The College Football Czar

2017 Season Preview

a sports publication from The Shinbone

by Daniel Clark 

Description: The College Football Czar

Welcome to the 2017 season preview issue of The College Football Czar, a seasonal sports publication by the author and editor of The Shinbone. In the coming months, you will find weekly analyses of upcoming college football action posted at this site. To find out more, please see the Ground Rules.

This issue contains the Czar's rankings for all 130 teams in Division I-A football, as well as conference preview capsules, potential upsets to watch for, bowl projections, and a guide to help you locate head coaches on the move. Most importantly, it includes early nominees for the Lardhead of the Year Award, which the Czar never gets around to actually awarding, but for which he dispenses nominations copiously.

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COACHING MOVES

New coach ….. arriving at ….. previous position ….. former coach

Matt Rhule ….. Baylor ….. head coach Temple ….. Jim Grobe

Justin Wilcox ….. California ….. def. coord. Wisconsin ….. Sonny Dykes

Luke Fickell ….. Cincinnati ….. def. coord. Ohio St. ….. Tommy Tuberville

Lane Kiffin ….. Florida Atlantic ….. off. coord. Alabama ….. Charlie Partridge

Butch Davis ….. Florida International ….. head coach N. Carolina (’10) ….. Ron Turner

Jeff Tedford ….. Fresno State ….. head coach B.C. Lions (’15) ….. Tim DeRuyter

Shawn Elliott ….. Georgia State ….. OL coach S. Carolina ….. Trent Miles

Major Applewhite ….. Houston ….. off. coord. Houston ….. Tom Herman

Tom Allen ….. Indiana ….. def. coord. Indiana ….. Kevin Wilson

Ed Orgeron ….. LSU ….. DL coach/interim HC LSU ….. Les Miles

P.J. Fleck ….. Minnesota ….. head coach W. Michigan ….. Tracy Claeys

Jay Norvell ….. Nevada ….. WR coach Arizona St. ….. Bill Polian

Lincoln Riley ….. Oklahoma ….. off. coord. Oklahoma ….. Bob Stoops

Matt Luke ….. Ole Miss …. OL coach Ole Miss ….. Hugh Freeze

Willie Taggart ….. Oregon ….. head coach S. Florida ….. Mark Helfrich

Jeff Brohm ….. Purdue ….. head coach W. Kentucky … Darrell Hazell

Brent Brennan ….. San Jose State ….. WR coach Oregon St. ….. Ron Caragher

Charlie Strong ….. South Florida ….. head coach Texas ….. Willie Taggart

Geoff Collins ….. Temple ….. def. coord. Florida ….. Matt Rhule

Tom Herman ….. Texas ….. head coach Houston ….. Charlie Strong

Randy Edsall ….. Uconn ….. head coach Maryland (’15) ….. Bob Diaco

Mike Sanford Jr. ….. Western Kentucky ….. off. coord. Notre Dame ….. Jeff Brohm

Tim Lester ….. Western Michigan ….. QB coach Purdue ….. P.J. Fleck

 

ROLLING HEAD WATCH

The following coaches will have a difficult time hanging onto their noggins through the 2017 season:

Todd Graham, Arizona State – Judging from how his “dream job” has looked the past two seasons, one would assume the coach has been eating anchovy pizzas just before bedtime.  Following back-to-back 10-win seasons with the Sun Devils, his last two campaigns have turned nightmarish.  Not only is he only 11-14 during that stretch, but he made a serious tactical blunder that probably cost his team the 2015 Cactus Bowl against West Virginia.  Last year against Division I-A competition, ASU was torched for an average of 42.3 points per game, and finished the season on a six-game losing streak.  The famously fickle coach, for whom the grass had always been greener before he got to Tempe, might want to start dreaming about a new job in the MAC or the Sun Belt.

Bret Bielema, Arkansas – It may seem ironic for the head coach of the Razorbacks to have such wildly overgrown facial hair as he did last season, but the way the year ended, it’s no wonder he’s decided to hide his face behind Bigfoot’s butt.  After blowing big leads against both Missouri and Virginia Tech, Bielema is only 25-26 with the Hogs, after compiling a 68-24 record at Wisconsin.

Paul Haynes, Kent State – Nobody expected Haynes to repeat predecessor Darrell Hazell’s 11-3 season, but neither should it have taken him four years to pass that 11-win mark.  Since 2012, the former Golden Flashes’ defensive back has gone 12-35 as head coach, with a dismal 8-23 mark against Mid-American Conference opponents.  He was reported to have been fired this past offseason, in yet another example of – altogether now – FAKE NEWS!  Athletic director Joel Nielsen quickly refuted the report, and is arguably now keeping his head coach on the job out of spite.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame – Last time the Fighting Irish suffered through two consecutive losing seasons was 1985-86, the last year of Gerry Faust’s tenure, and the first year under Lou Holtz.  No individual head coach has had back-to-back sub-.500 seasons there in the entire history of the program. 

David Bailiff, Rice – Bailiff’s 2013 division title and 10-win season had earned him a couple get out of jail free cards, but he’s probably spent them within the past two years.  During that time, his Owls have recorded a pair of fifth-place finishes in one of the worst divisions in major college football.  Last year’s 3-9 campaign won’t be as easy to improve on as it sounds, with a nonconference schedule that features Stanford, Houston, Pitt and Army.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech – The offensive genius-slash-fashion plate of Lubbock has compiled a meager record of 24-26 through four seasons.  His predecessor, Tommy Tuberville, went 20-17 at TT in three years, and he fled town one step ahead of the posse to take an ostensibly inferior position at Cincinnati.  The Czar suspects that the only reason Kingsbury remains a Red Raider is that every time the athletic director calls him into his office to fire him, he allows himself to be sidetracked by the coach’s attire.  (“Say, is that real fleece?”)  Still, if Coach KK goes one more season without showing as much substance as style, it may become too big a problem to go unnoticed.

Jim L. Mora, UCLA – By a coach’s fourth year, his roster should finally be stocked with “his guys,” but Mora still hasn’t managed to find any guys who can carry the ball.  In 2016, they averaged only 84.3 rushing yards per game, third-worst in Division I-A.  The fact that, going into season five, his projected starting tailback is named Soso, is not an encouraging sign.  Soso Jamabo led the team last year with 321 yards on the ground.  In fact, the entire team barely had a 1,000-yard season combined, scraping up only 1,011 yards on 345 attempts, for an average of 2.9 per carry.  If less continues to be Mora, then Soso will not be good enough.

Sean Kugler, UTEP – A former offensive lineman with the Miners, Kugler is a sentimental favorite in El Paso, being a relative success story where that program is concerned.  In fact, he went on to play somewhat professionally for one year, with the Sacramento Surge of the WLAF.  The surge in his collegiate coaching career came in his second season, when he guided the Miners to a record of 7-6.  After four years, however, his overall record is 18-31, and that was with outstanding running back Aaron Jones, who is no longer with the team.  Having had his greatest success as the OL coach for the Lions, Bills and Steelers, Kugler just might be ready for a demotion back to the NFL.

