Hey UCF and other G5 Teams with Playoff Aspirations: Play Each Other!

2016-UCF Fans takeover FIU_2
UCF fans, shown here in 2016,  travel well, even for lower-tier G5 games against FIU.

Ever since the first College Football Playoff poll was released during the 2017 season, Tuesday nights have had a pattern of apprehension followed by outbursts of anger and frustration by the fan base of the UCF Knights. The Black and Gold have been ranked 18, 18, 15, 15, and 14, respectively, despite owning an undefeated record that only grows more impressive by the week as the other teams sporting perfect records continue to fall.  Still, the College Football Playoff Committee remains unimpressed.  The widespread perception that schools in the Power 5 conferences are just better than schools in the Group of 5 conferences remains stronger than ever.  While it can be debated that the gap between P5 and G5 schools is overblown, not even this UCF homer can defend the strength of schedule argument, especially when it comes to non-conference games for the Knights.  Fair or not, Hurricane Irma did a number on this with the washout of the Georgia Tech game.  Even if UCF has that game on the schedule and wins it, the Knights may only be 13 or 12 in the CFP at this stage.  As for the rest of the schedule,  FIU outperformed what they were supposed to do and it’s not necessarily UCF’s fault that Maryland stunk this year.  The makeup game with Austin Peay was a necessary evil and at least made the Knights some money while padding another win.

So herein lies the problem for G5 schools like UCF, Memphis, Boise State, BYU, and others with aspirations of playing in the CFP: they’re told to play better teams but most legitimate P5 schools don’t want to play them.  There is too much for an Auburn or Clemson to lose at the end of the day and not enough to gain unless they know for certain that UCF is projected to be a consistent resident in the Top 25 .  Looking at the history with Boise State, they really only started getting to play the big dogs during the regular season when they were a perennial top 10 team. An athletic director like UCF’s Danny White should be more open to one-and-done road games against P5 programs so that the Knights have more opportunities to prove themselves; however, I understand his dilemma of wanting to also create revenue for his football program with another home game on the slate.

This brings us to my ultimate suggestion: the top G5 schools needs to start playing each other annually!  G5 schools that want more respect cannot afford to keep scheduling FCS programs.  It’s more or less a wasted game on the schedule as the attendance of those games is usually poor and a win over a team like Austin Peay or South Carolina State does next to nothing to impress the people who vote on this stuff.  Win or lose, college football is an entertainment business.  Therefore, stop scheduling cupcakes and start doing what is within your control.  The following are 8 programs that Danny White should seriously consider replacing FCS and lower-tier FBS schools with in order to improve both attendance and strength of schedule:

Boise State: Who wouldn’t want a home-and-home with the former Cinderella darlings of college football?  Many amongst UCF Nation would make the trip to Idaho for a chance to see UCFast run around on the Smurf Turf.  This would also be a good measuring stick game of “are we truly the best G5 school or not?”

Air Force: UCF fans ate up the trip to Navy this season as it was their first road game against a service academy in school history. The Falcons feature a triple-option attack and are usually pretty good as evidenced by their 11 bowl appearances since the turn of the century.  Now, if UCF is going to play Air Force, they ought to go ahead and schedule a future series with…

Army: A joke on the football field for many years, the Black Knights are going bowling for the second consecutive season.  As well as being a solid non-conference opponent, you better believe this would be one of the better attended games by opposing fans.

BYU: The Knights drew 41,547 while hosting the Cougars in 2014 during a midweek overtime thriller (UCF won 31-24).  While down this season, the Cougars usually field a formidable program and are regularly mentioned in Big 12 expansion talks.  A road trip to Provo would be an experience as well for those that didn’t get to do so in 2012.

Fresno State: UCF just doesn’t typically make trips to California, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t start doing so.  Much like the Knights, the Broncos have completed an amazing turnaround, going from 1-11 in 2016 to 9-3 with a chance to knock Boise State back to back weeks to win the Mountain West Conference.

