Saturday, September 26, 2015

This Weekend in College Football: Week 4

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Brigham Young @ Michigan (ABC): Don't look, but, despite losing their starting quarterback BYU might actually be kind of good? Losing by a point to UCLA definitely isn't the worst possible result. I like the Stormin' Mormons in a slight upset here.
  • Louisiana State @ Syracuse (ESPN): This one does not figure to go well for the Orange.
  • Georgia Tech @ Duke (ESPN2): Well, Tech sure picked a good time to play one of their worst games of the past few years, huh? Oh, wait, no, it was terrible. Especially the offense, which Notre Dame's talented defense took completely apart. We didn't help ourselves, either. Perimeter blocking was especially bad, and it hasn't really been good even when we were pounding Alcorn State and Tulane.
    As for this game, Duke themselves are also coming off a disappointing loss where they only managed to score 10 against Northwestern. Essentially, this is a clash of two teams looking to get on the rebound, which means this one may be decided by who get back up to speed more quickly.
  • Central Florida @ South Carolina (ESPNU): The season is on the brink of disaster for the Gamecocks, but they're still doing better than UCF, which lost to Furman last week. Furman! Going with South Carolina here.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Nebraska (ESPNEWS): Nebraska should be able to wash out the taste of their loss to Miami last weekend with this one.
  • Navy @ Connecticut (CBSS): UConn managed to hold Mizzou to nine points last weekend and lose. I don't think this bodes especially well for their changes against Navy.
  • Central Michigan @ Michigan State (BTN): The Chippewas look to go 0-3 against Power 5 teams.
12:30: Indiana @ Wake Forest (ACC): Uh, Indiana I guess?

3:00: Maryland @ West Virginia (FS1): The Mountaineers have already had their bye weeks, so we don't really know what to glean from their beatdowns of Georgia Southern and Liberty. Maryland, meanwhile, owns a win over a FCS team, a win over a bad FBS team, and a beatdown by a MAC team. In my estimation, this is essentially a coinflip, but I'm still going with WVU.

  • Tennessee @ Florida (CBS): Florida still appears to have too many issues on offense, while that seems to be the least of the Vols's issues, so I'm going with them.
  • Massachusetts @ Notre Dame (NBC): The 30-22 score flatters Georgia Tech immensely, as most of last week's game was a beatdown. Notre Dame's offense still has some question marks, though. UMass is not talented enough to make them play in any meaningful way, though.
  • Western Michigan @ Ohio State (ABC/ESPN2): Michigan State only beat these guys by 13, so I'm sure that'll give the Buckeyes something to aim for as they try to fix what ailed them last weekend.
  • Virginia Tech @ East Carolina (ESPN2/ABC): This doesn't seem to be the interesting, feisty edition of ECU this year, which means VPI should have a relatively easy go of it.
  • Oklahoma State @ Texas (ESPN): I saw the Texas comeback fall just a bit short thanks to a missed PAT last week and it may be one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever seen in football. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is ranked for some reason? They haven't really played anyone, but Texas hasn't really beat anyone. Tentatively going with the Cowboys to round up the Longhorns.
  • North Texas @ Iowa (ESPNU): I wish there some way I could pick the Mean Green here, but I just can't.
  • Miami @ Western Kentucky (CBSS): Difficult to favor the MAC side in this one, as the Hilltoppers have looked much better so far.
  • San Diego State @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): Penn State still isn't good or anything, but SDSU so far this year has been demonstrably worse.
  • Middle Tennessee @ Illinois (ESPNEWS): Illinois is probably going to win, but it would be fun if they didn't. Well, for most of us, at least.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Alabama (SEC): Look, I mean, UL-Monroe is going to Tuscaloose to get paid, but nonetheless they probably would not have preferred to visit a more ticked-off-than-usual Crimson Tide.
4:45: Texas Christian @ Texas Tech (FOX): Texas Tech is definitely better than they were last year. Are they 75 points better? Probably not.

5:00: California @ Washington (Pac12): We all knew Cal could score, but the questions that surround their defense still seem to be there after allowing Texas's almost-rally last weekend. Nonetheless, a conference win would be a huge building block for the Bears, and I think they'll get it.

  • Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (@Arlington, TX; ESPN): Arkansas is going to get pounded here, y'all, and spread coaches everywhere are going to be more than happy to watch Bert Bret Bielema continue to eat crow.
  • Vanderbilt @ Mississippi (ESPNU): I'm reasonably sure that the 47-7 win over Austin Peay will make up about 50% of Vandy's win this year (if not 100%) and will definitely be their largest margin of victory. Ole Miss may inflict their largest margin of defeat.
  • Colorado State @ Texas-San Antonio (CBSS): I'm going to go on a limb and say that the Rams are the only team to lose two overtime games so far this year. UTSA is 0-3, but those three losses were to Arizona, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State. I mean, I'm still going with the Rams, but the Roadrunners probably(?) aren't that bad.
  • Mississippi State @ Auburn (ESPN2): It's the battle of two SEC West teams that already have losses to LSU! Of course, the Tigers look to be in real trouble after struggling with Jacksonville "Not That Jacksonville" State and getting pounded by Leonard Fournette and his comrades. Going with Miss State here.
  • Missouri @ Kentucky (SEC): I'm going to pick Kentucky. Mizzou has failed to look cohesive on offense at all this year, including last week's debacle of a win over UConn.
  • California-Los Angeles @ Arizona (ABC): Here's the data I have for this game. Arizona has played absolutely no one, but beat them very convincingly. UCLA has taken two bad teams to task and scraped by a pretty solid team (BYU). The takeaway? Um... I figure it's a wash. I'm picking the Bruins.
  • North Carolina State @ South Alabama (ESPNEWS): The Wolfpack should finish riding their extremely soft non-conference schedule to 4-0 with this game.
  • Hawaii @ Wisconsin (BTN): Presumably this sets up a Badger trip to Hawaii in the future? Either way, it's a win in both the present and future.
8:30: Utah @ Oregon (FOX): The Utes have been pretty stead so far this season, but it'll still be awhile before I can convince myself to pick against Oregon, despite the Michigan State result.

