A return to duty

It’s been a while, I know.  I’ve mentioned it before on this site that I work in fundraising in college athletics.  The past two weeks have been the busiest of my career for reasons which I won’t go into.  As a result, I’ve had to put GFWA on the backburner, but I’m back and will continue regularly scheduled programming.  Go Apps!!

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The Picks

Celebrate! Another 6-0 week last week. Here’s this week’s predictions:

FBS

No. 5 Texas vs. No. 1 Oklahoma – The biggest game of the weekend and the the one with the biggest capacity to shape the national championship race. Two Heisman quality quarterbacks (Bradford and McCoy) face off as Mack Brown hopes to shake off Bob Stoops’ hold on the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma 24, Texas 17.

No. 13 Vanderbilt @ Mississippi State – Along with the improvements of Northwestern and Duke, Vanderbilt has been one of the turnaround stories of the season so far. After a huge win over Auburn on a primetime audience, the Commodores will hope to avoid a letdown on the road against the Bulldogs. It’ll be close, but Vandy plays smart enough to get out of Starkville with a win. Vanderbilt 17, Mississippi State 14.

Notre Dame @ No. 22 North Carolina – Butch Davis has the Heels back in the Top 25, but an unranked 4-1 Notre Dame will be eager to take out North Carolina at Kenan Stadium. Notre Dame 24, North Carolina 21.

No. 17 Oklahoma State @ No. 3 Missouri – The Cowboys average over 300 yards per game on the ground while the Tigers average over 300 in the air. Something’s gotta give and I think Chase Daniel has the edge. Missouri 35, Oklahoma State 17.

No. 4 LSU @ No. 11 Florida – Urban Meyer and his Gators have had this match-up circled on their schedule for months after losing so closely to Florida last season. Is the Florida offense talented enough to move the ball on LSU’s downright nasty defense? I have to give the edge to Les Miles here. LSU 17, Florida 13.

No. 6 Penn State @ Wisconsin – Penn State faces a tough road test at Wisconsin this weekend as the Badgers hope to avoid three straight Big Ten losses. The Nittany Lions’ spread attack averages nearly 500 yards per game and should be too much for a emotionally drained Wisconsin team. Penn State 28, Wisconsin 13.

FCS

No. 6 Elon @ No. 21 The Citadel – The Citadel is certainly an improved team but unfortunately for them, they have the play App State and Elon back to back. I think the Bulldogs will get back in the Top 25 by the end of the season, but this loss will knock them out. Elon 28, The Citadel 13.

Season Record

Overall: 29-10

FBS: 24-7

FCS: 5-3

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The 411 on…Samford

An introduction to…the newest member of the Southern Conference – the Samford Bulldogs. Samford University is a private, Baptist-affiliated school located in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. Bobby Bowden and his son Terry Bowden have both been head coaches at the school. Their highest-ever attendance at a home football game is 11,189. (That record might fall this weekend). Educational-related fact: In 2006, the school was listed in the top 10 in the South for master’s degree institutions. Samford also has a $301 million endowment.

The Season so far: Samford started the sesaon with two comfortable wins over West Georgia and Faulkner – not quite powerhouse opponents.  The Bulldogs predictably lost to Ole Miss 34-10.  I think a lot of people expected Samford to struggle simply because they were new to the conference and were an unfamiliar foe.  However, the Bulldogs’ next loss really opened my eyes.  On the road at No. 8 Elon, Samford battled the talented Phoenix to the end before falling 23-17.  The Bulldogs had tied the score 17-17 with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.  Elon took the lead for good on a field goal with two minutes left in the third quarter.

Last Week: The Bulldogs picked up their first-ever Southern Conference win against Western Carolina, defeating the Catamounts 21-6. Samford rode the legs of back Chris Evans as he carried the ball 34 times for 166 yards rushing. True freshman quarterback Dustin Talliaferro was 14-of-16 for 154 yards and two touchdown passes. Speaking of Western Carolina, how bad has it gotten for them? I’m sure they picked the Samford game for homecoming because they thought they’d walk all over the new boys on the block and end up getting spanked. Is it possible that we’ll beat them even worse than we did last year?

