New Year’s Eve Playoff Is Not As Bad As It Sounds

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Year two of the College Football Playoff will be played on New Year’s Eve and not on New Year’s Day as it was in its first year. While much of the college football media has come out slamming the decision, the fact is that it’s not all that terrible of an idea.

MSU TDDan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports has absolutely chastised the idea. While Wetzel is correct in his cronyism view and that these games would have been bettered served being played on New Year’s Day or even on January 2nd, he is miss guided on several other points.

Not everyone has plans New Year’s Eve believe it or not. While a lot of people have to work on New Year’s Eve day, let’s be honest, nothing is really getting done (especially by kick off which is at 1pm PST) and with Watch ESPN, people are going to be watching in significant numbers on various devices. Also, people have to work on New Year’s Day and even Christmas so let’s stop acting like America completely shuts down on Holidays anymore.

If you do have plans on New Year’s Eve, did the bar or home of the party you are attending all of sudden stop having TV’s? If you are at a club, ballroom or what not, we can promise you that someone is going to be streaming the game on a smartphone. It’s 2015 after all.

Deshaun Watson ClemsonYes the ratings will be down this year compared to last year but that is not just because of the date and time the games are being played. In the second year of something you can almost guarantee a dip. The novelty has worn off. And if we’re being honest, Michigan State and Clemson are not the national brand names that Ohio State and Florida State are. Not to mention the fact that one of the games last year (Oregon vs Florida State) featured two Heisman Trophy winners squaring off against each other.

Yes a 1pm kick off on the West Coast on a ‘work day’ is a head scratcher. However we are in a 24/7 on-demand world. That means that we are not passively involved anymore, instead we have to actively seek out and find what we want to watch. Besides most people are using a second screen while watching TV anyway. Up to 87% of them in fact. So this notion that everyone stops, gathers around the TV and never looks away went out the window a long time ago.

Is a 1pm PST kick off on a ‘work day’ any worse than a 8:30pm EST kick off on a ‘work night’? Last year the Ohio State vs Alabama game didn’t kick off until almost 9pm EST and wasn’t over until well after midnight. Plenty of people didn’t stay up for that one after staying up late the night before and having to work the next day. Where was the outcry for that?

Look the College Football Playoff should be played on New Year’s Day and have games that are done well before midnight on the East Coast. But having the games on New Year’s Eve isn’t the ‘outrageous’ idea some want to make it out to be. Now there will be something on instead of Ryan Seacrest and Pitbull. If you prefer that then God be with you, the rest of us will be watching the College Football Playoff.

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Transfer U

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


We have covered the topic of graduate transfers before but a new crop has emerged and it raises new and different questions.

Dakota PrukopDakota Prukop was the first “name” quarterback to make a move. Like Vernon Adams, Prukop, is moving up from the FCS level (Big Sky Conference as well) to Oregon. Prukop turned down Alabama and Texas in the process.

This is the second year in a row that an FCS quarterback is moving into the quarterback role at Oregon. This begs the question, has Oregon been unable to recruit a young quarterback? Do they really look at their quarterback recruits and think, ‘man, we’re toast if we don’t get a transfer in here’ ? The Oregon coaching staff should do a better job of identifying, recruiting and developing a quarterback because there is no way that crossing your fingers and hoping a graduate transfer QB just decides to go to Eugene.

Texas A&M lost two quarterbacks….in a week! Top recruits Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both decided to transfer away from College Station. Add that to Kenny Hill, who transferred last year, and that makes three top QB’s who have left the Aggies in the last two years. Unlike the graduate transfer Prukop, Allen and Murray will have to sit out a year just like Hill is currently doing at TCU.

Trevor KnightFormer Oklahoma quarterback (and Sugar Bowl MVP) Trevor Knight has decided to leave Sooner nation behind. Knight started plenty of games for the Sooners but his inconsistent play led to walk-on transfer (and eventual Heisman contender) Baker Mayfield getting the starting nod. Funny thing is, Knight might walk into a starting role at A&M because Hill, Allen and Murray decided to leave.

Patrick TowlesOther graduate transfers this off season include former Kentucky signal-caller Patrick Towles who is moving onto Boston College and former Georgia backup Faton Bauta who will take his skills to Colorado State. Both are eligible to play immediately for their new schools.

Florida’s Will Grier is another quarterback who like Allen and Murray, will have to wait to play. He is under NCAA suspension for essentially PED use and regardless of where he goes, he will still have to serve his suspension.

