Changing of the Guard

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


504. That is the combined wins at the collegiate level between newly retired South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and soon to be retired Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. It’s more than wins and losses though, it’s a changing of the guard in college football and one we have seen before.

BeamerSpurrier has been on the sidelines at the collegiate level (off and on) since 1978 while Beamer has been strictly a collegiate coach his entire career which reaches back to 1972. Both have built programs from the ground up multiple times and both have decided to step aside at or around the age of 70. The reasons differ but the fact is that being a head coach has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Think about it, social media wasn’t really a factor in recruiting back in 2005 and now players have been seen tweeting at halftime!

Being a head coach is a middle – aged job. The successful coaches ruling the college football roost today like Ohio State’s Urban Meyer (51) and Alabama’s Nick Saban (64) are well under the 70 year mark and both have adapted to change well. They have embraced new technologies and still have the energy for the late nights and endless recruiting trips.

Dr Tom OsborneWe have seen this passing of the torch before. Maybe not within the same season but we’ve seen it before. Lou Holtz left Notre Dame in 1996 and former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne stepped down in 1997 (Holtz would later come out of retirement to coach South Carolina for six seasons). Think about the changes that were occurring when they stepped down. The Internet was being born and satellite TV was becoming ubiquitous (NFL Sunday Ticket launched in 1994). Shortly thereafter, they moved on and left the head duties to young, more energetic assistants.

Spurrier and Beamer will be greatly missed by the fans, players, and media but this isn’t the end of college football in Columbia or Blacksburg. As we’ve seen in Columbus or Tuscaloosa, sometimes new blood is just the doctor ordered. As a former coach once said, change is inevitable, growth is optional.

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The Sunday: Scuffles, Farewells, and Finishing

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The college football regular season is done for all intents and purposes. While nothing has truly been decided on the national scale, a lot has been decided on the state level. And sometimes it wasn’t all that pretty.

The Scuffle:

Rivalries are called that for a reason. While Kentucky vs Louisville in football isn’t always a ratings grabber it is an intense rivalry. This one got started before the game did and Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino was even involved. He appeared to push a Kentucky assistant coach during the second of two pre game confrontations.

Farewells: 

Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pellini was fired on Sunday after another 9-3 season. In fact, in all 7 years of Pellini’s tenure the Huskers have won 9 or more games and lost a minimum of 3. Worst part about this is that it probably means an end to the Faux Pellini twitter account.

Faux Pellini

 

Saturday also saw the probable end to the storied career of Thierry Henry. The Frenchman has played for the biggest clubs in the world, won every trophy the sport has to offer and as a parting gift left the media with four words, ‘Well done New England’. 

 

Finishing 

Several college football teams finished 500. Some of those teams will go to a bowl game. Some are happy to be 500 and going bowling while others see their season as a failure. Those who are excited are Tennessee, Illinois and Arkansas. Those who are not are Florida and South Carolina.

Tennessee, Illinois, and Arkansas had to scratch and claw with young teams to get to this point while South Carolina and Florida started the season with expectations of competing for a conference championship.

Two performances of note from rivalry weekend in college football. Arkansas QB Brandon Allen tweaked his back against LSU two weeks ago. By the end of the game against Missouri it was clear that it was effecting his throws. He continued to fight and while the Razorbacks fell to Missouri it was a gutty performance.

Brandon Allen

The other performance was that of freshman Deshaun Watson. The Clemson QB is something special to watch and this week he did it with a torn ACL. That’s right. He apparently tore his ACL in practice and played against arch rival South Carolina anyway.

The college football and MLS seasons are rapidly coming to a close. With it comes the end for some but a beginning for others. What is always means though is a time for the body to heal for yet another season.

 

What to Watch Fri. 9/12- Sun. 9/14

All times are PST.

Friday Sept. 12th

Toledo at Cincinnati – 4pm ESPNU: First game of the year for Cincy and Toledo has two under their belt. Should make things a little interesting.

LA Dodgers at SF Giants – 7pm MLB Network: A weekend series of one of the best rivalries in all of sports. Oh, and they are battling for first place in the NL West. Good pitching matchup too.

Oakland A’s at Seattle Mariners – 7pm MLB.TV: The start of a big series in the AL West. Oakland was once the best team in baseball and now they are going to have to battle the King Felix and the Mariners for a playoff spot.

Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders – 8pm NBCSN: Always a great matchup and always a great venue in Seattle.

Saturday Sept. 13th

Aresenal vs Manchester City – 4:45am NBCSN: If you want to watch one soccer match this weekend watch this one.

Syracuse at Central Michigan – 9am ESPNEWS: Central Michigan just manhandled Purdue last weekend. Syracuse could be another Big 5 conference team to go down to the Chippewas.

Georgia at South Carolina – 12:30pm CBS: Always an entertaining matchup.

Tennessee at Oklahoma – 5pm ABC: It’s just nice to see two legendary programs square off in September.

Vancouver Whitecaps at FC Dallas – 5:30pm MLS LIVE: The Western Conference is truly the wild west when it comes to the playoff race. This game will add to the chaos.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers at BC Lions – 7pm ESPN3: Winnipeg has lost two straight. BC just lost their starting QB to a shoulder injury. Time for Winnipeg to turn it around?

