2023-09-08 06:18

The next big realignment news came in on the weekend.

You might remember that the last 4 teams of the PAC-12, Stanford, Cal, Washington State and Oregon State, were left alone by the other PAC-12 teams, with no real future perspective for them inside the conference.
It was unlikely that the remaining teams would absorb say 6-8 teams from other conference to keep the PAC-12 alive.
And until the weekend, no conference made an offer to absorb the 4 teams into their own.

The last info I gave and which I read was, that the ACC did plan to speak about the 4 teams and the news on the weekend was, that a verdict was in.

The ACC did decide to take Stanford, Cal and SMU.
SMU? Yes, surprisingly SMU will switch from American Athletics Conference to the ACC. I did not read any news on their intention before, so that was very surprising for me.
As the news is, all of the 3 teams will limit their income from the conference dramatically for several years to get into the ACC, and to give the ACC some sort of boost to survive.
For me, this reads like a begging agreement to stay in a power 5 conference for Stanford and Cal and for SMU to become a power 5 team.
I'm not sure, this will backfire in a few seasons, since it's unclear what will happen, of the bigger teams of the ACC will start to leave or to demand more money to stay on the same level as SEC teams or BIG 10 teams.

Overall, the bad news is most for Washington State and Oregon State.
There is no perspective to get into a power 5 conference as it seems, the ACC was the last straw, and now they have to find a new home, likely with less income than before.
Always mentioned is the Mountain West, which would likely fit very well, but is of course far from the level the PAC-12 did have so far.

Only time will tell, outcome of the weekend is, the PAC-12 has right now only 2 future members left, and the American Athletics will lose a team, which might trigger another hit and run by them.

Let's move on with the conference previews. The next conference is now the last of the group of 5 conference.

American Athletics

As already written before the AAC was primed to 'gift' teams to power 5 conferences during the realignment changes and it seems, it's not over.
Gone are Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, all leaving to the BIG 12, next year likely SMU will leave for the ACC.
But the conference did what it did already in the past, it did invite other teams to come into the conference, this season new are Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA, all from the Conference USA.
This does shape the conference in a new form, the leaving teams were all contenders for the championship on an annual basis and the new teams will likely take some time to get adjusted to the level of playing, since talent pool and coaching changes based on more money and prestige will come likely a bit later than the actual move.
That leave the door open for some teams to eventually win a championship this season.
The conference has no divisions, like last year, and the 2 best teams will play for the Conference Championship.

Last season did Tulane win it all and likely they will have a big say on the championship also this year. Next behind are new team UTSA, who had a great season in the CUSA last year, SMU and Memphis. The top 2 teams will not be clear, but we can only do our best on the guessing part.

Let's start with Tulane, who had one of their best seasons ever last year. Willie Fritz is in his 9th season, won 12 games last year, including the Championship game and a high-profile bowl game. Duplicating that will be hard. Sure, some top teams did leave, but the team itself did lose some key players, especially on linebackers and secondary on defense. Hence, the great offense which 'only' has to find some new wide outs, might stay as good as last year, but whether the new starters on defense will contribute as those last year is open. They did win the game opener against South Alabama, but the real tests will come later. They avoid SMU, will play UTSA at home, but Memphis on the road. It's not out of reach to get those 12 wins again, but it will be tough.

Next is then UTSA, who did last season win the Conference USA again, back-to-back. Jeff Traylor is in his 4th season and this switch of the conference will likely make some noise inside the team, but the team is stacked and if they concentrate, they can get into the next championship game. They have their start QB, a good bunch of receivers, overall, a lot of starters returning, and only a new OC to lead the way. Funny side note, last year the team had basically 2 OCs in parallel and BOTH got calls for better paid positions on other teams, hence the team has this season a new OC. Last year the transition was good, but so far, the team did not as good as maybe wanted, the lost the opener to former AAC-team Houston by 3 points. For the conference, this does not matter, but maybe they will not get the win total as the past 2 seasons.