 

WHAT'S NEW IN 2017

 

* Superstars aren’t real teammates anymore – Running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Leonard Fournette of LSU took a pass on their respective bowl games because they didn’t want to hurt their draft standing, and everyone is apparently fine with that.  Because both were drafted high in the first round, more of this same behavior will be encouraged.  Playoff-mongering sportswriters even justified these players’ decisions on the basis that bowl games are “meaningless.”

Well, they’re not.  The games count officially, and they are important to players and fans alike.  They are arguably the biggest games of the year for most of the teams that qualify.  If you are a member of the Stanford Cardinal, and the Stanford Cardinal are invited to a bowl game, you should be playing in that game.  Yes, McCaffrey could have gotten hurt.  He’s a football player.  He could get hurt playing football anytime, so why subject him to NFL preseason games, that being the case?  In fact, Stanford’s regular season finale against Rice was far less meaningful than their Sun Bowl appearance against North Carolina.  So why, if McCaffrey felt compelled to protect himself, did he participate in the Rice game?  By extension, he knew for practically the whole season that he’d be a first-round pick in the next year’s draft, so why didn’t he just shut himself down in October?

This is where we’re headed.  Prima donnas like these two will play for their college teams for as long as they think it behooves their draft status to do so, and then they’ll quit.  Sadly, the Czar does not foresee any good answer to this, other than that everyone needs to rediscover some degree of judgmentalism about the players’ character.  A little ostracism by teammates, coaches, media and fans could go a long way.  So could a little skepticism from NFL scouts, who might wonder if they can depend on a football player who’s afraid to play a football game.

* Georgia State sees the light – The Panthers escape the doomed Georgia Dome and move into a reconfigured Turner field, which they hope will be a launching pad for a whole new era of GSU football.  (Okay, so Turner Field was not the Launching Pad, Fulton County Stadium was.  So who are you, the ballpark police?)  While The Powers That Be Stupid continue to show preferential treatment to domes for big games, the trend among teams has been to break out of the gloom and go outside.  First Minnesota, then Tulane, now Georgia State.  Can Syracuse be far behind?  Well, yes, unfortunately.

* Blazers setting a new trail – UAB returns to action, two seasons after being voted out of existence for petty reasons by the U of A board of regents in Tuscaloosa.  The Birmingham faithful are happy to have a do-over, after their team only went 0-1 in bowl games during its first incarnation, from 1996-2014.  The Blazers return to play in the cavernous and creaky Legion Field, with hopes of moving into a new, no-frills, 55,000-seat stadium in the near future.

* Fear the teal chickens! – Coastal Carolina is the latest school to make the jump to Division I-A , as a new member of the Sun Belt Conference.  The Chanticleers went 10-2 in I-AA ball a year ago, with each of their two losses by a single point.  In a development less to the Czar’s liking, Coastal, with its teal turf, becomes the third I-A team to play on a non-green field.

* Fewer losers in bowl games – While the number of teams in Division I-A expands by two, the bowl berths decrease by that same total, with the demise of the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.  Meanwhile, the Miami Beach Bowl has moved and become the Frisco Bowl, to be played in Frisco, Texas, not San Francisco.  Last year, three teams with sub-.500 records were given dispensations to play in bowl games, just because of the glut of available berths.  Perhaps this year, every bowl participant will at least have to reach the lofty standard of 6-6, albeit with a phony win over a I-AA opponent.

* Aztecs endangered – With the tragic and sure to be unsuccessful move of the Chargers to Los Angeles, the city of San Diego cannot justify maintaining Qualcomm Stadium, which means the SDSU football team will have no place to play.  The team’s lease at Qualcomm expires in 2018, and the city’s plans to build a smaller stadium in hopes of luring a Major League Soccer team have reached an impasse.  At this time, the Aztecs’ best hope appears to be for the MLS deal to fall through altogether, so that the university can purchase a portion of the Qualcomm property on which to build a stadium of its own.  Petco Park, home of the Padres and future site of the Holiday Bowl, will allow SDSU to play there in 2019, but after that, the perennial Mountain West contenders must fend for themselves.

* Coaches hired for newly invented positions – Well, okay, this isn’t exactly new for 2017, since recently hired Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford had been employed last year by the Washington Huskies as an “offensive consultant.”  That’s kind of like being an offensive coach, except that he didn’t … um … coach.  This year, Tennessee has brought back former head coach Phillip Fulmer as a “special adviser for community, athletics, and university relations” – which sounds a lot like part of the job of head coach, without his actually being one.  Things didn’t go well when Lane Kiffin hired his father Monte as defensive coordinator at USC, so now, at Florida Atlantic, Monte will serve as Lane’s “defensive analyst and NFL liaison.”  In the words of the honorable William J. Lepetomane, “We’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs! … Harrumph!  Harrumph!”

 

WHAT'S NOT NEW

 

* Title IX “enforcement” runs amok – It should be needless to say that if Colorado assistant coach Joe Tumpkin is guilty of domestic abuse, he should be punished to the full extent of the law.  But what on earth does Title IX have to do with it?  The invocation of Title IX in domestic abuse and sexual assault accusations stems from the infamous “Dear Colleague” letter from the Obama Education and Justice Departments, which fraudulently declared physical abuse to be a form of sex discrimination.  What suffices for logic in this case seems to be that discrimination is bad, and violent crime is bad; therefore, violent crime = discrimination.  There are already plenty of laws against what Tumpkin is accused of doing, but they have been deemed insufficient because our criminal justice system does not operate under a presumption of guilt.  Under the guise of enforcing Title IX, however, the university chancellor has been suspended without pay, coach Mike MacIntyre and athletic director Rick George have been reprimanded, and Tumpkin has been forced to resign, all without any finding of guilt.  Moreover, the alleged incident did not occur on campus, and the alleged victim was not a CU student or employee.  So why should McIntyre have felt obligated to act?  A victim of a violent crime is supposed go to the police, not to her assailant’s employer.  There’s nothing about, “No person in the United States shall … be subject to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” that empowers fact-hating feminist bureaucrats to enforce criminal law.

* Charlotte once again title town in ACC – Because the state of North Carolina caved in to the ACC’s extortion and partially repealed it’s “bathroom bill,” the conference has moved its football championship back into that state.  The Tarheel State had previously decided not to allow people to use public rest rooms designated for the opposite sex.  Naturally, the ACC decided that it had a duty to right that “social injustice.”  In the meantime, last year’s championship had been moved, appropriately enough, to that everlasting Furry convention known as Orlando, Florida.  Not only does that city welcome men in its ladies’ rooms, but it also seeks out grown men who love to dress up as animals, and gives them close personal access to unsuspecting children.  Who, but a somethingophobe-or-other, could possibly have a problem with that?

 

LARDHEAD OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINEES

* Fired Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze – Already under investigation for a “lack of institutional control,” related to widespread recruiting violations, the head man at Mississippi was found to have repeatedly dialed multiple escort services on his university-provided cell phone.  This worked out great for the university, which got to exercise the moral turpitude clause in Freeze’s contract in order to dismiss him, while diverting attention from the more directly football-related offenses.  What the College Football Czar can’t understand is why they’d make such a big fuss over a little something like hiring escorts.  I mean, not everybody can find his way around Oxford, Mississippi without a little assistance.

