Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Utah State Football 2014 Preview

Every day, I drive by a billboard in Layton on my way home from work, that says "The Climb Continues."  Let's enjoy the view, then, shall we!

First, and foremost, Chukie Keeton returns from injury for his senior season.  He has good company in the backfield and targets to throw to...well, those that aren't in trouble with the law.  However, USU doesn't have a lot of starters from last year's team, unless you count those that filled in for injured players.  The Aggies should be fine, and I am not the only one who wonders why Boise State was picked to finish first in the MW Mountain division.  Perhaps reputation still means something.  USU will have the chance to change that perception on November 29 on the Blue Turf.

So folks, go buy some tickets and see the Aggies.

Sunday
Aug. 31
Volunteers at Tennessee Volunteers
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
5:00 p.m. MT
SEC Network
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sept. 6
Bengals Idaho State Bengals
Romney Stadium, Logan, UT
6:00 p.m. MT
MWN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sept. 13
Demon Deacons Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Romney Stadium, Logan, UT
5:00 p.m. MT
CBSSN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sept. 20
Indians at Arkansas State Red Wolves
Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR
TBA ---
Saturday
Sept. 27
--- Open Date TBA ---
Friday
Oct. 3
Cougars at BYU Cougars
LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT
8:15 p.m. MT
ESPN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 11
Falcons Air Force Falcons
Romney Stadium, Logan, UT
Time TBA
ESPN Network TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 18
Rams at Colorado State Rams
Hughes Stadium, Ft. Collins, CO
5:00 p.m. MT
CBSSN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 25
Rebels UNLV Rebels
Romney Stadium, Logan, UT
Time TBA
ESPN Network TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 1
Warriors at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI
9:00 p.m. MT
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Friday
Nov. 7
Cowboys at Wyoming Cowboys
War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, WY
6:00 p.m. MT
ESPN2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 15
Lobos New Mexico Lobos
Romney Stadium, Logan, UT
Time TBA
ESPN Network TBA
Buy
Tickets
Friday
Nov. 21
Spartans San Jose State Spartans
Romney Stadium, Logan, UT
7:30 p.m. MT
ESPN2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 29
Broncos at Boise State Broncos
Albertson's Stadium, Boise, ID
Time TBA
ESPN Network TBA
Buy
Tickets


Likely Wins
Idaho State, Wake Forest, Arkansas State, BYU, Air Force, Colorado State, UNLV, Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico, San Jose State, Boise State

Likely Loss
Tennessee

Best Case Scenario
12-0

Most Likely Scenario
11-1

Worst Case Scenario
7-5

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weber State Football 2014 Preview

Weber State begins the 2014 season with a 4 different head coach in the 2010's.  That lack of stability has taken its toll on the team.  It hard to fathom, but worth saying again.  This year's Wildcat seniors are playing for their 4th different head coach.  And, it is also hard to fathom, but the new regime on has one assist coach who was on the sidelines in 2010: Tight End Coach Colton Swan.  Everyone else on the WSU sideline is new to the program.

Weber State was picked to be in the bottom 4 of the conference by both the press and the media.  That is the kind of respect that has been lost for this program.  Of all of the talent on the team, only DB Deon'Tea Florence was given all-conference honors.

It is interesting that a defensive player was given this honor.  Last season, the defense was dismal.  They gave up more than 30 points in 10 of the 12 games they played.  To end this futility, new head coach Jay Hill brought in Justin Ena from Southern Utah to coordinate the defense.  He also hired away Ed Lamb's other coordinator Steve Clark.  Last Season, WSU scored more than 20 points on 4 occasions.  The offense played well enough, possibly, to only earn another potential win.  Both sides of the ball need improving if WSU is going to win more than 2 games in 2014.

The schedule looks like a team that doesn't expect much this season.  There are only 5 home games, with just one in September.  Which means that 4 of the first 5 are on the road.  The lone home games is against MVFC power North Dakota State.  Not the way to build confidence in a struggling team.  It is not likely, that WSU will win a game before Veteran's Day.

With the state of college football today, if Jay Hill doesn't turn around the Wildcats, he may be the last football coach in WSU history.