Stat Leaders: Passing – Dustin Talliaferro 62-of-93, 640 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 135.8 QB rating.  Rushing – Chris Evans 109 carries for 579 yards, 6 touchdowns. Receiving – Jonathan Lowery 15 receptions for 197 yards, 3 touchdowns; Riley Hawkins 8 receptions for 147 yards, 1 touchdown.

Team Offense: 26.2 points per game, 203.8 rushing yards per game, 158.8 passing yards per game.

Team Defense: 16.4 points per game, 83.2 rushing yards per game, 223.2 passing yards per game.

Record: 3-2 overall, 1-1 Southern Conference.

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Western Kentucky’s jump up

Good article on Western Kentucky’s move up to the FBS level in USA Today here.  Key points:

  • But the school must pony up. Going from 63 football scholarships to the FBS cap of 85 will cost close to $370,000 annually. Coach David Elson’s salary is going from $195,000 this season to $250,000 in 2009, and he gets three additional full-time assistants. Summer-school expenses are rising by close to $500,000. Two or three team charter flights a season, at $150,000 a pop, will increase travel costs.

    The football budget has jumped from $2.4 million in 2006 to $4.6 million this year, and Selig projects it will rise by an additional 27% — to $5.8 million — by the 2012 season.

  • Still, the climb is decidedly steep. Western Kentucky’s football outlay remains meager by FBS standards. Southeastern Conference member Kentucky has budgeted a little more than $11 million for the sport this year. Alabama will spend about $18 million.

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The WrApp-Up: The Citadel

47-21.  That’s more like it.  A thrashing of a SoCon opponent and Armanti racking up yardage.  Don’t let the name of the opponent and its history against us fool you.  The Citadel is an improved team (don’t forget that they were ranked No. 12 in the nation coming into Saturday’s game).  With several new pieces to our offense and Armanti’s early-season struggles, the App offense has lacked the explosiveness and consistency we’ve seen in the last three years.  The Mountaineer offense erased any doubts about their abilities on Saturday, jumping out to a 41-7 lead by halftime.  The Apps racked up 363 yards of offense in just the first half and scored a touchdown on their last six possessions of the first half. 

Armanti set another personal milestone on Saturday, becoming just the 12th Division I player (FCS or FBS) in history to have 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 passing yards in his career.  (A reminder to all:  He’s only a junior.)  The Citadel will certainly be one team that will be glad when Edwards finally finishes his career.  A year after gashing the Bulldogs for 291 rushing, Armanti picked them apart with his arm, going 14-for-18 for 225 yards and four touchdowns.  He added 80 yards on the ground on 15 carries.  In his three career games against the Bulldogs, Armanti has accounted for 953 yards (547 passing, 406 rushing) and 12 touchdowns (seven passing and five rushing). 

Devin Radford’s talents were also on display as he rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.  Radford also took a screen pass with 15 seconds left in the first half 68 yards for a back-breaking touchdown. 

The defense was also solid, holding The Citadel to 170 yards below their season average.  The Bulldogs entered the game ranked as the SoCon’s second-highest scoring offense, averaging 35.5 points per game. 

However, despite all the positive performances, the team appeared to let up in the second half again.  The Citadel cut the lead to 41-21 on a 50-yard punt return TD and a TD pass from Bulldog QB Bart Blanchard. 

Coach Moore:  “The intensity level was considerably higher than it’s been in a while.  We really played solid football, especially in the first half. … We did a lot of things we wanted to do, on offense and defense.  (But) we never really took control of the second half of the game. We lost a little bit of our edge, and that gave them a little momentum.”

 The Mountaineers need to remember that no matter the score, the intensity level needs to remain high.  Blowing a 21-0 lead at James Madison proves that no lead is safe.  I hope the coaching staff is reminding the team of that second half and our players keep it in the back of their heads the rest of the season. 

 Up next for the Mountaineers – SoCon newcomer Samford.  Preview coming up on Wednesday.

Game Links:

The Citadel can’t stop Appalachian State’s Edwards (Rocky Mount Telegram)

Mountaineers storm The Citadel (Watauga Democrat)

No. 2 Mountaineers roll over No. 12 The Citadel (GoASU.com)

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The Picks

Hoping to gather some momentum from my perfect week, I stumbled mightily last week. I’m not going to jinx myself for this week – here’s the picks.

