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Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut’

Cancellations and (later) Game Previews

In College Football, History, NFL, Preview on September 9, 2017 at 11:09 AM

I will not make a habit of posting game previews on Saturday, but it just worked out that way this week. I didn’t look for pictures but may do so later.

Cancellations

First of all, I want to make clear that South Florida (and possibly parts of North Florida, West Florida, South Georgia, etc.) are under very serious threat and nothing about Hurricane Irma should be taken lightly.

But being that hurricanes are storm systems that move methodically and don’t shoot out death rays from hundreds of miles away, I do have some criticism over games that were canceled.

hurricane 0909

I understand South Florida and Miami deciding not to play even though they had road games. There would have been too many distractions on Saturday, and there would have been legitimate concerns about the ability to go back after game activities without getting stuck. Preparing to make a couple of days’ trip for a football game and preparing to evacuate indefinitely are two very different things. Maybe the two games could have been moved up to Friday if the decision had been made earlier in the week, but it’s hard to coordinate that with road games against opponents who aren’t used to hurricanes.

I don’t think Florida and Florida St. needed to cancel their games though. I think they should have done what LSU did with the Appalachian St. game in 2008 and played the games in the early morning on Saturday (10:00 Central was early for me anyway, especially as a West Coast resident). The storm would have still been in Cuba at that time, and it would have allowed plenty of storm preparation to help out evacuees from other places.

Along the same lines, I don’t know why it was necessary to cancel the Friday game in Orlando (Memphis @ Central Florida). Attendance might have been low with people having difficulty traveling or for whatever reason having more important matters to attend to, but make-up games often have low attendance anyway.

Anyway, if there are hurricane-force winds in Gainesville, it would probably not be until Monday morning, even later in Tallahassee (if at all). I know some of the players would have had family evacuating from South Florida, but South Floridians play at a large number of schools. I think the primary concern should be for the teams whose campuses were under immediate threat.

Also, for the NFL game, there is of course no question that the game should have been moved. It could have been played at a neutral site elsewhere in Florida, but obviously Florida and Florida St. didn’t want to host games this weekend for NFL or college. Maybe Jacksonville could have been a possibility, but I guess that would have been too close to the anticipated path of the storm. There was also the fact that the Dolphins would have only had six home games. (They already gave up one to play the Saints in London.)

Florida International, which is in the Miami area, managed to host a game on Friday, which makes it even more baffling to me that Central Florida canceled their game. FIU beat Alcorn St. 17-10 if you were curious. Maybe FIU has more sense because they have an international hurricane research center on campus. Also, Florida Atlantic, which is in Boca Raton (North of Miami), is playing @Wisconsin now (Wisconsin will win, but it was surprisingly competitive).

Another possibility is that the road teams who were traveling to Florida got nervous, but I hope that wasn’t the case. I would think someone could have explained that although circular winds in this one have been 160 mph or more within the last day a hurricane isn’t going to suddenly start moving across the map at such a speed. I’m pretty sure people in Monroe understood that, but I’m less sure about whatever city Northern Colorado is in.

Another LSU memory I have is of 2005 when LSU didn’t play Tennessee until Monday night because Hurricane Rita was too close for Tennessee and its fans even though that Saturday in Baton Rouge was just a normal fall evening. Rita was a very destructive storm, just not for Baton Rouge and not on Saturday. That game was also notable because it was Les Miles’ first SEC game at LSU. I’d rather not recall the game itself.

One good thing is that other than Central Florida, none of the games were conference games. Those can cause all kinds of issues later in the year. As you might recall, the SEC had to threaten Florida’s possible berth in the SEC championship (which they eventually earned) before the Gators finally decided to play LSU last year.

Today’s Big Games

Anyway, I did want to talk a little bit about the games that will be played. As I mentioned above, the conference games are the most important, and there is an SEC game between residents of the two “Columbias” (South Carolina and Missouri). I decided that instead of picking all games involving SEC teams, I would just do the conference games and maybe a few extras in weeks with few conference games. So in this game, I’m picking South Carolina +3. I just don’t think Missouri is very good despite all the points they scored last week. They scored 61 against Eastern Michigan last year but lost to South Carolina by 10. I don’t see why the same sort of scenario is less realistic this year.

Offensive lineman Mason Zandi hoists the “Columbia Cup” after last year’s game.

Clemson isn’t in the SEC obviously, but they’re playing Auburn. Clemson won by 6 last year with the best team they’ve had in over 30 years and Auburn was relatively mediocre. So I’m taking Auburn and 5. Auburn might even win, but if they don’t, I can easily see them losing by 3 or 4 and not more.

Somehow Notre Dame is favored by 5 over Georgia. I think if anything Georgia will outperform expectations. Notre Dame’s expectations seem to be unjustifiably positive as usual, so I’m taking Georgia and the points there.

I guess I’ll go against the SEC in the early game of interest, which is TCU (-3) @ Arkansas. Arkansas has started slow a few times in recent years. I think TCU has more of the pieces in place even though I think Kenny Hill probably has a lower ceiling than some of the other quarterbacks in the Big XII alone, but he had a pretty good game in the early going in 2014 against an SEC team (Texas A&M @ South Carolina). Not saying he’ll pass for over 500 yards, just enough to win by 3 or more.

I’m not going to pick any more games against the spread, but there was another early game I’m very eager to follow, which is Pitt at Penn St. It was a great finish last year and probably kept the Nittany Lions out of the playoff in hindsight.

A few other big evening games I haven’t mentioned: Oklahoma @ Ohio St. (two of my top 4, hopefully better than Alabama/Florida St. game), Stanford @ USC (the Trojans were underwhelming last week, but maybe WMU is good), and Boise St. @ Washington St. (I’d take the over, although both struggled offensively in the last couple of games last season).

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LSU Notes and FCS vs. FBS

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on September 2, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Just a random observation and then I’ll have a couple of detailed topics: Arkansas plays four SEC teams in the preseason top 10 in consecutive weeks, beginning September 28. All four won over the weekend, as did the Razorbacks. Kentucky also has a similar string of opponents beginning September 14, but one of the preseason top-10 opponents is Louisville.

