Putting the Hammer Down!

By Posted on: April 10th, 2014 in Football 9 Comments »
Spring shakeup

There’s a shakeup on the offensive line, this week.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody. Spring proceeds on. Gone are the frosty mornings, having been replaced by mercurial, stormy weather and torrential rains. The days have gotten longer, and Auburn’s football team is still hard at work preparing for the 2014 season. In these last two weeks of spring drills, here’s what head coach Gus Malzhan had to say: “We’ve got two more weeks and we’ve got to put the hammer down and we’ve got to make sure we get better.”

     The big news this week from spring drills is an apparent shake-up on the offensive line. Sophomore Avery Young has been moved from right tackle to right guard, and junior Patrick Miller has been moved back to his old stomping grounds at right tackle. That leaves senior Chad Slade as the odd man out in the starting lineup. Slade is doing reps at left guard this week, backing up Alex Kozan. Is this a permanent move by the coaches? They have been quoted as saying that the move is strictly to create depth, but I’m not so sure.

     This past Tuesday’s practice footage featured a heavy dose of offensive line work, starting about 1:20 into this video clip. Folks, this is what it’s like to be an offensive lineman in camp. Coach Grimes definitely did not seem happy during this drill. My favorite section is where he tells the linemen (particularly Reese Dismukes) that they can cook their BBQ any way they want to; he’s not going to tell them what to do. Then coach Grimes barked, “But when it comes to this (expletive), we’re going to do it the way I want! You got me on that?” Several do-overs were to follow.

     As with any physical spring, injuries have mounted a bit. Auburn has taken some lumps on the defensive line, with LaDarius Owens out for the whole spring, Tyler Nero not practicing since last week, and Keymiya Harrell limited after getting banged up in last Saturday’s scrimmage. Likewise, the linebacker corps has had Anthony Swain and JaViere Mitchell out the whole spring, which has made room for redshirt freshman Cameron Toney to take hold of the top backup spot.

     I’m told that the real difference that will be seen this season on the Auburn defense will be in the secondary. Probably the most impressive guy this spring back there has been Robensen Therezie at the star position. Therezie broke his hand right off the bat, but has been back out there everyday, leading by example. He’s even fielding punts with a cast on that hand. Therezie may have some help this year, off the bench. Junior Justin Garrett is again looking good, and sophomore Mackendro Alexander has made a move the past offseason and this spring.

     Auburn’s safety situation was scary last season, after the dismissal of Demetruce McNeil and the injury to Joshua Holsey at midseason. This year, it’s looking like the Tigers may have a bit more depth to play with. JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief continues to impress, and I’d think he’s a virtual lock to start. Brandon King has been moved full-time to safety, and he’s said to be improving. With Jonathan Ford settled in there as well, and Holsey returning in the fall, Auburn should have some numbers in the playing rotation.

     Safety is a position I’ll be watching on A-Day. I’m hoping to see plays on receivers and balls down the field, and help closing in on runners. Too often the past ten years, Auburn’s safeties have looked more like that uncertain 4-year-old playing in the outfield in his first T-Ball game, particularly down the depth chart.

     The battle to replace Tre Mason at running back continues. By all accounts, seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, along with redshirt freshman Peyton Barber are all getting first-team reps. When asked about the pecking order, Artis-Payne had the quote of the week when he said, “We haven’t gotten any updates so if you find something out, let me know.” Given how well the two seniors played last season when given the chance, I’ll be very surprised if both don’t get a lot of playing time, and play very well.

How Will the SEC Champions Replace Tre Mason?

By Posted on: April 9th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 6 Comments »
NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Auburn

                                                                                                                           (photo:Julie Bennett, al.com)
The NFL Draft is four weeks away and this year the first running back expected to be taken is Auburn’s Tre Mason. Last year Mason astounded all with his 23 touchdowns and 1,816 yards rushing. Tre was the leading rusher on the No.1 rushing team in the nation. A feat that made him a Heisman finalist.

