Season Opener: No teams come from farther apart than this
This Saturday, August 26 at 6 pm EST, the2017 season opener for Collegefootballfan.com features the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors against the UMass Minutemen in Amherst, Massachusetts at refurbished McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The Rainbow Warriors were on the rebound finishing with a 7-7 record a year ago after five straight losing seasons. The 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 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 Rolovichs second season in Honolulu. They’re 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. The former HS teammate of Fords 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. Hes 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.
This will be a competitive game probably filled with a lot of mistakes from opening 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. Their young O-line and newly-learned adjustments on a new defensive scheme will be much to handle in their first game. UMass could be another FBS team returning to the FCS like Idaho is this year if significant improvement isnt achieved this season. We saw UMasss FBS opener against Indiana in 2012 in a 45-6 loss. Their band looked pretty good at Gillette Stadium that day. Collegefootballfan.com will see them play again later this season at Temple on Friday, September 15 – 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.
Hall of Fame College Football coaches Ara Parseghian, age 94, and Dick MacPherson, age 86, both passed away early this month. Collegefootballfan.com had the pleasure of seeing both men coach during their careers. I grew up as a Notre Dame fan listening to Notre Dame games on the radio at home when Ara Parseghian coached the Fighting Irish for the first time in 1964. It was against his former team, Northwestern, when they won that day on their way to a 9-1 season. Parseghian garnered the first winning season at South Bend in five years. I rooted hard for the Irish over my younger years. I vividly remember watching their 1973 24-23 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship.
At my personal, first-hand memory at a Notre Dame game ever though, 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 2-5 Navy led 6-0 going into the final period against 6-1 Notre Dame. Basically, I rooted for the same players to win it all the previous New Years Eve. An Irish punt return to our 27 resulted in a sliding TD catch by TE Pete Demmerle. Randy Harrisons 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, wasnt good enough for ND fandom. The pressure added to his health problems and concerns for family illnesses. He had basically made this decision to step down despite finishing 10-2 and defeating Alabama again, this time in the Orange Bowl, 13-11.
Parseghian amassed an overall record of 170-58-6 while at Miami (O.), Northwestern, and Notre Dame. He finished his career with the Irish at 95-17-4 for third most coaching wins ever under the Golden Dome. It was a memorable time over my years growing up and developing a lasting love for college football. Its funny to me, however, that for a man I had admired for so long growing up, I ended up rooting against him at the only game I ever saw him in at the end of his illustrious career.
As for Dick Macpherson, at Syracuse from 1983 to 1990, Collegefootballfan.com saw his first team topple to lowly Temple early in 1983. In 1988, we eventually saw his squad upset Penn State at Beaver Stadium. It was a continuous improvement process during the years he guided Syracuse to a 64-44-6 record. What was really inspiring was to look at his coaching staff he assembled while there. He hired 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. However, 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 possessed 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. 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 wasnt feasible.
This rivalry thrives on having all Midshipmen and Cadets attend. Transporting them to far reaches around the country would be costly. Also, this 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. Collegefootballfan.com plans to attend all these season finales now, God-willing!
Nobody asked but
The pre-season publications chimed in with their Top four picks for the CFP. No guts or real analytical foresighteverybody has Alabama at No. 1:
AP Poll: Alabama, Ohio St., Florida State, USC
Sports Illustrated: Alabama, Florida State, Ohio St., Oklahoma State
Athlons: Alabama, Ohio St., Florida State, Washington
Street and Smiths: Alabama, Ohio St., Florida State, USC
Lindys: Alabama, USC, Ohio St., Florida State
Coaches poll: Doesnt matter, they only know about two teams, theirs and the next one they will be facing.
We say its not where you start, its where you finish. Thinking out of the box, heres 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 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 beats Michigan the week before. They 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. The CFP championship in Atlanta will be a rematch of last years exciting Rose Bowl, but the result will be reversed and by a slightly wider margin. Remember, you read that here first on Collegefootballfan.com!)