Tag Archives: SEC

College Football’s Back (and so are we)

With college football season back in swing, what better time to awaken College Sports Town from its summer-long slumber? Yes, we are still kicking here at College Sports Town, and we’re pumped that the big hits of college football season are back, with the crisp air of fall well on its way. Here are a handful of notes and thoughts through four days of college football season.

-The Big Ten didn’t have a great weekend. Which should not be that surprising because, outside of Ohio State and Michigan State, the league simply isn’t very good. Penn State, Michigan, and Nebraska are all 0-1, and Penn State got drilled by Temple. All three of those schools were supposed to represent dark horses in the league. Wisconsin did not look ready for prime time against Alabama Saturday night. Bright Spots included Northwestern and Minnesota, which both looked the part of contenders in the talent-dry Big Ten West. Minnesota fell to TCU 23-17, but was hardly a pushover. NU meanwhile dominated Stanford up front in a 16-6 victory. Stanford probably is not all that great (unclear why they were ranked), but the Cats’ O-line looked vastly improved against the Cardinal’s vaunted front seven. The OSU-MSU race in the Big Ten East should keep the mediocre B1G relevant, but the soft underbelly of the conference is likely to keep dragging the conference down in 2015. It would be big for the league if somebody–anybody–emerged as a serious national player from the West division.

Connor Cook and Michigan State handled Western Michigan this weekend. Will Oregon be able to hang with them next Saturday?

Connor Cook and Michigan State handled Western Michigan this weekend. Will Oregon be able to hang with them next Saturday?

-News flash: the SEC is not going anywhere. The (relative) struggles of America’s most dominant conference made for a common storyline going into this year, with non-SEC teams winning the last two national titles, but the truth is the SEC was far and away the best and deepest conference in football last year. That’s not changing any time soon, either. The SEC flexed its muscles this weekend, with Alabama cruising by Wisconsin, Texas A&M blowing out 15th ranked Arizona State, and Auburn knocking off Louisville. Every SEC team that played won, aside from Vanderbilt…and the Commodores don’t really count anyway, do they?

-Bold Prediction: Oregon is going to fall off the face of the earth this year. Or at least out of the top 25. The Ducks showed some defensive cracks in their 61-42 win over Eastern Washington Saturday. Am I overreacting to a game that I didn’t even watch against one of best programs in the FCS? Maybe. Or maybe key personnel losses along the back line of their defense have left the Ducks vulnerable. We’ll see just how vulnerable they are when OU heads to East Lansing next week to face the potent passing attack of Michigan State. I expect the Ducks to get lit up. And I think they might be headed for their first single digit win season since ’07.

-We didn’t get a lot of compelling college football this weekend. Sure, it’s nice for the sport to be back, but I can’t remember an opening weekend with so few must-see games. Things got off to a rough start Thursday with UNC and South Carolina playing a sloppy game in prime time on ESPN. Both teams, unranked, looked mediocre at best. Michigan played Utah on Fox Sports 1, but that game also featured less than elite majors. Minnesota came to play against TCU, which was the best game of the night, but a 16 point Vegas spread for the game shows that it wasn’t exactly expected to be GameDay material. Saturday brought the typical barrage of FBS vs. FCS battles. Wisconsin vs. Alabama was the only game pitting ranked teams against each other. Sure, the Virginia Tech-Ohio State game tonight should be popcorn material, but college football fans deserve more than one game between ranked teams on opening weekend.

-Kansas State’s band’s got (wildly inappropriate) jokes!

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Ranking the Top 15 Conferences in College Basketball

As conference play starts up all over America, a picture of where each conference in college basketball stands entering 2015 is emerging. Today, I’ve decided to rank the top 15 conferences in the country. It’s a tough ranking to do and weighing different factors (depth, number of elite teams, etc.) can make it even more difficult. It is certainly a totally subjective, nebulous ranking, but that’s part of why it’s so much fun to do. Ranking conferences always seems to engender emotion, discussion, and debate. So go ahead, let me know what I got wrong in the comments!