Earlier this year in the column ‘College Football Free Agency’ that we didn’t think graduate transfers was a trend. We were right, it’s not a trend….it’s a full blown movement!

Players, in particularly quarterbacks, are making it clear that if they don’t feel their job is safe or have the opportunity to move to a bigger and better program then they will jump at the chance.

Sounds just like the working world doesn’t it?

On the other hand, while quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Vernon Adams have found success, there are plenty who have failed to impress. As we alluded to in the post ‘Transfer Dreams’, just because you started somewhere else doesn’t mean you will succeed (much less start) at another school.

In other words, past performance isn’t indicative of future success.

Schools would be better served by going the parallel route: recruit and develop a quarterback and if a graduate transfer drops in your lap then all the better. Either way you should come out on top. Meanwhile, don’t think for a minute that we’ve seen the end of the graduate transfers.

Bowl Game Bonanza

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


It’s the Holiday Season which means it’s college football bowl season. Or as ESPN likes to brand it ‘Bowl Week’….that of course lasts two weeks. There are some 41 bowl games including the National Championship game and some feature teams with sub 500 records. How did we get here and which ones are worth watching?

CBS Sports Dennis Dodd wrote an article sometime ago about why we have so many. The reasons are varied but essentially come down to these factors: It’s live programming for ESPN who broadcasts all but one of the bowl games and money. Teams and conferences get payouts from each bowl game who in turn get money from ESPN, sponsorships, plus tickets and concession sales.

Lord knows what BattleFrog paid to be the title sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl (a game that kicks off at 11am local time New Years Day) but it had to be a pretty penny. It also shows that bowl games are truly in it for the money. They would sell two title sponsorships to their games if they could.

Besides BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, other oddities include:

  • Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl (It’s not just a bowl game, it’s a celebration!)
  • Cure Bowl (We don’t think The Cure is playing the halftime show.)
  • Miami Beach Bowl (This is at Marlins Park which is not near the beach.)
  • Marmot Boca Raton Bowl (Marmot specializes in winter clothes.)
  • Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (What?)
  • Russell Athletic Bowl (Features two teams sponsored by Nike.)
  • Motel 6 Cactus Bowl (…..Yeah.)

It’s big business and if the model didn’t work then there wouldn’t be so many bowl games.

From a schools perspective there are other reasons to go to a bowl game. Specifically the extra practice time. If you have a young team, installing a new offense, etc you can always use the extra practice time that a bowl game allows you.

Yes bowl games are supposed to be a reward for the players but let’s not kid ourselves, is going to play in a bowl game in Detroit or outside in the Bronx in December a reward? Now playing a game in the Bahamas or Honolulu, ok that seems like a good gig. But Shreveport, LA or Montgomery, AL, probably not so much.

Either way, the games are upon us and here is a list of ones that should be worth watching:

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – 12/19 | 12:30pm | ABC: BYU vs Utah is a rivalry that went away when BYU went independent. While Utah isn’t thrilled about this matchup (or being back in a bowl they were in last year) this renewed rivalry should be worth watching.Holy War Byu vs Utah

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – 12/19 | 2:30pm | ESPN: Ohio vs Appalachian State may not seem sexy but Ohio has eight wins and App State has 10. Just sayin.

Miami Beach Bowl – 12/21 | 11:30am | ESPN: Western Kentucky vs South Florida is a heck of a match up. Western Kentucky can score points at will while USF has found it’s swagger once again under head coach Willie Taggart.

Tyler Matakevich
Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Matakevich

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl – 12/22 | 4pm | ESPN: Toledo vs Temple is a game, despite Toledo’s coach bolting for a new gig at Iowa State, that is pretty underrated. Toledo had a chance to win the MAC and Temple burst onto the college football scene this year with the help of Chuck Bednarik Award winner Tyler Matakevich (that means he is Defensive Player of the Year).

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – 12/23 | 1:30pm | ESPN: It’s funny to say that Boise State vs Northern Illinois is game between two teams who had a down year. Both have been to major bowl games the last few years and the talent is there to do it again.

Hyundai Sun Bowl – 12/26 | 11am | CBS:  Washington State came out of nowhere this year to be a force in the Pac-12. Miami….well they have talent and a new head coach coming in so most of the returning players are essentially giving a live tryout to their new head coach Mark Richt.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman – 12/28 | 11:30am | ESPN: Last chance to see Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds go do his thing. Pittsburgh is a tough, hard-nosed team so this could be an old grind’em up football game. Oh, Navy is playing at home.

