Category Archives: Off-Campus
The world of college athletics outside of Foggy Bottom.
Assistant Director, Internal Affairs
New Year’s Day not only signifies a new year, but also represents the start of one of the most exciting weeks in football, BCS bowl week. This year, the best of the best in college football will meet in a series of five matchups, starting with the Rose Bowl on January 1st and culminating with the BCS National Championship on January 7th. Here’s a look at what you can expect from these great matchups:
Rose Bowl Game: Wisconsin Badgers (8-5) vs. Stanford Cardinal (11-2)
January 1st, 5 p.m.
The Rose Bowl features Stanford out of the Pac-12 and Wisconsin, the representative of the Big 10. After Northern Illinois’ ascension to the Orange Bowl, the selection of Wisconsin is perhaps the most puzzling of all the teams. The Badgers finished at .500 in conference and recorded losses to Oregon State and Nebraska as well as a trio of overtime losses to Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. Finishing the season unranked behind bowl ineligible teams Ohio State and Penn State, the Badgers have found themselves riding Montee Ball’s historic season, having seen him break the all-time NCAA touchdown record. It is not all roses for the Badgers, however, who have seen head coach Bret Bielema hired away by embattled Arkansas. In Bielema’s place, for one game, steps former Wisconsin head coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, who compiled a 118-73-4 record, including a 3-0 record in the Rose Bowl, in 16 seasons as head coach from 1990-2005. It will be interesting to see the impact of Alvarez’s return to the sideline for this one game, but Alvarez is almost certain to have a difficult time drawing up a game plan that can expose Stanford. He inherits a very one dimensional offense, making it seem as though this Wisconsin team will be easy pickings for a Stanford team who has shown how capable they are against the run, only allowing 14 scores on the ground all season long. The Cardinal are allowing about three yards per carry, two less than Ball’s average, and that’s if Ball gets out of the backfield, where Stanford has made 120 tackles this season. The Stanford secondary is no less friendly for Wisconsin, having picked off opposing quarterbacks 14 times this season. Wisconsin’s lack of confidence in their freshman quarterback Joel Stave showed in his 17 passing attempts per game, making good on just about 60% of those attempts, and compounding this issue is the fact that he will not even be available for the game. The Badgers have been deferring to senior Curt Phillips to stand under center and hand off to Montee Ball. Don’t expect much more than simple run plays, bubble screens and check down passes from the Badgers.
The line for this game stands at Stanford by a touchdown, which may just be out of respect for the BCS nature of the game. It looks to be shaping up as a very one sided affair and you should have no qualms in taking the Cardinal to roll.
Discover Orange Bowl: Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)
January 1st, 8:30 p.m.
Northern Illinois is the new BCS buster this year, having weaseled their way into the Orange Bowl ahead of teams like Georgia and Texas A&M. The Huskies ascended to the 15th spot in the BCS after outlasting #17 Kent State in a double overtime thriller in the Mid-American Conference championship. Their only loss was their season opener against Iowa, which makes them the first non-automatic qualifying team to reach a BCS bowl game without finishing the season undefeated. Their dual threat junior quarterback Jordan Lynch makes them a dangerous team to play. Lynch has 24 passing and 19 rushing touchdowns, tossing the ball almost twice as much as he throws. Supplementing Lynch in the backfield is junior running back Leighton Settle, who has half as many red zone carries as Lynch. The primary focus for the Florida State defense should be the ground game and Lynch. As long as they keep Lynch in the pocket and keep senior wide receiver Martel Moore in check, it should be an Orange Bowl victory for the Seminoles. Expect to see junior defensive back Xavier Rhodes showcase his skill in the secondary against Moore. Rhodes has picked off three passes this year and is very adept at breaking up passes, playing tight man coverage that will make it increasingly difficult for Northern Illinois to crack the end zone. The ‘Noles are also only allowing a slim 2.7 yards per run, and with only ten rushing touchdowns coming against them on the year, it seems that the Huskies will be at a loss as to how to move the ball. Florida State’s senior quarterback EJ Manuel already has 3100 yards on the season with 22 scores so look for him to add to that impressive total. Florida State’s turnover margin stands at -6, three of them coming at home against the Florida Gators in the Florida Cup, and if Northern Illinois can improve on their +8 margin to get some extra possessions the game might be closer than what Vegas expects.
