Tag:Conference USA
Posted on: November 5, 2010 11:55 am
 

Former "Pizza Bowl" gets less interesting sponsor

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's a shame about the papajohns.com Bowl , really. Nothing spoke quite so efficiently and eloquently about the new world of low-rung ESPN -created corporate bowl sponsorship quite like having a bowl not after the nationally-recognized pizza delivery chain, but (as one prominent college football blogger has repeatedly pointed out) the website of the nationally-recognized pizze delivery chain. If there are any college football fairies out there, fluttering around in shoulder pads and eyeblack, it's a given that every time someone typed or said "papajohns.com Bowl" one of them fell down dead.

So it's good news for fairies but bad news for lovers of garlic-butter dipping sauce that the Birmingham bowl lost its title sponsorship earlier this year, and after a brief run as simply the "Birmingham Bowl ," has found a new corporate sponsor : banking conglomerate BBVA Compass. The inaugural, yep, BBVA Compass Bowl will take place at Jan. 8.

It's excellent news for the bowl, which has suffered from poor attendance, lackluster ratings, and the general decline of its Legion Field home since its inception. Losing its original title sponsor appeared to be another heavy blow. But as it turns out, ESPN is not one to give up on its properties so easily, and has in fact dramatically upped its investment in the game :

In order to secure new four-year contracts with the SEC and Big East, ESPN increased its payouts. The SEC receives $1 million if it plays in the game, up from $900,000 last year; the Big East gets $900,000, up from $600,000.

Of course, the Wordwide Leader isn't footing that bill all by itself; the increase in payout was one factor cited by Papa John's for deserting the game, and there's also this racket:

Each participating team is obligated to buy 10,000 tickets at $50 each, bringing the bowl another $200,000 in revenue.

That's a $500,000 up-front layout for each participating school before they even buy their first plane ticket. If the payout listed for SEC and Big East teams doesn't apply to the Conference USA or MAC teams that could get an invite if not enough larger-conference teams are eligible , the trip might not be worth it no matter who's sponsoring the game.

Posted on: November 4, 2010 8:17 pm
 

Teams, bowls hoping eligibility starts at 5-7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Yesterday at the College Football Blog, we noted that multiple SEC teams were struggling to become bowl eligible with only a handful of weeks left in the season, and that this was going to be bad business for the league, the teams and maybe most of all, the newly SEC-less bowls involved. One of those teams with an uphill road to 6-6 was Ole Miss , and one of the bowls potentially affected was the Liberty Bowl .

So if you're the Rebels or the Memphis-based Liberty brass, what to do? Hopefully win three games and make the speculation moot. But failing that, as Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger writes, hope the entirety of FBS falls short in prodcuing bowl-eligible teams and the NCAA opens the door for 5-7 teams to taste the postseason for the first time:
The NCAA's approval in April of 35 bowls and the possibility of a dearth of teams to fill the 70 slots at the end of this season are making some observers wonder if the NCAA will relax its six-win requirement for bowl eligibility.

It's early still to see if that number is in jeopardy, but the margin is razor-thin. Thirty-three teams entered this week's games with six wins. Seventy-one teams qualified for 68 bowl spots last year, according to reports
Trying to project the bowl picture for all of FBS is beyond the scope of this post (that's what this is for), but remove bowl-ineligible USC from the picture, reduce the number of SEC teams available from 2009's 10 to 2010's probable nine, keep everything else the same, and you're already at 69 eligible candidates ... and those same 70 slots.

So if it comes to it, would the Liberty Bowl be above taking a 5-7 Rebels team from just down the road in Oxford?

Regardless of record, the Rebels would be an attractive team for the nearby Liberty Bowl, spokesman Harold Graeter said.
That's a no. (It's worth questioning whether this would be fair to a potential Conference USA champion whose reward for a championship season would be an SEC squad that couldn't even reach .500, but when there's rear ends to be put in seats, that's well beside the point.)

This is the kind of story that's not making a lot of waves right now, since there's still plenty of time for the FBS to hit the magic number of 70 6-6-or-better teams. (Particularly if the NCAA allows teams like Virginia to count a second victory over FCS competition.) But it will be worth keeping a close eye on the final few weeks of the season as the final tally either wheezes across the line or falls short, and as bowls left with unappealing scraps jockey for whatever halfway-interesting match-up they can find.

