Season Opener: No teams come from farther apart than this
This Saturday, August 26 at 6 pm EST, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors who will have flown all the way out to visit the UMass Minutemen at Amherst, Massachusetts will clash at refurbished McGuirk Alumni Stadium for Collegefootballfan.com’s season opener. The Rainbow Warriors were on the rebound finishing with a 7-7 record a year ago after five straight losing seasons. Their victory total last season included a Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee State and a 46-40 regular season win over UMass, both played at the friendly confines of Aloha Stadium. With Dru Brown taking over at QB five games into last season, the ‘Bows won six of ten games. RB Diocemy Saint Juste returns with 1,006 rushing yards, but in short yardage situations, look for HC Nick Rolovich to call on Steven Lakalaka to barrel over people for the tough yards when needed. He scored 13 TDs in similar situations last year. The O-line is well established for our season opener returning three starters and a senior from a year ago. Defensively Hawaii allowed 37.3 ppg and they were one of the most penalized teams in the FBS ranked at # 127. New defensive coordinator Legi Suaiunoa is the fifth to take over the defense in five years, and the second in Rolovich’s second season in Honolulu, looking to lay down some discipline to eliminate costly mistakes made in the past. A new PK and a new punter will start against UMass entering the season with big question marks on special teams. We last saw Hawaii fall to Navy in Annapolis in 2013, 42-28.
The Minutemen under HC Mark Whipple finished 2-10 last season. QB Andrew Ford will be looking for TE Adam Breneman in key situations. Breneman, former HS teammate of Ford’s and a Penn State transfer who suffered leg injuries in the past, caught 70 passes for 808 yards and eight TDs in 2106. He enters his senior season as a legitimate pro prospect. RB Marquis Young ran for 898 yards last season, but UMass will be relying on four sophomores up front to step up quickly and make this offense more effective than a year ago. Last season, the D allowed 35.5 ppg. Whipple hired Defensive Coordinator Ed Pinkham who departed from a successful stint at Western Michigan after its 13-1 record and a Cotton Bowl trip last season. He’s initiated a change already from a 3-4 to a 4-3. CB and return man Isaiah Rodgers and Safety Pat Amara, a Pitt transfer, will be key leaders in the Minutemen secondary.
Our season opener will be a competitive game probably filled with a lot of mistakes from first game jitters for both sides. Despite the long trip, we expect the visitors with cohesive experience on offense and renewed focus on some discipline on defense to be too much for UMass’s young O-line and for newly-learned adjustments to a new defensive scheme to handle in their first game. UMass could be another FBS team returning to the FCS like Idaho is this year if significant improvement isn’t achieved this season. We saw UMass’s FBS opener against Indiana in 2012 in a 45-6 loss. Their band looked pretty good at Gillette Stadium that day. Later this season at Temple on Friday, September 15, we will see them play again – the football team, not the band. UMass had a solid FCS program with a one national championship under Whipple and another under Dick MacPherson (read below) when he was HC there.
Great coaches never ever die when they leave behind
great memories and former assistant coaches
Hall of Fame College Football coaches Ara Parseghian, age 94, and Dick MacPherson, age 86, both passed away early this month. I had the pleasure of seeing both men coach during their careers. Growing up as a Notre Dame fan, I remember listening to Fighting Irish games on the radio at home when Ara Parseghian coached them during his first season in 1964. It was against his former team, Northwestern. They won that day on their way to a 9-1 season, the first winning season at South Bend in five years. I rooted hard for the Irish over my younger years and vividly remember watching their 1973 24-23 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship. At my personal, first-hand experience at a Notre Dame game for the first time, however, I rooted against Ara and the Irish. As a plebe at the US Naval Academy in 1974, I was a member of the Brigade of Midshipman at the Vet in Philly where 4,000 Mids hungered for an upset. We stood and cheered the entire game as our 2-5 Navy classmates led 6-0 going into the final period against 6-1 Notre Dame, basically the same players I rooted for to win it all the previous New Year’s Eve. An Irish punt return to our 27 resulted in a sliding TD catch by TE Pete Demmerle. Randy Harrison’s late INT return 40 yards for a TD sealed the Irish win. At the end of the season, due to health issues, Ara Parseghian retired. Later, reports came out that this game influenced his decision to retire. Beating a “lowly” 2-5 Navy team, 14-6, wasn’t good enough for ND fandom. The pressure added to his health problems and family illnesses. Basically, Ara made this decision to step down after this game despite finishing 10-2 and defeating Alabama again, this time in the Orange Bowl, 13-11. He amassed an overall record of 170-58-6 while at Miami (O.), Northwestern, and Notre Dame. His career with the Irish finished with a record of 95-17-4, third most coaching wins ever under the Golden Dome. It was a memorable time over my years growing up and developing a deep-seated love of college football. Amazing to me, however, that for a man I had admired for so long growing up, I ended up having to root against him at the only game I ever saw him coach at the very end of his illustrious career.
