Today, our intrepid staff picks week three of the Big 12 schedule, but really only one game is anything other than a sure bet. We also finally have Bracket's picks, and Pervis has also joined the party.
This means we are required to inform you that Texas Tech is no longer a unanimous pick to beat Sam Houston State in week one, because Pervis is contrary and honestly I wonder if he was just making sure I was paying attention. As far as week two, our new picker-people agreed with the majority across the board with one exception: Bracket's got Tennessee over the Sooners, making that game 8-3 in Oklahoma's favor. And with the dust settled, Iowa has a 7-4 lead on Iowa State.
With all that out of the way, here's week three:
Louisiana Tech at KANSAS STATE (2pm, FSN regional)
Texas-San Antonio at OKLAHOMA STATE (2:30pm, FS1)
All three of these games were clean sweeps for the Big 12 squad. Having said that, Louisiana Tech was sort of scary last year, and if they're still essentially the same team while K-State is still trying to find itself, we may all be a bit flummoxed come the evening of September 19.
TEXAS TECH at Arkansas (6pm, ESPN2)
Arkansas is our pick by a wide margin, but wildcat00 and PurpleBrunette are taking a flier on Kliff's Krew to make it a 9-2 margin.
California at TEXAS (6:30pm, FOX)
Southern Methodist at TEXAS CHRISTIAN (7pm, FSN regional)
Two more games where everyone is in agreement. Texas and the Frogs will roll.
IOWA STATE at Toledo (7pm, ESPNews)
And here we get to the week's point of contention, although the staff pick is fairly clear. By a 7-4 margin, BotC projects Iowa State to come out on top. But Jon, Derek, Luke, and Bracket have Toledo coming out on top. #MACtion, baby, #MACtion.
In the end, we're predicting a clean sweep for the Big 12 on the final full weekend of non-conference play, with the exception of Tech getting Arkied. That leaves things looking like this:
BotC's Projected Big 12 Standings after Week Three
Great Northwest Athletic Conference Preview
|2014 Standings and Info|
|22||Azusa Pacific University Cougars||Azusa CA||6-0||10-1|
|rv||Humboldt State University Lumberjacks||Arcata CA||4-2||8-2|
|Central Washington University Wildcats||Ellensburg WA||4-2||7-4|
|Western Oregon University Wolves||Monmouth OR||4-2||6-5|
|Simon Fraser University Clan||Burnaby BC||2-4||2-9|
|South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Hardrockers||Rapid City SD||1-5||2-9|
|Dixie State University Red Storm||Saint George UT||0-6||1-10|
The conference has struggled over the years, even giving up football entirely for a couple of seasons midway through the last decade. There just aren't enough Division II teams west of the Rockies to build a large enough conference, especially with the rapid evaporation of such schools on the west coast. Humboldt State is the only member of the old Northern California conference which still has football, and Central Washington lost their main rival back in 2009 when Western Washington dropped the sport. The conference has been quietly lobbying several northwestern NAIA schools, but that hasn't resulted in any movement yet. But if you'll excuse the realignment speculation, Carroll and Southern Oregon would be nearly perfect additions to the conference, at least competitively. And the GNAC might need them, because Dixie and South Dakota Mines are leaving after the season to join the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. That will again force the conference's playoff contenders to be treated as independents.
Azusa Pacific, just like Sioux Falls in the NSIC, has shown exactly where the comparison between D-II and the NAIA sits. In their first year of being eligible to earn a postseason bid after transitioning to the NCAA, Azusa won the GNAC. They didn't get a playoff bid, but last year they ran the table in the GNAC to repeat, and were rewarded with the conference's first post-season invite in some time. In essence, comparing APU's current status in NCAA Division II with their status in the NAIA results in the observation that they are in exactly the same place. With about twice as many teams in Division II as in the NAIA, the Cougars' #22 ranking in the final poll last year lines up with their usual final ranking in the NAIA, which was usually right around #10/11.
