College football season begins tomorrow, and each week Mitch and I will impanel a group of writers and fans to discuss various football topics. This week’s panel:
- Josh Flagner (@JoshFlagner), the former publisher of More Than a Fan, writer at SportsHax
- Mitch Gatzke (@GreatGatzke), a former writer at Campus Pressbox, writer at SportsHax, host of Ducks on the Pod
- Bird LeCroy (@Autull), a former writer at Campus Pressbox, host of The SEC: Yesterday and Today
- Courtney Mayle (@courtmac17), a former writer at Campus Pressbox
- David Rayner (@dmrayner), a former writer at Campus Pressbox, writer at SportsHax, Virginia Cavalier
Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Stanford are playing their opening games on Friday night. Is playing on Friday a smart move or does it scream “amateur hour”?
Josh: People love college football enough to support a Friday night opener, so have a Friday night opener. This doesn’t move the needle either way for me.
Mitch: It’s amateur hour and a shameless money grab. College football is played on Saturday. Volunteering to go on Friday night is not something you do if you want to be taken seriously. Plus, it probably doesn’t even pay off. I can’t imagine fans prefer a condensed, rushed tailgate, following a day of class or work.
Bird: It’s ok Week 1. There are also Sunday (LSU-Miami) and Monday (Virginia Tech-Florida State) night games Week 1 and this has become somewhat of a tradition on opening week. Once we get into the season, though, I don’t care for big FBS games on Friday. You’re more likely to see a Group of 5 game or even an FCS game on Friday at that point. I’m more of a traditionalist in some respects. I like high school football on Fridays and college football on Saturdays.
Courtney: I think that playing Friday is a great idea. They are playing lesser opponents, but they are still on national television. Saturday is so stacked with so many great games that they may not have gotten prime time television spots like they will on Friday.
David: Amateur Hour, without question. Friday is high school football night. I detest college games on Friday – although I’ll be going to a couple this year. It dilutes the excitement of Saturday college football and forces families to choose between college and high school games on Friday night. Nothing good comes from that. Additionally, when ESPN GameDay comes on we might have a half dozen games already in the books. It’s wrong and bad for the game. Amateur Hour, without question.
Give us one unranked team you’ll be keeping your eye on as we begin the season.
Josh: TULANE GREEN WAVE, BABY! (I’m sure they’re terrible, but they sent me a letter when I was in high school and I fondly remember daydreaming about going to college in Louisiana. (I didn’t go.))
Mitch: The Florida Atlantic Owls. Head coach Lane Kiffin led them to their best season ever last year. They have one of the best running backs in the nation in Devin “Motor” Singletary. The QB position (no matter who wins the starting job) will be manned by someone who’s more than qualified, albeit unproven. I’m curious if last year was just a fluke. I’m betting it was not.
Bird: I’ll be keeping an eye on the Florida Atlantic Owls. Lane Kiffin led that team to double-digit wins (11-3) in 2017 and I expect them to, once again, surprise people. We’ll get a good read on them Saturday as the Oklahoma Sooners host the Owls in game one.
Courtney: I will have to go with “my” team K-State. They are receiving votes, but I do not see them making the Top 25 unless they win their first four games. The second game of the season is against No. 18 Mississippi State in Manhattan and the fourth game is against No. 17 West Virginia in Morgantown. If the Cats can beat these two teams they should be able to make the Top 25 and surprise some critics.
David: Besides Virginia? I’d say NC State. They lost a lot of talent on defense from last year’s team, which I think was better than their 9-4 record, but they should be able to reload. I like QB Ryan Finley as a top candidate for ACC Offensive Player of the Year, but the Pack had better not look past JMU in the opener. The Dukes have been the best team in THE Commonwealth of Virginia the past two seasons.
What is your favorite Week 1 snack?
Josh: I’m usually sneaking some Cheddar Goldfish or Teddy Grahams along with a beer or two.
Mitch: The weather is still nice. In fact, it’s still summertime. I’m going to be grilling some dogs and drinking some beers.
Bird: Wings. We lived in Albany, NY back in the mid-eighties and I had never heard of Buffalo-style wings until then. I have since become an addict, even, at times, ordering sauce from the mother lode, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. Gimme wings!
Courtney: Some of my go-to snacks, no matter what the week is would have to be wings, chips and queso, chips and spicy chicken dip and some Chex Mix. Finger foods are usually my go-to during football games.
David: That’s easy, PEZ. Cherry-flavored PEZ, no question about it.