Posted on: October 29, 2010 1:33 pm
 

Below the Radar: three other games to watch

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's three of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern)
:

East Carolina (5-2, 4-0) at UCF (5-2, 3-0) , 3:30 p.m. It's a straight-up, head-to-head battle for first place in Conference USA 's East division, but there's plenty of other reasons to pay attention to what ought to be the C-USA game of the year. With Houston 's Case Keenum out for the season and Southern Miss having already lost to ECU at home, these appear to be the best two teams in the conference; the Pirates have the league's best nonconference win, over Florida State conquerors N.C. State , but UCF boasts C-USA's stingiest defense by a mile. Both teams have brand-name playmakers in elusive ECU quarterback Dominque Davis and explosive UCF defensie end Darius Nall. Thus far this season ECU has specialized in winning barnburners (51-49 over Tulsa , 44-43 over Southenr Miss) and this should be another tight contest on the road in Orlando, but with starting quarterback Rob Calabrese out, expect the Golden Knights to play things as close to the vest as possible.

Cal (4-3, 2-2) at Oregon State (3-3, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. His brother may be lost for the season, but any time Jacquizz Rodgers suits up for the Beavers, it's worth paying attention to. Beyond that, despite their nonconference losses at TCU and Boise State , the Beavers can still have a major say in the Pac-10 race with a win here; they'll play host to both USC and Oregon and must still travel to take on Stanford . Cal, meanwhile, has been more up-and-down than a yo-yo taken for a bungee-jump. After destroying Arizona State a week ago (a week after being destroyed at USC), they'll be expected to fold at Corvallis. But if you look past the margin of defeat, there's no particular shame in losing in Los Angeles, or at Arizona or Nevada . Both teams will still feel like their season to-date is a success with a win ... but both might also start to feel like the year might be a lost cause with a loss. The game promises to be a turning point for both.

Michigan (5-2, 1-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2), 8 p.m. It's pretty simple: at some point, Rich Rodriguez must start winning Big Ten games that aren't against Indiana to keep his job. (Against all other Big Ten teams, he's lost his last 11 in a row.) There's no time like the present, what with the Nittany Lions giving a sophomore walk-on his first start and their banged-up front seven looking like an excellent matchup for a fully-armed and operational Denard Robinson . On the other sideline, last week's win at Minnesota stopped the bleeding for Joe Paterno and Co., but a second straight home defeat to one of the conference's middle-of-the-pack teams -- particularly one with a Swiss cheese defense like the Wolverines' -- is not going to sit well with the Happy Valley faithful. Both teams will feel like they have reason to win this game, and as with the matchup above, the victor will wind up with plenty of reason to feel good about itself going forward. But the loser is going to have some very, very difficult questions to answer.

Posted on: October 19, 2010 7:58 pm
 

UCF to honor Kevin Smith, others at homecoming

Posted by Adam Jacobi

It's hard to imagine, but in Central Florida's relatively scant 15-year history in FBS (nee I-A) football, the Golden Knights have fielded one of the most productive quarterbacks in NCAA history and a tailback that had one of the two best single seasons for a rusher ever. That quarterback is Daunte Culpepper, who passed for over 11,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 more all in one game during his four-year career at UCF, and who had his number retired by the school so quickly, Culpepper hadn't even been drafted in that spring's NFL draft yet.

The tailback, meanwhile, is current Detroit Lion Kevin Smith, who just three years ago set college football ablaze with an absurd 2,567 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns in just one season. Only Barry Sanders has ever put together a better year, and his 2,628 yard, 37 touchdown performance (in just 11 games!) in 1998 was so absurd that it shouldn't even count anymore.

Unlike Culpepper, Smith's number hasn't officially been retired; currently, it's being worn by sophomore tailback Brendan Kelly. The jersey, however, is set to be commemorated at Homecoming this weekend for UCF:

 

Join the UCF football family on Saturday, Oct. 23, to commemorate four special jersey numbers during the Knights’ annual Homecoming contest vs. the Rice Owls, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Bright House Networks Stadium.  The four 2010 honorees are Daunte Culpepper (1995-98), Kevin Smith (2005-07), Joe Burnett (2005-08) and the late Wayne Densch.

Two of the jerseys, Densch (1986) and Culpepper (1999) have previously been recognized, and will be joined in 2010 by the monumental accomplishments from Smith and Burnett during their respective collegiate careers.

