Bowl Mania Guide

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.16.2016

With the Holiday’s comes college football bowl season. Yes, there are too many bowl games (42 in all) and too many undeserving teams (19 teams are .500 or worse ). Yet we will still watch a vast majority of them if no other reason than to escape arguments about this year’s Presidential election. So here are the best bets when it comes to which games to watch.

*All times are Pacific

December 17th

Donnel PumphreyLas Vegas Bowl | Houston vs San Diego State | 12:30pM ABC: Yes Houston lost their head coach to Texas but the OC and DC are still there and the OC, Major Applewhite, is the new head coach and they still have Greg Ward at QB. The Aztecs count with senior running back Donnel Pumphrey who with a solid rushing game could become the nation’s #2 all-time leading rusher.

Camellia Bowl | Appalachian State vs Toledo | 2:30pm ESPN:  Seriously, this is a good game. App State is better than their 9-3 record would indicate and so is Toledo. App State won their first ever bowl game a year ago on a last second field goal after being down 24-7 at halftime.

December 20th

Boca Raton Bowl | Memphis vs Western Kentucky | 4pm ESPN:  Offense, offense and more offense. Western Kentucky averages 517 yards per game while Memphis averages 461. Did we mention offense?

December 21st

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl | BYU vs Wyoming | 6pm ESPN: This is a rivalry game renewed. These two haven’t played each other since 2010 when BYU left the Mountain West Conference and BYU leads the all-time series 44-30-3. Be ready for old school football here.

December 27th

National Funding Holiday Bowl | Minnesota vs Washington State | 4pm ESPN:  Two teams that kind of tripped up towards the end of the season but two solid teams none the less. Wazzu’s Luke Falk is something to see. He was 4th in the country with 4204 passing yards this season. Of course this is only a game if  Minnesota players actually play. 

December 28th

Russell Athletic Bowl | West Virginia vs Miami | 2:30pm ESPN: These two can light up the scoreboard if things go right. West Virginia probably deserves a better bowl game and Miami has junior QB Brad Kaaya and is playing closer to home than the Mountaineers are.

December 29th

Valero Alamo Bowl | Oklahoma State vs Colorado | 6pm ESPN: This might be the best game of bowl season not to mention the fact that this bowl game always seems to be high scoring shootout every year.

 

December 30th

dobbsFranklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl | Nebraska vs Tennessee | 12:30pm ESPN: These two couldn’t stop a nose bleed in their last game of the season. They do have multifaceted QB’s who can hurt you with their arm or their legs. Josh Dobbs for Tennessee and Tommy Armstrong JR for Nebraska. One player to watch is Tennessee’s Derek Barnett. He’ll be a top 5 NFL draft pick if he decides to forgo his senior season.

Capital One Orange Bowl | Michigan vs Florida State | 5pm ESPN: Two teams with loads of talent on both sides of the football. This game will be all about the offensive and defensive lines.

December 31st

College Football Playoff Semifinal | Washington vs Alabama | Noon ESPN:  Look, this playoff is Alabama’s to lose but UW head coach Chris Pederson is known for having a trick or two up his sleeve.

College Football Playoff Semifinal | Ohio State vs Clemson | 4pm ESPN:  All about the QB’s in this one. Ohio State has been here before and it’s hard to bet against Urban Meyer. Then again Clemson was here a year ago and dominated.

January 2nd

Rose Bowl | USC vs Penn State | 2pm ESPN: Two head coaches who were on the hot seat over the last 12 months have their teams in one of the biggest bowl games of all. Not bad. Let’s just hope it’s better than last years blowout of Iowa delivered at the hands of Christian McCaffery and Stanford.

Advertisements

Big Data In College Football

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.10.2016


Rukkus, a ticket selling website, showed what you can do when you sit down and comb through the data. Some of this shouldn’t be surprising like the fact that Hawaii leads everyone in how far players have to travel to go to school there. Some of the other stats may surprise you though.

One of the things that made total sense is that Stanford was second. Stanford has to recruit a certain kind of ‘student-athlete’ and Stanford is that place where they truly are ‘student – athletes’. So the Cardinal has to go all over the country to find their players.

