Our gala extravaganza planned for our 500th game celebration is coming along nicely as we got commitments for 61 attendees so far and more coming on board as the word is spreading. We have one full busload already committed to, so if you’ve got your invitation, and haven’t responded yet, let us know as soon as you can. That’s for November 21 when Rutgers meets Army at West Point. If anyone you know invites you to a wedding that weekend, tell them you already have plans…Thinking back, besides a few games missed for funerals attended over the years, there’s a few instances where our opportunity to reach 500 got delayed a little longer than it could have happened. Several come to mind. From 1987-1992, I watered down the schedules as I concentrated on my MBA while working full-time and my weekends had to be dedicated to studying and projects. I saw some quality games though during those years. Besides that though, there’s the 1999 Michigan at Penn State game when 4-year old Eric was sick in the hotel room all night and I sold our tickets the next morning and headed home missing our opportunity to see Tom Brady play collegiately that day in a close win over the Lions. The same rivalry was missed in 1995 when a freak November snow storm was too treacherous for the typical four hour drive. Another major snow storm fell on Salem, Virginia one year when we had planned to attend another in the series on national championship D-3 games between Mt. Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater. There was a time my Ford Escort died entering the New Jersey Turnpike on our way to see an FCS playoff game when Portland State was visiting Delaware. In 2008, another car mishap occurred when a bolt came loose in a tire well of my Malibu (that I still have) and locked up my wheels on the way to see Oregon State at Penn State. There was also an opportunity that fell through to see a Central Florida game when I was at a Friday wedding in Orlando and some other people from the wedding evidently didn’t think I seriously would’ve gone. It was a last minute shot, but that could have added to the current total. In 2012, I was totally under the weather and decided not to venture to D.C. though I had tickets for the Military Bowl between San Jose State and Bowling Green. There may be a few more, but these are the ones that definitely detracted from making this goal earlier. Just as well. We came up with a pretty good plan on a pretty good date as it is….It’s a great time of year for college sports as we enter “March Madness” with the invitations extended tonight for the “Big dance”. College baseball is already about a month along. Well, at least college baseball is well underway in the warmer climes as teams from the north head south on weekends and during spring breaks. The Major Leagues are just figuring out who amongst their pitching staffs have to sit out the year for Tommy John surgery. In the meantime, many football squads throughout the country are beginning to stir for spring practices. They’re putting on helmets and shoulder pads to get outside, shake off the cobwebs, do some hitting, and start sorting out who can do what after a few months of off-season conditioning in preparation for 2015. Among teams within driving distance from us who we generally see play each regular season, Princeton has been practicing for a couple of weeks during extremely cold temperatures and now heading to Japan where it will hold three more sessions to prepare for their spring game being played this weekend in Japan against the Japanese College football champs of 2015, the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters. Penn State and Army will be holding intrasquad scrimmages on April 18. Rutgers will have their Scarlet and White game on Friday night, April 24, and Temple will be holding their Cherry-White game on April 25 at a place on their campus called Chodoff Field. It is unclear whether Navy is holding a scrimmage from the information on their website. Lafayette and Lehigh haven’t announced their intra-squad plans for their spring games yet. We plan to attend the Penn State and Rutgers spring games after enjoying our month of March Madness!…Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo’s messages to his team during offseason work outs are pretty blunt as USNA enters its first season in the American Athletic Conference. “We’re smaller than everybody else (we play)! We can’t let anybody play harder than us! Next drill! Get there! “And even more profound, “If you don’t do your job, we got zero chance to win!” You can hear it all on http://www.navysports.com. Navy’s generally been smaller than most teams it faces, but with a conference championship as a new goal, the effort to win will become even greater at the Naval Academy… We have just about everything in place for our 2015 schedule and avoiding temptations to go to more games available to us only to assure that the November 21 commitment is truly our 500th game. Our biggest question marks are how we will schedule our first three games over the Labor Day Weekend. Usually, we like to find a game on Thursday night as we did last season when we saw Texas A&M stomp South Carolina before seeing two games on the following Saturday. In Baltimore, Ohio state beat Navy to begin its quest for the national title. On the way home we saw an FCS contest where Central Connecticut defeated 2013 FCS runner-up Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium. We are strongly considering starting our 2015 season where we kind of finished last as we visited Nashville on our way back from three bowl games in Florida. If we do, it may start with the Tennessee Volunteers who finished our season with a dominant win over Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl. At LP Field where we watched Notre Dame defeat LSU on a last second field goal in the Franklin /American Mortgage Music City Bowl before we headed to the three bowls in Florida, the Vols will kick off their season against Bowling Green. However, we’re waiting to find out the exact time because across town that day, Vanderbilt will be hosting Western Kentucky in their season opener at Vanderbilt Stadium. If there is a day-night opportunity, we’d consider taking advantage as we love to visit Nashville. The Vandy-WKU game could be a pretty good match-up and it would be our first game ever hosted by the Commodores. It would be the second time for us to see the Hilltoppers who we ironically added to our history in 2009 when we saw them crushed by UT, 63-7, in our first game at Neyland Stadium. A second option is to see a Thursday night D-2 game when the East Stroudsburg Warriors host the LIU-CW Post Pioneers at ESU’s Eiler-Martin Stadium, a short drive from our headquarters. The following Saturday, Penn State will visit Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. We hope to see an improved PSU and an improved Temple team go at it. In both these scenarios, we have a common third game to finish off our Labor Day weekend. That Monday night, our plan is to be at Blacksburg, Virginia where the VT Hokies will be hosting Ohio State at Lane Stadium in the season opener for both squads. Surely you remember that Tech was the lone blemish on the Buckeye schedule in 2014. We’ll also see who Urban Meyer starts at QB for his defending national champs among Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, or Cardale Jones. If for some reason this game can’t work out for us we could do Thursday night in Charlotte when North Carolina and South Carolina square off to open their seasons before heading out to Nashville. We’re keeping our options open until the game times shake out in Nashville, but no matter how we look at it, it should be a fun opening weekend for collegefootballfan’s 2015 season opening weekend…The following weekend, we already have Washington State at Rutgers penned in. Last season RU came back from a game played in Seattle with a 41-38 win. Though Mike Leach’s Cougars finished 3-9, 2-7 in the PAC 12, in typical Leach fashion, they led the nation in passing yardage with 477.7 yards per game scoring on 45 TD passes. They averaged 31.8 points on offense while allowing 38.6 on defense. Losses included a 38-31 defeat at the hands of No. 2 Oregon, and a 60-59 loss to the Cal Bears. Connor Halliday started the first nine games of the season at QB, but redshirt sophomore Luke Falk took over and impressed statistically with 1,859 passing yards, 13 TDs, and 7 INTs. Experienced receivers in River Cracraft and Dom Williams return. HC Mike Leach didn’t sit on his hands during the offseason as he sought to improve his coaching staff. He promoted his former record-setting QB at Texas Tech, Graham Harrell, from analyst to Wide receivers coach. Surely he’ll be training Falk and other QBs in the Mike Leach passing system. To shore up his defense, he hired former Missouri secondary coach Alex Grinch as his new Defensive coordinator and Safety Coach. We’ve seen Grinch’s secondary two of the last three seasons including wins over South Carolina and Minnesota (Citrus Bowl) this past season. His experience includes coaching with Chip Kelly at the University of New Hampshire and as a player playing for Mount Union where he played on three Division 3 National championship teams. WAZU will be an interesting team to watch in 2015. It will open its season at home against Portland State before visiting Rutgers at the Birthplace of College football on September 12.