Good Opening Week Match-ups in College Football

Clowney
Clowney
Clowney and the Gamecocks open against North Carolina in one of the better match-ups for week one.

Because odds are still being calculated in many cases for the opening weekend of college football I’m not going to get into those in this article. Remember, there are still a host of teams, USC among them, that have yet to name a starting quarterback. Those decisions will have an impact on how the sports books formulate the lines for the opening games.

That doesn’t mean I can’t take a look at some of the top match-ups on tap for the final weekend of August as college football kicks off.

North Carolina at South Carolina – There any number of people who have the Tar Heels selected to play in the ACC Title game in December. QB Bryn Renner is back and the recruiting has been very solid the last couple of years. The Gamecocks are interesting here because the following week, they play at Georgia. That game will more than likely decide the SEC East with all due respect to Florida. That said, I still like the overall firepower or the Gamecocks in this one.

Wallace
Ole Miss will need a solid game from Bo Wallace in order to beat Vanderbilt in the season opener.

Mississippi at Vanderbilt – The Commodores and Rebels open the season with an SEC clash right out of the gate. Last year Vandy went 9-4 but has seen five different players subjected to disciplinary action recently. Ole Miss is coming off a shocking haul in recruiting that landed them the nation’s number one defensive prospect in Robert Nkemdiche. I think the Rebels will go into Nashville and get a win with all the distractions going on there.

Texas Tech at SMU – If you’re a running back, you might be used for pass protection and receiving only as these two pass-happy teams hook up. June Jones’ Mustangs will be a challenge for new Red Raiders’ Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury who brings a ton of experience with the spread into Lubbock. Take Tech simply because I think they have a few more athletes than the Mustangs.

Rice at Texas A&M – With all due respect to the Owls, the Aggies will win this game handily. The reason it’s a game to watch is to see who is under center for the A&M when the offense takes to the field. Will the University take a risk and play Johnny Manziel or will they keep him out while the NCAA investigates any wrong-doing on his part? There will be eyes all over the country watching College Station and especially those in Tuscaloosa.

Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Game played in Houston) – Cowboys Head Coach Mike Gundy announced this week that he’ll go with two quarterbacks against the Bulldogs. Both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh will be seeing plenty of action. These two guys both threw for over 1,500 yards last season and offer different skill sets in having to make Mississippi State prepare for both. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs were 7-0 last year and finished 8-5. QB Tyler Russell returns to help avoid a late season slide. My gut leans with the Cowboys right now in a close game.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Game played in Atlanta) – The two-time defending National Champions go for the three-peat and it starts in Atlanta against a very good Hokies’ team. Many people are already chalking up the win for the Crimson Tide and I can see why but Va Tech returns QB Logan Thomas and probably the best defense in the ACC. Nick Saban has won every season-opening game since he arrived in Tuscaloosa and I don’t see it changing here. With T.J Yeldon, Amari Cooper and A.J. McCarron on offense and speed to burn on defense, the Tide should roll past the Hokies in a game that will be closer than some imagine.

Alabama to open as Preseason Favorite

The NCAA season starts in just nine days with the Alabama Crimson Tide as the two-time defending champion. Many are wondering if Head Coach Nick Saban can direct his team to a third straight title.

Saban is not interested in hearing about a “dynasty” as he says each year is new, with new players therefore each team stands on its own with no continuation.

Perhaps he has a point, but the entire college football world less Saban will be intently watching to see if the Tide can win three straight national titles and four out of the past five.

Not since Minnesota, from 1934-36, has any school won the national title in college football three consecutive years.

Not team since Yale has any team won four outright titles over a five-year period. Yale won six titles in a seven-year span starting in 1882 and ending in 1888.

The Alabama run of two straight and three of the past four, has been mixed in with the likes of three other schools from the Southeastern Conference. Over the past seven seasons only Florida, LSU, Auburn and Alabama have won the national championship.

Everyone knows the Tide has not accomplished what Oklahoma did between 1953 and 1957 with 47 consecutive wins, but the way the national champion is selected has changed much since then.

Alabama starting quarterback A.J. McCarron will start this season with a career mark of 25-2 as the team’s starting quarterback. He is attempting to become the first quarterback from a major college program to win three national titles.

McCarron is not sure if his current team has the maturity to take on what will start in just nine days. He knows there are many younger players on the team and says that hurts if you want to keep winning.

McCarron insists the players must listen to what the head coach says, as he knows Saban has always been truthful with him and led in down the right path.