Navy, Army, and Air Force pretty much the same deal as Stanford. A certain type of person is going to go to these Academies. This is why all 3 are in the top 12.

Nor Cal

The one that did raise an eyebrow but it really shouldn’t when you think about it was the fact that the PAC-12 has 11 of the top 24 spots on the list. Surprising because you really never think of it but not surprising in that when you get out west, things are little more spread out than they are in the south.

Overall this was a really impressive use of data in sports. A lot of times people look at data within the context of the sport itself or they find another sport and transfer over that data. Other times data like this is glossed over and used a bumper on ESPN College Gameday into the ‘feature’ on a player or coach.

imageNow compare this to the ESPNFC article from the other day that pondered the question, if your NFL team was in the Premier League, what team would they be?

Really? This is what you are bringing to the table ESPN?

A ticket selling site gives us great use of big data and ESPN throws out this? Really disappointing.

Data like this can be used to draw so many other conclusions. Last 5 College Football National Championships have been won by Florida State, Alabama (3) and Ohio State. They are only a few spots from each other (59, 63 and 67) or have players who are 400 to 367 miles on average away from home. Oregon and Oklahoma are the only two schools in the top 48 who have made the College Football Playoff and neither won the National Title. Those players travel some 1,000 (Oregon) and 515 (Oklahoma) miles to go to school at these universities.

This is a great use of data. It’s intriguing, can help put things in a new perspective and help coaches, players and fans know their schools just a little bit better. Biggest shock, this wasn’t ESPN, CBS, NBC or FOX that came up with this.

Second Screen, Delays & Moving Forward

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


A lot of people are on their phones, tablets or computers while watching a game. The College Football Playoff National Championship game is no exception. According to a study by Accenture, 87% use a second device while watching TV. It gets even more interesting when you cut the cord and stream the game. It gets even more interesting when you have multiple channels to switch between and ESPN using the National Title game as a test lab for coverage.

ESPN Megacast FilmRoomThe college football National Championship between Alabama and Clemson is going to be one of the most watched sporting events of the year. If you are watching it via an OTT provider like Sling TV and also on twitter….you will notice that twitter is more real time than Sling TV.

There is a delay when you stream video. It’s a byproduct of having to take a satellite feed, run the signal through an encoder and then spit it back out. It’s just the way it is right now. For the National Title game I was noticing a good 30-40 second delay between twitter and Sling TV.

Now these very rough findings are going to vary between users but it is a good thing to remember if you are on twitter and watching a game via Sling TV.

Coverage

Periscope Travis and KlattThrow in a new wild card, Periscope. Clay Travis of Fox Sports and Outkick the Coverage was streaming during the game. It usually consisted of himself and Joel Klatt and had various people on over the phone. This feed was on par with twitter and about as real time as you can get. It was not overly compelling which is shame since Travis and Klatt have a lot of insight to offer. It is awesome to see this medium used during an event like this. And it costs virtually nothing to do.

ESPN had a similar thing going on but with a higher budget on ESPNNews in ‘Voices’. This featured everyone from Taylor Twellman to Jay Bilas and wrangled by Michelle Beadle. Both the Periscope feed and ‘Voices’ just turned into people yapping about anything but the game and could be better.

ESPNU had the ‘homers’ broadcast from the sideline of the game. It was hosted by Joe Tessitore and Dave Pasch with alums Tajh Boyd and Barrett Jones. While semi-interesting it just wasn’t compelling.

SEC Network featured Paul Finebaum’s version of of FilmRoom with Bret Bielema, Greg McElroy and Booger McFarland. It was ok but not as good as ESPN2’s FilmRoom.

ESPN Megacast FilmRoomFilmRoom featured five head coaches along with Chris Spielman and Brian Griese. They brought Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi back again this year and he was joined by Jim McElwain, WIll Muschamp, Willie Taggert and Larry Fedora. A good combo with lots of insight and good connections to Clemson and Alabama.ESPN GoalLine National Title Game

 

While FilmRoom was very interesting but rough around the edges, ESPN’s best coverage was via GoalLine. It was a mutli-screen feed complete with stats. The audio during the game was ESPN Radio which featured the awesome combination of Mike Tirico and Todd Blackledge. During commercial breaks one of the screens would either jump between the other channels like ESPN2 and ESPNNews. NFL’s RedZone channel should do this for the Playoffs. Super compelling and great, great broadcast combo.

