“Steve-o’s Salvos!” January 24, 2015

On our last blog, we congratulated Ohio State on winning the first College Football Payoff in history, but we’d be remiss in not recognizing the other three NCAA national football champions of 2014. We watched North Dakota State and Illinois State take it down to the wire on a nationally televised game for the FCS championship in Frisco, Texas on January 10. It was a thrilling win for the NDSU Bison who won their fourth consecutive title, its first under new HC Chris Klieman. With 37 seconds left, they overcame Illinois State who they once trailed by nine-points, to win on a five-yard TD run by QB Carson Wentz to finish the season No. 1 at 15-1. The Redbirds, also from the Missouri Valley Conference as are the Bison, defeated New Hampshire in Durham, NH in the semis to get there. Their QB Tre Roberson threw three TD passes and scored on a 58-yard TD run before Wentz led the Bison back to win. We had seen Roberson play in 2012 for Indiana in a win over UMass as we added the Minutemen to the FBS in a game played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Roberson ran for long TDs in that game also, but was later carted off the field suffering a leg injury that ended his season and his career at IU. It’s great to see that he’s made a successful recovery from that devastating injury. We attended the UNH second round win over Fordham. We enjoyed having the opportunity to attend an FCS playoff game this season. They’re as spirited as are the big schools, but of course in front of smaller crowds. However, these teams play as hard to win as do the larger football schools …

New Hampshire Wildcats sack Fordham QB Mike Nebrich in FCS playoff action.

New Hampshire Wildcats sack Fordham QB Mike Nebrich in FCS playoff action.

The Colorado State – Puebla Thunderwolves (14-1) defeated top-seeded Minnesota Mankato State Mavericks, 13-0, in the Division 2 national championship. The CSU-Puebla team has only been in existence for nine years. Of all the divisions, D-2 is the one we see the least as there are few D-2 schools in close proximity to us. Usually when we see this level, it’s at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania or at one of it Pennsylvania Athletic Conference foes. I do have a connection to this year’s championship game though! My freshman football HC at Boonton (NJ) HS, Ray Nazarro, played collegiately for Mankato State… Wisconsin Whitewater won its sixth D-3 Title, fifth in the last six years, in a 45-34 win over championship archrival Mt. Union. It was the ninth time in ten years the two had played one another in Salem, Virginia in the D-3 finals. The MU Purple Raiders won three of the first four meetings, but it’s the Warhawks who took the last five in this long-standing championship rivalry. We’ll see what the future holds for UW-W as Warhawks HC Larry Leipold left the program after The Stagg Bowl to take over as new HC at FBS Buffalo. We’ll see how the Hawks adapt under a new HC still to be named, and we are equally anxious to see what success Leipold can bring to the Bulls in the Mid-American Conference at the next level. It was another outstanding season for the Warhawks who finished 15-0!…Congratulations to Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo who was named ECAC Division I FBS Coach of the Year. His team finished 8-5 with wins over archrival Army, 17-10, and over San Diego State, 17-16, in the Poinsettia Bowl, the sixth bowl game the Mids have played in during Niumatalolo’s seven years as Head Coach. He is now the winningest HC in Navy football with a record of 57-35, and more importantly is, he is the first Navy HC to start his career 7-0 versus Army. His team held their own this season in their opening loss to eventual FBS champ Ohio State in Baltimore we attended, losing, 33-17. Next year Navy will enter uncharted waters as it joins a conference for the first time ever when it joins the Western Division of the 12-team American Athletic Conference. Going west was USNA’s choice as Texas is a hot bed of recruiting for the Mids. Navy will play at least one game each year in the Lone Star State against AAC foes Houston or SMU…

Navy's triple-option challenged Ohio State in the 2015 opener for both schools, but Ohio State's offense led by QB J.T. Barrett picked up late in the game to get the Buckeyes a 33-17 win.

Navy’s triple-option challenged Ohio State in the 2015 opener for both schools, but Ohio State’s offense led by QB J.T. Barrett picked up late in the game to get the Buckeyes a 33-17 win.

We are ecstatic that PSU was awarded back its 409 wins. The punishment to the program did not seem to fit the crime. There were criminal acts and possibly a cover up pertaining to a few individuals that did not impact the play on the team on the field of play. The football program didn’t deserve the punishment handed out, but the individuals who may have been involved will get their due process in a court of law where this should have begun in the first place…The new Power Five passed its first legislation to “prevent schools from removing scholarships based on athletic performance”. Fifteen voting athletes who are on the committee voted against the majority and we agree with them. Sometimes there are teammates who may get the scholarship but may not work hard enough or contribute to the team once they make it to this level. It’s probably a very subjective call, but we think this needs to be looked at more closely to determine a process to justify such a decision either way. Sometimes it’s fairly evident, but at other times coaching staffs can manipulate the system to make room for the next class of athletes they are recruiting. It’s a tough call to make when some opinions are legitimate and some are influenced…We’re starting to piece together next year’s schedule and trying to retain our flexibility to add the Charlotte 49ers as our newest and latest FBS member when they join ConferenceUSA next season. Our goal has been to get to see all 129 teams, but with the University of Alabama-Birmingham, UAB, abandoning football after this past season, I guess our target is now back to 128. Gotta get new hats again. “128” this time. The “129”s are now collectors’ items. In addition to UAB, D-3 schools Bridgeport University, Upsala College, Jersey City State, and D-1AA Boston University are schools we’ve seen play over the years that have dissolved their football programs since…Spring games we will attend to support our habit in the offseason will be at Penn State on Saturday, April 18, and at Rutgers on Friday night, April 24. Get this one though: Princeton’s spring game is on March 21. We won’t be going though. It’s at Kincho Stadium in Osaka, Japan! The Tigers spring game will be played against the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters, Japanese Collegiate Nationals Champs of 2014 ( I didn’t know Japanese Universities played football. New goal?). The Tigers and Fighters played once before in 2001 as the Tigers defeated them in a spring game, 27-25…Waiting to see when Army announces their spring game this year to see how effective their triple option will be running under second year HC Jeff Moncken whom they won four games under in 2014…

A sign of spring - Penn State's Blue-White game.

A sign of spring – Penn State’s Blue-White game.

We see FCS Lafayette College is bolstering their non-conference schedule a little bit this year. In addition to playing William and Mary at home this season after playing the Tribe in Williamsburg last season, they will be traveling to play Delaware, another CAA foe, the week after…I thought with my daughter graduating from South Carolina this spring, we wouldn’t see the Gamecocks play next season. However, I have their opener in Charlotte against the UNC Tar Heels penciled in as a potential opener again on Thursday night, September 3. Of course, it will depend on the convenience of attending another game within driving distance on Labor Day weekend…My scheduling for next season has to be done carefully as the 15th game of the season will be our 500th since our start back in 1979! I want it to be something special, affordable for a lot of friends I’ve made over these years, and a game convenient for as many as possible to attend. I’m piecing things together with an idea or two and have to do it on the 15th game next season. Cousin Frank Scarpa will be monitoring me to see that I don’t cheat by going to games and not reporting them!   That will definitely be a challenge. Look for an announcement in February or March…Navy Long Snapper Joe Cardona was not only been invited to play in this year’s Senior Bowl, but he’s also been invited to attend the NFL combine in February. He’s been scouted as one of the best long snappers in college football. How is it possible to balance a Navy career with Sundays in pro football? Regarding the Senior Bowl won by his North team, 34-14, he was snapping for conversions made by PK Tom Obarski of D-2 Concordia University in St. Paul Minnesota. Listen to these credentials of the D-2 All-American: 27 for 27 PATs in 2014; 44 career FGs including conversions from 59 (longest in D2), 56, 56, 52, and 51 yards; 22 touchbacks on 53 kickoffs; 250 points; 230 punts; 38.0 yard punting average, 18 inside the 20, six over 50 yards, and only five touchbacks. Look for him somewhere next fall on Sundays. He missed one in the Senior Bowl but connected for a 49-yard FG at Ladd-Peebles Stadium…Looking at Big Ten slates in 2016 has us excited. They all add a ninth conference game and most play a team from the PAC 12. Not as many slouches as in the past. With some new coaching blood like Jim Harbaugh, James Frankin, and Paul Chryst in addition to Urban Meyer, Jerry Kill,  and Marc D’Antoni among others, the conference should get even more competitive…Were glad to see that Wisconsin will be playing LSU at a neutral field to kick off the 2016 field like it did last year in Arlington, Texas, and it’ll be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay! That’s a must-see on our part!…Some teams looming for this year’s CFF slate: Washington State for our second time, up and coming Duke, USC (the west coast version), San Diego State hopefully accompanied by the greatest Aztec Fan of all time, Tom Ables, Colorado (hope to catch up with Ralphie again), and Air Force, not just once, but possibly twice. As you can see, we will add a little more Rocky Mountain and West Coast flavor than we’ve had in recent years. Look for our updates weekly…Next week – the Super Bowl participants we watched before they were pros.