As the school goes on to explain, the ceremony won't remove Smith's and Burnett's numbers from usage (Culpepper's 8 and Densch's 1, on the other hand, are retired completely); that might sound a tad unfair to Smith, but let's remember, the traitor left after his junior season to go to the NFL. Further, the school's commemorating every player who gains first-team All-American and C-USA player of the year, so eventually, they'd run out of a suitable amount of numbers for the entire team to share. Yes, that would take decades, maybe even centuries, and there's really no telling whether Skynet allows humans to play 85-man college football once the robot takeover is complete. But maybe Skynet's got that little bit of benevolence* in it, and that's a contingency UCF needs to prepare for going forward.

*My editors assure me it does not.

Posted on: October 19, 2010 10:11 am
Edited on: October 19, 2010 2:06 pm
 

Midseason Report: Rest of Non-BCS

The Midseason Report separates the contenders from the pretenders in each conference race, and in the some of the smaller conferences, it's anybody's conference crown. Here's what's happened so far and what might happen down the stretch.

MOUNTAIN WEST

The MWC crown is almost certain to come down to one game: TCU (7-0, 3-0) at Utah (6-0, 3-0) on Nov. 6. Neither the Horned Frogs nor the Utes have broken a sweat in conference play to date (the Frogs have gone three weeks without even allowing a touchdown), and with nonconference challenges like Oregon State, Pitt, Baylor, and Iowa State all collectively behind them, chances are good both teams will go into their showdown undefeated, ranked in the top 10, and ready for a mega-hyped, winner-take-all matchup for the conference title.

And if a handful of the BCS conference powers above them in the BCS standings drop games between now and then, the stakes could be even higher than that.

The only team with a realistic shot of upsetting the MWC Game of the Century apple cart is Air Force (5-2, 3-1), which will travel to TCU this week and host the Utes Oct. 30. The Falcons came within a whisker of collecting a huge scalp at Oklahoma and have the inside track on the Commander in Chief's Trophy after ousting Navy, but their 27-25 loss last Saturday at San Diego State (4-2, 1-1) means they'll likely have to sweep the TCU/Utah pairing to take the conference title. Good luck with that, Falcons.

And hey, speaking of the Aztecs, Brady Hoke 's impressive salvage job has SDSU all of six points (and two questionable calls, one each at Missouri and BYU ) away from a perfect 6-0 record. As is, they'll likely have to settle for playing spoiler against the two league powers and their first bowl berth since 1998.

The less said about the other five teams in the league -- and their combined 7-22 overall record -- the better.

C-USA

We are in for quite a race in the East with East Carolina (4-2, 3-0), UCF (4-2, 2-0) and Southern Miss (5-2, 2-1). East Carolina already beat Southern Miss but plays at UCF on Oct. 30. The Golden Knights will host Southern Miss on Nov. 13.

 UCF might be the best of the trio with a defense ranked as one of the best in the nation. The Knights have been led by defensive end Bruce Miller (seven tackles for a loss) and cornerback Josh Robinson (eight breakups). The offense has come along despite not having starting running back Brynn Harvey. Freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey has done well this season, rushing for 310 yards, while throwing for 669.

East Carolina has one of the best passing offenses with former Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis (16 TDs, nine INTs). The Pirates can pass with anybody, but the biggest problem right now is the defense. East Carolina's defense is ranked 111th in the nation and has given up 40 or more points in four of the six games.

Southern Miss will need to beat UCF and get some help after losing 44-43 to East Carolina a few weeks ago, but this is still a pretty good team. Austin Davis is having a good season (1,480 yards), but top receiver DeAndre Brown has been struggling with a leg injury all season. The Golden Eagles need him to have a shot to win the conference crown. The defense is once again strong against the run with LBs Korey Williams and Ronnie Thornton leading the way.

In the West, SMU is in the driver's seat with Houston, UTEP and Tulsa all giving chase. The Mustangs lost some tough out-of-conference games against Texas Tech and TCU, but is still undefeated in conference play. It should be no surprise that SMU has been able to pass and put up points. Kyle Padron is doing very well with 1,818 yards passing and 19 TDs. Aldrick Robinson has become Padron's favorite receiver with 580 yards receiving. SMU faces Houston this weekend and at UTEP on Nov. 6. It already beat Tulsa 21-18 on Oct. 9.

WAC

Make no mistake about it, Boise State is in total control of the WAC. It went undefeated through the conference last season as is expected to cruise through this year. Kellen Moore is once against having a fantastic season with 16 touchdown passes with only one interception. Also to nobody's surprise, Boise State ranks in the top 5 in both offense and defense, including having the No. 1 rush defense in the nation. The only games that could spell trouble for the Broncos are vs. Hawaii on Nov. 6 and at Nevada on Nov. 26.