* Penn State board of trustees member Albert Lord – who said he was “running out of sympathy for 35-year-old so-called victims [of Jerry Sandusky’s] with seven-digit net worth.”  So he’s not sympathetic toward victims of childhood sexual abuse, just because some of them are financially well off as adults?  Arrogant, callous, and a Commiebastard to boot.  Yup, that’s a PSU trustee, all right.

* Former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin – In last year’s 38-10 win over Western Kentucky, Kiffin was involved in a brief blowup with head coach Nick Saban, the content of which was just revealed during the offseason.  Late in the game, a Crimson Tide fumble was converted into WKU’s only touchdown of the game, at which time Kiffin remarked to Saban, “Dumb players make dumb plays,” to which Saban angrily shot back, “No, dumb offensive coordinators call dumb plays!”  Another thing a dumb coach does is to call a player “dumb” loudly on the sideline, in front of most of that player’s teammates.  If Kiffin, who has since been hired away as head coach at Florida Atlantic, can’t show his pupils any more respect than that, then it’s no wonder he changes jobs more often than Judge Reinhold in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

* Former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla – The Czar was reluctant to include this one, because it’s really no laughing matter.  Having been recently arrested for forgery, Lyerla escaped from a minimum-security prison, but was swiftly taken back into custody after suffering a drug overdose.  In 2013, Lyerla was suspended from UO for the ubiquitous “violation of team rules,” at which point he quit the team altogether.  Soon afterward, police observed him openly snorting cocaine while sitting in a parked car and arrested him.  In addition, he had created an unneeded controversy the previous offseason, when he tweeted that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax, and the parents of the “alleged” victims were “liars.”  Not that this necessarily adds up to Lyerla being a lardhead, but rumor has it he thinks the “O” on the Fighting Duck helmet stands for “Ossum.”

Okay, so it’s a little bit of a laughing matter.

* Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier – for proposing a new, separate playoff format for the group-of-five schools.  Ever since the NCAA agreed to call the plus-one bowl format a “playoff,” it seems every lardhead has come up with a different scheme, based on his own warped notion of fairness.  In this case, Frazier finds it unfair that schools in the five smaller conferences are highly unlikely to ever contend for the national championship.  He’s wrong.  They’re not good enough to contend, so the fact that they don’t is perfectly fair, and they understand that.

The ranks of Division I-A football increase almost every year.  Does Frazier think the officials at these new schools imagine that they can compete with the Alabamas and Clemsons?  Of course not.  Yet they find it valuable to belong to the uppermost division in college football.  If you’re Old Dominion, Georgia State or Buffalo, you never intended to play for the national championship when you made the jump.  An occasional minor bowl victory will be enough.  You certainly don’t want to have bothered climbing into Division I-A, only to have some banana-brain concoct a system that stratifies it, dropping your program to a lower division in spite of your obvious intentions.

* Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun – who is proposing an eight-team playoff, featuring all the power-five conference winners, two wild cards, and one spot reserved for the group-of-five leagues, which would determine their qualifier through a four-team preliminary playoff.  So, if his Falcons were to have an undefeated season, they would have a chance to win the national championship, if only they could win five consecutive playoff games – including two against teams that truly deserve to be there.  In other words, the AFA would still stand no chance at becoming national champs, but they might briefly feel as if they had.

College football is not, and can never be, like a professional league.  Only a fairly small percentage of Division I-A teams stand a realistic chance at winning the national championship, and that’s okay.  It would be silly to contrive a manner in which Calhoun’s Falcons could contend with more deserving teams for the title, but there’s nothing wrong with their being rewarded for a good season with a bid to the Las Vegas Bowl.  Stop trying to kill the bowl games and replace them with an extended playoff that cannot possibly be fair!

Our national debate over the college football postseason essentially breaks the population down into two groups: those who complain that college football should be just like every other sport, and those who think the fact that it isn’t is part of what makes it so great.  The first of these groups is comprised of lardheads, as is evident whenever one of its members reveals a half-baked plan like Calhoun’s.

It used to be that, every few years, there was a legitimate dispute over who were the national champions.  The BCS went a long way toward solving that problem, and the four-team CFP has finished the job.  Expanding it any further would do nothing to further ensure a legitimate champion, but would only collapse the bowl system, taking away postseason opportunities for the supposedly disadvantaged programs.

* Alabama head coach Nick Saban – for his stated preference that power-five teams play exclusively against other teams from those same five conferences.  “We all play three or four games a year now that nobody’s really interested in.”  Whose fault is that, coach?  You’re now entering your twelfth season in Tuscaloosa.  You play no nonconference games that are not of your own making.  Okay, so Bama opens with a blockbuster against Florida State, but the rest of their nonconference schedule consists of Mountain West teams Colorado State and Fresno State, and Division I-AA Mercer.

The second problem with Saban’s statement is that there is not a clear-cut distinction in quality between the power-five also-rans and the group-of-five contenders.  Colorado State is arguably a tougher opponent than a couple of the Crimson Tide’s SEC foes this season.  A nonconference slate consisting of South Florida, Toledo and Middle Tennessee would be easily more formidable than Missouri, Kansas and Rutgers.

In fact, if Saban really wanted to play more interesting games, he’d agree to go on the road sometimes against smaller-conference opponents, instead of sticking to his formula of one neutral-site game against a contender, two home games against group-of-five teams, and one home game (in November, no less) against a pushover from Division I-AA.  Most of the traditional SEC powers will rarely play as a true visiting team, except when their conference schedule forces them to.  Want to improve the game, Nick?  Start looking opponents in the eye, instead of down your nose at them.

* Oklahoma States head coach Mike Gundy – Seriously, how would you react if a man came into your house looking like that, and tried to recruit your son?

* NCAA gender hypocrites – Like the ACC, the NCAA had decided to prohibit championship games from being played in North Carolina, because it views separate men’s and women’s rest rooms as something akin to Jim Crow-era discrimination.  Does it not occur to them that if one’s sex is determined subjectively, then the Title IX prohibitions against sex discrimination are moot?  Either men can be women too, or they can’t.  Gender is either objectively determined by one’s chromosomes, or subjectively determined as a matter of individual choice.  Yet the NCAA takes each of these positions at different times, gushing with unjustified liberal sanctimony in any case.  Whoever said you can’t have it both ways is wrong.  Unscrupulous people and organizations do it all the time.

* Spring game zealots – Somehow, the idea seems to have taken hold that a team has a great fan base if it packs the stadium for its intra-squad spring game.  To the contrary, real football fans know the difference between an actual football game and a practice.  They also know that real fans don’t go to practices, jocksniffers do.

* The “it’s all about da munnylardheads – Yes, the Czar realizes that this is a perennial nomination, but for good reason.  It basically defeats the purpose of discussing any course of action if all of them are bound to be rejected as being “all about da munny.”  Want an extended playoff?  “It’s all about da munny!”  Would you rather keep the bowl games?  “It’s all about da munny!”  So, both models are tarnished by greed, at least in their feeble, irrational, pinko minds.