He leaves behind a  legacy as one of the greatest running backs to ever play at ‘Running Back U.” His early departure for the pro’s leaves some big shoes to fill. However, the good news is – Auburn’s cupboard is full of talent. In fact, Auburn has enough stallions in the stable that promising sophomore Jonathan Ford has been permanently moved to the defense.

Looking over the list, the number one contender has to be senior Cameron Artis-Payne. He started last season sharing the carries with Mason before Tre claimed sole possession of the role. He had  two 100 yard games and finished the year with 610 yards and six touchdowns.

Artis-Payne is feeling very confident this spring. Although he recognizes he’s in a race to be Mason’s successor, he said at the beginning of spring practice that he wasn’t worried about the competition. “I just feel like I’m not going to lose.” He added, “I’m trying to be the first 2,000-yard running back in the SEC.” Got to love that attitude.

Then there is, junior Corey Grant who made a name for himself as the Tigers homerun threat last year – mostly on speed sweeps. Grant had almost a ten yard per carry average, rushing for 647 yards and six touchdowns. Some think the 5’11″, 203lb. back is not big enough to take the pounding in the middle.

However, that was also a concern about Tre Mason early in his career before he put on extra weight. News out of Auburn is that Grant has also added pounds to prove he can be an every down back. Pound for pound, he may be the strongest player on the team; and Corey said going into spring that it’s his goal to prove to the coaches that he can carry the load.

Third on most people’s list is Peyton Barber. The 5’11″, 230lb. Redshirt Freshman may be the surprise of the group. Peyton has a legitimate shot at being number one. He has the build to run it through the tackles and he has the added benefit of having played scout team running back last year. That experience gives him a year of playing against college level talent. Running backs coach, Tim Horton believes Barber has the power and the moves to be a top college back. Reports out of Auburn say he has wowed both the coaches and teammates in spring practice.

Add to this list 5-star running back Racean ‘Roc’ Thomas who will be enrolling this summer and you can easily see the coaches have several strong options to fill the vacuum left by Mason. Although Thomas hasn’t played against college level talent, the 5’11″, 200 lb.back finished his high school career at Oxford High with 6,169 yards, 82 touchdowns, and was named ‘Mr. Alabama Football.’

There is little doubt that the next Auburn running back will be a 1,000 yard rusher. To start with Malzahn has said the 2014 offense will include more of a passing game which should keep the defensive back field from playing close, giving the running backs more room to gain yardage.

Moreover, in eight years as a college offensive coordinator or head coach, Gus Malzahn has had nine players produce eleven 1,000 yard seasons. That fact coupled with a more open passing attack assures that whoever wins the job … Will pick up where Tre Mason left off.

Who do you think will replace Tre Mason as Auburn's No.1 running back?

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Gene Chizik’s Daughter Goes to the Prom

By Posted on: April 7th, 2014 in Football 9 Comments »
Chizik Daughter

The picture says it all.

In fact, it may be the greatest father-daughter photo ever taken. Gene Chizik’s daughter went to the prom this weekend. Apparently, Gene wasn’t overly thrilled with her choice. Maybe it’s the long hair. Maybe it’s the thought of this boy taking his baby anywhere.

If you’re the father of a teenage girl, you understand the facial expression. Look up the term “father’s angst” and you’ll see that photo.

The boy’s mother took the picture and Tweeted it later that evening with the caption, “You think my son will come home from the prom alive?”

It looks like Chiz is flexing those guns. Maybe he wore the shirt on purpose, to send a subtle message. Pure gold…

saban sacrificeSpeaking of pictures, what would we do without Bammer Nation? This picture has been making the rounds of social media. I’m not really sure what the father is doing with his child. Offering her up for sacrifice? Asking Nick Saban to bless and protect her?

In the words of Verne Lundquist, “Oh my goodness.”

It has gone from bad to worse for the fledgling SEC Network. We just thought adding Paul Finebaum and Jesse Palmer to the network was bad. It was announced last week that former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy will join Joe Tessitore and Tim Tebow on the channel’s version of College GameDay this fall.

Who are the morons hiring the talent?