SMU, last year taken over by Rhett Lashlee, who inherited a quite loaded team from Sonny Dykes, that guy who almost won it all with his new team TCU last year. The Mustangs had a mediocre season, but expectations are high to top that this year. The good news is, they have a talented QB, some incoming transfers and most important, they do avoid Tulane AND UTSA this season. In best case they sweep the other conference games and then have to think about how strong the team really is on the championship game. The won the season opener against non-conference team Louisiana Tech big time, but this week they face Oklahoma, which will give them likely a better measurement on the teams strength. The tools are there, the team might just need to win the right games to win it all.

And from the likely contenders the last one, Memphis. Ryan Silverfield took over from leaving Mike Norvell (to FSU) 4 seasons ago and so far did the team do OK, but not as good as before his promotion. Main concern should be the receiver squad, which lost the top 4 destinations. If they find good replacements the offense will be likely fine with a good QB and a good RB. The defense was OK last year, but allowed to many points, which has to be addressed. The team has an OK schedule and won the opener, but that was only a FCS team. The real tests will come late September and then in October. If they are still on top of the conference in November, they will have a good season.

Florida Atlantic is one of those teams, which has all the talent to play against almost every team, but often the coaches lack the willingness to do what's needed. Lane Kiffin did bring the team to a great level, won 2 conference championships in 3 seasons and left to Ole Miss. Willie Taggert took over as the next 'fallen' power 5 coach and led the team to 3 5-win seasons, which gave him the pink slip. He is now RB coach in the NFL. Means the team was in need of a new HC and the program selected former Texas HC and fallen from grace power 5 coach number 3 in a row Tom Hermann. Now the clock is on reset, but this time the team has also to swallow the conference change. Herman did bring already some talent in via transfer protocol, but likely the real transition will happen later. Still the talent level is high and if all things click, the team might surprise us all. The 1st game (against a FCS team) was won, but not really in a spectacular manner.

I think Mike Houston, in his 5th season with East Carolina, will dream about a championship spot this season. On paper the team additions are from a weaker conference and East Carolinas signs do signal another boost in level of strength. Last year 8 wins did happen, including a bowl win. Unfortune is, most starters are gone, especially the playmakers, on both sides. So, if Houston has a plan and a dream, he better has solved the players as new starters. The schedule is brutal, and the team has already lost the opener against Michigan by 27 points. Sure, that game was only the 1st one and does not count towards the conference standings, but it did signal the team has not found it's playmakers so far.

From here downwards it's getting harder to predict any outcome. I did pick Temple at this place here, since they have Stan Drayton now in his 2nd year and all signs do point towards progress. The QB seems to get into the game better and might become an AAC standout, the defense, last season a weakness, does return 7 starters and should now work better together. What's likely missing is that overall rise of talent and dedication you usually get only within several years of recruiting. The team won the opener against Akron, but it was a close win, so either the teams gets better, or they will lose more games than anticipated, since Akron is no power house.

North Texas has a new HC, Eric Morris, who had a few seasons as HC at Incarnate Word, a FCS program, where he won 2 conference championships. Morris was the OC of Washington State last year and got the gig here, when the last coach was let go after he lost the conference championship game last year. The team has talent and could actually become a force with the Texas background, but the team has to get used to several makeovers and the conference switch. The season will likely depend on how the transfer QB does integrate and how the defense, which was not great last season, grow up. They have 7 starters back, so they should get better. Whether that's enough inside the AAC is open. The team did lose the opener against Cal big time, but that was expected, even the margin of 37 points is a lot.

Brian Newberry is the new man at Navy, which did let go their long-lasting HC Ken Niumatalolo (15 seasons) after 3 losing seasons in a row. Newberry has to prove he is the right choice, he was the DC of Navy for the past 3 seasons, so he has to carry those losing seasons also on his back, I guess. The Academy teams are special, they do not recruit as normal FBS teams and have specific rules, so none of them will have that talent level the top teams have. Means, the coaches have to get the players to work in perfect synch to make a difference. The team as it is right now has a lot of defense starters returning, the offense is a project in the making. The 1st game, against Notre Dame in Ireland, was a total disaster and one of the highest losses the Midshipmen did get by the Irish ever. Not a good start into the season.