FCS schools make statements against the FBS

Oregon St. became the third ranked team ever and first since 2010 to lose to an FCS (formerly I-AA) opponent. The other two were Virginia Tech (to James Madison) and Michigan (to Appalachian St. in 2007).

By my count, FCS programs went 8-21 against FBS (formerly I-A) teams, a better winning percentage than the MAC, MWC, and Independents had against FBS teams in Week 1. Of those, only the MAC had a better winning percentage against Division I as a whole.

The Big Ten schools are in the process of eliminating FCS schools from their schedules. The Big Ten has not lost to any so far, but the Big XII and AAC (the successor to the Big East) lost two such games apiece. The conference should probably re-think that, especially since North Dakota St. and Northern Iowa (and much of the rest of the current Missouri Valley Conference) often fields teams that are more competitive than MAC opponents that may be chosen instead. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Northern Iowa has played interesting in-state games against Iowa and Iowa St. (including this year, when it beat the Cyclones) in recent reasons. Minnesota has struggled against Dakota teams, nearly losing to South Dakota St. in 2009 and then losing to South Dakota in 2010 and to North Dakota St. in 2011. Maybe the Big Ten should place a limit on how far away the FCS opponent can come from instead. Games of regional interest against competitive FCS programs should definitely continue.

North Dakota St.–which came from behind, 21-7, to beat Kansas St.–has beaten an FBS school for the fourth consecutive season. Three of the four were against opponents in auto-bid BCS conferences. The Bison move to 7-3 against FBS opponents in the last 10 years. Before 10 years ago, they weren’t losing to FBS schools; instead they were competing in Division II.

Don’t forget FBS schools often pay for the right to play these FCS opponents. ESPN’s Darren Rovell provided the numbers for two of the games. Kansas State paid North Dakota State $350,000 to play Friday’s game. NDSU paid for its coach’s salary and then some. Craig Bohl has a base salary of $206,000. The UConn Huskies paid Towson $275,000 to beat them Thursday night.

Two of the FCS winners over FBS teams this weekend have played LSU in recent seasons. The Tigers defeated Towson last year and McNeese St. in 2010. Towson beat UConn, 33-18, and McNeese St. beat South Florida, 53-21. Hard to believe UConn was in a BCS bowl in 2010, and in 2007, South Florida was #2 in the BCS standings.

LSU Game Notes

At first blush, it might appear that the LSU defense struggled with the loss of talent (depending on whom you ask, they had either 4 or 5 returning starters on defense), but when you look closer, not really.

The only touchdown allowed in the first half was allowed by the special teams. The only other TCU scoring drive in the first half was a field goal. The defense did technically allow two touchdown drives in the second half, but one of those started at the LSU 6 after a fumble by the LSU running back.

There were definitely some things the defense did wrong leading up to the other touchdown for the Horned Frogs, but at one point it actually seemed to have a stop before a penalty was called for roughing the passer on third down.

After a bad punt, TCU also got a second-half field goal from 39 yards out after only a 26-yard drive.

The defense also came up with an interception.

Other than the one turnover, the offense did a fairly good job overall. Mettenberger was very on-target, and it’s really an injustice to him that only 50% of his passes were caught. Some of the passes were thrown to perfection, allowing receivers to catch the ball in stride and evade even very good coverage. At least a couple such balls hit receivers in the hands and were not caught.

He did linger in the pocket at times, but I’d prefer that to risking an interception. I think there were missed blocking assignments and things of that nature that contributed to problems and will work themselves out as the season progresses. Mettenberger showed some good scrambling ability, but he’s not great at running or throwing on the run.

Like the receivers, the running backs were a bit of a mixed bag. Odell Beckham, LSU’s top receiver on the night in terms of yardage, also had one of the longer runs on an end-around for 17 yards. Alfred Blue (who committed the turnover) was solid but not spectacular, carrying the ball 19 times for 89 yards. Terrence Magee, who was only credited with one rushing attempt and one reception last season, showed the ability to accelerate on a 52-yard touchdown scamper (the blocking on that play helped make up for some backfield errors) but only gained 43 yards combined in his other 12 carries. Jeremy Hill is serving a (indeterminate) suspension for punching a man outside of a bar, but it’s nice to know there are at least two able backs. Kenny Hilliard showed flashes of brilliance in the past as well, but he only had 4 carries for 8 yards on Saturday.

Aside from struggles with TCU kickoff returns (even apart from the 100-yard touchdown, the Frogs gained 69 yards in the other four returns) and the one bad punt, the special teams did well. There were two other punts, one of 48 yards that was fair caught at midfield and another of 43 yards that went out of bounds at the 9 yard line. There were no punt returns for the Tigers or Horned Frogs.

The three LSU field goals were all of under 30 yards (which says we could use some improvement in the red zone), but all of the kicks were free from any drama from what I could tell.

Odell Beckham did some damage of his own on the LSU kick returns, returning 4 kickoffs for a total of 136 yards.

Some other odds and ends. LSU was 13/19 on third downs compared to 7/13 for TCU. The Tigers out-gained the Horned Frogs, 448-259. TCU was penalized 9 times for 55 yards, and LSU was penalized 7 times for 42 yards. The Tigers had twice as many first downs, 26-13, one fewer turnover, and almost exactly 12 more minutes in time of possession.

The Tigers have won 42 consecutive non-conference regular-season games since losing the opener of the 2002 season at Virginia Tech. I went over the highlights here. This is also the first time in LSU history that the team has won 11 consecutive season openers.

Realignment Revisited (Again)

In College Basketball, College Football, Realignment on August 31, 2013 at 4:44 PM

I’ve written about this a few times, but as the college football landscape keeps changing, that will change what realignment solutions make sense. Some of the conference additions and subtractions do make a bit of sense, and there is no reason to cause new problems unnecessarily.

One of the more noticeable things about the alignment going into next season is the number of new independents. Before BYU left the Mountain West to become independent, there were only three independent programs: Army, Navy, and Notre Dame.

The independents swell to 7 programs this season. Idaho and New Mexico St. were left without conferences when the WAC folded and no one picked them up, and Old Dominion joined the FBS as a transitional team. (Fewer than half of its games this season will take place against other FBS teams.)