Pillars of College Football - the monument to the "Seven Blocks of Granite" on the Fordham University campus visited by CFF.com for the first time in 2015.

Pillars of College Football – the monument to the “Seven Blocks of Granite” on the Fordham University campus visited by CFF.com for the first time in 2015.

Congratulations to No. 1 Ohio State, first-ever CFP Champs!

" Le Regiment"

” Le Regiment”

Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes (14-1)  for their 42-20 victory over the now No. 2 Oregon Ducks (13-2) in the first ever College Football Playoff Championship.  The OSU defensive line did an outstanding job shutting down the Duck attack led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.  Kudos to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff to effectively rotate defensive linemen in and out to avoid getting winded early as did Florida State in the Rose Bowl semi-final loss to Oregon.  QB Cardale Jones showed he can be as cool as a cucumber under pressure.  We’re anxious to see what he’ll be like when he gets even more experience down the road.  Ezekial Elliot was outstanding at running back in the semi-final and the final.  The offensive line was outstanding blocking up front. Overall it was great team effort by the Buckeyes that won the game despite four turnovers.  How many teams could have gone all the way as they did with their third-string QB starting in the last three games of the season?   It was the end to an exciting and successful season under the new playoff format. The Buckeyes look to be a force to be reckoned with again next season with so many young key players returning.

Wildcat RB Nico Steriti scored another TD in last week's Wildcat win over UT Chattanooga.

New Hampshire Wildcat RB Nico Steriti had a great game against Fordham in the FCS playoffs.

It was a fantastic season for Collegefootballfan.com as well.  We attended a record 26 college football games in one season in 2014-2015.  We attended five bowl games (two exciting finishes, a big upset, a very competitive game, and one clunker – four out of five isn’t bad).  We attended an FCS quarterfinal game. The New Hampshire Wildcats (12-2) finished third in the nation at the FCS level.  We attended our 10th Army-Navy game. We attended the longest ongoing rivalry in college football when we saw Lafayette play Lehigh for the 150th time when they met at Yankee Stadium to celebrate their special, historic game. I got to watch my Alma Mater , Juniata College, play a home game for the first time in 35 years back in Huntingdon, PA as HC Tim Launtz is turning that program back to what it once was.  The night before, I saw Fordham defeat Bucknell at Christy Mathewson Stadium for my first time to decide the Patriot League Championship. With good friends Charlie and Lynda Murren, we attended a great game with them at their alma mater, Auburn, where the Tigers defeated my daughter’s school, South Carolina, 35-28.  It was bitter sweet as our daughter, Alex, will graduate from South Carolina this spring, and her beloved Gamecocks let her senior class down finishing 7-6.  We attended three SC games this season, and they lost all three!

 

The Syracuse Dance Team performed brilliantly during the game for the Homecoming crowd.

The Syracuse Dance Team performed brilliantly during the game for the Homecoming crowd against then No. 1 Florida State.

We watched a total of 40 different NCAA football teams – 25 FBS schools, nine FCS, and six D-3 schools.  We added the four newest teams to join the FBS – Old Dominion, Appalachian State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern. We’ve seen every FBS team play at least once including the University of Alabama -Birmingham whose program folded this season (one downer). Though Georgia Southern got romped over by Navy, they finished a very respectable 9-3, best among the new FBS schools, and won the Sunbelt Conference.  However, due to some asinine rule, they did not go to a bowl game giving way to several teams they manhandled.  We attended games at seven new venues for us – five campus sites and two new bowl games.  We saw defending champ Florida State defeat Syracuse with the 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston at QB.  Good luck to him in his future if he doesn’t get his act together off the field. We watched Rutgers fall 13-10 in their Big Ten debut to Penn State. One of our former Little League Baseball players, LB Nick Rafferty, made the travel squad every game and lettered at RU as a red-shirt freshman this year. It was a thrill to see him on the team.  PSU was eventually released from sanctions imposed by the Jerry Sandusky crimes as it struggled to a 6-6 finish. Hope is on the horizon, however, as the Lions played their best game of the season in an overtime win over Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  We look forward to the spring game and next season to be back out in State College drinking Evan Williams Honey Bourbon with John and Kelle Massimilla along with their friends and family.  And in our first weekend of the season, we saw South Carolina blown away by Texas A&M because it played the worst defense we could ever remember seeing played at any level of college football.  We knew the Gamecocks were headed for trouble.  But two days later in Baltimore, we watched Navy give Ohio State, led by freshman QB J.T. Barrett, a pretty good game in  a 33-17 Buckeye victory.  Of course little did we know, it was OSU’s first step on the way to the 2014 National Championship.  They became the 11th team in 35 years of us doing this that we would watch play in their Division 1 (now FBS) championship season.

OSU defense in early season action against the Naval Academy.

OSU defense in early season action against the Naval Academy.

Yes, it was a fantastic college football season for Collegefootballfan.com.  In the end, we saw eight of the final Top 25 teams in the AP poll play this season:

1. Ohio State (14-1)

5. Florida State (13-1)

6. Michigan state (11-2)

8. Georgia Tech  (11-3)

11. Mississippi State (10-3)

14. Missouri  (11-3)

22. Auburn (8-5)

24. Marshall (13-1)

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB  Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finishes 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs this season.

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finishes 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs this season.

 

Please check us out regularly as we will continue to report on the comings and goings of this season and next.  We will also be adding pages of history and other fun facts on some new pages to be published. Hopefully we can improve our site even more for your viewing and reading pleasure.   We especially  look forward to sharing our ideas for the upcoming season where plans are already underway to do something special for our 500th game to be attended in 2015.  Party!

Also special thanks to Pete Spadora and his crew on WNER 1130 AM in Watertown, NY (and broadcasted in other markets as well).  Pete hosted us on his show “Spadora on Sports” just about every other Saturday and let us talk about everything on our college football platter.  He’s a great supporter and a great friend.  He and his guys make this entire experience even more fun!

CFF.com predicts the first College Football Playoff Championship

CFF.com Headquarters in New Jersey (January 10, 2015) – After a record 26 games attended in 2014-15 including five bowl games and an FCS playoff this season, we feel obligated to let our loyal readers know what we predict for this years’ first championship game to be determined in the first ever College Football Playoff.  We’re going to say two things before we get started: 1. ) We didn’t expect either of these teams to win in the first found, but we were rooting for both of them.  Secondly, we still advocate an eight -team playoff for the future that will include the five major conference champions, the best of the other five FBS college football conference champs, and two at large berths.  We suggest that the opening round be played at the home field of the top four seeds to be played in mid-December.  Just remember that you heard that suggested here first!

