Steveo’s Salvos! August 1, 2015

Five weeks from today is the first Saturday of college football action. Several good games will be televised on Thursday, September 3. It’s our first year not attending an opening night game in long time. We will open on Friday night, September 4, when we’ll attend an FCS battle between Jacksonville and Delaware.  We’re behaving ourselves so that Saturday, November 21 will be our 500th game since 1979 when Army hosts Rutgers….Why are all these condescending head coaches complaining that Notre Dame needs to join a conference? So they can lower their standards to be an also-ran like most of the programs at the FBS level? And I’m not just considering the play on the field. The Fighting Irish play a solid schedule every year. They never play any FCS teams and play very few non-Power Five conference teams. Even Navy’s become a more formidable program than it was in year’s past. They have high academic standards. When a player doesn’t perform academically or gets charged with some misdemeanor or substance abuse violation, they’re generally suspended or eventually gone from the program. They generally top the graduation rates among all FBS programs every season. They have a national TV contract of their own because the networks are willing to pay for the rights to air their games due to a huge national following. Instead of other coaches insinuating that the Irish should join a conference to “compete fairly” for a playoff bid, maybe they should focus on their own programs and raise their standards to emulate ND’s. They should go mind their own business to clean up their own programs instead of telling someone else who generally does it right what they should do. How can anyone chastise BYU for similar reasons? As for Army, they tried out ConferenceUSA for number of years and it didn’t work out. Their goal is to play a national schedule as they recruit players from every state in the Union. Their players represent America. Maybe they’ll follow Navy into the AAC, but they’ll do it when they are good and ready. “Duty, Honor, Country.” Their goals are little loftier at West Point than those of other schools in the FBS. Surely they can’t recruit as well as other FBS programs, so let them determine their relevant level of play amongst what’s right for their program…

Notre Dame showed it can still play with anybody in the Music City Bowl last season when they defeated LSU, 30-27.

Notre Dame showed it can still play with anybody in the Music City Bowl last season when they defeated LSU, 30-27.

I caught some CFL action on TV the other night. The Winnipeg Blue Bomber’s QB Drew Willy passed for 269 yards and two TDs in a 23-13 win over the British Columbia Lions. Willy, a Randolph, NJ native, was a freshman QB at the University of Buffalo when we added the Bulls as our 101st team during our goal to “see ‘em all” when his team fell to the Ohio Bobcats, our 100th team back in October, 2005. The Bobcats under former Nebraska HC Frank Solich triumphed 34-20 in a game marred by 29 penalties, three of which were overturned. The Bulls pulled within 27-20 late in the game, but a flagrant unsportsmanlike call late in the game turned the tide back for the Bulls to come up short. I just can’t believe it’s ten years ago. It’s in Tales from the Tailgate. Check it out!…The Big Ten Media days started today. We will see five B1G teams compete this year in six different games including Rutgers at Penn State, Michigan State at Rutgers, and Ohio State at Michigan. We’ll also see one of these or another team from the B1G as we plan to attend the Outback or Citrus Bowl which will feature a Big Ten Team vs. the SEC on New Year’s Day. The conference champion may be seen in the Orange Bowl in the CFP which we intend to be at this year…Rutgers HC Kyle Flood talks glowingly of how his team finished 8-5 in their inaugural season. He’ll have new QB for the first time in four years and offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen stepped down. They took their lumps against OSU, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska last season and will play them all again this year. We will see them host Washington State under pass-happy HC Mike Leach who picked up Alex Grinch , secondary coach at Missouri the last few years, as his new defensive coordinator. Seems like a good move in the right direction on his part. The Scarlet Knights bested WAZU last season in the opener for both in Seattle, 38-35. This year’s early match-up may be a good barometer of how RU will fare the rest of the season with a new QB in place along with eight new starters on a defense that allowed 30.2 points per game a year ago and ranked 98th overall defensively. Penn State and Michigan, also Eastern Division rivals, will show big improvements over last season respectively coming off sanctions limiting scholarships and Jim Harbaugh’s new coaching staff. Regarding PSU we will see them open at ‘the Linc” against Temple, and the Owls will be a good barometer to see how well Penn State has upgraded its primary weakness from a year ago, its offensive line. Temple defense ranked 24th nationally on defense and return 10 starters. They fell to the Lions 30-13, but they will be fired up under HC Matt Rhule, a former PSU linebacker himself. If the Lion’s O-line can give QB Christian Hackenberg much better protection than a year ago and can open some holes consistently that it didn’t do a year ago, that will indicate the Lions are ready to challenge again in the Big Ten. On September 19, our calendar is marked for the 8 pm contest when RU visits Happy Valley. A week later, we return there to see Linebacker U host San Diego State, a contender for the Mountain West Conference title. We look forward to both games…

The Nittany Lions will have to give Hackenberg better protection this year to compete for the B1G title.

The Nittany Lions will have to give Hackenberg better protection this year to compete for the B1G title.

Good chance that we will get to see FBS newcomer Charlotte as our 129th team on October 17 when they visit Old Dominion as we visit our son Eric down there in Norfolk. When we added ODU last year as our 128th team, it wasn’t pretty as the formidable Thundering Herd trampled the Monarchs, 55-14. The game was over in the first half. ODU loses the services of QB Taylor Heinecke who despite throwing for 14,959 yards, we weren’t impressed by. ODU fortunes rest this year on his replacement, Redshirt Freshman Shuler Bentley, twice named South Carolina Gatorade player of the year. RB Ray Lawry (Kingsway Regional, Woolwich, NJ) who finished last season as C-USA Rookie of the year, will be relied on to lead the ground game. He had 131 rushing yards against a tough Marshall D a year ago when we saw him play. The defense, however, allowed 38 ppg per game and 452.2 yards per game last season. We expect to see a more competitive game at Foreman Field than we did a year ago. Despite their first year in the FBS, the Charlotte 49ers have a team of juniors returning that scored 38.8 ppg against mostly FCS teams a year ago including some credible programs like The Citadel, Coastal Carolina, and James Madison. Despite scoring 56, 34, and 40 points in those three games, their defense allowed 63, 59, and 48 respectively. We think we’ll see a wild, high-scoring game in this one. The Niner offense is led by RB Kalif Phillips who rushed for 1,436 yards and 20 TDs last season. Matt Johnson who started at QB before being felled by a knee injury in the last three games, has thrown for 4,522 yards and 34 TDs the last two seasons. Lee McNeil backed him up adequately and four starters return to the O-line. Austin Duke who had 79 receptions a year ago for 1,373 yards and nine TDs returns to action. The D returns eight starters from a squad that allowed 31.6 ppg against FCS and lower division schools, and 477.4 yards per game. They’re going to have to learn to suck it up under new defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt who left Texas Tech as DC after three games last season to become linebacker coach at UL-Lafayette. Sounds shaky here. The Monarchs will get two weeks to recover from facing Marshall again before playing this one. The 49ers will get two weeks to recover from playing the best program they’ll have faced to date, the Temple Owls. This game should be like a pinball game with lots of action and plenty of scoring to light up the scoreboard. We hope it’s more fun than watching a blow-out like we did last year at ODU. We hope it will be a memorable experience welcoming Charlotte to the FBS.

The Thundering Herd of Marshall smothered Old Dominion last season to welcome them to the FBS.

The Thundering Herd of Marshall smothered Old Dominion last season to welcome them to the FBS.