The really entrenched lardheads refuse to even admit, first of all, that there are some things that aren’t about money at all, and second, that something being about the money isn’t necessarily bad.  When a jihadist blows himself up and takes several innocent people with him, was that about the money?  No.  Was it nevertheless an evil thing to do?  Yes.  When Henry Ford produced the Model T, was that about the money?  Yes.  Was it wrong of him to do it?  No.  Do the lardheads care?  No!  Who wants to be around people who think mopey cynicism automatically makes them smart?  You might as well invite Woody Allen, Tim Robbins and Bill Maher over for a cookout.

 

THE CZAR DECREES …

If the College Football Czar could issue proclamations changing college football, these are some of the things he would do:

* Add Game #13, with conditions – The season has already spontaneously expanded by one week, with four Division I-A games being played on the last Saturday of August.  This makes it possible for each team to assemble a 13 game schedule with two idle weeks.  Along with this addition, the NCAA should limit conference schedules to 9 games, and forbid teams from playing more than two-thirds of their games at home.  That way, nobody could schedule more than 8 home games and one at a neutral site.

Before all you “it’s all about da munnylardheads start piping up, the purpose of this would be to give fans better nonconference games to watch early in the season.  As it is now, teams that play 9 conference games are under pressure to schedule at least two nonconference dates at home, especially during years in which they play five of their conference games on the road.  One result of this is that teams in the Big XII and Pac 12 that used to play excellent schedules no longer do, because they need to fatten up on a lower-division team in order to get that home game without reciprocating.

Let’s take Texas Tech, for instance.  The Red Raiders are currently scheduled to beat up on Lamar in 2018 and Montana State in 2019.  If the season were expanded so that they could play four nonconference games, they could scrub these I-AA teams off their slate, and instead schedule home-and-homes against, say, Utah and Tulsa.  They’d be playing just as many home games each year, but drawing more fans and higher TV ratings.

Rivalries that have become endangered by new scheduling commitments could be saved.  Pitt-Penn State could continue indefinitely, and Notre Dame-Michigan would surely resume.  Alabama and Florida State could play two great games in real football stadiums buzzing with excited fans, instead of one neutral-site meeting in a mausoleum.  Come to think of it, even if this were “all about da munny,” it would be a smart thing to do.

* No OT TOs! – Every year, the length of the games becomes an issue, and yet it never occurs to the rules committee that giving each team a timeout for each overtime period is a colossal waste of time.  The object of the college overtime is to hurry up and get the game over with.  For what earthly reason would you give each coach a timeout?  Another thrilling attempt to ice the kicker?

* De-NFL-ify college football – Apparently following ESPN’s advice on how to win back viewers, the National Football League has decided to encourage one of its most repellant characteristics.  Among this year’s NFL rule changes is a loosening of the barely-ever-enforced-anyway penalties against unsportsmanlike conduct, especially during touchdown “celebrations.”  In particular, the league will now be more tolerant of premeditated routines in which the scoring player uses the ball as a prop.  Mind you, we’re only two seasons removed from the disgrace of Seahawks’ WR Doug Baldwin pretending to excrete the football in the end zone during the Super Bowl.  That, however, was when the NFL was concerned with being family-friendly, way back in 2015.  It might as well have been the Paleozoic Era.  The very concept of family-friendliness is now too judgmental, in that it relies on an antiquated, preconceived notion of the family.  In this enlightened era of liberal redefinition, three unrelated people sharing a trailer in which they smoke crack and watch pornos are a family, too!

It is important for fans to encourage the NCAA to keep college football as far away from the NFL as possible, in the same way that parents try to prevent their child from falling in with the wrong crowd.  Granted, college football officials tolerate too much jerking around also, but at least the threat of penalization exists to the point where it does have an effect on behavior.  Once upon a time, there were college football players who behaved – as NFL players do today – like escapees from a juvenile detention center.  They were called the 1980s Miami Hurricanes, and everybody hated them.  That wasn’t all bad, in that it gave the fans a rooting interest, in favor of that team’s opponents.  But in an entire league full of Miami Hurricanes, there’s no opponent left to root for.

How many football fans are aware that it’s not even legal in the college game to spike the ball after a touchdown?  You probably watched all last season without even noticing that nobody was doing it.  Have you ever walked away disappointed because nobody in the game you were watching danced, took a bow, pounded his chest, or spotlighted himself by running ten yards away from his teammates to beg for applause?  Of course not, but that’s the “fun” part of the game to which the sports media have referred whenever they’ve criticized the NFL as the “No Fun League,” for its occasional imposition of standards.  The NFL has now decided that the media (including ESPN) are right.

Real football fans have fun watching great plays and exciting football games, which are not in short supply on the average college football Saturday.  There’s nothing to be gained by appealing to the porno-crack trailer demographic that is rapidly becoming the target audience of the new, enlightened NFL.

JUST ONE MORE THING …

In the same way that Columbo annoys the bad guys by introducing problematic questions at the last second, the College Football Czar poses some hypotheticals to complicate everyone’s totalitarian schemes to form college football into the league it could never be.

* So Division I-A has been split between the power-five and the group-of-five, with only the former being involved in the major college postseason.  Mind you, most of the group-of-five schools have not voluntarily demoted themselves, and might not take the downgrade lying down.  Let’s say most of the better programs in the American Athletic Conference and the Mountain West break away to form their own league, consisting of South Florida, Central Florida, Temple, Navy, Houston, Memphis, Boise State, Colorado State, Air Force, New Mexico, San Diego State and Nevada, and that they call themselves Power Conference Six.  It may be missing an immediate national contender, but it’s unquestionably a more solid league than the Big XII from top to bottom.  Do you admit it as an official “power” conference?  If not, why?  Where’s your Fairness Police now?

* In a 16-team playoff format, every conference champion gets an automatic bid, leaving six at-large berths.  The Big Ten decides that each of its two divisions is now its own league, so the collection of 14 schools is entitled to two reserved bids, and not just one.  Should this be allowed?  If not, on what grounds would you disallow it?  Do the schools not have the right to affiliate themselves with the conferences of their choice?

* Naturally, any power-five/group-of-five formula would consider Notre Dame to be a de factor power-five school.  What about Brigham Young?  Are the Cougars not better than a majority of power-five programs?  By what justification might they be rejected?  If BYU is allowed into the ranks of the power-five, then what’s to stop Air Force from going Independent, and then petitioning for the same consideration?  Ditto that for Houston, South Florida, etc.

* After a separate group-of-five playoff has been enacted for a few years, it becomes evident that the AAC and Mountain West are head-and-shoulders above the MAC, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, to the point where most teams in those three smaller leagues stand no realistic chance of ever winning the group-of-five title.  Do we chop up Division I-A even more finely, so that the UTEPs and Kent States of the world might someday win something they can convince themselves is a kind of national championship?  If not, then why is it so unacceptable to have teams that will never be national champions playing in Division I-A as it now exists?

