Thursday, September 22, 2016

Future Big 12 Or Major Conference Candidates?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Whenever I hear of expansion in any sport, I become very intrigued.

Expansion to me means growth, increase of revenues and adding of new markets.

One person who I follow on Facebook is former NFL Running Back Craig James. He decided to ask his followers what would be good markets that the Big 12 Conference could add. It was interesting to hear some of his responses.

It's inevitable that in Major College Football we're approaching a new era with Super Conferences.

Right now, we have The Power Five which leads toward selection of The Final Four and decides match-ups for Major Bowl Games.

What I've decided to do in this story is to make a case for some of the finalists which could eventually be members of the Big 12, or for that matter if they're bypassed, that could land in another Major Conference.

My numerical order doesn't reflect how I rank the teams.

1. Air Force--This military academy has had a good football tradition. Being an Independent has always allowed Air Force to schedule whatever opponents are available. Air Force used to have some entertaining games with Notre Dame. Is the Air Force ready to see top caliber competition year in and year out? I have my doubts.

2. BYU--This school has won a National Championship, plus has produced a pair of  Super Bowl Winning QB's in Steve Young and Jim McMahon. BYU has also developed a pretty good reputation in basketball. Current Boston Celtics Executive Danny Ainge played for the Cougars and also played on NBA Title Teams in Boston. I like BYU's chances of landing in a major conference.

3. University of Central Florida (UCF)--Former Coach George O'Leary lost his job at Notre Dame because of an inaccurate resume. But he built a good enough resume for the Knights by compiling an 81-68 record in 11 seasons. UCF is honoring him with a statue outside their Football Stadium.

I like UCF's chances of landing in a Major Conference. There is a conference that will want a presence in a Major Florida City. Orlando is an excellent Sunshine State possibility. It hosts two bowl games every year.

On September 10, 2016, UCF faced the Michigan Wolverines at The Big House and did lose 51-14, but got some good exposure. It hired former Oregon Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost as O'Leary's successor. I'm sure this University would do well in basketball.

4. Cincinnati--The Bearcats have produced good football and basketball teams. From a territorial standpoint, there is a good recruiting base in Ohio and Kentucky. But there are too many markets I would choose over them.

5. Colorado State--This would be my sleeper pick. Once upon a time Colorado used to be in The Big 12 before bolting to the Pac 12. The Big 12 would be wise to add Colorado State to recapture the Denver Market. I told this to James and he liked the idea. Thumbs up for the Rams.

6. U-Conn--Because of travel, I don't see The Huskies getting into The Big 12. Their basketball programs are championship caliber. However, their football program is still building. The only chance of a Major Conference would be the Big 10. The Huskies former Athletic Director Warde Manuel was recently hired by Michigan. I don't see U-Conn changing conferences anytime soon.

7. Houston--The advantages of adding U-H to the Big 12 is a large TV Market and continue to have a strong presence in Texas. With that said, Houston's college team still takes a backseat behind the NFL's Texans, although Miami, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay fare well. There is competition for the entertainment dollar behind the Texans, MLB's Astros and NBA's Rockets. It's hard to overlook that Houston has defeated Florida State and Oklahoma recently and that enhances their credibility should the Big 12 invite.

Nonetheless, I have my doubts with Houston due to the fact that there are better options. However, if the Big 12 wants to have another team in Texas, this would be the logical choice which would bolster recruiting.

Jim Harbaugh was preparing for a Satellite Camp in Texas with Baylor Bears Coach Art Briles, but those plans came to a halt with his firing because of a Sex Scandal.

8. Rice--It's another Texas school but because of it's lack of history in major sports, the Owls are better off competing in a Mid-Major Conference. I could see Rice in the bottom of the standings in these Major Conferences. I think Rice has No Chance of getting into a Power-Five Conference.

