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Thursday, 1 September 2016

#BetweenTheHashMark: College Football Is Back Baby!!!
Bring on the excitement of the NCAA and CIS Football seasons


I love the summer.  I love the warm weather.  I love to BBQ.  I love getting to just relax on a patio with friends and enjoy some cold choice beverages.  However, I LOVE SEPTEMBER!!  Sure the weather is not as nice.  You usually cannot BBQ wearing only your shorts.  And most patio's are now closed for the season.  BUT....we get college football back sports fans!!!  How can you not get excited about this?

It was only just under 9 months ago college football fans gathered to watch Alabama win, yet again, another College Football Playoff in defeating Clemson in the National Championship.  The SEC continues to be a power house nation and this season should be no different.  But who will step up and challenge them?  Could we finally see a Big 10 or Big 12 team make the National Championship game?  What about the ACC?  With Clemson and Florida State in the thick of the hunt once again, could one of them bring home the national title?  And what about the west coast love?  The Pac-12 has a few teams looking to break through and cement their conference as the "Conference of Champions" this year.


North of the border, university football has also begun with the OUA conference kicking off the season last weekend.  This weekend the OUA continues their regular season and the teams from Canada West will begin their quest for the Vanier Cup.  The Atlantic teams will officially launch their season next weekend.  UBC enters the season as the #1 team and defending Vanier Cup Champions, having defeated Montreal last November.  Similar to their competitive rivals in the south, the west coast teams often feel no love from pollsters and the Ontario teams are usually the teams receiving all the pre-season praise and attention (Hmmm,...is OUA the SEC of Canada?).  The CIS may not have as many teams on the competitive field as the NCAA but the intensity of the action is equally matched!


To kick off the season, let's take a quick look at the #TwineTime pre-season rankings.  As the NCAA has a #CFBPlayoff, each week #TwineTime will present the Top 4 teams whom I think should qualify for the playoff as well as the two teams nipping on the heels and looking to move up should a top contender falter.  A complicated computer system ultimately determines which four teams advance to the playoff.  Usually each team comes through as a conference champion but, as we have seen in the past, sometimes a two-loss non-conference champion team will qualify and win the national championship (only in the SEC though apparently).  

The CIS employs a different method, somewhat.  Each team plays a regular season conference schedule (with a few inter-conference games scheduled in Ontario and Quebec).  A regular playoff format is used in each conference, ultimately declaring a conference champion.  The four conference champions (Canada West, OUA, RSEQ, AUC) then play de-facto national championship semi-final games: The Mitchell Bowl and The Uteck Bowl (see we have bowl games in Canada too...just not 62 of them or whatever it is now!).  This year's Mitchell Bowl match up will be between Canada West and RSEQ (Quebec) and the Uteck Bowl will be between OUA and AUC.

Here are the #TwineTime pre-season rankings:

NCAA

1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Alabama
4. Baylor
5. Florida State
6. Michigan

CIS

1. UBC
2. Montreal
3. Laval
4. Western
5. Manitoba
6. McMaster

If the pre-season rankings held true, Clemson and Oklahoma would meet for the national championship with Clemson being my pre-season champion pick.  Interesting to note though, will all the debate in recent seasons about the Big 12 not making the playoff and having 1 or 2 (sometimes 3) quality teams who could contend for a playoff spot, this year I actually have two Big 12 teams making the playoff: Oklahoma and Baylor.  Well on paper anyways...these are just the pre-season rankings.  I'll give you my actual national championship prediction in a moment.

For the CIS, we would see a Vanier Cup rematch if the pre-season rankings hold true with UBC defending the title against Montreal (returning to the Vanier Cup for the third straight season).  I think Laval, Western, Manitoba and McMaster could have something to say about that though this season.  Remember last season all the talk was on Calgary and Western and Laval at the start of the season.  None of those three even won their conference championship!  In fact, the CIS football world was completely turned on its head last season in the playoffs when all 4 regular season conference champions were upset in the playoffs.  Could we see the same thing happen this season?

Ok so we have the #TwineTime pre-season rankings now.  Each week these rankings will be adjusted based on the action on the field...and perhaps a bit of my subjective thoughts on each team too.  Hey, it's college football and a ranking system, you know subjectivity comes into play every week whether pollsters want to admit it or not!  But let's be honest here...who are the #TwineTime picks to ACTUALLY hoist the NCAA and CIS National Championship trophies at the end of the season?

NCAA

Oklahoma over Clemson

CIS

Manitoba over Western

There you have it folks.  #TwineTime predicts the Oklahoma Sooners and Manitoba Bisons will be celebrating at the end of the season and declaring themselves National Champions!  Agree or disagree with my prediction, let me hear it in the comments below or on twitter.  As always, I welcome the debate over college football rankings and predictions!