  • Southern California @ Arizona State (ESPN): The Sun Devils haven't seemed terribly inclined to score a lot of points so far this year, which means I don't like their odds against the Trojans.
  • Fresno State @ San Jose State (CBSS): Well, it's Silicon Valley versus the Central Valley. Both teams are 1-2 mainly due to losing games that, well, you'd expect them to lose. Neither has also demonstrated much in the way losing well, either, so my non-existent coin here is going with State. Er, San Jose State.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

This Weekend in College Football: Week 3

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Air Force @ Michigan State (ABC): Air Force has gotten off to a decent start this season, but let's face it, the main thing to watch here is to see if the Spartans avoid a major letdown after their huge win last weekend.
  • Connecticut @ Missouri (ESPN): Mizzou is not exactly 2-0 in convincing fashion, but the Huskies are a much, much less convincing 2-0.
  • Illinois @ North Carolina (ESPN2): This one's hard to call. For all the pre-season turmoil with the Illni, they're still 2-0, albeit against inferior teams. This is finally not Carolina's year, but all we know so far is that they have a close loss to an inferior South Carolina team. This one's a toss-up in my mind, but I'm going to go with UNC.
  • Tulsa @ Oklahoma (FS1): You can't win. Even when the SEC is down, people won't shut up about them. Like, neither of these teams is even in the confernce, but here I am bringing it up thanks to the Sooners' win last weekend. This win will be much less talked-about.
  • South Florida @ Maryland (ESPNU): Maryland is, like, so bad you guys. But Bowling Green is actually kinda good? So it's not completely inexcusable, which is how I've talked myself into taking Maryland here.
  • Nevada @ Texas A&M (SEC): The Fightin' Chris Aults didn't have much luck last weekend against Arizona, and they don't figure to here either.
  • Wake Forest @ Army (CBSS):
  • Nevada-Las Vegas @ Michigan (BTN): New and Improved Michigan (NOW with Harbuagh!)(TM) doesn't figure to lose this one.
  • Northwestern @ Duke (ACC): Cutcliffe is gonna Cutcliffe, whereas the Wildcats offense is kinda... well, not good.
  • Central Michigan @ Syracuse (ACC/RSN): I think the Orange got this one.
2:00: Georgia State @ Oregon (Pac12): I always say I only do the punctual "Oregon" type previews when I'm doing FCS vs. FBS games in Week 1, but man if "Sun Belt patsy at pissed off national power" doesn't merit it...

  • Georgia Tech @ Notre Dame (NBC): Hoo boy. First, let's start with the part where we're favorites. No one knows anything about us! Sure, we demolished two awful teams in our first two games, but that's not always indicative of anything, after all, we got off to a lousy start last year before finishing off one of the best seasons in school history. Of course, Notre Dame needed a last-minute touchdown to beat UVA, but still, Virginia's better than any of teams we've played. Who's to talk?
    It's hard to fully state how nervous I am for this game, here in September. It's not a conference game, which takes a bit of the edge off, but still. I don't think I should elaborate further on that. As for the game, I think it'll be slow going at first, because we simply haven't played anyone that can physically go to toe-to-toe with us. This is our first real test, and it's a hell of a test.
  • Nebraska @ Miami (ABC/ESPN2): I really wish I could claim credit for "hey, the 80's called, they want their Game of the Week back" but alas. At any rate, Miami's looked pretty dangerous so far, so I'll go with them to keep it going.
  • Northern Illinois @ Ohio State (ABC/ESPN2): I'm not sure there's actually any opponent for whom Ohio State's starting quarterback matters, much less this one.
  • Texas-San Antonio @ Oklahoma State (FS1): I think the Cowboys have this.
  • Virginia Tech @ Purdue (ESPNU): VPI isn't great this year or anything, but Purdue is... bad.
  • East Carolina @ Navy (CBSS): Fun fact #1: this is a conference game! Fun fact #2: this is Navy's first ever conference game! Fun fact #3: they're probably going to win!
  • Troy @ Wisconsin (BTN): Wisconsin looks likely to even up their record against teams from the state of Alabama.
4:00: Western Kentucky @ Indiana (ESPNEWS): I... think I like the Hoisers in this one?

5:00: Utah State @ Washington (Pac12): Much more certain about the Huskies, though.

6:00: South Carolina @ Georgia (ESPN): I want to believe. I want to believe that Steve Spurrier has some sort of juju that allows him to always (or mostly) prevail over the university of Georgia. I want to believe that even though his team has looked really bad and doesn't seem to have a quarterback that he will some how, some way find a way to shock the dogs in Athens again. I want to believe... but I just can't.