TEAM RANKINGS, 1-130

1. Ohio St. (B10)

41. N. Carolina (ACC)

81. TX A&M (SEC)

121. UTEP (C-USA)

2. Alabama (SEC)

42. Kentucky (SEC)

82. Uconn (AAC)

122. Umass (Ind.)

3. Florida St. (ACC)

43. Arizona (P12)

83. Maryland (B10)

123. Kent St. (MAC)

4. USC (P12)

44. Memphis (AAC)

84. N. Texas (C-USA)

124. Fresno St. (MW)

5. Oklahoma St. (XII)

45. Texas Tech (XII)

85. C. Mich. (MAC)

125. UAB (C-USA)

6. LSU (SEC)

46. West. KY (C-USA)

86. Indiana (B10)

126. NM St. (SB)

7. Wisconsin (B10)

47. Toledo (MAC)

87. Arizona St. (P12)

127. Charlotte (C-USA)

8. Stanford (P12)

48. New Mexico (MW)

88. UNLV (MW)

128. C. Carolina (SB)

9. Georgia (SEC)

49. W. Forest (ACC)

89. E. Carolina (AAC)

129. Buffalo (MAC)

10. Miami (ACC)

50. C. Florida (AAC)

90. Syracuse (ACC)

130. Texas St. (SB)

11. Penn St. (B10)

51. Boise St. (MW)

91. Oregon St. (P12)

 

12. Auburn (SEC)

52. Michigan St. (B10)

92. Hawaii (MW)

 

13. Louisville (ACC)

53. Vanderbilt (SEC)

93. Virginia (ACC)

 

14. W. Virginia (XII)

54. Boston Coll. (ACC)

94. Idaho (SB)

 

15. S. Florida (AAC)

55. App. State (SB)

95. Tulane (AAC)

 

16. Wash. St. (P12)

56. Nebraska (B10)

96. Illinois (B10)

 

17. Notre Dame (Ind.)

57. Old Dom. (C-USA)

97. So. Miss (C-USA)

 

18. Houston (AAC)

58. Baylor (XII)

98. ULL (SB)

 

19. N’western (B10)

59. California (P12)

99. Iowa St. (XII)

 

20. Clemson (ACC)

60. Army (Ind.)

100. Fla. Atl. (C-USA)

 

21. Washington (P12)

61. Temple (AAC)

101. No. Illinois (MAC)

 

22. Tennessee (SEC)

62. S. Carolina (SEC)

102. Purdue (B10)

 

23. Ga. Tech (ACC)

63. Kansas St. (XII)

103. Marshall (C-USA)

 

24. TCU (XII)

64. Troy (SB)

104. Bowl. Grn. (MAC)

 

25. BYU (Ind.)

65. Arkansas (SEC)

105. S. Alabama (SB)

 

26. Iowa (B10)

66. UCLA (P12)

106. Tulsa (AAC)

 

27. Oklahoma (XII)

67. Miami OH (MAC)

107. Nevada (MW)

 

28. Pitt (ACC)

68. UTSA (C-USA)

108. Fla. Int’l (C-USA)

 

29. Oregon (P12)

69. Arkansas St. (SB)

109. W. Mich. (MAC)

 

30. Michigan (B10)

70. Cincinnati (AAC)

110. Missouri (SEC)

 

31. Colorado St. (MW)

71. Miss. St. (SEC)

111. Georgia So. (SB)

 

32. Nc State (ACC)

72. Ohio (MAC)

112. Rutgers (B10)

 

33. Florida (SEC)

73. Wyoming (MW)

113. E. Mich (MAC)

 

34. Va. Tech (ACC)

74. Duke (ACC)

114. Rice (C-USA)

 

35. Colorado (P12)

75. Utah (P12)

115. Kansas (XII)

 

36. San Diego St. (MW)

76. Ole Miss (SEC)

116. Utah St. (MW)

 

37. Minnesota (B10)

77. Air Force (MW)

117. SMU (AAC)

 

38. Texas (XII)

78. La. Tech (C-USA)

118. San Jose St. (MW)

 

39. Navy (AAC)

79. Akron (MAC)

119. ULM (SB)

 

40. Mid. TN (C-USA)

80. Georgia St. (SB)

120. Ball St. (MAC)

 

 

CONFERENCE CAPSULES

American Athletic Conference (east)

  1. South Florida Bulls* – Strong’s team storms through china shop vs. fragile division foes
  2. Central Florida Knights – Offensive variety show means a new age is dawning in Orlando
  3. Temple Owls – Don’t rule them out just because Coach Ruhle is out
  4. Cincinnati Bearcats – Deflated O could go flat in rocky September road schedule
  5. Uconn Huskies – Old dog Edsall tries to teach them some new tricks
  6. East Carolina Pirates – not as green in Greenville with grad transfer Sirk at QB

American Athletic Conference (west)

  1. Houston Cougars – ampersander transfer QB Allen’s a great addition
  2. Navy Midshipmen – goat-to guys go to hostile territory in tough road slate
  3. Memphis Tigers – opposing offenses took liberties in their bowl last season
  4. Tulane Green Wave – salty defense could leave bad taste in league contenders’ mouths
  5. Tulsa Golden Hurricane – RB Brewer must double his toil, or they’re in trouble
  6. SMU Mustangs – got smu-shed for 36.3 points per game in 2016

* projected conference champion

Outlook: Charlie Strong steps into a far more favorable situation at South Florida than he did at Texas, where his first task was purging the team of problem players.  With seasoned QB Quinton Flowers leading the way, the Bulls figure to be the best among the group-of-five conference teams, although their weenie nonconference schedule (Illinois, San Jose State, Umass and I-AA Stony Brook) will prevent them from making an argument for a shot at the championship.  There’s not much parity in the AAC this year, with both division favorites being obvious.  In Houston, former Texas QB Major Applewhite gets his long-awaited opportunity as head coach, where he welcomes Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen at quarterback.  The Cougars must develop a ground game, however, to challenge USF.

Atlantic Coast Conference (atlantic)

  1. Florida State Seminoles* – youthful offense is going to turn loose the papoose
  2. Louisville Cardinals – can’t let their big bird get bagged as often as they did last year
  3. Clemson Tigers – paw boys have lost a wealth of talent on offense
  4. Nc State Wolfpack – ferocious front four makes running backs pack it in
  5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons – passing game needs some lucky strikes in Winston-Salem
  6. Boston College Eagles – All D, no O; fans in this town have bean here before
  7. Syracuse Orange – no S-Cuse for season-ending 76-61 debacle at Pitt

Atlantic Coast Conference (coastal)

1.      Miami Hurricanes – Coach Richt righted his ship after stormy October

2.      Georgia Tech Yellowjackets – What’s the buzz?  Could bee a surprise contender

3.      Pitt Panthers – kept out of league’s first echelon by sorry secondary

4.      Virginia Tech Hokies/Gobblers – need some Hokies-pocus to produce new playmakers

5.      North Carolina Tarheels – team of transfers tries not to trip each other up

6.      Duke Blue Devils – QB Jones looks like namesake Bert in Colt-like clothing

7.      Virginia Cavaliers – ex-BYU coach heard Broncs cheers after 2-10 debut at UVa

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The unseasoned Seminoles probably won’t be ready for their Week 1 clash with Alabama, but if they can win their conference opener at home against Miami, they will quickly reestablish themselves as national contenders.  The Cards’ coaches are determined to better protect Heisman-winning QB Lamar Jackson, but they can’t stop him from leaving himself vulnerable with his improvisational playmaking.  The X-factor in this league is whether Pitt QB Max Browne, a graduate transfer from USC, is any more capable a vertical passer than the Trojans let him try to be.

