No Huddle: A Rough Weekend for Turn-of-the-Century Powers Miami, Tennessee and Nebraska

The University of Maine and Temple University had a neutral-site field hockey game scheduled for Saturday on Kent State’s campus. But you wouldn’t know that if you checked Maine’s team website.

Any sign of the game has since been removed from the Black Bears’ schedule.

That’s because after the two teams were knotted in a scoreless tie through the end of regulation, and then remained so after the first overtime period, Kent State administrators showed up and told the visiting schools that their game had been called off.


So that the university could safely shoot fireworks for the Golden Flashes’ home football game against Kennesaw State, which was played on a different field.

The never-finished field hockey game was ultimately classified as an exhibition.

The move by Kent State was almost a punch line from The Onion that came to life, an unfortunate reality where other student-athletes invited to compete at its athletic fields were displaced not for another game but for a superfluous (and if we’re being honest, a pretty weak) firework display.

There’s no questioning the popularity of football – the No. 1 sport in this country – and the positive financial and marketing impact the sport has on universities. Texas’ athletic department saw in excess of $219 million in total operating revenue last fiscal year, Ohio State was at $205M, Alabama at $177M and Georgia at $176M – to highlight a few prominent universities.

Football is responsible for a significant portion of that revenue and it’s worth acknowledging that fact.

And yes, that money benefits the entire athletic department, not just football players, and sometimes it’s spent on aspects of universities that are outside of athletics.

But to cast off student-athletes of a non-revenue sport in the middle of a competition, especially amid an overtime game where the next team that scored in overtime would’ve won, for the sake of some pre-game fireworks is a regrettable scheduling gaffe at best and perhaps fringing upon a Title IX violation at worst.

I reached out to the University of Maine and received this statement from Athletic Director Ken Ralph:

“Prior to the contest we were made aware of timing issues regarding pre-game football activities. While we would have greatly appreciated the opportunity to play the final 10 minutes of our contest, the KSU administration made the decision they felt was most appropriate.”

That statement – which is admirable of Maine for taking the high road – then begs the question of why the game was ever played at the originally scheduled time in the first place, if the parties involved knew there were “timing issues.”

Or better yet, why weren’t alternate arrangements made to prevent the scheduling conflict entirely?

While the NCAA doesn’t sanction an official championship in football – the most popular collegiate sport in the U.S. – we shouldn’t lose sight of the student-athletes who compete for the 90 men’s and women’s championships that the NCAA does sanction, the ones that garner far less money and attention than football.

By the way, Maine was ranked No. 24 in the preseason NFHCA Coaches poll. The preseason No. 24 team this year in football was Nebraska, according to the coaches poll, and the state of Nebraska might cease to exist if a Huskers game went to overtime, only to be called off in order to set up pre-game festivities for another sport on campus.

Of course that would never happen, and it shouldn’t have happened to the field hockey teams at Kent State.

Ironically, Kent State’s football team beat Kennesaw State 26-23 in overtime on Saturday.

Luckily the two teams were able to finish the game in overtime without interruption.


Bad beat of the week

Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher may have made some new enemies yesterday and I’m not talking about fans of other SEC West schools who live in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Auburn or Starkville. With Texas A&M trailing 24-3 on the road to No. 1 Clemson, Fisher used two timeouts in the final 30 seconds of the game to stop the clock and draw up goal-line plays for the Aggies’ offense.

On 4th & Goal with 10 seconds to play, Clemson blitzed with eight defenders, leaving each of Texas A&M’s three wide receivers facing tight, man coverage on the outside.

No one accounted for tight end Jalen Wydermyer, who leaked out and caught a wide-open pass that quarterback Kellen Mond lofted into the end zone for a touchdown that was meaningless in deciding the winner and loser but critically important for gamblers. You can watch the play below.

Clemson was a 16.5-point favorite over Texas A&M (the line could’ve varied based on which sportsbook you use or when you made your bet) and odds are that the Aggies’ final offensive snap carried significant weight if you bet on college football on Saturday.

It’s not a surprise that Texas A&M went for it on fourth down – what good would a meaningless chip-shot field goal do in that situation? – but it almost felt like Fisher knew what the spread on the game was and he wanted to at least cover and make the final score seem closer than the game was in reality.

Clemson’s defense kept Texas A&M out of the end zone for the first 59 minutes and 50 seconds, and for the first 94 offensive plays the Aggies ran, but it was their final play and the final 10 seconds that allowed Texas A&M to cover thanks to Fisher having all three of A&M’s timeouts still available.


How Not To Tweet

It’s all fun and games when trolling a rival football team until your state’s flagship school blows a 17-0 lead in a road game in which your fans apparently bought every available ticket on the secondary market, making it look like it was a home game.

This is the ultimate @OldTakesExposed tweet, one that was sent after the first quarter, when No. 25 Nebraska led Colorado 7-0 and after Husker fans had overwhelmed Folsom Field. It was a mild jab at a rival – a rival that won 33-28 at Nebraska last season, I might add – and Senator Sasse’s tweet reminds us that it’s often better to wait until the score is final before getting your jokes off on Twitter.