The Cougars are expected to repeat again this year, picking up all but one of the first-place votes that could have been cast for them. Central Washington and Western Oregon split the other two first-place nods, but because Humboldt State received every possible second-place nod, both finished behind Humboldt in the preseason poll. That's a solid indication just how unsure the GNAC coaches are about where those three teams will finish. It's a long drop from WOU to Dixie State and South Dakota Mines, separated by only two points and well ahead of expected cellar-dweller Simon Fraser, the only Canadian team in the NCAA.
Oddly for a conference which struggles to even get one team in the playoffs, the GNAC landed three AFCA All-Americans last year. Two of them, however, have graduated.
All-GNAC Selections (total, departed/returning): 12 (5/7)
Key losses: All-American RB Terrell Watson (2,153 yards, 29 TDs), OL Cody Clay, LB Steven Fanua (93 tackles), DB Tyler Thornton (4 INT)
Key returnees: QB Chad Jeffries (1,606 yards, 11 TD/4 INT; 676/6 rushing), WR Tanner Henry (480/6), TE Grant Widmer, OLs Jaylen Crutchfield and Ahmad Sunda, DL David Kafovalu, DB C.J. Broussard (4 INT)
Watson, the GNAC Offensive Player of the Year, is a huge loss. How huge? At the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, a full-blown post-season collegiate all-star game including FBS talent, Watson earned the MVP award. The leading returning RB is Ryan Adams (113/2). He, or someone else, is going to have to step up and at least partially fill those All-American shoes, because Jeffries can't do it all himself. The defense is in fine shape, despite the loss of Fanua and the seeming lack of eye-popping defensive stats. Nobody had a bunch of TFL or sacks individually, but the team as a whole recorded 87 and 43 respectively, both numbers comfortably outpacing their opponents even after subtracting graduates. The biggest threat to the Cougars, and something at least a couple of coaches noticed, is the vast returning talent at CWU and WOU.
All-GNAC Selections: 18 (10/8)
Key losses: RB Nick Ricciardulli (1,006/9), WR Cass White (633/6), DLs Silas Sarvinski (14.5 TFL, 9 sacks) and All-American Alex Markarian (15.5 TFL/14 sacks), LB Travis Hansen, DB Jerry Maluia (4 INT), K Matt Broder, P Chris Campbell
Key returnees: QB Robert Webber (2,208, 22/7), RB Ja'Quan Gardner (607/8, 32.2 YPKOR), WR/KR Chase Krivashei (622/6), OL Alex Cappa, DLs Codey Heidebrecht (7.5 sacks) and Dillon Huffman, LB Cameron Buell (50 T), DB Nick Sharpe (4 INT)
Losing a thousand-yard back is always bad, but Gardner should step in comfortably. Losing 30 TFL and 23 sacks from two players? That's a lot worse. It's nearly half of the defense's effective penetration. Buell's 50 tackles led the team, which should be fairly instructive as to the squad's depth. Humboldt will be a good team, but may find themselves overtaken this year.
All-GNAC Selections: 13 (4/9)
Key losses: WR Greg Logan (917/3), OL Calvin Hoohuli
Key returnees: QB Jake Nelson (2,702, 23/13), RB Jordan Todd (738/12), WR Kent McKinney (633/6), WR/KR Jesse Zalk (456/7, 29.1 YPKOR and a TD), TE Kyle Self, DLs Tovar Sanchez (22.5 TFL/12 sacks) and James Fakkema (10.5 TFL/7.5 sacks), LBs Kevin Haynes (99 T/5 INT) and Mitch Haldane (85 T/11.5 TFL), DB Cedrique Chaney, DB/PR Isaiah Davis (5 INT), K Sean McDonald
You know, a lot of teams would be okay with Fakkema being their best returning defensive lineman. But Sanchez, the reigning GNAC Defensive Lineman of the Year, was otherworldly. The Wildcats will have to patch up the offensive line, but losing Logan isn't a devastating blow. Davis received All-America status as the All-Purpose selection. CWU will contend.