Hawaii's passing attack and Nevada's pistol offense can be tough to defend, but it would be a major shock if Boise State lost either of those games.

MAC

This conference is wide open, but looks like it's going to come down to Northern Illinois (5-2, 3-0) or Toledo (4-3, 3-0) in the West and a trio of teams in the East.

 Miami (Ohio) has been the biggest surprise of the conference, sitting on top of the East with a 3-0 record and 4-3 overall. The RedHawks still have their toughest competition left with Ohio (Oct. 23), at Temple (Nov. 23) still on the schedule. It's also pretty amazing since Miami (Ohio) has one of the worst rushing games in the nation, gaining just 69.7 yards per game (112th). I'm not sure this team can win the East, but we'll have to keep an eye on them.

Ohio stumbled against Marshall, but has won three in a row and can take a big step toward the East title with a win over Miami (Ohio) this weekend. It would have to play at Temple on Nov. 16. Boo Jackson is doing pretty well back at quarterback with 913 yards passing and nine TDs. The defense has done a solid job, being led by Donovan Fletcher who leads the team with 42 tackles and five interceptions.

Everybody's favorite Temple is right in the thick of the race and gets to host Ohio and Miami (Ohio) later this season. If I had to pick a team to win the conference, I would pick the Owls. The passing game needs to get better, but the rushing attack has been just fine. When Bernard Pierce is healthy, he gives the Owls a huge boost over every team in the conference. And when Pierce is out, Matt Brown has stepped right in just fine.

Out West, Northern Illinois has been using a strong rushing attack, led by Chad Spann (753 yards, eight TDs) and quarterback Chandler Harnish (457, 6.4 avg) to improve to 3-0 in the conference and 5-2 overall. It will host Toledo on Nov. 9 in what will probably decide the division. Toledo's offense hasn't been all that great this year, but does have one of the top wide receivers in Eric Page (54 catches, 580 yards). Archie Donald has been fantastic at linebacker, recording 72 tackles, which ranks 18th in the nation.

Sun Belt

The conference is Troy's to lose ... again. Middle Tennessee was supposed to contend, but the Trojans did away with them 42-13. Louisiana-Lafayette put up a fight, but Troy beat them 31-24. So who's left? Keep your eye on Florida International . The Golden Panthers are 2-0 in the conference and hung with Rutgers and Texas A&M earlier in the season. That game is at Troy on Nov. 13.

Troy hasn't missed a beat with freshman quarterback Corey Robinson . He has thrown for 1,740 yards and 12 touchdowns, while RB DuJuan Harris (300 yards rushing) and Jerrel Jernigan (501 yards receiving) have also done a nice job. FIU also has a good receiving core with Greg Ellingson and T.Y. Hilton . Anthony Gaitor is one of the best defensive backs in the conference and could be a factor in their game next month.


Posted on: October 6, 2010 4:20 pm
 

Feinstein: Duke should leave ACC football

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As a program, Duke is terrible at football. Currently, historically, inexorably terrible. Duke football had more seasons with two wins or fewer in the last decade (seven such seasons) than they've had bowl game invitations in the nearly 60 years they've been in the ACC (five). They are so, so bad.

In spite of this crushing haplessness, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe told one local radio station recently, "We have a struggling team, but we don't have a struggling program."

Noted sports author (and Duke alum) John Feinstein felt compelled to respond to WRAL in Raleigh:

"Is this team not part of the program? I said years ago, I got shouted down. And I'll still be shouted down, that Duke should not play ACC football."

He went on to claim that if Duke had a president with any leadership ability, he would get together with the presidents at Tulane, Army, Navy, Rice and Vanderbilt and form "Conference SAT" - a league for good academic schools that haven't been competitive in their current football leagues.

First of all, leave it to a Duke fan to turn sucking at football into an elitist activity. Bravo, Feinstein. Second, on its face, this seems like a good idea (and how about Northwestern not making the list? Congrats, Wildcats fans!); excepting the rare and fleeting moments of success, these programs typically struggle, and their unusual admissions standards certainly don't help matters.

The only problem is that nobody's going to want to watch that league. Their television ratings would just be "NO." And if they're not going to get good ratings, they're not going to make money, and really the only reason for a school to ever field a football team is to finance the rest of its athletic department. What Feinstein's really making the case for is that these schools should stop fielding football teams, but that's probably a little too uncomfortable for a Duke partisan to consider rationally at this point.

 
 
 
 
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