Old Dominion is scheduled to join Conference USA (and I believe this is the move that makes the most sense anyway), but the CUSA will have an uneven number of teams next season as it awaits the development of UNC-Charlotte’s football team.

I mentioned last year that the absence of the WAC left a bit of a vacuum out West, and I believe this is still true despite SMU and Houston joining the former Big East (now AAC) and despite Mountain West expansion.

The only change I would make to the Mountain West is I would replace New Mexico with Idaho. New Mexico is admittedly a more traditional team to be playing Air Force and Colorado St., but I don’t think that’s the natural place for them. Idaho is a better fit with the rest of the Mountain division: Boise St., Utah St., and Wyoming. New Mexico also fits a lot better into my proposed Big West/Sunbelt/WAC conference:
Rice (currently CUSA)
Texas El Paso (currently CUSA)
Texas San Antonio (currently CUSA)
Texas St.
New Mexico
New Mexico St.
Louisiana Lafayette
Louisiana Monroe
Louisiana Tech (currently CUSA)

So that’s 4 Texas schools, 2 New Mexico schools (one of which is about 20 minutes’ drive from Texas), and 3 Louisiana schools. That’s why it’s so much more fitting for New Mexico than it is for Idaho. Also, it would be much more conceivable for New Mexico to finish with a winning record.

This is what Conference USA would look like in 2015:

Eastern Division Western Division
Florida Atlantic Alabama Birmingham
Florida International South Alabama*
Georgia St.* Troy*
Marshall Southern Mississippi
Middle Tennessee Arkansas St.*
NC-Charlotte North Texas
Old Dominion Western Kentucky**

*currently Sun Belt
**Western Kentucky is playing in its last season in the Sun Belt and will already join CUSA next season.

If you think I missed a few Sun Belt teams, North Texas, Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International are all playing their first respective seasons in the CUSA right now. UT-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech are also playing their first respective seasons in the CUSA, but I think the give and take might work out if it’s something like what I presented. I know the conference big wigs aren’t going to read this and change everything tomorrow, but moving toward something like this would be a viable long-term plan for the respective schools and conferences. I’m not sure how all the legalities work, but whatever the new conference is called could conceivably be a successor to the Sun Belt.

The major conferences may be fairly set for right now, as moves have been made to secure programs’ television rights even if they join new conferences in the future, but I think there may be some changes where two conferences can simply work it out and the TV requirements could be waived for the right price. Maybe there will be some trades like what I’m suggesting above for the more minor conferences.

Apart from SEC scheduling, the main thing that doesn’t make sense to me in the major conferences right now is we still have a 10-team Big XII and not too far from Morgantown, West Virginia, (which is not anywhere near other Big XII campuses) there are two schools you may have heard of called Cincinnati and Louisville. Cincinnati may be relatively easy to recruit since it’s in the AAC (the former Big East) rather than in the process of joining the ACC like Louisville is. But it would seem to me that Connecticut (another AAC school) would be a better fit in the ACC anyway. They’re a natural rival with Boston College and Syracuse and at least a historical rival with Pittsburgh (if you’re out of the loop, Syracuse and Pitt are also joining the ACC). I would also hope the ACC would consider a more logical approach to their divisional alignment.

I know Louisville won the national championship in basketball, but I can’t imagine that Connecticut wouldn’t be just as good of a long-term possibility in that sport (with multiple championships in recent years). Connecticut only recently started having a major football team, but that program could be just as good as Louisville’s also. There is also the matter of Connecticut possibly driving TV revenue in the New York area. I can’t imagine that the ACC would require too much money in order to go along with something of this nature.

How I Would Reorganize College Football…… Part III: Big East/ACC Recombination and Big Ten+2+4

In College Football, Realignment on October 22, 2011 at 11:09 PM

LSU note: This is only the Tigers’ fourth 8-0 start (1973, 1958, and 1908). See also the updated LSU/Auburn edition to my Rivalry Series.

Big East/ACC recombination

I’ve already gotten some responses to the first section along the lines of “What about West Virginia? Virginia Tech?” I put them both in this group. As I did before, I’m going to have the two divisions both vertical next to each other with the permanent rivals (other-division team to play every year) paired horizontally.

Miami-BC
Va. Tech-WVU
Virginia-Maryland
USF-Rutgers
UNC-Syracuse
Duke-Army
Wake-Navy
NCS-Connecticut

It’s not the best set-up for West Virginia admittedly, but I think they would have good rivalries with Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Navy. I don’t think they’d be much better off staying in the current Big East with Pitt leaving. I was a little haphazard with the last 5 permanent rivalries, but they wouldn’t really be necessary. The teams could alternate over time. Virginia and Va. Tech could swap occasionally. Breaking up Miami and BC would not be allowed as long as Doug Flutie is alive though. I’m somewhat kidding. You could argue the two Florida teams don’t belong at all, but I’m OK with allowing for custom to prevail over geography in some places.

The Big Ten + 2 + 4

I’ll save going out west for the next blog, so now I’ll go to opponents WVU might miss like Pitt, Louisville, and Cincinnati. I had to pump the current 12-team Big Ten up to sixteen somehow. Wait, I’ve mentioned three…guess who? Could it get a little more obvious than Notre Dame? But hey, that’s a really good basketball conference for them to be in too. Not bad for baseball either. So I think it maintains enough of the Big East that the Domer fans would go for it (I know other sports don’t matter as far as money). Some just want to be obstinate, but remember when the Big Ten and Pac-10 were rigidly opposed to a conference championship game? Not very long ago.

And…and Notre Dame would still play Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan St. every year. Hopefully the mid-90s were long enough ago that they would accept Northwestern as an annual opponent once again. The permanent rival I picked was Louisville. Indiana-Kentucky, makes sense, right?