9. SMU--The Mustangs have a solid sports history and being in Dallas is a Big TV Market. But as was the case with Houston, does the Big 12 want to expand further into Texas. I could see another Power Five Conference taking a shot here to expand their recruiting base. One thing to take note is the SMU Sports has had a checkered past by getting into trouble with the NCAA in football and basketball. At one point SMU was hit with the Death Penalty and the Football Program was shut down.

10. Tulane--The New Orleans market would be an intriguing addition to any conference. A new football stadium was built on campus. Two Bowl Games are held at The Superdome every year. The population base is strong and Tulane is in LSU's backyard. I think Tulane lands somewhere with a Power Five Conference.

11. South Florida--My Alma-Mater is at the top of my list to land somewhere. I'm not being biased because of being a Proud Bull. The Tampa Bay Area has an excellent High School Football Tradition as I found out working with the Tampa Tribune from 1984-86. It's a large TV Market. The Bulls play at Raymond James Stadium with the Bucs.

Landing marquee teams won't be a problem. There is an annual New Year's Bowl Game held on New Year's which is The Outback that has a rich history.

Coach Willie Taggart is on the verge of turning USF into a winning program. Basketball has a good on campus facility in The Sun Dome.

The Bulls have played Michigan State and Wisconsin recently. Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh held a Spring Practice 90 minutes south at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL on March 4 where an estimated crowd of 5,000 attended. The Wolverines spent approximately $350,000 for their spring excursion.

For a conference to have this big of a presence in a Major Market would be hitting a Home Run. Florida is a big recruiting ground around the country.

I have a gut feeling that if USF gets bypassed by The Big 12, then The Big 10 will snap up the Bulls, much to the dismay of the SEC where these coaches criticized Harbaugh's Satellite Camps figuring he was a threat to recruiting in their backyard.

The Big 10 recently expanded its brand to Maryland and Rutgers (New York Market) in an attempt to grab East Coast exposure. It's time to have a team in Florida whether it's going to be USF or UCF.

So now you have it.

As the landscape of college sports changes over the next so many years, it will be interesting to look at a USA Map and watch schools play in different time zones for the almighty dollar with dreams of competing for National Championships.

I can also visualize that if the Big 10 lands a school in Florida, Harbaugh will add more Satellite Camps while SEC Network Reporter Paul Finebaum will continue to whine louder and louder. This clown must get paid good money by the SEC Network to complain about Harbaugh!

I wonder how much it would irritate Finebaum if a Big 10 school plays six games in SEC Territory. I am amused at how much Harbaugh does aggravate Finebaum and makes Paul look like a complete idiot.

Nonetheless, I expect UCF and USF to land somewhere and there will be a bigger Big 10 or Big 12 presence like never before.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I'll also be curious to see how close My Projections turn out.

Stay Tuned.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Patriotic NFL Moments

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
JACKSONVILLE, FL

I have covered an NFL Game on Veterans Day on Monday Night, November 11, 1996 when the San Diego Chargers hosted the Detroit Lions, and it was an incredible experience.

San Diego won the contest 27-21 at Jack Murphy Stadium.

Considering that the game was held in a Military Town like San Diego, this made it even more special with all the festivities.

On September 11, 2016, at EverBankField, this marked the 15th anniversary of this infamous day.

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?

I lived in Chandler, AZ and was travelling to My Lawyer Harry Cawood's Office as I had a meeting pertaining to a divorce.

Cawood asked me if I heard about the attacks. I told him no and he said do you watch the news?

I said, I normally do but not when I'm driving as was the case to his office in Mesa, AZ.

Now it's time to fast forward the clock to this football game.

From the moment Candice Ebling and I drove to this game, there were American Flags all over the parking lots inside and outside EverBankField.

There was a lot of emotion on this day.

Everybody has their opinions about San Francisco 49'ers QB Colin Kaepernick's protest by sitting and kneeling during the National Anthem.

Personally, I have a problem with what Kaepernick is doing and all the other people that are following him. He seems to be drawing attention to himself.

But that's for another day for me to discuss more extensively.