McElroy may be the biggest twit to ever play college football. His face immediately pisses off half the people who see it. Now we are being subjected to this each Saturday? I think I’ll stick with Fowler, Corso and Herbstreit.

They’ve also hired two more analysts, both from LSU. Former Tiger defensive linemen Booger McFarland and Marcus Spears will provide commentary on game day. I can’t hear it now, “Let’s send things back to Booger in the booth.”

Can I get another, “Oh my goodness?”

One of the big story lines of spring practice so far has been the play of backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson. While the upcoming season will be firmly in the hands of Nick Marshall, those looking to the future can breathe easier.

More than one insider has said that Johnson has closed the gap considerably. Known for his pocket passing, Gus Malzahn has the sophomore working on his running skills when in the zone read.

“I’m getting better every day,” says Johnson. “I watch film. I do better. I’m practicing on carrying out my fake. “It wasn’t anything I ever did. It’s just the simple fact with my footwork and how to do it and the right read.”

“He’s way faster than you would think, he’s way smarter with the zone read because he knows how to get to the edge,” safety Jermaine Whitehead said. “He uses his body, his length, to his advantage. He steps around a lot of guys; I’ve seen him make some steps around our D-ends that were pretty spectacular.” 

Up-scaling Cafe’ Malzahn for 2014

By Posted on: April 4th, 2014 in Football 5 Comments »


Serious-tiger-sports-a-wild-necktie

Coat and tie are now required

Welcome back to the Cafe Malzahn. We’ve revamped our menu to offer the latest Tiger-friendly cusine. Same inviting environment, same excellent service for an elegant dining experience unmatched anywhere. We hope you enjoy your meal from our extensive selection of fast seared, quick braized and speed grilled SEC meats served to you in record time.

Any analysis needs to be reviewed for relevance from time to time. My amatuer statistics are no exception. One of the most glaring anomolies I found last season was that teams seemed to have outlier quirks in my assessment that defied logic. For example, I would often find that a team being analyzed would show awful statistics on offense, yet have exceptional red zone performance. There were also examples of exceptional offenses that had disturbingly poor red zone numbers.

When I looked further, I found that sometimes the kicking game would skew these numbers. So I looked at Red Zone touchdown production for the last seven years for Auburn and had another ‘ah hah’ moment.

CM-14-AU

Take a look at the Red Zone production in 2007, 2011 and 2012, where Auburn had some of the worst offensive production in the last decade and see how it is jarringly divergent from the Red Zone Touchdown production in those same years. In 2008, Wes Byrum was asked to kick quite a few slim percentage long balls and his success suffered.

Call it the Cody-Coefficient, or the Byrum-Bump, or the Last Second Variable, but the scoring rating is often influenced by the presence or absence of a gifted kicker. As teams fail to score touchdowns in the Red Zone, they often settle for scoring field goals and the efficiency of kickers may keep the Red Zone scoring artificially inflated (or deflated), and not reflect what is actually happening. One the defensive side, there was also a need to reflect the ability of ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ defenses that regularly prevent touchdowns with impressive goal line stands.

To settle this, I’ve added a new measure – that of Red Zone touchdown percentage, calculated by the SEC champion teams since 2007. To fit the ‘ER’ rating, I’ve weighted each of these as half a point each. My logic is that both of these numbers are important, but I wanted to keep the calculations simple and straight forward. Hopefully, this should help clarify just how good a team’s offense and defense really are in a compressed field.

By the way, every kicker has a bad day. Cody Parkey did. Wes Byrum had several in 2008. Cade Foster had an exceptionally bad one under the lights of Jordan Hare and the red eyes of the television cameras, but if you look at his overall percentage, he was a money kicker for his team. Know what the statistical difference was between him, Wes and Cody? One career kick over four years. All three were in the 74-75 percentile. If Cade had made just one more kick in those four years, he would have a higher scoring percentage than either Wes or Cody.

I take that back, there WAS one other difference – the respective fan bases for each player. But as you well know there’s no accounting for taste, class or sense in that other crowd.

More after the bump.

