Posted on: December 15, 2008 12:52 pm
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Big Time Results Requires Big Time Investment

Brady Hoke's decision to take the San Diego State head football coach decision this week has opened many eyes and prompted more than a few questions.  I think it also shines a bright light on a major flaw within the Ball State program.

Ball State was the class of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) this season while San Diego State was a bottom feeder in the Mountain West Conference (MWC).  Both schools are considered "mid-majors" as members of non-BCS conferences.  So why would Brady Hoke leave a successful mid-major program he built from the ground up for another mid-major for arguably an even greater rebuilding challenge?

I think there are a few reasons.  

1. Economics.  After the 2007 season, Ball State extended Hoke's contract and gave him a raise bringing his annual salary to $240,000.  Even with this raise, Hoke was still only the 8th highest paid coach in the MAC.  San Diego State is reportedly offering a salary of $700,000 - nearly tripling Hoke's present salary. 

2. University Commitment to Football.  San Diego State is focused on "big time" college football and no doubt is expecting Hoke to bring back some of the Aztec glory days of old.  There is no comparison when you look at where Ball State prioritizes football, and athletics in general.  Ball State doesn't even supply coaches offices.  Part of what I believe Hoke was insisting on in addition to a raise for himself was a coaches office complex be built and significant salary increases for his assistant coaches.  While it was rumored Ball State was prepared to offer Hoke a new salary of $350K, still half what SDSU was offering, there was no mention of an office complex to be built or substantial raises for assistants. 

3. Family.  The Hokes' daughter recently moved to Arizona so a move west would keep the family closer together.

The Hoke situation illustrates that while the MAC and the MWC are mid-major, non-BCS conferences, the MWC is light years ahead when it comes to University committment to the football programs and head coaching compensation.  Below is a comparison taken from the College Sports Report website.

MAC

Ball State - $170K (website doesn't reflect the recent raise to $240k)

Akron - $244K

Bowling Green - $184K

Buffalo - $191K

Central Michigan - $266K

Eastern Michigan - $196K

Kent State - $170K

Miami (OH) - $144K

Northern Illinois - $305K

Ohio University - $269K

Temple - $575K

Toledo - $313K

Western Michigan - $266K

MOUNTAIN WEST  

Air Force - $572K

BYU - $$ Not Available

Colorado State - $550K

New Mexico - $440K

San Diego State - $717K

TCU - $1,219K

UNLV - $439K

Utah - $678K

Wyoming - $551K

Here is the link to the website that lists all of the conferences.   http://www.collegesportsreport.com/
Archives_Pages/Coaching_Changes/DIA
CoachesComp.htm

If Ball State and other Mid-American conference programs expect to keep pace on the field of play with other mid-major schools like the MWC and the WAC, they are going to have to place a greater emphasis - and greater resources - on their football programs.  There has been significant reluctance to do so at Ball State, which is reflected throughout the program.

Scheumann Stadium for example, was built in 1967.  It has just in the past 2 years, received it's first expansion and upgrading of any kind.  It still seats something less than 25,000 people and it has been dressed up nicely but it still lags in the MAC in both size and amenities.  Coaches do not have office space and are forced to find corners in rooms wherever they can to use as makeshift "offices".

Ball State is in the midst of a major $200 million capital campaign.  I can assure you, none of the funds will be earmarked for the football program.  It simply doesn't make the cut when it comes to priorities.  However, this lack of funding priority doesn't stop the administration from demanding excellence from the program.  They make it clear they expect a winner but aren't willing to make the required investment to do so.  I might want to drive a Lexus but unless I make the investment, I won't be. 

Ball State lost a quality football coach today and they have only themselves to blame.  When your best offer is half what the other guy's beginning offer is, you've got a big problem.  If Ball State wants to narrow the gap that exists between them and the top mid-major programs in the country, they need to start with dramatically increasing the financial commitment to the football program. 

They have just completed a fantastic season - one they can build upon for the future.  They need to take full advantage of this success and take the necessary steps to ensure this wasn't a one time fluke.  Falling back into mediocrity is the easy way and the likely end result of keeping things business as usual.  Stepping up and seizing this opportunity for greatness requires vision and courage on the part of the President and administration.  Previous administrations haven't had it when it comes to the football program.  Let's hope this time it will be different, although based on what I've seen thus far, it isn't.

