Week two of the college football season sees the Big 12 stepping up its level of competition, with a few exceptions. Our staff is largely in agreement regarding the outcomes. All week two games are Saturday affairs on September 12. Note we're still missing Bracket's overall picks, so the slate's only nine staffers. But no game on this week's board would change with those picks, so it's all good.
KANSAS STATE at Texas-San Antonio (11am CT, FS1)
A clean sweep for the Wildcats, as the entire staff unsurprisingly expects a win at the Alamo Dome even though K-State has never won a game there...
Texas-El Paso at TEXAS TECH (2pm, FSN regional)
Derek went out on a limb here, picking UTEP to post an upset over BroTech. The rest of the staff is sticking with Kliffy's boys on this one.
Liberty at WEST VIRGINIA (2pm, ROOT Sports)
Liberty is a tolerably decent FCS program, because Turner Gill can actually coach players at that level. But the staff sees no chance of the Flames upsetting Dana Holgorsen's charges in Morgantown.
Stephen F. Austin at TEXAS CHRISTIAN (2:30pm, FS1)
The more important question we need to ask here is not whether TCU will win, but whether TCU will win by 50. Unanimous consent on this one, as well.
Iowa at IOWA STATE (3:30pm, FOX)
And now, the interesting part of the schedule. On the one hand, it's Iowa State. On the other, it's Iowa, and Iowa State seems to have their number. JT, wildcat00, and Luke give the edge to the Cyclones in this one. Jon, Derek, KSUEMAW, Nugget, PurpleBrunette, and Pan think Iowa will prevail. So the staff pick goes to the Hawkeyes.
The highlight of the Week Two schedule sees the Sooners traveling to Knoxville for a big contest against an improving SEC squad. Luke and PurpleBrunette have Tennessee prevailing, while the rest of the staff is in agreement on Oklahoma's superiority.
For some insane reason, JT thinks Kansas is going to beat a team which won 10 games, a conference title, and a bowl game last year in a conference which is not the MAC, CUSA, or Sun Belt. Everyone else, quite sensibly, picked Memphis to win.
Lamar at BAYLOR (6:30pm, FSN regional)
This game will be even more of a mismatch than SFA-TCU. I mean, at least SFA is a decent FCS team. Clean sweep.
Central Arkansas at OKLAHOMA STATE (6:30pm, FSN regional)
Full agreement here as well, although Central Arkansas is probably a better team than even SFA and Oklahoma State is definitely not as good a team as TCU.
"Why choose this as our goal? And they may as well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?" Just about 53 years ago, John F. Kennedy uttered these words. PurpleBrunette's response, apparently, is "because Rice is going to beat Texas." The rest of the staff does not concur.
BotC's Projected Big 12 Standings after Week Two
Due to a technical snafu on my part, I accidentally erased the entirety of both previews for today. In order to retain my sanity in the face of having to do the whole thing all over again, I'll be using a new format which I'd have used from the start if I'd thought of it.
Lone Star Conference Preview
|2014 Standings and Info|
|rv||Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions||Commerce TX||6-1||9-3|
|20||Angelo State University Rams||San Angelo TX||5-2||9-3|
|Midwestern State University Mustangs||Wichita Falls TX||5-2||6-4|
|West Texas A&M University Buffaloes||Canyon TX||4-3||6-5|
|Tarleton State University Texans||Stephenville TX||4-3||5-5|
|Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds||Portales NM||3-4||7-4|
|McMurry University War Hawks||Abilene TX||1-6||2-8|
|Texas A&M University-Kingsville Javelinas||Kingsville TX||0-7||2-9|
West Texas A&M's official record is 3-8 (1-6) following the nullification of five games, three of which were wins, due to the use of ineligible players.
The Lone Star is undergoing some change. McMurry has left the conference, deciding that Division III was after all a better option and abandoning their reclassification to Division II before it even finished. So the conference will be a seven-team circuit this year. But next year, it will grow to ten. Texas-Permian Basin was already slated to join the league as an all-sports member in 2016, and had also already announced they'd begin playing football that year. They recruited their first incoming class over the spring. With McMurry's departure, the league reached out to secure a more stable future. Western New Mexico will join next year from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and long-time D-II independent Oklahoma Panhandle State will join the conference (for football only) as well.
Panhandle will get their feet wet in the final two weeks of the regular season, as they partially participate in the Lone Star's most unique quirk: the conference playoff. On the regular season's final two weeks, the top half and bottom half of the conference each play a four-team tournament; 1v4, 2v3, 5v8, and 6v7 in the penultimate week, with the winners playing the winners and losers playing the losers in the final week. That's altered just a bit, as Panhandle will play the fifth-place team during the first "round", and will then play the loser of the 6v7 game the following week regardless of that outcome, while the 6v7 winner plays the fifth-place team.