We think that Ohio State’s defensive front will offer a better challenge than Florida State’s did and that they will not be as winded as early in the game.  We believe that DT Michael Bennett and DE Joey Bosa will add more pressure along with the rest of the front seven and not allow Marcus Mariota to control the ball as long as FSU did. He will also be without the services of WR Devon Allen who was injured on the opening kickoff last week nor WR Darren Carrington who had seven receptions for 165 yards and two TDS.  He’s been suspended for marijuana use.  Will Mariota’s lesser used wide-outs be as effective?   We were not impressed by third-string OSU QB Cardale Jones last week until late in the game.  With a one week lay off we expect him to play better than he did after the 59-0 defeat of Wisconsin. We were impressed by the offense around him including his offensive line and RB Ezekial Elliot (20 carries for 230 yards and two TDs).  A common opponent between the two earlier in the season was Michigan State.  The Spartans played Oregon in Eugene well late into the third period until the Ducks took over late to win, 46-27.  The Buckeyes went to East Lansing later in the season and defeated the Spartans, 49-37. Revitalized OSU HC Urban Meyer has won national championships at Florida in the past.  Both teams have depth.   This will be a classic game.  We predict the Buckeyes to win, 35-28.  We’ll also lean a little this way hoping to be able to say that we’ve seen another FBS champion play during their championship season as we saw them defeat Navy in their opener this season, 34-17.  It would be our 11th in our 35th season.

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa  (97) stooped Navy at the goal line in the season opener for both teams.

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa (97) stopped Navy at the goal line in the season opener for both teams.

Spadora on Sports , Live! 10:20 am EST Saturday

spadora2011

 

Click here to hear us live with Pete Spadora on “Spadora on Sports”  on WNER 1130 at 10:20 am EST Saturday morning. Go to his web site and click on “Tune in now”. Season summary and College Football Playoff championship interview.

Tennessee “slays” inept Iowa

 

 

Maybe if the Hawkeyes were coached to run without holing hands, they could run faster!

Maybe if the Hawkeyes were coached to run without holding hands, they could run faster!

Jacksonville, Florida (January 2, 2015) – The Tennessee Volunteers (7-6) came to the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly “Gator”) at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville jacked-up to play. The slow-footed, Iowa Hawkeyes (7-6) were out-muscled, out-hustled, and out -coached to a 45-28 Tennessee Vol victory. They played like jack____! And don’t let this final score fool you! Tennessee had a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter after their fourth possession of the game. Eventually the Vols had a 42-7 lead before they emptied their benches to get everybody a chance to play in Tennessee’s first bowl win since 2007. We can’t even say that the Vols drew first blood as Hawkeye DB Desmond King ran into his HC Kirk Ferentz along the sideline and put a bloody gash over his right eye. For Collegefootballfan.com it was disappointing finale – a clunker of a game – to finish our season in which we attended the most games ever, 26, including four bowl games right before this one which were generally well-played and competitive. By the end of the third, we’d see enough. The Hawkeyes didn’t show up despite their final three touchdowns to give the score some undeserved respectability. We had waited too long to see them make us think they were interested in playing a football game as it was. What a letdown for me and the Iowa fans who were far outnumbered by people clad in bright orange get-ups.

Jalen Hurd knifes through the Iowa defense for a first period touchdown.

Jalen Hurd (1) knifes through the Iowa defense for a first period touchdown.

Jalen Hurd (16 carries for 122 yards, 2 TDs) finished the first Vol drive with a three-yard touchdown run. He finished the second with a 29-yard TD scamper. Next time UT had the ball, RB Marlin Lane threw 49-yard option pass to Vic Wharton for a 21-0 lead to end the first period.

To start the second, Vol QB and eventual game MVP Joshua Hobbs got into the act with an eight-yard run. He finished the day with16 of 21 passing for 129 yards and one TD to go along with 76 rushing yards and two TDs. Then low and without a hold, FB Mack Weisman tripped into the end zone by the nose of the football to put the Hawkeyes on the board. Dobbs threw a TD pass to Von Pearson for a 35-7 lead at intermission.

QB Joshua Dobbs dashes between blockers for a big gain.

QB Joshua Dobbs dashes between blockers for a big gain.

At halftime, I started to plan my move out to beat the traffic, but I held out as long as I could. I had no other plans then to have dinner, watch another game on TV, write down some notes about my four bowl game stories, and pack up for my trip back to NJ the next day. Of course, I really looked forward to spending the day in Nashville again on my way back and meeting up with HS classmate Paul Kleim and his wife Carolyn. Now Tennessee farmers, this Jersey boy was looking forward to meeting up with them to show them around Nashville before catching an evening flight back home. I could use a few Bloody Marys, some Apple Piehole, and beers along with some good old country and western (and we enjoyed them all. And more!).

Ahhhh!...Halftime!

Ahhhh! What a relief…Halftime!

Dobbs scored on an 11-yard run in the third for a 42-7 lead.   The third period ended. I knew who was taking home the trophy in the first quarter. My season was ending on a whimper and not a bang. I was out of there. Tennessee won, 45-28. I heard all about it at the local Applebee’s that night. I had beaten the crowd in, but 20 minutes later, the bartender Bud and I and the waitresses were about the only ones not wearing Orange! There were a few humbled Hawkeye fans, too.

Congrats to Tennessee. But can your band please learn to play something other than “Rocky Top!”

This is what it looked like at Applebee's after the game.

This is what it looked like at Applebee’s after the game.

I have to start planning now for September 3, 2015. What teams will be kicking off the season that Thursday night? Can I combine a trip to see a game on Friday and Saturday and maybe Monday, Labor Day? When will all the schedules be out? Next year is game #500 for me. Who? What? Where? When? Tickets? Got to plan a big tailgate for that one. So let the real fun begin – again!

Look for more stuff on the upcoming CFP game and beyond. We don’t stop talking college football because the games are done. Click here to hear us on Saturday morning with Pete Spadora on “Spadora on Sports!” on WNER in Watertown, NY.  Time to be announced in a day or so.

The US Marine Corps Ceremonial band from Paris Island, SC performed before the game. They could have put up a better fight than the Hawkeyes had they played in the game instead.

The US Marine Corps Ceremonial band from Paris Island, SC performed before the game. They could have put up a better fight than the Hawkeyes had they played in the game instead.

No. 16 Tigers devour No. 25 Gophers with solid defense and late surge

 

Minnesota's David Cobb (27) gained 1,595 yards during the season and scored 13 TDS.  Mizzou held him to 81 yards and no scores at the BWW Citrus Bowl.

Minnesota’s David Cobb (27) gained 1,595 yards during the season and scored 13 TDS. Mizzou held him to 81 yards and no scores at the BWW Citrus Bowl.

Orlando, Florida (January 1, 2015) – Missouri (11-3) led Minnesota (8-5), 19-17, heading into the final period of play. The Tiger defense had held Gopher RB David Cobb well under his 128.8 ypg rushing average (21 carries for 81 yards) to stay in front in a close, low scoring game. In the final period, it was the Mizzou running game that sealed the victory in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.  Russell Hansbrough (15 carries for 114 yards) broke through the middle of the Minnesota defense for a 78-yard touchdown run and Marcus Murphy’s 69-yard run (12 carries for 157 yards) on their next possession set up a seven-yard TD pass from Marty Mauk to WR Bud Sasser that finished off the Gophers for their 33-17 win. In the end it was defensive end Markus Golden who won game MVP honors with ten tackles including 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and four tackles for losses.   For CFF.com, we had a later start than anticipated as our 5:30 am wakeup call in Miami did not come through.  We started our drive to Orlando an hour and a half later than expected, but we made it on time and it was well worth the trip as we’d received press credentials to cover the game from press row, a great experience put on by a very hospitable bowl committee. As you can imagine, they provided all the Buffalo Wild Wings we could eat!

Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, MVP DE Markus Golden, and WR Bud Sasser (2 TDs) spoke at the post-game press conference.

Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, MVP DE Markus Golden, and WR Bud Sasser (2 TDs) spoke at the post-game press conference.

Following a Minnesota interception of a Marty Mauk pass on the first possession of the game, a fumble caused on a sack by Golden and fellow DE and All-American Shane Ray only resulted in a second pass interception by Minnesota. CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun’s pick in the end zone started the Golden Gophers from their 20. They took it the length of the field with Rodrick Williams posting the first score of the game with a 20-yard run.

In the second period, the Tigers finally got on the scoreboard with Andrew Baggett’s 21-yard FG. After taking over on the next punt from their 33, the Tigers drove down the field culminating with a second score as Maty Mauk (12 for 19 for 97 yards, 2 INTs, 2 TDs) tossed a 25-yard TD pass to WR Bud Sasser with 1:04 left in the half. With time-outs still in his back pocket, Minnesota HC Jerry Kill displayed no sense of urgency to get into scoring position again before the half. A few short passes took them only 11 yards as time expired. That’s the way the half ended, 10-7. I snapped a few pictures from my front seat in press row, and it was time to go back to the buffet to get some more wings. The two teams seemed to be sparring with one another during the first half still feeling each other out. Missouri HC of 14 years, Gary Pinkel, went back to the locker room and planned to come out swinging.

The Tigers' Marcus Murphy tallied 157 rushing yards on the day including 69-yard jaunt that set up the final score of the game.

The Tigers’ Marcus Murphy (6) tallied 157 rushing yards on the day including 69-yard jaunt that set up the final score of the game.

Mizzou’s PK Andrew Baggett launched a perfectly placed floater on the kickoff near the right sideline where Ian Simon recovered it at the Minnesota 47 against the unsuspecting Gophers. The eventual result was a 33-yard FG by Baggett for a 13-7 Missouri lead. Minnesota didn’t take that lying down. It seemed to light a spark back in the offense. From their 46, QB Mitch Leidner (21 of 31, 258 yards, 1 TD) connected with TE Maxx Williams along the left sideline. He charged up field, hurdled one would-be tackler and dove past another into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown to give the Gophers a 14-13 lead. Could this be the spark the Golden Gophers needed? The defense forced the Tigers to punt after a three and out, but a fumble of the punt by Marcus Jones put the Tigers back in business at the Minnesota 34.   A roughing the passer call moved the ball another 15 yards before Mauk scrambled and took it through the middle of the Minnesota defense for an 18-yard scoring run putting DB Derrick Wells flat on his back in the end zone. He had to be helped off the field. The two-point conversion was intercepted by Boddy-Calhoun who was stopped up field. Jalen Myrick returned the kickoff 57 yards to Missouri’s 43. The big return resulted in a Ryan Santoso FG from 33 yards away. The Tigers took the 19-17 lead into the final period before they broke off the big runs to extend their lead and then seal the victory, 33-17. It was a competitive game for the most part, but the Tigers found the holes to get past the tiring Gopher line to put them away for a fruitful victory in the Citrus bowl.

Sasser (21) beats his defender to the corner for a seven-yard TD pass to make the score, 33-17.

Sasser (21) beats his defender to the corner for a seven-yard TD pass to make the score, 33-17.

Extra points: We can’t thank the Florida Citrus Sports Communications group enough for all their hospitality, support, and ongoing communications before and during our visit to Orlando for the game. It was first class all the way. With our tight schedule attending four games in four days, they did a great job keeping us informed of what was going on and how to get credentials and where to be, etc.  Our favorite piece of pre-game information: Minnesota bested Missouri at the luncheon on New Year’s Eve held at a local Orlando Buffalo Wild Wings. The Gophers prevailed 2,760 wings devoured to 2,070 by the Tigers. Watch out for gophers hanging near the hen house!

The victors pose with new hardware for their trophy case and the Buffalo Wild wings mascot.

The victors pose with new hardware for their trophy case and the Buffalo Wild Wings’ mascot.

“SEC! SEC! SEC!” was the post-game chant by the victorious Tiger fans. At first as I stood on the field near the podium, I couldn’t figure out why they thought it made any sense to celebrate being in the SEC. I didn’t understand where they were coming from. The Tigers kind of deserved a chant to celebrate their own success. To heck with the rest of the conference. They’ve had the same coach for 14 years now, they’ve won 23 games in two years for the first time ever, they won the SEC East two years in a row, they have been quite successful bringing in recruits they initially recruited to play Big 12 football…THEN it hit me! Had they stayed in the Big Twelve as they’d played in for years, they probably couldn’t have been as successful. A&M hasn’t done badly since their transition from there either. Maybe more teams should join the SEC to turn their programs around. There must be something to this: two titles in three years. It didn’t take them long to enjoy the spoils of this move.

Missouri's Golden Girls do a victory dance after the final score.

Missouri’s Golden Girls do a victory dance after the final score.

 

Yellow Jackets rout Bulldogs in an Orange Bowl crush

Omen: The Air Force Academy, another triple option football team, delivers the game balls for the pregame festivities.

Omen: The Air Force Academy, another triple option football team, delivers the game balls for the pregame festivities.

Miami Lakes, FL ( December 31) – It was a very Happy New Year for Georgia Tech and its football program as the 12th-ranked Yellow jackets out-raced the 7th-ranked Bulldogs during the third quarter of one of this year’s four College Football Playoff (CFP) bowls to score a tremendous upset, 49-34. It was one of those games where the final result wasn’t indicative of the true dominance by the winners. Tech’s triple option attack set an Orange Bowl record with 452 yards rushing. RB Synjyn Days ran for 171 yards and three TDS, but sophomore QB Justin Thomas garnered the MVP Trophy with his efforts as he tallied 121 yards on the ground, three rushing touchdowns, and threw for 125 yards on seven of twelve passing and one touchdown. Holding a 21-20 lead at the half, the Rambling Wreck (11-3) came out firing on all cylinders to ramble by the Bulldogs outscoring them, 21-0, in the third. The option was engineered better than by any other QB HC Paul Johnson’s had at Tech since he arrived from the Naval Academy. Despite the Bulldogs 453 passing yards by QB Dak Prescott, the GT defense covered close and tackled well in the open field to keep the SEC team in check throughout the exciting game. For CFF.com, the result couldn’t have been more rewarding after a flight from Nashville to Jacksonville followed by a seven hour drive to Miami with a stop in Orlando on the way down for the 8 pm kickoff.

QB Justin Thomas (5) scores from 13 yards out in the first half for Georgia Tech.

QB Justin Thomas (5) scores from 13 yards out in the first half for Georgia Tech.

After I sat high in the upper deck of Sun Life Stadium realizing I shouldn’t have bought a ticket in advance, I positioned myself to a better view to cut my sight angle and to take some better pictures. It was good move for some critical plays later. Tech DB Chris Milton picked off a deflected pass by Prescott and set his offense up at the MSU 36. Four plays later, Days took it in from the three. Later in the period, Thomas connected with Darren Waller (5 catches, 114 yards, 1 TD) in the end zone for a 41-yard pass to hold a 14-0 lead at the end to the period.