  • Texas Tech @ Arkansas (ESPN2): Let us take one last moment to savor, once again, the sweet, sweet schadenfraude of Arkanasa's head coach complaining about Ohio State's schedule and then losing to Toledo. Especially since they're probably going to run all over Texas Tech.
  • Colorado vs. Colorado State (@Denver, CO; CBSS): Early season rivalry games are lame (it is known), but hey, at least this one's at a neutral site. And what the heck, let's go with the Rams, that'll be more fun at least.
  • California @ Texas (FOX): The Bears can score points, the Longhorns cannot. Seems easy enough.
  • Florida @ Kentucky (SEC): A lot of people are saying this is the year that Kentucky breaks their decades-long streak against the Gators. But man, it'd be a lot easier for me to call it that way without the weight of history, you know?
  • Stanford @ Southern California (ABC): Stanford has still shown the lack of having any sort of red zone offense whatsoever (which is really an indictment of the offense), which makes it impossible for me to pick them.
  • Iowa State @ Toledo (ESPNEWS): The Cyclones just lost by two touchdowns to Iowa (did Hawkeye fans even know the numbers on the scoreboard went that high?), so what the heck, let's pick Toledo. Rockets for darkhorse Group of Five pick, how about it?
  • Southern Methodist @ Texas Christian (FSN): SMU already has a big loss to Baylor, so naturally TCU is going to look to win by at least 36 points.
  • Pittsburgh @ Iowa (BTN): Two bland, milquetoast football teams that taste, well, bland and milquetoast together. Uh, Iowa I guess.
  • San Jose State @ Oregon State (Pac12): Well, you lost by 28 to Michigan, but hey, here's to chance to wash that out.
9:15: Mississippi @ Alabama (ESPN): I feel pretty good about saying that Nick Saban is going to hold the Rebels to under 70 for the first time. Outside of that, um, it's a tossup for me. Going with the Tide.

  • Brigham Young @ California-Los Angeles (FS1): UCLA should add a third solid win to their resume here.
  • Utah @ Fresno State (CBSS): I don't have a good feeling about this... for Fresno, at least.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

This Weekend in College Football: Week 2

This week, I've resumed my usual policy of only listing FBS vs. FBS games. As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

8:00: Miami @ Florida Atlantic (FS1): The Schnell is going to do the coin toss for this one, which is extremely fitting. After that, though, things figure out to downhill for the Owls.

9:00: Utah State @ Utah (ESPN2): Wacky things can always happen in this edition of the various Beehive State rivalries, but I'm going to go with the Utes.

11:30: South Florida @ Florida State (ESPN): 'Noles.

  • Oregon State @ Michigan (ABC): In this early edition of Pacific Northwest versus Midwest, this may be a useful barometer for both teams. Michigan had a respectable loss to their Pac-12 foe, Utah, last weekend, while Oregon State sort of sputtered and only beat Weber State 26-7. Perhaps it'll be just right that Harbaugh gets his first win back at Michigan in the Big House.
  • Buffalo @ Pennsylvania State (ESPN2/ESPNU): Penn State suffered an ignoble loss to Temple last weekend, and starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg took a beating. It figures that he, and his team, will have more success against the Bulls, though.
  • Miami @ Wisconsin (ESPN2/ESPNU): The Badgers get a visit from everyone's confusingly named MAC team. Fun fact: the University of Miami has played Miami University three times, in 1945, 1946, and 1987. The 'U' has won all three.
  • Kansas State @ Texas-San Antonio (FS1): K-State takes a visit to the Alamodome. I got nothin' else besides that.
  • Army @ Connecticut (CBSS): Oof. UConn at least beat the FCS team they played last week, though.
  • Houston @ Louisville (ACC/RSN): Louisville figures to recover from their tough, and confusing, loss to Auburn last weekend.
  • Bowling Green @ Maryland (BTN):
12:30: Wake Forest @ Syracuse (ACC): I don't have to watch this! You can't make me! And why are there intra-conference matchups in Week 2? Both pounded their FCS foes last week, so it's hard to glean anything useful from that. Let's pretend that I flipped a coin and that as a result I picked Syracuse.

  • Georgia @ Vanderbilt (CBS): About the only watchlist Vandy is on this year is whether or not they will win any games.
  • Notre Dame @ Virginia (ABC): While not as hapless as the above Commodores, there don't figure to be a lot of wins on the schedule for the Cavs.
  • Fresno State @ Mississippi (ESPN2): Ah, if only this were the Fresno State from 10 years ago or so. Alas, this one will be a near walkover for the Rebs.
  • Washington State @ Rutgers (ESPNU): Folks are already starting to write the obituaries for the Mike Leach area at Wazzou, and it's hard to disagree. After losing to Portland State last week, it's hard to see them beating Rutgers.
  • Minnesota @ Colorado State (CBSS): Minnesota gave TCU all they wanted last weekend, something they may also do against Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. They can really solidify themselves as a threat by sweeping the rest of their non-conference schedule. This game will prove the most difficult, but they should win.
  • Tulane @ Georgia Tech (ACC/RSN): My first Georgia Tech home game in nine years was a cakewalk. At some point late in the first half, I looked up the lyrics to Cal's "Stanford Jonah" (which has a very similar tune to GT's "Up With the White and Gold") but I never got comfortable enough with them to give them a real shot. At any rate, Tulane should provide stiffer resistance. How much is an open question, though. Tulane got pounded 37-7 by Duke last week, which does not provide much hope for the Green Wave.
  • Hawaii @ Ohio State (BTN): So if you haven't heard, Hawaii is now the "Rainbow Warriors" again after a brief haitus. As such, they're also bringing back some wonderfully retro uniforms. As for the actual game, well, I still think those unis are going to be cool.
4:00: Middle Tennessee State @ Alabama (SEC): The Blue Raiders will hop on TN-840 (or maybe get on I-24 first), drive down I-65 south, and then get on I-20/59 toward Tuscaloosa, get beat really bad, and then go back they way they came.