All-GNAC Selections: 10 (3/7)
Key losses: QB Ryan Bergman (2,864, 26/10), RB Nathaniel Penaranda (425/2), WR Tyrell Williams (950/8), DL Kraig Akins (86 T/18 TFL/7 sacks)
Key returnees: RB Joe Harris (371/3), WR/KR Paul Revis (1,149/11), DLs George Swartzlender and Jeremy Moore, LBs Tyler Johnson (71 T) and Shane Kuenzi (65 T/10.5 TFL), DBs Roger Garrett and Danny Hankins (26 PD)
Don't let the record fool you too much. The Wolves lost to the three teams above, North Alabama, and FCS Portland State. They only lost that latter game by a touchdown, lost at Central Washington by four, and at Azusa by a single point. Losing Williams hurts, but in addition to the returning co-Freshman of the Year Revis, the Wolves have Kamakana Apelu and Daniel Thomas returning, and they combined for 949/6 last year. Losing Bergman... that's another story. Bergman's backup, Trey Shimabukuro, also graduated. WOU has yet to provide their 2015 roster, so we can't begin to speculate on who'll take over under center. Whereas CWU is reloaded for bear, WOU might take a step back.
All-GNAC Selections: 6 (3/3)
Key losses: DL Jake Miller (15.5 TFL/7 sacks)
Key returnees: QB Ben Longshore (1,818, 16/10), RBs Myles Burton (389/2) and Colton Peterson (363/3), WR Nate Stephens (985/5), OL Lucas Beddow, LB Robert Metz (91 T), DB Jacob Witham (4 INT)
At first glance, this is the profile of a team moving upward, and to be fair that's likely exactly what will happen. There are no real red flags, and there's only one player lost who's worth mentioning based on his production. But Miller was single-handedly responsible for a quarter of the team's TFLs and over a third of their sacks, and this team was really bad even with him last year. Still, there's a lot of players coming back, and the year of experience isn't going to hurt.
South Dakota Mines
All-GNAC Selections: 7 (4/3)
Key losses: OL John Hastreiter, LBs Jake Hepp (84 T/10 TFL) and Jay Lata (78 T/6 sacks)
Key returnees: QB Trent McKinney (2,973, 24/10; 693/9 rushing), RB Kevin Thompson (688/7), WRs Marcus Sanchez (880/10), Rashad Ridley (677/4), and Daniel Ziegler (687/3), TE Elijah Balavitch, DLs Christian Chavez (9.5 TFL), Kyle Hudson (8 TFL), and David Jakpor (8.5 TFL), DB Alex Cliatt (70 T)
You can figure out what the problem with the Hardrockers is without having to have it explained to you, can't you? Thompson was the league's newcomer of the year last year, and all the weapons at his disposal will return. But the defense. My eyes. The line will be fine, as a solid trio returns to anchor. But there's nothing in the backfield except Cliatt, and he's the leading returning tackler.
All-GNAC Selections: 10 (2/8)
Key losses: RB Steve Spagnuolo (549/1), WR Lemar Durant (685/4), DL Kristian Lawrence (13.5 TFL)
Key returnees: QB Ryan Stanford (2,351, 17/16), WR Justin Buren (255/4), OLs Michael Couture and Felix Gacusana, DLs Jamie Puffer (18 TFL/5 sacks) and Quinn Horton, LBs Mitchell Barnett (87 T), Justin Herdman (10 TFL), and Jordan Herdman (165 T/14 TFL), P Nikolai Karpun, KR Earl Anderson
The Clan will move on with a new head coach, former BC Lions assistant Kelly Bates. Bates replaces Jacques Chapdelaine, who resigned in order to take the offensive coordinatore position with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. So what's Bates got to work with in his rookie season?
Well, Stanford returns, and he's got an offensive line in front of him. But Stanford doesn't run the ball, Buren's his best returning target, and the team's leading returning rusher is Ante Milanovic-Litre. He had 36 yards last year on five carries. The Clan will not be lighting up the scoreboard. The defense isn't horrible, though. Herdman is the GNAC's reigning defensive player of the year, and no wonder. He also gets to play alongside his twin brother, which is pretty neat. There's a bit of a vacuum in the secondary, which means on those days when the Clan can't get penetration against passing teams they may as well just run up the white flag. But with this defense, and some of the problems Dixie and South Dakota Mines have, sneaking into fifth place isn't out of the question at all.
Game of the Year
With due respect to Humboldt, on October 3, Central Washington visits Azusa Pacific and we're thinking that will decide the conference title.