1. Big 12

big 12The easy knock on the Big 12 is that its best teams aren’t that good. At least at this point in the season, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single dominant team in the conference and the highest ranked Big 12 team, Iowa State, clocks in at number nine. But the Big 12 is freaking deep. Six out of its ten teams are ranked. 13-0 TCU was ranked too before backlash against their weak schedule dropped them out. The Big 12 is going to put a lot of teams in the Dance.

2. ACC

ACCWhen the ACC expanded, folks expected the ACC to be dominant. And the new-look ACC is undoubtedly great. But while the ACC has four teams in Kenpom‘s top 10, it also five sub-100 teams. Louisville, Duke, and Virginia are all legit national title contenders. Meanwhile, Wake Forest, Florida State, and Virginia Tech are all legitimately mediocre. The ACC is huge, so of course it has some stinkers. It also has a bunch of teams with potential for great success in March, including a surprising Notre Dame squad. It’s reasonable to think of the ACC as the opposite of the Big 12: loaded at the very top, but not super deep.

3. Big East

big eastThe new look Big East might not be quite ready to reclaim its status as the best conference in the land, but it’s certainly very healthy. Villanova is nasty and still hasn’t lost. St. John’s has emerged on the national scene. The defending conference champion Friars are again good and getting better. Georgetown appears to be back. Aside from DePaul, everybody in the Big East had at least reasonable success in non-conference play. The Big East has good top-to-bottom depth. Get ready to watch a lot of Fox Sports.

4. Big Ten

b10Maryland arrived just in time for the Big Ten, because the Terps are really tough and the conference as a whole has taken a small step back. Wisconsin and Maryland are great. The conference’s other big-time programs are all down a bit, if not out. Michigan State and Ohio State’s aren’t playing at the high level we’re used to seeing them play. They’re still searching. Iowa and Illinois have both been good but not amazing. Michigan is young and has had some bad losses (NJIT…). The Big Ten has a lot of solid teams. There’s a lot of potential there. But, aside from a strong showing in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the conference largely disappointed in non-conference play.

5. Pac-12

PAC-12 (edit 2)_1Everybody knows how good Arizona is. Don’t sleep on Utah though–the Utes are for real. Stanford and Washington have plenty of game as well. USC is going to be good soon; they’re young. The Pac-12 is better than it was a few years ago when it bottomed out. But there’s still more mediocrity there than Pac-12 fans would probably like. The conference isn’t overly deep. And UCLA remains a slumbering giant. Their embarrassing loss to Kentucky was a blow to the conference.

6. SEC

secKentucky, baby! The undefeated Wildcats are filthy. But after that… The conference’s next two best teams (LSU and Arkansas) both lost to Clemson so, umm, yeah. Florida’s a mess, albeit a talented mess, which leaves Kentucky without a surfeit of competition. The Gators lost to FSU yesterday by two after tipping the ball into their own hoop in the game’s waning seconds. Even if Florida figures things out (here’s guessing they will), the SEC won’t have much to brag about outside of ‘Tucky.

7. Atlantic 10

atlantic 10The A-10 has been on a high the past couple of years, but it’s taken a small step back this year. UMass has not been great. Saint Louis has not been great. St. Joe’s has not been great. But it’s not all bad news. VCU’s a terrific team. George Washington is a quality team. Davidson can score with anybody. The A-10 is still more major than mid-major.

8. AAC 

I waacas hesitant to put the AAC so low. It’s the home of the defending champs, after all. But the conference has struggled this year. UConn’s still working out the kinks following their title run. There are other solid teams in the conference:  Temple, SMU, and Cincinnati are not slouches. But no team in the conference is ranked and only two have managed double-digit wins thus far.

9. Mountain West

mwAt 13-0, Colorado State has snuck into the top 25. But the truth is the Rams probably aren’t even the Mountain West’s best team. San Diego State is an elite defensive squad and is arguably the conference’s flagship program at the moment. UNLV grabbed a huge win over Arizona. Boise State’s got game. And Wyoming is a good squad too.