 

 

    

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 7, 2008 5:13 pm
 

RESPECT: HARD TO EARN, EASY TO LOSE

 

For the BALL STATE CARDINALS, this has been a season long journey for respect.  As they kept winning, detractors were many, suspicions were high and as their record improved, the cat-calls of "over-rated" increased.  It was a never ending debate between their success on the field and the lack of strength in their schedule.

One by one, they mowed down their opponents impressivly with only one regular season game ending in single digits.  Previous to this season, they had never beaten a BCS team, but in the 4th week of the year, they dismantled Indiana in Bloomington.  The Cardinals went through their MAC schedule unscathed to end their regular season 12-0 for the first time in school history.

The pollsters weren't paying attention to the over-rated chants as each week, the Cards elevated in the polls.  By the end of the regular season, they had reached 12th in the all-important BCS rankings.  Yes, it had been a storybook year for Ball State.

Then came the MAC Championship last Friday night against Buffalo.

The third quarter of the game was one unbelievable nightmare for the Cardinals.  Despite uncharateristic miscues, things appeared to be going their way but an apparant touchdown by MiQuale Lewis was overturned when the official determined he had stepped out of bounds just prior to getting into the end zone.  The call on the field was "touchdown" and replays did not provide inconclusive evidence to the contrary, but the call was reversed and the TD taken away. 

That TD would have pushed the lead for Ball State to 24-14 instead, two plays later, Nate Davis leaped for the end zone, a Buffalo player hit his shoulder jarring the ball loose at the 2 and the Bulls defense scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown. 

The wheels continued to come off for Ball State for the remainder of the game, including another unforced error resulting in another fumble recovery for a TD.  Buffalo won the game on the scoreboard but clearly Ball State beat themselves and as a result, failed to achieve their #1 goal for the season - the MAC Championship.

As hard as it might be to do, Ball State's players and coaches need to keep things in perspective.  This has been arguably the best season in Ball State football history.  They played two bad quarters and lost one game.  There are over 100 other FBS teams that would love to boast of a 12-1 record right now. 

Oh sure, there are those who have been waiting all season for the Cardinals to stub their toe so they could point their finger and say "see, I told you they were over-rated".   They lost a game but not a season.  There are also individuals who would say they lost respect for Ball State for losing this game.  I would say those individuals never had respect for Ball State to begin with.

This Cardinal team should hold their head high and be proud of their accomplishments this year and remember there is still one game to go, one more chance to go out a winner and end the year 13-1.  This team is full of talent and is capable of playing with just about any team in the country on a given day.  Last Friday, they also proved if they don't remain focused on the task at hand, anyone can beat them.

Later today we find out who Ball State's opponent will be in their bowl game.  I look for the Cards to come out and play one hell of a game against whoever opponent turns out to be.  After the distasteful, self-inflicted loss of last Friday, I sure wouldn't want to be the team that draws Ball State in that bowl game.

GO CARDS!

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 29, 2008 9:54 am
Edited on: November 29, 2008 10:06 am
 

Time For Mid-Majors To Step It Up

There have been several posters, yours truly included,  on the cbssportsline message boards assailing the schedules of the Mid-Major teams across America.  There have been many stereotypes used and fingers pointed toward the Mid-Majors that have been unfair and clearly "BCS homer" in nature but there is one that sticks, and needs to be greatly improved if the Mids truly want to earn more respect.  That point is their non-conference schedules!

Ball State and Boise State have enjoyed huge success this season, winning all of the regular season games.  Only a MAC championship game remains for the Cardinals to win and move to 13-0 while the Broncos closed out their regular season at 12-0 with their thumping of Fresno State.  Both will be left out of the BCS picture this season.  The reason?  A weak non-conference schedule.  While I completely agree with the mid-major critics that non-conference schedules matter, I don't subscribe that the conference they play in makes them virtually ineligible for a BCS game.  In other words, if your non-conference schedule is tough and you prevail most of the time and then win all of your conference games, your conference games should not negatively impact your ability to get a BCS bowl.  The key in my view is the non-conference portion.

The first thing that needs to happen is to eliminate all games with Division 1AA teams.  You can't dip into the lower ranks of college football and then expect to successfully argue the merits of your BCS worthiness.  Play the majors if you want to compete with them in the post season.  Ball State went fishing for a win when they scheduled Northeastern and severely damaged their non-conference argument in doing so.  I understand a previous agreement with West Virginia fell through but still, they could have done better than Northeastern.  Similarly Boise State opened the season by pasting idaho State.  These games barely qualify as scrimages and have no business on a Division 1A football teams' resume.  It should be noted it isn't just mid-majors who are playing these teams.  ACC teams played 14 games against 1AA teams, the Big 12 played 10 while the Big 10 and SEC played 9 1AA teams.  If a 1A team insists on playing a 1AA team, that win should be excluded from their won/loss record (unless they lose) and have no bearing on making a team bowl eligible.