Tiger run
“Ask about our speedy take out service”

Here is the new standard for the 2014 season:

CM-14-1a

A review of how we arrived at the above numbers is in order. Taking the last seven years of data for SEC Champions looks like this for the first four years.

CM-14-2a

For the last three years, however, I included both Auburn’s numbers and the rather fantastic numbers generated by FSU in 2013.

CM-14-3a

This put me in a quandary. As I mentioned previously, FSU’s numbers came from beating up on relatively hapless ACC teams and did not really reflect the same competition faced by the previous six years of BCS champions that I had measured. Rather than skew the numbers too much by including this outlier into the formula, I decided with the end of the Bowl Championship Series, I should concentrate on just the SEC Champions instead. This way, the numbers reflect the teams that we’ll be playing against every year, especially considering that the new formula of the four team playoff will involve yet another game to skew the percentages on the national level.

This is also why I included LSU instead of Alabama for 2011. They were the SEC champions that year and both those and Auburn’s 2013 numbers are what I used for the latest Cafe Malzahn calculations.

As for excluding FSU, I believe Auburn’s numbers are a better measure, even though they may seem less impressive at first glance. For when I parsed what FSU accomplished against the two SEC teams they played (Auburn and Florida), it paints another picture of the BCS champion of 2013.

CM-14-4

Quite surprising, isn’t it? FSU creamed Florida in their annual rivalry game and edged out a very good Auburn team by a late score, but the numbers generated are well down in the mere mortal region rather than the Olympian statistics they generated battling the rest of the ACC. The most significant measures I found were their paltry 3rd down conversion rates on both sides of the ball in the BCS championship game.

So moving forward, I’ve decided to compare only apples to apples in future Cafe Malzahn analysis and will just concentrate on the SEC  Conference Championship. I may still include stats for the out of conference games for comparison sake, but anything beyond the SEC will be considered inaccurate and relevant only in a very general manner. As any carpenter or mechanic will tell you, one of the best measures of quality of work is knowing the proper tool for a given job. Just because you have a good hammer, doesn’t mean every job you face is a nail.

Speaking of moving forward, with the A-Day game just a couple of weeks away and the entire tone and tenor of the fan base drastically changed from this same time last year, I thought I’d include the following analysis to show just how dramatic this Auburn team has improved from the Spring of 2013.

I split the analysis of last year’s 14 games right down the middle, calculating the difference from the early season jitters of the period between the Washington State to Texas A&M games from the rest of the season, Amen Corner, the SEC and BCS title race. Putting the numbers side by side is instructive:

CM-14-5

A few things jump right off the screen at me. On the positive side, the Red Zone TD rate for offense and defensive 3rd Down conversion rate show incredible improvement. Together, both brought Auburn to within 13 seconds of taking the BCS championship. Along with the outstanding performances by our players both Rhett Lashlee and Ellis Johnson deserve a tremendous amount of credit for last year’s transformation. Nearly all other teams fade as the competition improves, but these Tigers stood tall as the pressure and stakes increased. That more than any other sign shows me there was much more to this team than a couple of lucky breaks. This team earned every win down the stretch.

On the negative side, defensive Points per Game, Yards per Play and Red Zone percentages show the impact of some really big plays in the final few games, specifically the second half of the Georgia game, AJ McCarron’s 99-yard TD strike in the Iron Bowl, and several coverage miscues in both the SEC and BCS championship games.

Yet overall there was substantial improvement as the season progressed, and against improved competition. Both halves of the season had the same won-loss record – 6 wins and 1 loss. In the first seven games Auburn played only two teams that ended the season in the top 25 – LSU (16) and TAMU (21). The last seven games involved statistics compiled against a top twenty-five team – Georgia (22) and THREE other top ten teams; Alabama (3), Missouri (8), and the eventual BCS Champion, FSU (1).