2014 Schedule:

Date Opponent Location Time (MST) Results Media
  Thu, Aug 28  at Arizona State Tempe, AZ   8:30 p.m.
Pac-12 Network   KLO 1430 AM
External Live Event
  Sat, Sep 06  North Dakota State Ogden   6:00 p.m.
Altitude TV   KLO 1430 AM
External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Sep 13  at Sacramento State Sacramento, CA   7:00 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Sep 20  at Stephen F. Austin Nacogdoches, TX   5:00 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event
  Sat, Sep 27  at Southern Utah * Cedar City, UT   6:00 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Oct 11  Cal Poly * Ogden, UT   1:00 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Oct 18  at Montana State * Bozeman, MT   3:30 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Oct 25  Portland State * Ogden, UT   1:00 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Nov 01  Northern Arizona * Ogden, UT   1:00 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Nov 08  at North Dakota * Grand Forks, ND   11:00 a.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Nov 15  Northern Colorado * Ogden, UT   1:00 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
  Sat, Nov 22  at Idaho State * Pocatello, ID   2:30 p.m.
  KLO 1430 AM External Live Event External Live Event
* Conference Games
(Courtesy: WeberStateSports.com)


Best Case Scenario: 5-7
Projected Finish: 2-10.
Worst Case Scenario: 0-12

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Southern Utah 2014 Preview

There were some changes on the SUU staff this off-season.  There was a lot of hubub about former BYU head coach Gary Crowton landing in Cedar City and former BYU backup Ammon Olsen transferring for his senior season.  This was after Justin Ena and Steve Clark left Cedar City for Weber State and Ogden.

For those of you looking to make a big deal of Crowton's coming remember there must be a reason why the former top assistant at LSU is now at SUU.  This is not the career path most good coaches make.  The reason is that he has found little success in his jobs since leaving Baton Rouge.  As for Olsen, well, he was just looking for the playing time he wasn't going to get backing up Taysom Hill. 

Changes needed to be made in Cedar City, in spite of recent successes, especially on offense.  There were many reason why SUU made the FCS playoffs for the first time ever in 2013, but the play of Quarterback Aaron Kantu and the rest of the Thunderbird offense were not among them.  The only thing the offense did well was not turn the ball over.  Usually, the defense and the special teams gave the offense good field position.  The offense usually didn't have to be spectacular.  When the offense had to be spectacular, they failed.  Hence, the first post-season romp ended ignominiously last year.

But who needs offense when you can win games on special teams and defense?  Can Demario Warren replace Justin Ena as the defense coordinator?  That is the real question in Cedar City this season. 

To return to the post-season in 2014, the Thunderbirds will need to pull off an upset in one of the four games where they will not be favored; either one of the FBS road games against Nevada or Fresno State or conference games against Cal Poly or Eastern Washington.  They will also need to win the games that they should win.  If they can do that, they will repeat last year's success. 

Schedule:

August 30 @ Nevada
September 6 @ Southeastern Louisiana
September 13 South Dakota State (HC)
September 20 @ Fresno State
September 27 Weber State
October 4 @ Cal Poly
October 11 Eastern Washington
October 18 @ Idaho State
October 25 North Dakota
November 8 @ Sacramento State
November 15 Montana
November 22 @ Northern Arizona

Worst-Case Scenario 4-8
Best-Case Scenario 9-3
Most Likely Scenario 8-4
(Likely Wins: S.E. Louisiana, South Dakota State, Weber State, Idaho State, North Dakota, Sacramento State, Montana and Northern Arizona.  Likely Losses: Nevada, Fresno State, Cal Poly and Eastern Washington.)

Most intriguing game of 2014.  September 27 vs. former assistants Ena and Clark and Weber State.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The future of the MWC/Big Sky Conferences

The future of the Big Sky Conference as I see it today, July 14, 2014

To quote a famous guru from a popular movie series, 'always in motion, the future is."  Indeed it is difficult to see.  But how have things changed in the past few years.  One of the reasons the Big Sky Conference super-charged to 13 teams was the threat of teams moving up to the FBS.  I think that I am comfortable now crossing that threat off the list.