McCarron has even admitted he might not have wanted to hear what Saban had to say at times, but at least it was always the truth.

The Tide has been selected by almost every sportswriter as the preseason No. 1 team. They will start their season in Atlanta against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday August 31.

What happens from that point on is in Saban’s and his players hands. He wants to win another title to make it three straight and four out of five, but is not worried about what label is put on his team.

Regardless if the Tide wins a third straight title, what is sure to happen is college football will have another successful season and end with a bang in January at the BCS Championship game.

There is No Quick Fix To NCAA Problems

NCAA
NCAA
The NCAA must make significant and serious changes or the problems will only get bigger.

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and assume you are aware of Johnny Manziel. Oddly enough, a year ago at this time very few people outside of College Station, Texas had heard of him. Amazing how things can change over the course of one year huh?

In that one year, Manziel led his Texas A&M Aggies to an upset of number one Alabama. The only loss the eventual national champions would suffer. Manziel went on to blow out Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl and of course win the Heisman Trophy. Along the way, he became quite the media and social media sensation and not all of it was good.

It seemed like it was only a matter of time before Manziel screwed up and did something that caught the eye of the NCAA. That time is now upon us as Manziel is alleged to have signed autographs and then took money as payment from as many as three different memorabilia brokers. While there is video of Manziel signing the footballs, helmets etc., there is no video of him accepting any type of payment whether it be cash, a check or a lap dance from a co-ed.

The NCAA is in trouble people. What Manziel may or may not have done has drawn an amazing amount of attention not just to him but the NCAA as a whole for their ridiculous rules that mandate a college athlete cannot make money off of his or her own name.

Bilas
My first recommendation to the NCAA? Hire Jay Bilas to run the show.

It got so bad for the NCAA that former Duke basketball player and ESPN college analyst Jay Bilas basically went on a one-man crusade via Twitter to call out the hypocritical organization. Bilas pointed out that Manziel couldn’t make a dime from his name yet the NCAA was selling Manziel’s jersey from its’ very website aming money on his name.

The NCAA has since declined to sell such merchandise.

The bigger issue of course is how should college athletes be allowed to make money? It’s an absolute shame that these kids who bring in millions to their respective universities can’t even accept a pizza from a roommate’s parents. Part of the argument centers around the money-making athletes versus those sports that make significantly less money. Should the kid who rarely sees the floor for North Carolina basketball get as much of a ‘stipend’ as the star running back? Should the best player on Baylor’s Women’s’ Basketball Team make more money than a woman on the golf team?

Our capitalist society dictates that the answer is ‘no.’ If South Carolina packs in 90,000 people for a football game while across campus the swim team is hosting a dual meet in front of 625 fans; our economic system tells us the football players deserve more because they earn more for the school.

If only it were that simple right? Who is going to sign more autographs after the respective games? Jadaveon Clowney or the top swimmer for the Gamecocks?

Another argument is the age old “they get these full scholarships. Isn’t that enough payment considering there are thousands on campus who leave with a degree and $200,000 in school loan debt?” It’s really apples and oranges when you think about it and that’s why a simple fix is not going to happen.

The situation reminds me of the famous Babe Ruth quote from so long ago when he was in Chicago to play a game. Not surprisingly, Ruth went into a local speakeasy for a drink and notorious mobster Al Capone was in the back. Despite friends telling him not to go, Ruth wanted to meet Capone and vice-versa.

Ruth had recently signed the most lucrative contract in pro sports history and after chatting, Capone said to Ruth, “Babe, you make more money than the President!” Ruth replied, “I had a better year than he did.”

This same idea applies to the different college athletic programs. Would people rather pay to see Babe Ruth work or to see the President work? In other words, would fans rather pay to see Clowney against Florida or see the top swimmer against Kentucky?

You can’t keep these kids from making money on their own names. Manziel may be an idiot at times, but he didn’t take a car from a local dealer and didn’t get paid thousands to wear Nike when the rest of the team wears Adidas.

The first step the NCAA should take in changing policy is electing Jay Bilas to its’ presidency. It won’t fix every problem overnight, but it would be a quick fix wouldn’t it?

Manziel Will Not Miss Any Time

Manziel
Manziel
I can't see Manziel being suspended simply because proving he took money will be extremely difficult.

Johnny Manziel is obviously a very talented young man. You don’t win the most prestigious trophy in college athletics by being average. Johnny Manziel is also young and immature and isn’t exactly being aided by his parents who have apparently thrown their hands in the air. Johnny Manziel is also not a complete idiot.

