I will be celebrating my eighth wedding anniversary in Atlantic City this week, so I will be taking a break from blogging for a while. I’ll something for y’all next week in the form of 2014 NFL divisional previews.
Until then, onward dammit!
On one hand, autonomy is viewed as a victory for student-athletes. Autonomy grants the Power 5 the ability to to award those athletes cost of attendance, improved long-term health care and guaranteed four-year scholarships. The value of those athletic scholarships its schools hand out to cover costs beyond tuition, room and board, books and fees.
On the other hand, autonomy is viewed as something that will widen the gulf between the “haves” (Power 5 conferences) and the “have nots” (the so-called “Group of 5″). Critics will be quick to say that schools from the “Group of 5″ (Mid-American Conference, American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, Conference USA and Mountain West) will not be able to keep up with the Clemsons, Florida States, Alabamas, Auburns, Oregons, and Notre Dames (considered a “Power 5″ school thanks to its affiliation with the ACC).
Either way, I think this will be fascinating as hell.
First of all, I think it would affect recruiting immensely. Just imagine if Nick Saban comes into a kid’s living room promising a guaranteed four-year scholarship that will also put an extra thousand or more in his pocket. A rep from, say Marshall, could not compete with that. Or, in an example that hits close to home, reps from East Carolina trying to compete with reps from UNC, Clemson, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, or NC State (my Wolfpack are so bad, so maybe NCSU is not the best example).
Schools from the “Group of 5″ cannot compete with the power conferences’ prestige is one thing. Competing with the power conferences’ wealth is another.
Another thing to think about is how this would affect other sports at even the bigger universities.
It’s obvious that this autonomy ruling affects football and basketball the most. After all, those sports are the money-makers at most universities.
For schools in the Group of 5, there is only so much money to go around. If they want to compete with the big boys from the Power 5 conferences, they have to do what they have to do to keep up. That may mean cutting other sports. I could easily see volleyball, tennis, and track and field getting the ax at some of those schools. In some cases, baseball and softball may end up on the chopping block.
The situation at Maryland shows that even schools in the wealthier conferences are not immune to cutting sports, especially if their financial houses are not in order. While Maryland’s troubles were due to gross financial mismanagement (thank you Debbie Yow), other smaller schools in the fold such as Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and Northwestern could still be on the short end – mainly because those schools are small private schools.
Another thing to consider is how this will affect the Title IX sports. Shouldn’t female athletes receive the same financial perks as the football, basketball and in some cases baseball players receive? Schools in that predicament may resort to the same sport cutting to make ends meet for women’s sports. And know this: no school would even dare cut the women’s sports. That is a Gloria Allred-led lawsuit waiting to happen.
Either way, however autonomy affects college sports as we know it is going to be intriguing as hell to watch. It’s too early to tell, but I think the gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots” have gotten a helluva lot wider.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was really feeling himself after his Sooners curb-stomped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Remember when Stoops said that the SEC was not as good as the media made it out to be? Hell, he went as far as calling the SEC hype “propaganda.” Well, he had PLENTY to say after his team spanked the Crimson Tide.
Speaking of the Crimson Tide, Stoops did not take kindly to what Nick Saban said. Check out the bomb that Stoops dropped on Saban and Alabama:
“didn’t look like [Alabama wasn't motivated] first series. They looked ready to play. Everyone thought they would rout us.”
And here’s more:
“So if I’m not in a national championship game, that means I’ve got a built in excuse”
Stoops added one more haymaker in response to Saban bitching over the up-tempo, no-huddle offenses that he thinks restrict the impact of defensive coaches:
“All those geniuses can adapt to faster pace.”
Freaking Bob Stoops, gotta love him.
At any rate, here is how I see the Big 12 shaping out in 2014…
- Oklahoma (8-1 conference, 11-1 overall)
- Baylor (7-2, 10-2)
- Kansas State (6-3, 8-4)
- Texas (6-3, 8-4)
- Oklahoma State (5-4, 7-5)
- Texas Tech (4-5, 7-5)
- TCU (4-5, 7-5)
- West Virginia (2-7, 4-8)
- Iowa State (2-7, 3-9)
- Kansas (0-9, 2-10)
Analysis: This is clearly a two-team conference. Both the Sooners and Bears return loaded and ready to build off of last season. Oklahoma returns 13 starters, and quarterback Trevor Knight is expected to take a step forward in his development after a standout performance in the Sugar Bowl. Nine returning starters lead a stout defense. Baylor is loaded on offense, but the defense – a key part of last year’s Big 12 title team – needs to reload with just four returning starters.
What puts the Sooners ahead of the Bears is that they host Baylor in what could be a de facto Big 12 championship game.