Washington or Auburn, which needs this win more and why?
Josh: Washington. Auburn can make up for a loss with wins against Mississippi State, Georgia, and Alabama later in the season. I don’t think they will, but they can. For Washington, Auburn is the premier game on their schedule.
Mitch: This is tough. Washington could run the table and still be left out of the Playoff. The Pac-12 is that much weaker than the rest of the Power 5 conferences right now. A win would give the Huskies an indisputable bullet point that they might need when submitting their final resumé. Auburn, meanwhile, needs to get back on track after a weak finish last year. The Tigers will need to build some confidence ahead of a tough SEC West slate. This is practically a home game for them, too, so taking an L would not be a good look. It’s tough, but I have to go with Washington, because there won’t be as many chances to make up ground out west as there will be down south.
Bird: Auburn. The final two games of the 2017 season, losses to Georgia and Central Florida, put a damper on an otherwise great season. Imagine beating two number one teams in the span of 15 days and then crashing and burning in the SEC Championship game and the Peach Bowl. No thank you! Auburn is hungry and will be playing with a huge chip on its shoulder in 2018. War Eagle!
Courtney: Washington will need to win this game more because they are in the Pac-12. If they do not win this game, it is highly unlikely that they will make the College Football Playoff. But if Auburn loses they still may have a chance at the playoff because they could be other teams in the SEC and have a greater chance. So, this game is more important to Washington.
David: Auburn, without a doubt. Running the gauntlet of the SEC is brutal enough on its own. If the Tigers want to be in the national championship picture, they cannot afford to lose this game. After a tough opener, among others, Auburn gets to look forward to games against LSU, Georgia, Mississippi St, Texas A&M, and ‘Bama. Auburn needs to beat Washington because it is unlikely they run the table against that slate of opponents.
Virginia Tech travels to Florida State for a rather large ACC showdown right off the bat. Should conference play be allowed in Week 1?
Josh: Absolutely. I’m for making the schedule and the season as impactful, as soon as possible.
Mitch: I don’t like it. You can afford to lose a non-conference game or even two, but conference games are the ones that really matter. I don’t want to see a good team punished in November just because they had never played together entering September. I’m all for big games at the beginning of the season. However, I don’t think it’s wise for teams (or the conferences themselves) to schedule such impactful games so early on.
Bird: Absolutely! That is a great way to get your teams attention in the offseason and focus on an important conference game right off the bat. I truly dislike playing weak teams on opening day. And if you don’t play a conference game then at least play another Power 5 team.
Courtney: Yes, I think that conference play should be allowed in Week 1. This makes college football exciting throughout the year and not when you are three to four weeks in like it used to be. A team has to be able to come out and compete with any team Week 1.
David: I like having a few “big games” in Week 1. With so many tune-up games across most P5 schedules, it will be fun to watch an important conference match-up in Week 1. I am also glad the game is not the neutral site game, but a conference game. Beat Tech.
Which Power 5 conference will be left out of this seasons College Football Playoff?
Josh: Pac-12. Washington is the best team in the conference and I think they’ll lose to Auburn. If the Huskies pull off the upset, they can run the table and knock Oklahoma and the BIG 12 out of the playoff.
Mitch: It ain’t gonna be the SEC. The Big Ten is loaded this year. Clemson will either continue to reign or lose and propel another ACC team into the top four. Washington’s got very little room for error but shouldn’t need it anyway. By process of elimination, I think the Big 12 will be left on the outside looking in.
Bird: Good question. If you look at Power 5 teams in all conferences, you’ve got Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia in the SEC and at least one of those teams is in. Oklahoma, or even TCU, could very well make it in from the Big 12. Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan are viable candidates in the Big Ten, and Clemson is expected to make the College Football Playoff from the ACC. That leaves the Pac-12. Washington is the class of that conference, but it could very well lose to Auburn in game one, I expect that, and then one conference loss and they are out. I also expect that. So, it appears to me that the Pac-12 will draw the short end of the stick in 2018.
Courtney: If Washington loses the Pac-12 will be left out of the College Football Playoff. The committee has a history of leaving them and the Big 12 out. So, it is probably a toss-up, but if I had to choose I would choose the Pac-12.
David: I think pre-season predictions are ridiculous and have stated frequently that drawing names from a hat is just as accurate as pre-season polls and predictions. So that’s what I did, I pulled a name from a hat. I drew the Pac-12. Sticking by it. I attached a photo to support my methodology.