I was tempted to put Tulsa higher, since the teams above have several issues, but Tulsa has their own issues. They have a new HC in Kevin Wilson, former Ohio State OC, which likely will help the team over time. But so far the team has a bad offensive line and only a small core of defense starter returning. Overall, the season will depend on how the units will react on the new coach and whether he finds suitable players on the positions which need upgrades. I doubt that this will happen all at once. They did win the opener big time, but only against a FCS team.

From here on, we get to those teams, which will likely not get to a bowl game. We start with UAB, which did get a new, prominent HC, Trent Dilfer. He did serve as HC of a school, similar to a high school, but beside that he only has his reputation as former NFL QB. The Blazers were already destroyed a few seasons ago, but public outcry did save the program and it was basically rebuilt from scratch. The former HC before the destruction did stay, rebuild the team and led it to 2 conference championships. Then after 2021 he had to resign because of health issues. Since then, the team is in search for an answer. Maybe Trent Dilfer has it. The team did lose several key players and it's open, how good the replacements will be. To be fair, this team could skyrocket or dive deep, it's really open. They did win the opener against a FCS team, so 1 win is in the box.

Rice is under the management of Mike Bloomgren since 2018. The team had never a winning record and went only to a bowl last season (a loss) because not enough 6-win-teams were available and the team with the highest APR (Academic Progress Rate) of all 5-7 teams was selected to fill the spot. Conference change to a conference with some better playing level will likely not help to boost the win total. They have via transfer a likely high-profile QB, a good receiver and several starters back on defense, but I doubt this will be enough to win many games more than last year. The season opener was lost against Texas by 27 points, which sounds promising.

Alex Golesh came in as former OC of Tennessee to fix the South Florida Bulls. The team did play good football most of the time, but since 2019 the team did suck. Why is hard to tell, the talent level was always good at Florida, so this seems to be more a culture problem. A complete makeover is needed, which will likely take time. The 1st game was lost against Western Kentucky, which is not a good sign. But as often with such rebuilding projects, the team might grow together, and we might see a completely different team at the end of the season.

And at last I have Charlotte, which as a new HC, Biff Poggi, who was the last 2 seasons Michigans Assistant HC. He never was a HC before and has to guide the team into the stronger conference with a complete roster makeover, which included 30 transfer players. This COULD become a joker, but more likely is, the team needs time to adjust and the 1st season in the AAC will be brutal. Season opener was won against a FCS team.

In total the American Athletics might slip in terms of strength, and the Mountain West might take over as strongest group of 5 conference. Only time will tell and it's totally open, how fast the incoming teams will adjust, and we might see some surprises this season and seasons to come.

I’m sorry to say, I was unable to get the 2nd conference preview ready this week, so they power 5 conference previews will start next week.

Let's have a look at last weeks game.
Overall, the gameday had some nice upsets and some surprises.
As always, it's hard to tell, whether those games are indicators for the season, or just teams getting into the season on a lucky move or shaking off the dust.
Only time will tell.
Still, the results are in, and we have to deal with it.


Fri. Sept 1
Florida @ #14 Utah
Hmpf, I did pick Florida, awaiting some improvements, but the reality was, the team did not manage to get much done, beside getting beaten.
Utah did look good, did score, and only over the season the result can be judged carefully.
Assuming Florida CAN play on SEC level, Utah did play better, which would make them a favorite to win the PAC-12.
Assuming Florida did not play well, since it was on the road and the 1st game and they did underestimate Utah, then the Gators need to turn things around quickly, before the big teams from the SEC demand their piece of gator meat.
The Utes have a win on their side and my pick was bad.
Florida 11 @ #14 Utah 24 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 3-1

Sat. Sept 2
Boise State @ #10 Washington
There was no room for Boise State to win this game.
Washington did play like a machine and the Broncos did their best to stay in the game, but lost with big margin.
I could say, this makes the Huskies a favorite to win the PAC-12, but they are that anyway, so I'm more concerned about Boise State getting beaten that hard.
Are they really good enough to win the Mountain West?
No sure, but let's not overreact.
Boise State 19 @ #10 Washington 56 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 4-1

