Football Day: Here comes the chaos

Ohio State, Baylor, USC and Alabama all hope to feature in this year's playoff.

Ohio State, Baylor, USC and Alabama all hope to feature in this year’s playoff.

In the College GameDay Preview Show last weekend, Rece Davis talked about there being one clear-cut number one, and a whole bunch of chaos. Well, that prediction carries across to our final NFLUK preseason projection post.

Not one single team has a unanimous projection of winning their conference, and only Ohio State – the first ever unanimous AP Preseason #1 and NFLUK #1 – gets four out of five votes. Beyond that, trying to work out the mind of the select NFLUK pollsters is, basically, chaos.

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NFLUK #1 – Ohio State Buckeyes

Three have become two, but there's still a QB debate in Columbus

Three have become two, but there’s still a QB debate in Columbus

A couple of days ago I talked about how Alabama had a QB headache because they had five guys in line for the job. Well, Ohio State have a similar headache but instead of having five average guys to choose between, they have three superstars.

Going into 2014 the story was whether Braxton Miller would fulfil his promise and deliver a conference title to the Buckeyes in just Urban Meyer’s third season in Columbus. The master plan was simple – bowl ineligible year one, division title year two, conference title year three, national title year four. Only it didn’t work out quite like that…

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NFLUK #2 – TCU Horned Frogs

Trevone Boykin is the preseason Heisman favourite

Trevone Boykin is the preseason Heisman favourite

It’s insane to think how far a programme can come in such a short space of time. Just three years ago TCU were in the BCS Buster category of schools – mid-major little guys who stick it to the big boys – and they even lost to Boise State in their Fiesta Bowl appearance. Now, the Horned Frogs look to be on the verge of becoming the biggest of all big boys: the National Champions.

In the midst of all the Power 5 reshuffling that the 2010-13 College Football Realignment brought about, TCU’s shift from the Mountain West to the Big XII probably drew the least comment beyond “Ha! Now those upstarts will get their comeuppance!” But in just three years the Frogs have gone from 5th, to 7th, to conference champions.

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College Football UK TV Listings – Week 1

TV 1

Here we go then, it’s football week, finally. ThorpesSportingThoughts is the best place to find out what college football is on UK television, and it all kicks off on Thursday. If you’re new to my blog, my TV postings tend to go a little something like this:

  • Each college football “week” runs Tuesday to Monday (eg. Week 2: Sat 12 Sep, begins Tue 8 Sep). This is mainly due to the midweek games later in the season.
  • BT Sport publish their listings 3-4 weeks in advance.
  • I’ll post an early outline of the listings on the NFLUK Forum eight days before the week begins (eg. Week 2: I’ll post the early fixtures today, Mon 31 Aug)
  • The Monday before the week begins (eg. Week 2: Mon 7 Sep), I’ll update the post and publish an analysis blog here.
  • These may vary a little due to, y’know, life going on, but now you know what to look out for.

But without further ado, here’s the rundown of the NINE live games we get this week…

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NFLUK #3 – Alabama Crimson Tide

Derrick Henry projects to be the next tough 'Bama RB

Derrick Henry projects to be the next tough ‘Bama RB

Most teams have a two- or maybe three-man quarterback competition to keep fans interested during the spring and summer, but that’s not enough for Alabama, oh no. They started spring camp with as many as five QBs reportedly in the hunt (it’s down to three now) and still end up ranked in the playoff positions.

Let’s get serious here, how does a team that loses it’s leading rusher, reciever, passer, most of its O-line and most of its secondary end up ranked this highly? It’s because they’re called Alabama. Any other programme wouldn’t be ranked in the top ten, but ‘Bama are. And people say that rankings are impartial and unbiased?

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NFLUK #4 – Baylor Bears

Man beast Shawn Oakman leads a defense that needs to improve.

Man beast Shawn Oakman leads a defense that needs to improve.

Three quarters into last year’s Cotton Bowl, Baylor were joining TCU in giving two fingers up to the playoff selection committee. They appeared to be dominating another top tier programme in a way their regular season schedule didn’t allow… but then the comeback happened. Baylor shipped 21 points late in the fourth quarter, and they ended the season in defeat.

In the end, the way the 2014 Baylor Bears’ season closed justified their absence from the playoff. They may have led the nation in scoring with an average nearing 50 points per game, and had a 3,500 yard QB in Bryce Petty, but the rub on the Bears was that their schedule was just too soft. The feeling was that sure, Baylor could stomp on cupcakes, but against real opposition they come up short.

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NFLUK #5 – Michigan State Spartans

5 Michigan State

Everything said a few days ago about Clemson being an underrated team rings true here too for Michigan State. The Spartans are a damn fine football programme, led by an excellent head coach, who have had 11-win seasons in four of the last five years, and won back-to-back BCS/New Year’s Six bowl games.

So, why don’t the Spartans get any love? Well, a lot of it comes from the neighbours and rivals. This offseason in the Big Ten East has been all about Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and Urban Meyer at OSU going head-to-head, and it’s a sexy news story. A solidly consistent team that just keeps winning? Nah, not news.

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NFLUK #6 – Oregon Ducks

6 Oregon

Today’s post comes with something of a disclaimer: I am significantly more down on the Ducks than all other pollsters in this year’s poll, and that may be reflected in what I write. That being said, I still feel like Oregon are prohibitive favourites in the Pac-12 North, so we’ll see…

There’s so much change in Autzen, with just one returning defensive starter, and with Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota finally jumping ship to the NFL, it feels like there’s a lot to do to get back to ten wins again in 2015.

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NFLUK #7 – Auburn Tigers

D'haquille Williams  (1) needs to provide options for new QB Jeremy Johnson

D’haquille Williams (1) needs to provide options for new QB Jeremy Johnson

It’s year three of the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn. One of the premier recruiters in college football and offensive mastermind of the Tigers’ 2010 national championship, is now the time for Malzahn’s classes to come together and win the big one.

Number one in all the hype is junior QB Jeremy Johnson, who has two starts and 11 other backup appearances against lower quality opposition. Promoted to the starting job with Nick Marshall’s graduation, he now needs to show that the hype is justified.

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The future is now

Finn Balor retains his NXT title in Brooklyn on Saturday.

Finn Balor retains his NXT title in Brooklyn on Saturday.

I’ve been watching WWE wrestling (“sports entertainment”) for six years now, almost to the day. That means I supposedly missed out on the company’s “glory days” to endure the pain of John Cena winning every week. Well, there’s a new period of glory currently taking place on the ‘E, and the sad thing is that your average Monday Night Raw viewer wouldn’t even know it.

It has become one of the staple moments of my week to leap out of bed the moment my alarm goes off at 5am on a Thursday, rush through to the lounge, and try to get the latest episode of NXT watched before I need to get to work. The rest of the weekly WWE programming? Raw, Smackdown and the like? Even the main roster PPVs? I can take it or leave it, but I have to get my NXT fix.

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