Or else the tables might turn and then the joke’s on you.


Life comes at you fast

What do Miami (FL), Florida State, Tennessee, Michigan and Nebraska have in common?

Here’s a hint: The following list shows college football’s national champions leading up to the turn of the century and immediately after, with two teams crossed out for reasons to be explained shortly:

2001: Miami (FL)

2000: Oklahoma

1999: Florida State

1998: Tennessee

1997: Michigan, Nebraska

1996: Florida

1995: Nebraska

1994: Nebraska

1993: Florida State

This group of schools won the national championship in seven of the nine seasons from 1993 to 2001 and each had a rough Saturday.

Miami, Tennessee and Nebraska lost in excruciating fashion in Week 2 to North Carolina, BYU and Colorado, respectively. The Volunteers were a 3.5-point favorite, the Huskers were a 4-point favorite and the Hurricanes were a 4.5-point favorite.

Florida State and Michigan won at home in overtime against UL Monroe and Army, respectively, and each certainly could’ve lost.

Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt and Florida State’s Willie Taggart will be among the first names mentioned this fall when coaches who are on the hot seat are discussed. Nebraska’s Scott Frost and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh are attempting to lead their alma maters back to national glory and that’s definitely not guaranteed, when you look at the last two decades at each program.

(By the way, Oklahoma and Florida were crossed off on the list above because Oklahoma has made the College Football Playoff three times and the Sooners have produced back-to-back Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks who went on to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and Florida is just three years removed from its second consecutive SEC Championship Game appearance and the Gators won the national championship in 2006 and 2008. The Sooners and Gators aren’t in the same state of crisis/soul-searching that the other five schools currently occupy.)

Here’s a look at each school’s record since it won its most recent national title between 1993 and ’01.

Miami: 138-80 (an average record of roughly 8.1-4.7 per season)

Florida State: 176-75 (an average record of roughly 9.2-3.9 per season)

Tennessee: 147-106 (an average record of roughly 7.3-5.3 per season)

Michigan: 179-88 (an average record of roughly 8.5-4.1 per season)

Nebraska: 176-97 (an average record of 8.3-4.6 per season)

Guess what, over the last 20-ish seasons, Tennessee is roughly a 7-5 program.

Miami and Nebraska have averaged roughly eight wins with four or five losses per season.

Michigan will win eight or nine games per year, on average, and Florida State will finish close to 9-4 (and that’s including the first seven years of the Jimbo Fisher era, when the Seminoles won the 2013 BCS Championship, made the inaugural playoff and won 78 games).

Other than Tennessee’s 7-5 mark, the other four schools have lived in a good neighborhood – one that’s well-lit, serviced by professional lawn care companies and has speed bumps to keep kids safe.

All that’s to say that averaging eight-plus wins per season is a good, if not great, place to be as a program, depending on the fan base’s expectations.

It almost guarantees bowl eligibility annually barring a complete and utter collapse, which would likely lead to a swift coaching change, it probably means semi-frequent division and conference title contention, and if things like scheduling and player health break right, it can lead to a potential national title chase.

Eighty to ninety percent of FBS programs would probably sign up for that today if they could.

But it’s not the ’90s anymore and with the exception of Florida State, these programs haven’t been consistent national title contenders in almost 20 years.

If you need more evidence, here’s a story I wrote in the offseason, which answers the question, “What have Power Five schools accomplished in the lifetime of 2020 recruits?” Current 17 and 18-year-old prospects haven’t been alive for a national title won by the Vols, Huskers or Wolverines.

Maybe Saturday was a perfect storm of bad matchups and weird bounces in early-season games where players and coaching staffs are still working to reach their potential.

But to me, the results of the Week 2 games played by these five schools, all of which won at least one national championship in the same generation roughly 20 years ago, were telling in that these programs that were national powers in the not-terribly-distant past have continued to struggle finding their footing as they try to climb back to the top of the mountain.


Here’s a play design I saw that I liked

After scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against Minnesota, Fresno State dialed up a trick play and went for two. At first, the Bulldogs lined up like they were going to kick the PAT, which was to be expected with a five-point lead, but then six linemen broke out wide to the left and one player went by himself split off to the right.

Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna, who was lined up as the holder, lined up like he was going to receive a shotgun snap and he looked to the sideline, perfectly selling the fake play-call, which set up the shovel pass snap to Josh Hokit, who was split off to the left.

Reyna jumped up in the air and acted like the snap went over his head, while Hokit ran behind his line, got to the edge, then cut in for the score.

Unfortunately for Fresno State, Minnesota was able to force overtime thanks to a ridiculous touchdown reception on 4th & 13, and the Golden Gophers prevailed on the road, 38-35 in double overtime.


MORE: Georgia Spent $2.6M on Recruiting Last Year. How Much Did Your School Spend?