Summer Solstice Update: College Football
In about six weeks, 125 FBS college football teams will begin their fall practice. By Aug. 29 the first games of the season will be played with a national champion crowned early in Jan. The time between spring and fall practices is usually part of a slow news cycle, but as the summer solstice arrives there are a number of stories that are worth exploring.
You already know your favorite players including those that are followed nationally and have a good chance of advancing to the NFL. But, our personal favorite lists are often colored by our partisan fan opinions.
In any case, the “experts” have weighed in to identify some of the top names in college football. Specifically, Sporting News has served up its own list of the Top 25 players beginning with Texas A&M quarterback, Johnny Maziel, winner of the Heisman Trophy. Others to make the list included South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, and Lache Seastrunk of Baylor. As with any list, the pickings might not suit everyone, but SN did a very good job with its selection.
The game of football will be gone in 10 to 20 years. At least that is the contention of Pro Football Hall of Famer, Lem Barney. Barney made this statement at a football camp last week stating that, “…society will alleviate football altogether.”
Barney, who suffered numerous concussions from the sport over the years, made his statement in front of 600 high school players. He’s an advocate for safer tackling, especially to avoid the brain damage that has debilitated many of his fellow NFL players. With a strong fan-following football’s future seems assured, but with a brighter spotlight on injuries, raising awareness about the challenges players face is important.
As college football continues to evolve, its elite conferences are pushing for member teams to schedule higher-profile non-league opponents. The move is being made to bolster each school’s post-season prospects especially as the sport moves to a four-game playoff format next year.
Teams such as Norfolk State, Middle Tennessee, North Texas and Sacramento State provide a bonus home game and usually an easy win for top programs. They’re the FCS and smaller FBS programs that typically enjoy a pay day of up to $500,000 to give up a home game and offer themselves as a sacrifice to the nation’s best teams.
A number of larger programs, however, are gradually removing lower-caliber teams from their schedules. Ohio State, for instance, has taken Western Michigan off of its 2016 schedule. Rutgers has scheduled a home-and-home series with Washington State beginning next year. The service academies — Air Force, Army and Navy — have been spared so far as they remain high-profile, but low performing programs especially when playing elite rivals. The service academies are also FBS programs and are less likely to be dropped than FCS teams.
Eight or Nine Games?
Related to the non-conference schedule review are the number of conference games that should be played. With a 12-game schedule in place for the past decade, the 8-game conference schedule remains. However, beginning in the 2016 season, the Big Ten Conference will have its members play nine conference games, so should the other stand out conferences do the same?
Don’t expect the Pac 12, SEC, ACC and Big 12 to follow. At least not in the short run. Adding another game will make it more difficult for borderline programs to make it to a bowl game, the main financial driver of college football. Indeed, with 35 games and 125 teams battling it out for 70 bowl spots, an additional conference game will result in a league loss for some that might keep them out of the bowl picture. Then again, if a team misses out it can always appeal to the NCAA, the final arbiter of whether a losing team gets a shot at a bowl game. Indeed, the NCAA has already waived that rule, allowing teams that win their conference, but finish at 6-7 to head to a bowl.