The Seminoles currently hold the line at -14. With EJ Manuel’s skill through the air and a defense that will likely hold the Huskies below their season averages through the air and on the ground, it seems to be a good bet.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Florida Gators (11-1) vs. Louisville Cardinals (10-2)
January 2nd, 8:30 p.m.
This year, the Sugar Bowl features the Florida Gators (11-1, 7-1 SEC) and the Louisville Cardinals (10-2, 5-2 Big East). The Gators were the darling of the BCS computers this year, and perhaps rightfully so with their stout defense and efficient offense. After only losing one conference game all season long in the one of the most grueling schedules in college football, the Gators roll into New Orleans led by sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel is a standard quarterback in the Gators offense, doing just what he is asked but effectively executing every time he takes the ball. He is able to throw the ball well, averaging about seven yards per completion, and is also adept at the run game, having four rushing touchdowns on the season, second behind leading rusher Mike Gillislee with ten. Driskel slings the ball around evenly to his receiving squad, four of whom have twenty or more catches on the season, and three of whom have three or more touchdown receptions.
Driskel is opposed by fellow sophomore Teddy Bridgewater, who will most likely suit up for the Cardinals after New Year’s, barring any setbacks to his broken wrist and sprained ankle. Louisville finished the season by ending in a surprising slide, including a thumping loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and a triple overtime thriller at home against UConn that capped an eleven spot tumble down the rankings from #10 to #21 in the BCS rankings. Bridgewater electrified the Big East with his arm, having career days at home against Temple with five touchdowns and away in the losing effort at Syracuse, passing for 424 yards on 36 completions. It is unlikely that he will have the same success against Florida and their stingy defense, which is letting up a mere twelve points a game. The Gator defensive line has not been as impressive as their secondary and giving Bridgewater time in the pocket is playing with fire. The Gators need to emphasize getting into the back field to make tackles for losses and to hurry Bridgewater into ill-advised throws that the secondary can pounce on. Look for Sharrif Floyd, a junior lineman, to force the issue with the Louisville offensive line. Florida needs to be careful in their aggression, having committed one more penalty costing them ten more yards than Louisville on average.
Vegas currently has a consensus on the game, with Florida at -14. Knowing how explosive Bridgewater can be, it might behoove one to take the points in this, considering Florida has been known to hit a wall in the scoring aspect of the game.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats (11-1) vs. Oregon Ducks (11-1)
January 3rd, 8:30 p.m.
The fourth BCS bid for Oregon under Chip Kelly draws a formidable opponent in Kansas State under the rejuvenated Bill Snyder. Familiar to college football fans, Oregon still insists on using the no-huddle fast paced offense and gimmicky jerseys. Outside the spotlight and playing football with much less glitter and special effects has been Kansas State, who uses a John Wooden-esque “16 Goals” to ensure its success in Manhattan. Both teams have veritable playmakers in Collin Klein and Kenjon Barner, for K-State and Oregon respectively. Klein has played the central role in the Wildcats’ success this year having passed for a rather pedestrian 2490 yards and 15 touchdowns but supplementing that with a stellar 890 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. His decision making has been at the forefront of his skill set, and his potential to score on almost any play allows viewers to overlook his slightly mechanical form. The red zone efficiency of this offense shows in its 43 touchdowns in 68 possessions, being able to produce a hair more than 40 points per game. The defense will certainly be tested by Marcus Mariota and Chip Kelly’s offensive pace, which is averaging nearly 51 points per game.