By now this year's non-conference schedule for Ball State is emblazoned in the minds of their critics so no need to dwell on that.  But let's take a look into the future to see how their non-conference schedules are shaping up for upcoming seasons.  These seasons may not be fully complete yet but at least we can see if they're taking steps in the right direction.  Home games are in caps.

2009:     NORTH TEXAS;   Army;   Auburn

2010:     MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE;   Clemson;   Purdue

2011:    South Florida;   Middle Tennessee State;   ARMY

2012:     SOUTH FLORIDA;   Army 

2013:    ARMY;   North Texas

2014:    Army

In 2009, some improvement over this years' schedule is visible.  Going to Auburn would have to be viewed as a quality opponent, one that would help their strength of schedule argument.  One more non-conference game remains to be scheduled and it needs to be against a BCS team.

2010 looks considerably better with scheduled road games against BCS teams Clemson and Purdue.  Obviously we don't know how strong these teams will be in 2010 but it can't be held against Ball State if Clemson or Purdue turn out to be weak BCS teams that year. Again, one more game needs to be scheduled and it should be against a strong mid-major if not another BCS team.

In my opinion, the remaining non-conference schedules beyond 2010 are too weak and in need of BCS presence.  Those teams as we know them today are not going to open people's eyes if Ball State comes away with a victory. 

Boise State has elevated itself to the top of the mid-major levels.  They have done so by winning all or most of their games but they usually manage to throw in one carefully selected, strong BCS team.  This method has proven to be successful.  Their lone BCS appearance resulted in a win - also huge for their program.  Ball State has an opportunity to build on this season's success and become a mid-major power but to do so is going to have to increase its committment, as a university, to the football program, continue to bring in top mid-major talent, pay their coaches at or near the top of the conference salary range and schedule - and win - games against decent BCS programs.  If they do that, they will have a strong case for a BCS bowl, something they do not have this season.

Finally, and this is directed at the BCS system itself.  When mid-major teams like a Boise State or Ball State take steps to increase their strength of schedule and continue to win their games, you need to find ways to include them instead of searching for reasons to keep them out.  Over the past 4 seasons, mid-major programs have increased their winning percentage over BCS teams.  In 2008, mid-majors defeated majors 22% of the time, up from the low to mid teens in the previous 3 seasons.  The BCS system needs to be modified with additional ways to allow mid-major teams with unblemished records and decent strength of schedules into the championship series.  Establish a minimal SOS number that needs to be met (by ALL teams) to meet BCS Bowl or Playoff criteria.   

"Cinderella stories" are good for sports.  Boise State's win over Oklahoma - admittedly not great for Sooner football - was a huge boost for college football in general.  That Fiesta Bowl game, from the fans perspective, was one of the greatest games ever played.  Boise State proved it belonged and there are other programs on the rise that will prove they belong too if given a chance.  The mid-majors need to do their part though and a strong non-conference schedule is the ticket required for entry.  And, when they present that ticket, the BCS needs to honor it and let them in. 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 26, 2008 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2008 12:43 pm
 

Mid-Majors & The BCS - A Solution

If you're looking to weigh in on the debate that rages on about BCS superiority vs the worthiness of Non-BCS teams, you needn't look too hard on the cbssportsline message board.  You'll find passionate people voicing their opinions on both sides of the argument and, both sides make some valid points. 

Supporters of the "Majors" like to point to Georgia's rout of Hawaii in last year's Sugar Bowl to justify their superiority argument.  Those supporting the "Mids" enjoy reminding folks of Boise State's thrilling win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago.  My own view is this.  There are very strong Major programs that produce excellent teams year in and year out.  There are also Majors who are weak year after year.  Then there are a large chunk of teams in the middle that have great seasons every so often but more often than not, wind up in the middle of the pack.  The same can usually be said of the Mid-Major conferences.

Where people error is in lumping ALL Majors or ALL Mids together in their respective arguments.  It's true the top Major teams run roughshod over most of the Mids.  It is also true that the top Mid programs would be very competitve in any of the Major conferences.  When Ohio State plays Ohio U and beats them soundly, it is hardly a referendum on Mid-Major programs as a whole.  What it says is that Ohio State is better than Ohio.  It doesn't say anything as to how Ohio State might fare against Boise State, Ball State or Utah.  Conversely, for Ball State to thrash a generally weak Indiana team does not give them a free pass to say "we can beat anyone".  As much as the fiercest proponents from both groups like think otherwise, it cuts both ways.