#5 LSU @ #8 Florida State
Oh boy, the end is near. At least for LSU fans.
And of course Florida State will win the ACC, clear for FSU fans.
Because Florida State did win big time against LSU.
Until halftime this did look like an open game.
Then LSU did have a bad 3rd quarter and did FSU turn the tide of the game in their favor, but here was still a lot of time left to turn it around again.
But in the 4th quarter LSU did somehow played even worse and FSU used their chances.
This will be very interesting to see, who the teams will work with that result.
The Tigers players will get their ears bleeding by the punishments, the FSU players ... not sure ... might play on that way, or will underestimate the next team.
#5 LSU 24 @ #8 Florida State 45 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 4-2

And some other interesting games:

Fri. Sept 1
Nebraska @ Minnesota
A very defense driven game, with Nebraska looking like to actually winning it, leading in the 4th quarter by a few points.
But Minnesota did get back, score the game tying TD late in the 4th, intercepted the Nebraska try to get into field goal range and did on their end get close enough to the Huskers endzone to kick a game winning field goal with time running out to win 13:10.
Jacks interesting games Score: 3-2

Louisville @ Georgia Tech
This was awful for GT fans.
The team did lead 28:13 at halftime.
And then something did happen, that GT did not get much done in the 2nd half to slowly losing the grip on the game.
After the 3rd quarter GT was still leading 28:23.
Then Louisville took the lead, extended it and only late in the game did the Yellow Jackets manage to score to get almost back into the game.
They lost the game 34:39.
Jacks interesting games Score: 3-3

Sat. Sept 2
#21 North Carolina @ South Carolina
I had more hope for South Carolina here, but to be fair, they had no chance to win this.
UNC did dominate the whole game, South Carolina had some nice plays to create the illusion they might get a comeback going, but the final score was 31:17 UNC.
Jacks interesting games Score: 3-4

What else? (only the 'odd' results)
Arizona State had their hands full with Southern Utah (FCS) winning only 24:21.
Stanford did beat Hawai'i 37:24. I had hope Hawai'i would make an upset here, but it seems either Stanford is turning upside again or Hawai'i has still some issues.
Colorado did upset ranked TCU 45:42. Betting line was TCU -21.0 and Colorado under new HC Deion Sanders had his son throwing for 500+ yards to win this. The hype is on.
Fresno State won against favored Purdue 39:35. Surprising for me, both teams did score a lot of points here.
Northern Illinois did instantly react on my bad writing and beat Boston College 27:24 in OT. BC is for sure not a powerhouse inside the ACC, still NIU did show spirit and won this, so they might have a bigger say inside the MAC than I did anticipate.
Louisiana-Monroe, in the past few seasons not really a hot team, did beat Army 17:13. Not a good news for Army, since they have much tougher teams on the schedule left.
Texas State did beat Baylor 42:31, which was their 1st win against a power 5 team, ever. So huge upset by Texas State (Betting line by -26.5 Baylor) and a very disappointing loss for Baylor fans of course.
Illinois did almost lose to Toledo, winning 30:28. On the 1st look not a good sign for the Fighting Illini.
Wyoming did beat Texas Tech in 2 OT 35:33. The Red Raiders were favored by 13 points. Big win for the Cowboys.
And as last upset we have Duke beating ranked Clemson 28:7. This is double trouble for Clemson, because they were of course highly favored (-12.5) in this and did by that lose essential points on eventually playoff ranks and on top they did lose against a conference rival, means they might miss that in later (if the team did just slip and is not just bad).

So, the 2nd week of college football is coming, as usual many cupcake and non-conference games, but still some nice-looking matchups are also there.
Highlight is likely the Texas - Alabama game, a rematch of last years very close game.