As a result, the conference crowns two champs -- the regular-season champion and the playoff champion. Last year, Commerce claimed the former, but Angelo State walked away with the latter.
The other neat quirk in the Lone Star happens on September 13 this year, when five Lone Star teams plus NAIA independent Bacone will all gather to play three games in one day at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. This has been going on for a few years now, and although it's a little weird to play in front of less than 20,000 people in the cavernous Jerryworld, it's a good showcase for the league.
Angelo State was the comprehensive favorite to win the conference in the preseason poll, taking 17 of 21 votes and outdistancing second-place Commerce by 10 more points than the number of ballots cast (meaning more voters feel Commerce will finish third or worse than think Angelo won't win the title). There's still a decent gap between Commerce and third-place Midwestern State, which is at the head of a three-pack of teams separated by only seven points. Eastern New Mexico is a distant sixth, and former power Kingsville is an even more distant seventh, receving only two sixth-place nods to go with the 19 voters who picked them last.
All-LSC selections (total, graduated/returning): 18 (7/11)
Key losses: OL Anthony Landry, LBs Rush Seaver (148 tackles, 12.5 TFL) and Blair Smith (101 tackles), KR Anthony Yancy
Key returnees: QB Kyle Washington (3,236 yards, 34 TD/10 INT, 911 yards, 9 TD rushing), RB Ryan Byrd (830/6), WR Talon Smith (756/9), OLs Tyler Hamilton and Rance Layton, DLs Clayton Callicutt (20 TFL, 8 sacks) and John Siliga, DB Ryan Clapsaddle (97 tackles), K Peter Marquez, P Sam Fowler
Angelo's most serious losses are at linebacker, where Seaver and Smith combined for 249 tackles, 20.5 for loss. It's even more problematic when you consider Angelo State plays a base 4-2-5. Clapsaddle is the leading returning tackler, which would be troublesome if he weren't the nickel, and thus effectively the third linebacker. The returning talent is pretty phenomenal. Washington is the reigning LSC Offensive Player of the Year, and earned the preseason nod to repeat; Callicutt was last year's LSC Defensive Lineman of the Year. On paper, the Rams are a lock to win the regular season title.
Texas A&M Commerce
All-LSC selections: 26 (14/12)
Key losses: QB Tyrik Rollison (3,764, 31/9), RB Joe Bergeron (923/12), WRs Vernon Johnson (1,258/12), Ricky Collins (1,187/14), and Seth Smith (835/7), DL Charlie Tuaau (9 TFL), DB Ron Fields (4 INT), K Saul Martinez (20-23)
Key returnees: OLs Shane Thompson and Elwood Clement, DL Toni Pulu (19 TFL/7.5 sacks), LBs Charles Woods (120 T/14 TFL), Cole Pitts (13 TFL), Davarus Shores, and Tyree Barton, DBs Steven Baker and Traven Johnson, KR Shawn Hooks
Commerce had every single starter, including their key special teams pieces, named All-LSC (first- or second-team) or honorable mention. But the Lions were hit hard by graduation, including losing LSC Receiver of the Year and the conference's only All-American in Vernon Johnson. But Pulu is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and like Angelo's Washington he received the preseason nod for the same honor. The defense, in fact, will be fine.
Commerce will have a lot of trouble retooling the offense, however, after losing Rollison, three All-LSC wideouts and Bergeron, the Texas transfer who excelled in Commerce. Senior QB Harrison Stewart would figure to reclaim his job after missing last year; in 2014, he threw for 1,845 yards, 18 TD/7 INT. RB Richard Cooper (736/6) will probably be an adequate replacement for Bergeron. And who knows what Commerce will do at wide receiver? That, more than anything, is why Angelo is such a huge favorite in 2015. But the Lions will still be solid.
All-LSC selections: 14 (6/8)
Key losses: QB Jake Glover (1,647, 12/5), RB Chauncey Harris (701/6), OL Shadow Stokes, DL Bernard Afutiti
Key returnees: RB Dante Taylor (677/6), WR Statron Jones (492/6), OLs Case Winkler and John Rowell, LB Daniel Laudermilk (68 T), DB Marqui Christian (81 T), P Mitch Henton
Midwestern had spent a few years along with West Texas A&M as the conference's main contenders, but slipped a bit last year. They'll probably be right about in the same place this fall. Harris won't be a terrible loss with Taylor's return. Junior Quade Coward (403, 3/2) should step in as the starting QB, with sophomore Haden Hutchinson (142, 1/1) giving him a push. The fact that Christian is the leading tackler is a bit scary for the defense, which also failed to get much penetration against opposing offensive lines.