The Oregon offense will most likely try to burn the Wildcats with speed and quick strikes, but they are also efficient in marching the ball down the field to score in a more traditional way, albeit at warp speed. The double headed rushing monster of Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have produced 32 touchdowns this year on under 30 carries per game. Matching Thomas’s offensive output is quarterback Marcus Mariota who is not only rushing for 57 yards a game but has also passed for upwards of 200 yards a game on average. Even if the Wildcats can stop the running game, the Ducks can still win through the air, with just about a third of their red zone scores being pass plays.
If Kansas State can get penetration and stop the play in the backfield it may bode well for a victory. Senior defensive lineman Meshak Williams has 23 total tackles for losses and sacks, so look for him to exploit the already suspect Oregon offensive line. Kansas State is also one of the most disciplined teams in the country, only committing 3.5 penalties on average for less than 30 yards a game. If they can keep calm and disciplined, they stand a good chance at making the Fiesta Bowl one to remember.
The line ranges from Oregon at -8 to -9 depending on where you look, which is a tricky line. Oregon is very prone to light up the score board and perhaps blow the game out of the water, but they did have trouble with the physicality of Stanford. Don’t guilt yourself into picking the underdog, but be prepared to sweat this one out.
Watch out in the coming days for our preview of next week’s BCS National Championship Game featuring Notre Dame and Alabama.
The Big East is in danger as seven basketball schools have decided to break away from the conference, according to ESPN, and the breakup could have an effect on the Atlantic 10.
The seven Catholic schools departing from the Big East (DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Villanova) have made the decision to leave amidst unrest with the conference’s negotiations over a new television contract and other schools leaving for other conferences.
For the Atlantic 10, George Washington’s conference, this could be an amazing opportunity, or it could be the makings of a disaster.
The best-case scenario for the Atlantic 10 would be allowing the seven schools to join the conference. ESPN reported that the A-10 would be open to expansion in the event that the Big East teams were available and willing to join them.
The Atlantic 10 currently has 16 basketball schools, after adding Butler and Virginia Commonwealth to its ranks after last season. After this season, Temple will leave to join the Big East and Charlotte is leaving to join Conference USA. Adding the seven former Big East schools would expand the conference to 21 teams.
If this were to happen, the Atlantic 10, already one of the most prolific conferences in the country, sending four teams to the NCAA tournament last season, has a chance to be the best basketball conference in the country. Recent additions, Butler and VCU, have already added even more tournament experience to the conference as VCU made the Final Four in 2011 and Butler was the National Runner Up for two straight years in 2010 and 2011. Adding traditional basketball powerhouses like Villanova and Georgetown would do nothing but great things for the A-10. As for GW fans, it would finally give us the game against DC rival Georgetown that we have been asking for since the last time the schools played in 1981.
Unfortunately, it appears that the schools that chose to break away from the Big East are trying to go in a different direction. Notre Dame coach and GW alumnus Mike Brey told ESPN that some of the nation’s top Catholic schools, including Creighton, Gonzaga, and Atlantic 10 members Xavier, Dayton, and Saint Louis, along with possibly St. Mary’s, have discussed joining the Catholic schools leaving the Big East to form a Catholic basketball conference. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has also mentioned Butler as a school expected to join the Catholic conference, should it be formed.
If the Catholic schools do start their own conference, and if Xavier, Dayton, Saint Louis, and Butler decide to join that conference, it could be devastating for the Atlantic 10. St. Bonaventure, the Cinderella winner of the conference tournament last season, and VCU would be the only teams remaining in the conference that made the NCAA Tournament last season. It would lose two of its most traditionally successful schools, in Xavier and Dayton, and two of its most recently successful schools, in Saint Louis and Butler. It also means that six of the conference’s top seven schools for men’s basketball attendance, including Temple and Charlotte, would no longer be in the conference, according to the Atlantic 10.
The next step for the conference would be to expand. The Atlantic 10 would be down to 10 teams again, but have shown in the past through expansion that 10 teams are not enough, especially if it wants to remain one of the best mid-major conferences in the NCAA. Two options would be to expand south or expand west.