No wonder Nick and Bret were all afire to slow the pace of the game prior to the start of the 2014 season. Auburn’s rate of improvement under Gus Malzahn has upended the previous calculus for achieving an invitation to Atlanta.  Add to that the challenges of reaching the championship playoffs just raised the stakes of each and every game on the SEC schedule.  There is little room to absorb any losses, and none for any random upsets. The explosive potential of Malzahn’s offense makes the ‘Auburn Game’ a red letter date on every SEC West team’s schedule.  The road to Atlanta now goes through Auburn in addition to Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge.

In other words, Nick and his comic sidekick were advocating for more time despite the fact that the season just became significantly longer for them. 

facepalm-nick

Sorry Nick, you can’t have ten seconds. How about just one?

My Top 10 Favorite Plays of 2013

By Posted on: April 4th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 7 Comments »

I decided to take one final look back at Malzahn’s first season on the plains and list my favorite moments from one of the best seasons in Auburn football’s history. These are the moments that still stick with me. 

10. Jeremy Johnson touchdown pass to Ricardo  Louis against Western Carolina. The play comes in around the 0:50 second mark and it’s a beautiful deep ball thrown by Johnson. The future is very bright at the quarterback position. 

9. Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates – SEC Championship Game.  Seeing this play develop took years off of my life and added some gray hair to my head, but the end result was a spectacular touchdown pass to Coates in double coverage. It seems especially unfair when you consider just how much success Auburn had at running the football in this game. 
Sammie+Coates+Braylon+Webb+SEC+Championship+anZgx8Ylms6l
8. Goal line stand against Arkansas. Good old-fashioned American football just wasn’t enough to overcome Auburn’s defense in this sequence. Bielema, eat your heart out. Skip to the 3:00 mark to see the stand.

7. Anything Tre Mason did. Technically this may be cheating, but I can’t pick just one highlight to sum up Mason’s final season on The Plains. One of the best running backs to ever suit up, Mason’s contributions will be missed for quite some time. 


6. Nick Marshall and C.J. Uzomah deliver the dagger to Mississippi State. A beautiful throw to Uzomah in the back corner of the endzone sealed the Bulldogs’ fate inside Jordan-Hare and served notice to the rest of the SEC that Auburn’s offense was not just one-dimensional. 
CJ Uzomah
5. Sammie Coates sheds defender against Texas A&M. These are the kind of plays that cause grown men to begin behaving like children while watching the game. I thought my brother and I were going to running the Oklahome drill in his living room when this happened. Can you say, “pumped up”?
Sammie Coates BEAST MODE

4. Manziel sacked late to seal an Auburn victory. The sack comes in at 5:26 but the whole highlight is filled with glimpses of what Auburn’s season would eventually become. The Tigers against the world attitude may have not been born on this day, but it was surely solidified. 

3. Nick Marshall touchdown run against Alabama. Great play with a great result that helped set the tone against an Alabama defense that only Auburn believed could be gashed by running the football. The Tigers lit them up and this play was one of the highlights of Auburn’s ground attack against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense. 
Auburn FootballThe last two were pretty easy:

2. Miracle in Jordan-Hare Part 1 – Extra points to Aaron Murray in this clip. His reaction provides a little extra enjoyment to the moment. It was a look he gave often in his college football career. Also, as the most amazing play I’ve ever seen live, I can’t wait to share this experience with my kids/grandkids one day. Jordan-Hare stadium was a madhouse. 

1. Iron Bowl Stunner; Miracle in Jordan-Hare part 2 – This one speaks for itself. Although I was not at this game, I was outside of the stadium watching on a television. I will never forget the chills I had when I heard the stadium erupting in joy at Chris Davis’ return. The kicker in this clip for me is Stan White’s “OH MY GOSH!” as he realizes at about the same time as everyone else watching that Auburn is going to win the Iron Bowl in one of the most unbelievable ways ever. 

Also, here’s the CBS version with all of the ‘sad McArron family’ goodness.
 

Ratcheting up the Reps.

By Posted on: April 3rd, 2014 in Football 10 Comments »
Building Depth

The Tigers are looking to build depth this spring.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Spring has sprung in the southeast. The car air conditioner is back in use after a five month hiatus, yellow dust is collecting everywhere, and the pads are popping on the practice fields. We’re about midway through spring drills, and I think I can safely say that there’s a different feel to this year’s preparations. If nothing else, it’s pretty strange not to have an intense quarterback race in progress. Auburn hasn’t had an entrenched returning starter there since Brandon Cox 7 years ago.