July 25 radio interview on “Spadora on Sports”

We interviewed about the upcoming season on “Peter Spadora on Sports” on WNER 1410 AM his flagship station out of Watertown, NY. Currently, Spadora is featured weekly on FOX Sports Radio WNER-AM 1410 Watertown, NY; WYBG-AM 1050 Massena, NY;  WZNE – FM 94.1 Rochester, NY; BostonSportsRadio Boston, MA; ESPN Radio WTSA-AM 1450 “The Ticket” Brattleboro,VT as the host of SPADORA ON SPORTS. This 2 hour sports radio program features exclusive analysts of the College Football and Basketball, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL that is built around athlete and celebrity interviews. SPADORA ON SPORTS is currently broadcasted in several markets in NY, VT, and Canada. We will be featured on various Saturdays throughout the college football season. Click on the link below for our July 25 interview:


Steve-o’s Salvos – July 23

We’re now even more excited than ever about our 2015 schedule! After celebrating our 500th game this season on November 21st, we have our plan in place the following Saturday to attend probably the best rivalry game we’ve never attended (been to Army-Navy, Alabama-Auburn, South Carolina-Clemson, Harvard-Yale among others). And not only that, it’s going to be as intense as ever. We initially thought we’d go when one team was down so that the interest wouldn’t be at a high echelon which would enable us to get a cheap ticket due to luke-warm interest. But, I went to Saint Laurie, told her the plan, the cost, the desire, and fact that time is becoming more of the essence – a bucket list. I got her blessing. I’m heading to Ohio State at Michigan! Most likely a game with a significant bearing on the national championship and possibly the Big Ten Eastern division (I’m hoping Penn State is still in the hunt, of course), but the competiveness and anticipation of Jim Harbaugh returning to head up his Wolverines at home in Ann Arbor make this year’s 112th edition a must-see! He’s bringing his coaching prowess back to his alma mater which will undoubtedly instill the pride, the passion, and the toughness that Brady Hoke so desired to bring back to Michigan football. We’re feeling the blood broiling already in this one. I don’t even have a preference as to who wins, at least not right now. Put the defending National Champs who are heavily favored to repeat and unleash them against its most hated rival on Big Blue’s turf and this will be a hard-hitting, smash-mouth game for pride if nothing more. And there’s plenty more at stake.  I’m feeling it? What about fans from both teams? Today (July 22), 13 Action News in Ohio reported that two couples physically clashed on a Jet Express ferry ride near Port Clinton, Ohio Sunday ignited by their rampant Michigan-Ohio State fan allegiances and their hatred toward each other’s.  The two women began by pulling hair and their two male companions exchanged punches. Two arrests were made for assault. The game is four months away. We haven’t even gotten into the parking lot yet! We picked a good one for our 502nd game. 502nd you ask? You don’t think I’m traveling 700+ miles for just one game, do you? On Friday night, I plan to attend Western Michigan at Toledo in the Glass Bowl – a first time venue for Holy Toledo! It’s also looking like an important game in the Mid-American, at least one between two of its top teams. It may help me keep my mind off the war anticipated on Saturday…

At our first trip to the Big House, we watched Penn State drop the Wolverines in 2009, 35-10.

At our first trip to the Big House, we watched Penn State drop the Wolverines in 2009, 35-10.

A review of our history over the years has paid off in that we are able to say that we’ve definitely seen THE TOP performers in the history of college football play. Passing yards? We saw Case Keenum throw for some of his 19,217 when we saw his Houston Cougars fall in the 2007 Texas Bowl to TCU, 20-13. The winning QB? A freshman named Andy Dalton who eventually made it to the Cincinnati Bengals. Keenum also leads in career TD passes with 155. In all, we’ve seen seven of the top ten career leaders compete. That included No. 2 Kellen Moore of Boise in 2010 leading the Broncos to a 33-30 win over Virginia Tech, and No. 3 Graham Harrell of Texas Tech in the Red Raiders 2007 defeat at Oklahoma State in a 45-42 shoot-out. His last gasp pass into the end zone deflected off the shoulder pad of WR Michael Crabtree. RB Monte Ball of Wisconsin leads all FBS scorers with 500 career points. We saw Penn State shut him down in the final regular season game of 2013. This year we will see Navy QB Keenan Reynolds play in two or three games to take a crack at his record. With 368 points over three years, his average of 122 points per season can get him close or at least put him at No. 2 over Travis Prentice of Miami (O) who holds that place now. We saw Prentice score in a 14-13 win over Army in 1998. Another Wisconsin RB still holds the mark for total career rushing yards with 6,397. We saw Heisman winner Ron Dayne have a tough day against Syracuse for a paltry 46 yards in a 34-0 loss to Syracuse in the 1997 Kickoff Classic. WR Justin Hardy of East Carolina leads the pack all-time with 387 pass catches. Drafted this year by the Atlanta Falcons, we saw Justin and the Pirates defeat Navy his freshman year in an exciting game in Annapolis as the Pirates defeated the Mids, 38-35. Behind him ranked No. 2, 3, and 4 respectively are Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma, Taylor Stubbefield of Purdue, and Tommy Shuler of Marshall. We saw Broyles in the Fiesta Bowl win over UConn, Stubbefield catch passes thrown by Drew Brees for Purdue against Penn State, and Shuler play the past two seasons in games against Maryland and ODU. It just goes to show that if you do this long enough and get out and see some diverse competition from year to year, you’ll get to see players making history. Evidently, a lot of it…

Freshman QB Andy Dalton led the TCU Horned Frogs over Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars in the 2007 Texas Bowl.

Freshman QB Andy Dalton led the TCU Horned Frogs over Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars in the 2007 Texas Bowl.

Our regular season schedule has us seeing five teams playing more than once. Penn State and Navy look to have three each while Army, Air Force, and Rutgers will all be seen twice. Penn State, Air Force, and Rutgers will be seen both at home and on the road. The other two, Army and Navy, will be seen at a neutral site, of course, as well as at home. I encourage every college football fan to attend one game at West Point and at Annapolis at least once. This year they will return to “the Linc” in Philadelphia after having played in Baltimore last year…Our late season playoff options have us anticipating a second round FCS game, a quarterfinal D3 game, or a quarterfinals D2 game on December 5. On December 18-19, the possibilities are between the FCS semi-finals or the D3 Championship to be held in Salem, VA. Most experts predict another Mt. Union vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater finale. We predict that UWW will go through too big a change with a familiar but less experienced coaching staff, and that a traditional contender between Linfield (Oregon) or Mary Hardin-Baylor will knock off the Purple Raiders of MU before they reach Salem. Our choice of game that date will be dictated by where and when our choices will be played…We say it every year and we mean it every year; this is going to be a great season for!

Eight years after seeing air Force fae Cal in the Armedd Forces Services Bowl, the Falcons still run the triple option under HC Troy Calhoun. We will see his team play twice this season.

Eight years after seeing Air Force face Cal in the Armed Forces Services Bowl, the Falcons still run the triple option under HC Troy Calhoun. We will see his team play twice this season.

Steveo’s Salvos – July 9, 2015

Lafayette-Lehigh Game Program depicting game programs over the years. The teams will meet in 2015 for the 151st time.

Lafayette-Lehigh Game Program depicting game programs over the years. The teams will meet in 2015 for the 151st time.

     Of 24 games we plan to attend this season, only two regular season games will be played between non-FBS teams. With much discipline, we avoided scheduling many other early season games that we’d like to go to. Instead, we avoided various weekday night opportunities and more than one game on a certain Saturday to be sure November 21 would definitely be our 500th game when Rutgers visits Army. Many of the games considered were of the local FCS, D2, and D3 variety that we could attend conveniently, but we’re on a holding pattern early this season.   We hope to be unleased to make up for it next year so we can get to “600” as quickly as possible. We have two definite dates slated to see FCS games before the Big # 500, and we hope to catch one or two key playoff games after our gala weekend celebration… A review of all the predictions of the pre-season pubs indicates that the FCS is getting a rep similar to D-3 (and we love following both). Athlon’s, The Sporting News, and Linde’s all select North Dakota State to win the FCS for the fifth year in a row just as Mt. Union and Whitewater have dominated D-3 for the last 15 years. We’ll review D2 and D3 in an upcoming Salvo. Despite the heavy graduation losses on the North Dakota State defense, second year HC Chris Kleiman’ s offense returns better than ever with QB Carson Wentz, the Most Outstanding Player in last year’s championship game win over Illinois State behind a skilled and experienced offensive line. His two key receivers return In Zach Vraa and RJ Urzendowski. In addition, RB King Frazier is ready to play after transferring from Nebraska. Everyone will be surprised if the Bison don’t make it to the top again, but they will be challenged once again in their own conference by the Redbirds of ISU who took them down to the wire in the title game, and Northern Iowa, the only team to defeat them a year ago, 23-3. This year’s game will be played in Fargo, home of the Bison … We open our season on Friday, September 4, with an FCS game when the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens (6-6 in 2014) of the Colonial Athletic will host the Jacksonville Dolphins (9-2 in 2014) of the Pioneer League. We saw these two open two years ago as UD enjoyed a 51-35 victory, but this year could be different. The Hens don’t have that powerhouse reputation that precedes them under HC Dave Brock. They have not made the FCS playoffs for four consecutive years now. Delaware will supposedly be led by new QB Jamie Jarmon who comes to play after three years in the Texan Rangers’ organization. The Dolphins are coached by Kerwin Bell who we saw play QB for the Florida Gators back in ’85 versus Auburn. He now mentors his son Kade who threw for 3,181 yards and 31 TDs in 2014. His leading receiver Andy Jones returns along with a stout defense. Jacksonville seems to have the edge here. They would have been the Pioneer rep in the FCS last season, but it banned itself from post-season play due to discrepancies regarding financial aid discovered in previous seasons…

Bucknell Bison QB Trey Lauletta filled in for starter RJ Nitti last year when the Bison fell to Fordham, 30-27, in OT.