What stood out at the Green Bay Packers vs Jacksonville Jaguars Game?

It was a 90 degree day. The temperature on the field was a 110 degrees and the humidity was 55%.

Ebling must have sweat off a few pounds and worked diligently to prevent herself from dehydration as she roamed the sidelines taking pictures for us.

But watching The American Flag Cover The Football Field was an unforgettable sight and brought chills down my spine.

Going into the contest, the Jaguars were 2-0 on September 11, but that changed with Green Bay winning a thrilling 27-23 decision which was capped by a huge Packers defensive play with 23 seconds left in regulation time.

What also stood out were the feelings of Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy and Jacksonville's Gus Bradley.

McCarthy described the pregame ceremony as "It was as emotional anthem I have seen in a long time. I thought the tribute was phenomenal just to see public safety, and the military, and everybody locking arms. I thought it was special, unique and obviously should be the focus of what today is all about."

During the Jaguars post-game press conference, when I asked Bradley what kind of emotions was the team playing on the anniversary of September 11, his body language and voice inflections said it all.

"Well I think it hits you when you're standing there at The National Anthem, " he said. "We brought it up, we talked about it during the week, and just how special the game is because you take the time to remember what so many people have done for us to have these freedoms.

"It's unbelievable and this is a Military City, those too, it was an unbelievable environment."

McCarthy and Bradley are leaders of men.

But I'm sure they'll tell you that their jobs don't compare to all the Commanding Officers and Generals which lead our country on the Battlefields, as they protect our freedom.

Back on October 24, 1971, I watched the only player in NFL history to die on the field at Tiger Stadium in Detroit as Lions Wide Receiver Chuck Hughes suffered a fatal heart attack against the Chicago Bears. He was 28 years old and I was only eight at the time and had nightmares that night. This was my first experience with death.

I would later find out that future friends and colleagues George Eichorn and Gus Pantelides were at this game on an autumn afternoon where the crowd was silent for the duration of the contest.

Why did I bring Hughes name up?

We have one player that passed away, where there have been countless of military people that have lost their lives.

Don't think every coach on the planet especially in College and NFL Football remind their players to appreciate their freedom so they can enjoy the game. For college players, they get to pursue their NFL dream whereas with NFL Players, they get paid quite well for the game they love.

We know McCarthy and Bradley delivered this passionate message to their squads.

I'm glad that I've attended games in a pair of Military Cities, where the colors, Red, White and Blue, in addition to the Stars and Stripes, had POWERFUL MEANINGS.

Nothing I've experienced in 38 years in Sports Media will top covering four Super Bowls, including one in Jacksonville.

However, two games on Veterans Day and September 11, rank up there as Incredible Memories.

How ironic is it that both of My Games Occurred on the 11th day of the month, nearly 20-years apart.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Battle Of Lions Opponents

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
JACKSONVILLE, FL

After watching the Green Bay Packers at the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 11, 2016, at Ever Bank Field, the Lions will be in for tough challenges with these teams.

Let's start with the Packers, who had their hands full with Jacksonville.

Green Bay defeated Jacksonville 27-23 in 90 degree temperatures and it was 110 degrees on the field. The Packers had to wear their dark green uniforms which absorbed more heat with the humidity 55%.

The Jags put a canvas to protect their players.

Meanwhile, Green Bay used a portable AC Unit to pump air into Aaron Rodgers uniform, who in this photo is calling plays from the line of scrimmage.

Rodgers threw for 199 yards, rushed for a touchdown and passed for two more.

But Rodgers had a familiar target on the field, who missed the entire 2015 season. Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson returned and his presence was evident. In this photo to the left Nelson broke to the outside on a pass play from Rodgers.

He caught six passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.

With an additional 57 yards from Randall Cobb, in addition to 50 yards and one touchdown by Devonte Adams, Green Bay's three-headed receiving monster returned.

Add running back Eddie Lacy's 61 yards, plus 17 yards receiving, Lacy as you'll see in the photo made an incredible play going airborne.