I toyed with trying to get Notre Dame to play Indiana for the in-state thing or Penn St. to bring back another forsaken rival, but I knew if I got too creative, I would mess up the battle for Paul Bunyan’s little brown oaken bucket of Rosedale or something. I probably already did something bad with putting Ohio St., Illinois, and Indiana in the mostly non-original-Big-Ten division. I checked on this, but I don’t know what all 12 Big Ten trophies are. I read one is being designed right now for Iowa-Nebraska. Good thing I was going to make them permanent rivals anyway. Anyway here it is. If I did miss something more obscure than the Land Grant Trophy (which I reinstated…you’re welcome), keep it to yourself. If I overlooked something major, let me know though.

Michigan-Ohio St.
Michigan St.-Penn St.
Minnesota-Cincinnati
Wisconsin-Pitt
Iowa-Nebraska
Northwestern-Illinois
Notre Dame-Louisville
Purdue-Indiana

I have no reason for Minnesota-Cincinnati or Wisconsin-Pitt, but switching them up didn’t make it any better. The rest seem good. And I know this is crazy, but I would just call the one on the left the North and the one on the right the South.

How I Would Reorganize College Football….. Part I: Intro

In College Football, Realignment on October 9, 2011 at 12:36 AM

I started writing this for suggestions of some additional changes to the conference “alignments”. But with this interest that many seem to have in the idea of 16-team conferences, I wondered how popular this idea could get. I know there are a variety of interests at play here, and it would be hard to get them to work together, but I’m mostly just imagining what I would do if I were appointed czar of college football.

I know that’s not going to happen, but as someone who frequently criticizes the powers that be, I thought I would put my own proposal out there. It comes across as cynical grumbling otherwise. But I’m not complaining because I like complaining, I’m complaining because I’d sincerely like there to be a better system, and I know I’m not alone.

For the record, I’m opposed to most of the expansion ideas because one wouldn’t really be in a conference with teams in the other division. It would just be a guaranteed quasi-playoff opponent at the end of the season. But as czar of college football, I would be an enlightened despot. If the people petitioned me through their AD’s and college presidents, I would listen.

Besides, if you did it for all of the guaranteed BCS/playoff spots, it could be good because (1) there would be fewer such spots, (2) more teams could play for those spots, and (3) there would be a more uniform process of playing for those spots.

I think the first two arguments are evident, but I’ll give some more explanation for the third. The Big East is an 8-team conference and the team with the best record in the seven conference games is named the champion. 12-team conferences play either 8 or 9 games just to determine the division winners, and then an additional game is played between the division winners. There are more hurdles in getting there from a 12-team conference, even if you assume equal competition.

Something else I dislike about the expansion/realignment talk is the idea that a conference should add one or two teams in another region in order to generate great recruiting and revenue. Meanwhile, the argument seems to go, natural and traditional rivals should be discarded if they conflict. So for instance, the Big East can have teams from Connecticut to Florida to Texas (thankfully it looks like Texas won’t happen after all), the formerly Big XII can have teams from Kentucky (suggested) to Utah (suggested) to Iowa, and the ACC can teams from Boston to Miami to somewhere inland yet to be determined (Pittsburgh, but maybe farther West). Who cares if it makes sense for the team from Boston to play the team from Connecticut or the team from Miami to play the team from Tampa? They’ll just have to try to squeeze it into the ever-dwindling non-conference schedule. I didn’t even mention the WAC (Manoa, HI, to Ruston, LA, to Moscow, ID), the CUSA (El Paso to Huntington, WV, to Orlando), the Mountain West (San Diego to Boise to Ft. Collins, CO), or the Sun Belt (Denton, TX, to Bowling Green, KY, to Miami).

There is sometimes some conflict between traditional and natural rivalries. South Florida (the Tampa team I mentioned) and Connecticut haven’t had major football programs for very long. Even though they’re about as far away in terms of latitude as any two teams are, there is some history between Boston College and U. Miami. But I tried to balance those concerns. I don’t know the history of every individual rivalry but in an effort to be comprehensive, I put each team somewhere.

What I’ve done is put 80 teams into one of 5 16-team BCS-like conferences. The remaining 40 teams (ones that aren’t as good) have been put into one of 4 10-team conferences.

Producing a playoff

My ideal would be to find a way to turn that into 8 playoff teams. The 10-team conferences could either produce one or two of those teams, and there could be one or two at-large teams.

I would not only have a way for those bottom 40 programs to win the national championship, but I would also come up with a system where the best of those teams, at least the top two would be allowed to move up and two other teams would be allowed to move down, sort of a European soccer league arrangement.

The catch is having so many potential playoff games after a 9-game schedule. My solution would be that there wouldn’t be any extra games for those teams, or there might be one. Even if there is a 4-team play-in system to be the best of the worst followed by three more potential playoff games, that would be a total of 5 post-season games. 5 + 9 =14, which is accepted as appropriate (most teams already play up to 14 games, factoring in possible conference championship, bowl games, and trips to Hawaii {I’m not being facetious, that’s actually an exception to the 12-game limit}). There could also be an 8-game conference schedule instead (the team that isn’t played can be drawn out of a hat), and maybe just one play-in game, so that would allow two additional teams to be played. And since that 14th game is so unrealistic, a third game outside of the system could also be allowed.

The schedules for the top 80 teams wouldn’t really change much. My proposal would be that they play the 7 other divisional opponents, along with one inter-divisional rival (I think an even number of home and away games is fairer; the tie-breaker system could be adjusted for inequalities that might result). And playing 8 such games instead of 9 allows three games outside of the system without risking a team having to play more than 14 games. I wouldn’t prohibit other inter-divisional games, they just wouldn’t count toward the division title.

As to which teams move down from the top 80 after the season, there could be anything from something completely objective, like a combination of computer formulas or something more transparently mathematical, to something completely subjective like a NCAA-basketball-like committee that evaluates strengths and weaknesses. There could even be a short playoff to determine who those teams are.

Next Blog… Part 2: SEC/Southern Conference

I’ll try to write these weekly until completion, but I’ve only really had time for one non-rankings blog a week, so if other things come up, they might cause me to spread it out a little more. I’ve done the second part already, but I knew the blog had gotten too long for many people to realistically read everything I’ve written so far on this topic.