Russell Athletic Bowl – 12/29 | 2:30pm | ESPN: Two high powered offenses that should put points on the board. Granted North Carolina is a lot healthier than Baylor at the quarterback position but this should be fun none the less.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl – 12/29 | 6pm | ESPN: A contrast in styles. LSU has arguably the best running back in the country in Leonard Fournette and Texas Tech likes to spread you out and expose the open space.

Chick -fil -A Peach Bowl – 12/31 | 9am | ESPN: One of the New Years Six bowl games featuring Houston against Florida State. Houston has had an awesome season under first year head coach Tom Herman but FSU has Dalvin Cook who is arguably the best running back in the country.

Capital One Orange Bowl – 12/31 | 1pm | ESPN: The first of two College Football Playoff Semifinal games. This is a rematch of last years Russell Athletic Bowl and while Clemson got the better of Oklahoma in that game, OU is one of the hottest teams in the country.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl – 12/31 | 5pm | ESPN: Michigan State vs Alabama is about as old school as it gets. This one is all about running the ball and defense.

Outback Bowl – 1/1 | 9am | ESPN2: Northwestern and Tennessee have had outstanding years. This game is always close and a lot of fun to watch.

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl – 1/1 | 10am | ESPN: Does it get much better than Notre Dame vs Ohio State?

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual – 1/1 | 2pm | ESPN: Iowa vs Stanford is like Michigan State vs Alabama, run oriented offenses defenses that can win a game for you. You get to also check out the most exciting player in the country in Stanford’s Christian McCaffery.

Valero Alamo Bowl – 1/2 | 3:45pm | ESPN: Oregon vs TCU and that means wide open offenses and two quarterbacks looking to end their collegiate careers with a bang. Oregon’s Vernon Adams and TCU’s Trevone Boykin.

Cord Cutting Is Here For The Sports Fan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


“Cord Cutting” is one of the hip terms thrown around in the cable, satellite and broadcast world. The real question is, is this a viable option for the true sports fan. The sports fan is, after all, why entities like ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC write checks with three commas in them to leagues to acquire their rights. So the answer is YES you can cut the cord…almost.

SECN on SLING
SEC Network via Sling TV on an iPad.

Dish Network launched Sling TV earlier this year. They keys for Sling TV are as follows: there is no contract, it is $25 a month with the “sports extra” package that includes the ESPN family of networks and is device agnostic. Yes, it is a viable option for the sports fan. While the speed of your internet connection is a factor in how good your picture quality is, overall it’s an easy to use service that allows you to watch all of the ESPN channels anywhere you want on just about any device.

Outside of the ESPN channels, the sports package isn’t anything to scream about. The package also offers beIN sports, Outdoor Channel, Univision IDN and the now defunct Universal Sports. I am not sure that these really qualify for a “sports package” but you get them none the less. So in reality you are paying $5 a month for ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, SEC Network, and ESPN3. ESPN3 is kind of a hidden gem because it can allow you to watch games on ABC which is awesome if you have a bad over the air signal. You can also use ESPN3 and the WATCH ESPN app to watch a second game because your Sling TV account is a single sign on. That means one account, one screen at a time.

Sling TV doesn’t offer rewind functionality or a DVR. These can be annoying but not deal breakers by any stretch of the imagination.

SLING TV
Sling TV on the Roku 3.

If you live out of market then you are still paying for the league apps like MLS Live, NHL Gamecenter, MLB.TV, etc. You can also get NFL Sunday Ticket online in certain markets. The cost is the same as DirecTV but if you have the money it’s an awesome package. All of these apps available on virtually all of the OTT devices, Do your homework though to make sure that the app your looking for is available on the device you are thinking about purchasing.

Twitter

On the positive side, Sling TV’s customer service is pretty awesome especially if you go through Twitter to do it. It’s a pay as you go service but if you pre pay a few months ahead of time then they will give you deal on an OTT player like a Roku or Amazon Fire. I went with the Roku 3 after watching a review by Lon Seidman and despite some minor drawbacks, it’s working out pretty well.