Great Lakes Valley Conference Preview
|2014 Standings and Info|
|rv||University of Indianapolis Greyhounds||Indianapolis IN||7-1||9-2|
|Saint Joseph's College Pumas||Rensselaer IN||5-3||7-3|
|Truman State University Bulldogs||Kirksville MO||5-3||6-3|
|McKendree University Bearcats||Lebanon IL||5-3||5-6|
|William Jewell College Cardinals||Liberty MO||5-3||5-6|
|Quincy University Hawks||Quincy IL||4-4||6-5|
|Missouri University of Science & Technology Miners||Rolla MO||3-5||4-7|
|Southwest Baptist University Bearcats||Bolivar MO||1-7||4-7|
|Lincoln University Blue Tigers||Jefferson City MO||1-7||2-9|
Southwest Baptist and Lincoln are members of the MIAA for all other sports; the MIAA allowed them to switch their football affiliation to the GLVC because it allowed the MIAA to get down to 12 football-playing members, play a full round-robin, and... well, remove two non-competitive teams from the schedule. That the two squads can't even compete in the GLVC is chilling, because this league isn't exactly strong. Sure, Indianapolis received votes in last season's final poll. Two points worth.
To be fair, UIndy is historically a stronger program than that, which makes the reality even more harsh. In a down year when they couldn't even finish in the top 25, Indianapolis still won the conference title by two games. The Greyhounds have played 23 conference games since the league began sponsoring the sport. They are 22-1, that loss coming on the final week of the regular season last year when the Greyhounds were inexplicably knocked off by a sub-.500 William Jewell squad. It cost Indianapolis -- and the league -- a playoff bid.
Naturally, UIndy is the unanimous choice to win their fourth conference title in four tries. The only other team to receive a first-place vote, Saint Joseph's, did so because Bob Bartolomeo wasn't allowed to vote for his own team. And SJC didn't even finish second in the poll even with that throwaway vote; that honor fell to Truman State, who is actually the clear favorite to pull in behind the Greyhounds for second place. Saint Joe's and McKendree were separated by a single point for third and fourth, respectively. Quincy and Missouri S&T will battle for fifth, Quincy beating the Miners by two points in the poll; William Jewell finished securely in seventh, and Lincoln edged Southwest Baptist by a single point to avoid the cellar.
All-GLVC selections: 14 (5/9)
Key losses: RB Matt Ripp (1,100/13), DBs John Strickland and Koby Orris, K Scott Miller
Key returnees: QB Connor Barthel (2,605, 22/8), RB Andrew Walker (684/5), WR Reece Horn (1,046/12), OLs Chris Massaro, Hayden Janney, and Jordan Bedan, DLs Lee Campbell (10.5 TFL) and Tommy Taylor, LBs Jake Grossnickle (81 T) and Rob Dury (129 T)
Miller was the GLVC Special Teams Player of the Year, hitting 15 of 16 FG from within 40 and going a perfect 43-43 on PATs. Kickers aren't usually a concern at this level because they're usually not that good, but Miller will be missed. Horn was the Offensive Player of the Year, and he'll make them forget all about whatever ills their kicking game acquires due to Miller's loss. Walker should be an adequate replacement for Ripp, and while the defense isn't eye-popping other than Dury (only a junior), it's solid across the board. The Greyhounds will sprint to the finish.
All-GLVC selections: 10 (5/5)
Key losses: RB Garrett White (1,166/13), TE Chico Orlando (334/0), DL Nic Abbate (12 TFL), P Jacob Lamp
Key returnees: QB Devonte Black (1,092, 8/3), WR/KR Derek Hammann (206/1), OL Brad Wellman, DLs Devin Gillespie (14 TFL) and Nick Reichert (10 TFL), DBs Austin Zoda (75 T) and Chris Stanton
Black is the team's leading returning rusher (273/1), and nobody else broke 75 yards. Hammann is the only returning receiver who cracked 150. So the offense needs just a little work. Zoda's the team's leading tackler, although the defensive line retains more than it lost and should probably help that problem a bit. The Bulldogs lack a true playmaker at linebacker, though, so the defense could be spotty. Truman's been a pretty good team since escaping the MIAA several years ago, but they're not really in position to challenge for the postseason or the conference crown.