10. WCC

wccGonzaga’s for real. It might be early, but they’ve looked like a final four caliber team. Gonzaga isn’t the only reason not to sleep on the WCC. Saint Mary’s, BYU, and Portland are all quality mid-majors as well.

11. Missouri Valley: UNI and Wichita State are great.

12. MAC: Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan are all solid.

13. Ivy League: Harvard is supposed to be the favorite, but there’s a surprising amount of parity in the Ivy. Keep an eye on Yale.

14. Horizon League: Green Bay’s win over Miami was great for the conference.

15. Conference USA: A lot of teams here. One of them–Old Dominion–happens to be very good.

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Six Thoughts Through Six Weeks of College Football

Six weeks of college football have been played. At this point only 17 unbeaten teams remain and only 25 teams are ranked (oh wait…). Here are six thoughts on college football through six spectacular weeks:

1. The ACC isn’t half bad!

The Atlantic Coast Conference may not be at the level of the SEC (obviously) or the Pac-12, but, if you look around, outside of those two terrific conferences there aren’t any others that can boast either the strength at the top or the depth of the ACC. Clemson and Florida State have looked like legit contenders for the crystal ball. Meanwhile, the Coastal division has not been as bad as expected thanks to an excellent Miami team and defensively brilliant Virginia Tech (even Alabama had trouble moving the ball on the Hokies). Additionally, the conference’s weaker teams ( such as Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia) are all moderately respectable.

2. Jameis Winston is unreal.

EJ who?

EJ who?

Have you seen this guy!?!?!? HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GUY!?!?! I hadn’t until Winston took his Seminoles up to Chestnut Hill on September 28th. My mouth was left gaping as I watched Famous Jameis shred the (admittedly somewhat porous) Eagles defense to the tune of 330 yards (and four TDs) in the air and 67 yards on the ground. The performance was special and I left Alumni Stadium thinking that might be the best college football player I’ve ever seen live. The two-sport star (he hits the diamond in the spring) didn’t disappoint in his encore to the great game against  BC, as he passed for 393 and five touchdowns in the ‘Noles 63-0 obliteration of a solid Maryland team this past weekend. Through five games Winston has already passed for 17 touchdowns (against two picks) and 1,441 yards. Last year, Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Winston looks like he might have a shot at becoming the second.

3. Oklahoma State should not be ranked.

Many people were high on the Cowboys coming into the season, myself included. But, at this point, they really should not be ranked where they are (22nd in the AP, 20th in the Coaches’ Poll). OSU does have a win against Mississippi State–a bad SEC team, but an SEC team nonetheless, and three other wins (none over good teams), but they also lost to West Virginia. West Virginia is terrible. The ‘Neers win over Oklahoma State was sandwiched in between losses of the 30+ point margin variety for Christ’s sake! Now, I understand that the terrible loss to WVU might have been a fluke, but let’s wait until the Cowboys gets some quality wins before ranking them in the top 25.

4. It is funny when teams spike the ball on fourth down.

5. Fresno State is good at winning close games.

The Bulldogs have a pair of one point wins (over Boise State and Rutgers) and a five point win (over Hawaii). They’re also very good and seem to be the frontrunners to win the Mountain West Conference. Keep an eye on senior QB Derek Carr, the younger brother of massive draft bust David Carr, who is on pace to surpass the ridiculous numbers he put up last year (37 TDs and 4,104 yards in the air).

Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats came up short against Ohio State.

Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats came up short against Ohio State.

6. Purple is good, but not good enough.

Northwestern and Washington are fantastic this season, but neither team was able to spring an upset over a top five team this Saturday night as the Wildcats fell at home to Ohio State and Washington lost on the road to Stanford. Both teams came painfully close: NU held a 23-13 lead on the Buckeyes late in the third quarter while Washington’s late surge against the Cardinal came up just three points short.

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