All-LSC selections: 15 (10/5)
Key losses: DL Anthony Gonzales (15.5 TFL, 9 sacks), LBs Mark Martinez (110 T), Alex Anderson (87 T, 10 TFL), and Charles Moore (5 INT), DB Devin Figures (85 T)
Key returnees: QB Collin Strahan (1,659, 15/3, 599/10 rushing), FB Zach Henshaw (673/7), WR Le'Nard Meyers (755/8), WR/KR Bubba Tandy (830/4), OL Nick Perez
The offense is in really good shape at the skill positions. Backup QB Zed Woerner (1,167, 6/3) also returns, and the Texans have rushing depth with Jabari Anderson (428/9). But the defense was savaged, as the five leading tacklers are all gone, leaving DB Brandon Moore (39 T) as the leading returning tackler. The Texans could be on the wrong end of some shootouts.
West Texas A&M
All-LSC selections: 17 (4/13)
Key losses: WR Jeremy Watson (807/6), OL Arthur Fatu, LB Markus Pierce-Brewster, DB Torian Oakley
Key returnees: QB Preston Rabb (2,912, 19/10), RB Geremy Aldridge-Mitchell (1,342/21), OLs Alex Mitchell, Stan Hasial, and Austin Carson, DLs Iosia Iosia, Alex Tucci and LaPear Willrich, LBs Carter James (125 T/11.5 TFL) and Patric Youngman (84 T), DB Ethan Morriss, K Connor Hollabaugh, P Eliot Moore, ST Josh Beal
Oakley was the LSC Defensive Back of the Year, but his statistics don't really tell that story at all (43 T, 2 INT, 6 passes defended). The Buffaloes are in good shape offensively -- if they can find some receivers. WR Word Hudson (242/1) and Aldridge-Mitchell (242/2) are the leading receivers returning this fall. While the numbers put up by the returning defensive players aren't eye-popping, another year of experience isn't going to hurt a bit, and James was the Freshman of the Year. The Buffs are probably going to outperform these expectations.
Eastern New Mexico
All-LSC selections: 12 (8/4)
Key losses: FB E'lon Spight, WR Jacob Johnson (737/9), LB Seth Bailey (81 T, 4 INT), DB/KR Kevin Reaves
Key returnees: QB Jeremy Buurma (1,527, 18/5; 499/5 rushing), OLs Ma'naima Long and William Jurek, LB Elliot Peters (9.5 TFL)
Spight was the LSC Offensive Back of the Year, while Bailey was Linebacker of the Year. So while the Greyhounds didn't lose a lot, what they did lose was major. The leading returning rusher (aside from Buurma) and receiver is D'Maujeric Tucker, who ran for 259/3 and had 73/1 receiving. Ooof. He did have a 100-yard kickoff return, though, so that's nice.
All-LSC selections: 4 (0/4)
Key losses: DB Trevor Pesek (95 T)
Key returnees: QB Trey Mitchell (1,134, 3/11; 582/8 rushing), RB Shawn Vasquez (595/5), WR Jordan Thomas (547/3), OL Christian Garcia, DL Braedon Robinson (12.5 TFL), LB Trevor Moses (81 T), DB Kelechi Amushie
Pesek is listed as a key loss because he led the Javelinas in tackles. The key pieces all otherwise return, but the question is whether another year of experience will result in a better football team, or just another year of a really bad one. Kingsville has a rich and storied history, winning 6 NAIA titles back before pretty much all of NAIA Division I moved to NCAA Division II and started winning NCAA championships left and right. This is an awkward and uncomfortable position for the former power.
Game of the Year
Setting aside the obvious -- the LSC championship game on November 14 -- the important game to watch is going to be on October 10 when Angelo State visits Commerce.
Gulf South Conference Preview
|2014 Standings and Info|
|13||Delta State University Statesmen||Cleveland MS||6-1||9-2|
|16||University of North Alabama Lions||Florence AL||6-1||9-2|
|6||University of West Georgia Wolves||Carrollton GA||5-2||12-3|
|10||Valdosta State University Blazers||Valdosta GA||5-2||10-3|
|Florida Institute of Technology Panthers||Melbourne FL||3-4||6-5|
|University of West Alabama Tigers||Livingston AL||2-5||5-6|
|Shorter University Hawks||Rome GA||1-6||3-8|
|Mississippi College Choctaws||Clinton MS||0-7||1-9|
Just a couple of years ago, the Gulf South was down to five football playing members who were responsible for seven Division II championships in the previous two decades. The conference has rebuilt itself, and it will expand again in 2016 when current non-football member West Florida stops being a non-football member. Mississippi College, returning to the league after an 18-year vacation in Division III, remains ineligible for both the conference title and any conference honors for another year, but their games count in the standings.