I have a very hard time believing that Manziel, who has absolutely no issues with having money, would have taken money for signing his name approximately 50-200 times for a sports memorabilia broker last season.

Again, I can’t sit here and tell you he didn’t do it, but the NCAA is barking up the wrong tree period in a couple of ways. First, there has to be evidence. If he was given cash, it’s going to be very difficult to prove Manziel did anything wrong. Even if the broker says, “I handed him cash” and Manziel says, “No he didn’t” then the NCAA’s hands are tied with no proof.

Secondly, why would Manziel suddenly decide, after hundreds of autograph requests, to accept money in just this one situation?

The fact that the NCAA doesn’t allow athletes to profit from signing their own names is laughable in and of itself, but rules are rules no matter how ridiculous they may be. The hypocrisy of the NCAA is not the issue in this particular piece but it’s difficult to avoid.

For Texas A&M, the risk moving forward is very clear and concrete. If they choose to play Manziel in games as the investigation moves on, the risk is that if he is found to have violated NCAA rules, then the Aggies will more than likely be forced to forfeit games that are won.

The University has allegedly hired the same law firm that Auburn used in 2010 during the Cam Newton investigation.

Hill
LSU's Jeremy Hill wasn't even sniffed by the NCAA despite probation and an arrest.

I can’t see Manziel being suspended. The Manziel Investigation story came on the same day that Jeremy Hill of LSU was reinstated by Coach Les Miles following a vote by the players allowing him back on the team. Hill had violated his probation and had been suspended by the team back in April following his arrest for a bar fight in Baton Rouge.

He had already been on probation because of a misdemeanor involving a 14-year old girl when he was a high school senior. Hill was on the field yesterday for the Tigers’ first practice of the season.

There was absolutely no involvement by the NCAA in this case. So if you’re keeping score at home, a player can enter college athletics while on probation with the law, violate the probation for getting arrested and miss absolutely zero time. On the flip-side, a player allegedly gets cash for signing his own name on sports collectibles and is potentially facing a serious suspension.

The NCAA has created so many rules that they no longer understand what those rules are and worse yet, they no longer have any clue about what to enforce and what to investigate.

Johnny Manziel is not without guilt. Since winning the Heisman Trophy he has been on a non-stop, whirlwind tour that he himself has promoted with constant barrages of Tweets and Instagram photos. He has made it difficult to think that he can actually make a mature decision but he wouldn’t be the first to act moronically and still make a mature decision.

Manziel is not some kid from the projects or a broken home who is hoping to make it big in order to support his family. He comes from oil money. He never goes without and never will. That makes the fact that he took money for signing 250 or so items that much more strange and interesting.

Even if he is guilty, it’s going to be difficult to prove. Besides, the NCAA is a business entity isn’t it? There’s no way Manziel isn’t on the field when they host Alabama.

Paying College Athletes Could Change the Way You Wager

Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina would benefit greatly from a guy like Clowney getting paid, or would they?

The discussion over whether or not to play college athletes has gone on for a decade or more now, but only in the last year has the seriousness of such a thing really become a hot button issue. The idea of the student-athlete really doesn’t apply the way it did 50 years ago in my opinion especially in the big money sports of college football and college basketball.

Those two departments account for nearly all of an athletic department’s budget with some exceptions. If you have ever wondered why FBS schools keep scheduling seven and even eight home games, your answer is money. Take for example Michigan and Tennessee. Both schools have football stadiums that hold well over 100,000 people on any given Saturday in the fall.

Both have also seen their share of ups and downs over the last 10 years. The fact that both schools have good football traditions is notwithstanding, because the issue is about success now, not then. If either of those schools fail to fill their stadiums then that is a significant loss not just for the university, but for the other athletic departments as well.

Back to the topic at hand… 50 years ago, student-athletes were paid for playing in the form of full scholarships which paid their tuition, room and board, books and anything else academically related. In their infinite wisdom, the NCAA decided to impose some of the most archaic and ridiculous rules known to collegiate existence. For example, your teammate’s parents come to town for a game and invite you out to dinner with them. Uh-oh! The NCAA says it would be a violation for you to have your dinner paid for by them. And since you aren’t allowed to have a job, you have little spending money.

Denard Robinson
How much money would these have generated for 'Shoelace' Robinson?