Saint Joseph's (IN)
All-GLVC selections: 14 (8/6)
Key losses: QB Tate Borlik (1,129, 9/6), RB Braxton Shelton (1,211/15), OL Jakob Styla, LB Gary Yeoman (84 T/20 TFL/7 sacks/3 INT), DB Drew Byrd, UT Sheldon Martin
Key returnees: QB Wade Burtron (736, 7/3), RB Kobi Cook (620/4), WR E.J. Woody (414/3), LB Joel Wimbley (90 T/15.5 TFL/6.5 sacks), K Gavin Voss, P Marcin Gawlak, UT Mike Anderson
Head coach Cory Sanders stepped down after the season to take on the role of defensive coordinator at the brand-new program at West Florida, working under former UNC-Pembroke head man Pete Shinnick. Offensive line coach Dan Day was promoted that same day to replace Sanders. Sanders had instilled a rush culture: run the ball and keep the other team from doing it. Whether Day is of the same mold as the head coach isn't yet certain, though it's likely; in any event, the Pumas probably keep right on doing what they do this year because that's what the personnel they have can do. They'll have a hard time replacing Yeoman -- or more accurately, Wimbley, as he'll likely meet Yeoman's production this fall. Chasing down Indy? No. Taking second? Possible.
All-GLVC selections: 10 (1/9)
Key losses: DL Cameron Ford (9.5 TFL)
Key returnees: QB Isaac Fisher (2,722, 19/11; 764/9 rushing), WR/KR Cameron James (516/5), OLs Derrik Starrett, Ben Harrington, and Casey Khrone, DLs Brett Pearman (10 TFL) and Lucky Baar (26.5 TFL/18 sacks), LB A.J. Wentland (132 T), K Steven O'Block
Fisher is the leading returning rusher for the Bearcats; RB Kevin Witcik (289/5) is the most experienced partner he'll have in the backfield. Nobody individually had a ton of receiving yards (James led the squad), but Fisher spread the load around effectively. As a result, although several "top" receivers have graduated, Fisher's output shouldn't fall off too much. The defense will remain solid with returning GLVC Defensive Player of the Year Baar manhandling opposing offensive linemen again. Those numbers are just sick. Baar only had 65 total tackles on the season, for cryin' out loud. McKendree could surprise a bit, though they probably still don't have enough to make a run at the Greyhounds.
Also, can we pause for a moment and consider the inappropriateness of a kicker named O'Block?
All-GLVC selections: 10 (3/7)
Key losses: LB Ike Onike (99 T)
Key returnees: QB Nick Lonergan (2,606, 15/4), RB Chris Harris (974/17), FB Greg Ellerman, WR Eric Pointdexter (796/6), TE Owen Schoenenberger (516/4), OL Eli Thom, DLs Darius Carey and Tanner Day (13.5 TFL/8 sacks), DB Jasus Harkins (57 T/4 INT)
Harris was GLVC Freshman of the Year. The Hawks are in pretty good shape offensively. The only real red flag is the fact that Harkins is the team's leading returning tackler, and the linebacking corps seems a bit thin. If some guys step up there, Quincy will be pretty competitive. If not, well, we hear people like to see lots of scoring sometimes.
All-GLVC selections: 9 (8/1)
Key losses: WR Melvin Stovall (829/7(, OL Forrestal Hickman, DLs Dan Mauszycki (16.5 TFL/7 sacks) and Daleroy Davey (19 TFL/13 sacks), LBs Nick Kruse (71 T, 10 TFL) and Zach Melber (15.5 TFL), All-American DB Will Brown (7 INT)
Key returnees: QB Lamar Wilkes (965, 6/9), RB Scott Hendricks (370/1), DL Josip Juric
The Miners were absolutely eviscerated by graduation. Wilkes suffered a great deal of growing pains last year after taking over the starting role as a true freshman four games into the season. He's not a lock to retain the job, however. Kason Key (819 5/4), a 3x3 junior JUCO transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, saw action in eight games last year; junior Peter Simpson (425, 5/2) in seven. And sophomore Tyler Swart saw a good deal of action in the spring game.