With the loss of Butler, Xavier, Dayton, and Saint Louis, the Atlantic 10 would lose its entire Midwest market, so I would suggest searching there for new schools. The Atlantic 10 could look to the Horizon League again, where Butler played from 1979 until last season. Teams like Detroit or Cleveland State have had success recently and are in big Midwest sports markets.
When looking south, the A-10 could target the Colonial Athletic Association, the conference VCU played in from 1995 until last season. Eye-catching teams in the CAA include UNC-Wilmington, James Madison, and GW’s Orange Line rivals George Mason, though they were not looking to join the A-10 when the conference expanded last season.
There is no timetable on when the Big East schools would be allowed to leave the conference or when a Catholic conference would be formed, but, should it happen, the Atlantic 10 needs to be ready, because there could be some dark days for what was looking like such a bright conference.
Assistant Director, Internal Affairs
The NCAA has finally flexed its muscle in the ongoing Penn State football scandal. The sanctions come in the wake of the Freeh Report, an essentially all-encompassing report that examined the true nature of former head coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration in the cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s child abuses. The penalties include a payment over five years of $60 million (about the yearly revenue earnings of the Nittany Lion’s football program), forced vacation of all program wins from 1999 to 2011 (111 wins over 13 years), a four-year bowl ban, and significant scholarship reductions.
These penalties have been received with mixed emotions across the world of college football.
Some have claimed that the NCAA overstepped its bounds, as it is the National College Athletics Association, not a criminal prosecution organization. However, when one considers the reasons behind Paterno and his other partners’ motives for covering up the scandal, it becomes apparent that the coverup was only about football. The rest of the sanctions provide an interesting interpretation of the scandal.
The $60 million fine will certainly come from revenue areas of the University other than the guilty football program, taking money away from truly innocent students who are aiming to further their education. The four year bowl ban and reduction of scholarships can be lumped into the same category, as it affects recruiting most heavily. The pair of punishments will affect future students who were never even associated with the University when Sandusky’s atrocious acts were committed and they should not be punished for crimes they had no part in. The rest of the University should not have to pay the price for acts it as a whole was not complicit in. The NCAA has certainly avoided the death penalty by a wide margin, but the University may have been so seriously maimed by the leveed penalties that it bleeds to death.
There certainly was a need for sanctions against Penn State, as the coverup was stimulated solely by football, but to affect the future innocents attending the University in this way when the guilty parties get away with only having to vacate wins is a clumsy way to address the problem. All aspects of the penalties considered, perhaps there was no better way to ensure the proper penance for the actions. “Harsh” seems to be the most widely used word to describe the punishments the NCAA has handed down, but for a crime that was accurately described as heinous, I deem it appropriate.
The Atlantic 10 Conference will expand to 15 member schools for the 2012-2013 athletic season. VCU was accepted to the conference by the Atlantic 10 Council of Presidents, chaired by Xavier President Father Michael Graham. The announcement came this afternoon from Father Graham and A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “The addition of Virginia Commonwealth University to the Atlantic 10 further strengthens us as the nation’s premier basketball-driven conference,” Father Graham said. VCU will begin competing in the A-10 as of the fall of 2012. The Rams will be departing the Colonial Athletic Association.
VCU has had recent success on the hardwood, with the men’s basketball team making the Final Four in 2011, under the coaching of Shaka Smart. That Cinderella story was ended by Butler, who will also join the A-10 for the 2013-2014 season. This was followed up this past season by a trip to the round of 32. GW Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Lonergan praised the arrival of his new competition. “VCU has a terrific program and is led by one of the top young coaches in the country in Shaka Smart. It is very exciting to have them join the A-10 Conference,” said Lonergan. GW took a loss to VCU, 75-60, at the Verizon Center this past season. GW will also get to face VCU in the other 15 sports which it brings to the A-10.