So word to the wise, if you cut the cord and are watching a big game via Sling TV or WatchESPN, don’t be on twitter. Twitter will spoil it. Would love to see ESPN do more with FilmRoom and GoalLine during the regular season. Maybe do FilmRoom on WatchESPN for the Saturday primetime game with retired or out of work coaches. Same thing for GoalLine. Either way, the future of live sports looks fun but has something work to do.

We’re Talking About Practice!

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


While the college football media is still basking in the glow of the ‘I told you the ratings would be down!’ for the College Football Playoff semifinal games on New Year’s Eve, others have moved on to the actual game. In the process they found an issue that should be addressed by the NCAA before next years game.

CLEMSON TACKLEAs ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and Ted Miller point out, Clemson will have less practice time this week than Alabama because the semester started at Clemson. This limits them to four hours a day once classes start. Alabama has no restriction.

This was also the case last year when Oregon was limited in practice because school was back in session.Ohio State on the other hand was not.

While it may not seem like a big deal and there is not enough data to see if this really is a difference maker, it is clear that it is some low hanging fruit that the NCAA could clear up before next years National Title game and win some brownie points in the process.

The NCAA hasn’t had the best run over the last several years but addressing this edge case this is a gesture that it could make a difference and at least show that the NCAA doesn’t have their head completely buried in the sand.

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.

The Grass Isn’t Greener

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Sometimes people, companies and institutions think they are bigger than they are and think they deserve better. Well in college football the ‘we deserve better’ mentality runs rampant. The latest institution inflicted with this virus is LSU. LSU is on the verge of dismissing the most successful football coach they’ve ever had and for no good reason.

Les MilesLes Miles, aka The HAT, is apparently going to be forced out at LSU. He is the winningest coach in school history, has seven 10 win seasons, one national title and played for another. But that’s not enough for some of the big money folks at LSU. It should be and if history is any indicator, LSU is in for a bit of a slide if The Hat takes his bag of tricks elsewhere.

Other schools have done similar things: Nebraska (twice), Tennessee, Miami, and Texas. All came to the conclusion that letting go of a coach with a winning percentage of over 700% wasn’t good enough. They all saw a drop off after they ran the coach out of town and some have yet to recover the glory they so desperately seek.

To play the other side for a minute, none of the coaches who were run out have ever coached again at a school in a Power 5 conference. Part of that might be by choice but we don’t know that for sure.

The fact remains that Miles is the best coach that LSU has ever had. He has earned the right to get this train back on track (if it’s even off the track) and if the LSU money men are tired of losing to Alabama and Nick Saban, well take a number and wait in line like the rest of the SEC. If they go through with this and dump Miles, LSU will take several steps back and Miles will probably be employed at another Power 5 school faster than you can say ‘The Hat’.

Don’t do it LSU, it’s a very bad idea.

The Sunday: The Undefeated & Losing Your Mind

Undefeated No More

Three undefeated teams lost on Saturday. Ohio State lost at home to Michigan State on the last play of the game, Houston turned the ball over on the final drive and Oklahoma State was never really in their game. Ironically enough, Ohio State won the National Title last season and the head coach of Houston was their offensive coordinator. Both were undefeated for ten games and then received their first loss within about 20 minutes of each other.

Later in the evening, undefeated Oklahoma State lost to Baylor….and their third string quarterback! Needless to say, there are only two undefeated teams left, Clemson and Iowa, and the consensus seems to be that they will remain that way until at least the conference championship games.

Time To Celebrate

But if you’re the Michigan State kicker and you just made the game winning field goal….then you can celebrate anyway you want.

While this is good, it’s not better than Arizona Cardinals backup QB Drew Stanton’s celebration during Andre Ellington’s game sealing touchdown against the Seahawks. Ironically, Stanton went to Michigan State.