Sunday Sept. 14th

Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers – 10am FOX: Cam Newton is back for Carolina which means this could be a shootout.

Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers – 1pm FOX: Defending Super Bowl champs have a tall order in the Chargers and the Chargers need to get a win to prevent starting off 0-2.

LA Dodgers at SF Giants – 1pm MLB.TV: Final game of a key series in the race for the NL West. Clayton Kershaw heads to the mound for LA.

Chicago Bears at SF 49ers – 5:30pm NBC: Good matchup for opening night of Levi Stadium.

Holiday Viewing Guide

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The Holiday season isn’t done just yet which means that there are still sports to view on a random weekday.

Tuesday Dec. 31st

(In Progress) AdvoCare v100 Bowl: Boston College vs Arizona – 9:30am ESPN: The country’s best RB Andre Williams vs a tough and under appreciated Arizona team.

Chik-Fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M vs Duke – 5pm ESPN: It’s probably your last chance to see Johnny Manziel as a collegiate. There is also the possibility of a shootout on New Year’s Eve.

San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks – 5pm REGIONAL COVERAGE: The Sharks ended the Ducks 10 game winning streak on Sunday night. Ducks are probably out for revenge.

Portland Trailblazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5pm NBA TV: Two of the top teams in the Western Conference get down to business. Portland is looking to end a two game losing streak, a first for them this season, and OKC continues to try and get by without starting guard Russell Westbrook.

-Coolest event today is not the games themselves but the adventures of Fox Sports announcers Gus Johnson and Bill Rafferty. Check it out on AwfulAnnouncing.com

Wednesday Jan. 1st

Tottenham @ Manchester United – 9:30am NBCSN: It’s a full slate of games for the Premier League. This is the best match up of the day.

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs Wisconsin – 10am ABC: Two teams that could be in the BCS if it wasn’t for a tough loss here and there. Should be the game of the morning.

Winter Classic: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Detroit Red Wings – 10am NBC (may change due to weather): It’s become and annual tradition on New Years day and made even cooler by HBO’s 24/7 show. This year a Canadian team finally gets to show it’s stuff on New Years Day. This time it’s outside in the Big House at the University of Michigan.

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs Stanford – 2pm ESPN: This is going to be a good ole fashion, hard hitting football game. Should be tough, close and fun to watch.

Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs Central Florida – 5:30pm ESPN: Baylor scores a ton of points and Central Florida has been this seasons “cardiac kids”. Also, UCF QB Blake Bortels is a possible first round draft pick and has a smoking hot girlfriend.

 

Early Season No No

Most College Football programs schedule their out of conference games early in the year and generally during the first few weeks. While some schedule the proverbial cupcake and others try to take on another big name program most try to go with the safe route. The safe route includes programs from the mid-major conferences like the MAC or Conference USA. On paper it looks like a solid strategy but in reality it can end up costing you a major bowl game at the end of the year.

Three programs that would be considered a mid-major even though two of them are not in a conference are the Academy schools, Air Force (Mountain West Conference), Army and Navy (both Independents). All three of these programs run the triple option offense which is based on misdirection, angle blocking and more importantly execution.

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You’ll see a lot of times these Academy schools scheduled at places like Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. Even more often then not you see these Academy schools giving these big time College Football programs all they want in week two or three. For example in 2011 Navy lost at South Carolina by 3 points. In 2006 Tennessee squeaked by Air Force with a 1 point victory in Knoxville and Army lost by 4 points at Texas A&M in 2008.

The reason these games and others are so close is that it is so hard to prepare for these offenses and the sheer grit of the the players. If you’re a major program you have a very limited window to prepare your defense for an offense that you see only every couple of years. The defense has to be disciplined, stick with their assignments and tackle very well. The minute they don’t, this offense can break off a big play.

Former Notre Dame and current New Mexico coach Bob Davie said multiple times while a commenter for ESPN that the triple option was the hardest offense to defend in all of College Football.

You have to remember, you’re asking 18-23 year olds in College to buckle down, be disciplined and stay on their assignments. You’re also asking them to do this the week after their first game where they may have blown out some cupcake or been throttled by another big program.

The offense isn’t the only thing these Academy schools have going for them. They are training the military leaders of tomorrow and that is something that an opponent cannot prepare for. These Academy schools are not going to quit. You saw this no quit attitude this past Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan where Air Force was on the verge of upsetting a top 25 program in Michigan. Michigan ended up winning 31-25 but Air Force had an opportunity to take the lead at the end of the game.

Some programs do better at defending this offense than others because they see it more often or have more time to prepare for it. Georgia Tech runs the triple option with much better players than the Academy schools but they play the same teams in the ACC year after year so those programs see the offense on an annual basis.

College Football is always changing with very few constants. One of those constants is the triple option at the Academy schools. Why big time programs continue to schedule them in weeks two and three I’ll never know. If you are going to play them, take them in week one or after a bye week so that you have more time to prepare or else live the possibility of either a loss or an extremely close game that could end up costing the program millions of dollars in bowl money at the end of the year.