Around the Horn, Sept. 18, 2019

Around The Horn” is a resurrection of a column from the early days of RamNation.com. We take readers around the college athletics world, as it relates to Colorado State and the Mountain West Conference. This one is brought to you by Mighty River Brewing Company, who is hosting “Riverfest” Saturday September 28. It will feature great food from the Salty Dog Food Truck with special German offerings, traditional Marzen Lager, German Pilsner Lager, and live music! Plus, buy a 32oz Riverfest Mug with either lager and keep the glass! Don’t miss this great event, held only one day per year! 

Joe Parker to USC? You can bet on it!: Literally. You can bet on CSU athletic director Joe Parker becoming the next athletic director at USC to replace Lynn Swann who stepped down last week. Online sports book Bovada lists Parker at +1100 odds alongside UNLV A.D. Desiree Reed-Francois, and just behind CU A.D. Rick George (+800). Washington State’s Pat Chun is the odds-on favorite at +100, while O.J. Simpson is the longshot at +100000. No joke. Click here to see this is not made up.

Kind Words: Following the loss to Arkansas Saturday, in which we saw a late-hit cause a third career ACL tear for Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator John Chavis was “clearly moved” as he spoke about the injury to Hill.  “Unbelievable,” Chavis said. “What can you say? Accidents happen. I hope he’s going to be fine. I hadn’t heard anything since the game, but you never like to see that. You just feel so bad for the kid, and I hope he’s going to be fine.” Obviously, it turned out Hill wasn’t fine.

Meanwhile, head coach Chad Morris was complimentary to CSU as a whole: “I want to give credit to Colorado State,” Morris said. “They had a great plan, their kids play extremely hard, they’re very well coached, they attacked our edge, they attacked some of our freshmen defensive ends and got the ball outside. So, credit to those guys. They fought all the way to the bitter end.”

Unkind Record. At the end of the day, it was another loss for the Rams, who start the season 1-2 for the third time in five seasons under Mike Bobo. Most concerning is the continually poor second-half performance by the Rams. The Rams have melted down in the fourth quarter of both losses this season and have been outscored in the second half 63-30 in three games so far this year. RamNation.com message board poster Pine Beetle offered post with some interesting research this week outlining the Rams’ second-half performances dating back to the start of 2018.

The post illustrated that Bobo’s teams have scored 190 points after halftime the past two seasons while opponents have tallied 303. Here’s the results of the last 15 games dating back to the start of last season:

  • 10-28 Arkansas
  • 10-7 Western Illinois
  • 10-28 Colorado
  • 17-20 Hawaii
  • 3-17 CU
  • 25-14 Arkansas
  • 7-21 Florida
  • 13-21 Illinois State
  • 14-30 San Jose State
  • 6-15 New Mexico
  • 21-21 Boise State
  • 21-31 Wyoming
  • 10-21 Nevada
  • 17-19 Utah State
  • 6-10 Air Force.

Only twice have the Rams not been outscored in the second half since the start of last season.

Undisciplined. One of the biggest issues plaguing Bobo’s teams has been terrible ball security and costly penalties. Check out these numbers:

  • 2019 so far:
    Turnovers: 8 (opponents 2)
    Penalties: 18 for 212 yards (opponents 17 for 127)
  • 2018:
    Turnovers: 22 (opponents 12)
    Penalties: 94 for 789 yards (opponents 75 for 659)
  • 2017:
    Turnovers: 16 (opponents 18)
    Penalties: 81 for 741 yards (opponents 73 for 633)
  • 2016:
    Turnovers: 15 (opponents 14)
    Penalties: 79 for 704 yards (opponents 79 for 629)
  • 2015:
    Turnovers: 27 (opponents 15)
    Penalties: 97 for 898 yards (opponents 83 for 732)

If you’re keeping score at home, CSU has been in negative turnover ratio all but one season under Bobo and has been penalized more than opponents in each of his five seasons.

At The Peak. The non-conference season has been a good one thus far for the Mountain West. The conference has a 20-11 overall non-conference record (65%), with seven wins over Power 5 conferences (Florida State, Missouri, Colorado, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon State, and Purdue), which is tops among Group of Five conferences. There are 16 non-conference games remaining for the MW, including three more vs. P5 opponents: San Jose State at Arkansas this weekend, Utah State at LSU October 5, and UNLV at Vanderbilt October 12. The other remaining non-conference games are vs. BYU (three times), Tulsa, Navy, Army (twice), New Mexico State (twice), Liberty, Toledo, Central Arkansas, and UTEP.

The rest of the Group of Five’s performances vs. Power 5 opponents is as follows:

  • American Athletic Conference: 22-11 (67%) overall with four P5 wins over Stanford, Maryland, UCLA, and Ole Miss. They have 5 games vs. P5 opponents remaining.
  • Sun Belt: 13-14 (48%) overall with 2 wins vs. P5 opponents (Tennessee and Kansas). They have four games remaining vs. P5 opponents.
  • Mid-American Conference: 14-21 (40%) overall with one win over a P5 opponent (Illinois). They have 7 games remaining vs. P5 opponents.
  • Conference USA: 18-21 (46%) overall with no wins vs. P5 opponents. They have eight more chances to get a win vs. the P5.