As the gap grows between the Power 5 conferences and the rest of the Football Bowl Subdivision, the gap between those other conferences in the FBS and the Football Championship Subdivision will shrink.  This is already evident as we saw how Southern Utah handled South Alabama last season.  We will see such victories by the Big Sky Conference football teams becoming more common in the future.  But victories against PAC-12 teams, those will begin to be even more rare than they are today.

Will the Big Sky Conference as a whole every catch up with the Mountain West Conference?  I doubt that.  Boise State will always be Boise State, Fresno State will always be Fresno State.  But don't be surprised to see teams like Wyoming and New Mexico being regularly schooled by the likes of Northern Arizona.  If say, Eastern Washington comes to Boise and upsets the Broncos on the blue turf, that game will become a rallying cry for the Broncos for the next several seasons.

The biggest threat to the Big Sky Conference is the WAC, but not in the way it was a few years ago.  It's the WAC without football, as in Big Sky schools dropping football.  In recent years; Weber State and Northern Arizona have had to fight to keep football.  There may be schools follow-through on threats to drop football and join the new WAC.  Especially as costs rise, even at the FCS level, schools will decide that dropping out is better than keeping up.

Another possible "threat" or "Opportunity" for the Big Sky is the resurrection of Big West Football, which is likely to be at the FCS level, if it happens.

As for the MWC, there are times of both opportunity and threat.  Odds are that there will never be a chance for the MWC to become a power conference.  Also, odds are that if you are not currently a member of a power conference, there will not be the chance to join.  From what I have read, the power conferences are in no mood to add anyone, including BYU, Boise State or Fresno State.  It appears that they are trying to get smaller, not larger.

This could be an opportunity for the MWC, which could become a real power conference in basketball.  But that is all speculation right now.  But for teams in the West who are not able to keep up with the spending of the rest of the power conferences, the MWC may end up a good landing place.

In 20 years, and this is my speculation, both the MWC and the Big Sky Conferences could look much different than they do today.

2035 Possible MWC

Air Force
Boise State
Fresno State
Iowa State
Kansas State


Nevada
New Mexico
Montana
UNLV
UTEP
San Diego State
Utah State

Dropping Out to the FCS:
Colorado State
Wyoming
Hawaii
San Jose State

2035 Possible Big Sky

Eastern Washington
Central Washington
Colorado State
Dixie State
Idaho
Montana State
North Dakota
Southern Utah
Simon Frazer
Wyoming

Dropping Out (Dropping Football):
Idaho State
Northern Arizona

Weber State

Dropping to Division II:

Northern Colorado

2035 Resurrected Big West

Cal Poly
CS Northridge
Hawaii
UC Davis
Portland State
Sacramento State
San Jose State
San Diego University

Friday, July 4, 2014

Vacation Over

My vacation from this blog is over now that the college football season is about to begin.  There has not been a lot to write about.  Except for BYU pursuing the Big 12, there hasn't been a lot of action on the conference realignment front.  I'm also trying to steer clear of rumors, and it is always very difficult to separate the rumors from the facts.

This much I do know, the college playoff system that begins this season is a step closer to separating the Power 5 conferences from the rest of the Football Bowl Subdivision.  By the end of this decade, instead of the two college football subdivisions of Division I that exist now, there will be 3.  It does not look like BYU, Boise State or Utah State will be in the top division.  This is true no matter what their fans think.

Does this mean that BYU should give up on Independence and return to the Mountain West Conference?  My answer is that it is too early to tell.  There are several potential twists that could come, and probably many that will.  And when it happens, we'll probably all say something idiotic like, "wow, I should have seen that coming!"

But there are some trends that could blow this all away.  First and most important of all, is that that fewer kids are playing football.  It is likely because of the injury danger, particularly the concussion factor, that parents are steering their kids into other sports.  This means that the recruiting pool is shrinking.  This is not good news for the schools at the bottom rung of college football.

But here is what the experts are saying.