Big Ten Conference (east division)

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes* – top recruiter has team in perpetual state of Urban renewal
  2. Penn State Nittany Lions – tricky team faces few scares outside of October
  3. Michigan Wolverines – To call this young team a contender would be soph-istry
  4. Michigan State Spartans – another long season will drag-on in East Lansing
  5. Maryland Terrapins – offense goes into its shell against league favorites
  6. Indiana Hoosiers – Coach Dale wouldn’t have lasted long with this A.D.
  7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Can new OC Jerry Kill revive their moribund offense?

Big Ten Conference (west division)

  1. Wisconsin Badgers – Big cheese should stroll through schedule full of holes
  2. Northwestern Wildcats – This Just-in: Jackson’s among the league’s best rushers
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes – Ferentz hopes future is bright with son rising through coaching ranks
  4. Minnesota Golden Gophers – Ready oar not, Fleck era begins in Minneapolis
  5. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Rumors of their demise have a kernel of truth to them
  6. Illinois Fighting Illini – weekly three-hour-tours with Lovie seem a lot longer
  7. Purdue Boilermakers – WKU coach has uphill drive with Little Engine That Could Puke

* projected conference champion

Outlook: It’s easy to envision the lumpy nuts rolling to a 12-0 record, with both Oklahoma and PSU at home, and not much in between.  The Lions and Badgers return mostly intact from last season’s conference championship game, and should land New Year’s Six bids as well.  It should be a down year for the league overall, however, with each division being basically only three deep.

Big Twelve Conference

  1. Oklahoma State Cowboys – guided by QB Rudolph, who’ll go down in history
  2. West Virginia Mountaineers – Evil Phil Collins will have missed again at conference title
  3. TCU Horned Frogs – lizard kings can do anything, but catch a football, apparently
  4. Oklahoma Sooners – Stoops should’ve announced his retirement … um … Sooner
  5. Texas Longhorns – Burnt orange jerseys were fitting for this defense last season
  6. Texas Tech Red Raiders – Too bad style points don’t count on the scoreboard
  7. Baylor Bears – They may be out on bayle, but they’re not yet out of the woods
  8. Kansas State Wildcats – veteran QB Ertz you with his both his arm and his feet
  9. Iowa State Cyclones – Success in Ames is a constantly moving target
  10. Kansas Jayhawks – The band Kansas is still a better road team

Outlook: Bob Stoops’ sudden retirement leaves OU without its longtime coach, as well as any proven running backs.  The Pokes should pull away from the pack to win the regular season title with two games to spare, resulting in an inauspicious start for the league’s ill-conceived new championship game, between first and second-place teams.

Conference USA (east division)

  1. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders* – Is ex-Orange coach Shafer their savior on defense?
  2. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers – new head coach Sanford, the son, is no big dummy
  3. Old Dominion Monarchs – sleep on the lion kings, and get aweema-whacked
  4. Florida Atlantic Burrowing Owls – In Rat Mouth, bombastic Coach Kiffin’s a natural fit
  5. Marshall Thundering Herd – They can start those discouraging words any time now
  6. Florida International Golden Panthers – QB McGough needs to look where he’s throwing
  7. Charlotte 49ers – Carolina Commies become Occupy The C-USA Basement

Conference USA (west division)

  1. UTSA Roadrunners – That giant Acme electro-magnet can’t hold them back now
  2. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs – offensive losses slow well-oiled machine in Ruston
  3. North Texas Mean Green – lack of passing game adds a “P” to UNT
  4. Southern Miss Golden Eagles – with QB Mullen gone, they have no wing and no prayer
  5. Rice Owls – serve selves up as krispy treats to quality nonconference foes
  6. UTEP Miners – not an underground success, or any other kind, for that matter
  7. UAB Blazers – triumphant just by taking the field – Take that, Tuscaloosa!

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The MT-heads challenge Big Red to become king of the hill, after losing last year’s showdown by a blocked extra point in double overtime.  While those two battle atop the East, coach Lane Kiffin is sure to make headlines at FAU, with his unpredictability both on the field and off.  The most intriguing nonconference game takes place in Week 3, when the reborn Blazers host Division I-A newcomer Coastal Carolina.

Independents

  1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish –Kelly hopes he’s found a hero in untested QB Wimbush
  2. Brigham Young Cougars – schedule sets up for Mormons to storm through second half
  3. Army Black Knights – loaded backfield keeps West Pointers headed in right direction
  4. Umass Minutemen – fewer minutes traveling this season, with home games in Amherst

Outlook: The Fighting Irish will get an idea whether last year’s 4-8 finish was a fluke when they host SEC powerhouse Georgia in Week 2.  Massachusetts plays all of its home games at renovated McGuirk Stadium, after having most of its 2016 “home” games the width of the state away in Foxboro, where the M-Men went 0-4.

Mid-American Conference (east division)

  1. Miami OH RedHawks – rode QB Raglund to riches after 0-6 start without him
  2. Ohio Bobcats – The O could stand to be higher in O-hier
  3. Akron Zips – defensive front seven keeps leaving its fly open
  4. Bowling Green Falcons – finally got ground game rolling in last month of 2016
  5. Kent State Golden Flashes – play like they’re named after Kent Dorfman
  6. Buffalo Bulls – need more than a LB named Khalil to return to winning ways

Mid-American Conference (west division)

  1. Toledo Rockets* – One would side with QB Woodside if one were smart
  2. Central Michigan Chippewas – new offensive scheme spreads the Chipps around
  3. Northern Illinois Huskies – pack led the MAC in rushing, even in rare losing season
  4. Western Michigan Broncos – They may keep their oars, but they’ve lost their rudder
  5. Eastern Michigan Eagles – landed in a bowl game for the first time since 1987
  6. Ball State Cardinals – disloyal ball abandoned them for minus-10 TO ratio last year

* projected conference champion

Outlook: In a league deined by its prolific quarterbacks, UT’s Logan Woodside is this season’s standard-bearer.  In order to secure the group-of-five berth in the New Year’s Six games, the Rockets might have to beat both Miamis, with an early road game against the Hurricanes, and a likely conference title game against the RedHawks.  The MAC’s Miami wakes up the echoes in an historic trip to South Bend in Week 5.  Legendary Bobcat coach Frank Solich should collect career win #150 by the end of September.

Mountain West Conference (mountain division)

  1. Colorado State Rams* – not many greenhorns on this senior-stocked roster
  2. New Mexico Lobos – #1 rushing unit is led by that other, more tolerable QB Lamar
  3. Boise State Broncos – rype for upsets, in spite of veteran quarterback Rypien
  4. Wyoming Cowboys – Pokes could burst bubbles vs. Iowa, Oregon in Sept.
  5. Air Force Falcons – Lightning Eleven could be in for a shock on defense this year
  6. Utah State Aggies – trading beef for veal on inexperienced offensive line

Mountain West Conference (west division)

  1. San Diego State Aztecs – new starting RB Penny will grow in pyramid scheme
  2. UNLV Rebels – They don’t think they’re gambling with freshman QB Armani Rogers
  3. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors – Last year’s road warriors open with long trip to Umass
  4. Nevada Wolf Pack – UNR abandons the R-U-N under new coach Jay Norvell
  5. San Jose State Spartans – Jose, can’t you see we don’t use accent marks?
  6. Fresno State Bulldogs – will feel fuzzy after facing Peach Bowl teams Bama, Wash.