4:30: Iowa @ Iowa State (FOX): Both teams scored 31 points against their FCS opponents last week. As for this game, it's basically a coinflip. Usually it's more hilarious when Iowa State wins and then wins like one other game all year, so I'll go with that.

5:00: San Diego State @ California (Pac12): The Pac-12 will be more interesting if the Golden Bears are back. They can definitely score points, but the real question for this season is if they have any sort of defense. Even if they don't, they should have little trouble with the Aztecs.

6:00: Oklahoma @ Tennessee (ESPN): I'll buy that Tennessee is better, but I don't buy that they're that much better than the Sooners. And if the Vols do win here, it'll be all ESS-EEE-CEE all the time for the rest of the season. So I'm going with the Sooners.

  • East Carolina @ Florida (ESPN2): The Gators scored 61 points last week. 61! Two digit numbers were not often associated with the Gators offense recently. That figures to be different for the remainder of the season. East Carolina doesn't figure to prevent them from doing so.
  • Ball State @ Texas A&M (ESPNU): Only beating VMI by 12 does not inspire much confidence about Ball State's chances here.
  • Arizona @ Nevada (CBSS): 'Zona escaped a grisly fate after getting off to a slow start against UT-San Antonio last week. The game in Reno doesn't figure to give them much trouble, but still.
7:30: Kentucky @ South Carolina (SEC): Hey, Kentucky is still bad, right? Yep, they are. Okay, good. Makes this a lot easier.

  • Oregon @ Michigan State (ABC): One of the marquee games of the season, both the Ducks and Spartans will face off in a wonderful, early-season test of strength-versus-strength. Last year's edition featured a 46-27 Oregon win, but the return trip figures to be more difficult, what with a first-year starter at QB and all. That said, I'm going with the Ducks until proven otherwise.
  • Temple @ Cincinnati (ESPNEWS): Temple just beat Penn State for the first time since 1941 and made them looking bad while doing so. Good on you, Owls! That said, I probably wouldn't get too excited, but a win versus Cincy might convince me it wasn't a fluke. For now, though, I'm sticking with the Bearcats.
  • South Alabama @ Nebraska (BTN): If I were South Alabama, I would milk having USA as my acronym for all it's worth. Remind the folks up in Lincoln that "if you beat us, you're actually beating AMERICA". Maybe it'll work for a quarter or two?
  • Idaho @ Southern California (Pac12): Idaho will probably be really hoping to get back to the Kibbie Dome sooner rather than later.
9:15: Louisiana State @ Mississippi State (ESPN): Oh hey, an early season SEC clash! I really think that the Big Ten has the right idea when it comes to in-conference games in September: don't have them. Alas, we're stuck with trying to say anything meaningful about a game that really counts for both these teams in the second week of the season. LSU's game last week got canceled due to weather, so we really have zero information coming into this game. And the Tigers will also get Auburn at home next week! Madness. Anyway, I guess I'll have another chance to rant about that next week. For now, I'm taking the Tigers on the road, apropos of nothing.

  • Boise State @ Brigham Young (ESPN2): These former Mountain West foes face off, fresh off wins over Power 5 teams. Unfortunately, BYU lost its all-everything starting QB in the miracle win at Nebraska, so I'm going to have to go with Boise.
  • San Jose State @ Air Force (ESPNU): Both sides pounded a FCS school last weekend, so my early season coin flip is going with... Air Force.
  • Central Florida @ Stanford (FS1): While I think Stanford will beat UCF, they really, really need to figure out how make their offense work or this season will not end well for either them or David Shaw.
  • California-Los Angeles @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSS): Many a Los Angeles resident has made a weekend trek to Vegas. UCLA's odds of a win are a lot better than most of their compatriots, though.

Friday, September 04, 2015

This Weekend in College Football: Week 1

A quick note on the week one guide: contrary to my usual policy, I do list FCS vs. FBS matchups because there's so darn many of them, but as you'll see below I dispense with them quickly.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Stanford @ Northwestern (ESPN): I think this will be closer than many think, but still hard to see how Northwestern comes through here.
  • Richmond @ Maryland (ESPNU): Maryland.
  • Norfolk State @ Rutgers (ESPNEWS): Rutgers.
  • South Dakota State @ Kansas (FSN): Kan–er, wait. Going with South Dakota State here.
  • Louisiana-Monroe @ Georgia (SEC): I'm trying to give better than one-word responses for games between two FBS teams, but, well, even for games like this hard to see any other outcome than the obvious.
  • Tennessee-Martin @ Mississippi (SEC): Ole Miss.
  • Colgate @ Navy (CBSS): Navy.
  • Illinois State @ Iowa (BTN): Iowa.
12:30: Wofford @ Clemson (ACC): Clemson.

2:00: Portland State @ Washington State (Pac12): Wazzou.