West Georgia, who had won the Division III title back in 1982, was the only one of the five holdovers never to win a Division II title. In fact, prior to last November, the Wolves had never won a Division II playoff game. But UWG roared through the Super Region 2 bracket, knocking off two conference-mates in the process, before bowing out in the semifinals. Three other Gulf South teams made the six-team SR2 field, further cementing their dominance over Division II football in the south.
West Georgia was the overwhelming favorite to repeat in the GSC preseason poll, although the actual vote totals among the top three were very narrow. Delta State and North Alabama, last year's co-champions, are also expected to push the Wolves. Valdosta State and Florida Tech are in the next tier, with West Alabama and Shorter bringing up the rear. But we caution you that, on paper, West Georgia's favored status may just be the residue from their playoff run.
Note: italicized returnees indicate preseason all-conference selections.
All-GSC selections: 15 (6/9)
Preseason All-GSC selections: 6
Key losses: RB Seth Hinsley (1,434/15), OLs Garrison Ushery and Quincy Awa-Dubose, LB Tyrell Adams (92 T), KR/AP Denarius Appling (3 returns for TDs, 425/4 rushing)
Key returnees: QB Dallas Dickey (1,982, 17/9; 453/2 rushing), WR Shaq Hall (795/6), OLs Orion Awa-Dubose and Harley Vaughan, DLs Dalvon Stuckey, Darrius Caldwell (18 TFL, 12 sacks), and Alex Armah (14.5 TFL/6 sacks), DBs Carlos Hutton (4 INT) and Laronji Vason (72 T), P James Dugan, UT/LB Gabe Freeman
Here's where the preseason poll sort of falls apart. How many running backs does West Georgia return who carried the ball at all last season? The answer to that question is zero. Backup QB Adam Holley (62/2) and Dugan (18/0) are the only players on the roster other than Dickey to have rushed the ball in 2014. Other than Hall, only one returning receiver had over 100 yards: D.J. Ezell (107/1). This is a two-man offense, and unless some working parts get plugged in, that's not going to work. The defense is in decent enough shape, although not listed above is DL Tory Slater (18 TFL/12 sacks), who somehow didn't get an All-GSC nod with those numbers and is now gone. Given what Delta and UNA have returning, the Wolves shouldn't be favored to win the title this year. But they are.
All-GSC selections: 12 (4/8)
Preseason All-GSC selections: 6
Key losses: WR Ricky Hunt (499/4), OL Michael Gibbs, LB Rory Island (13 TFL)
Key returnees: QB Tyler Sullivan (3,358, 27/15), RB Eddie McCadney (517/11), WRs Casey Osborne (1,007/9) and Justin Leavy (482/8), OL Mose Countryman, DL Randall Boyd (13.5 TFL), LB Wilson Curtis (15 TFL), DBs Richard Nash (74 T), Trey Shaw, and Romelo Wilson (4 INT)
Shaw was the GSC Defensive Freshman of the Year. This is what a returning roster should look like. Sullivan and McCadney don't have all-conference credentials, but are both solid performers. Osborne is a star. And while the leading returning tackler is a defensive back, something we frown upon, the tackles were actually spread around a good bit, and two other players -- graduated LB Diego Lubin and returning LB Landry Tullo -- also recorded double-digit TFL. The Fighting Okra defense was a swarm, not a sieve. Expect the Statesmen to again be in the title picture.
All-GSC selections: 12 (5/7)
Preseason All-GSC selections: 7 (8 positions)
Key losses: OL Keith Jones, DL Taylor Carney, LB Steven Rich (95 T), K Taylor Pontius
Key returnees: QB Luke Wingo (2,291, 14/7), RB Lamonte Thompson (821/11), WRs Delvon Carpenter (786/6), Dre Hall (636/4), and Lee Mayhall (287/0), OLs Stephen Evans and Jalen Beavers, DL Tyler Smith, DB Levi Fell, DB/KR Phibert Martial, LS Will Lovelace
Again, this is how you keep winning. The Lions bring back a boatload of talent, and only a fool would bet on them failing to make the postseason.