Which brings me to the whole BCS Bowl situation.  The current BCS Bowl set up screams to be changed.  It is wrong on so many fronts and not just because of the impact it has on mid-major teams.  Teams participating in the National Championship Game are "selected" by a combination of computers and people.  It's the only sport I can think of where teams don't EARN their way to the championship game.  It's outrageous and ultimately, the only people who end up agreeing on the decision are the teams selected and the fans of those teams.  I saw a post recently from a USC fan decrying how the BCS process was "unfair".  If ever there was a team that has benefited from the BCS Rules over the years, it's been USC - yet this year, it's unfair. 

If anyone has a beef, it's those teams who did what they were supposed to do.  Win all their games on their schedules.  Yet we will likely have two teams this year that will do just that but will not receive a BCS Bowl invitation.  Opponents of those teams (Boise State and Ball State) will point to their weak schedules and conference they play in.  They will argue that the last time we let a mid-major in a BCS Bowl, it was a huge mismatch (insert Hawaii).  Understand what I am NOT saying here.  I am not proposing that Boise State and Ball State are deserving of a BCS Bowl bid based on the rules that are set up today.  What I am saying is, the rules need to be changed.  The BCS process needs to be scrapped and a better solution that would reward a team for success should be put in its place.

So what do we do with Boise State and Ball State this season?  Well, if no one intervenes, they will be off to their respective obscure bowl games.  The latest CBSsportsline bowl projection has a 12-0 Boise State going up against a possible 7-5 Wake Forest while possbily 13-0 Ball State will head off to play 7-5 Minnesota.  Is that the best we can do?  Even if they don't qualify for a BCS Bowl, don't these teams deserve better than this?  Is this how we reward excellence?  There are 120 teams in Division 1A college football and as of today, 116 of them have at least one loss.  Shouldn't there be something special in store for the 4 teams that don't?

So what is the solution?  There are two in my mind.  One will take time and involves a playoff scenerio.  I won't try to tackle this one in this blog.  The other one can happen immediately, if the right people get involved now and begin a dialogue.  The answer to this one is so simple and cries out to be heard.  Boise State and Ball State should be let out of the conference tie-in committment to the Humanitarian and Motor City Bowls and be allowed to play each other in one of the Bowl Games.  If we're not ready to include these two in a BCS Bowl game, at least let them battle it out on the field together and determine who is the best of the Mids - BCS Bowl Lite, if you will. 

I know what you're saying.... "that's not what is ordinarily done regarding the bowl games".  I would argue this is not an "ordinary" season.  It is rare we have 4 undefeated teams at this stage of the season.  Two of them - Alabama and Utah - will be richly rewarded with a BCS Bowl invitation.  The other two deserve something special of their own - if not a BCS game.  Sending them off to play teams that were .500 or worse in their conference is an insult.  They deserve better than that.  What they deserve is each other.

So I'm on record.  Pit the Cardinals against the Broncos in the "One Hell Of A Game Bowl", put it on ESPN2 and watch the viewership go through the roof.  It's a win - win for everyone involved.  You'd have no shortage of sponsers clamoring for air time for that one, football fans from all over the country would be glued to their sets ready to watch maybe the most entertaining of all the bowl games, the schools involved could get a decent payout and, most important, the student atheletes that have worked their butts off all year long to get to this point would get a just reward.  It's the right thing to do.  Now we need the right people to start the dialogue now and make it happen.   

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 11, 2008 1:51 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2008 1:55 pm
 

Too Many 1AA Games!

 With nothing more than a casual glance at the schedules of Division 1A teams, you will notice it is quite common to see Division 1AA teams peppered about many, if not most of the schedules of major programs.  At the same time, many Division 1A teams are finding it difficult for one reason or another to find enough teams to complete their regular season schedule year after year.

Why do these Division 1A schools find it necessary to step down in class when there are other Division 1A teams looking for schools to play?

I'm sure there are a number of reasons, some good, some not so good.  For example, Ohio State scheduled Youngstown State this season.  Now if ever there was a mismatch, this would be it however, Jim Tressel used to be the head coach at Youngstown State so I'm sure that is a prime reason as to why.  But a past relationship isn't the usual reason.  Sometimes, there just aren't good reasons.

