards to make it 17-7, and perhaps game on?  Not really, as the Middies, (8-4) gathered back the momentum and pulled away to win easily.   Army coach Rich Ellerson continues to take small strides at the Military Academy, but if he can’t find a way to win and win soon against Navy, he may be looking for employment elsewhere.

It is a tale of two academies.  Navy continues to win and get to bowl games.  They will play in the Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee later this month and no matter the result, will have at the least, an 8 win season.   Meanwhile, up north, the Cadets finished 3-9, slightly better than last year’s 2-10 season.   Both recruit the same type of player, both are undersized and both run similar offenses with the triple option.  The triple option, because it’s not run by many schools gives both Army and Navy some advantages against its opponents, which, because they don’t see it, have difficulty staying disciplined trying to defend it.    Navy runs it and runs it well.  You may outscore Navy, but more often than not, they will score and make it a difficult game.  The Middies were right there against Notre Dame and lost a double overtime game at Toledo by one point when their placekicker missed an extra point that would have and should have sent the game into a third overtime session.

The telling stat came courtesy of CBS studio analyst Brian Jones.  He pointed out that Navy’s offensive line averaged 281 pounds while Army’s defensive line averaged 257 pounds.   That says a lot right there.   Simply, Army is too undersized to compete at the Division 1-A level.   That said, so is Navy, but the Middies keep producing winning records.   In 2015, Navy will give up life as an independent and will join the American Athletic Conference.  At first, I thought this was a mistake because one of the reasons Navy does well is great scheduling.  As an independent, there is tremendous flexibility.   One week, it’s Notre Dame, the next it’s The Citadel.   When Navy and Army were members of Conference USA they struggled because they really didn’t get a break as they can now.   Navy schedules at least one 1-AA team every year and often plays teams from the “Little 5,” or non BCS conferences.

The AAC did okay in its first season.  Its champion, Central Florida went 11-1 and gets the first and last automatic BCS bowl berth when they play Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.   in 2015, Navy will line up against the likes of Tulsa, Tulane, East Carolina, Temple and Memphis, teams they have played—and beaten—in year’s past.    The one dilemma will be when they schedule the Army game starting that year.   In order to make it a showcase game, Army-Navy was moved to the second Saturday in December, but with the AAC going to 12 teams and a championship game, Navy will have to be done playing its regular season the Saturday after Thanksgiving in order to have the first Saturday in December free for the AAC Championship Game.   Something of course, will be worked out.

As for Army, they will remain an independent, although the MAC, with 13 teams might be able to use Army to have a balanced 14 team league with two seven team divisions.  But, that’s not likely to happen, nor is a move to Division 1-AA.  The Black Knights might be much more competitive at that level, but academy pride will not let that happen.   In 2014, Army does have two 1-AA teams on its schedule.   The first is Fordham, which will not be an easy task.  The Rams now give out athletic scholarships and this year went 12-2, advancing to the second round of the Division 1-AA playoffs.

I think most want Army to do well in football, and deep down, 3-9 is not that big a deal.  But, it would be nice to see Army schedule games that they can be competitive in.   We know that Navy and Air Force are givens, but why shouldn’t Army schedule four 1-AA opponents each season.   In 2014, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Yale Bowl, Army will visit the Bulldogs in late September. That game will generate buzz, even more should Yale win.   In addition to Fordham and Yale, why not schedule the likes of New Hampshire, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, and Delaware?   As stated, it would be nice to see Army win more games, but with 257 pound nose tackles, that’s going to remain tough to do.

Very tough.