All-GSC selections: 12 (6/6)
Preseason All-GSC selections: 3
Key losses: QB/P Jake Medlock (2,024, 16/4; 619/7 rushing), OLs Jesse Yancey and Felei Tauvae
Key returnees: QB Kaleb Nobles (1,042, 7/5), RBs Austin Scott (943/4) and Cedric O'Neal (873/12), WR Chris Anderson (714/5), LBs Kenny Murphy (82 T/11.5 TFL) and Sharmaine Washington, DB Larry Murphy, K Anthony Pistelli
It's pretty awful when you lose your starting quarterback to graduation and still have one that threw for over 1,000 yards last year hanging around. The Blazers will have a little work to do to shore up the offensive line, and their quantity of returning talent may be a little slim. But they'll be in the mix again, as always.
All-GSC selections: 9 (2/7)
Preseason All-GSC selections: 6
Key losses: WR Xavier Milton (1,116/10)
Key returnees: QB Mark Cato (2,926, 32/9), RB Trevor Sand (1,105/9), TE Gabe Hughes (492/6), OL Matt Garcia, LBs J.J. Sanders (17 TFL/7 sacks) and Chris Stapleton (90 T/10 TFL), DB Manny Abad
We don't want to minimize the loss of Milton, the league's co-Offensive Player of the Year. But Cato was the Offensive Freshman of the Year, and for a team which just graduated its first senior class the Panthers are in pretty damned good shape.This is possibly the toughest conference in the country, and Florida Tech is actually in position to contend. Hats off to Steve Englehart on building a solid program so quickly. Hughes is the leading returning receiver, so Tech will have to find some speed on the flanks to give Cato someone to throw to, but other than that there are no red flags.
All-GSC selections: 7 (4/3)
Preseason All-GSC selections: 2
Key losses: QB Kyle Caldwell (2,383, 21/11; 494/6 rushing), WR Chad Toocheck (688/5), DB Fred Barnes (60 T/11 TFL), LS Matt Humphries
Key returnees: RB Javae Swindle (480/2), WR Daryl Collins (476/7), TE Ty Morgan, DL Jared Washington (10 TFL), LB Quinton Harton (55 T), K Mark Grant
Junior Tennessee Tech transfer Trent Thompson has the inside track on the quarterback job, competing against a quartet of freshmen (redshirt and true). But Caldwell was the co-Offensive Player of the Year, and those are big shoes to fill. The defense also appears to be a mess; Barnes was the leading tackler last year, and Harton the leading returning tackler. It'll be a long autumn in Livingston, where the fans had gotten used to the postseason.
All-GSC selections: 6 (1/5)
Preseason All-GSC selections: 1
Key losses: QB/AP Eric Dodson (790, 7/4; 682/6 rushing)
Key returnees: FB B.J. McCoy (570/3), OL Chris Beno, DL Trevaris Horton (11 TFL), LB Zach Butts, DB Jordan Shaw (89 T, 8 INT), ST Luke Wilson
The offense is a nightmare. Trey Lawhorn is the leading returning receiver. He caught 7 passes for 134 yards, no TDs. Sophomores Devante James and Aaron Bryant, who attempted a total of four passes between them last year and completed none, will compete for the quarterback job. (Bryant, at least, ran for 213 yards and scored twice.) But at least Shorter has Shaw, the GSC Defensive Player of the Year and, inexplicably, the league's only reigning All-American.
Key losses: Calling any of them "key" would demean the term.
Key returnees: RB Chris Ingram (624/5), DB Reggie Bennett (97 T)
Sophomore Kyle Smith (269, 2/1; 401/6 rushing) should take the reins at QB full-time after splitting the duties with the departed Jonathon Redd (443, 1/5). He'll be desperately hoping someone steps up at WR, as no returning Choctaw had over 100 yards receiving last year. Maybe they can find someone to return a punt, too; the team had a total of 18 yards in that department last year. Part of that was only getting punted to 7 times, and you can probably guess how that came about. Bennett led the team in tackles by a wide margin. Cue sirens.
But look, blasting the team for last year isn't really fair. The Choctaws are moving up from Division III, which means last year was the first year the school even had any scholarship players, and for the most part those guys redshirted. There's a vast difference between moving from D-III to D-II and moving from D-II to FCS or FCS to FBS, and Mississippi College is learning that lesson the hard way.
Game of the Year
Since we're obviously not sold on West Georgia's chances to repeat last season's heroics, we'll default to the... well, default. That'll be Halloween in Florence, when Delta State comes calling on North Alabama.
We'll examine the week three Big 12 schedule, which is just about as simple as week two's was. And we'll check in on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the Great Lakes Valley Conference -- home of Kansas City-area school William Jewell, the alma mater of some guy named Snyder.