Bye week musings
Our bye week – this weekend was the first after 15 straight Saturdays that Collegefootballfan.com did not attend at least one college football game. We’ve attended 21 thus far and have four bowl games in five days the week after Christmas. And we are holding on to hope to attend the CFP on Monday, January 9 in Tampa. I attended my company Christmas party Friday night which would have been the only opportunity to attend a game within driving distance this weekend past. I missed for what I’ve been waiting to see happen for the first time in 12 years. Neither Mount Union nor Wisconsin-Whitewater made it to Salem, Virginia. Their monopoly of the title game took a sabbatical. They met nine times over those 12 years. This past Friday, Mary Hardin-Baylor tussled with Wisconsin-Oshkosh to terminate the “Purple reign” enjoyed by the Raiders and Warhawks. MH-B took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, and the score stood. The Crusaders halted the Titans’ last possession with an INT with less than a minute left in the game at their 22. Congratulations to the MHB Crusaders, 2016 D-3 National Football Champions…
After staying at my friend George’s house after the Christmas party, the snow and ice mix the next morning caused my drive home to last three hours. Typical Saturday in that respect despite my bye week. Once I got home and had lunch, I was beat. Not my typical weekend in the great tailgate outdoors, but playoff games and bowl games were heating up. In weather, comparable to what I drove through Saturday morning, NW Missouri State defeated North Alabama in blinding snow storm out in Kansas City, 29-3. For the Bearcats, it was their second D-2 championship in a row, third in the last four years, sixth D-2 title overall of the ten such championships they’ve played in…In the FCS, both semi-final games were intense. Youngstown State (11-3), coached by former Nebraska HC Bo Pelini, defeated Eastern Washington on the last play of the game as TE Kevin Rader firmly caught the ball behind the back of a defender in the end zone to give the Penguins a 40-38 win over the Eagles. In the other FCS semi-final, the No. 4 James Madison Dukes went to Fargo, North Dakota and defeated the reigning five-time National Champs, the No. 1 North Dakota State Bison, at home in a 27-17 win to head to Frisco, Texas to play the YSU Penguins on January 7. Another dynasty took a hit among the lower levels of NCAA football this year during my bye week. Like Alabama at the FBS level, we don’t think, Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater, despite their recent coaching changes, Northwest Missouri, nor North Dakota State, will be totally out of the championship contention in their respective division for years to come. Each level of college football seems to have their dominant programs for whatever reason…As for our non-FBS fortunes this past season, we did see one FCS team that made it into the playoffs. Pioneer League champions, the San Diego Toreros, who we saw play Marist up in Poughkeepsie, NY, won their first-round game over Cal Poly, 35-21. The NDSU Bison dominated them at home in the next round, 45-7. With our heavily-laden FBS slate this season, we didn’t see any D-2 games this season, and none of the other D-3 schools we watched in action this year made it among the 32 schools in the D-3 postseason….
We read that the Idaho Vandals (8-4), playing in this Thursday’s Famous Idaho Potato bowl in Boise against Colorado State (7-5), will return to the FCS the year after next and play in the Big Sky conference. Costs did them in playing in the Sun Belt Conference where most to the schools play in the southeast. To go the Independent route would have been just as difficult playing in the little Kibbie Dome and attracting crowds and big name programs to help fill their coffers. Our discontent is that they played Nevada in Reno back in 2007 when they made us whole by becoming team #s 118 and 119, allowing us to claim we’d finally “seen ‘em all!” Coastal Carolina joins the FBS next season coming out of the FCS and will compete for the Sun Belt Championship in 2017. We plan to work them into our schedule possibly the first weekend of next season when they’ll host the University of Massachusetts. We predict that the Minutemen, trying to find a conference and struggling to find wins at the FBS level, is another such program that may consider returning to the FCS in the near future…Right before our bye week, the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens named their new HC in Danny Rocco, a former HC at Richmond and at Liberty University who built a 90-42 record. He’d won 10 games in each of the last two seasons with the Richmond Spiders, and we’d seen his Liberty Flame team in an exciting game at Lehigh several years ago. He’s a native of Huntingdon, PA, home of the Alma Mater, Juniata College. Based on his background and penchant for developing winning FCS Programs, we think The Fighting Blue Hens got the right coach to do the job to get them back in contention for the Colonial Athletic Conference championship and to get them back into the FCS playoffs on a regular basis…Speaking of other former Blue Hen mentors, K.C. Keeler, who led UD to their last FCS Championship back in 2003, got blown out in this year’s FCS playoffs by national finalist JMU. Winning the Southland Conference and defeating Chattanooga in the second round of the playoffs, 41-36, Keeler’s Beakats, with about 15 FBS transfers as usual on his roster, traveled up to Harrisonburg, Virginia with 12-0 record averaging 51.4 points per game. The Dukes hammered the ‘kats, 65-7! What the ??? Keeler could have used a bye week…Bowl action we saw on Saturday included Houston and New Mexico, two teams we saw in action this year. San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey, who we saw held to 66 yards against Penn State in 2015, set the NCAA rushing record to break Ron Dayne’s mark while beating the Cougars, 34-10, in the Las Vegas Bowl. We saw Houston, who beat both Oklahoma and Louisville this year, get upset at Navy, 46-40, in a game where they came in ranked No. 6. New Mexico (8-4) defeated UTSA (6-6), playing in their first bowl game ever at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 23-20. We saw the Lobos fall victim to Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights’ only win over an FBS program this season, 37-28…More musings from bye week and other thoughts to come.