Of course the bigger issue is the money these athletes bring in on their own name, errrrrrr, number I should say. In 2011, the President of the NCAA put the hammer down on any thought of players making money on their own jersey selling. Can you imagine if Michigan’s Denard Robinson was getting even a percentage of those sales? Or Robert Griffin III for example? The issue is of course equality. A left guard at Eastern Washington probably isn’t going to sell too many jerseys but why can’t that money from one or two players be divided up amongst the whole team?

If players do ever end ujp getting paid or a ‘stipend’ as many like to call it, it will no doubt make you wager differently on Saturdays. You will need to pay closer attention to the injury reports because there is not doubt in my mind that any form of payment would be tied to games played or games dressed for if you follow NCAA logic.

I think it would also behoove you to pay close attention to top players around the country especially those on offense. Knowing that football players cannot leave until after three years removed from high school, will getting paid have an impact on their performance both early in their careers and late?

There was a lot of discussion about South Carolina’s Jadevon Clowney skipping his junior (and most likely final) season in order to avoid injury. He’s expected to be the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. If you think he is the only one thinking that then you’re crazy. While I fully expect Clowney to play this fall, will he be totally focused on the task at hand? Or will he throttle himself down in an effort not to get hurt?

Whether we like it or not, college football is changing and it will continue. You have to keep pace by monitoring these changes and how they could potentially affect your wagering decisions.

NCAA Moving in the Right Direction But Still Much to be Done for College Football Playoff

NCAA Football

 

NCAA Football
The NCAA is taking the right steps in getting a more appropriate championship, finally I might add.

Well college football fans, you are at long last finally getting your wish. Although we’ve known the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was a lame duck for several months now, the commissioners of America’s major conferences along with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick finally established a name and site for the new “playoff format.”

While the name, “College Football Playoff” might not exactly make you want to throw a party for its’ creativity, it probably is a solid choice as sometimes simplicity does the trick.

Six bowls, the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A will make up the rotation for the four-team playoff. Two of these sites each season will be on a rotating basis and will host the semi-final games on December 31st of each year starting in 2014. The inaugural title game will be held at Cowboys Stadium.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction (any step away from the BCS was a step in the right direction), I still believe this will ultimately move to an eight team playoff at some point in the next 10-15 years.

The biggest task the committee of conference commissioners and Mr. Swarbrick must address now is forming the selection committee that will ultimately decide what four teams are invited to the playoff.

In doing so, there are several things to keep in mind which first and foremost among them is the fact they need to keep this committee small. Any more than 12 members is overkill in my opinion.

Unlike the NCAA Basketball Tournament Committee which is made up of a bunch suits (athletic directors but is there a difference?) the football committee needs to be made up of ‘football people.’ The fact that the 64, errrr, 68 teams in March Madness are chosen by AD’s who haven’t paid a lick of attention to anyone outside their own school and conference is appalling and the opportunity to get it right for college football exists.

Let’s say we go with 11 members. This way you aren’t going to deal with any ties which would only further embarrass the NCAA. I would choose four coaches, four nationally-prominent college football writers/pundits and three former college football players. The pre-requisites would be pretty straight-forward. Any former coach or player must have been away from the game for four years or more. Writers/Pundits/Broadcasters would have to have a minimum of 10 years covering college football.

 

Tyrone Willingham
Willingham would be an excellent choice for the selection committee.

For example, here’s a committee I’ve put together for the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff.

Former Coaches: Lloyd Carr, Fisher DeBerry, Phillip Fulmer, Tyrone Willingham

Former Players: Barry Sanders, Herschel Walker, Bill Fralic

Media Members: Stewart Mandel SI.com, Gene Wojciechowski ESPN, Kirk Herbstreit ESPN, Pat Forde Yahoo Sports

I would recommend the NCAA have a facilitator in place but they are not to be a voting member on anything. Their job would simply be to organize and provide any information and/or criteria sought by the committee. While it isn’t realistic in any way to suggest that fans ever be a part of the selection process, this just might be the closest way for fans to get there.

Certainly rules would have to be in place to restrict coaches or players from participating should their former team be among the potential group of teams vying for the football final four. I don’t think it would be at all difficult to fin a substitute or two.

Keep in mind my suggestions for the committee are just examples. I’m not married to any of them, but they are though to give you a more concrete example. While the chances of this are slim and none, it would be a step in the right direction in terms of taking the game out of the hands of the suits and putting it back in the hands of the fans.