Pre-Bowl Top 25 and Other Thoughts

In College Football, Rankings on December 5, 2010 at 10:19 PM

Full rankings

rank team prev.
1 Auburn 1
2 Oregon 3
3 Oklahoma 5
4 TCU 2
5 Ohio St. 4
6 Mich. St. 6
7 Boise St. 11
8 Arkansas 7
9 Stanford 9
10 LSU 10
11 Missouri 8
12 Wisconsin 12
13 Okie St. 13
14 Nevada 16
15 Texas A&M 15
16 Nebraska 14
17 Utah 17
18 Alabama 18
19 Va. Tech 21
20 S.Carolina 19
21 Florida St. 20
22 WVU 22
23 Hawaii 24
24 Miss St. 25
25 Tulsa —

Out of top 25: (23) Northern Illinois

No surprises with the BCS bowls. I still don’t think TCU should be in the Rose Bowl. I understand the Rose Bowl should have to have non-AQ-conference teams from time to time, but not when the potential replacement team is #4.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m also annoyed that Connecticut wins the three-way Big East tie-breaker.

LSU is the best non-BCS SEC team, it is beyond annoying to hear suggestions otherwise. It’s a close call between Arkansas and LSU for second in the SEC, looking at the whole season (and fair to put Arkansas ahead based on their winning streak, which of course included the win over LSU), but Alabama has an extra loss and lacks even a moderately impressive out-of-conference win. That said, I understand not sending LSU back to Orlando. I felt that we took a big step forward this season, and even though the CapitalOne is supposedly better and pays more money, it feels like less of a step forward than the Cotton, which had traditionally one of the more high-caliber bowls. But I still think Alabama-Texas A&M and LSU-Michigan St. would have been a more evenly-matched combination of games. Maybe a fourth-best SEC team is better than a tied-for-first Big Ten team; but I think, like LSU-Penn St. last year, it will come down to motivation.

LSU needed to play Texas A&M again though, so that’s not a bad setting for it. Also, Arkansas barely beat Texas A&M (in the same stadium, incidentally), so maybe that will be some motivation. Anyway, I look forward to adding to my rivalry series once again. This will actually be a new one, although I did touch on Texas A&M in other blogs based on coaches who faced LSU there and at another major historical rival (Bear Bryant {actually two rivals for him}, Gene Stallings, and Jackie Sherrill).

The Sugar Bowl will also be an interesting SEC-Big Ten match-up. I think Arkansas is a similar team to Wisconsin, so Ohio St.’s defense will be tested. Of course, Ohio St. would argue that they have a similar quarterback to Auburn’s.

New Year’s Day is remarkably uninteresting. The Rose and CapitalOne should be all right, but these are the other games that day: Northwestern-Texas Tech, Florida-Penn St., Mississippi St.-Michigan, Connecticut-Oklahoma. But since all the non-BCS games are on at basically the same time, I guess it will be easy to avoid the bad ones.

In a way, the Cotton has more prominence now, and not just because of the House that Jerry Built. It’s the only big bowl game between the Sugar Bowl (the last actual BCS bowl) and the National Championship Game. It will be played on the night of Friday, January 7. The ridiculously early New Year’s Day slot would not have been as exciting. Nevada is a good team, but they’re only playing Boston College, and that game will be on the following Sunday. The Cotton will also be one of only three games to be played on network television, the others being the Sun Bowl (Miami-Notre Dame) and the Outback Bowl (Florida-Penn St.). All the other bowl games will be carried by one of the ESPN channels.

I’m glad Boise St. got a somewhat respectable opponent in Utah, even though TCU roughed up the Utes pretty badly. That’s still a 10-2 team. Las Vegas is a good place to play as well. It’s not as traditional of a location, but it’s not a whole lot different in profile from New Orleans or Miami, and it’s also a good time of year to be in such a place. Those aren’t attractive teams for their fans, but I’m sure distance from most bowl locations has at least something to do with that. That’s the first game that really interests me. Being that it will be played in 17 days, I guess that’s not so bad.

I have Hawaii and Tulsa ranked, so I’ll be interested to see that game on Dec. 24. I don’t think either is really one of the 25 best, but this should put it into perspective. These are Tulsa’s three losses: by a Hail Mary @ East Carolina, on the road against Oklahoma St., and by a field goal @ SMU (the last loss, Oct. 9). Hawaii’s only loss since Sept. 18 was to Boise St. Things don’t really get interesting until Dec. 28, but I’m sure you’ll hear from me before then.

My next regularly-planned blog is the final pre-bowl conference report. I’m not sure when that will be, but I’ve been having trouble posting during the week, and I’ll probably won’t know what to do with myself next Saturday, so that will be my guess.

Rivalry Series: LSU-Arkansas

In College Football, Rankings Commentary, Rivalry on December 4, 2010 at 10:24 PM

Updated records (now includes 2017 game)
LSU leads series, 39-22-2
LSU leads SEC series, 16-10
LSU leads 16-9 in Shreveport, 12-3-1 in Baton Rouge, 8-7 in Little Rock, and 1-0-1 in Dallas.
Arkansas is 1-0 in Memphis.
The two programs are tied at 2 in Fayetteville.
Before 2015, Arkansas’s only previous wins in Baton Rouge were 1993 and 2007 (3OT).

ALSO OF NOTE:

Largest Margins of Victory:
1910—Arkansas 51, LSU 0
1922—Arkansas 40, LSU 6
1929—Arkansas 32, LSU 0
1908—LSU 36, Arkansas 4
2003—LSU 55, Arkansas 24
2016—LSU 38, Arkansas 10
1995—LSU 28, Arkansas 0
1927—Arkansas 28, LSU 0

Longest Series winning streak—LSU, 7 games, 1930-1936

Longest unbeaten streak—LSU, 13 games, 1930-1966

Longest Arkansas winning streak—4 games, 1922-1925

Longest home winning streak—LSU, 6 games, 1995-2005

The first thing I wanted to mention is how the series is changing going forward. This is a detailed discussion written after the 2013 game.

In SEC play, LSU had two four-game winning streaks, 1994-1997 and 2003-2006. Arkansas has won back-to-back twice, 1992&1993 and 2007&2008. The home team won every game from 1997 to 2003.