Speaking of predictions, this season #TwineTime will offer a weekly preview to both the NCAA and CIS action, including predictions for all weekend games.  It is a big feat to tackle, watching and analyzing all college football games in North America, but I am up for the challenge my football frenzy friends!

#TwineTime Predictions

NCAA

Overall Record: 0-0

Week 1

Game of the Week:  (3) Oklahoma def. (15) Houston - There are a few highly ranked teams battling one another this weekend but the Sooners - Cougars match up stands out for me....namely because I actually believe the Cougs have a shot in this game.  Houston is the home team here and they are the favourites to win the American Athletic Conference.  This is the same team that went 4-0 against ranked foes last season, including beating then-#9 Florida State in the Peach Bowl to end the season.  Houston also went a perfect 8-0 at home.  The problem is Oklahoma is really good!  OU went a perfect 5-0 on the road last season, including the 2OT win at Tennessee in Week 2.  If OU is ever prone to an upset, it will be early in the season in a high profile match up like this one.  They enter the season off a stinging loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl (#CFBPlayoff SF).  The Sooners play 5 pre-season ranked teams this year...if they want to make the #CFBPlayoff, they cannot afford a loss on the road to start the season.  This game could go either way folks!

UPSET of the Week:  Richmond def. Virginia - The Spiders may be an FCS school but they did make the Final Four last season, losing the SF to powerhouse North Dakota State.  Richmond plays in the very competitive Colonial Athletic Conference and shared the conference title last season in a three-way tie.  Virginia, on the other hand, had a disappointing 2015 season, finishing with a sub-.500 record and falling short on pre-season expectations.  This is a very good Richmond team playing a very mediocre Virginia team.

Eastern Michigan def. Mississippi Valley State

Georgia State def. Ball State

Buffalo def. Albany

Syracuse def. Colgate

Temple def. Army

(12) Michigan State def. Furman

(23) Baylor def. Northwestern State

Colorado def. Colorado State - Nothing beats a massive in-state rivalry game to kick off the season!

(8) Stanford def. Kansas State

Toledo def. Arkansas State

Nevada def. Cal Poly

Penn State def. Kent State

(24) Oregon def. UC Davis - #GoDucks

Georgia Tech def. Boston College

Navy def. Fordham

Purdue def. Eastern Kentucky - Really tempting to take EKU in the upset here.  We all know the Big 10 is prone to upset losses vs FCS schools.  It is almost an annual tradition right?  Purdue could be the Big 10 team taken down in Week 1.  High upset alert here folks!

(7) Michigan def. Hawaii

Northwestern def. Western Michigan

Boise State def. Louisiana Lafayette

Mississippi State def. Southern Alabama

West Virginia def. Missouri

Maryland def. Howard

Virginia Tech def. Liberty

(6) Ohio State def. Bowling Green - For some reason I always want to pick Bowling Green to upset Ohio State when they play.  I don't have the (foot)balls to make that pick this season though.

Pittsburgh def. Villanova

Air Force def. Abilene Christian

(14) Washington def. Rutgers

(5) LSU def. Wisconsin

Texas A&M def. (16) UCLA - Minor upset here as the higher seeded Bruins will come up short on the road to the Aggies.  This should be a great game....and always love a big name SEC-Pac12 early season game.

(21) Oklahoma State def. Southeastern Louisiana

(17) Iowa def. Miami (OH)

Ohio def. Texas State

Illinois def. Murray State

Arkansas def. Louisiana Tech

(22) North Carolina def. (18) Georgia - The SEC is going to be interesting this season.  Always considered the "Conference of Champions" and dominating the college football world, it is not unthinkable to see a two-loss SEC champion.  Georgia could be that team.  And North Carolina is a great trendy pick to perhaps challenge Clemson/Florida State for the ACC title.  This match could tell us alot about both teams this season...and neither team should see a huge negative with a loss.

Florida Atlantic def. Southern Illinois

Old Dominion def. Hampton - Oh Old Dominion....I remember you completed dissing me all season in the past.  I pick you to win, you lose.  I pick you to lose, you win!  Can we get along this season?

East Carolina def. Western Carolina

Duke def. North Carolina Central

Miami def. Florida A&M

Georgia Southern def. Savannah State

Troy def. Austin Peay

Akron def. VMI

Middle Tennessee def. Alabama A&M

SMU def. North Texas

Kansas def. Rhode Island - What is Week 1 in NCAA Football without a FCS school upsetting a Power Conference team!  Let's be quite clear here, Kansas is not a good football school.  Basketball, yes.  Football, no!  They finished 0-12 last season, including an opening week loss to FCS South Dakota State.  In fact, in 2014, the Jayhawks escaped an opening weekend game vs. FCS SE Missouri State, one of their only three wins collectively in two seasons.  Rhode Island plays in the very competitive CAA conference, albeit in the FCS.  However the Rams did only collect 1 win last season.  I want to cheer for the underdog here but I think, after not collecting a win since Nov 8 2014, the Kansas Jayhawks fans (however many are left) will finally start a season off with a W.  Wow they would be tied for the conference lead too!  Gut says KU, heart wants URI.  #GoRams