As for Dick Macpherson, at Syracuse from 1983 to 1990, I saw his first team topple to lowly Temple early in 1983 and eventually saw his squad upset Penn State in 1988. It was a continuous improvement process in the years he guided Syracuse to a 64-44-6 record. But what was really inspiring was to look at his coaching staff he assembled while there. He had assistants such as Don Blakeney, Foge Fazio, and Bob Davies who went on to become successful head coaches at Bowling Green, Missouri and Notre Dame, but to top it all off, he hired Tom Coughlin, future Head Coach of two Giant Super Bowl teams and Nick Saban, future Head Coach of five NCAA national Champs on his squad the same time early in their careers. The man had an eye for coaching talent for sure. His overall record at UMASS and Syracuse totaled 111-75-3. His last four Syracuse teams finished 36-10-3 before he moved on to take over the New England Patriots.
Army-Navy maintains tradition
After much hype about relocating the greatest rivalry in college football, the Army-Navy game, to other venues around the nation, the two military academies decided to maintain tradition. Already slated to play in Philadelphia this year, the following threes clashes will also take place at Lincoln Financial Field, and in 2021, they will battle at the Meadowlands as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Though the idea to move the game to other parts of the nation to allow many others to attend is admirable, it most likely wasn’t feasible. This rivalry thrives on having all Midshipmen and Cadets attend. Transporting them around the country to attend would be costly and would cut into required class time for the students. Philly and the New Jersey Meadowlands are a bus ride away from Annapolis and West Point, so both make sense economically and time-wise. We will plan to attend them all now, God-willing!
From our season opener this weekend through the Army-Navy game, Collegefootballfan.com has 21 regular season games planned for this season. Follow our game travels weekly for some fun and action. After Saturday, we will wee four more games starting next Thursday through Sunday. Three divisions of NCAA football with seven of the teams ranked in their respective Top 25s.
Nobody asked but…
The pre-season publications chimed in with their Top four picks for the CFP. No guts or real analytical foresight…everybody has Alabama at No. 1:
AP Poll: Alabama, Ohio St., Florida State, USC
Sports Illustrated: Alabama, Florida State, Ohio St., Oklahoma State
Athlon’s: Alabama, Ohio St., Florida State, Washington
Street and Smith’s: Alabama, Ohio St., Florida State, USC
Lindy’s: Alabama, USC, Ohio St., Florida State
Coaches poll: Doesn’t matter, they only know about two teams, theirs and the next one they will be facing. At lest that’s the way it should be.
We say it’s not where you start, it’s how you play every week, avoid mistakes, block and tackle, and where you finish. Thinking out of the box, here’s what we come up with:
Collegefootballfan.com Poll: Penn State, USC, Florida State, Auburn
No way Alabama or FSU is going to lose the first game of the season and go unscathed the rest of the season. Auburn will beat Bama at home in the final game of the season at the Iron Bowl. QB Jarrett Stidham adds a new offensive dimension at Auburn to win “Alabama and Other Six division of the SEC”. They beat one of “The Other Seven” in the SEC championship. Ohio State loses at home to PSU who also beats Michigan the week before to finish undefeated to win the Big Ten championship against tough Wisconsin in the B1G finale. USC dominates The Pac 12 with Sam Darnold at QB. They beat Washington in their championship gane. The CFP championship in Atlanta will be a rematch of last year’s exciting Rose Bowl, but the result will be reversed and by a slightly wider margin. (Remember, you read that here first!)