LSU played Arkansas 30 consecutive seasons from 1906-1936 (LSU did not play in 1918 due to World War I), the seventh-longest streak for any LSU opponent. Arkansas is LSU’s eighth most-common opponent overall, while LSU is Arkansas’ ninth most-common opponent.

Intro to Arkansas-LSU and 2006 to present

You might wonder why I seem so interested in this rivalry series thing.

The first seeds of thought about this were planted by these comments by a former SportingNews columnist:

I believe Arkansas fans would be more fired up about playing schools like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Kansas. They could drive to those venues with their hot hats on. And how cool would it be if the Razorbacks could renew their old SWC hate-fest with Texas?

Go ahead, call the Hogs.

Instead, Hogs fans have been force-fed a “rivalry” with LSU.

–Tom Dienhart, 2/23/2006

My first blog in defense of the LSU/Arkansas rivalry was written on November 23, 2006, just hours before the game the next day. That was the first blog of mine that generated any significant number of responses (I got 22 comments in all). 2006 was my first college football season of blogging. My first blog on the SportingNews had been a re-post of my final rankings for the 2005 season.

I didn’t think people would be that interested in historical facts and figures about college football rivalries, but since that interests me and it interested my readers then, I started doing them for all the teams. One benefit of the SportingNews closing its community has been my opportunity to revisit these.

In Deinhart’s defense, the rivalry has gotten a lot more interesting since his blog. LSU knocked off Arkansas in Little Rock that year, 31-26, putting any thoughts of the Hogs playing for the national championship to rest (they had had a 10-game winning streak going into the game). LSU made the Sugar Bowl as a result of that win.

In 2007, Arkansas apparently returned the favor, handing the Tigers their second loss with a 50-48 3-overtime win in Baton Rouge. LSU of course would win the BCS and AP national titles anyway after a series of losses by higher-ranked teams and the Tigers’ SEC championship win over Tennessee pur LSU in the BCS championship game.

The two teams exchanged home wins in 2008 and 2009…

2008 was just a bad year for LSU. It was a worse year for Arkansas, which finished with a losing record, but knowing they couldn’t go to a bowl game, the Hogs grabbed the Golden Boot instead after a 1-point win.

2009 POST-GAME: The last 5 games (2005-09) were decided by a total of 13 points, and two of those games were in overtime. 6 of the last 9 games were decided by three points or less, and a 7th was decided by 5 points. If Arkansas had won this game, it would have been the first time Arkansas beat LSU three games in a row in 80 years. 1929 had been Arkansas’s last win over LSU before Arkansas joined the SEC. The Hogs beat the Tigers 7 times in the 1920s. The decades since then depend on what you count. In the numerical ’90s, Arkansas won three times, but if count the ’90s as 1991-2000, Arkansas won four times. If you count 2000 as part of the ’00s, Arkansas won three times in the ’00s. If not, Arkansas has won twice with a chance to make it three.

I gave my reactions to 2010’s game here.

2011 and 2012 Notes: In 2011, LSU won by 24 points, the largest margin of victory in the series since Les Miles became the head coach at LSU. The previous largest-margin was Arkansas’s 8-point win in 2010. The largest margin in an LSU win had been 5 points in 2006.

2012 was a more typical LSU-Arkansas game. LSU led by only 4 going into the last two minutes before kicking a field goal. Then Arkansas had a 60-yard drive, giving the Hogs a chance to tie with a touchdown on the final play from the LSU 20. But Tyler Wilson’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete. This broke a streak of four consecutive games in the series in which the home team won.

2013 was yet another close one. After an Arkansas 3-and-out and an LSU scoring drive, it looked like it might be a somewhat easy win for LSU against the Arkansas team that entered the game 3-8 (0-7 in SEC play), but it didn’t happen that way. The Tigers and the Razorbacks exchanged touchdowns, and then Arkansas outscored LSU 20-7 in the second and third quarters combined.

Shortly before the field goal that brought the Tigers back to within 3 points, Zach Mettenberger, LSU’s starter for two seasons, aggravated his injured knee. After an LSU defensive stop, the Tigers were pinned back inside the one yard line by a well-executed Arkansas punt. Freshman Anthony Jennings then led the Tigers all the way down the field with four completions and two crucial runs. The touchdown was for 49 yards to Travin Dural, who was left open when the corner was caught flat-footed apparently anticipating a throw to Jarvis Landry. This marked the eighth time in nine games (and tenth time in thirteen games) that the margin of victory in this series was 8 points or fewer.

The post-game blog about the 2014 game can be accessed shortly.

The games since Arkansas joined the SEC (also the Golden Boot contests) are somewhat easily summarized: Arkansas won 2 in a row, LSU won 4 in a row, Arkansas won 3 of 5, LSU won 4 in a row, Arkansas won 3 of 4, and LSU won 3 in a row. Now Arkansas has reclaimed the boot and will try to retain it in Baton Rouge in 2015.

DATE AND LOCATION

I also wanted to comment on what has become a tradition of the game being played the day after Thanksgiving. This was first done in 1992, the first year Arkansas played in the SEC. That 1992 game was also LSU’s only trip to Fayetteville until 2012. The series wasn’t interesting enough to be a premier game the next few seasons, so it was not chosen again until 1996, but it seemed like something clicked (although only one of the two teams was strong for the next few years) and it became a fixture, being renewed every year until 2008. After a two-year hiatus (two great Auburn-Alabama games were played on that date instead in the intervening years), it went back to that Friday in 2011.

The typical location for LSU visits to Arkansas has been Little Rock. After the first three games between the schools were played in Baton Rouge, LSU played four games in Little Rock (and one in Memphis) from 1908 to 1912. The games between 1913 and 1936 were all played in Shreveport, and then the resumption of the series in the 1950s alternated between Shreveport and Little Rock. With the two exceptions noted, the SEC series has alternated between Baton Rouge and Little Rock.

I think these little quirks help make the series more interesting and gives it a unique feel.

Anyway, here is the blog in the state it was after I updated it last year, except for the fact that I changed the records and put that part first:

Original blog

A few years ago, Arkansas was playing Texas. They should still be playing Texas instead of playing Utah St., Southeast Missouri, and Louisiana-Monroe, while Texas played North Texas, Sam Houston St., and Rice. I realize almost everybody schedules a couple cream puffs, but a couple is enough.