“Power 5 Invitational”: Regardless of performance, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone within the MW that believes any team from its conference or any other G5 conference will ever make the College Football Playoffs. G5 conferences do have more access than they did in the BCS era, with the top-rated G5 team getting an invite to a “New Year’s Six” bowl game, but have the deck stacked against them to ever make the playoff. (By the way, the Group of 5 has gone 3-2 in New Year’s Six bowl games since such a tie-in began.)

San Diego State AD John Wicker recently commented in the San Diego Union Tribune, “Are we going to make it to the playoff? I seriously doubt it. As (UCF Athletics Director) Danny White said, ‘It’s a Power 5 invitational.’ I think it’s a reality of today’s college football landscape. I hope we go to eight (teams) and a Group of Five champion has a chance to be in the playoff.”

Aztecs head football coach Rocky Long called it “an almost impossible task the way the system is set up.”

MW commissioner Craig Thompson called the prospect of one of his member teams ever making the playoff “challenging.”

Financial Gap: The fact that G5 schools are competing as well as they are against P5 schools is impressive considering the incredible financial gap that is continuing to widen. Consider this: The Big Ten doles out approximately $52 million per university each year, compared to the $1.1 million allocated per school in the MW. Further illustrating the point, a recent report on Michigan football indicated the Wolverines’ football budget the past two years is at an all-time high – around $40 million each year. That’s more than four Mountain West institutions spend on their entire athletic department (San Jose State, Nevada, Utah State, Wyoming), and isn’t too far off from the rest of each of the MW member institutions’ total athletic budgets.

Home Sweet Home. In 2018, CSU spent more than $2.6 million on team travel and lodging – a portion of which goes towards in-town hotel stays the night before home football games. The idea of staying in hotels before home games is to feed players consistently, keep them together for meetings, and to control their curfew/bedtime. However, one report suggests hometown hotel stays aren’t worth the expense.

Gatehouse News recently reported that numerous peer-reviewed studies have linked the first night in a strange environment, such as a hotel room, to poor sleep and ultimately poor next-day performance. Kimberly Hutchison, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at the Oregon Health and Science University, says “From a medical perspective, all other things being treated equal, I would opine that sleeping at home would give them the best night of sleep and the best sleep quality in order to best prepare them for the game the next day. When we educate people on proper sleep hygiene, we recommend routine, routine, routine. You go to bed at the same time, you try to wake up at the same time, you do the same wind-down routine, and all of that allows your brain to sort of prepare for sleep.”

Numbers for MW schools were not included in the report, but it showed that an average Pac-12 school spends almost $10,000 per game on home game hotel spending, with UCLA leading the way at almost $17,000 per game.

Davies Eyes Return: New Mexico coach Bob Davie was hospitalized with an unknown, but reportedly life-threatening health issue following Week 1 of the season. He has credited doctors with saving his life and said he expects to make a full recovery. Davies plans to return to the sideline for a September 28 road game at Liberty. He did not travel this past week to Notre Dame, which was largely scheduled due to his prior coaching stint in South Bend. Offensive line coach Saga Tuitele has been the acting head coach in Davies’ absence.  

Fewer Irish Eyes…: Speaking of Notre Dame-New Mexico, their game last weekend drew a 1.1 rating (roughly 126 million viewers) on NBC, which is the lowest for a Notre Dame home opener since at least 1997. No. 7 Notre Dame rolled to a 66-14 win over the Lobos.

Power of Gameday: During ESPN’s College Gameday in Ames, Iowa Saturday, an Iowa State fan held up a sign that read “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” and included his Venmo handle. His account collected $20,000, and Busch and Venmo will both match that figure and all will be contributed to IU Children’s Hospital. Busch has also provided him with free beer.

Deadly Mascot: UAB had been kicking around the idea of having a live Komodo dragon as mascot roaming the sidelines at home football games. However, when UAB athletic director Mark Ingram reached out to the Birmingham Zoo to investigate the feasibility, he was informed that the idea was essentially ludicrous. The zoo officials explained that Komodo dragons are as “dangerous as alligators, but they also spit at their prey, causing paralysis.” Ingram subsequently told AL.com, “I thought it seemed like a great idea, but apparently it’s not as good of an idea as I once thought.”

And we thought having a Big Horned Sheep on CSU’s sidelines was a bad idea.

Wise Old Owls: Rice may have gotten demolished 48-13 by Texas last Saturday in Houston, but the Owl’s marching band certainly won. The Rice band formed a “2.89” on the field to honor Texas football’s highest team GPA in their history during the 2018-19 school year. Reminds me of a game vs. New Mexico at Moby Arena in the early 1990s when Ram fans chanted “zero….zero” in unison every time the Lobos’ point guard touched the ball because it had been reported he was carrying a 0.0 GPA.

Lucky Orange: The Rams might be 9.5-point underdogs at home vs. Toledo Saturday, but they’ve g

ot some luck on their side. It’s Ag Day, and the Rams will be wearing their pumpkin orange jerseys. The Rams are 8-2 in orange jerseys since first donning them in 2007. The most recent came at the hands of FCS opponent Illinois State last season (barf). The first loss came against BYU at Hughes Stadium in 2010. The Rams actually wore orange twice that year, beating New Mexico a couple weeks prior.

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 All previous Around the Horn columns can be found here. 

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