Sat. Sept 9
#11 Texas @ #3 Alabama
Let's go directly to the hottest game of the weekend, since it does feature 2 very high ranked teams and it does also feature 2 college football power houses on tradition and reputation.
It's the last time we do see this kind of setup in terms of conference alignment, Texas will join the SEC next year, means NEXT season, this would be a conference game, but this season it does basically set the mark on which conference is best (sure that is all chatter and gibberish, but you know how that works in the sports world).
It gets an additional dimension, since Steve Sarkisian came to Texas in 2021, after he did fall from grace with other programs and was taken by Nick Saban to Alabama as OC for 2 years.
That means, Saban, now in his 17th season with the Tide, did again help one of those guys to get their career on track again and they do face off here.
Most of the time, Sabans teams did outclass any former assistant teams, with a few exceptions.
Last year they played this game on the Longhorns field and the home team lost by a single point.
Now we play in Tuscaloosa and both teams did win their openers, but whether they did really improve compared to last year, or who might have the edge here by improving more than the other, is wide open.
Betting line is -7.0 Alabama, which does figure, since Saban usually finds great replacements for any player who left, and they play at home.
Texas might get their heart back together and we might see a Longhorns team this season, which will play for the last BIG 12 Championship, but I personally think, they will not play as good as Alabama. Proof me wrong.
Crimson Tide win.

#20 Ole Miss @ #24 Tulane
This could be a fun game. Tulane did win last season the conference (see above) and might even repeat.
They play good football and here at home.
Ole Miss is of course a SEC team and has under Lane Kiffin great seasons so far, beside maybe championships.
Vegas does favor Ole Miss by 7.5, which seems reasonable.
The game itself is a long-lasting rivalry, since 1893, with 72 matches so far and Ole Miss is leading 42-28 (2 Ole Miss wins were vacated by NCAA penalties) and is driving a 10 game winning streak (with the 2 vacated wins it would be 12) since 1989.
This season, likely Ole Miss will again win, by a bigger margin, but Tulane has the juice to do something.
Both teams did win their openers.
If Tulane gets a perfect game, I think they can even win, but I can't see that, really.
Rebels win.

#23 Texas A&M @ Miami
Texas A&M has something to prove this season. Last year they had the 1st losing season since Jimbo Fisher took over as HC. Now in his 6th season, he still did not deliver the Championship he was hired for and on top they did even miss a bowl last year. Expectations are high to rebound, as can be seen on the rankings.
Miami is in the 2nd year of Mario Cristobals reign and so far, the team did only have a losing season and now bowl, too.
The people do expect a progress, likely not a burst of performance, but a winning season.
Played in Miami, this game is favored to be won by Texas A&M, by 4.5 points, which is not much.
I think it's unclear, how good both teams will be this season and the results of the 1st weeks are OK, but not really helpful.
Both did win, A&M a bit more convincing than Miami. but both opponents were not really in the same league as A&M or Miami.
So, what will happen?
I think Miami does have a chance only, if A&M did not overcome their shortcoming of last year, which was most of the time lack of passion for the game and inconsistency.
I don't know, whether Fisher can turn the team around, some coaches can inspire player and then after sometime this wears off and the next generation can't find the same inspiration as before. And some do their job and have sometimes bad seasons.
Not sure what Fisher is a kind of coach.
Still ...
Aggies win.

And some other interesting games:

Sat. Sept 9
#13 Oregon @ Texas Tech
Texas Tech lost against Wyoming last week, and they likely want to win this here. Oregon looked hot against the FCS team they did beat last week, but can they win against the Red Raiders?
Vegas says yes by 6.5 points, I think it will be more.
Ducks win.

#19 Wisconsin @ Washington State
Washington State did mourn their late HC and did beat their 1st week opponent by a mile. So don't expect them to slow much down, except the Wisconsin defense will likely be much tougher than the Rams defense.
Betting line says Badgers by 6.5, I say they have to work hard for that and eventually won't get enough points to beat the Cougars.
Cougars win.

Iowa @ Iowa State
And the next rivalry, the game for the 'Cy-Hawk Trophy'. In total 69 matches so far, Iowa leading 46-23. But Iowa State won last year and play at home.
Vegas has Iowa winning by 4.0, I say, that it will be close game, and I love the underdogs.
Cyclones win.

'Til next time

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