Likewise, LSU should still be playing Texas A&M, as they had to open the season (or at least in the first half of September) for decades.

But Dienhart is completely off-base and short-sighted as usual. There are two major fallacies at work here: (1) that you need to be in the same conference to maintain a rivalry, and (2) that there isn’t any history between the teams and that this rivalry was invented after Arkansas joined the SEC.

#1 is plainly idiotic. Even if you don’t know much about football, if you’re reading this, you likely have some sense that Florida plays FSU, Clemson plays South Carolina, Georgia plays Georgia Tech, or Notre Dame plays USC every year. I need not elaborate. And Ole Miss and Mississippi St., not to mention Tennessee, have probably each had more good seasons than Missouri has since they joined the SEC. Mississippi St. was good back then, and Ole Miss did all right during the Tuberville and Eli years, respectively.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

It is true that when Arkansas entered the SEC in 1992, they had not played LSU since the 1965 Cotton Bowl. But watch the game tomorrow (1:30 CST on CBS)and pay attention to any grainy footage with teams with numbers on the helmet, and you can see why there’s some lasting hostility about that one, even up until today. OK, I admit it, my uncle played QB for LSU in that game, but it was still important or they wouldn’t show it every year.

Arkansas had won 22 games in a row and was hoping for their first and only national championship (I don’t count the Football Writers Association of America). Plus Dallas is a lot closer to Fayetteville than it is to Baton Rouge, and the SWC champion was the traditional host. So 3-loss LSU walks in and beats them by a touchdown. Arkansas has not had an undefeated season since. Trust me, fans haven’t forgotten. I went to an LSU-Arkansas game (I’ll put an asterisk next to that particular game when I get to the specifics), I should know. Arkansas fans aren’t exactly shy and demure.

I’m not justifying an entire rivalry on the basis of that one game, either. The teams played from 1953-56, played a 0-0 Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1947, and played every year from 1906-36, with only the exception of 1918, when LSU didn’t play and Arkansas only played 5 games, probably as a result of WWI. The first game between the teams was in 1901.

They even had a special stadium they played in from 1913-36: Independence Stadium in Shreveport, LA, which unlike the aptly-named Gator Bowl, was basically in between the two campuses. That would be too biased toward LSU now, but then not as many people went to college, and those that did didn’t want to stray as far as people do now. In the second major installment of the rivalry in the ’50s, LSU played their home games in Shreveport. The two teams have only played once (1992) in Fayetteville, and once in Memphis, probably because it was accessible by rail for both teams.

Another exciting thing about the rivalry is that the team that is favored or stands to gain the most, like in 1965, often loses.

Arkansas was ranked 9th in the country in 1954, when LSU won 7-6.

RECENT GAMES

In 1993, LSU, with a recent upset over defending national champions Alabama, had a chance to qualify for its first bowl game in five years, but Arkansas (at 4-5-1, ineligible for a bowl) came into Baton Rouge and won there for the first time, 42-24.

Bowl-less for an additional two seasons, LSU had another chance in 1995* and welcomed the 14th-ranked Hogs back to Baton Rouge with a 28-0 wallop, scoring all points in the first half.

From 1999 to 2002, the teams went back and forth as to who was ranked going into the game, with the ranked team losing all four. The 21-20 win in 2002, combined with a one-point Ole Miss win over the Tigers, knocked LSU out of what had looked like a sure SEC championship game (which, looking back, would have given LSU the opportunity for 3 SEC championships in a row). Not to make this partisan, but it looked like Arkansas missed the winning extra point in that game too.

LSU had an absolutely atrocious year in 1999, having beaten only San Jose St. and North Texas, and had already fired its head coach, but they beat then-8-3 Arkansas 35-10.

The Golden Boot (the awkward and heavy trophy awarded to the winner) is admittedly a tad artificial, not introduced until 1996, but it has only been successfully defended 3 times (it has now been successfully defended 5 times, 1997 and 2004-06 by LSU and once by Arkansas in 2008). That’s what I call a competitive rivalry, not the Little Brown Jug (which isn’t brown, by the way).

As for the last two years, in 2004, the Independence Bowl sponsors were hoping the Hogs would spring the upset against the 12th-ranked Tigers to qualify for a bowl (and win their fourth in a row at home in the series), but LSU returned the favor from 1993, winning, 43-14.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only LSU fan to have flashbacks to previous years when 4-win (3 over I-A teams) Arkansas took #3 LSU to the limit in Baton Rouge last year, with LSU winning, 19-17.

There have been 17 games between the two teams decided by a touchdown or less. LSU has won 14 of those games (including that last Cotton Bowl).

It might not be Michigan/Ohio St., but it is a lot of fun, and I don’t think it’s being force-fed to anyone.

Other Rivalry Entries
Team List:
Alabama (Pregames: 2011, 2013)
Arkansas
Auburn (2010 post-game)
Florida
Georgia
Kentucky
Mississippi St.
Ole Miss
(Steve Spurrier and) South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas A&M

Special editions:
Pac-12

More Conference Changes? + My Bowl Projections

In College Basketball, College Football, Realignment on November 29, 2010 at 6:19 PM

Surprise, surprise, TCU is changing conferences again.

The Horned Frogs will join their fourth conference since the dissolution of the SWC in 1996. First, it joined the WAC superconference. Shortly after the MWC teams left the WAC, it moved to the CUSA. Then it jumped to the MWC. Now it will be in the Big East, starting in 2012.

I understand that football teams must start in a new conference by 2012 in order for its statistics to count in the new conference for BCS purposes. The current evaluation period is between 2008 and 2011.

It has driven me crazy that a team in Fort Worth, TX, belonged to the Mountain West Conference since they joined, but they’re moving to a conference that, at least as compared to the current MWC, makes even less sense geographically.

Plus, TCU has a basketball team, so that will be 17 members of the Big East. That’s beyond ridiculous. I think they should make it two separate conferences for the purposes of other sports. Will there now be a play-in game to reach the 1st round of the basketball tournament, where the four winners then get a chance TO PLAY FOR a spot in the quarterfinals?