Bucknell Bison QB Trey Lauletta filled in for starter RJ Nitti last year when the Bison fell to Fordham, 30-27, in OT.

Not until November 7 will we venture outside the FBS again, and we’re giving ourselves some flexibility. Sandwiched between a game in Charlotte and a weekend in Colorado to see FBS games we are looking forward to, we plan to stay pretty close to home to see either Lafayette or Lehigh play in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. Depending on whichever of the two contests may have the most bearing on the Patriot League championship, we’ll decide where we’re going the weekend before. We saw these rivals square off last season in their historic 150th game against one another, the first such meeting in all of college football, held at Yankee Stadium. Neither had a season last year to challenge for the Patriot League, but we think one or both could climb back in quickly this season despite what the pubs are predicting. On this particular weekend, Lehigh will host Holy Cross and Lafayette will host Colgate. Only about 11 miles apart, we’re flexible. The prognosticators pick Fordham to win the Patriot League for the second year in a row. No way, we say! For some reason, despite losing 18 starters including record-setting QB Mike Nebrich and the entire starting line, they seem to be enamored with Soph TB Chase Edmonds. We saw the Rams play three times last season. We like Edmonds (1,823 yards, 23 TDs) who won the Jerry Rice Award as the top FCS newcomer, but that’s a lot of experience to replace to consider the Rams the favorite. Kevin Anderson transferred from Marshall to replace Nebrich, but so what? Rakeem Cato has started for the Herd the last four years. When was the last time Anderson ever took a snap? We saw Fordham edge Bucknell in OT out in Lewisburg, 30-27, to clinch the Patriot League title last season. Under experienced HC Joe Susan, the Bison return QB RJ Nitti and RB CJ Williams. Though we give the Bison a big edge this year over Fordham, Lafayette, Lehigh and Colgate should all improve and offer Bucknell challenges. Holy Cross was competitive with these three as well. Most games among these four were decided by ten points or less. Fordham once possessed an advantage awarding scholarships as they were a League member but ineligible for the title. Now all these schools are on par with awarding football scholarships. We believe November 7 will be an important weekend in the Patriot League. We also think Lehigh is one of the nicest Saturday football settings among the many eastern FCS programs we’ve attended. We hope Andy Coen has his program re-charged this season after a down year at 3-8…

Fordham's Chase Edmonds bursts through the UNH defense for a 91-yard TD run in 2014 FCS playoff.

Fordham’s Chase Edmonds bursts through the UNH defense for a 91-yard TD run in 2014 FCS playoff.

The Colonial Athletic is one of the most dominant conferences in the FCS and definitely the “beast of the East.” When it comes to playoffs this year, it looks like our best chances to see a late round FCS playoff game in the region will be at either Villanova, or like last year, up in Durham, NH, where the No. 3 Wildcats ousted Fordham, 44-19, in the second round. Despite both teams competing in the CAA, the Wildcats of Villanova and of New Hampshire will not be playing one another during the regular season for the second year in a row. In 2009, we saw Nova host UNH in a driving, cold, wet snow storm. On their way to the national championship, Villanova clobbered New Hampshire, 46-7. This year, Villanova returns QB John Robertson the Walter Payton Award winner (top offensive player in the FCS) from a year ago, and LB Don Cherry, the runner up for the Buck Buchanon Award that goes to the top defensive player in the FCS. Andy Talley leads the Wildcats heading into his 31st season with a career record on the Main Line of 215-128-1. UNH under HC Sean McDonnell has played in the last 14 FCS playoffs. QB Sean Goldrich returns and a defense that led the FCS in turnovers a year ago (-39) returns intact. McDonnell has a reputation of keeping his teams playoff bound despite heavy losses after graduation from year to year. December 5 is open for us to see a playoff game, and if one of these teams is playing at home that weekend, we’ll probably be seeing one or even both in action. We may consider December 19 as a playoff opportunity as well…Other FCS notes we find of interest: Much has been made of Eastern Washington QB Vernon Lewis taking advantage of the grad school transfer rule to forgo his final season with the Eagles to become an Oregon Duck. He’ll step in to take over for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and a better shot at the pros. Did you know that Oregon opens the season hosting his former team EWU on September 5?…If we settled in for season tickets for one FCS program close to us to enjoy the season and not have to travel so far, we’d buy a season ticket for the Lafayette Leopards this season. They play an interesting home schedule comprised of good competition at the FCS level that would be fun to watch and challenging from week to week. They host CAA squad William and Mary, our favorite Ivy team Princeton under HC Bob Surace, defending Patriot champ Fordham with RB Chase Edmonds, Ivy League champ Harvard coming into this year with a 14-game winning streak, last year’s League runner-up Bucknell who is playing their best football in a long time, and Colgate in what we think will be a very competitive game. Of course, if you buy the season ticket package, you’re probably guaranteed seats to the 151st version of Lafayette-Lehigh. It’s an intense pre-game tailgate…

We attended Brown at Princeton last season, but we have no Ivy League games on this year's schedule.

We attended Brown at Princeton last season, but we have no Ivy League games on this year’s schedule.

0-10 Columbia hired former Penn HC Al Bagnoli who won or challenged for the Ivy League title over his long illustrious career. Can he turn things around for the beleaguered Lions, and quickly? Not this year, but we will keep an eye on him for as long as he’s there. How he will recruit there on par with other Ivy schools remains to be seen…Colgate has a tough three-game start- at Navy with senior QB Keenan Reynolds running the triple option; home against top-ranked New Hampshire; and home against Ivy league challenger Yale, 8-2 a year ago led by QB Morgan Roberts. Last season, the transfer from Clemson passed for 3,239 yards and 22 TDs…Youngstown State is now coached by former Nebraska HC Bo Pelini known for his consistent 9-4 records. His Penguins open at Pitt. Last season Pitt destroyed Delaware of the FCS in its opener, 62-0. In 2012, YSU beat Pitt, 31-17. Let’s see what Pelini’s intensity with his blue collar team has in store for Pitt in this season’s opener. Bo is probably looking to take out his frustrations on everybody this year. In the Missouri Valley, his team will play ND State and Illinois State. A tough road ahead, but can he upset things among the conferences elite?…No team in the FBS plays North Dakota State this season. The Bison are 4-0 in their last few games against the Big Boys…Possible FCS upsets this year as we see them: Northern Iowa over Iowa State; South Dakota State over Kansas; maybe Sam Houston State over Texas Tech. Former Delaware and Rowan HC K.C. Keeler is the SHSU leader now. His team went 11-5 a year ago. We wonder how many FBS transfers he has on the roster this season. We haven’t checked it out yet. By the way, Keeler was a starting LB for Delaware when we saw them play Rhode Island in the first game of our history in 1979…Gluttons who must need the money: UT Martin plays at Ole Miss and at Arkansas; West Carolina visits Tennessee and Texas A&M for big pay days. Must be good pay for a day guaranteed to let someone kick your butt. Maybe one, but why two? Are finances that tight to require spotting two games?…Two brand new FCS teams open against one another: East Tennessee State will host Kennesaw State of Georgia. ETSU left 1AA back in 2003…Maine who was a 41-10 loser to Boston College a year ago visits Chestnut Hill again in their opener, and will then try to rebound a week later at Tulane. They beat Mississippi State, 9-7, in 2004. Why not give the Green Wave a shot?