San Diego State: Speaking of California, the Aztecs were 10-2 in 2017 with wins over Arizona State and Stanford.   They have won 10 games or more 3 years in a row.  Much like UCF, their fanbase would love to garner more respect.  This year especially, I’m sure they would love to have had played the Knights instead of a meaningless home opener against UC Davis. Aside from the opponent, a trip to San Diego would be cool for Knights fans (everyone says it’s the nicest trip to make in California) and a trip to Orlando would have a similar impact for the Aztecs.

Toledo: Nine wins or more for 4 years and counting, the Rockets would a fun non-conference opponent to play so long as the Knights remain a high-scoring program.  I know, the thought of playing a MAC team might not appeal to many, but I think we’d all rather play Toledo than Austin Peay.

UNLV: Road trip to Vegas. Enough said!

By no means does playing another quality G5 school solve the CFP problem, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.  Ultimately, if schools like UCF, San Diego State, and Boise State aren’t going to get in, we need to be entertained.  Isn’t that part of what we’re protesting for anyways when it comes to the CFP?  We want to see our team play the best of the best.  If we can’t schedule Georgia or Alabama unless we’re lucky enough to play them in a bowl game, let’s at least have better games on our regular season non-conference slates to keep things exciting.  Who knows, two great Group of 5 teams squaring off might turn out to be the game of the year in 2018.  It certainly already turned out that way in 2017 and the ratings backed it up.

Stud and Scrub of the Week

NFL
There were a lot of scrubs at Raymond James Stadium this weekend.

Greetings No Scrubs Allowed faithful!  Travis is in the midst of a move and was not able to record this weekend, but we did not leave you without sports content, so we’re going back to our old roots with a written form of our longest running segment, the Stud and Scrub of the Week!

We start in the city of Tampa, located in West Florida for those that are directionally challenged. Ironically enough, that is where the University of South Florida plays.  The USF Cows…I mean Bulls…were predicted to lose to at home to Houston by yours truly on last week’s podcast as one of my upset picks. Well, the Green and Yellow Heifers did not disappoint, getting beaten in last minute fashion in front of the half empty Raymond James Stadium by the Cougars to ruin their perfect season.  If there is any solace for USF fans, it is that they were out done on Sunday by Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Playing in the same stadium but with double the fans, Winston laid an absolute egg in a game the Bucs had to win to have any fighting chance of getting back into the playoff race.  Instead, he led Tampa Bay to a 17-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers.  Jameis finished 21 of 38 for 210 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble lost.  Altogether, that gave the 3rd year signal caller a pathetic QBR of 7.4 for the day.  This is the icing on the cake of an extremely disappointing campaign for Winston and the Bucs. One has to wonder if he will ever be the guy to lead the Bucs back to relevance.  What we don’t have to guess any longer is his current status: Scrub of the Week.

Our focus now turns to the NBA hardwood where a longtime All Star had what might have been his best week in the pros both in the winning column and in responding to the circumstances he was facing.  C/PF DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans took his game to another level.  His first game of the week on Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers was great statically despite the Pelicans dropping the contest 103-93; Cousins shot 12 of 23 from the field, knocked down 12 of 17 free throws to finish with 39 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Now, if the narrative ended here, it would seem silly talking about Cousins; after all, the Pelicans lost. However, what he did next was nothing short of extraordinary. Traveling back to Sacramento for the first time since last year’s trade, Cousins put up a ridiculous line of 41 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block, 1 steal as the Pelicans knocked off the Kings 114-106. It is never easy to go back to your old home and dominate like that; it requires harnessing your emotions and focus into the game.  If that wasn’t impressive enough, Cousins turned around two nights later and dropped 29 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 steals on LeBron James and Co., leading New Orleans to a 123-101 victory over Cleveland.  With Halloween tomorrow, perhaps it’s only appropriate that the man who goes by ‘Boogie’ would play the best basketball of his career against “the King” and the Kings of Sacramento.  So without further adieu, congratulations to DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins on winning Stud of the Week.  As Travis would agree, it’s time for Boogie to play at this stud level year round; he has too much talent not to.