  • Louisville vs. Auburn (@Atlanta, GA; CBS): I think this game is probably more intriguing on paper than otherwise, but if there's any point in the season when you want to attempt to stop the Malzahn Death Machine, it's in Week 1.
  • Virginia @ California-Los Angeles (FOX): UVA should offer slightly more resistance than a punching bag. Slightly.
  • Brigham Young @ Nebraska (ABC): This game may wind up being the most interesting in this time slot. Nebraska will debut Bill Riley, yet I think I've missed the previews of the transition to the new coach. Do the Cornhuskers still have the talent advantage to prevail over the Stormin' Mormons? I'm thinking they do.
  • Pennsylvania State @ Temple (ESPN): The last time Temple beat Penn State, the attack on Pearl Harbor had not yet happened. Thanks to the magic of ties, the Owls have not-lost more recently, in 1950. Other than that, this series has been mostly pain. It does not look to change.
  • Texas-El Paso @ Arkansas (ESPNU): "So... you're saying there's a chance?"
  • Sam Houston State @ Texas Tech (FSN): Texas Tech.
  • Florida Atlantic @ Tulsa (CBSS): These teams were both terrible last year and there's not much reason to think it'll be different this year. But, hey, it's football, and it's on TV! Also rolling with Tulsa.
  • Southern Illinois @ Indiana (ESPNEWS): Indiana.
  • Bowling Green @ Tennessee (@Nashville, TN; SEC): It took me forever to figure out if this was a Tennessee home game or not, more in the de jure sense (i.e., how ticket sales are split and other contractual stuff), and not in the de facto sense, which it most definitely is. Vols should roll in front of a partisan crowd.
  • Southeast Missouri @ Missouri (SEC): Mizzou.
5:00: Grambling @ California (Pac12): Cal.

  • Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (@Houston, TX; ESPN): I still remain bummed that "A&M" does not actually stand for anything. This one could go either way, depending mostly on if A&M's secondary has gotten any less flammable in the off-season. I'm betting it has.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette @ Kentucky (ESPNU): I think Kentucky can win this one? Probably?
  • Texas @ Notre Dame (NBC): It felt like several times last season that the Longhorns were just this close to figuring it out. Well, Week 1 will likely do them no favors try to get a handle on this season early. I like the Domers here.
  • Georgia Southern @ West Virginia (FSN): I think the Mountaineers are going to win, but man, strangers things have happened at night in Morgantown.
  • New Mexico State @ Florida (SEC): Florida will win, but boy howdy I suspect many Gator fans will be watching with bated breath that there will be some sort sign, any sign, that this team has an offense.
  • McNeese State @ Louisiana State (SEC): LSU.
  • Nevada-Las Vegas @ Northern Illinois (CBSS): Again, the chances of MACtion this early do not seem strong.
  • Alabama vs. Wisconsin (@Arlington, TX; ABC): Look, Alabama is going to win. That out of the way, that doesn't make the matchup any less intriguing. Of course, this is kind of offense that Nick Saban's defenses have been the best at stopping over the years, so it doesn't seem like it'll be the best preparation for the SEC foes that have given him the most trouble. On the flip side, Wisconsin executes their bruising style better than almost anyone else, which means we're going to see a game of strength-versus-strength. Alabama's questions at quarterback and the secondary are also potential areas of concern, but I don't think Wisconsin is the team that will be able to expose them well enough.
  • Texas State @ Florida State (ESPNEWS): Remember, when you have as much talent as Florida State does, it's not rebuilding, it's reloading. I personally think the predictions of their demise may be a bit premature, but it won't matter in this game anyway.
  • Eastern Washington @ Oregon (Pac12): Oregon.
10:00:  Mississippi State @ Southern Mississippi (FS1): A rare trip to Hattiesburg for either of the (relatively) blue-chip programs in Mississippi, I'm not sure that USM has quite recovered from the Dark Years to go toe-to-toe with SEC foes again, but it's a sure bet the crowd will be trying to turn back the clock.

11:00: Arkansas State @ Southern California (Pac12): Even if I were on the West Coast right now I probably wouldn't stay up to watch this one.

3:00: Purdue @ Marshall (FS1): Marshall, just 'cause.

3:30: South Carolina State vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (@Orlando, FL; ESPN): There's not much else on on Sunday afternoon, and it's interesting to see the FCS get into the neutral-site game. And, again, your alternative is watching Purdue.

8:00: Ohio State @ Virginia Tech (ESPN): A year ago, the ESPN write-up for VPI's victory raised questions about Urban's direction and whether VPI was a darkhorse national title contender. Whoops. At any rate, don't expect a repeat this time around. Wacky stuff can happen in Blacksburgh at night, but I don't expect lightning to strike two years in a row.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

This Week in College Football: Week 1

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • North Carolina vs. South Carolina (@Charlotte, NC; ESPN): It's a bit odd, as this is finally the year where people aren't saying that this is North Carolina's year. Does that mean they will actually be good for once? Steve Spurrier is also under about as much fire as a coach of his stature can come under, but despite all the issues I think the Gamecocks have, at least, this one.
  • Florida International @ Central Florida (CBSS): Down in Florida, George O'Leary's Knights may be poised for a very, very darkhorse run at being the best Group of Five team. It should start with a victory.
7:00: Oklahoma State @ Central Michigan (ESPNU): An odd away game for a Big 12 team, venturing up into MAC country, but unless MACtion is already in mid-season form it's hard to see how this will work out for the Chippewas.

7:30: Alcorn State @ Georgia Tech (ACC/RSN): This is the most bizarre offseason I can recall in my 12 years of following Georgia Tech. We lost virtually all of our skill position production. Our defense was terrible last year, so the hope is mostly that it can't be worse this year. Yet, we've got hype. We're being mentioned as potential ACC champions along with Clemson and a reloading Florida State. We're getting some press as a darkhorse playoff candidate. I mean, hey, if we get through the schedule we have this year with only one loss, then we'll certainly deserve it, but still. By far the most plausible thing, though? Justin Thomas as a Heisman candidate.
I'm also happy to say I'm currently in the Atlanta area and poised to attend my first Georgia Tech home game since I graduated. Woo!

8:00: Western Kentucky @ Vanderbilt (SEC): I'm still scratching my head over how Vandy got so bad so quickly last year, and not only that, how it continues to look bleak this year. Can they top the Hilltoppers? I won't call for the upset, but I wouldn't be surprised.