There were 51 games scheduled between BCS teams, supposedly the cream of the college football crop, and Division 1AA teams.  36 more games were scheduled between Non-BCS teams and Division 1AA schools.  With only 12 regular season games on your schedule, why are these teams finding it necessary to do this?

I would submit that in many cases, it's a win.  In virtually all cases, it's a home game win.  Teams are so hungry for that sometimes elusive 6 win season that makes a school bowl eligible, they are now dipping into the Division 1AA ranks to get a win.  At the same time, you often won't find a Mid-Major program on their schedule. 

Florida State comes to mind.  The Seminoles opened their season with two home games against Division 1AA programs.  Not a mid-major team is to be found on the their schedule. Georgia Tech did the same thing.  Two 1AA teams, 0 mid-majors.  In fact, the Atlantic Coast Conference scheduled 14 games this season against 1AA programs.  While they had the most, they certainly weren't alone.  Check this out.

CONFERENCE                          1AA GAMES

ACC                                                      14

Big 12                                                   10

Big 10                                                     9

SEC                                                        9

Mid-American                                        8

Big East                                                  7

Mountain West                                      7

Western Athletic                                   7

Conference USA                                  7

Sun Belt                                                 5

PAC 10                                                   2

Independents                                       2

Several questions come to mind when you see the practice this widespread across Division 1A football.

Mid-majors, typically the stronger programs,  are clamoring that they can't get the Majors to play them in a home and home or even 2 for 1 series.  Therefore, if many games between majors and mids aren't getting scheduled, is this a contributing reason?  Could that be why both majors and mid-majors dip into the 1AA ranks to fill out their schedule because they can't agree on the terms of a potential series?

Are teams doing this to puff up their overall record, if not their strength of schedule?  I would suggest there is some of this going on for sure.  I would also suggest there may be some of the reasons similar to what Jim Tressel was doing with Ohio State, but it is logical to assume some of these games are being scheduled because it's an easy win at home.

Should games against Division 1AA programs even count toward bowl eligibility?  I don't believe they should be.  There should be a nice large asterik next to the school's record that scheduled one of these games. However, if a 1A teams schedules a 1AA team and loses?  That should definately be considered.

Additionally, there is incredible competition at the end of the season for teams striving to earn BCS bowl bids.  Only games against 1A competition should be considered.  It would be a shame if a team was passed over because another team scheduled a 1AA team to artifically puff up their record.

There is a lot of quality football being played in the 1AA ranks and this by no means is intended as an insult to those teams.  Appalachain State proved to the world they can play at a top level when they defeated Michigan but this is the very rare exception.  With 120 teams in 1A football, there should be no shortage of teams to schedule.  If that means mid-majors need to be willing to go on the road more often than not, so be it.  If that means the majors need to leave their palaces to go on the road to play a mid once in a while, they should do so.  In the end, there should be no reason to dip into the 1AA ranks at all, in my opinion.    

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 10, 2008 9:40 am
 

Blind Support? I Don't Think So

 Is it possible to be a fan of a team and still be objective?  Should your loyalty be called into question if you ask probing and intelligent questions regarding the team you love and follow?  What do you think?

This is exactly what I have been experiencing in the past week or so on the cbssportsline message boards.  I've received notes calling me a "hater", "disloyal", someone questioned my health, and a couple of people instructed me to remove my avatar picture of Charlie Cardinal for posting a probing and thought provoking thread that didn't show Ball State in the best possible light.  Have we all lost our ability to think and reason when it comes to the teams we support?  It used to be politics and religion were the two subjects sure to start an argument and were the "avoid at all cost" topics at gatherings.  Let me suggest we're close to adding a third - college football.

This past week, I had the nerve to remove my Ball State Cardinals from my poll I put out each week (FLAME'S TOP 25).  I did so because I could no longer justify their appearance in the poll based on the incredible schedule weakness and their opponents records.  I concluded that dozens of average Division 1A football teams would also be undefeated if they played Ball State's schedule.  Using that reasoning, I elected to remove them.

Does this move make me disloyal?  No, because in my heart I want them to succeed.  I would like nothing better than to see them run the table, end their regular season unbeaten and win the MAC championship to go 13-0.  It will be tough with the games they have left, but they are capable of doing it.  I would be thrilled for them!  I would be thrilled for myself!  All of that doesn't make their schedule any more competitive.  It is what it is. 