First, there will not be 5 major conferences in the 2030, there will probably only be 4 with 16 to 20 teams in them.  The conference that seems to be on the way out is the Big 12.  My hunch is that the PAC-12 will become the PAC-16 with the addition of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and one other lucky school.  People want to say that that other school will be Texas Tech, but I don't see the PAC-12 welcoming a school in little 'ole Lubbock, Texas.  If I were to make the choice, that 4th school would be Kansas.  But they are not a football school. 

This is why BYU aligning with the Big 12 is their only chance.  But today I believe that the Cougars will end up on the outside looking in.  If you ask me, if BYU gets into the Big 12, the PAC-12 will find a reason to leave BYU out.

There are schools that are struggling to keep football going right now, and when it becomes more expensive many of these schools will simply drop football.  Some of those schools are in the Mountain West.  Wyoming and Hawaii are the only schools I see taking this step today.  There may be others.

As for the local schools, there has yet to be a conference kick someone because they were not meeting the standards.  In fact, most of the big conference like having someone around to pick on and provide fodder for an easy win.  It helps if they are good in other sports.  This is why Indiana is still in the Big 10 and Vanderbilt is still in the SEC.  This is why Utah is in the PAC-12, and this is the future of the program unless they figure out how to win some conference games.  But Basketball and Gymnastics will allow the PAC-12 to justify their existence.  If the PAC-12 gets rid of anyone, which I am sure they will not, it will be a program like Washington State.  If it is any consolation to Ute fans, Arizona has never played in the Rose Bowl, either.

As for BYU, I don't see them joining the MWC, but remaining independent at the new second division.  It will still allow them to play a national schedule, get some games on TV and continue to be used as a missionary tool for the LDS church.  They will still have a hard time finding quality games in November.

Utah State will continue to contend in the MWC from time to time.  But Utah fans, even if they never play in the Rose Bowl, will continue to look down on BYU and Utah State fans as also rans.

I am not certain that football is in the long-term future at Weber State, Southern Utah and Dixie State.  There are not the resources to compete in an arms race, and these schools will be left behind.  Hard to tell if they keep football or not, especially with the growth of soccer in the US.

That will all be brewing in the background as the 2014 season kicks off.  Let's hope that it's a good one.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rebranding your team.

One of the hot topics in sports today is around the name of the gridiron football team that plays near our nations capital.  I was a Redskins fan back in the 1980s when John Riggins and the Hogs were among the best in the NFL.  There was rarely has been a better a group of gentlemen who were more of a team than the 5 members of the Redskins offensive line.  Only one of them, Russ Grimm was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.  Of course, I was never one to dress in drag and wear a plastic pig snout, but I was still a fan.

But that does not mean that I believe the Redskins should keep their name.  I was made aware of this plight when I was a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and found a poster that used many racial slurs as team names in comparison to the Redskins name.  However, what most people of the liberal side of the argument don't realize is how difficult and costly branding a sports franchise can be.

Of course, there are the legendary naming contests.  However, what most people don't realize is that these so-called contests are nothing more than marketing schemes.  It helps people feel as though the community was part of the branding of the team.  Usually, the new owners have the team name in mind before the contest begins, and simply reward the closest guess.

Re-branding the team is not something that is done in a boardroom somewhere.  If will take weeks, if not months before the team is re-branded.  This will be no easy task for the current Redskins owners.  Has anyone else noticed that since Daniel Snyder has become the owner of the team, the franchise has floundered?  A good brand should reflect where the company or team is currently in the marketplace, where they would like to be in the future and reflect the values that the team would like to project.  The current Washington Redskins are nothing like the team that won 3 Super Bowl Championships in the 1980s and 1990s.  They are more like a ship without a rudder.  You should expect better from someone who became a billionaire through advertising.

Branding takes time.  After the name is chosen, logos are designed, followed by uniforms.  The main reason the Utah Jazz did not change their name following their exodus from New Orleans is because the NBA felt there was not enough time to do so.  Perhaps the original plan was to re-brand the team after their first season in Salt Lake City, like the Milwaukee Brewers were known as the Milwaukee Pilots their first year in Wisconsin.  But here we are 34 years later, still known as the Jazz.