8:30: Michigan @ Utah (FS1): Michigan playing in a strange land? On a Thursday? I'm sure some blue-and-maize types are really scratching their heads, but this provides a really interesting matchup and a test for Jim Harbaugh in his first college game in a while. I think Harbaugh proves how much of an upgrade his is pretty quickly, though I am only picking them in this one very tentatively.

9:00: Texas Christian @ Minnesota (ESPN): The Golden Gophers provide a stiff test as TCU shakes off the rust and dust, but once that happens sometime around halftime this one is not going to be pretty.

9:30: Duke @ Tulane (CBSS): I'm comfortably picking Duke in non-conference road games now? I mean, it is Tulane, but still, what is this world coming to?

10:00: Texas-San Antonio @ Arizona (Pac12): Hard to see the Roadrunners providing the Wildcats much of a test.

1:00: Colorado @ Hawaii (CBSS): I know I just said this, but terrible or otherwise banned from postseason teams are supposed to save this game for, like, November. Come on! Also, will CBSS just be broadcasting the feed of the super-homer Hawaii local announcers? Hopefully, yes. Also, the Buffs should win.

3:30: Charlotte @ Georgia State (ESPNU): Georgia State might win this one! Emphasis on the might. I'll call that anyway. Also, who kicks off a game at 3:30 PM on a weekday?

  • Baylor @ Southern Methodist (ESPN): Baylor.
  • Michigan State @ Western Michigan (ESPNU): No matter how much PJ Fleck rows, it's Sparty all the way.
  • Fordham @ Army (CBSS): Army, probably.
8:00: Weber State @ Oregon State (Pac12): Oregon State.

9:00: Kent State @ Illinois (BTN): So, again. Remember that time Illinois fired their head coach a week before the season started? Oh, right, that was last week. Geez louise, I mean, they were going to be terrible anyway, but still! They'll win at least this one, though. Probably.

10:15: Washington @ Boise State (ESPN): This one should be worth staying up for, as Chris Peterson faces his old team immediately after leaving for his new one. As for a winner, I have almost no idea, but let's go with Boise because it'd be more fun.

Rating the 2015 Non-Conference Slate: Epilogue

Okay, since I kind of backed myself all the way up to the first day of the season, I'll provide links to all the individual conference breakdowns here:
And now, let us complete our yearly ritual.

First, the list of shame, that is, teams that scheduled more than one FCS opponent: Boston College, Kentucky, and North Carolina. It's not great that two of the three are ACC teams, but hey, at least there's only three.

This is normally where the best schedule list would appear, but I'm having a bit of a crisis. Virginia is the only school with a rating better than 2, but they're awful, and one of those teams is Notre Dame, which other ACC teams are also benefiting from. Instead of a ranking, I'm going to produce a list of teams that I thought of as having better schedules:
  • Virginia (2.25 legit, 1 FCS): @California-Los Angeles, Notre Dame, William & Mary, Boise State. It's still a pretty good schedule, even minus Notre Dame, with the road trip to Pasadena and a visit from Boise.
  • Texas (1.25, 0): @Notre Dame, Rice, California. Accounting for the ACC and Notre Dame business, this may be the best. A road trip to South Bend, and a visit from a (hopefully) up-and-coming Pac-12 team. If Cal had been better recently, this would have rated a lot higher.
  • Nebraska (1.5, 0): Brigham Young, South Alabama, @Miami, Southern Mississippi. It's not quite a visit to the OB, but that's still an interesting trip.
  • Northwestern (1.25, 1): Stanford, Eastern Illinois, @Duke, Ball State. This is a big schedule for a team like Northwestern, which is generally not great but it can at least be said to try.
And now, the conference averages, though again the ACC's rating is probably inflated by Notre Dame:
  1. ACC (0.25)
  2. Pac-12 (0.22)
  3. Big Ten (0.203)
  4. Big 12 (0.15)
  5. SEC (0.08)
And that's that! I'm sorry it was late this year, but better late than never. Next up: Thursday and Friday's opening slate!