Meanwhile, Texas is in the midst of a rebuilding project under new coach Charlie Strong. The cupboard may not be but so bare, but the Longhorns will at least be looking up at Kansas State for third place in the conference.
As for the rest of the conference, there is nothing more to note other than there is a whole lot of mediocrity and Kansas – namely coach Charlie Weis – sucks.
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma Sooners (kinda obvious when you finish first in a conference that doesn’t host a conference championship game)
This off-season has been one of change for the B1G. Maryland and Rutgers arrive from my beloved Atlantic Coast Conference (fuck Maryland) and American Athletic Conference, respectively.
Both schools were obviously not invited because of their athletic prowess. It actually weakens the conference from a competitive standpoint in the revenue sports. Maryland went 3-5 in ACC football and lost their bowl game to Marshall. Its men’s basketball team did not make the NCAA tournament – nor the NIT. Meanwhile, Rutgers just flat-out sucked in their revenue sports last season.
Nope, the B1G’s invitations those two schools were merely financially driven. The Washington, DC and New York City metro areas represent a potential boon to the Big Ten Network.
This season also represents a change to the divisional alignments. Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State are in the East division. The two newbies will be placed in the that division as well. Meanwhile, the way the West is now set up, Wisconsin and Nebraska appear to be the two favorites. As a result, the East appears to be very top heavy and far superior to the West in terms of strength.
So the big question for the conference is, will this divisional realignment affect any of the teams’ chances of reaching the four-team College Football Playoff? We’ll just have to wait and see this season.
As for now, without further ado…
- Ohio State (7-1 conference, 12-1 overall)
- Michigan State (7-1, 10-2)
- Penn State (5-3, 9-3)
- Michigan (5-3, 8-4)
- Indiana (3-5, 6-6)
- Maryland (2-6, 5-7)
- Rutgers (1-7, 4-8)
Analysis: This is a beastly division. You have the two 2013 B1G title game participants in the SAME DIVISION. Michigan and Penn State are there as well. I feel really bad for Indiana, who is looking to improve on last year’s results. I think this division will be decided between the Buckeyes and the Spartans. Meanwhile, I don’t feel so sorry for Maryland and Rutgers. They wanted to get paid, so they have to pay the price (pun intended).
- Wisconsin (7-1, 10-3)
- Nebraska (6-2, 9-3)
- Iowa (5-3, 8-4)
- Minnesota (3-5, 6-6)
- Northwestern (3-5, 6-6)
- Illinois (1-7, 4-8)
- Purdue (0-8, 3-9)
Analysis: Nothing much to say about this division. This is going to be Wisconsin, Nebraska and the five dwarfs. Iowa should be competitive this season, though no one is worried about challenging the two aforementioned teams for West supremacy. Meanwhile, prayers go out to coach Darrell Hazell having to coach the sorry-ass Boilermakers. Let’s just hope the higher-ups at Purdue give the brother the time he needs to turn things around.
I didn’t like the fact that it is a six-year extension that will max out to $115 million (I don’t care if Dalton will “only” make $18 million guaranteed this season and $22 million by next February). I didn’t like that they gave it to a quarterback that has yet to win a game in the playoffs. I also didn’t like that Dalton’s last game in the playoffs was a “turrible” one against the San Diego Chargers – at HOME.
So forgive me for not liking the contract extension the Bengals handed to Dalton. Not one bit.
Look, I’m not hating on Dalton himself for scoring that $115 million extension. He obviously has a damn good agent, so good for him.
However, Dalton has not adequately lived up to that contract extension – at least not yet.
Sure Dalton has led the Bengals to nine, 10 and 11 wins his first three seasons and became the first quarterback to take the franchise to three consecutive playoff appearances. For a franchise that hasn’t had much luck since the 1980s, that’s saying something.
On the other hand, if the Bengals want to make it to the promised land, they need better quarterback play from Dalton. In those three playoff games (first two were at the Houston Texans) he threw for only one score. He committed seven turnovers — six of them interceptions. He led the offense to a total of two touchdowns, one more than Cincinnati’s defense scored. For a team that employs offensive stars such as wide receivers A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and running back Giovanni Bernard, there is no excuse for Dalton’s poor play in the playoffs.
Simply put, the Bengals had no damn business giving $115 million extension to a QB with playoff stats that horrible.
Having said that, there may be some good things ahead for Dalton. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is known for getting the best out of his offensive talent. Jackson should be to Dalton as Norv Turner was to Troy Aikman. I expect Dalton to use Jackson’s tutelage and succeed.
Hell he better succeed, or heads (head coach Marvin Lewis and friends) will roll in Cincinnati.
If it weren’t for me growing up in Atlantic Coast Conference territory, I would follow the SEC almost as religiously as I would the National Football League.
