Thursday, September 5, 2013

Your College Football Weekend Primer: Can The U Get Its Swag Back?

The U may have invented Swag back in the day, but the Canes need a win over UF Saturday to get their's back.
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

This weekend will deliver two "rivalry" games that really exemplify where college football is going. In case you didn't know, the game, along with the population of the country at large, is moving south.

Let's begin with Notre Dame's soon ending "rivalry" with Michigan, a feud downplayed by Irish coach Brian Kelly this week (Because his school is the one that opted out of the series), and talked up/exaggerated by pundits all across ESPN (Because the annual matchup is a ratings bonanza for them every time it's played in the Big House).

Let me be the first to say, as someone who attended a Big Ten school, that I personally don't care if Michigan and Notre Dame ever play again. Is it a significant rivalry? Sure, I suppose. It's two of the all-time winningest programs that reside within 150 miles of each other. It's a battle of two of the best programs in the midwest, but if college football's recent history has taught us anything, it's that geography is overrated.

Notre Dame knows this, that's why they chose to (sorta) align themselves with the ACC, and schedule future home-and-homes with teams like Texas. The Irish want to recruit nationally, to follow population shift down south, and playing Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech gets you a lot closer to that "southern speed" than trips to Ann Arbor, West Lafayette and East Lansing do.

So, the end of this rivalry is only natural. Notre Dame, being a national and "independent" brand, is going to try to combat population shift with a national recruiting strategy. Michigan, a great school, program, and national brand unto itself, is content to recruit it's home state, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Chicagoland. That's probably not the right call, especially with Ohio State increasing its presence in Florida and Georgia, but hey, at least they get those tough midwestern kids!

A Sunshine State Showdown

The other big "rivalry" game this week can hardly be called such, and that's because it is only played once every four years. But, Florida's trip south to face Miami is significant, because it may mark a turning point back up for the Hurricane program.

Think about this: The last time Miami beat Florida, a guy named Brock Berlin was its quarterback. Oh, and the last time Miami lost to Florida, a guy named Robert Marve was its quarterback. See how much it sucks when you only play once each recruiting cycle?

But, rare as these encounters are, they are nationally relevant. A win for the Canes would legitimize Al Golden's short tenure as a return to national prominence for the U, and would likely make running back Duke Johnson a household name. For the Gators, they need this win to stem the tide in recruiting, where ACC rivals Miami and Florida State are nipping at their heels. The Gators are still recruiting at a top-10 level, but another loss to an ACC school (UF beat FSU last season, but lost its two previous meetings with the Noles), and perception will be that Florida's Blue Chippers don't have to attend the state's SEC school to play high-quality football.

Oh, and it would be another huge win for the ACC over the SEC, building off of Clemson's win over Georgia last week. I know SEC fans, Bama beat VT and SC beat UNC, but those were hardly even matchups.

SEC East Already On the Line

We're only in week two, but one team will take a huge step toward winning the wide open SEC East. Georgia won't be able to dwell on its loss in Death Valley for long, because the Bulldogs welcome that other team from South Carolina to Athens this week. The Gamecocks travel Between the Hedges after a dominant defensive and rushing performance against North Carolina at home last week, and the Ole Ball Coach's bunch even showed some big play potential in the passing game.

That's bad news for a young Georgia back seven that surrendered 270 yards though the air and 42 on the ground, along with five total touchdowns, to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Will South Carolina be able to replicate their in-state rival's success against Georgia? Probably not, but they do have a much better defense, led by All American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, so I wouldn't expect Georgia to put 545 yards like they did on Clemson either.

The winner of this game will have a huge leg up in the SEC East title race. The Bulldogs get to play rival Florida in Jacksonville, while the Gamecocks get UF at home later this season. But, as I said, this game is in Athens, so advantage Dawgs before things kick off Saturday. The schedule is there for Georgia to get back to the SEC Championship Game, but another penalty and turnover filled performance could sink their season before it really gets going.

FCS Earning Respect

By now you probably know that teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) won eight games over schools from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). That's a record for one weekend of college football, and it also led to the larger schools paying out nearly $2 million to lose to these supposed cupcakes.

Well, the oddsmakers in Vegas are taking notice after teams like Towson and McNeese State took AAC squads UConn and USF, respectively, to the woodshed last week. This week, we actually have an FCS team favored over one from the FBS, though it's a little unfair to look at Maine giving three points to UMass that way. The Minutemen just played their first season of FBS ball last year, and did so as members of the MAC. It wasn't a smooth transition, as UMass played its home games at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots, and about 100 miles from UMass' Amherst campus.

But it wasn't just a long trip, the Minutemen were an average, at best, FCS program suddenly thrust into the FBS. UMass went 1-11, and this season didn't start much better with a 45-0 loss against Wisconsin. Still, when an FCS team that went 5-6 last year is favored over you, and the NCAA is coming after you for averaging 5,000 fans less than the required 15,000 per game for membership in the FBS, it's been a rough couple of weeks.

But it isn't just UMass that Vegas is picking on. Fellow MAC member Akron is only giving three points to James Madison, who you may remember upset Virginia Tech a few years back. These "body bag" games are becoming anything but.


First, here is your Stone Cold video of the week.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, here is my Stone Cold betting lock of the week. Home team in CAPS:

KANSAS STATE (-13.5) over Louisiana-Lafayette

I love that the Wildcats are insanely undervalued a week after losing to FCS power North Dakota State. Bill Snyder has won with lesser talent than he has this year, especially at the quarterback position, and Louisiana-Lafayette looked pretty bad in a season-opening 20 point loss to an average Arkansas team.

Basically, I like the reigning Big 12 co-champs to bounce back at home with a statement win. A week after rushing for only 41 yards against an FCS school, the talented K-State line will be hungry to prove it can again be one of the Big 12's best, and quarterback Jake Waters will be focused, knowing a poor performance here could cost him his job.

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