Senior QB Sean Goldrich returns to UNH to lead the Wildcats back into the FCS playoffs

Senior QB Sean Goldrich returns to UNH to lead the Wildcats back into the FCS playoffs


Steveo’s Salvos – July 1, 2015

Fearless forecasters? Everyone is picking Ohio State to repeat. Three QBs, a solid O-line with four returning starters, a solid defense with Joey Bosa returning at DE and Adolphus Thomas at DT, Ezekiel Elliot, Urban Meyer. Why not? Their last two games look to be their toughest – at home against pre-season Top Ten Michigan State and at arch-rival Michigan under new HC Jim Harbaugh. We’d like to say Penn State will be a serious challenge especially after a close loss last season with some shoddy officiating, but it always seems to be a different story when these two play at The Shoe. As we reported earlier, Athlon selected OSU to be Number in the final poll, and The Sporting News and Lindy’s followed suit. However, we think the latter two selected better final fours overall than did Athlon’s who selected two SEC rivals who end the season without one playing in the SEC Championship – Auburn vs. Alabama. That’s an elimination game right there. They also selected Baylor. TSN and Lindy’s favored TCU over Baylor in the Final Four, and we agree. Despite what Art Briles has done quickly to awaken the Baylor Bears’ program, Gary Patterson’s team returns Trevone Boykin at QB. The leading Heisman candidate has four returning linemen along with leading RBs and WRs from a season ago around him. And Patterson always has “killer’ defenses. The Horned Frogs are poised to take the Big Twelve title by beating Baylor. TSN selected Auburn and Lindy’s picked Alabama – we say maybe one of those, but definitely not both. Someone for the SEC is going, but maybe this year, it will be somebody else. Both publications did, however, select Oregon. With the loss of Marcus Mariota and some other key players, we just don’t envision them at this time dominating the PAC-12. Our choices will be revealed later this summer. We may even take an ACC squad into consideration, but it’s probably not one of the usual suspects you may be thinking about. We’ve still got our research ahead of us. We failed early last year when we picked South Carolina to be in the mix. We may be wrong, but we’ll make it interesting hoping to pick some upset specials. It gives us something to root for and not be jumping on the obvious band wagon, but the Buckeyes don’t look to be going anywhere but up if that’s possible. The bounce of a ball, a missed assignment, a dropped pass, a bad officiating call? You never know what one play can change a season…

We think Gary Patterson will lead his Horned Frogs to the Big Twelve title and into the CFP in 2015.

We think Gary Patterson will lead his Horned Frogs to the Big Twelve title and into the CFP in 2015.

Our goal is to always keep pace to be sure that we add any new FBS teams to our history. We’re still playing around a little bit with our schedule, but we will see the Charlotte 49ers one way or another – evenly matched game against last year’s newcomer Old Dominion, or possibly seeing them destroyed by Marshall who welcomed ODU into or fold last season with a totally dominant, 56-14, win. The game wasn’t even that close. We also find it interesting that we plan to see five games on our slate involving teams that for over 35 years, we are only seeing play for the second time. Last time we attended a Utah State game, they ventured all the way out east to visit UConn who had only entered D1A football play the previous year. On a cold, snowy day, the Aggies took a 38-10 lead behind the running of Emmitt White who led the nation in total yards coming into this game, and WR Kevin Curtis who would later play for the Philadelphia Eagles. Utah State held off a Husky comeback led by Frosh QB Dan Orlovsky, 38-31. This year on November 14, we will see USU visit the Air Force Academy during our first trip to Colorado Springs (499th game). State enters 2015 with a 19-2 record under third year HC Matt Wells. They will be relying on QB Chuck Keeton to help challenge Boise State for the Mountain West Championship… In 2003, we last saw Washington State open the season at Notre Dame. The Irish prevailed in OT, 29-26, as Les Di Vite and I sat right beneath the goal post looking up at Touchdown Jesus as Nick Setta’s winning score curved through the uprights. Cougar WR Sammy Moore made an acrobatic catch in the end zone in front of us to tie the score as regulation time expired. On September 12, we know WAZU will be throwing early and often under HC Mike Leach whom we’ve seen coach Texas Tech on several occasions. Leach will be breaking in Soph QB Luke Falk, who took over late last season for national passing leader Connor Halliday whose season ended with a broken leg, when the Cougars travel out to Rutgers to avenge last season’s 41-38 loss out in Seattle. The Cougs are trying to revamp their defense under new DC Alex Grinch brought in from Mizzou who’s had a tough D the last few years. We still think it will be a high-scoring affair for both teams in this one…On August 31, 2006 not only did we see San Diego State play for the first time, but we enjoyed the game with the Aztec’s all-time greatest fan, Tom Ables. At that time, Tom had been to 645 Aztec games since 1946, missing only two since he started going to school there after getting out of the Navy in 1946. We saw his ‘tecs fall behind the UTEP Miners that night at Qualcomm Stadium, 27-3, led by QB Jordan Palmer, brother of Heisman winner, Carson. However, SDSU climbed back into the game and trailed 34-27 with 1:59 left. Their onsides kick went out of bounds to kill their comeback. On September 26, Tom’s Aztec’s will be coming out to State College to play the Nittany Lions. RB Donnel Pumphrey will lead the charge for the Aztecs, and get this, Tom may be on the sideline rooting for him with his doctor’s ok. He’ll be 90 this year. In 2011, San Diego State honored Tom for attending his 700th Aztec game. He’s my idol and my mentor. I hope to see him up at Penn State, but I won’t be rooting along with him this time…

We're hoping to catch up in State College with San Diego State's No. 1 fan, Tom Ables, who has only missed two Aztec games since 1946!

We’re hoping to catch up in State College with San Diego State’s No. 1 fan, Tom Ables, who has only missed two Aztec games since 1946!

A week after meeting Tom, I was in Boulder, Colorado and I met another celebrity, Ralphie the Buffalo. Colorado Sports Information Director Dave Plati had read about my adventure and invited me to the Colorado vs Colorado State game at neutral Invesco Stadium noting I had seen neither team play. I had field passes and met Ralphie. I could have run on the field with her and her handlers, but I opted out figuring it was unfair to all the rue Buff fans there – regretfully. CSU led at the half, 14-10, and that was the way the game ended. On November 13, I will be at Cu’s Folsom Field for a Friday night game (my 498th) as a guest of Dave’s once again when the Buffs will host the heavily favored USC Trojans. The Trojans are favored to win the PAC-12 South in several polls, and the Buffs are picked last again though improving. The Buff’s O is potent and four PAC-12 losses last season were by four points or less. HC Mike McIntyre hired former South Florida HC Jim Leavitt as DC to shore up his D. It can only be better. We’re rooting for Ralphie’s boys. By the way, I found ou from Dave that because of liability reasons (of course), they no longer allow fans to run on the field with Ralphie. Her loss!…All the aforementioned games were competitive based on the final scores. The fifth team we will see for the second time will be the Western Michigan Broncos. Back on September 11, 2004, I added WMU as team number 90 as they were trounced by the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium, 63-0. To this date over 485 games, they are the biggest losers in history. The 63 points is the widest margin of victory, or defeat, we’ve ever witnessed. Our plan is to see them play on the Friday after Thanksgiving when they visit Toledo at the Glass Bowl, our first visit there. In a key MAC West game, WR Corey Davis and RB Jarvion Franklin are primed to lead the Broncos against Toledo led by RB Kareem Hunt playing for the division’s best offense. We think WMU will give us a much better showing than last time…We can’t wait for September!

We're coming,  Ralphie!  Beat the Trojans!

We’re coming, Ralphie!
Beat the Trojans!

Steveo’s Salvos – June 24

Check out our updated schedule.  Still tentative, but we’ve had to come up with some options that we like, and some decisions are still pending.  Personal plans made us commit to open at Delaware for their Friday night opener against Jacksonville, the exact opener we attended two season ago.  The Dolphins are Pioneer contenders and the Blue Hens haven’t been themselves as of late, so this could be a more interesting game as the Hens dominated early in 2013 for a 51-35 win. We get to see Penn State’s revamped Oline the next day against a decent Temple team. We’ve seen the Lions beat the Owls in seven meetings between the two. Expect to see PSU flex their post-sanction muscles in this one ( Hey James Franklin, this isn’t the SEC. Look for some better non-conference games you wimp!).   We gave up on Ohio State’s opener at VA Tech.  Tough ticket and taking Tuesday off to get home the next day will be tough. We’ll save ourselves for an OSU game late in the season if you know what I mean.  To round out our first 14 games to make our 500th fest occur on November 21 as planned, we added the Top Ten Spartans of Michigan State when they visit Rutgers for an 8 pm kick off for a night cap of our double-header on October 10 after attending Duke, who’s improved since last time we saw them and after David Cutcliffe took over HC duties there, visit Army on the banks of the Hudson for a noon kick off.  Our plans in Norfolk to add Charlotte as team 129 against Old Dominion may not be feasible as we’d hoped, but we’re looking into our bucket list “dream rivalry” when USC visits the Irish in South Bend.  Long shot, but we may have a few opportunities to get tix for this Top Twelve non-confenrce game of 2015. Surprise! Lindy’s lists the Irish in four such so-called games among 12 they’ve rated. In addition they have games at Clemson, vs.Texas, and vs. Georgia Tech.  Amazing – not one Big Ten team is on the Irish slate this year. When was the last time that ever happened?. Still keeping the Charlotte 49ers in the mix to become Team # 129, we may head down to the Queen City to see them host Marshall. We’d love to see The Herd’s RB Devon Johnson do what he did last year at Old Dominion…This is our Year of the Quarterback.  Among the top 15 rated in Lindy’s, we’ve already seen seven play last season. When we see Ohio State, there will be the opportunity to see Cardale Jones or Braxton Miller if J.T. Barrett is not playing. We saw him in action against Navy last year.  Speaking of Navy, Keenan Reynolds will be seen again adding to his 64 career TDs. We will see him against rivals Air Force and Army.  We will also see for the second year in a row, Conner Cook of Michigan State, Justin Thomas of Georgia Tech, and Christian Hackenberg of Penn State. Cody Kessler of USC is guaranteed to be seen when we watch him play against Colorado at Folsom Field on November 13. We saw Dak Prescott of Mississippi State and Josh Hobbs of Tennessee in bowl action at the end of last season.  If things go as the predictors forecast and we attend the CFP game in Miami Lakes as planned, we could add top QB Trevone Boykin of TCU to our list of top QBs this season. We’ll have to do a scouting report and tell Mel Kiper, Jr. what he’s missing…More to come!