Rating the 2015 Non-Conference State: SEC

The SEC is the hard-to-get conference, as they have the most desirable teams but the worst out-of-conference schedules. This never seems to come back to bite them, though...
  1. South Carolina (1.5 legit, 1): N-North Carolina, Central Florida, Citadel, Clemson. Yeah, this is what passes for the best non-conference schedule in the SEC this year. Let's just get on with it.
  2. Florida (1, 0): New Mexico State, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida State. I wanted to rank this below Alabama and Tennessee because their marquee OOC game isn't a rivalry game, but there are also, technically, no FCS teams on this schedule, so I put it ahead. (I say technically because, well, as awful as New Mexico State has been the past few years...)
  3. Alabama (1, 1): N-Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Charleston Southern. The game against Wisconsin in Texas is the highlight, unless you're in a position to buy tickets for it, apparently.
  4. Tennessee (1, 1): Bowling Green State, Oklahoma, Western Carolina, North Texas. Tennessee is the exception to the scheduling rule for the SEC most of the time, with other examples like the recent home-and-home with UCLA. Keep doing you, Vols.
  5. Auburn (0.75, 1): N-Louisville, Jacksonville State, San Jose State, Idaho. Auburn does not, as far as I can tell, currently have a game at San Jose schedules, so no "Do You Know The Way to San Jose" jokes... for now.
  6. Georgia (0.75, 1): Louisiana-Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech. Dear Fellow Georgia Tech Fans: Georgia Southern no longer runs Paul Johnson's offense, and was probably not scheduled with the intention to prepare them for us. Thank you.
  7. Kentucky (0.75, 1.5): Louisiana-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky, Charlotte, Louisville. Not many transitional teams left, but Kentucky managed to find one in Charlotte. Good job, guys.
  8. Texas A&M (0.5, 1): N-Arizona State, Ball State, Nevada, Western Carolina. I am having a hard time describing how bummed I was when I recently discovered the "A&M" in "Texas A&M" hasn't actually stood for anything since 1963. I liked typing out "Agricultural and Mechanical", and now it feels like it's been taken away form me despite the fact it was always incorrect in the first place. Grr.
  9. Missouri (0.5, 1): Southeast Missouri State, @Arkansas State, Connecticut, Brigham Young. One of these days, I ought to compile a table of each team's most played FCS teams, because I highly suspect Jacksonville State would rate highly for Auburn and SE Missouri State would rate high for Mizzou.
  10. Arkansas (0.5, 1): Texas-El Paso, Toledo, Texas Tech, Tennessee-Martin. Arkansas is playing two teams from Texas this year. I'm telling y'all, they want to go to the Big 12. (No, they really don't.)
  11. Mississippi (0, 1): Tennessee-Martin, Fresno State, New Mexico State, @Memphis. I doubt that game in the Liberty Bowl is going to be much of a road game for the Rebels (Tennesseans essentially consider Memphis part of Mississippi anyway), but it could be interesting if the Tigers are feisty again this year.
  12. Louisiana State (0, 1): McNeese State, @Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Western Kentucky. Dear Les Miles: The turf in the Carrier Dome is artificial, it would probably be inadvisable to taste it. Yours Truly, asimsports.
  13. Mississippi State (0, 1): @Southern Mississippi, Northwestern State, Troy, Louisiana Tech. Fun fact: all of these schools are located latitudinally south of Starkville.
  14. Vanderbilt (0, 1): Western Kentucky, Austin Peay, @Middle Tennessee State, @Houston. I have a sinking feeling that Vandy could lose two or three of these. Should've figured out a way to hold on to James Franklin, I guess.

Rating the 2015 Non-Conference Slate: Pac-12

I guess I'm not surprised that the conference with a 3-way tie for first and a 4-way tie for second was the Pac-12. Or, at least, I probably shouldn't be.

As a reminder, my tie breakers are the number of FCS teams played followed by my subjective judgement of "strength".
  1. Utah (1 legit, 0 FCS): Michigan, Utah State, @Fresno State. I can dig this schedule. You get a home date with newly-Harbaugh'ed Michigan, and you try to withstand Fresno attempting to  extract revenge for a blowout loss last year.
  2. Stanford (1, 0): @Northwestern, Central Florida, Notre Dame. They don't get any "legit" credit for the Wildcats, but this is still solid.
  3. Southern California (1, 0): Arkansas State, Idaho, @Notre Dame. Entirely buoyed by the visit to South Bend. Loses the tiebreaker to Stanford thanks to the Cardinal's trip to Evanston.
  4. Oregon (1, 1): Eastern Washington, @Michigan State, Georgia State. Oregon-Michigan State should be great again, and is something we're really looking forward to.
  5. Oregon State (1, 1): Weber State, @Michigan, San Jose State. It's been a down few years for the Beavers, but two wins in the non-conference slate should help them back to a bowl.
  6. Arizona State (1, 1): N-Texas A&M, Cal Poly, New Mexico. I really struggled with how to do Cal Poly's name, since my thing is typing out the full name of schools. Unfortunately, the only acceptable forms for Cal Poly are: Cal Poly, California Polytechnic State University, and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. So I went with Cal Poly.
  7. California (1, 1): Grambling State, San Diego State, @Texas. Of course Cal manages to schedule a road game to the only Texas city that resembles Berkeley in any way, shape, or form.
  8. California-Los Angeles (0.5, 0): Virginia, @Nevada-Las Vegas, Brigham Young. Between UVA and BYU and no FCS teams, this schedule feels like it should rate better, but alas, it does not.
  9. Washington (0.5, 1): @Boise State, Sacramento State, Utah State. This is the first visit by a Pac-10/12 team to Boise since Oregon State lost there in 2010, though what I was really hoping to say in this space was that it was the first such visit since the Puchin' LaGarrette Blount game in 2009, but alas.
  10. Washington State (0, 1): Portland State, @Rutgers, Wyoming. The visit to Piscataway seems random, but I'll take it. Also watch out for the Wyoming uniform watch later this year.
  11. Arizona (0, 1): Texas-San Antonio, @Nevada, Northern Arizona. I started thinking that my angle for this might be Arizona being brought low with a Rece Davis "You don't just walk in to Chris Ault Field at Mackay Stadium..." and then I remembered he's not hosting College Football Final anymore. Alas.
  12. Colorado (0, 1): @Hawaii, Massachusetts, N-Colorado State, Nicholls State. No, Colorado, terrible teams are supposed to use that Hawaii away game at the end of the season so it's like a bowl game! Sheesh. They did at least use it to schedule an extra game, though.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Rating the 2015 Non-Conference Slate: Big 12

