There’s a Draft in here!

This week, you will likely hear all you care to hear about professional sports drafts.

There are 32 NFL franchises who will draft for seven rounds in Nashville, Tennessee beginning this Thursday night (Round 1), Friday night (Rounds 2 and 3), and Saturday afternoon (Rounds 4-5-6-7).  That means that a total of 224 jobs will be filled by the end of this weekend.

There are 130 major college football teams in the NCAA’s upper division.  If you assume that there are (conservatively) 120 players on the rosters of each of those teams, then 15,600 football players are lined-up every fall to play major college football.

But wait, there’s more!

We haven’t included the number of smaller division schools.  There are another 125 of FCS (formerly division 1-AA) teams plus another 400 Division II, III, and NAIA teams.

Let’s say there are 100 players on each of those teams.  That would add another 52,500 college football players and bring the total number to 68,100 players.

If you assumed that 25% of these players become (theoretically) eligible to play professionally every year, that means that 17,025 players have the potential to be available to play for pay on Sundays beginning this fall. 

If you take 224 jobs and divide by 17,025 potential players, only 1.3% of eligible college football players from last season will be drafted into the NFL this week.  Yes, I realize that a large number of additional players will go undrafted but will make an NFL team, too.    

According to the NCAA, the official probability of a college football player becoming a professional football player is only 1.6%.

Your best chance to advance from college into the professional sports ranks is in baseball (9.8%). 

However…

You better hope for a large signing bonus from professional baseball, because the annual pay scale for most minor league baseball teams isn’t much better than going to work for $10 per hour at McDonald’s.    By the time you climb through the ranks and reach Triple A baseball (one step from the major leagues), your annual pay will have reached only about $40,000/year.

If you are fortunate enough to finally make it to baseball’s major leagues, players are now taking home an average of $4.36 million per year with the MLB minimum salary of $555,000 per season. 

One of the most famous baseball players of the past year was a player who may never suit up in a major league uniform.  Baseball’s Oakland Athletics drafted Oklahoma University’s Kyler Murray in the first round (ninth overall pick in 2018), but the team was unable to convince him to stick to baseball even with a $4.66 million signing bonus to put in the bank. 

Kyler Murray also won the Heisman trophy as a college football quarterback.  It is nearly a certainty that Murray will be drafted to play football in the NFL during Thursday night’s first round. 

Based on 2018’s first round signings, Murray could make up to $23 million as a signing bonus to play four or five years in the NFL. 

If Kyler Murray’s personal objective is to guarantee that he will be able to snag the most money before even having to hit the field, the NFL offers the most riches in the short term and seems the way to go. 

Now let’s move to basketball.

On Monday night, the door was officially closed for college basketball players who want to try their hand at the professional level next season. 

My unofficial count showed 139 basketball players who are hoping their name is called in the NBA’s annual draft on June 20.  Alas, there are only 30 NBA teams and just two rounds of draft selections. 

That’s a maximum of sixty jobs to fill at the NBA’s draft party in June. 

Don’t forget that there are also many graduating seniors who are also eligible to be drafted in June.  Plus, there are an ever-increasing number of foreign players from Europe and other countries who may hear their name called on the NBA’s draft night in June.

Let’s say that 30 of the 139 early entrants in the NBA draft are picked in the two rounds.  That means that some of the other 109 players can (a) try-out as a free agent or (b) go to Europe or China to play or (c) find a job doing something other than playing basketball.

The NBA’s early entrance requirements are quite complicated.  Many of these 139 young players will learn in the next few weeks that the NBA is yawning and disinterested as they showcase their talents in various tryouts.

Between now and the June 20 NBA draft, the league will provide “draft evaluations” for these players who want to compete in the NBA or even in their minor league system called the “G” (as in financial sponsor “Gatorade”) League.

If the early entrance hoopsters follow the complicated NCAA rules properly (hint – I suggest they get an attorney first), then some of the players who are given the proverbial “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” response from NBA scouts will be permitted to return to school (if they are academically qualified) and continue playing basketball in college next season.

Given the large number of colleges who field a men’s basketball team, the NCAA lists the odds of a player making the squad of an NBA team at just 1.2%.

With the NFL draft this week and the NBA’s draft coming in June, it is a sad reality that less than 2% of all college football and basketball athletes will be playing professionally some day.

Let’s hope that the other 98% of these young student-athletes will take full advantage of the academic opportunities being offered to them.

SwampSwami’s 2018 College Football Recap

Is it really over now? 

After 39 bowl games (OK – 38 this year because the First Responder Bowl in Dallas was cancelled early in the game due to persistent lightning), the Clemson Tigers have taken home the BCS Championship Monday night to end another season of college football.

Being the honest person that I am, it’s time to report how well the SwampSwami Top 130 (ranking all of the BCS schools) performed during the college bowl season. 

The answer?   Not as well as I hoped.  With a bowl record of 22-16 (all picks were based on the team’s final regular season ranking of the whopping 78 bowl participants), I was hoping for better than a 58% winning percentage. 

Oh, well.  There’s always next year.