Steveo’s Salvos – June 14, 2015

The pre-season publications have come out.   We’re reading up on what some of the top pundits are thinking, formalizing our own opinions, finalizing our schedule, and we’re just itching for September to get here despite the fact that summer hasn’t officially begun. We have a lot of planning ahead for our upcoming season. Not only for the celebration of our 500th game since we started this adventure back in 1979, but we’re starting to plan how to get to our games which will be some of the biggest games of the 2015 season. We have some budgetary and travel challenges ahead of us, but we’re balancing those with opportunities for some great action and key match-ups on the field which should have some influence on this year’s national championship. Just scheduling 15 games to make sure our November 21 date at West Point will be our 500th game is challenging enough (Rutgers at Army for some of our newest readers). We see lots of other opportunities for additional games we’d like to attend, but we’re maintaining our discipline to keep Game 500 “special”. Stay tuned with us during the summer as we analyze the teams on our slate, the games we’ll attend, which we see getting to the bowls we’ll attend, what our predictions will be for the College Football Playoffs, and updates about the teams we hope to see. Momentum is building, but we’re trying to pace ourselves to enjoy the summer before the best time of the year begins. St. Laurie just can’t understand it…Due to some late summer personal plans and that the two games in Nashville we’d like to see have not had game times announced yet, we have what looks to be a final if not yet partial plan for our opening weekend. It’s not as interesting as what we would like to do, but it works well for us under the circumstances that have come to light. On Friday night, September 4, we are going to attend for the second time in three years, the Jacksonville Dolphins at the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens, an FCS game. The Dolphins are favored to win the Pioneer Conference. Delaware, a perennial Colonial Athletic favorite, will be coming off a 5-6 record in 2014. We’ll be looking for some improvement in Newark. UD learned a lesson in its opener last year on the road at Pitt in a 62-0 loss. It didn’t serve them well. On Saturday, September 5, we will head up to Philly where an improved Penn State squad will visit an improving Temple program at “the Linc”. We’re very interested to see what improvements PSU made up front with personnel to protect Christian Hackenberg and to get a strong running attack going again. We’ll see the Lions at home twice later in the season – Rutgers and San Diego State…

Too bad we'll miss seeing Tennessee play in this year's opener as we had hoped..

Too bad we’ll miss seeing Tennessee play in this year’s opener as we had hoped.

Great news to for us. Alabama-Birmingham is coming back into the FBS fold in 2016. During their brief hiatus from college football, we didn’t know how to explain that we’re now targeting all 128 teams as we had already seen 128 teams at the end of 2014. Our next step forward looked like a step back. Now we’re on target again saying that the Charlotte 49ers will be added as our 129th FBS teams when we see them play…The first pub we picked up a week ago was the Athlon Sports preseason publication with pics of players from their Final Four selection on the cover. Our instantaneous reaction – Wrong! 1.Ohio State 2. Alabama 3. Baylor 4. Auburn. No way! We generally don’t agree with repeaters, but OSU makes that a very difficult argument. So we know they’re in our final Four, but we have to do some more work before saying, “No. 1”. Everyone seems to predict this. We just have to look at this a little harder in case everybody’s wrong. Alabama and Auburn?   So they both go undefeated until they meet on November 28th? Ok. The winner that day wins by a blocked extra point in the second OT. If that happens – ok. However, since that won’t happen, the loser goes home and sits around to watch the winner play the SEC East champion while several other conference finals are under way. Two teams from the same conference are a possibility, but two from the same division within a conference – no way. As for Baylor, we like TCU and HC Gary Patterson better to take the Big 12. We just picked up other pubs today. Somewhat similar, but better. We see a couple of other teams sneaking in that aren’t showing up this high on their radar screens, but they are on ours. As a matter of fact, two are teams we saw play late last season and we may even see this regular season. However, we’re still doing our research on all the information in the publications and some varying insight from ours…

Navy will bring its vaunted triple option to challenge for the American Athletic Conference Championship this season.

Navy will bring its vaunted triple option to challenge for the American Athletic Conference Championship this season.

Our bowl update: we considered several options based on as many teams possible, best games we could schedule based on timing and location, and the costs of logistics to get from one to another to another, etc. There were several options, but this we came up with the best dictated mostly by the last factor that guaranteed us we could get to each comfortably and least costly. We also want to enjoy and savor some of the time during our travels. On December 28, we will be at the Military Bowl in Annapolis in an ACC vs American Athletic conference match. Many predict the Naval Academy to host that bowl in their own Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. Don’t bank on that as the Mids will compete for the championship game in their first year in a conference. The next morning, we’ll head to Florida to attend the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando on the evening of December 29. We’ll see the ACC once again, but this time against a Big 12 foe. We don’t have any Big 12 games on our regular season schedule, so we look forward to a different team to add to this year’s plan late in our season. With no games in Florida on the 30th, we take advantage of travel time to Miami Lakes for our fourth Orange Bowl that will be one of this season’s CFP semi-final games. That game could start either 4 pm or 8 pm. In addition to this, we have to figure how we’re going to catch the other game to be played on TV one of those times that evening. Hopefully it will be televised on the big screens in the stadium before or after the one we’ll be attending. The next morning, we get up early and head up to a 12 noon start at the Citrus or the 1 pm kickoff at the Outback. Been to both and both will be Big Ten vs. SEC matchups. Depending on who plays (Penn State is top priority for us) we’ll figure which we went to attend before we have back to publish all our game reviews. We figure it should be easy to attend a New Year’s Day game with most of the country hung over from watching the two CFP semis the on New Year’s Eve…

If the Penn stae lines plays like it did against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl, we hope to see the Lions play on New Year's Day in 2016.

If the Penn State line plays like it did against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl, we hope to see the Lions play in a bowl on New Year’s Day in 2016.