 

Or Not

Emotion is part of sports. Here are two examples of when emotion got the better of a a couple of coaches and a player.

Harbaugh hates his coat…

Pelini nearly attacks ref (go to the 3:30 mark)

And then there was this…..and the player wasn’t even ejected.

 

The Rant

And there is Nick Saban’s rant. Nick Saban may go down as one of the greatest football coaches in college football history. Better yet, ever now and then he gives us some great press conference fodder.

Alabama defeated Charleston Southern 56-6. Funny thing was, Charleston Southern is FCS Playoff bound and they rested their quarterback so he can be fresh for the playoffs.

 

May Helmet Be With You

Is there anything better than Minor League sports promotions? We think not. The Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League went all out for Star Wars night. Right down to the wear and tear on the the Rebel logo on the helmets. Now if only they would have had Star Wars night against the Fargo Force….oh the confusion.

What to Watch Fri. 11/13 – Sun. 11/15

All times are Pacific

Friday November 13th

San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings  – 4:30pm NHL Gamecenter: These two had some legendary playoff series back in the day.

USA vs St. Vincent & The Grenadines – 4pm ESPN2: Let the road to the 2018 World Cup in Russia begin.

USC at Colorado – 6pm ESPN2: Colorado is better than their record shows. USC has some NFL level talent. At night in Boulder is a tall order for the Trojans.

 

Saturday November 14th

Georgia at Auburn  – 9am CBS: Fact is, if Mark Richt and Georgia win then he may have saved his job.

Texas at West Virginia – 9am ESPNU: This is a swing game for both when it comes to Bowl eligibility.

Miami at UNC – 12:30pm ESPNU: Last time Miami was in the state of North Carolina they won by lateraling the ball like eight times. UNC is on a roll though.

Alabama at Mississippi State – CBS: Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs have one last chance to beat the Tide and prove that they are a force to be reckoned with in the SEC West.

Memphis at Houston – 4pm ESPN2: The over on this game should be like 150 points.

Oklahoma at Baylor – 5pm ABC: Game of the day and OU has always had problems defending Baylor. Question is, can OU keep place offensively?

FourtnetteArkansas at LSU – 5:15pm ESPN: Like old school, run oriented offenses and hard hitting defenses? Well this is your game. One is coming off a tremendous win in OT while the other got beaten down pretty good.

 

UFC 193 – 7pm PPV: Ronda Rousey takes her winning ways to another continent (Australia) to square off against Holly Holm. Hidden gem on this card is Mark Hunt vs Bigfoot Silva in a rematch of their legendary 2013 fight.

Washington State at UCLA – 7:30pm ESPN: Washington State lost their first game of the year to Portland State who plays in the FCS. People were calling for head coach Mike Leach’s job. Boy how things have changed.

 

 

Sunday November 15th

Toronto Argonauts at Hamilton Tiger-Cats – 10am ESPN3: It’s playoff time in the CFL and this is a great way to start it off. Both have had to overcome injuries at key positions and it’s the equivalent of a ‘backyard brawl.’

Minnesota Vikings at Oakland Raiders – 1pm FOX: A year ago we wouldn’t dream of making this a ‘must watch’ game but man, what a difference a year makes.

BC Lions at Calgary Stampeders – 1:30pm ESPN3: The defending Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders begin the final run of head coach John Hufnagel’s career. They are heavy favorites but don’t count out the Lions.

Toronto Maple Leafs at NY Rangers – 4pm NHLN: Always a fun game to watch.

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks  – 5:30pm NBC: Two top teams in the NFC West square off the end your weekend.

What To Watch Fri. 11/6 – Sun. 11/8

All times are Pacific.

 

Friday November 6th

Tyler ErvinBYU at San Jose State – 8:30pm CBSSN: SJSU running back Tyler Ervin is a stud. He has almost 1200 yards rushing already this season and 12 TD’s. BYU are some tough dudes though. Last thing they want is for this guy to run wild on ’em.