Though your faithful SwampSwami put a lot of stock in the University of Central Florida for the past two seasons, it’s important to note that UCF’s 25 game winning streak was a terrific story.  Though LSU and UCF both had key players missing in the Fiesta Bowl, I think it’s safe to say that UCF’s injured quarterback, Milton McKenzie, might have caused a few more problems for the Bayou Bengals. 

Hang in there, UCF.  And a big “Good luck and get well soon” to Milton McKenzie recovering from your leg injuries!

It’s time to salute the Army Cadets on a fantastic season, too.  With a resounding thumping of the University of Houston in their bowl game, the Black Knights finished with a school record eleven wins this year. 

To top it off, the Lombardi Foundation announced Tuesday that Army’s head football coach, Jeff Monken, has been named the winner of its 2018 Vince Lombardi College Football Coach of the Year Award.

The award is focused on leadership skills with recognition for, among other things: doing the most with the least, overcoming adversity, creating and/or maintaining a successful environment, and playing by the rules with integrity, honor, and respect.

Rising out of the swamp in Gainesville, the Florida Gators and new head football coach, Dan Mullen, improved from 4-7 in 2017 to 10-3 this season.  Move over, Georgia!  These Gators will be dangerous in the years to come.

The same positive vibes are coming out of Austin from Bevo and the Texas Longhorns.  Coach Tom Herman’s turnaround operation in Austin has lifted Texas into the national discussion for next season after the Horns whipped Georgia in the Sugar Bowl to finish the year at 10-4. 

On the other side, the decline of the Pac-12 Conference has been incredible.  Former powers like USC (5-7), Colorado (5-7), and UCLA (3-9) have nearly faded from the national discussion.  Though Washington State’s 10-2 season mark was impressive, only two conference teams (Wazzoo and the University of Washington) finished this season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

I call ‘em as I see ‘em, and SwampSwami continues to shake his head at the unwavering and undeserved media love showered onto the Big Ten Conference.  Ohio State (#3), Michigan (#14), Penn State (#17), Northwestern (#21), and Iowa (#25) serve to prove my point.   Though the SEC had more teams (six) in the Top 25 (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and Texas A&M), the BCS playoff snub of Ohio State (again) speaks to the weaker level of competition in the Big Ten.

Finally, 2018 brought us the story about Purdue’s determined cancer-stricken student football fan, Tyler Trent.  Tyler passed away on January 1st at the age of 20 to a form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma.  For those of us fortunate enough to have watched Purdue’s stunning upset of then-unbeaten Ohio State with Tyler Trent in attendance, this inspiring and happy young man served as a reminder to enjoy life every single day while you still can.   

Congratulations to Clemson and the FCS (small college) champion, North Dakota State.  The Tigers and the Bison both finished 15-0 to take their respective national championships home.

Goodbye (for now), college football.  We’ll welcome you back in August!

Clemson wins! Yabba-“Dabo”-Doo!

The Clemson Tigers and their talented and enthusiastic head football coach, Dabo Swinney, have earned the right to celebrate.  After dominating the Alabama Crimson Tide for the final three quarters and winning their second BCS (large school) national championship in the past three years, Clemson surprised everyone but themselves with their 44-16 victory on Monday night.

Here are my ten takeaways from the championship game:

  1. Happiest for?   Clemson senior DT Christian Wilkins.  Wilkins, a Bednarik Award finalist this year, became the first football player at Clemson to graduate in 2½ years, earning a degree in communications. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in athletic leadership.  On December. 4, Wilkins was named recipient of the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy, which is presented annually to the top football scholar-athlete in the nation.
  2. Alabama’s kryptonite?  A team with a great passing game.  The majority of teams in the Southeastern Conference are known for their “Rock’em, Sock’em” style of play which rarely feature quarterbacks and wide receivers as talented as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross. 
  3. Clemson’s defensive strategy.  Clemson kept moving players toward the line of scrimmage as if to blitz Alabama’s talented quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, on nearly every down.  Sometimes they blitzed and other times they didn’t.  Tua’s “two-a” interceptions (one went for a Clemson touchdown) gave Clemson’s defense a spark and more confidence.
  4. Fourth down SEC trickery should be left to Les Miles. Earlier this season, Georgia lost all momentum with a failed fourth down fake field goal in a loss to LSU and, a month ago, with a fake fourth down punt against Alabama.  On Monday, Alabama surprisingly attempted a fake field goal in the third quarter against Clemson when only down by 16 points.  It failed miserably, and you could feel Bama’s momentum die along with it.  Former LSU coach Les Miles was the master of fourth down deception, but he was ultimately fired by the Tigers, too. 
  5. An enduring halftime entertainment image
  6. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is the nation’s hottest recruiter.  Clemson’s key offensive stars all came from states with the SEC’s most dominant teams.  Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (Georgia), wide receiver Justyn Ross (Alabama) and running back Travis Etienne (Louisiana) would have made a big difference for the Bulldogs, Tide, and LSU’s Tigers this year, wouldn’t they?
  7. Ironic Moment – Alabama QB Jalen Hurts.   After starting and winning every game for Alabama last year, Hurts was benched at halftime in favor of Tua Tagovailoa, who led Bama to a late victory over Georgia in last year’s national championship game.  During Monday’s game, I thought that Alabama abandoned its bread and butter running game too early against Clemson in favor of Tua’s passing threat.  Would Coach Saban have been better off running the ball more with Jalen Hurts during the second half of this game and keeping Clemson’s offense off the field?  Just sayin’…
  8. The BCS playoffs won’t be expanded anytime soon.  With Clemson and Alabama reloading every year with talented players, I almost wish that the NFL would simply expand to take these two teams out of the college football mix.  Though I have nothing but respect for both programs, many college football fans would say that the current BCS format (four team playoff) should return back to the best two teams selected after the traditional bowl games end.  There’s no use to expand to an eight or 16 team playoff system anytime soon.
  9. Alabama coach Nick Saban needs to ditch his all-white coaching jacket.  My lovely wife made the observation that the television shots of coach Saban pacing on the Alabama sideline with his arms-folded made it look like he was wearing a strait jacket!   On the other hand, there wasn’t much he COULD do on Monday night to prevent Clemson’s offensive onslaught.
  10. The better team won. Nick Saban offered no excuses after the game last night.  He said that Clemson deserved to win the game.  You can count on Alabama learning a few important lessons from this loss as college football’s most successful coach of this era gets back to work – soon!