True, thus far the Cardinals have done all they can do on the field this season but Ball State did not do all they could do when it came time to set up their schedule.  Someone surely failed Ball State but the culprit isn't me and my perceived lack of support.  The real villian here was whoever thought it was a good idea to put this schedule together thinking it was a competitive one.  That is who is deserving of and should be on the receiving end of some harsh criticism.

I still believe the BCS is a farce.  That it is set up to make it practically impossible for non-BCS teams to get in.  I still believe it should be changed so future teams like Utah, Boise State and yes, Ball State have a better chance of playing in a major bowl.  But teams like Ball State have to help themselves out a little bit.  Putting together a schedule such as theirs, running the table, then whining when the BCS doesn't come calling doesn't make any sense.  That's the real problem here, not me for pointing it out.

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 9, 2008 11:11 am
Edited on: November 9, 2008 11:26 am
 

FLAME'S TOP 25 POLL - Week 11

 

Here is my Top 25 for this week.  Lots of great action resulting in a lot of movement within my top 25.  It seems each week whoever is in the top 20-25 acts like they don't want to be there and manage to go out and lose the next week.  We'll try it again with some newcomers this time.

As always - comments and criticism welcome.  Have at it.

1. ALABAMA:  Prev. 1 - I saw this team tested like they haven't been tested this season and they responded and found a way to rally and win.  That is the mark of a championship caliber team.  Add to that, the hostile environment and all the distractions regarding Saban's return, and I was very impressed by Alabama's focus and toughness.  They earned my vote for the top spot for another week. 

2. TEXAS TECH: Prev. 2 -  The Red Raiders are one impressive team!  If you plan to beat them, you'd better bring your 50 point offense with you - and even that might not be enough.  Their defense, although overshadowed by my Heisman pick Harrell and the offense, is rough and tumble too and very under-rated.  I can't wait for the showdown with Oklahoma.

3. FLORIDA:  Prev. 4 -  This team is playing as well as anyone right now.  I don't see them having any problems winning out against South Carolina, The Citidel and arch rival Florida State.  The Gators just have too many weapons.  With Tim Tebow into the mix and this team could very easily compete for the National Championship.

4. TEXAS: Prev. 5 -  The Longhorns are one easy basket catch of an interception away from still being #1 and garnering everyone's vote for national champion.  While a loss is still a loss, this is one impressive 1 loss team who is deserving of a BCS bowl bid.  I doubt anyone would be too thrilled to have to face them in it either.

5.OKLAHOMA: Prev. 6 -  The Sooners have been playing as well as anyone of late but it's now their turn to face the Big 12 gauntlet with Texas Tech up next and then the regular season finale at Oklahoma State.  If they win out, it is going to thrown the Big 12 into a full blown dust storm to see which two teams get the BCS bids.

6.USC: Prev. 7 -  The Trojans keep winning but not all that impressivly in two of their last three games - all against marginal PAC 10 opponents.  The PAC 10 is very weak this year and is below .500 against non-BCS opponents and the Trojans are not looking overpowering right now in a very weak league. 

7. PENN STATE: Prev. 3 - The Nittany Lions walked into a Hawkeye trap yesterday and paid the price.  I still think PSU is a strong team and the class of the Big 10 so a road loss in a tough stadium environment didn't penalize them too much. 

8. BOISE STATE:  Prev. 9 - The Broncos keep on winning in their conference and don't appear to have any serious hurdles to climb until their season finale against Fresno State.  Finishing the regular season 12-0 looks like a real possibility for them.  Can you say BCS buster?

9. UTAH: Prev. 10 - The Utes survived a real scare from TCU, winning in the last minute of play.  That's what championship teams do - find ways to win.  The road doesn't get any easier for them (after San Diego State) as they close the regular season at home against BYU.  Could the non-BCS teams get a second team in?  Surely if Boise State stubs their toe, the Utes are more than capable of stepping in. 

10. MISSOURI: Prev. 12 -  Despite their losses to Oklahoma State Texas, Missouri is showing they are still an outstanding team.  With Chase Daniel as QB, you can never count the Tigers out.  When they win, they do so impressively.  No shame in their two losses and should finish the season a very strong 10-2.

11. OKLAHOMA STATE: Prev. 8 -  While the Cowboys took it on the chin to Texas Tech, what it shows is the strength of the Big 12 conference.  OK State still has one of the most potent offences in the country led by a very good QB in Zac Robinson.  The season finale against Oklahoma should be a fun one to watch and if the Cowboys prevail, they will end the regular season 10-2.  Doing that in that conference earns you top 10 honors.