Outlook: Teams in the parity-packed Mountain division have a much higher hill to climb than SDSU has in the West.  The Broncos are in for their roughest ride in years, facing a tough conference schedule in addition to Troy, Washington State, Virginia and BYU.  The league may be decided by which of its many productive QBs is most effective in cutting down on his interceptions.

Pac 12 Conference (north division)

  1. Stanford Cardinal – Unlike namesake Muskrat, RB Bryce Love is no flash in the pan
  2. Washington State Cougars – Wazzu got it in the end, with 3 lowest scores of the season
  3. Washington Huskies – mush their way through an even mushier schedule this year
  4. Oregon Ducks – receiving corps could use some quackers, being thinner than duck soup
  5. California Golden Bears – youthful club of cubs will make its share of Boo-Boos
  6. Oregon State Beavers – Dam the torpedoes; they have nothing to lose

Pac 12 Conference (south division)

  1. USC Trojans* – Star QB Darnold must perform without last year’s cast of thousands
  2. Colorado Buffaloes – wooly bullies’ DL will be the ones getting pushed around this year
  3. Arizona Wildcats – Rich Rod can’t spoil the child, with all-freshman LB corps
  4. UCLA Bruins – no Hollywood ending until they find a star running back
  5. Utah Utes – Without a more solid O, challenging for the division is no U’s
  6. Arizona State Sun Devils – devil’s in the D-tails, which were kicked for 40 ppg in 2016

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The North division probably has 4 of the league’s 5 best teams, meaning that SC should run away with the South, in spite of inexperience in its OL and receiving corps.  Cardinal QB Keller Chryst has reportedly recovered from the knee injury he suffered in last year’s non-meaningless Sun Bowl victory over North Carolina.  The Duck defense should improve, after new coach Willie Taggart plucked DC Jim Leavitt away from conference foe Colorado.

Southeastern Conference (east division)

  1. Georgia Bulldogs – Kirby Smart’s a year wiser; Nick Chubb’s a year healthier
  2. Tennessee Volunteers – The smokey gray will need to do it with mirrors on offense
  3. Florida Gators – Defensive chompers are made up mostly of baby teeth this season
  4. Kentucky Wildcats – new #1 running back can Snell the goal line already
  5. Vanderbilt Commodores – hope veteran offensive unit adds some VU-voom!
  6. South Carolina Gamecocks – pugilistic poultry need some punch in their pass rush
  7. Missouri Tigers – didn’t boycott any games in 2016, but who could tell?

Southeastern Conference (west division)

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide* – pachyderms predictably push on to another SEC title
  2. LSU Tigers – won’t think twice about RB Guice leading their offense
  3. Auburn Tigers – schedule sets up confident cats for second-half stumble
  4. Arkansas Razorbacks – nonconference pig-out fattens them for SEC West slaughter
  5. Mississippi State Bulldogs – new DC Grantham sics mud puppies in aggressive scheme
  6. Ole Miss Rebels – turnover in backfield could translate into TOs on the playing field
  7. Texas A&M Aggies – endangered coach must pull off Sumlin unexpected

* projected conference champion

Outlook: We could be in for a good SEC title game for a change, with UGA poised to power through the East behind college football’s forgotten man, RB Nick Chubb.  Coach Saban angrily denies that Bama has a QB controversy, but it might, if Jalen Hurts gets off to a poor start against Florida State.  Former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire needs a divide and Congo strategy to win a 5-way race for the starting job at Florida.

Sun Belt Conference

  1. Appalachian State Mountaineers – team from Boone is a big man among boys
  2. Troy Trojans – continue to march in formation after methodical 10-win campaign
  3. Arkansas State Red Wolves – pack attack keeps rollin’ behind DE Rolland-Jones
  4. Georgia State Panthers – poised to knockahoma in their restructured ballpark this season
  5. Idaho Vandals – last year in Division I-A relies on lots of freshman I-AA recruits
  6. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns – need some spice, but is the cupboard bare?
  7. South Alabama Jaguars – too many moving offensive parts in Mobile
  8. Georgia Southern Eagles – reverting to wishbone in overreaction to 5-7 season
  9. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks – belligerent birds battle Memphis, FSU, So Miss & Auburn
  10. New Mexico State Aggies – This year in Las Cruces is crucial for coach Doug Martin
  11. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers – Too many chickens flew the coop after final year in I-AA
  12. Texas State Bobcats – continuing to miss the mark in San Marcos

Outlook: The league’s depth continues to improve, with Troy seeking to join the two ASUs as perennial powers.  Idaho and NMSU have something to prove in their last year of Sun Belt play, before the Vandals drop down to the I-AA Big Sky Conference, and the Aggies are set adrift as an Independent.

 

BOOBY-TRAP BALLGAMES

The College Football Czar has no idea who he will end up picking to win the following games, but he highlights them now as possible upsets which threaten to ensnare some of the nation's most prominent programs. The favored teams appear in bold face.

Sept. 2

Arkansas State at Nebraska – Skeptics of the Huskers’ hiring of Mike Riley, including the College Football Czar, were impressed with his 9-4 campaign in 2016, but Year 2 promises to be much tougher.  Not only has he lost QB Tommy Armstrong and WR Jordan Westerkamp, but he’s switching to a 3-4 defense with a dearth of experienced linebackers.  In addition, presumptive starting quarterback Tanner Lee is a transfer from Tulane, hardly a formula for success.  If Riley can turn this team into a contender, it will take time.  He doesn’t have any, unfortunately, opening the season against the perennial Sun Belt contenders from Jonesboro.

Troy at Boise State – Until now, it would have been unthinkable for BSU to lose at home to a Sun Belt team, but the Broncos have not been an elite team the past couple years, and the Trojans are looking tougher than ever.  A year ago, each team finished 10-3, but they’re headed in opposite directions.  TSU has the more reliable running game this season, and with this road trip coming so early, the conditions in the Tater State are not likely to make their Alabama blood run cold.

Sept. 9

Pitt at Penn State – Conventional wisdom suggests a payback beating this year, but that’s only true if PSU continues to take what the Panther defense gives them, instead of listening to the fans and media who blamed last year’s 42-39 defeat on too few carries for Saquon Barkley.  The Nittany Lions’ offensive production was not their downfall in that game.  If they go back to picking on Pitt with mid-range passes, they could easily eclipse last year’s totals in yardage and points.  However, if they insist on playing “their game,” by bulldozing Barkley repeatedly, he will get his yardage, but it may not be enough to outpace the unpredictable Panthers.