NFL Over/Under Predictions

Heinz Field
Are sunny days ahead for the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers?

Below are our annual NFL Over/Under Win Total Predictions. Each prediction is based upon the Win Total Lines as featured on Forbes.com on Monday, September 4, 2017. Enjoy looking through the picks and please give us feedback!

Team Projected Wins Travis Eddie
ARIZONA CARDINALS 8.5  Over  Under
ATLANTA FALCONS 9.5  Under  Under
BALTIMORE RAVENS 8.5  Under  Under
BUFFALO BILLS 6.5  Under  Under
CAROLINA PANTHERS 9  Under  Under
CHICAGO BEARS 5.5  Under  Under
CINCINNATI BENGALS 8.5  Under  Over
CLEVELAND BROWNS 4.5  Over  Under
DALLAS COWBOYS 9.5  Under  Over
DENVER BRONCOS 8.5  Over  Under
DETROIT LIONS 7.5  Under  Over
GREEN BAY PACKERS 10.5  Over Over
HOUSTON TEXANS 8.5  Under  Over
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 8  Under  Under
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 6.5  Under  Under
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 9  Under  Over
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS 7.5  Over  Under
LOS ANGELES RAMS 5.5  Under  Over
MIAMI DOLPHINS 7.5  Under  Over
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 8.5  Under  Under
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 12.5  Under  Over
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 8  Under  Over
NEW YORK GIANTS 9  Under  Over
NEW YORK JETS 4  Over  Under
OAKLAND RAIDERS 9.5  Under  Over
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 8.5  Under  Under
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 10.5  Under  Over
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 4.5  Over  Under
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 10.5  Under  Over
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 8.5  Over  Over
TENNESSEE TITANS 8.5  Over  Over
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 7.5  Under  Under

Eddie-torial: Baseball & the unlikely HOF paths of Warner, Davis

Running off the keyboard…

While he has hit 4 more home runs, Yankees’ stud RF Aaron Judge has been a disappointment since the All Star Break. The rookie slugger has seen his batting average drop from .329 to .299 entering Thursday night, with no multi-hit games since July 18. While the Bronx Bombers did very well at the trade deadline, they will need Judge to return to MVP form if they are to hold off the Red Sox in the NL East…. Most teams with a chance to make a push at the division do well when facing 3 of the worst teams in the National League. The Pittsburgh Pirates are not most teams. No good moves at the deadline, yet another wasted year of the Andrew McCutchen era. Chances are, Cutch will have to get a shot at a World Series ring somewhere else. You are more likely to get struck by lightning than for owner Bob Nutting to increase the payroll….Don’t look now, but entering Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs are 14-4 since the All Star break and look primed to run away from the Brewers. It’s amazing what a championship can do to change our perception of this run: the Cubbies will be the scariest team come the postseason!….Casual baseball fan: who leads the AL and NL in batting average? If you guessed Jose Altuve of the Astros and Justin Turner of the Dodgers, I would be very surprised. Yes, Altuve has been a stud for a while, but he often gets lost playing in Houston by the national media; Turner is more surprising as he only has had great success in limit action, hitting .340 in just 288 at-bats in 2014, but no better than .295 in seasons with at least 385 at-bats. Not shocking is that both guys have their teams on top of their respective leagues….Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis are two of the most unlikely Pro Football Hall of Famers we have ever seen. We all know Warner’s story: from grocery store clerk to Arena Football to Super Bowl MVP. The orchestrator of the Greatest Show on Turf only had 6 good years, but boy, were they GOOD years or what? One has to wonder what Kurt’s numbers would look like if he played his prime in today’s era. As for Davis, he only played 4 fully healthy years before injuries destroyed his career; however, that 4-year stretch was arguably as impressive as any running back in NFL history. Consider also that a 2,000 yard season was part of it and that Davis was the focal point on offense for a back-to-back Super Bowl champion and you have the criteria for what gets a running back with a short resume into the Hall. Congrats to both deserving men on the highest honor in pro football!