The travel times listed below are based on Google Maps driving directions.

TCU will leave a conference whose closest rival was 10 hours, 19 minutes away to join one whose closest rival will be 13 hours, 48 minutes away. (South Florida, in Tampa, may be closer in the air than Louisville, but I’m not sure.)

The longest trip will be 28 hours away (it doesn’t give minutes when you go over 24 hours). In the MWC as currently constituted, the longest trip (San Diego St.) was 21 hours, 19 minutes.

But to be fair, it could have gotten worse had TCU stayed. Boise will be 26 hours away, but Hawaii (if they choose to join the MWC) would have been even farther away, about 2900 miles, almost 1200 more than the distance to Connecticut. There is of course no driving time to Hawaii. Confirmed new additions to the MWC, Nevada and Fresno St., would have also been farther away than any current MWC team.

Obviously, there are other reasons, but it’s interesting that three teams have now left the MWC since it was announced that Boise St. was joining. No one wants to play them, unless it’s another team that wants to go out its way to prove itself (I’m sure Fresno St., for instance, was happy to follow them to the MWC).

As I referenced in the second paragraph, I also read that apparently these moves are all about jockeying for automatic qualifier status. TCU’s BCS appearance last year will count toward the Big East, Boise’s will count toward the Mountain West, and Utah’s in the 2008 season will count toward the Pac-10.

Hawaii’s BCS appearnce in the 2007 season apparently doesn’t matter, so the WAC could really be deprived even if Hawaii stays. The WAC might be the new Sun Belt when all is said and done. Idaho, Utah St., and New Mexico St. were all Sun Belt teams at one point, incidentally. San Jose St. isn’t much better. Louisiana Tech (another severely out-of-place team) actually won the WAC in their first season in the conference, but it’s been pretty much downhill since then. Those five teams are the only ones left if Hawaii also leaves. Maybe they’ll add some California FCS teams, but I think the last thing we need is more FBS teams. The Sun Belt is getting bloated, maybe a some of them will go out West (there are two Louisiana teams and one Texas team who might go well with Louisiana Tech).

The Sun Belt is currently scheduled to have 10 football teams with the addition of South Alabama in 2013. I don’t know if Denver plans to field a football team, but they are moving to the WAC, where BYU will also play in sports other than football.

The Big East is also considering adding Central Florida and Villanova, should the latter choose to move up to FBS. Central Florida would increase the number of basketball teams to 18.

I don’t know if there is any interest in bringing Temple back to the Big East, but that would be a more logical fit than the MAC, especially since the Owls have been improved in the last couple of years. It would also be a good basketball program to add, though its previous membership in the Big East was football-only. Temple would also of course be a natural rival with Villanova. The teams have already played each other multiple times in recent years and have an intense basketball rivalry.

Bowl projections

National championship:
Oregon vs. Auburn

I don’t think either team will have it easy this week, but I expect both to come out on top. I just don’t think the opposition is good enough. On the other hand, just ask Bobby Bowden how tough it is to face a rematch with Steve Spurrier.

A Pac-10 or Big Ten national-championship-game team would automatically send TCU to the Rose Bowl. It’s not right for Stanford, but that’s the breaks. So the Rose Bowl doesn’t really get to pick a team.

So there is the second match-up: Wisconsin (projected Big Ten champion based on BCS standings) vs. TCU.

This would probably leave an automatic #4, probably Stanford, Oklahoma or Nebraska as the Big XII champions, Virginia Tech or Florida St. as the ACC champions, and probably either Connecticut or West Virginia (Pitt would only make it if both lose) as the Big East champions. This leaves open the possibility of two non-automatic at-large teams.

The Sugar Bowl gets the first two real picks, the replacement for Auburn and the regular first pick. I think they’d definitely pick Arkansas (leaving only one other non-automatic slot). They might like to pick the Big XII champion, but they’re contractually obligated to the Fiesta Bowl, so my guess is they knock out that last non-automatic spot and pick Ohio St. The Buckeyes were in a New Orleans bowl game in 2007 (the national championship game), but I still think the team and fan base are the most attractive option. I don’t think there is enough of a gap between Stanford and Ohio St. to ignore all the other positives for Ohio St.

So there is our third match-up: Ohio St. vs. Arkansas

The Orange Bowl will have the ACC champion automatically, and they’ll get to pick a second team. Especially if it’s Connecticut, I don’t think they’d want the Big East team instead, so my guess here would be they’d take Stanford. Even if WVU wins the Big East, I don’t know if you pick a team that’s 20 spots worse because their fans are better.

So the fourth match-up: ACC vs. Stanford

The Fiesta Bowl will automatically get the Big XII champion, and they’d be stuck with the Big East Champion, assuming no one else selects that team.

Fifth match-up: Big XII vs. Big East

Select other bowl projections:
CapitalOne: LSU vs. Michigan St.
Cotton: Oklahoma St. vs. Alabama
Outback: South Carolina vs. Penn St.
Peach: Virginia Tech vs. Florida or Florida St. vs. Mississippi St.
Gator: Florida or Mississippi St. vs. Illinois or Iowa (The Ron Zook Bowl sounds interesting, but if it’s Mississippi St., they might go with Iowa instead)
Alamo: Texas A&M vs. Arizona
Insight Bowl: Nebraska vs. Michigan
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Illinois or Iowa
Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Washington
Champs Sports Bowl: Notre Dame vs. U. Miami (I don’t know why they’d pass that game up, I don’t care how bad Miami looked against South Florida)

I also think it would be interesting if maybe the Sun Bowl (which used to be somewhat important) matched Notre Dame and Boise St., since there aren’t enough Pac-10 teams and Notre Dame can go to the Big East bowls, but Notre Dame would probably prefer not to play Boise St. anyway. It would be a shame for Boise St. to have to play a team that’s even worse than that. Boise St./Utah would be a good out-west game (the Las Vegas Bowl would be a possibility, since that’s another open Pac-10 spot), but Boise might be possessive and the Broncos could be stuck on the blue field for the Humanitarian Bowl.