     Last spring, Auburn was installing new systems, particularly on defense, trying to assess players, and build a two-deep. There is always a lot of teaching going on in spring drills, but last season was also about expectations and getting the players to buy in. This year, the players already know the expectations, and the coaches are able to do a lot more reps and a lot less explaining.

     It is evident that Auburn players took offseason workouts seriously. A number of players are bigger, stronger and should make more of an impact this season. Of particular note is the throwing and catching. There is a lot more chemistry between Nick Marshall and his receivers this spring than we saw last fall. During the winter, Marshall set up informal throw and catch drills several times a week, and it is paying off. The timing and accuracy are there, this spring.

     Auburn should again have a deep and experienced defensive line this fall. While sophomores Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel are the odds-on favorites to win the starting defensive end jobs, Auburn had almost no depth returning there. The move a week or so ago to rep Montravius Adams and Gabe Wright at end should pay dividends. One must also look at Auburn’s early schedule. The Tigers open with Arkansas, and you know the Razorbacks will look to come into Auburn, line up with extra tight ends, and pound the rock. Having some bigger, 300 pound ends ready to go makes a whole lot of sense. After a nagging injury, Daniel is back at practice, going full speed.

     The big news this week at linebacker is that Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost have flipped spots, with McKinzy now lining up at middle linebacker. That move puts Frost back on the outside, where he played his first two years at Auburn. To bolster depth, sophomore safety Khari Harding has been moved down to outside linebacker as well. Harding is listed at 224 pounds, and it can only help to add a guy with coverage skills into the mix at linebacker.

     In the secondary, new players continue to impress. We’ve already raved about the play of JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief. Two players that have changed positions this spring are also making some noise, Trovon Reed at cornerback, and Jonathan Ford at safety. Reed gives the Tigers a shifty corner with the speed to stay with any receiver in the league. Ford brings speed and physicality to the safety position, and he should be in the playing rotation this fall.

     On the offensive line, the battle between junior Patrick Miller and sophomore Shon Coleman continues, and by all accounts it is a dead heat. If there’s a difference, it’s that Coleman is a bit more powerful of a drive-blocker, and Miller has a bit quicker step in pass protection. According to coach J. B. Grimes, this line is far ahead of where the line was last season. A second-team line is shaping up to be powerful, too. Look for names like Deon Mix, Robert Leff, Xavier Dampeer and Will Adams on A-Day.

     The offense in general continues to line up very quickly, and operates crisply. Lots of different receivers are getting their name called, and there will be a lot of options for the offense in the passing game. Marcus Davis is one who is standing out, making big plays consistently. And wasn’t it great to hear that Tucker Tuberville threw a touchdown pass in last Saturday’s scrimmage? He’s at best 4th on the depth chart. When you’re getting production at that level, it’s a good thing!

Spastic Random Thoughts

By Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football, Memories 14 Comments »
13613346-mmmain - julie bennett

One of the most important plays for Auburn’s 2013 football season came against Texas A&M. (photo:Julie Bennett,al.com)

We (or at least I) interrupt our usual presentation of quality analysis and rapier wit to provide you just what the title says.  We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get going (numbered for your commenting convenience):

1.  Can anyone explain to me why ESPN and the media in general have their lips permanently implanted (notwithstanding Item 2 below) on the posterior of the Crimson Tide and Coach Saban?  How does that enhance their bottom line?

2.  We might be seeing a sea change with the above situation, after the obscene gambit that Saban, through his de facto lackey Bertie Boy, tried to pull with the 10-second rule proposal.  A lot of his cred seemed to evaporate with that move, at least amongst the coaching community (and, who knows, the media might just follow).