12. OHIO STATE: Prev. 13 - The Buckeyes are improving each week and appear to be peaking at just the right time.  It's not coincidence this improvement is taking place at the very time Freshman Terrelle Pryor is coming into his own as a dual threat quarterback.  His mobility and running ability was never in question but he is now showing a potent and accurate arm.  Insert a healthy Beanie Wells and a stout defense and these Buckeyes are a formidable force.  

13. GEORGIA: Prev. 14 - Well, it took a herculian effort to avoid a road loss to a good Kentucky team but the Dawgs pulled it out.  Matt Stafford is a quality QB and you can never count out the Bulldogs while he is leading the team. Looks like a 10-2 regular season finish for them as well.

14. BYU:  Prev. 16 - The Cougars appear to be a solid one loss team and their blowout of San Diego State did nothing to dispel that.  They have two very tough foes on the road to close out the season though that will no doubt test them.  Air Force could be a trap game for them, especially if they are looking ahead to their big game with Utah.

15.MICHIGAN STATE: Prev. 18 -  You can't count out a team with Javon Ringer on it.  The Spartans dispatched with Purdue to run their record to 9-2 going into their final regular season game on the road at Penn State.  That will be a tough one for the Spartans but they have solidified their spot as the 3rd best team in the Big 10 this season. 

16. NORTH CAROLINA: Prev. 20 - The Tar Heels easily routed a decent Georgia Tech team serving notice they are fully on track and looking to close out their season in a strong way.  With a tough road game coming up against Maryland, it won't be easy.

17. PITTSBURGH: Prev. UR - The Panthers have been a bit up and down of late which explains their appearance, disappearance, and reappearance in my top 25.  An impressive road win at Notre Dame (it's always impressive when you can win there) and a blowout of Louisville indicate maybe they are ready to show some consistency.  It won't take long to find out as they go on the road next to Cincinnati.

18. CINCINNATI: Prev. UR - The Bearcats have been flirting with notoriety most of the season but an impressive road win against BE leader West Virginia was just the ticket to give them a big boost into my poll.  This might be the surprise team in the BCS bowls.  Whoda thunk it.  They still have to prove themselves though including an upcoming matchup with aforementioned Panthers.

19. FLORIDA STATE: Prev. UR - The Seminoles righted the ship yesterday defeating Clemson but have a rough stretch to finish the season with BC, Maryland on the road and Florida.  If they end up winning the ACC, they certainly will have to earn it the hard way.

20. LSU: Prev. 17 - Hey, when you push the number 1 team in the nation into overtime and lose, you don't fall far in my poll.  The Tigers looked impressively and played with that swager and intensity they are known for.  4th best in the tough SEC is nothing to be ashamed of.

21. TCU: Prev. 11 - The Horny Toads came within an eyelash of toppling undefeated Utah, who pulled out a home victory in the last seconds.  That's how close TCU was to possibly earning a BCS bowl berth.  As it is, they are an impressive team with a great defense and sure to attract a big bowl game as a member of the impressive MWC.

22. OREGON STATE: Prev. UR -  Welcome the Beavers to the Top 25.  With only one loss in the conference and the only team to defeat USC, they deserve a shot to see if they can stay in the precarious Top 20-25 slots.  They had better bring their "A" game though because they have 3 tough games to close out the season - Cal, Arizona and Oregon.

23. CALIFORNIA: Prev. 23 -  The Bears played USC tough and had a few calls go against them or who knows what might have happened.  The Bears remain in the same spot as last week despite losing.  Not so much of their strength but everyone around them lost and I still think Cal is a top 25 team.

24. TULSA:  Prev. 24 - The Golden Hurricane have had a week off to lick their wounds from their first loss of the season against Arkansas.  Look for them to get well quickly against a weak Houston team.

25. OREGON:  Prev. UR - The Ducks seem to be able to handle any unranked team they encounter but struggle against top competition.  Their 3 losses have been to Cal, USC and Boise State. Maybe that's why they've been in and out of my top 25 so many times I'm getting dizzy.  Well, I'll try them one more time.

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 2, 2008 7:50 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2008 8:01 pm
 

Tulsa's Ripple Affect

Tulsa's loss yesterday to Arkansas was more than a little disappointing to those of us who follow  mid-major  Division 1A college football Teams Lacking Respect (or TLR from here on out).  Hope this season has been high, maybe more so than in previous years, that multiple teams can crack the "glass ceiling" that exists for approximately two thirds of the teams who play at the Division 1A level.  Tulsa's loss yesterday to Arkansas will have lasting impact, not only on how their program is perceived, but other TLR programs this season.