The Packers figure to give opposing defenses, and defensive coordinators many sleepless nights.

Jaguars Coach Gus Bradley had high praise for Aaron Rodgers and Nelson.

"The Quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) is a great player and made some plays for them," Bradley said. "They ended up making more plays than we did."

As for Jordy Nelson, "I know they look to him. We kind of had an idea that they are a really good combination. There is a lot of trust that goes on between those two (Rodgers & Nelson). They know each other real well, where they're going to be on certain routes and Aaron (Rodgers) trusts him.

"Whenever you have that type of combination, that's what all teams are trying to build and they are both elite players."

As for the Jags, there are many prognosticators which predicted them to win the AFC South.

Going into this game, Jacksonville was 11-10 in openers, 2-0 on September 11 and Green Bay led the all-time series 3-2. Jacksonville's loss to Green Bay turned out to be its fifth straight opening day defeat.

A missed fourth-and-one from the Packers 14-yard line with 23-seconds left to play in the game, changed all of the above numbers as the crowd of 63,179 became quiet.

When the Lions face Jacksonville on November 20 at Ford Field, they'll face potential All-Pro QB in Blake Bortles, who in this photo on the right is throwing a pass downfield.

Against Green Bay, he was 24-39, 320 yards and one touchdown.

He has a good running back in T.J Yeldon, who had 39 yards and one touchdown. The former Alabama running back also caught four passes for 30 yards.

Like Rodgers, Bortles also has no shortage of targets.

Former Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep Star and Detroit native Allen Robinson  (wide receiver) was targeted 15 times, amassed six receptions for 72 yards.

Tight-End Julius Thomas caught five passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Wide-Receiver Allen Hurns caught four passes for 75 yards.

When the contest was over, Robinson knew the Jaguars had a real good opportunity to get a "W."

"It was frustrating to lose this game," Robinson said. "We had chances down the stretch. Me personally, I have to strain to be able to make some of the tougher plays. I've got to make more plays."

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy in the photo was relieved to depart Ever BankField with a tough triumph.

"I would classify that as a very good adversity win for our football team," McCarthy said. "We knew when the football schedule came out that this was going to be a challenge playing Jacksonville, an excellent football team.

"Gus (Bradley) does a good job and you see how these guys keep getting better each year. To play down here in this heat, it was challenging for both teams.

"It was a game of long drives. I was proud of how our guys kept fighting. The game came down to the last drive and the good pursuit and play of our defense."

Rodgers expected the Jags to be a tough opponent prior to the game, and that came to fruition. He added there was another extreme challenge to deal with.

"The heat was tough. It was hot for both teams," Rodgers said. "We were moving there with some tempo, both sides were dying.

"It's tough to win in this league, and it's tough to win on the road. After a few of us didn't play a lot in the pre-season, we went out there and battled against some heat. Thanks to our defense for finishing things off."

Rodgers was happy that he had a familiar weapon back.

"It feels great having Jordy (Nelson) back," Rodgers added. "He does so many things well out there. He had a great second and third reaction on the TD Catch."

Unfortunately for Jacksonville in Week 2, their trip to San Diego wasn't a kind one.

The Chargers hammered them 38-14 and Jacksonville dropped to 0-2.

Jacksonville is 0-2 for the fourth time in five seasons.

The Jaguars return to action at home as they face The Baltimore Ravens on Sunday September 25 at 1 pm, seeking to get their first win of the season. It remains to be seen if the heat will be a factor.

But the heat will be on the Jags to get on track and get into contention for the AFC South which figures to be a wide open race this season.

The Packers (1-1) remained on the road in Week 2 as they lost 17-14 Sunday Night to the Minnesota Vikings in the first game at U.S Bank Stadium.

Green Bay's home opener will be against the Detroit Lions on September 25. Detroit will be looking for it's second straight win at Lambeau Field and is coming off a devastating home opening 16-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans in which the Lions had three TD's called back because of penalties.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a Member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

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