Tulsa def. San Jose State

South Florida def. Towson

UCF def. South Carolina State

Memphis def. Southeast Missouri State

Alabama State def. UT-San Antonio

Louisiana Monroe def. Southern

Kentucky def. Southern Mississippi

(25) Florida def. UMass

(1) Alabama def. (20) USC - If only this game was played at the Rose Bowl...but of course once again an SEC team is only willing to travel to Texas to play a high profile Power Conference team.  #UGH

Iowa State def. Northern Iowa

Nebraska def. Fresno State

Washington State def. Eastern Washington

UTEP def. New Mexico State

(13) TCU def. South Dakota State

Texas Tech def. Stephen F. Austin

San Diego State def. New Hampshire

(2) Clemson def. Auburn - This could be a close game for the first half but the (Orange) Tigers, even on the road, should pull away for the 20 point win.

BYU def. Arizona - I'm buying into BYU again to start the season...and doubting the 'Cats as well.

Northern Illinois def. Wyoming

Arizona State def. Northern Arizona

(10) Notre Dame def. Texas

(4) Florida State def. (11) Ole Miss - What a blockbuster Monday night game we get to close out the opening weekend (and on a holiday nonetheless).  I always want an upset, especially with a massive TV audience watching, but I think the Seminoles are just too strong for Ole Miss to compete with over four quarters.  Should be a great game though (I hope!!).

CIS

Overall Record: 0-0

Week 2

Game of the Week: (5) Manitoba def. (7) Calgary - HUGE Canada West game to kick-off the season as both of these teams have high aspirations to knock off defending CWUAA & Vanier Cup Champion UBC this year.  This game will probably have playoff hosting right implications at the end of the season as well.  Neither team wants to slip up against one of the biggest competitors in the conference.  Manitoba did dominate UBC in a pre-season game though and, playing at home to start the season, should come out on fire in this one.

UPSET of the Week: (3) Laval def. (2) Montreal - This is a VERY minor upset and I am only making it because Laval is playing at home and usually are very difficult to beat in front of a loud home student section.  Plus Laval is playing a season of redemption after Montreal defeated them in 2014 and 2015 to take the RSEQ Championship (which Montreal converted into their first-ever Vanier Cup title in 2014 over McMaster).  Speaking of redemption though, Montreal used the win over Laval to return to the Vanier Cup final and defend their championship.  Unfortunately they they lost a heart breaker to UBC.  These two teams are the class of the conference and this will only be Round 1 of, what should be, a three round battle for the RSEQ Championship once again (as it is every season right?).

McGill def. Concordia

Saskatchewan def. Regina - Beauty!  We get a provincial rivalry game to kick-off the season as well.  Ok yes I realize the entire OUA conference is all provincial rivals but I doubt any of them compare to the Battle of Saskatchewan!  I was born in Regina and went to University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon...this match also is close to my heart.  Alumni spirit wins out over home city. #GoDawgs #GoHuskies

Sherbrooke def. Bishop's

(1) UBC def. Alberta - The defending national champs were destroyed in a pre-season game vs. conference rivals Manitoba.  That game didn't count, this game does!  If this team want to keep that #1 ranking and show the nation they are the team to beat this season, they better come out in an impressive opening week win over the Golden Bears!

(4) Western def. (9) Carleton - The Mustangs are back and once again running all over the OUA already.  Ok, it has only been one game but they did put up 78 points in their season opening win vs. Windsor.  I mean their margin of victory was 72 points....yikes!  Whether anyone can knock them off in the OUA is another question for the season.  2016 marks the 5-year anniversary for Carleton competing in CIS football.  They have seen a steady climb up the standings, going 0-8 in Year 1 to finishing 5-3 last season.  Can they compete with Western though?  I want to say yes but I know the answer is no...not yet anyways!  Plus they did get smoked last week in their opening game, losing 40-10 to McMaster.

(8) McMaster def. Toronto

(6) Guelph def. Windsor

Ottawa def. Waterloo

(10) Laurier def. York - Is York for real?  This week will tell us the answer to that question.  Last week York opened the season with a convincing 57-13 win over Waterloo.  It was a totally dominating effort and quite impressive.  But was that lopsided win a statement about how good York is or how bad Waterloo is?  Laurier opened their season with a nice 37-18 win over Queen's and looks poised to once again contend for the OUA title this season.  If York can pull the upset, on the road, every team in the OUA better watch out.  I am not convinced yet though.

Come back to the #TwineTime blog next week to see how my prognosticator skills held up, which teams move up (or down) the rankings and see predictions for the upcoming week of action.

Enjoy the gridiron action everyone!