State (10-3) tallied 13 point to close within one on a Prescott 5-yard run sandwiched between two Evan Sobiesk field goals of 32 and 30 yards. The Jackets responded next with an 82-yard scoring drive capped by Thomas’s 13-yard TD run around the right side to extend GT’s lead, 21-13, with only 29 seconds remaining until half time. However, Prescott moved the ball to the Tech 42 with both teams using all their time-outs to make adjustments as State moved closer into scoring range. Paul Johnson, himself an offensive guru, gathered his defense around him to tell them to stay deeper than the deepest man and when they got to the ball to be sure to knock it down and not up. The strategy was sound, and the defensive execution was correct as the ball fell to the ground, but Bulldog WR Fred Ross who had trailed the play caught the descending deflection coming out of the crowd before it hit the ground and State was within two. The extra point got delayed as the roadies for the halftime show had already rolled out three large stages for the halftime entertainment. They seemed hesitant to react at first seeming to think that his was a concert with football as entertainment and not vice versa. It took them a few minutes to get the stage far enough off the field before Sobiesk kicked the PAT to make it a one-point margin at 21-20 at the half.

MSU QB Dak Prescott looks for running room against stingy Georgia Tech front seven.

MSU QB Dak Prescott looks for running room against stingy Georgia Tech front seven.

The Country group “Little Big Town” performed at the half along with about a million high school and grade school cheerleaders for our New Year’s Eve halftime entertainment. As noted before, there were a lot of empty seats at this one. When I bought the tickets in advance, it was back when the potential was for teams like Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, or Ohio State to play in this game with possibly just one loss and to possibly not make the Final Four. Tech and State have good but not huge fan followings when on the road, but now I even wonder if schools such as those I mentioned would draw big crowds to these CFP Bowls as opposed to playing in one of the two semi-final games on New Year’s Day. I probably won’t buy tickets in advance for a CFP Bowl again knowing what I know now. I think this will become the eventual drive to go to an eight –team playoff. However, for this reason, I’ll still suggest that the opening round be played on the campus of the four highest seeds. There’s no way these bowls can fill to capacity if teams have to play two or three games on neutral sites on the road to the title. Their fans would probably wait to see if they make it to the final and then there would be a clamor for tickets. It would also depend on the teams involved. Some have better road followings than others.

Tech received the opening kickoff to start the third, and two plays later Synjyn Days broke to the left sideline and tip-toed along the way for a 69-yard touchdown. The play was reviewed, but I saw from my perfectly aligned perch that he never came close to stepping out. Retaking a quick 28-20 lead, the Jackets showed that they weren’t about to back down to the favored Bulldogs from the SEC. It was all Yellow Jackets after that. The defense took the ball over on downs. The offense responded with an 81-yard scoring drive effectively running the option until Thomas raced through the right side for a 32-yard score. Next,  the swarming Yellow Jacket defense recovered a Prescott fumble on their 48. This time Thomas ran it over from the 15. The third ended with the Wrecks on top, 42-20. The Bulldogs couldn’t move the football or stop Tech’s well-oiled triple option.

MVP Justin Thomas runs for one of his two TDs in the third period.

MVP Justin Thomas runs for one of his two TDs in the third period.

In the final period, Mississippi State tried to mount a comeback as Prescott threw a seven-yard TD pass to De’Runnya Wilson on the first play of the final period to cap a drive. However, Tech could still not be denied. State attempted an onsides kick that put the Jackets on their 46. Seven plays and three minutes later, Days carried the ball in from the four. State finished up the scoring with a 12-yard pass from Prescott to Wilson to close the scoring for the game, 49-34.

Tech was already starting their New Year’s Eve celebration along the sideline. It was all over, and Georgia Tech is probably looking forward to 2015 already. Thomas, a sophomore, will probably be back for two more seasons. He’s not an NFL caliber quarterback looking to jump to the pros. Instead, he’s a QB perfect for Paul Johnson’s triple option attack. He’s a small, quick, athletic running back who can throw the ball well when he has to. Keep an eye on Tech the next few years. We haven’t been to Grant Field in Atlanta yet, and one of the next two years may give us a good excuse to go to a game down there in Atlanta.

In the meantime, I drove to my hotel, filled the car with gas on the way back, showered, repacked and got ready for a trek back north to Orlando on New Year’s morning. On my way down, I stopped in Orlando on the way to pick up my press credentials to cover the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl for Collegefootballfan.com in the first to be played in the new Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. It couldn’t get much better for a college football fan than this.

Next stop: New Year’s Day in Orlando

 

Tech fans had much to cheer for when they greeted in the New Year on New Year's Eve!

Tech fans had much to cheer for when they greeted in the New Year on New Year’s Eve!

Extra points: Every school is proud of its fight song and everyone knows “Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech.” When they introduced it as the world’s greatest fight song, I differed significantly. I made a DVD with 90 minutes of many favorite fights song that I love to listen to (ask people who travel to games with me in my car). I hate to tell them that this one is not on there. It’s good, but I doesn’t get me fired up like most of the others do.

The opening band that came on to play before the game was the Easton (PA) Area High School marching band. Easton is the home of FCS school Lafayette College about an hour from my home. We attend Lafayette Leopard games there once in a while as well as the traditional longest college rivalry (#150 this year) played against nearby, archival Lehigh. Another traditional game played at Lafayette College every year is Easton Area of PA against Phillipsburg right across the Delaware River in NJ as they have a long time rivalry of their own played every Thanksgiving. I got some band members a little shocked but smiling when I walked by them after the game and said, “Go Phillipsburg!”

With some of these SEC bowl losses, I’m wondering if any lesson will be learned that they have to shore up their non-conference schedules somehow to understand that there are better teams out there that they have to prepare for. MSU is a good case in point. They had basically four automatic wins this season – Southern Miss, 1-11 a year ago and 3-9 this season; Alabama-Birmingham who decided to end their program this season after years of futility; at South Alabama, a third year FBS program; and UT-Martin, a 6-6 FCS program. Playing these weak non-conference games and familiarizing yourself year after year with only other programs in your conference, provide a poor perception that there are other really good teams outside your conference playing football. It would help to play one or two better non-conference opponents to familiarize your team that there are other real football programs out there beyond your own short scope. You can’t think every team out there is a walkover like the ones scheduled by the Bulldogs. Of course, you have to beat some of them to get to a bowl, but there seems to be fear of such challenges in the SEC.

When the announcer said that the MSU band would do their State spell out, I was expecting, " one Mississippi, two Mississippi..."

When the announcer said that the MSU band would do their State spell out, I was expecting, ” one Mississippi, two Mississippi…”

 

Field Goal at: 00 gives Irish win over LSU in Music City Bowl, 31-28

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Nashville, Tennessee (December 30) – With the score tied at 28, Notre Dame drove the ball from their 15 with 5:41 left in the game down to the 14-yard line against the best defense in the SEC, and with no time left on the clock, Kyle Brindza kicked the football through the uprights as time expired to give the Fighting Irish a 31-28 win over LSU in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Both teams finished their seasons at 8-5. The Tigers scored on three plays of 75 yards or more, but the Irish rolled consistently up and down the field amassing 449 yards of total offense while controlling the ball for 37 minutes and avoiding turnovers to offset LSU’s quick strikes. They successfully converted 11 of 17 third down attempts to sustain drives along with one of two conversions on fourth down. CFF.com enjoyed two days in Nashville to kick off four of the five games remaining on our 2014-2015 bowl schedule.

RB Will Fuller, number “7” for the Irish, started off the scoring in the first with a 12-yard TD reception from first time ND starting QB Malik Zaire, but it was matched by LSU’s number “7” on the following drive as game MVP Leonard Fournette (11 carries for 143 yards, 2 TDs) ran it in from the seven to even the score in the first period with an eight-yard TD.