Herd about NDSU?

On Saturday afternoon in a sold-out professional soccer stadium (18,000) just north of Dallas in Frisco, Texas, the most successful American college football team of this decade just won another national championship.

No, it was not Alabama (though they have a chance to win another title on Monday night against Clemson).

The green and gold clad North Dakota State University Bison (pronounced “Bizen” by their boisterous and faithful fans) just took home their seventh national championship trophy in the last eight years participating in the NCAA’s college division for smaller schools (formerly called Division 1-A but now known as the Football Championship Subdivision or FCS).

NDSU (from Fargo, ND) withstood a late challenge by Eastern Washington University (near Spokane, WA) to claim this season’s title with a 38-24 victory. 

The Bison completed an incredible 15-0 perfect season after plowing their way through the FCS playoffs. 

In case you were wondering, the NCAA’s smaller division football playoffs are comprised of a whopping 24 teams where the top eight seeds (NDSU was ranked #1 and Eastern Washington #3) receive a first round bye.

Even with the first round bye, North Dakota State had to win four playoff games against Montana State (52-10), Colgate (35-0), South Dakota State (44-21) prior to getting the win in Saturday’s finale against Eastern Washington.

It seems like a brutal road to a championship, but most of these teams played “only” eleven regular season games.  By contrast, many of the upper level universities now play a 12-game regular season game, and, for the winners, a 13th game for the conference championship.

Couldn’t the larger schools adopt the same playoff model as the smaller division schools? 

As usual these days, the real answer is money.  The extra regular season game (#12) in the large-school group generates a lot of money – especially for those teams who will not be participating in the conference championship game or the current four team BCS playoffs.

By winning on Saturday, the North Dakota State University Bison have the most FCS championships (seven) in history and have displaced Georgia Southern University (six) at the top. 

The head coach of the Bison, Chris Klieman, has accepted a new job to become the head football coach of Kansas State University.  He replaces legendary successful coach, Bill Snyder, who recently re-retired at K-State at youthful age 79.

With a record of 69-6 in his five seasons at NDSU, Klieman knows how to win and also knows how to recruit in the Midwest. 

Klieman’s long-time defensive coordinator, Matt Entz, will take over the reins of the Bison next season. 

Both universities’ football programs appear to be in very good hands.

With seven championships in eight seasons, Fargo, home of the North Dakota State University Bison, is becoming the new “Title Town” in the upper Midwest.

Line ’em up! Bowling for $$$

After last weekend’s Army vs. Navy game, another autumn of college football has done its job to sustain us into the winter months. 

Your SwampSwami has decided to unveil his complete list ranking all 130 teams in the NCAA’s upper division (BCS) so that you can make your picks in this year’s Bowl Extravaganza (39 games featuring 78 teams, in case you are counting). 

Before I provide my best guesses on these exciting (cough, cough) bowl match-ups, let’s take a look at the final rankings of the SwampSwami 130:

#TeamWLBest win in 2018
1Alabama130
2Clemson130
3UCF120
4Notre Dame120
5Ohio State12162-39 over 10-2 Michigan
6Oklahoma12128-21 over 10-2 Army
7Georgia11234-17 over 9-3 Kentucky
8Washington State10228-24 over 9-4 Utah
9Michigan10242-7 over 9-3 Penn State
10Army10242-13 @ 10-3 Buffalo
11Appalachian State10221-10 over 9-3 Troy
12Fresno State11219-16 @ 10-3 Boise St.
13Cincinnati10234-30 over 8-4 Ohio U.
14Utah State10256-17 @ 8-5 Hawaii
15Washington  10328-15 @ 10-2 Wash. St
16Kentucky9326-16 @ 9-3 Florida
17Florida9327-19 over 9-3 LSU
18LSU9336-16 over 11-2 Georgia
19Boise State10333-24 over 10-2 Utah St.
20West Virginia8342-41 @ 9-4 Texas
21Syracuse9351-41 over 9-3 NC State
22Penn State9330-24 over 8-4 Iowa
23UAB10327-25 over 8-5 Mid.Tenn.
24Buffalo10336-29 @ 8-4 Temple
25NC State9328-23 over 7-5 Boston C.
26Georgia Southern9334-14 over 10-2 App. State
27North Texas9330-7 over 6-5 So. Miss
28Troy9326-16 over 7-6 UL-Lafay’te
29Texas 9448-45 over 12-1 Oklahoma
30Temple8424-17 over 10-2 Cincy
31Oregon8430-27 over 10-3 U-Wash.
32Missouri8438-17 @ 9-3 Florida
33Texas A&M8474-72 over 9-3 LSU
34Iowa8413-3 over 8-4 Iowa State
35Iowa State8430-14 over 8-3 West Va.
36Stanford8438-31 @ 8-4 Oregon
37Utah9440-21 @ 8-4 Stanford
38Marshall8428-25 over 8-4 Fla. Int’l
39Florida International8424-21 over 8-5 Mid. Tenn
40Mississippi State8423-9 over 7-5 Auburn
41Ohio U.8459-14 @ 7-5 W. Michigan
42Arkansas State8431-17 over 6-6 ULMonroe
43Duke7534-14 over 10-2 Army
44Michigan State7538-31 over 10-2 Utah State
45Auburn7521-16 over 10-3 U-Wash.
46California7512-10 over 10-3 U-Wash.
47San Diego State7519-13 @ 10-3 Boise St.
48Northern Illinois8530-29 over 10-3 Buffalo
49Louisiana Tech7529-27 @ 9-3 N. Texas
50Arizona State7538-20 over 9-4 Utah
51Wisconsin7528-17 @ 8-4 Iowa
52Northwestern8514-10 @ 8-4 Iowa
53Memphis8552-31 over 8-4 Houston
54Middle Tennessee8534-24 over 8-4 Marshall
55Southern Miss6526-24 over 8-4 Marshall
56Nevada7540-22 @ 8-5 Hawaii
57Toledo7551-24 @ 7-5 W. Michigan
58Western Michigan7528-21 over 8-5 N. Illinois
59Virginia   7528-14 @ 7-5 Duke
60Boston College7527-14 over 7-5 Miami Fla
61Eastern Michigan7528-26 over 7-5 Toledo
62Georgia Tech7530-27 over 7-5 Virginia
63Hawaii8531-30 @ 7-5 San Diego St.
64Houston8557-36 over 7-5 S. Florida
65South Florida7549-38 over 7-5 Ga. Tech
66Miami (Fla)7524-3 over 7-6 Pittsburgh
67South Carolina7548-44 @ 5-7 Ole Miss
68Purdue6649-20 over 12-1 Ohio State
69Minnesota6621-14 vs. 11-2 Fresno St.
70Oklahoma State6644-21 over 10-3 Boise St.
71Pittsburgh7644-37 over 9-3 Syracuse
72Wake Forest6627-23 @ 9-3 N.C. State
73Liberty6622-16 over 9-3 Troy
74Louisiana-Monroe6644-25 over 9-3 Georgia So.
75TCU6617-14 over 8-4 Iowa State
76Virginia Tech6641-20 over 8-4 Marshall
77Louisiana-Lafayette7647-43 over 8-4 Arkansas St
78Vanderbilt6635-7 over 8-5 Middle Tenn
79Tulane6640-24 over 8-5 Memphis
80Miami (OH)6613-7 @ 8-5 N. Illinois
81BYU6624-21 @ 7-5 Wisconsin
82Baylor6635-31 over 6-6 Okla. State
83Wyoming6635-27 over 5-7 Air Force
84USC5739-36 over 10-2 Wash. St.
85Coastal Carolina5747-24 over 10-3 UAB
86Tennessee5724-7 over 9-3 Kentucky
87Maryland5734-29 over 9-4 Texas
88Arizona5744-15 over 8-4 Oregon
89Florida Atlantic5749-14 @ 8-4 Fla. Int’l
90Indiana5738-28 @ 8-4 Fla. Int’l 
91Florida State5737-19 over 8-5 N. Illinois
92Texas Tech5763-49 over 8-5 Houston
93SMU5745-31 over 8-5 Houston
94Colorado5728-21 over 7-5 Arizona St.
95Charlotte5720-17 over 6-5 So. Miss
96Kansas State5731-12 over 6-6 Ok. State
97Ole Miss5770-21 over 6-6 UL-Monroe
98Air Force5741-25 @ 4-8 UNLV
99Old Dominion4834-31 over 9-3 N. Texas
100Akron4839-34 @ 8-5 N’western
101Nebraska489-6 over 7-5 Michigan St.
102UNLV4827-24 over 7-5 S. Diego St.
103Ball State4842-41 over 7-5 W. Mich.
104Illinois4855-31 over 6-6 Minnesota
105U-Mass4862-59 over 6-6 Liberty
106Navy31022-21 over 8-5 Memphis
107UCLA3937-7 @ 7-5 California
108Western Kentucky3930-15 @ 7-5 La. Tech
109North Carolina2938-35 over 7-6 Pittsburgh
110Kansas   3927-26 over 6-6 TCU
111New Mexico State3949-41 over 6-6 Liberty
112Tulsa3927-24 over 5-7 SMU
113South Alabama3931-28 over 5-7 Coastal Car.
114Bowling Green3921-6 @ 4-8 Akron
115New Mexico   3950-15 @ 4-8 UNLV
116East Carolina3937-35 over 4-8 Old Dom’n
117Texas State3927-20 over 3-9 N. Mexico
118UT-San Antonio3925-21 over 3-9 Texas State
119Colorado State3920-18 over 3-9 N. Mexico
120Georgia State21046-14 over 6-6 UL-Monroe
121Oregon State21041-34 @ 5-7 Colorado
122Rice21127-13 over 4-8 Old Domin.
123Arkansas  21023-0 over 3-9 Tulsa
124Kent State21035-28 over 3-9 Bowling G.
125Louisville21020-17 over 3-9 Western KY
126San Jose State11150-37 over 4-8 UNLV
127Rutgers11135-7 over 3-9 Texas State
128UTEP11140-36 @ 2-11 Rice
129Central Michigan11117-5 over Maine (10-3 FCS)
130Connecticut11156-49 over R.Isld (6-5 FCS)