This conference has compelling matchups on almost a weekly basis. Every year there is LSU-Alabama, LSU-Auburn, Florida-LSU, Florida-South Carolina, Georgia-South Carolina, Florida-Tennessee (especially when the Volunteers are competitive). It’s also home to some of the more heated, storied rivalries in the sport: the World’s Biggest Cocktail Party (Georgia-Florida), the Egg Bowl (Mississippi State-Mississippi), and the biggest of them all: the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn).
Throw in Texas A&M and Missouri into the mix, and we’ve got big games almost EVERY WEEK. No other conference could boast that.
I mean, what’s not to love about this league?
Okay, so without further ado…
- South Carolina (6-2 conference, 10-3 overall)
- Georgia (6-2, 10-2)
- Florida (4-4, 8-4)
- Missouri (4-4, 7-5)
- Tennessee (3-5, 6-6)
- Vanderbilt (2-6, 6-6)
- Kentucky (1-7, 4-8)
Analysis: This will be a fun division race to watch. Both South Carolina and Georgia are the teams to beat in the SEC East. Either if those teams would give Alabama a run for its money in the SEC title game. The rest of the division is intriguing only to those who care if Florida and Tennessee will be back to competitive status.
- Alabama (7-1, 12-1)
- Auburn (6-2, 10-2)
- LSU (5-3, 9-3)
- Mississippi (4-4, 8-4)
- Texas A&M (4-4, 7-5)
- Mississippi State (3-5, 7-5)
- Arkansas (1-7, 4-8)
Analysis: This is one of the best division in college football. The top three teams in this division would beat the crap out of almost any team (apparently except Florida State) in the country. I think the Iron Bowl will settle the West division title. Since Alabama is hosting that game, that alone should put the Crimson Tide the win over Auburn. The rest of the division outside of Arkansas will be much-improved. Speaking of the Razorbacks, think Brett Bielema wishes he kept his ass in Wisconsin?
SEC Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide
The 2014 college football season is upon us. I’m going to kick things off with a preview of the conference of my youth – the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC had a lot to be excited about. Two BCS bowl winners. A national champion. No wonder ACC brought in that swagger during its media sessions a couple of weeks back.
The conference now has a chance to build upon its breakthrough 2013 season. The Florida State Seminoles bring back a lot of talent from its national championship season. Duke should be able to build upon its Coastal Division championship. Clemson, UNC and Miami are looking to make some noise. And finally, Louisville will be looking to make some noise in its maiden voyage into the ACC.
Aren’t y’all excited? Color my ass pumped as hell! WHOO-HOO!!!
At any rate, let’s preview the ACC… shall we? (Predicted finish are in parentheses)
- Florida State (8-0 conference, 13-0 overall)
- Clemson (7-1, 10-2)
- Louisville (5-3, 8-4)
- Syracuse (4-4, 8-4)
- NC State (3-5, 6-6)
- Boston College (3-5, 5-7)
- Wake Forest (1-7, 3-9)
Analysis: This is by far Florida State’s division (and conference) to lose. It’s essentially reverted back to the early 90s when, upon the Seminoles joining the conference, the ACC was known as “Florida State and the eight dwarves”. Clemson is easily the second-best team in the conference, but it had to play in the same division as Florida State. What intrigues me is Louisville. Coach Bobby Petrino may be a d-bag, but the man is probably the best offensive mind in college football. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cardinals challenge Clemson for the “next best team” status sooner than later. Outside of Syracuse (who should improve this season), the rest of the division is a dumpster fire.
- Duke (6-2, 10-3)
- Miami (6-2, 9-3)
- UNC (5-3, 8-4)
- Virginia Tech (5-3, 8-4)
- Pittsburgh (4-4, 8-4)
- Georgia Tech (3-5, 7-5)
- Virginia (2-6, 4-8)
Analysis: This division is the ultimate crap-shoot. Teams one through five could win this division and serve as the sacrificial lamb to Florida State in the ACC title game. That said, I like Duke over Miami THIS MUCH because Duke will be returning most of its starters from last season’s division championship team, including star QB Anthony Boone. Losing backup QB/touchdown machine Brandon Connette will hurt some (prayers to him and his mother in California), but the team has enough offense talent to put up points on anyone in this league (outside of Florida State). Miami has the talent to take this division, but the Hurricanes will be breaking in a new QB under center. And the question with them as always is, can Miami stop anyone on defense. UNC and Pitt finished last season on highs (both won their bowl games), and will be teams to watch. Virginia Tech has the defense to win the division, but if only the Hokies had a reliable QB. Paul Johnson’s and Mike London’s seats should be scorching hot Georgia Tech and Virginia, respectively.