3.  Another question: Why were all the Tide trolls coming over here sincerely wishing us well in the aTm game?  Bama already beat Johnny Football a few weeks before; it would have behooved them and their obsession against AU for the Aggies to take us to the woodshed.  (Someone told me the answer to this is the aphorism “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  However, this analysis works only if UA hates aTm more than AU, and if that is the case, I feel thoroughly insulted to be the object of a lesser hatred.)

4.  Speaking of aTm, I am willing to say that the turning point of the whole season (and not just that particular game) was the moment Sammy Coates shoved that Aggie defender off of him and down to the ground (I still replay that gif file a few times and shout “GET OFF ME!  GET OFF ME!”).  That play showed we were ready to play and beat anyone put in front of us.

5.  Sub-thoughts from the BCS-NCG:

     a.  Florida State was not as good as everyone thought.

     b.  That said, Florida State was really good, and evidently better than us on that day.

     c.  I don’t think that anyone can blame any big play or missed field goal for losing that game, as there were plenty of busted plays and breakouts for both teams.

     d.  Isn’t it interesting that no one told Cody to “drink bleach” for missing a kick whereas Cade wasn’t so lucky?

     e.  I was shocked to see the idiocy of the FSU internet fans during the buildup to the BCS.  I was very upset at losing to “that kind” of a fan-base, until I saw the half of my high school class that went to FSU (expected as I grew up in Jacksonville, FL) were a classy kind of fans.  Then, I felt better that the joy we had in 2010 could be shared.

6.  Leading from Item 5e above, does anyone else wonder how sports rivalries across the board got so ridiculously nasty?  Can we not all agree something went way, way wrong in the last twenty years (in general)?  Can anyone stop it?

7.  As Derrick Roberts pointed out in his great article here Friday, the decision by the NLRB  on Northwestern football players unionization may end college football as we know it.  My own feeling is that if college sports becomes nothing more than a professional league, it will lose what makes people love it–that sense of being represented. College sports works because we alumni, and others with a heartfelt connection, feel like a part of that team in a way that pro sports can’t ever deliver.  I will be sad to see the death of yet another once solid cultural institution in my lifetime.

8.  If my one of my best friends (and FSU fan and current doctoral student there) ever sends me a freaking Seminole shirt, you’ll soon be seeing me here in a very compromising situation (yeah, we had that kind of a bet).

Michael Val

(who is often spastic or random, just usually not at the same time!)

Say Goodbye to College Football As You Know It

By Posted on: March 28th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 12 Comments »
Photo Courtesy of Nikeblog.com

Photo Courtesy of Nikeblog.com

This year’s crop of players leaving behind college football’s ever-evolving landscape for the NFL does so under as much or more media scrutiny than is reserved for the regular season. A college football career resembles a calculated business decision more and more with each passing day and a growing number of players are looking for ways to cash in. 

Departing players like Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel sign endorsement contracts and begin to officially start promoting themselves as a brand, and there may be a shorter wait for others to begin reaping the benefits.  A recent decision that will presumably allow Northwestern University football players to unionize has the potential to unlock a plethora of avenues through which college athletes can pursue compensation.

The 2014 season will see in the introduction of the most radical post-season change to college football since the introduction of the BCS bowl system by way of the College Football Playoff. While it will be limited to four teams competing in two semi-final and then an eventual championship game, the very introduction of a playoff conquers a hurdle long thought to be a far-fetched concept.

In addition to dedicated network media coverage, college athletes are exposed more than ever now through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This is one element that has served to blur the line between professional and amateur athletes competing in the same sports because they have come to share equal portions of the public spotlight.  As this trend has become more prevalent so has the contrast between which news regarding professional and amateur athletes is reported.

For example – an NFL lineman may get arrested for a DUI and the story receive an initial surge of coverage before it is ‘yesterday’s news so to speak, but an incident of equal or often times lesser severity will garner a whirlwind of media coverage surrounding the event that lasts for several days or even weeks.

The days of only being able to see Notre Dame play on television seem like ancient relics to a sport that has grown to unbelievable heights. There is no reason to hold out hope for a return to anything resembling college football from over two decades ago, and for some that may be disappointing news. Just make sure you don’t pause too long to reminisce or you may get left behind.