Special commendation goes to U-Conn for winning this year’s worst team by edging Central Michigan by virtue of their thrilling seven point win over FCS opponent, Rhode Island!  Better luck next season, Huskies!

Without further ado, below are the SwampSwami bowl picks (winners in BOLD) based on my  team rankings.  HAPPY BOWLING!!!

Bowling for $$$Team 1#Team 2#
New MexicoNorth Texas27Utah State14
CureTulane79UL-Lafayette77
Las VegasArizona St.50Fresno State12
CameliaE. Michigan61Georgia Southern26
New OrleansAppalachian St.11Middle Tennessee54
Boca RatonUAB23Northern Illinois48
FriscoOhio U41San Diego State47
GasparillaMarshall38South Florida65
BahamasToledo57Florida International39
Idaho PotatoesBYU81Western Michigan58
BirminghamMemphis53Wake Forest72
Armed ServicesArmy10Houston64
Dollar GeneralBuffalo24Troy28
HawaiiLouisiana Tech49Hawaii63
First RespondersBoston College60Boise State19
Quick LaneMinnesota69Georgia Tech62
Cheez-itTCU75California46
IndependenceDuke43Temple30
PinstripeWisconsin51Miami (FL)66
TexasBaylor82Vanderbilt78
Music CityAuburn45Purdue68
Camping WorldWest Virginia20Syracuse21
AlamoIowa State35Washington State8
BelkSouth Carolina67Virginia59
ArizonaNevada56Arkansas State42
PeachFlorida 17Michigan9
Cotton (BCS-A)Clemson2Notre Dame4
Orange (BCS-B)Alabama1Oklahoma    6
MilitaryCincinnati13Virginia Tech76
RedboxMichigan State44Oregon31
LibertyMissouri32Oklahoma State70
HolidayNorthwestern52Utah  37
GatorTexas A&M33North Carolina State25
SunPittsburgh71Stanford36
OutbackMississippi State40Iowa34
CitrusKentucky16Penn State22
FiestaLSU18UCF3
RoseOhio State5Univ. of Washington15
SugarGeorgia11Texas29


UCF win streak at 25, and BCS ignores (again) – SwampSwami College Football Top 25

By now, I’m sure you have heard that the NCAA college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) will feature three unbeaten teams (Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame) and a one-loss University of Oklahoma Sooners squad.

Three of the four unbeaten teams made it into the BCS playoffs.

For the second straight year, though, the undefeated team from the University of Central Florida has been left out of the Final Four of college football.

Going back to last season, the 12-0 Knights have rolled-off an incredible 25 wins in a row.  The streak now includes two straight American Athletic Conference championships and a Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl victory last season over a 10-3 SEC West Division champion from Auburn.

Since 2000, only teams from the University of Miami (34 in a row from 2000-2003), Florida State (29 straight from 2012-2014), and Alabama (26 consecutive wins from 2015-2016) have won more games than UCF’s current run of victories.

However, all three of those college football teams were selected to play in the BCS Championship, and each team won a national title during their winning streaks.

Snubbed for the second straight year, UCF will take their 25 game victory streak to play another SEC West juggernaut in 9-3 LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day.

It seems like the BCS brass are saying, “Here’s a nice payday and a good bowl opponent for you, UCF.  Now, please just take the money and go away!”

This isn’t to bash the Big 12 champs from Oklahoma.  The Boomer Sooners dispatched the only team to beat them this season, the Texas Longhorns, in the conference championship game on Saturday.

Only four teams can make the BCS elite group.  Bama and Clemson are the unbeaten champions of the SEC and ACC, respectively.

Notre Dame (an independent in football) also beat all comers this season to earn their shot, too.  The Fighting Irish will now get their chance.

Only one unbeaten team was left out of the mix again this season.  That’s right.  UCF.

For the record, below is the list of conference champions who will not be competing for the 2018 BCS Championship:

AAC – UCF (12-0)

Big Ten – Ohio State (12-1)

Conference USA – UAB (10-2)

Mid-American – Northern Illinois (8-5)

Mountain West – Fresno State (11-2)

Pac 12 – Univ. of Washington (10-3)

Sunbelt – Appalachian State (10-3)

Sure, Ohio State has a gripe (although they did lose to a 6-6 Purdue team earlier in the year), and Georgia fans are still trying to figure out why their coach called a fake punt late in the game to hand the momentum and the victory to Alabama Saturday.