Malik Zaire shared  Irish QB duties with Everett Golson. He passed for 96 yards and ran for 96 yards scoring one TD and throwing for another.

Malik Zaire (8) shared Irish QB duties with Everett Golson. He passed for 96 yards and ran for 96 yards scoring one TD and throwing for another.

In the second period, Zaire (12 of 15 passing, 1 TD, 96 yards; rushing for 96 yards, 1 TD) scored on a seven-yard run. But Fournette, a freshman, evened the game up even more quickly this time breaking through the Irish kicking team down the middle of the field for a 100-yard touchdown return. The Irish patiently responded with another drive kept alive with a 17-yard gain on a third and eleven at the 27 on a pass from Zaire to Fuller. RB Taurean Folston carried it around left end from the six with a key block from Zaire. The Tigers took possession from the 25 with 6:12 left in the period and put together a drive where they stalled at the Irish 2 with a fourth down. As I watched PK Trent Domingue trot on to the field high from my 400 level seat above the corner of the end zone, I said to no one else there, “Watch the fake.” Holder Brad Kragthorpe took the snap and ran over his left tackle where he stretched out his arms with the ball as he neared the goal line only to have it quickly knocked down. Close, but no cigar as the replay officials confirmed the stop on the field. I was shocked to see such a call made against an SEC team. The half ended with the Irish in the lead, 21-14.

LSU Frosh RB Leonard Fournette (7)scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and on an 89-yard run from scrimmage.

LSU Frosh RB Leonard Fournette (7)scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and on an 89-yard run from scrimmage.

To start the third against a Notre Dame defense decimated by injuries throughout the season, QB Anthony Jennings lofted a soft, easy toss over them to WR John Diarse who turned and raced with it 75 yards to tie the score once again. Later in the period, LSU started from its 11 after a Notre Dame punt, and in one pitch to Fournette, he basically ran it through the middle of the Irish line untouched and raced 89 yards to give the Tigers its first lead of the game, 28-21. On the subsequent Irish series, however, they finally came up with a quick strike score of their own as WR C.J. Prosise took a pitch on a sweep right and raced down field diving over the goal line by the pylon for a 50-yard TD that resulted in a 28-28 score that took the game into the final period.

WR C.J. Prosise stopped by LSU defense.

WR C.J. Prosise stopped by LSU defense.

LSU drove to the Irish 23 on the first possession of Q4 and Domingue came in again to try to retake the lead, but his low kick was knocked down by Isaac Rochell and Notre Dame too back over. After an exchange of punts, Notre Dame started its game-winning drive leading to Brindza’s FG, but it took two third down conversions to keep the Irish in possession. A key one was on a third and ten from their 42 where Zaire connected with TE Ben Koyack for a 12-yard gain.

It was an exciting game with big plays and a last second winning field goal to determine the score. We didn’t think we could top the excitement of the Penn State overtime win over Boston College at the Pinstripe Bowl, but Collegefootballfan.com was on a fantastic roll two games into our bowl season. Could we expect the excitement to continue? After this game, I headed back to Piranha’s on Second Ave for dinner, beers, and updates on other bowl games. From there it was back to the hotel to pack up again for an early morning flight to Jacksonville on the way to the CapitalOne Orange Bowl in Miami.

Kyle Brindza nails the winning field goal with :00 to give Notre Dame a 31-28 win.

Kyle Brindza nails the winning field goal with :00 to give Notre Dame a 31-28 win.

Extra points: Notre Dame now leads the series between the two schools, 6-5.

The Music City Bowl came up with a song to promote the bowl for now and in the future with a new title, “This is the Big Time.”

I arrived on Monday the 29th the day before to check out the sights and sounds of Nashville as I had enjoyed the venue the year before. At Piranha’s, I got the day started off with Bloody Marys and got to know Will, the bartender there, before meeting up with Joe Rogers of the “College Football Bowl Report.” Will played D-3 Ball for Heidelberg University before a concussion ended his career in his senior season. I asked him how it felt though to play for a team whose nickname is “the Student Princes”! He flinched, not only because I knew what they were called, but he said that it was tough and that there had been efforts to even refer to the team as just “The Berg.” But that was set aside by some alumni influence. Had lunch there as well with a burger from the grill. Joe showed up a little alter with two of his fellow LSU fans who had driven up from Louisiana to meet with him, Karl Zeller and Brandon Michel. Brandon had played DB for LSU back in the mid-90s. I’ll have to catch up with them for a future game at Tiger Stadium again.

Later that night, we went to the Benchmark a couple of doors down where the music was already playing and Elaine and Whitney were bartending. Beers and shots were the orders. Had a good time talking to others about football and Nashville in general. We tried a few new drinks too including a Pecan Piehole. I had also told Elaine about the great concocted Bloody Marys I had had at the Memphis Beale Street Music Festival this past May where they were spiced up with Paprika that gave it a taste I really liked. The next morning before heading over the bridge to LP Stadium, Elaine brought out the paprika to spice up my drink. Great start to a day to watch football. We enjoy downtown Nashville as a convenient pregame tailgate venue without the actual tailgate. The drinks and food are there and an easy walk across the bridge to the game makes any game day a full party day in the Music City.

Starting ND DE Andrew Trumbetti was in the lineup shoring up the decimated Irish defense. He made a few stops. I had seen this RS Freshman from Demarest, NJ two years ago throwing the shot put at some local high school relays my son Eric competed in.

Watch for game and trip summaries of the other three bowl games I attended after the Music City.

Next Up: The CapitalOne Orange Bowl

Irish celebrate victory after the game singing the Notre Dame alma mater.

Irish celebrate victory after the game singing the Notre Dame alma mater.

Penn State edges Boston College in OT at New Era Pinstripe

The Bronx, New York (December 27) – Penn State Senior PK Sam Ficken booted a 45 -yard FG with 20 seconds left in regulation to tie Boston College, 24-24. In the hard-fought, intense game at the Pinstripe Bowl played at Yankee Stadium in front of 49,012 rabid fans from both schools, he converted his extra point in OT after a ten-yard TD pass to TE Kyle Carter on a fade route to the left side that tied the Eagles to take home the hardware for an exciting 31-30 win. The Eagles scored on the first possession in OT on a 21-yard catch and run, by Dave Dudeck (Hamilton, NJ), but Mike Knoll’s PAT went surprisingly wide right. PSU Soph QB Christian Hackenberg probably got the best pass protection he got all season in the second half to overcome a 21-7 deficit to Boston College (7-6) with 2:12 left in the third period. He finished his day with four TD passes, two in the fourth and the last in the overtime along with 371 yards on a 34 for 50 day to give the Nittany Lions a winning season at 7-6. For CFF.com, it was our first of five post season bowls heading into the end of our own record-setting 2014 season where we plan to have attended 26 NCAA football games.

Setting four passing records in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, PSU QB Christian Hackenberg was named the game's MVP.

Setting four passing records in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, PSU QB Christian Hackenberg was named the game’s MVP.

Both highly-ranked defenses dominated in the first half holding each offense to only one score. PSU drew first blood on a 72-yard scoring pass from Hackenberg to Chris Godwin who shook off one tackler and streaked the distance along the right sideline for a 7-0 lead. PSU attempted an on sides kick but it was caught out of bounds and BC took over on its 48. At the Lions’ 49, Frosh RB Josh Hilliman (Plainfield, NJ; 25 carries 148 yards, 1 TD) ran off right tackle and broke away to the end zone to even the score. The Lions were on the move again to the Eagles’ 21, but Hackenberg mishandled the snap and turned the ball over. Neither team managed any scoring threat for the balance of the first half.