Sept. 23

Nc State at Florida State – Anytime FSU fails to meet expectations, you can bet it’s due in part to their nemeses from North Carolina State, who are 6-9 against the Seminoles since 2001, and nearly knocked them off last year in Raleigh.  The Noles could be in for an ambush, after facing Alabama and Miami in their first three games.  The way the Wolfpack defense pounds the ground game, and considering that FSU has no heir apparent to departed tailback Dalvin Cook, there could be too much pressure put on sophomore slinger Deondre Francois.

Sept. 30

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech – Mullet-head Mike is 4-0 against king-of-kool Kliff Kingsbury, but the Cowboys have given up an average of 41.5 points in those games, and the scores keep getting closer.  A year ago, OSU escaped with a 45-44 regulation time win thanks only to a missed Red Raider extra point with less than two minutes to play.  Tech will likely have already suffered an embarrassment against either Arizona State or Houston, which would put their endangered coach in a must win situation.  When he turns the nation’s leading pass offense loose on a pair of sophomore cornerbacks, things could get ugly early for the Okies.

Oct. 7

Alabama at Texas A&M – The way Bama has fared against Ole Miss in the past three years, they may feel that they’re in the clear if they’ve routed the Rebels in Week 5.  It’s then that they travel to College Station, where the Aggies, however disappointing they were in 2016, went 5-2.  That may not be overwhelming, but it makes this the toughest test the Tide will have faced since their Atlanta opener against Florida State.  If hard-running QB Jalen Hurts has taken too many hits, his team may have to fall back on a freshman flinger, guided by a first-year coordinator who will already have been unduly scrutinized.

Oct. 28

Louisville at Wake Forest – One week after a big grudge match at Florida State, the Cardinals come to Winston-Salem to face a Demon Deacon team that threw a scare into them for three quarters a year ago.  Wake was plus-8 in turnovers in 2016, which is a factor that could come into play against poorly protected quarterback Lamar Jackson, who, despite having already won a Heisman Trophy, is not known for being especially careful with the ball.

Nov. 4

Washington at Oregon – This wouldn’t seem like much of an upset if, like the College Football Czar, you’re picking these teams third and fourth in their division.  Those who expect UW to return to the CFP, however, could be in for a shock.  Last year, the Huskies took out 12 years of frustration by mauling their hated rivals from Eugene 70-21, but that Fighting Duck team didn’t look like itself, and not just because it wasn’t wearing its team colors.  UO coach Mark Helfrich had lost control of his team by that point in the season, and freshman QB Justin Herbert was making his first career start.  This time, a somewhat degraded Husky defense will be facing a more seasoned sophomore, who will be running Willie Taggart’s Gulf Coast offense with a host of talented tailbacks.

 

BOWL PROJECTIONS

Just for fun, the Czar takes his best preseason guesses at how the postseason might turn out.

Bowl …….... Date …….... Matchup …….... Projection

New Orleans ….. Dec. 16 ….. C-USA vs. Sun Belt ….. UTSA vs. Arkansas St.

Cure ….. Dec. 16 … C-USA vs. Sun Belt ….. Old Dominion vs. Georgia St.

Las Vegas ….. Dec. 16 ….. Pac 12 vs. MWC ….. Oregon vs. Colorado St.

New Mexico ….. Dec 16 ….. Mtn. West vs. C-USA ….. New Mexico vs. W. Kentucky

Camellia ….. Dec. 16 ….. MAC vs. Sun Belt ….. C. Michigan vs. Troy

Boca Raton ….. Dec. 19 ….. American vs. C-USA ….. C. Florida vs. So. Miss

Frisco ….. Dec. 19 ….. American vs. At-large ….. Houston vs. Brigham Young

St. Petersburg ….. Dec. 21 ….. American vs. C-USA ….. Memphis vs. La. Tech

Bahamas ….. Dec. 22 ….. C-USA vs. MAC ….. N. Texas vs. Toledo

Famous Idaho Potato ….. Dec 22 ….. Mtn. West vs. MAC ….. UNLV vs. Ohio

Birmingham ….. Dec. 23 ….. American vs. SEC* ….. Tulane vs. N. Carolina

Armed Forces ….. Dec. 23 ….. Big Ten* vs. Army^ ….. Akron vs. Army

Dollar General ….. Dec. 23 ….. Sun Belt vs. MAC ….. Appalachian St. vs. Miami OH

Hawaii ….. Dec. 24 ….. Mtn. West vs. American ….. Hawaii vs. Temple

Heart of Dallas ….. Dec. 26 ….. C-USA vs. Big XII ….. Middle Tennessee vs. Texas Tech

Quick Lane ….. Dec. 26 ….. Big Ten vs. ACC ….. Michigan St. vs. Wake Forest

Cactus ….. Dec. 26 ….. Big XII vs. Pac 12 ….. Oklahoma vs. Arizona

Independence ….. Dec. 27 ….. ACC vs. SEC ….. Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi St.

New Era Pinstripe ….. Dec. 27 ….. ACC vs. Big Ten ….. Georgia Tech vs. Maryland

Foster Farms ….. Dec. 27 ….. Big Ten vs. Pac 12 ….. Nebraska vs. California

Texas ….. Dec. 27 ….. Big XII vs. SEC* ….. TCU vs. Boise St.

Military ….. Dec. 28 ….. ACC vs. American ….. Nc State vs. Navy

Camping World ….. Dec. 28 ….. ACC% vs. SEC ….. Notre Dame vs. Florida

Holiday ….. Dec. 28 ….. Big Ten vs. Pac 12 ….. Minnesota vs. Colorado

Alamo ….. Dec. 28 ….. Big XII vs. Pac 12 ….. W. Virginia vs. Washington St.

Belk ….. Dec. 29 ….. ACC vs. SEC ….. Clemson vs. Kentucky

Sun ….. Dec. 29 ….. Pac 12 vs. ACC ….. Washington vs. Pitt

Music City ….. Dec. 29 ….. SEC vs. ACC ….. Arkansas vs. Louisville

Arizona ….. Dec. 29 … Mtn. West vs. Sun Belt ….. San Diego St. vs. Idaho

Cotton ….. Dec. 29 ….. At-large vs. At-large ….. LSU vs. Penn St.

Gator ….. Dec. 30 ….. SEC vs. Big Ten ….. Vanderbilt vs. Michigan

Liberty ….. Dec. 30 ….. Big XII vs. SEC ….. Texas vs. S. Carolina

Fiesta ….. Dec. 30 ….. At-large vs. At-large ….. Oklahoma St. vs. Stanford

Orange ….. Dec. 30 ….. At-large vs. At-large ….. Georgia vs S. Florida

Outback ….. Jan. 1 ….. SEC vs. Big Ten ….. Tennessee vs. Iowa

Peach ….. Jan. 1 ….. At-large vs. At-large ….. Miami vs. Wisconsin

Citrus ….. Jan. 1 ….. SEC vs. Big Ten ….. Auburn vs. Northwestern

Rose ….. Jan 1 ….. Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist ….. Alabama vs. USC

Sugar ….. Jan. 1 ….. Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist ….. Ohio St. vs. Florida St.

Championship ….. Jan. 8 ….. Rose winner vs. Sugar winner ….. Alabama vs. Ohio St.

* At large bid opens due to lack of eligible team to fulfill commitment

% Notre Dame is eligible for ACC bids

^ If eligible

The College Football Czar