FBS

Duke @ Georgia Tech – Has David Cutcliffe ushered in a new era of Duke Football? Standing at 3-1 and 1-0 in the ACC, the Blue Devils are different. I’d love to see Duke make a bowl game this year but Georgia Tech is rolling under Paul Johnson. I think the Blue Devils can get to six wins this year, but this won’t be one of them. Georgia Tech 24, Duke 13.

South Carolina @ Ole Miss – Houston Nutt has already earned his first big win as a Rebel coach, upsetting No. 4 Florida in the Swamp last week. The Gamecocks, despite boasting the nation’s No. 1 defense, have looked totally inept on offense. Redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia appears to have injected some excitement and may be too unpredictable for the Ole Miss defense to contain. South Carolina 17, Ole Miss 14.

No. 13 Auburn @ No. 19 Vanderbilt – Wow, how far has Vanderbilt come? Hosting Gameday for the first time ever and standing alone at the top of the SEC East, the Commodores have a legitimate shot at going bowling this year. Auburn may be ranked higher but they haven’t looked very good on offense. Last week’s match-up against Tennessee was a display of offensive ineptitude by both teams. Vanderbilt 17, Auburn 13.

No. 23 Oregon @ No. 9 USC – In what might stand as the upset of the season, USC dropped a game (and possibly out of the national championship game). It was the first time in nearly 25 years that the nation’s No. 1 team had lost to an unranked team. If this game was at Oregon and the Ducks weren’t playing their backup QB, I MIGHT have given them edge. But that’s not the case – USC rolls at home. USC 31, Oregon 10.

No. 14 Ohio State @ No. 18 Wisconsin – The Terrelle Pryor Experiment continues at Ohio State. Wisconsin is coming off a huge and embarrassing loss against a very poor Michigan team. A few weeks ago, I would’ve picked the Badgers without a second thought but the Buckeyes appear energized by the freshman QB. After stumbling last week, I’m also not sold on Wisconsin. I like the Buckeyes to get the road win here. Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 17.

FCS

No. 15 Furman @ No. 7 Elon – I wasn’t expecting a big year from the Paladins this season, but their win against Delaware served notice that they might be a factor in the SoCon race. Elon has been rolling along and will be a big challenge for the Mountaineers late in the season. Elon 28, Furman 14.

Season Record

Overall: 23-10

FBS: 19-7

FCS: 4-3

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The 411 on…The Citadel

An introduction to…The Citadel Bulldogs. App State has played The Citadel every year since the Mountaineers joined the Southern Conference in 1972. Appalachian and The Citadel have faced each other 36 times, with the Mountaineers holding a 25-11 edge. The Bulldogs have only defeated the Mountaineers three times in their history in Boone. The last meeting between the two teams ended in a 45-24 beatdown by the Mountaineers in Charleston. Armanti Edwards accounted for 291 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the game. The Bulldogs lean a bit more to the rushing game with their offense, but do have the ability to accumulate some yards through the air. I’m sure they’ll look to pass more this weekend as the Mountaineers did show some weakness defending the pass against Presbyterian.

The Season so far: The Citadel’s only loss this weekend came against in-state FBS opponent Clemson (45-17 loss).  The Bulldogs’ three other wins have come against Webber International, Princeton and Western Carolina.  How that results in a No. 12 ranking is beyond me.

Last Week: The Bulldogs rolled over Western Carolina last week 34-14 at home, improving their national ranking to No. 12 in the process. The Citadel racked up 541 yards of offense and ran for a season-best 276 yards in handing the Catamounts their 16th straight Southern Conference loss. Quarterback Bart Blanchard ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the win. Blancard was also 19-of-28 for 265 yards. Freshman running back Asheton Jordan had 110 yards on 18 carries.

Stat Leaders: Passing – Bart Blanchard, 65 for 100, 65% completion rate, 832 yards, 7 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 146.0 QB rating; Rushing – Asheton Jordan, 48 carries for 268 yards, 3 TDs; Receiving – Andre Roberts, 26 catches for 440 yards, 6 touchdowns.

Team Offense: 35.5 points per game, 178.8 rushing yards per game, 236.2 passing yards per game.

Team Defense: 22.5 points per game, 150.2 rushing yards per game, 172 passing yards per game.

Record: 3-1, 1-0 SoCon.

Gametime is set for 3 p.m. at Kidd-Brewer Stadium. For those of you with SportSouth, the game will be televised live.

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