 

Saturday November 7th

Penn State at Northwestern – 9am ESPNU: Big Ten match up with poll position for a decent bowl game on the line.

Duke at North Carolina – 9am ESPN2: UNC is getting no love this year and Duke is coming off of that bad referring loss to Miami. Is there a hangover for Duke?

Notre Dame at Pittsburgh – 9am ABC: All Pitt is doing is winning. Yes they are coming off of a tough loss to UNC but they are hard nosed football team. Notre Dame is going to get all it wants from the Panthers.

Florida State at Clemson – 12:30pm ABC: Clemson is the number 1 team in the land. Florida State doesn’t care.

TCU at Oklahoma State – 12:30pm FOX: TCU is getting no love…even with the number 2 offense in the country. The over/under is 78. We vote to take the over.

Cincinnati at Houston – 1:30m ESPN2: These two teams rank 5th and 7th in total offense at the FBS level. That alone is a reason to watch.

Navy at Memphis – 4pm ESPN2: Navy is 6-1 with the NCAA All Time touchdown king in quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Memphis is shooting for a big time bowl bid. Should be whoever has the ball last wins.

Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens – 4pm NHLN: Original 6 matchup.

LSU at Alabama – 5pm CBS: Two teams that are currently in the College Football Playoff.

 

 

Sunday November 8th

Arsenal vs Tottenham – 7:55am NBCSN: A North London Derby for your Sunday morning.

Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers – 10am CBS: Man, can’t believe the Raiders are a must watch team. This could be the best game of the day.

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers – 10am FOX: Packers got exposed last week in Denver. Now they have to rebound on the road against another undefeated team.

DC United vs NY Red Bulls – Noon ESPN: Red Bulls got the always valuable road goal so they look to be in good shape in this one.

Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas – 4:30pm FS1: First game was a 1-1 draw which gives Dallas the advantage heading into the second leg.

Timber vs Whitecaps

Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps – 7pm FS1: Like the Seattle vs FC Dallas game, the first game was a draw and that should give the Whitecaps the advantage here.

 

 

The Sunday: Bad Tackling and Big Mouths

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Bad Tackling

The story of Saturday was LSU running back Leonard Fournette. He literally ran through the Auburn defense. While he clearly has next level talent, his talent was greatly helped by some very good blocking by the LSU offensive line and supremely bad tackling by Auburn. As we said, Fournette literally ran through the Auburn defense but trying to jump up on his shoulder pads? What was that? Auburn has some work to do.

Another example of bad tackling was when Tennessee defensive back Evan Berry was wrapped up by a Western Carolina defender….sort of. He spun out of it on his way to an  88 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

 

Bad Idea = Great Result

While the talk down South is how Ole Miss beat Alabama in back-to-back years for the first time in school history, the real talk should be about the horrifically bad idea Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly made that turned out great. Kelly took a bad snap and with a defender bearing down on him, heaved the ball up for grabs. Luckily Ole Miss wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo was there to come down with the ball and score a touchdown.

Pretty sure head coach Hugh Freeze said later, ‘great job, don’t ever do it again.’

 

Big Mouths 

Brett Bielema has done a great job of firing up the fanbase at Arkansas and pissing off other coaches along the way. Arkansas looked like world beaters in the last three games of 2014 and the first game of 2015. Now, they have lost two in a row and Bielema’s big mouth is coming back to haunt him. Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury made sure everyone knew how he felt about Bielema’s rants this offseason after Texas Tech beat Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR.

Having a big mouth ended up in fisticuffs after the Monday Night game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings. A Vikings fan was pummeled in the parking lot after trash talking with 49ers fans. Our question is, when did 49er fans become Oakland Raiders fans? This is sad and unacceptable.

 

Sad

Notre Dame defensive back Drue Tranquill blew out his knee after doing a celebration jump with a teammate.

This reminds us of a few years ago when Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell blew out his knee celebrating a touchdown with then Georgia running back Todd Gurley. Coaches may want to outlaw jumping celebrations.

But on a happier not, is there anything better than shots of sad Alabama fans? SBNationn put together a best of for us. We highly recommend checking it out here.