There are drawbacks of course to cutting the cord. If you go the Sling TV route and dump your cable or satellite subscription then you do not get FS1, CBS Sports Network, NBCSN, NFL Network. NHLN, NBA TV, MLBN or your regional sports channels. This means that if you live in a market like San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, Pittsburgh, etc then you won’t be able to see your local teams in baseball, basketball, hockey and so forth. You’ll also be blocked out by the league packages offered by MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS and be forced to head to your local sports bar or the game itself.

The other drawback is that you are back on over the air TV. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because, well, it’s free. However, if you live in a place with a bad signal then you may not get your basic network channels like ABC or CBS which isn’t a problem until Sunday NFL games roll around.

Something that you may not have thought about ( I didn’t) is the ability to switch quickly between games. On a college football Saturday, I will swap between three or four games at a time. That is very difficult to do if you cut the cord. Instead of changing channels, you are jumping in and out of apps and swapping sources on your TV. It can be annoying but not impossible.

There are work arounds for all of these issues of course. First, grab someones log in so that you can stream games from apps like NBCSN and FOX SPORTS GO. Research and invest in a super strong indoor antenna for your local channels. It may sound hokey in 2015 but if you want your local Sunday NFL games then you’ll definitely need one.

Finally you have to address your internet connection. You’ll want the fastest possible speed you can get and no matter what your cable company tells you, you do have a cap. I haven’t hit it yet but even if I do go over it’s a $10 change. That is still significantly cheaper than a $150 cable bill.

The fact is that you can cut the cord and still watch sports. It’s cumbersome but not as impossible as it was say five years ago. It’s cheaper in the long run but the short term costs and hit you pretty good. The fact remains that true sports fans can now be cord cutters too and it’s is only going to get better.

BYU’s Pattern Of Cheap Shots

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Can someone explain what’s going on at BYU? They took several cheap shots during the football season and now it appears that attitude has made it’s way over to the hardwood. Last week BYU’s Nick Emery punched Utah’s Brandon Taylor. It’s only the latest incident involving a BYU athlete and shows a pattern of players losing their temper during a game.

Nick Emery was ejected after punching Utah’s Brandon White during a game. For The Win did some digging and it appears that this isn’t a first from Emery. Emery was suspended for one game by the West Coast Conference.

Moving over to the gridiron, there were several incidents where a BYU player took a cheap shot or made a very questionable hit on a player. In fact there have been so many that there is even a YouTube playlist of them.

Add all this to the brawl at the end of the Miami Beach Bowl last year and it’s safe to say that this is a pattern. One that doesn’t stop with the players but goes up to the coaches and to the Athletic Director Tom Holmoe.

The University of Virginia should have taken a long, hard look before hiring former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall to head up their football program. All of the incidents (except for the basketball stuff of course) happened under his watch. He may not be the person that should be heading up a football program at a University that has it’s own image issues.

BYU DRAG’S ITS HEELS ON PUNISHING PLAYERS

The NCAA should take notice and start asking some questions of BYU as to why these things are happening on the football field and now the basketball court. And then ask BYU why it is so slow in dishing out punishment. This is a University that has dismissed players in the past for violating the schools Honor Code. Where is that now?

We’re all for tough players and a hard hitting game but BYU players have repeatedly crossed the line and with little or no punishment as a result. This is BYU, a school with high moral standards and a great athletic history. It’s disappointing to see these things happening and we hope that they are dealt with in the future in a more swift and appropriate manner.

Losing Record? Come On Down!

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


There are 40 bowl games not including the National Championship game. That means 80 out of the 128 FBS schools will go to a bowl game. Problem is, there may not be enough teams with a 500 or above record to go. That means that teams with losing records will go to a bowl games this year.

FootballBowl games are important and some are even coveted. The reasons why are the extra practice time with your team and the the check the school can receive. Now schools will actually lose money on some of the smaller bowl games but if you can make it to one of the big ones (think New Years 6 games) then the payout to the school can go into the eight figures.

So for a hard luck 5-7 Nebraska team, actually being allowed into a bowl games is a huge benefit. It’s a new coaching staff still implementing their way of doing things. To have an extra 10-12 practices, film meetings and a game is invaluable.

Another school with a 5-7 record, Missouri, has elected to not go to a bowl game even if asked. They are switching coaches and have other issues they need to solve.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy wrote up an excellent article last weekend explain how the NCAA will decide which 5-7 teams go to fill those empty bowl slots.

We do still find it a bit odd that teams with losing records are now ‘bowl eligible’. What message does that send to the players and fans? Maybe there shouldn’t be so many bowl games to begin with?