Two thirds of the way into the season, there are several teams that have a right to boast over their accomplishments to date.  Of course all boasting should be saved until after the season because for many teams, the toughest part of the schedule lies ahead.  Non-the-less, there are several TLR's who can be proud of their accomplishsments thus far. Going into Saturday's games, there were eight undefeated teams in the land of Division 1A football.  Texas, Alabama, Penn State, Texas Tech garnered much of the respect and most of the headlines, and rightly so.  They are immensely talented teams with many future NFL players on their rosters.  But not to be overlooked and also achieving undefeated status was Ball State, Boise State, Utah and the aforementioned Tulsa.  Coming out of Saturday, we're down to six undefeated teams as both Texas and Tulsa went down to defeat.

Tulsa's loss was far more devastating.  Texas lost in the last second to Texas Tech and, although suffered a loss of pride, still kept a Top 10 ranking in tact, and more importantly, a #4 ranking in the all-important BCS poll.  They still have a shot at the National Championship depending upon what happens over the next 2-4 weeks.  Tulsa?  They performed a Steve Fossett and disappeared from radar.  Such is life in the TLR world.  Each week, Tulsa inialated their opponent racking up 50 or 60 points per week enroute to eight impressive victories.  They even hung 77 points on UTEP, an impressive feat regardless of your opponent.  Their critics on the cbssportsline message boards were everywhere.  "They don't play anyone".  "They are over-rated".  "Wait till Arkansas."   Well, Arkansas came and there went the undefeated season. 

Arkansas's win was just what the doctor ordered for many who support the BCS teams and its process.  Many of them have been openly vocal of how they tire of hearing the whining from the TLR crowd.  If several of those folks were honest, they might even own up to being fearful of the "have nots"  crashing the party, stealing one of their precious BCS Bowl Game slots from one of the "haves"..  What if they all ran the table?  Could it be possible two non-BCS teams could be selected?  Thanks to Tulsa (and Arkansas), you can breath a little easier.  There is one less unbeaten TLR.

The hard facts are this. BCS supporters make many valid arguments and lets face it, if you look at the overall record of TLR's vs BCS, it's not a pretty sight.  There are some mitigating circumstances in those numbers and you can argue points for and against, which actually was done in another thread today entitled "Mid-Majors Want Respect".    The bottom line is, if  "we"  want to begin to receive this respect on a regular basis, the Tulsa's of the TLR world need to start winning these games. 

Ball State and Central Michigan can beat Indiana, Utah and Toledo can beat Michigan, Boise State can defeat Oregon,  BYU can beat Washington and shutout UCLA , UNLV can beat Arizona State and Iowa State, Bowling Green can beat Pittsburgh and Fresno State can also beat UCLA (all of these occurred this season), and it can all be wiped away with an unbeaten Tulsa losing on the road to a mediocre Arkansas team.  Yes folks, when we have a team in the rankings and we are striving to prove we belong, we simply have to win these kind of games.  All of those wins mentioned above, coupled with the Tulsa loss is the equivilent to taking one step forward and two steps back.  It's frustrating.  It's not the way it should be and should be changed - but - It's the way it is - TODAY.  TLR teams must force the issue.  Utah needs to win out.  Boise State needs to win out.  Ball State needs to win out.  Those teams need to take care of business and let the chips fall where they may.  They can't control what bowl game they will be sent to but they must control the outcome.  They need to win.  It's that simple. 

Then and only then will a TLR garner the respect they crave.  I do believe we're winning some of the small skirmishes.  I've already pointed out significant victories this season.  These wins are occurring with more frequency in recent years as parity is coming - slowly but surely - to college football.  I also believe Boise State, Utah and BYU have garnered more respect and are perceived as "better than the other mid-majors".  That is because they are winning year in and year out.  I believe there are a few other teams on the cusp of joining those teams - Tulsa being one of them - but they have to win the games they are supposed to if they don't want to be dismissed as just another mid-major wanna be who couldn't cut it when they stepped up in competition.

There isn't a bigger supporter of TLR teams than I am and I try to fight the good fight daily in these threads but in the end what matters is what happens on the field.  All I've asked for is a level playing field and the chance to play.  Once we get that chance, we simply have to deliver the results.    

Category: NCAAF
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com