Freshman RB Charles Bournes (388/4) was the team's leading rusher last year, pressed into action due to injuries. He's going to redshirt this fall. The Miners lost their top three receivers, including Stovall; Spencer Elrod (359/1) is the best option left on the roster. The defense was really torn apart by graduation, and the loss of Brown is devastating. LB Dillon Bowman (59 T), a freshman last year, is the team's leading returning tackler.
At first glance, this is a squad staring death in the eye. But there are parts here, and the Miners could coalesce into a decent squad during one of the more brutal rebuilding years you'll see.
All-GLVC selections: 10 (3/7)
Key losses: FB Glen Whitney, DB Quinlan Riser
Key returnees: QB Nick West (1,888, 16/10), RB Trejuan Mask (412/2), WR/KR Anthony Mullins (843/7), OL Brandon Klewer, DL/LB Marquis Moye (12 TFL/12 sacks), LB Jimmy DeStefano (110 T), P Zane Kitchell, KR Thomas Cook Jr.
Head coach Jerod Kruse resigned in January to take the exact same position at FCS Southeastern Louisiana that Sean Snyder holds at K-State. Only, you know, without the whole working-for-dad part. That's a cute coincidence, seeing as how Jewell is Bill Snyder's alma mater. Kruse will be replaced by offensive coordinator Shawn Weigel.
It's weird that Jewell has been picked to finish so low, because they really didn't lose anyone critically important and return a couple of excellent pieces on defense. Maybe the Snyder magic will drift over to Liberty, and the Cardinals will exceed expectations.
All-GLVC selections: 8 (2/6)
Key losses: RB/KR Morris Henderson (1,191/16, 32 YPKOR/2 TDs)
Key returnees: QB Owen Jordan (1,867, 12/10), WR Khiry Draine (1,011/9), WR/KR Darius Hicks (25.7 YPKOR/1 TD), DL Davon Walls (17.5 TFL/10 sacks), LB Kareem Joyner (90 T/11 TFL), LBs Paul Dodson (84 T) and Treston Pulley (83 T/14 TFL), DB Robert Daniels (6 INT)
Jordan is the team's leading returning rusher, and he only had 79 yards after sacks. So the running game could be a big ol' problem for Missouri's HBCU. Depth is the real problem on this team, as a look at the top talent at each position makes one say, "They seem pretty good." But the Blue Tigers just don't have much behind their number one guy at any spot. Still, they should put on a better show than they did last season.
All-GLVC selections: 9 (2/7)
Key losses: QB Willie Tindal (3,578, 31/7)
Key returnees: WRs Nathan Mourik (1,398/13) and Kendrick Payne (791/5), TE Connor Still, OL Jimmy Schmitzer, DL ViaVia Manuma (15 TFL), LBs Tyler Curts (63 T) and Darryl Battles, DB Antion McBee
Head coach Craig Shuler abruptly resigned in early July, leaving assistant head coach Robert Clardy to hold the reins on an interim basis in 2015. He'll have a mess to clean up on aisle offense. With the stellar Tindal graduated, nine quarterbacks dot the roster including senior Davis McElroy, a former Arkansas walk-on. Your guess as to who's going to win that job is just as good as mine, but someone's going to have to feed the ball to Mourik or his preseason All-America honor is going to evaporate into nothingness by season's end. Not one of the candidates threw for more than 81 yards last year. Bubba Jenkins (263/4) is the leading returning rusher. Aside from Manuma, the defense is thin. It'll be a long year. Pour one out for Mourik.
Game of the Year
We're going to have to go out of conference for this one, because ultimately there's only one game that really matters this year for the conference as a whole. If Indianapolis stumbles during conference play and loses a conference game, it's game over. So the Greyhounds' season opener on September 3, hosting Saginaw Valley State, is of paramount importance.
We'll take a step away from the Big 12 schedule for a day to discuss the most important thing of all for Saturday: the first college football game of the season. That's right, folks. Tomorrow, the season officially begins. We'll also preview the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Great American Conference.