SEC!SEC!? When it comes to coaching, nobody beats the Big Ten, and we’re not talking about who’s currently coaching in the Big Ten. Instead, look at who the top programs are hiring. And this isn’t a new trend. Think about where Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Bert Bielema all coached before they journeyed to SEC climes. Urban Meyer, Brain Kelly, Butch Jones, Gary Pinkel, and Bob Stoops weren’t Big Ten coaches, but they started coaching careers in Big Ten country. Marshall’s Doc Holliday has built a C-USA power since coming over from Ohio State. So take a look where some of the best and most desirable hired since last season have been cutting their teeth before being enticed to some very visible opportunities. Jim Harbaugh returns to beleaguered Michigan where he used to play QB finishing third in the Heisman balloting his senior season before a 15-year career in the pros. Gary Anderson just left Wisconsin after posting a 19-7 record with the Badgers over two years to jump over to the Oregon State program looking to move up in the PAC-12. Houston, looking to help make the American Athletic more prominent on the national scene, hired Tom Herman, offensive coordinator and QB coach from Ohio State, last year’s national champions. Pat Narduzzi who helped build Michigan State back into a Big Ten contender under Mike D’Antoni as defensive coordinator, takes over the reins at Pitt. Lance Leipold, who coached D-3 Wisconsin –Whitewater to six national championships in nine seasons, takes over a floundering Buffalo program in the MAC. He spent his early years at Wisconsin and Nebraska. This will be very interesting to watch. Paul Chryst returns to Wisconsin as HC after leaving Pitt where his teams recorded a mediocre 19-19 record. He had great success at UW as offensive coordinator from 2005-2011 where he probably still has some strong recruiting ties. Maybe this is where he belongs. A lot of programs have found coaches with Big Ten experience to be top leaders throughout college football. Their reputation provides opportunities for others evidently…UINLV selected local high school coach Tony Sanchez of Bishop Gorman High as it newest HC. Good luck to him, but Gerry Faust of the Moeller Steamroller and Todd Dodge of South Lake, Texas HS fame didn’t really enhance the reputation of successful high school coaches making the grade when they jumped up into the world of D-1 football to Notre Dame and North Texas respectively. We’ll see if Tony can turn that rep around. Some coaches at the High School levels seem to have recruiting advantages even more so than coaches in college. A lot still depends on what you can teach your players after you recruit them to this level. You better have some GREAT assistants surrounding you…People are asking what the best regular season game on our schedule this year will be. I am going to go with Florida State at Georgia Tech. Florida State will be reloading at several key positions. We wonder if Everett Golson will step in to take over for Jameis Winston. His return to ND didn’t work out as well as he planned as he shared quarterbacking duties with Malik Zaire. The Noles will be good, but Tech has an unselfish QB in Justin Thomas who is perfect for Paul Johnson’s triple option. He’s a running back who can throw the ball well when he has to. Plus he has good athletes surrounding him. This will be our first trip to Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Looking forward to it on October 24…With the possibility of seeing three ACC teams in Bowl this season, we could see a repeat team. We plan to see Duke, Florida State, and Georgia Tech play during the regular season. Maybe one more as we tie things down to finalize our schedule

We look forward to seeing Georgia Tech play for the third year in a row. Not only in the regular season, but maybe in another bowl game as well.

We look forward to seeing Georgia Tech play for the third year in a row. Not only in the regular season, but maybe in another bowl game as well.

…I’m doing a book signing at The Book Barn in Denville, NJ this Saturday before Father’s Day. The Book Barn whose proceeds from all their sales go to St. Clare’s Hospital right across the street, will offer buyers for every copy of Tales from the Tailgate sold, three books from their huge used book inventory for free. will make a donation to St. Clares’s based on the number of books we autograph and sell for this worthy fundraiser. Please come to the Book Barn in Denville, NJ if you’re in the area and buy a copy as a Father’s Day gift and take home some other books for yourself or somebody else at no charge!

Sprad the word and come to my book signing on Saturday, June 20, at the Book Barn in Denville, NJ. Buy Tales from the Tailgate as a gift and get three other used books for yourself for free!

Spread the word and come to my book signing on Saturday, June 20, at the Book Barn in Denville, NJ.

Steve-o’s Salvos – June 1, 2015

We are still anxiously waiting for game times to be announced for game openers scheduled the first weekend of this season. We are in a flux waiting to plan for two games in Nashville, Tennessee to get aligned so we can see both games conveniently (Bowling Green opens against UT at LP Stadium and Vanderbilt hosts Western Kentucky). The next question is if we want to work in a Thursday night game on Sept. 3 to kick things off. Possibly, we are considering to get down to Charlotte to see North Carolina play South Carolina. Not sure if we want to go that way though.   We would have to take two vacation days off from work instead of one. Or if we can wait for our Nashville games to align in order to attend both, we could start our season with these and then work our way over to Blacksburg, VA to see Virginia Tech host Ohio State. It will be a revenge game for OSU as they start to defend their national championship against the only team they lost to a year ago, and the big question we are waiting to see answered is who will start at QB for the Buckeyes. Either scenario would be great way to kick off our season. However, with our 500th game intact to be celebrated on November 21 when Army hosts Rutgers at West Point with two busloads of friends and fans joining us, we have to pick and choose our games carefully to be sure we will be “officially” attending our 500th that day. We’re even developing back-up plans for our back-up plans which could mean seeing East Stroudsburg host LIU-CW post in a D2 game on Thursday night and Penn State at Temple on Saturday. Not as stimulating as far as far as we’re concerned, but more economical at least. Then we could possibly see Rutgers host Michigan State on October 10 at 8 pm to assure our November 21 goal. We would see the Knights host the Spartans after seeing Army host Duke about 60 miles north at noon that same day. We’ve got our options. We just need to know definite starting times… Despite all these factors being considered to start the season to assure our 500th game is our 500th, after that, we are wide open! As a matter of fact, our bowl line-up could not have aligned better if we were planning the TV bowl schedule ourselves. Saturday, December 26 is the New Era Pin Stripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium. The closest venue to home may be our toughest to get to as it conflicts with a family Christmas tradition. If it’s scheduled to be played at night, that’s the best that could happen for me. After that, we just move down the eastern seaboard. On Monday, the Military Bowl returns to Annapolis for the third straight year. Tuesday, from there we head to Charlotte for the Belk Bowl, our first. For our Wednesday plan, we have to look for some cheap airfares to Nashville for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, our third in a row. We love Nashville! Then we’re flying to Florida for the center piece of our bowl adventure. The Discover Orange Bowl, a College Football Playoff semi, will be played on New Year’s Eve. After that, we’ll play it by ear on New Year’s Day – Citrus or Outback. Maybe we’ll return to the Tax Slayer. We’ll see who goes to those games but also figure we have to fly to Charlotte for the ten-hour ride back home. Even if this doesn’t all work out, it’s nice to dream. It’s going to be great season for once again. Baseball, beach, parties, vacation, the pool, etc. all lie ahead of us this summer, but the itch is already starting for September 2015. We hope they figure the start times for those two games in Nashville on September 5. The anticipation is killing us…We decided to forgo Rutgers at Wisconsin this year. We want to get to Camp Randall eventually, but we’re thinking Florida State at Georgia Tech on October 24 instead. First time to Bobby Dodd Stadium and it should be a good game…Speaking of Florida state, we may see former Notre Dame QB Everett Golson play. We saw him versus Bama, in the ’13 National Championship 42-14 blow-out to Alabama, and we saw him play sparingly in last year’s Music City in the win over LSU. His transfer to FSU as a gradaute student has triggered all kinds of tiffs and uproars throughout college football. The SEC has a tougher rule for graduate transfers than it does for undergrad transfers? That makes no sense. Especially when the grad student has proven he can do college work by earning a degree. In Golson’s case, his suspension by ND due to academic: “inequities” could be considered dubious, but in the end he was reinstated by the school to play after sitting out a year. Bama Coach Nick Saban seemed a little ticked as he couldn’t wrangle him in due to some SEC standards and Golson became a Seminole. So Saban is crying about the differences when regarding eligibility among conferences. We agree there shouldn’t be differences and the weak NCAA needs to pull rules together for all members. However, Saban has no right cry about unfairness in accepting transfers when he brazenly recruited former Georgia LB Jonathan Taylor who was released from the other SEC school for domestic violence charges. Saban hid behind his “charitable” excuse that the player deserved a second chance. Well Taylor took advantage of it alright and committed the same crime (though the victim recanted and charges were dropped) and he was subsequently released from Alabama. Here’s where we say let the pros offer first-time violators the second chance. Let them do their supposedly in-depth investigations and handle the problem. Pro football is probably the only reason the kid went to college any way. If he can’t abide by the law at this stage of his life, move on and see if an employer (like any other industry) is willing to take a chance on bad social behavior…The cost of big-time football is evident about the pressures these coaches are under to win and nothing else. Rutgers made the move to the Big Ten a year ago. Kyle Floyd enters his third year at RU as HC and recently released his sixth player from the program due to non-academic violations. This past week Starting CB Darian Dailey was arrested in Florida and charged for armed robbery with a firearm. I don’t know if a background check would have proven anything otherwise before he was recruited, but I believe the NCAA should do criminal background check and long with academic checks more stringently, and come up with a pool of players that all teams can choose from. If a player can’t meet the standards, let the pros draft those considered not eligible for college football. Let the pros invest the money not only developing these people as players but as model citizens if they think they’re worth the investment. At least give Flood credit for taking a stand to release a trouble maker off the team. This kid blew a lifetime of opportunity to split $20 with an accomplice stolen from a kid riding a bike on the way back from a part-time job. Not too bright for somebody accepted to college. He could be in jail for a very long time…Free agency for the pros is basically a crap shoot to see if some non-drafted players can show what they’ve got during the preseason before exhibition season starts, but more and more, we see it as a way to put some tackling dummies on the field. For instance, we went to the Old Dominion – Marshall game last season with great anticipation to see ODU QB Taylor Heinecke show us what he had, and the result was very disappointing. First off, Marshall overwhelmed the Monarchs, 56-14. It was over in the first period as The Herd raced off to a 28-0 lead before it ended. However, it was highly evident that the ODU “star” QB didn’t have it for this level no less the NFL. His mechanics were poor. He didn’t have the rifle arm as we had perceived from the press clippings. Heinecke threw more like a shot putter for easy pickings. So we were amazed when we read recently that he was signed as a free agent by the Vikings. Of course, maybe it was the only game we saw and the Vikings could believe something similar, and based on his stats, are willing to give him a chance. However, I think the reality is that the Vikes need a QB for the defenses to hone their skills against without risking injury to their more promising QBs before the real games start. From what we saw, Heinecke had nothing to offer at the pro level. We can’t figure what the pros think when they make their personnel selections, but in this case, it’s for a case of an old expression called “cannon fodder” – supplying an excess for something needed at the lowest cost…On the other hand, the starting QB that day for Marshall was Senior Rakeem Cato. As a starter for four years at Marshall, he threw for 14,709 yards and 139 touchdowns. He won the ConferenceUSA MVP Award his sophomore year. We saw him win the MVP Award in the 2013 Military Bowl in a win over Maryland. During his senior season past, he set the NCAA record throwing for a TD pass in 39 consecutive games surpassing the college record set by current Seattle Seahawk QB Russell Wilson. He did this while leading the Herd to a 14-1 mark, though the competition was questionable (same conference ODU is in). Despite his statistical credentials and rifle arm, weighing in at only 6-0, 188 lbs. (maybe), he was not even invited to attend the NFL combines at Indianapolis this past spring and went undrafted. He turned down an invitation to the Brown’s training camp (What’s with Johnny Manziel?) and on May 16, signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Something tells me that we’re going to hear more about Cato in the future. We’ll be keeping an eye on him…During the SEC conferences this month, South Carolina reports four starters return on offense and eight on defense. That’s pretty bad for the Old Ball coach Spurrier. QB Dylan Thompson is gone along with RB Mike Davis, TE “Busta” Anderson, and OG A.J Cann, the last three going to the pros. As for eight returning defensive starters, they couldn’t tackle or defend against the pass last year. He may be starting from scratch on offense, but he’ll be digging himself out of a hole on defense. Fans thought he had a bad 7-6 season last year (he did)? The OBC could be on the short side of a winning season in 2016…Navy, of all programs, had two Mids chosen by NFL teams this past spring. DE Paul Quessenberry was signed as a free agent by the Houston Texans to challenge 2014 No. 1 draft pick Jadaveon Clowney. Go Navy! As a two-year starter for the Mids, he totaled 80 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, and three sacks. His brother, David, was a sixth-round draft pick out of San Jose State in 2013 by the Texans. He was diagnosed with lymphoma and missed last season, but on Feb. 15, he announced that is cancer was in remission. Good luck to both brothers with Houston. More amazing, Navy long snapper Joe Cardona was selected by the World Champion New England Patriots in the fifth round. It will be interesting to see if either player makes the roster and how they will balance this with service to the Navy. Hey Joe! Let us know if those balls have enough air. Oh never mind, those are for the kickers…Speaking of NFL players from military academies, former Army player, Alejandro Villanueva, who played various positions along the Army front over five years ago and stood out like a sore thumb at 6-9, 277 lbs., is now listed on the Pittsburgh Steeler roster at offensive tackle. Captain Villanueva served his military obligation in the Army and may now be battling in the trenches of the NFL. He’s big no doubt, but can he block effectively at that height?..Some other players of note we’ve seen play college ball the last four years who were selected in the NFL draft whose progress we are interested in watching include FB Mike Burton of Rutgers (West Morris (NJ) Central HS) who was drafted by the Lions; TE Nick Boyle of Delaware (High Point (NJ) Regional) landed with the Ravens; RB Cameron Artis-Payne of Auburn tore up South Carolina with 167 yards and a TD when we saw the Tigers beat the Gamecocks, 35-28, made it to the Panthers; Ohio State DT Michael Bennett whose stock seemed to decline before the draft went to the Jags. No problem. He’ll make an impact; TE Nick O’Leary from Florida State ended up with Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills (Is he moving to play defense?); FB Joey Iosefa of Hawaii was fun to watch against Navy two years ago, but for Tampa now behind that line? Not so much fun; Marshall CB Darryl Roberts picked off an ODU pass when we saw him play this year. Is he taking over for Darrell Revis who left New England? reported that the reason for a 2.3% decline in overall college football attendance was due to the quality of HDTV that keeps more people home watching games. Maybe if ESPN stopped showing so many commercials during all their broadcasts, the games being played in the stadiums would be a lot more fun to watch for the real fans in attendance. As we’ve said the last few years, ther are too many TV time-outs and every one of them is way too long. ESPN (and CBSTV) takes lot of the fun and excitement away from attending a college football game because of the dead time they create at a college football game.