America's heartland is a place of hearty folk, unpredictable weather, and the source of our bread. Also, apparently, soft out-of-conference scheduling, at least at the bottom end. Let's get to it.
  1. Texas (1.25 legit, 0 FCS): @Notre Dame, Rice, California. This is one of my favorite schedules. Two traditional powers that haven't met in 19 years, a game once mentioned in a JFK speech, and a visit from a Pac-12 team. Good job.
  2. Oklahoma (0.5, 0): Akron, @Tennessee, Tulsa. Less inspiring, but I still like the trip to Knoxville.
  3. Texas Tech (0.25, 1): Sam Houston State, Texas-El Paso, @Arkansas. Arkansas's recent history is why they're rated so low, otherwise this would be higher. It's a good sign from Texas Tech after a good run of terrible non-conference scheduling.
  4. Texas Christian (0.25, 1): @Minnesota, Stephen F. Austin, Southern Methodist. On the road to a Big Ten team is nothing to sneeze at, even if that team is Minnesota.
  5. Iowa State (0.25, 1): Northern Iowa, Iowa, @Toledo. This is where things start to fall off a cliff. First, you've got a fair chance that they might lose to one, or both, Iowa teams. Then there's a road trip to a MAC team? Wha?
  6. Kansas (0, 1): South Dakota State, Memphis, @Rutgers. There's a pretty good chance Kansas may go 0-3 against this schedule. I'm not even kidding.
  7. West Virginia (0, 1): Georgia Southern, Liberty, Maryland. I already praised Maryland for playing West Virginia, so I pretty much have nothing else to say about this one, except that Georgia Southern game in Morgantown has the potential to be interesting.
  8. Oklahoma State (0, 1): @Central Michigan, Central Arkansas, Texas-San Antonio. Another MAC roadtrip! What is this world coming to?
  9. Baylor (0, 1): @Southern Methodist, Lamar, Rice. The best thing I can say about this schedule is that two of the three teams used to be in the Southwest Conference, but if comes down to it again, blowing the doors off these teams is probably going to do Baylor little favors.
  10. Kansas State (0, 1): South Dakota, @Texas-San Antonio, Louisiana Tech. K-State spices things up with a trip to the Alamodome, but that will mostly have the effect of making me have to remember that they may not be the Alamo Bowl's top selection if that's an issue in a few months.

Rating the 2015 Non-Conference Slate: Big Ten

The Big Ten has a reputation as a conference of beefy linemen, and many of their schools also provide the beef in their non-conference scheduling, though after the top few it proves to be a bit lean.
  1. Nebraska (1.5 legit, 0 FCS): Brigham Young, South Alabama, @Miami, Southern Mississippi. Yes, that is the Miami in Florida, providing the Huskers with an intriguing road-trip that I am obligated to mention reminds one of the 90's. There's also a visit from the Stormin' Mormons for good measure.
  2. Northwestern (1.25, 1): Stanford, Eastern Illinois, @Duke, Ball State. Stanford should provide an opening weekend barometer for both these teams. For Northwestern, it may be an early indicator if they can be a threat in the middle ranks of the Big Ten. A visit to Wallace Wade Stadium should also provide some intrigue for both sides.
  3. Michigan State (1, 0): @Western Michigan, Oregon, Air Force, Central Michigan. Michigan State isn't the only Big Ten to have a weird away game, but considering WMU's head coach it's probably the more interesting of the two contests. Even though they don't get credit for it, I also like the Air Force appearance here.
  4. Michigan (1, 0): @Utah, Oregon State, Nevada-Las Vegas, Brigham Young. If Michigan gets through this slate 4-0 in Jim Harbaugh's initial campaign, then the Michigan hype machine will be in full force come October.
  5. Wisconsin (1, 0): N-Alabama, Miami, Troy, Hawaii. Wisconsin-Alabama is, of course, the headlining out-of-conference game of the season. Unfortunately, the rest of the schedule is nothing special (that's the Miami in Ohio), which is why it's only ranked fifth.
  6. Minnesota (1, 0): Texas Christian, @Colorado State, Kent State, Ohio. Indeed, it was tough to even put this schedule behind Wisconsin, as TCU+Colorado State is arguably better than just Alabama. Nonetheless, this ranking also takes into account the relative prestige of Minnesota and Wisconsin at this point.
  7. Ohio State (0.75, 0): @Virginia Tech, Hawaii, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan. Urban Meyer will seek to revenge himself in Blacksburg. I am not predicting good things for the Hokies. Otherwise, this schedule is pretty thin, but Ohio State did skate into the playoff with that VPI loss and, well, it pays to be in the Big Ten sometimes. (Where "sometimes" is "most of the time".)
  8. Purdue (0.75, 1): @Marshall, Indiana State, Virginia Tech, Bowling Green State. Purdue could be in some real trouble in the hills of West Virginia, and if that doesn't go well for them then the rest of this schedule might not either.
  9. Maryland (0.5, 1): Richmond, Bowling Green State, South Florida, @West Virginia. Even if it's not WVU-Pitt, I still approve of this Maryland-West Virginia game that's been happening the pats few years.
  10. Illinois (0.5, 1): Kent State, Western Illinois, @North Carolina, Middle Tennessee State. So, remember that time Illinois fired their head coach last week? Yeah, this should be fun.
  11. Rutgers (0.25, 1): Norfolk State, Washington State, Kansas, N-Army. Rutgers just barely gets some points from Wazzou, but otherwise there's not much here.
  12. Iowa (0.25, 1): Illinois State, @Iowa State, Pittsburgh, North Texas. Believe it or not, more milquetoast schedules exist!
  13. Pennsylvania State (0, 0): @Temple, Buffalo, San Diego State, Army. Like this one! Also, while it's an interesting way to rekindle that rivalry, one wonders if a visit by Penn State to Temple really is more about playing in a large NFL stadium on opening weekend.
  14. Indiana (0, 1): Southern Illinois, Florida International, Western Kentucky, @Wake Forest. Given Indiana's luck, they'll beat Wake but lose to Western Kentucky.