All of the college football conference champions above were left out of the BCS mix.

Only one of them, though, was unbeaten as the regular season ends.  Again.

Below is the SwampSwami.com College Football Top 25 for the week ending December 1, 2018:

# Team W L 2017 AP Rank Best win/loss in 2018
1 Alabama 13 0 1
2 Clemson 13 0 4
3 UCF 12 0 6
4 Notre Dame 12 0 11
5 Ohio State 12 1 62-39 over 10-2 Michigan
6 Oklahoma 12 1 28-21 over 9-2 Army
7 Georgia 11 2 34-17 over 9-3 Kentucky
8 Washington State 10 2 28-24 over 9-4 Utah
9 Michigan 10 2 42-7 over 9-3 Penn State
10 Army 9 2 42-13 @ 10-3 Buffalo
11 Appalachian State 10 2 21-10 over 9-3 Troy
12 Fresno State 11 2 19-16 @ 10-3 Boise St.
13 Cincinnati 10 2 34-30 over 8-4 Ohio U.
14 Utah State 10 2 56-17 @ 8-5 Hawaii
15 Washington 10 3 28-15 @ 10-2 Wash. St
16 Kentucky 9 3 26-16 @ 9-3 Florida
17 Florida 9 3 27-19 over 9-3 LSU
18 LSU 9 3 36-16 over 11-2 Georgia
19 Boise State 10 3 33-24 over 10-2 Utah St.
20 West Virginia 8 3 42-41 @ 9-4 Texas
21 Syracuse 9 3 51-41 over 9-3 NC State
22 Penn State 9 3 30-24 over 8-4 Iowa
23 UAB 10 3 27-25 over 8-5 Mid.Tenn.
24 Buffalo 10 3 36-29 @ 8-4 Temple
25 NC State 9 3 28-23 over 7-5 Boston C.

 

Heads! You lose in today’s NFL

During the fourth quarter of the Thursday night NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys, a defensive player for the Cowboys clearly launched himself helmet first into New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara.

Was there a penalty called on Dallas?  No.

Did the referees confer on the field or with the replay booth to review the play?  No.

Does the NFL really care about putting an end to the dangerous (to both players) tactic of making a tackle by leading with your helmet?  Apparently not.

Talk is cheap, NFL.  Your actions speak louder than words.

During the offseason, the NFL talked a lot about getting tough on unnecessary helmet-to-helmet contact which may have immediate (concussions) and possible long-term (CTE) health implications for the players.

Before we delve into the NFL, let’s applaud how the NCAA is handling the same type of play in college football games.

A penalty flag is thrown at the offending player.  The replay booth reviews the play to determine if the offending player lowered his head and made helmet-to-helmet contact intentionally (regardless of whether either player was injured after the hit).

In college football, once the infraction is verified, the offending team is penalized 15 yards, AND the offending player is ejected from the game.  If the play happens during the second half of a football game, the player must also sit-out the first half of the team’s next game, too.

Do the college referees make mistakes on similar calls during the college games?

You bet.  Ask any LSU fan and a similar call which went against All-American linebacker Devin White caused him to sit-out the first half of the team’s battle with Alabama earlier this month.

On the whole, though, college football is clearly sending a message to players that making illegal contact utilizing your helmet isn’t smart and is quite dangerous.  College football players are learning that you’re going to get tossed if caught doing it.

Though I played football in the stone ages, today’s players are still being taught to make a tackle by wrapping-up the ball carrier’s legs.  If the player’s legs are unable to move, then the ball carrier will go either down or your teammates will arrive soon to help bring him down.

Utilizing the crown of the helmet to make a tackle just isn’t very smart.  Not only can a player break his own neck, he can inflict permanent head and brain damage to the other player, too.

Helmets have never been designed to do anything other than offer a little protection for the player’s own head.

The slothful NFL finally made a rule change to address this issue after the 2017 season ended.

From the NFL’s website, here is the current rule:

The Rule: As approved by NFL clubs in March, it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area – lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul. Violations of the rule will be easier to see and officiate when they occur in open space – as opposed to close line play – but this rule applies anywhere on the field at any time.​

Penalties for Violation: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may also be ejected. Ejection standards:

  1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet
  2. Unobstructed path to his opponent
  3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options

Sounds good.  So we ask again.

Why wasn’t this penalty called last night?

Perhaps it is because NFL officials simply aren’t making the calls during most football games even after the new rule was implemented.

During last night’s contest between the Saints and Cowboys, Fox Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira made this comment.

“We haven’t seen many called this year,” Pereira said, “but that’s a clear example of leading with the crown of the helmet.”

This leads me and many viewers to ask again, “Why aren’t the NFL refs making this call?”

My best guess is that the NFL wants to keep the pace of play moving.  Compared to college football’s overly lengthy 3 1/2+ hour broadcasts, the professional league has kept most of its games close to three hours in length.

Is that really their primary excuse?  If so, then the NFL owners, as usual, are winking at each other again while continuing to put profits ahead of the players’ safety.

More and more parents continue to advise their kids to stay away from participating in football due to mounting evidence of likely brain damage years later.