Steve-o’s Salvos – May 18, 2015

More on the draft and a few notes…

  1. #67 OG A.J. Cann, South Carolina to Jaguars. Over two seasons, we watched South Carolina’s offense move the ball behind QB Connor Shaw, tough and versatile, and Dylan Thompson, mostly a drop-back passer. Both offenses could move the ball and A.J. Cann was right up front making them move successfully in both styles. He should be playing at the pro level for a few years.
  2. #85 TE Tyler Kroft, Rutgers to Bengals. Aside from meeting Tyler’s Mom in the parking lot at Yankee Stadium at the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State, I don’t remember much about him playing during the five games we saw RU play when he was on the roster. If he’s an effective blocker, he could be critical for the Bengals needs. If not, we don’t see him playing too long. He doesn’t seem to add a lot to the Cincy passing game.
  3. #106 RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan State to Bears. Langford tore up Penn State in the Spartans’ 34-10 victory at State College late in the season. PSU defense was put into poor field position by its offense on several occasions. Langford cashed in with two TDs in workmanlike fashion gaining 122 yards on 30 carries. He has drive and stamina that makes him tough in short yardage situations despite standing in at 6-1, 208 lbs. He could be a situational player for the pros.
  4. #126 RB Mike Davis, South Carolina to 49ers. Davis steps in for former Gamecock Marcus Lattimore whose pro career never got going due to devastating knee injuries his junior year at South Carolina. Before that, we thought he was one of the best college RBs we’d ever seen. Too bad. Davis stepped in to take his place. He was good in several games, but never seemed to be a key cog in the offense except for this year’s game against Mizzou when he gained 104 yards on 22 carries and scored a TD. He’ll be a spot player most likely at the pro level. RBs seem to come and go now quicker than ever.
  5. #132 WR DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech to the 49ers. He didn’t play in the Orange Bowl we attended due to a knee injury, but you wonder what the pros see when they draft a WR from a triple-option offense. Interesting. It can help Paul Johnson’s recruiting efforts for receivers as it gives his recruits a glimmer of hope to get noticed. Despite the run oriented offense, the 6-3 222-lb Smelter was the go to guy before the injury. He caught seven TDS and averaged 20 yards per catch. With his size and skill, it sounds like he could be a good pro if he overcomes the ACL injury.
  6. #138 RB David Cobb, Minnesota to Titans. He averaged 128 yards per game during the season and scored 13 TDS for the Gophers, but we saw him get gobbled up by a tough Mizzou front seven in the BWW Citrus Bowl and held to 81 yards in their loss. With the focus off him in a Titan offense to be led by Marcus Mariota if he can remain healthy, he may become a key player that Tennessee can use in its offense.