Jon Hilliman picks up yards against the tough Penn State defense early in the game.

Jon Hilliman picks up yards against the tough Penn State defense early in the game.

BC started off the second half from its 40 after a 32 yard return by Myles Willis. QB Tyler Murphy, a Florida transfer ( 11 of 19 passing for 97 yards and two TDs; 11 rushes for 105 yards, one TD), finished a scoring drive with a 19-yard pass to Shakim Phillips near the right pylon to take a 14-7 lead for the Eagles. A fumble by Hackenberg and a recovery by BC’s Matt Milano gave the Eagles possession on their 37. At the Penn State 40, Murphy faked the handoff on the option and sped around the left end juking past a defender for a 40-yard touchdown scamper, and BC extended its lead, 21-7. PSU started its next possession from the 37, and the O-line started to show signs of protecting its QB against a very good Boston College defense. As the third period expired, Hackenberg connected with Geno Lewis in the end zone as a defender swatted the ball up, and Lewis snagged it on the way down for an over the shoulder catch for a seven-yard scoring play. The third expired with BC leading, 21-14.

The Lion defense puts the stop on Eagle RB Marcus Outlow.

The Lion defense puts the stop on Eagle RB Marcus Outlow.

After PSU’s No. 2 rushing defense held BC to a second series of three and outs, they took the ball back on their 45. RB Akeel Lynch (17 carries for 75 yards) raced 35 yards to the Eagle one. An unsportsmanlike call against the o-line put PSU back on the 16. On second and goal, Hackenberg fired the ball into the end zone to DaeSean Hamilton for his third TD pass of the game and the score was knotted, 21-21. BC came out effectively running the ball between Murphy and Hilliman. Penn State’s defense stiffened, and with 2:12 remaining, Mike Knoll put BC back in front, 24-21, with a 20-yard FG. The Lions moved the ball on the ensuing series with five straight completions by Hackenberg to control the clock with one time-out left. Two subsequent runs put them at the 27, and Sam Ficken, who struggled early in his kicking career at Penn State, split the uprights from the 45 to even the score, 24-24, with 20 seconds left to send the game into overtime. His extra point after Kyle’s Carter TD reception sealed the exciting bowl win for the Nittany Lions.

Akeel Lynch's (22)  run to the one in the fourth set up Penn State's game-tying touchdown later on.

Akeel Lynch’s (22) run to the one in the fourth set up Penn State’s game-tying touchdown later on.

It was a hard fought game played by both teams. It’s a shame the Eagles had to lose it on a missed extra point in OT, but that’s how it ended. We’ve seen others disappointingly settled the same way.  In the annals of our history, this was our 481st game. PSU now has a record of 71-22 and is 4-0 in bowl games. BC is now 7-6 overall and is 0-2 in their bowl games we’ve attended.

Next we fly to Nashville for the Music City Bowl on Tuesday between LSU and Notre Dame. We will hook up with our friend Joe Rogers of the College Football Bowl Report to enjoy the game and the Music City.

Aaron, John, and me outside of Yankee Stadium at The New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Aaron, John, and me outside of Yankee Stadium at The New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Extra points: Lively crowd for sure. We met up with long-time Penn State connection John Massimilla and his son-in-law Aaron and other friends (among them Evan Williams) who came out from Chambersburg by bus. We got to tailgate and smoke cigar compliments of John before the game at the bus lot on the corner of 151st and River Ave.

A tribute and a moment of silence were made before the game to the New York Police officers who were assassinated in Brooklyn by a coward last week. I saw some people go out of their way to shake hands with some of the officers on duty at Yankee Stadium during the game to thank them for their service.

Also joining me today as Guest Game Analyst was my 19-year old son Eric on his final day of Christmas leave as he’s now a Petty Officer 3/c in the US Navy.  Eric and I did five bowl tours together over the years including Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and to the west coast when he was younger.  He’s headed back to go on duty now, but it was great that we got to see such a great game together in the short amount of time we had to spend.  Go Navy! We’re all proud of him.

Bowl observations: Navy’s defense confirmed their improvement by holding San Diego State down in their 17-16 win at the Poinsettia Bowl. We had seen them shut down a vaunted Georgia Southern running game earlier and a good Army triple option attack in their 17-10 victory, but they did as well against a potent Aztec attack led by Donnell Pumphrey…How did North Carolina beat Duke and Georgia Tech to go 6-6 to play Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl? RU whipped them like they didn’t belong… Overall, however, most of the bowls have been well played, close games. However,  I would prefer to see most to the games played before Christmas discontinued for several reason. One, nobody has the time or interest in travelling so far or spending more money that time of year. Two, I would like to see 6-6 teams eliminated as bowl eligible. Especially if that total includes non-FBS teams. Three, there are too many bowls. Four, let’s go back to distinguishing winners from losers. Five, I would like to see eight teams in the CFP with the opening round played at the stadiums of the top four seeds. Six, bowls should still be rewards for “good”seasons. Seven, everybody gets a trophy. Phooey! Eight, I hate seeing televised football games played in front of so many empty seats. Nine, the games are essentially for filling up ESPN air time so they can sell commercials that we get bombarded with from game to game after game. Ten, how many bowl eligible teams anybody plays or beats is so insignificant now because 78 of 128 teams are in bowl games. That’s no big deal any more.

All five teams we saw this year that have gone on to Bowl games thus far are undefeated. In addition to Penn State, Rutgers, Navy, South Carolina, and Marshall all came up with bowl wins for a 5-0 record. Texas A&M, Auburn, Missouri, Ohio State, and Florida State all have their games coming up. I still don’t understand why the Sunbelt couldn’t let their 9-3 champ Georgia Southern go to a bowl. So what if it was their first season in the Belt? A conference champ is the best team you have to represent your league.

CFP Bowl predictions: With our whirlwind tour of four games in four days coming up this week, we probably won’t update the stories and events of our trip to our games until next weekend. There will be a lot of driving in between games, some partying (mostly before the Music City), some sleeping, and an evening of CFP bowl watching planned on New Year’s Day that will preclude us from getting out the updates of games that we’ll be attending. So before I’m on the road again, here are my predictions for the two semi-final games on January 1:

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State: As is his habit, Jameis Winston will find a way to overcome Oregon after Marcus Mariota and his flock take an early lead in the Rose Bowl. Winston just figures a way to bring his team back to life to slither back into the game when it’s on the line, and then the  Seminoles will be heading to Arlington. They’ll win in a close one to the tune of something like 27-24. Winston and the Noles will do whatever it takes to win their 28th game in a row to go defend their 2013 title.

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State: Nick Saban has had over three weeks to dissect QB Cardale Jones after the Buckeyes 59-0 romp over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. He’ll have an effective game plan in place. Ohio State’s defense is no slouch, however, and they will be ready for Blake Sims and Amari Cooper. I’ll give the edge to Saban in this case as his experienced QB should help him get by the Buckeyes. Plus being in the Sugar Bowl will make it like an Alabama home game. The Tide will win, 27-14. We’ll be back in time to predict the outcome of the first CFP to be played on January 12.

Happy New Year!

Collegefootballfan.com Week in Review #17

During the course of the 2014 season, Collegefootballfan.com attended 21 games played by 17 different FBS college football teams. We will be adding eight other schools when we attend five bowl games from December 27 through January 2 in person. We also attended FCS games played among ten different schools. We saw some great games and we saw some clunkers. We also added the four newest teams to join the FBS this year. All along, we’ve seen some of the greatest individual talent in the nation. Based on this years’ experience and the five games upcoming, post-season awards, and our own keen observations, we are happy to announce our 2014 Collegefootballfan.com All-American Team. It ranks up there right alongside some of the best you’ve seen from other pollsters and news media outlets. We limited our selections to just teams on our 2014 schedule including our upcoming bowl season. No slouches here. Asterisks indicate that these are players we will be seeing during bowl season. You can be sure that we’ll be keeping our eyes on these guys:

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB  Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finishes 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs this season.