Someone has to make an intelligent decision.

In the meantime, it’s “Heads – you lose” if you play in today’s NFL.

 

Aggies may get their wish – an SEC rivalry with LSU

Once Saturday night’s epic seven overtime college football thriller between Texas A&M and LSU ended, the Aggies 74-72 victory over the Tigers may have bigger implications down the road.

The Aggies, who joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012, lost their long-term rivalry with the University of Texas (Aggie fans still refer to them as “Texas University”).  Most Longhorn fans that I have met were glad to end the series, but the Aggies still dislike the Horns so much that the school’s primary fight song “The Aggie War Hymn” remains intact.

Six years later, these loyal 12th Man Aggies still want to “saw Varsity’s Horns off”.

The school also maintains a strong military tradition.  Established in 1876, the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets still commissions more ROTC officers (Army, Navy, and Air Force) than any other institution in the United States.

The Texas A&M Fightin’ Aggie Band still plays military songs during the games with halftime shows of precision marching.  No traditional musical fare at College Station during football games.

Aggie fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

The SEC has unsuccessfully tried to pair-up A&M with South Carolina every football season, but the match just didn’t fit well for the Aggies or Gamecocks.

Texas A&M is a large school with large ambitions. They want to play and beat the best.

Aggie fans have longed for their next-door neighbor in Louisiana to become their newest rival to “hate”.

I have attended football games at both Texas A&M and LSU, so I understand the traditions of both schools fairly well.

The problem for AggieLand is that LSU has always (long before Nick Saban arrived) considered the University of Alabama to be their primary football rivalry.  After that, it’s probably Auburn or, during better times, Ole Miss in the pecking order of LSU’s primary rivals.

The Tigers respected their neighbors to the west, but Louisiana fans had not considered the Aggies worthy of becoming a true football rival.

LSU has dominated Texas A&M in football ever since the Aggies joined the SEC.  Prior to last week, the Aggies had not beaten LSU in football after becoming a member of the SEC.

Yes, Texas A&M finally won a game over LSU on Saturday night in College Station.  It took seven overtimes and several quite fortunate breaks to give the Aggies the win.

Tiger Nation is still hot about the officiating decisions late in the fourth quarter and in overtime that all seemed to go against the Tigers.

LSU Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron is still upset.  At a press conference Tuesday, the gravel-voiced coach said:

“In 35 years of coaching I have never used officiating as an excuse. There were some bad calls. They missed some calls. Four times the game should have been won for LSU. Those calls should have went in our favor. They didn’t. There’s nothing I can do about that. I felt bad about it. Our guys fought. We should have won the game.”

But wait, there’s more!

After the incredible seven-overtime game finally ended, a dust-up happened along the sidelines which apparently involved some inappropriate behavior by the nephew of Texas A&M coach, Jimbo Fisher.  He was vigorously rebuffed by one or more LSU assistants.

Between the iffy officiating and the post-game sidelines altercations, the Aggies may be getting their wish for an SEC rival.  LSU fans have taken notice and are starting to develop the early stages of a Longhorn-like dislike of Texas A&M.

A reminder to AggieLand.  LSU has a proud military tradition as well.

Going back to the 1800’s, LSU and its hallowed grounds have been known as the “Ole War Skule“.

The mascot for the Aggies is Reveille the collie.  She should be concerned as usually docile Mike the Tiger has been awakened some pesky Aggies.

After the first salvos were fired from College Station Saturday, overtures coming out of Baton Rouge signal that a sports version of a declaration of war may be percolating.

For now, though, it’s all talk.

Here’s how I will know a Texas A&M/LSU rivalry has become legit.

Once the words to the “Aggie War Hymn” are changed to mention LSU, then the Aggies may get their wish for an annual rivalry with the Bayou Bengals.

WHOOP!

 

 

 

 

The Fantastic Four dominate SwampSwami College Football Top 25

While several teams in the SwampSwami.com College Football Top 25 teams had tough games this holiday weekend, our four remaining unbeaten teams dispatched their foes like the Fantastic Four superheroes they have become this season.

Notre Dame, our fourth rated team, unveiled its invisibility during a sluggish first half of their game with USC Saturday.  Fortunately, the Fighting Irish showed-up in time for a second half rally to grab the victory and go to 12-0 this season.

Continuing at number three in our weekly poll is UCF.  The Knights from Central Florida s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d an early lead over their in-state rival South Florida during an easy 38-10 win.  The victory elongated the Knights winning streak to 24 games as they improved to 11-0.

After a “game” start by the South Carolina Gamecocks, our second-rated Clemson Tigers caught fire before halftime and torched their in-state rivals in the second half to secure a 58-35 win.

As in most of their games this season, it was “Clobbering Time” again for the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.  Though Auburn played a valiant first half, the Tigers (like most of Bama’s foes) were beaten into submission after halftime and vanquished by a 52-21 count.

Special “Standing 8 count” commendations this week go to Texas A&M and LSU for their incredible seven overtime bout won by the Aggies 74-72.  This game packed more punches than you will see in the new movie, Creed 2.