Navy DE Paul Quessenberry was signed as a free agent by the Texans. Of course, they have to figure how he can play with his military obligation, but is HC Bill O’Brien sending a strong message to last year’s first choice Jadaveon Clowney? Play with some heart because I’m going to find somebody that will play DE opposite as tough as JJ Watt if you can’t…I see that the Tennessee vs Bowling Green game start time is back to a TBA status. I guess someone realizef a 4 pm start at LP Stadium was detrimental to the Vanderbilt opener across town against Western Kentucky scheduled the same day. Hopefully they will work out two convenient kickoffs so that I can go see two games in Nashville on September 5 to open my season. A third game may be seen some other day on that Labor Day weekend…ESPN reports average college attendance was down 2.3% to an average of 44,603 per game and attribute it to high quality HDTV to watch. Bull! Two primary reasons: 1.) watered-down schedules in non-conference games. Not only are sales down, but many stadiums empty now by half time and who can blame the home fans for not sitting through one-sided blow-outs? People are tired of wasting their money. There’s more fun out in the parking lots; and 2) TV does have an effect, but it’s not positive. It’s getting harder and harder to enjoy a game in person with not only too many TV time-outs, but very long TV time-outs. It takes away the flow and ferocity of a football game…Three new bowl games: everybody gets a trophy. Might as well let every team play in a “Consolation” game. Watch whatever game you want. It’s gotta be better than all the other crap on TV…SEC’s version of Power Five competition – Notre Dame – definitely; BYU – OK; Army – are you kidding me? Why are conferences making this call arbitrarily? Another weakness of NCAA leadership. What’s the sense of its existence in college football? They don’t control anything…In a few weeks out, the preseason pubs will be out with predictions and bowl schedules. Can’t wait to laugh at their obvious predictions and looking forward to planning our bowl schedule.

Steve-o’s Salvos – May 10, 2015

Over the course of that last two years, I’ve gotten to attend games played by about 40 different FBS programs and more at the lower levels. I’m amazed at how many players from teams whose games I attended were drafted over the course of three days. When I watched the first few rounds, I’d seen players that vividly stood out, and others who may not have made a lasting impression. Sometimes there are players that don’t seem to be on anyone’s radar screen, and when their name comes up, I think – bam! I saw that guy ( example from a few years ago -QB Colin Kaepernick for Nevada who I saw play as a frosh). It’s another fun aspect of college football. Some college players will be sure- fire stars and even make the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday (i.e.,  I watched Soph Syracuse RB Art Monk play in 1979 in two games and he eventually made the Pro HOF as a long-time WR with the Washington Redskins). You never know who you’ll see who’s going to become a household name, and in some instances, you may have seen one of the biggest busts perform at the collegiate level who is not going to have the right talent, desire, skill, luck, or system to make it in the NFL. Sometimes you see that coming (i.e. Washington QB Jake Locker, and I still say DE Jadaveon Clowney of South Carolina).

Here are my notes, comments, impressions, observations, and predictions regarding players drafted during the first and second rounds by the NFL in 2015 that I’ve seen play over the last two seasons. For what they’re worth, you decide. I’m only interested in seeing if my impressions based on performances I see on the field are accurate. Granted, I’m “only” a fan and not an expert like the draft soothsayers who have something to say about everybody. I guess they watch a lot of film and talk to a lot of people. However,  when I see guys play in person as opposed to listening to all the hype and spin put out by the media, I think I can come away with a more unfettered impression. I think our society has become overwhelmed with “analysis paralysis” in just about everything. I like to simplify things. Here goes nothing:

Jameis Winston withstood the light pressure he faced when we saw him play against Syracuse, but it was much different story against Oregon  in the national semi-final.

Jameis Winston withstood the light pressure he faced when we saw him play against Syracuse, but it was much different story against Oregon in the national semi-final.

  1. #1 pick QB Jameis Winston, Florida State to Tampa Bay. I saw him complete 30 of 37 passes for 317 yards and 3 TDs in the Noles win over Syracuse this season. He played behind a solid offensive line at FSU, but when that protection crumbled against Oregon in the national semi-finals, Jameis showed he couldn’t take the heat on the field or along the sideline as his antics with HC Jimbo Fisher showed he lacked composure under pressure, something he saw little of all season. At Tampa, who’s going to block for him? Will he see more pressure than he did in college? You bet he will. Will he mature and learn to lead under such pressure? I think this will be a big obstacle for him. His “me-first” attitude will have him point the blame at his teammates. He will be off to a rocky start if they start him this season, and it will take a few years to mature at least. If he can’t, he will have a short career or a non-stellar one.
  2. #5 pick OG Bandon Scherf, Iowa to Washington. I watched Iowa humiliated by a very quick defense of Tennessee in the final game of my season, the Taxslayer Bowl. UT was quicker than Iowa on both sides of the ball, and all season long the Vols were a mediocre team. As for Scherf, I couldn’t tell much as the entire Hawkeye O-line seemed persona non-grata until late in the game when Butch Jones took his first-teamer Vols out and Iowa made the final score respectable. Scherf had a great rep coming in, but moving him from tackle to guard might be the right adjustment for him in the pros.

    Scherf (#68) finished the only TD against Tennessee's first team defense in the TaxSlayer Bowl like this.

    Scherf (#68) finished the only TD against Tennessee’s first team defense in the TaxSlayer Bowl like this.

  3. #11 pick CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State to Minnesota. I was impressed by State’s defensive pass coverage and Waynes’ covered well and made some nice plays in a dominant Spartan victory over Penn State this season. He stopped an early Penn State drive to keep the Lions at bay with an INT off a deflection in the end zone. I think he will be a great cover CB for the Vikings.
  4. #23 pick DE Shane Ray, Missouri to Denver. Was it some kind of coincidence that Ray gets arrested for possession of marijuana, and the state of Colorado, where he is now destined to play, has legalized marijuana? Did he intend to use the small quantity he possessed for himself, or did he have it with intent to distribute? If the first, he may have a safe haven depending on the NFL’s view, on the other, he’ll have problem if he does the latter beyond Colorado’s borders. That’s Denver’s problem now and they better fix it in a hurry or they’ve wasted a draft pick. We saw him play well at South Carolina, and he was adequate against Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl, where the Golden Gophers plan to avoid him backfired. I think the Broncos will get him past this incident and he will be productive for them for years to come
  5. #34 pick OT Donovan Smith, Penn State to Tampa Bay. This was the blocking help the Bucs found for Winston? PSU had the worst blocking line in college football this past season. Smith didn’t show much if any leadership, and the input about him is that he didn’t put out on every play or in practice or in the weight room. The PSU line was like a sieve that saw QB Christian Hackenburg running for his life most of the season. The running game was the most ineffective ever in Happy Valley. Penn State is probably glad Smith’s gone and can replace him with someone who will at least put out on every play to block for Hackenburg and help get the Lion offense back into gear. Smith won’t last long in the pros. No motor. Wasted pick. Hey Jameis, if he’s one of your tackles, get ready to duck, or run for your life!

    This was pretty typical of PSU's pass protection all of last season.  I'm not sure it that's Smith on the ground or if he was even in against Michigan State.

    This was pretty typical of PSU’s pass protection all of last season. I’m not sure if that’s Smith on the ground or if he was even in against Michigan State.

  6. #37 pick WR Devin Smith, Ohio State to NY Jets. We saw Smith break for a long 80-yard catch and run pass from frosh QB T.J. Barrett to give the Buckeyes a 20-14 lead over Navy before the fourth period in their way to an opening win on their way to the national championship. Smith has a penchant for getting free and beating the coverage. He had big plays against good coverage in the CFPs. The coverage will be tighter in the pros, but we think he will be just as effective as a go-to man. In the case of the Jets, however, they still have to figure who will be able to get the ball to him. This could mean a slow start for his pro career, but if he doesn’t make it here, someone else will get the value from him that he can provide.
  7. #55 pick TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota to Baltimore. Great pick. Saw an effective blocker and saw him break a tackle and hurdle a would-be tackler on one play in the open field against Missouri in the Citrus Bowl for a long TD run after the catch. Very athletic, fast in the open field and a good blocker. Strong and tough.

    Maxx Williams took out a Mizzou defender on this run off a fake punt in the Citrus Bowl.

    Maxx Williams leveled out a Mizzou defender on this run off a fake punt in the Citrus Bowl.

  8. #58 pick DE Markus Golden, Missouri to Phoenix. Minnesota’s game plan to stay away from DE Shane Ray in the Citrus Bowl fizzled as his counterpart on the other end shined to win game MVP honors. Golden tallied ten tackles including 1.5 sacks, four tackles for losses, and he forced a fumble. He’s a tough, hard-nosed DE who won’t back down. At 6-3, 260 lbs., he will bring some pressure for the Cardinals and close runners down coming his way.

    Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, MVP DE Markus Golden, and WR Bud Sasser  spoke at the post-game press conference. Golden was drafted by the Cardinals and Sasser got drafted later by the Rams

    Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, MVP DE Markus Golden, and WR Bud Sasser spoke at the post-game press conference. Golden was drafted by the Cardinals and Sasser got drafted later by the Rams

Look for more draft input on the ensuing rounds from in our next Salvo.