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finishes 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs this season.

Offense

WR Rashad Greene        Florida State

WR Andre Tippett           Michigan State

T Brandon Scherff*         Iowa

G A.J. Cann                    South Carolina

C Reese Dismkes            Auburn

G Tre Jackson                 Florida State

T La’el Collins*                LSU

TE Nick O’Leary               Florida State

QB J.T. Barrett                Ohio State

RB Devon Johnson           Marshall

RB David Cobb*              Minnesota

PK Robert Aguayo           Florida State

Roberto Aguayo capped first quarter scoring for Seminoles against Syracuse when we saw him play.

Roberto Aguayo capped first quarter scoring for Seminoles against Syracuse when we saw him play.

 

Defense

DE Joey Bosa                Ohio State

DL Michael Bennett        Ohio State

DL Eddie Goldman         Florida State

DE Shane Ray               Missouri

LB Bednarik McKinney*  Mississippi State

LB Mike Hull                  Penn State

LB Jaylon Smith*           Notre Dame

CB Trae Waynes             Michigan State

CB Jordan Lucas             Penn State

S   Kurtis Drummond      Michigan State

S   Jalen Ramsey            Florida State

P   Austin Devine             Lafayette

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa  (97) stooped Navy at the goal line in the season opener for both teams.

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa (97) stooped Navy at the goal line in the season opener for both teams.

 

Speaking of All-Americans, we have to mention The Alma Mater. Congratulations to Juniata College Senior QB Walt Undinski whom we saw play in a 27-21 loss to Moravian this year. Udinski was named third Team USA Division III All-American. During his senior season, he completed 221 of 338 passes for 2,878 yards and 18 TDs. On the ground, he totaled 661 yards and 17 TDs. Twice he was named Centennial Conference and ECAC Offensive Player of the Week. During his four-year career, he had 10,756 yards of total offense. He and two-year HC Tim Launtz are credited with starting to turn the once proud program around again to winning ways. Also, Senior LB Ethan Wilt was cited for a USA D-III Honorable Mention Award. He led the Eagles with 95 tackles including 74 solos, two sacks, and three pass break ups. We hope to see more improvement from JC over the upcoming years…Congratulations to Wisconsin Whitewater who won their fifth consecutive D-III National Championship this past Friday night against their perennial Stag Bowl opponent of the past nine years, Mount Union, by a score of 43-34. Will their annual affair between the two dominant D-III foes continue in the near future? UWW HC Lance Leipold who has led the Warhawks to insurmountable success will be leaving the program after this season bringing his offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator with him to test their coaching capabilities at Buffalo, a struggling FBS team in the MAC during most of its history.   We’ll be rooting for him to see how well he can recruit and develop players at the level like he’s done at UWW. If you watched the game on TV Friday, you saw not only a different brand of football (not as strong as the FBS, of course), but how many times did you see injured players on both squads try to get off the field under their own power to avoid injury time-outs? To me it showed courage and a team-first mentality. Can Leipold get those kinds of players or teach that at the next level? I don’t think I saw that kind of reaction anywhere else at any level of play this season. We wish him luck and will be watching how the Bulls do under him very closely. Next year, along with the MAC East foes such as Bowling Green and Ohio U., they’ll be Playing at Penn State and hosting Nevada. It will be interesting to see how well he can recruit. Are six national championships at D-III going to make FBS recruits sit up and take notice? And can he bring the work ethic and teamwork together that made his Warhawks successful at D-III? We are anxious to see what he can do…We didn’t follow D-II as much this season, but congrats to the Colorado State – Pueblo Thunderwolves who defeated Minnesota State, 13-0, in their first national championship game. The CSU-Pueblo program started only seven years ago, and it shut out Minnesota State who averaged over 40 points per game…Saturday, Illinois State came from behind to defeat No. 1 New Hampshire, 21-18. It didn’t make sense to me that as starting QB Sean Goldrich gimped around badly from leg injury, that he put his back up Andy Vailas at risk by throwing him pass out of the backfield.  After a short gain, Vailas got nailed with a solid tackle and left the game permanently with a concussion. ISU meets three time defending champ North Dakota State in Frisco for the FCS National Championship. The Bison defeated Sam Houston state, 35-3.  Both teams are members of the Missouri Valley Conference, but they did not play one another during the regular season. We were disappointed the see the Wildcats lose as we’d seen them play in the second round, but we still look forward to watching the championship game on January 10 on TV…

Keenan Reynolds has to run the option effectively to avoid turnovers and keep his won defense off the field against San Diego State to win.

Keenan Reynolds has to run the option effectively to avoid turnovers and keep his won defense off the field against San Diego State to win.

Of all the pre-Christmas Bowl games, we’re most interested in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl next Tuesday night for several reasons – the primary one of course being great Navy fans and having seen the Mids play four times this year against Ohio State, Rutgers, Georgia Southern, and Army to finish 7-5. On top of that, the bowl game will be played at Qualcomm stadium in the Navy town of San Diego where our good friend and WW II Navy veteran Tom Ables, the greatest San Diego State fan of all time will be rooting for his Aztecs while attending his 757th Aztec game since 1946! Tom’s streak is alive as he saw his team play all 12 games to also finish 7-5. Tom says he even attended the late night game at Boise State where it was only five degrees at kickoff. As much as he loves the road trips, he’s happy his Aztecs will be playing their bowl game at home this year. He says that SDSU is ready for Navy. He attributes his view to two things: “We are looking forward to playing Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl. Aztecs have had good success against the academies, and playing Air Force (who we beat 30-14 this year, holding them to about half their rushing average) every year keeps us tuned in to the option. We have a little running back who belies his size. Donnel Pumphrey is only 5-9, 170, but hits with surprising power. Only a sophomore, he could set an Aztec season rushing record with a big game against the Middies. And we’ve had some very good RBs here, including Marshall Faulk!” Of course, he always reminds me of the time these two met in the same bowl in 2010 when his team won handily, 35-14. It’s hard to argue with him. Navy’s defense has allowed 329 points as opposed to SDSU defense that allowed 241. Both beat San Jose, but the Aztecs thrashed them 38-7 while Navy struggled with the Spartan offense winning, 41-31. If Navy’s going to win, Keenan Reynolds has to be effective on his pitch outs around the ends and avoid panic on the very short pitches he tries to make that result in turnovers. He has to avoid them and keep State’s offense of the field as long as possible. Otherwise, Pumphrey may run all over the Mid defense if they mix the pass in along well with his runs. We’ll still be rooting for Navy of course, but they’ll have to execute better than they did against Army. As for Tom, if his doctor gives him the ok to travel next year, we have the Penn State – San Diego State in ink on our calendar when the two teams meet on September 26 at Beaver Stadium. We can’t promise him that it won’t snow, but it most likely won’t. It will be tremendous to see him there. Tom will be 89 then. We have a long way to go to ever catch up with the amount of games he’s attended…

We hope that we're all as ready to go as our friend Tom Ables when we're his age. Hope to see him next year when his Aztecs visit Penn State.

We hope that we’re all as ready to go as our friend Tom Ables when we’re his age. Hope to see him next year when his Aztecs visit Penn State.

Merry Christmas and Happy Bowl Season to all our fans and friends. Thanks for keeping up with us. Look for our next update after next Saturday’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium where we’ll see Penn State play Boston College. Listen up to for a pregame review on “Pete Spadora on Sports” for our next interview before the game around 10:30 am EST. Click here.