Finally, I made a comment at the end of last week’s Top 25 that the Big Ten game between Michigan and Ohio State needed to prove something as I (still do) feel that the competition in the conference is relatively soft.  The vaunted Michigan defense gave up a whopping 62 points as Ohio State scored at will on the toothless Wolverines, 62-39.

Ohio State (which climbed to #5 in this week’s rankings) must beat the 8-4 Northwestern Wildcats team this weekend in the Big Ten conference championship.   Based on the Buckeyes lack of defense this season, I wouldn’t bet against Northwestern.

Below is the complete SwampSwami.com College Football Top 25 rankings for the week ending November 24, 2018:

# Team W L 2017 AP Rank Best win/loss in 2018
1 Alabama 12 0 1
2 Clemson 12 0 4
3 UCF 11 0 6
4 Notre Dame 12 0 11
5 Ohio State 11 1 62-39 over 10-2 Michigan
6 Oklahoma 11 1 28-21 over 9-2 Army
7 Georgia 11 1 34-17 over 9-3 Kentucky
8 Washington State 10 2 28-24 over 9-3 Utah
9 Michigan 10 2 42-7 over 9-3 Penn State
10 Boise State 10 2 33-24 over 10-2 Utah State
11 Army 9 2 42-13 @ 10-2 Buffalo
12 Appalachian State 9 2 21-10 over 9-3 Troy
13 Buffalo 10 2 36-29 @ 8-4 Temple
14 Cincinnati 10 2 34-30 over 8-4 Ohio U.
15 Utah State 10 2 56-17 @ 8-5 Hawaii
16 Fresno State 10 2 49-27 over 7-5 San Diego St
17 Texas 9 3 48-45 over 11-1 Oklahoma
18 Washington 9 3 28-15 @ 10-2 Wash. St
19 Kentucky 9 3 26-16 @ 9-3 Florida
20 Florida 9 3 27-19 over 9-3 LSU
21 LSU 9 3 36-16 over 11-1 Georgia
22 West Virginia 8 3 42-41 @ 9-3 Texas
23 Syracuse 9 3 51-41 over 8-3 NC State
24 Penn State 9 3 30-24 over 8-4 Iowa
25 Utah 9 3 40-21 @ 7-4 Stanford

 

No Turkeys atop SwampSwami College Football Top 25

Coming into this week’s Thanksgiving holiday, the top teams in the SwampSwami.com College Football Top 25 kept a firm grip on their leading spots.

Though The Citadel did what LSU and Mississippi State couldn’t do against Alabama (score some points, that is), the top-ranked Tide received a vintage Nick Saban fireside family chat at halftime to ultimately blow-out the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.

Likewise for my #2, 3, and 4 teams as Clemson cranked-up its offense against Duke, UCF zoomed past Cincinnati, and Notre Dame squeezed the Syracuse Orange.

The University of Central Florida received the royal treatment on Saturday with the ESPN College Game Day show and a prime time showcase game on ABC versus a one-loss Cincinnati Bearkat squad.

The Knights offense resembles the New Orleans Saints explosive unit.  UCF has not only won 23 consecutive games, but the Knights have scored more than 30 points in each of those victories.  That is simply amazing!

Speaking of underappreciated teams in the eyes of the national media, Washington State (my #7 team) put up 55 points on Saturday night against the University of Arizona.  And that was just in the first half!  The Cougars clobbered the Wildcats 69-24 in the late game.

After we digest a little turkey on Thursday, this coming weekend will be filled with some key college football games to enjoy along with your leftovers.

No matter who wins the annual Ohio State/Michigan battle this week, the winner will continue to have an uphill battle in moving upward in my poll as your SwampSwami remains a Big 10 skeptic.

On with the countdown!

# Team W L 2017 AP Rank Best win/loss in 2018
1 Alabama 11 0 1
2 Clemson 11 0 4
3 UCF 10 0 6
4 Notre Dame 11 0 11
5 Oklahoma 10 1 28-21 over 9-2 Army
6 Georgia 10 1 34-17 over 8-3 Kentucky
7 Washington State 10 1 28-24 over 8-3 Utah
8 Michigan 10 1 42-7 over 8-3 Penn State
9 Ohio State 10 1 27-26 @ 8-3 Penn State
10 Utah State 10 1 56-17 @ 7-5 Hawaii
11 LSU 9 2 36-16 over 10-1 Georgia
12 Boise State 9 2 56-20 @ 9-2 Troy
13 Army 9 2 42-13 @ 9-2 Buffalo
14 West Virginia 8 2 42-41 @ 8-3 Texas
15 Cincinnati 9 2 34-30 over 7-4 Ohio U.
16 Fresno State 9 2 49-27 over 7-4 San Diego St
17 UAB 9 2 28-7 @ 7-4 La. Tech
18 Appalachian State 8 2 35-9 @ 7-4 Ark State
19 Buffalo 9 2 36-29 @ 7-4 Temple
20 Troy 9 2 35-27 @ 6-5 UL-Monroe
21 Texas 8 3 48-45 over 10-1 Oklahoma
22 Kentucky 8 3 26-16 @ 8-3 Florida
23 Florida 8 3 27-19 over 9-2 LSU
24 Washington 8 3 21-7 @ 8-3 Utah
25 Penn State 8 3 30-24 over 7-4 Iowa