In spite of the teams performance in recent seasons, the team doesn't have to look far for inspiration to find a brand that will inspire the team to greatness.  There is oodles of choices from American history.  Being in the nation's capital has its advantages.  Here are some of my suggestions.

1.  Washington Continentals--Named for the Continental Army that fought against the British forces in the American Revolution.

2.  Washington Wolves--Named for General George "Grey Wolf" Crook, US Civil War General

3.  Washington Cyclones--Named for the 38th Infantry Division, who earned the nickname during World War I.

4.  Washington Red Devils--Named for the 5th Infantry Division, who earned the name from their German Counterparts in World War I.

5.  Washington Spearheads--Named after the 3rd Armored Division.

6.  Washington Mustangs--Named for the P-51, considered the best fighter in World War 2.

7.  Washington Osprey--The largest birds in the Chesapeake Bay.

There are possibly many others that the current Redskins could change their names to.  They could even do it is a way that will allow them to keep their colors, and only change the insignia on the helmet, to keep the cost of re-branding down.

Should the Redskins change their name?  Yes.  But let's not rush them as branding is a serious business.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Comments on BYU's future.

I haven't commented about BYU's Big 12 aspirations because I've been waiting for it to all play out.  But this is going to take a more than just a few weeks.  It may take years.

When Bronco Mendenhall says, "we would love to be in the Big 12," it's kind of like my wife saying, "we would love to live in Federal Heights."  Anything can happen, I'm still young enough, home price may fall again.  However, I think that BYU has a slightly better chance at getting into the Big 12 than I do of changing my zip code to 84113.  And one should never say never when it comes to the PAC-12 as well.

My hunch, however, is that the Power Five conference want to whittle down rather than add more members.  But don't look for smaller, private colleges to be whittled out.  There is really only one target that fits the bill that private schools can't compete.  That distinction belongs to Wake Forest, the school with the worst record in the ACC.

Northwestern does not have the worst all-time Big 10 record.  Indiana is one school that is worse.

Vanderbilt has been better that Mississippi State all-time.

Stanford has one of the better all-time records in the PAC-12.

Baylor and TCU are both much better than Iowa State.

I also suspect that the SEC will never drop Mississippi State.

If it ever comes to this, expect that those schools will not got down without a large fight.  There is a lot of money at stake.  There may be, in fact, more consolodation to bring the number of conferences down to 4.

But one does not become elite by welcoming any Tom, Dick and Harry.  A country club doesn't become exclusive by adding Joe the Plumber.  If the number will not go down, then it will be capped at some point.  That  number is likely 80, which is 16 by 5.  This means that there may be only 12 slots left, if you count Notre Dame as being in.  4 in the PAC-12, 2 in the SEC and 6 in the Big 12.  There may also be a spending frenzy to be included, something that the LDS Church may not want.

BYU is smart to try and hitch themselves to the Big 12 wagon.  I think if the PAC-12 had not chosen Utah, BYU would be in that conference today.  If the PAC-12 wanted BYU, they would already be there.  The Cougars have played or has scheduled everyone in that conference except for Oregon and Colorado since becoming independent.

But the most important factor for BYU to be in the Big 12 may be to find an acceptable travel partner.  Someone else, nearby, who could prove their worth to the PAC-12.  Who could it be?  If Boise State can win without Chris Peterson, then we may know the answer.  It could also be Colorado State or UNLV, who are both spending a lot of money to either improve or build new facilities.  It could be Air Force, who has a tradition like non other in sports.  Finally, it could be Houston to get back some of the recruiting market lost by Texas A & M.  It could be that the Big 12 goes from 10 to 14 adding BYU, UNLV, Houston and Cincinnati.

It could also be that the Big 12 goes from 10 to 0.  It could be that the SEC adds Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.  Followed by the PAC 12 adding Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas and Kansas State, leaving Baylor, TCU and Iowa State out of the picture.

Either way, BYU will not be independent, in my opinion, after 2020.  I also suspect that one way or another BYU will have conference foes like Baylor and TCU.  The real question is whether or not they are in the elite tier or the next one.