College Football Championship Game (No, not the real one)

A little over a month ago, I set out to redesign the College Football Playoffs to feature a field of sixteen teams instead of four. This theoretical expansion featured every Division I conference champion, and then filled in with other teams that also performed very well throughout the 2017 season. For the top four teams I stuck with the College Football Playoff Committee’s selections, for the remaining 12 teams I ranked them based on their performance this season. This was covered through a mini-series of 3 posts (which covered each round), leading up to this post – the National Championship. Without further delay, here is that match-up:

#1 Clemson vs. #2 Oklahoma

In this bracket, Clemson has already gone through Penn State, Miami, and TCU. While Oklahoma has gone through Toledo, Wisconsin, and UCF (after seeing them beat Auburn, I’m second-guessing picking them to lose to Oklahoma in the semis). After watching Clemson get shutdown by Alabama in the real Sugar Bowl, I’m skeptical about the Tigers ability to keep up with Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners in this hypothetical National Championship. Mayfield and the Sooners lost to the Georgia Bulldogs in a double overtime shootout in the real Rose Bowl, and I expect that high powered offense would give Clemson a rough time.

Projected Winner: Oklahoma. If the real College Football Playoffs did a third place game, these two teams would be playing each other for real and we could just watch and see – but they aren’t playing, so I’m saying this one would be a 34-27 victory for the Sooners. After this game, Baker Mayfield can go shopping for apartments in Cleveland since he would undoubtedly be a Brown after winning a National Championship (he still likely will, but more on mock drafts later).

Now for my really quick real National Championship prediction since kickoff is in 2 minutes:

Georgia beats ‘Bama 27-23. I’d say more, but I’m posting this ASAP so my prediction isn’t biased by the opening kickoff.

 

 

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College Football Invitational Tournament

While it wasn’t meant to be, the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) is often seen as a consolation tournament for teams who didn’t get into “March Madness.” I created a 16 team College Football Playoff bracket for the conference champions and other teams who have performed well, so I decided that I would create another bracket for teams who didn’t finish bowl-eligible. While the NIT may not want to be the consolation tournament for college basketball, the CFIT (College Football Invitational Tournament) is most certainly a consolation tournament for FBS football programs. To be eligible for this tournament, teams must have finished with an overall winning percentage equal to or below .500 for the 2017 college football season.

#1 Florida State vs. #16 Indiana

Indiana came very close to starting their season off with beating Ohio State, but they ultimately crumbled in the fourth quarter after leading at the end of the third quarter.  Florida State looked very promising going into this season until quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a knee injury way back on September 2nd.

Projected Winner: Florida State. It would be tempting to take the Hoosiers here, they certainly could win this game. However, I find it very hard to pick the Seminoles to lose with Derwin James on their roster – at least in the first round. Florida State takes this one 34-31 on a last minute field goal.

#2 Texas vs. #15 Tennessee

Looks like we’ve got the battle of the burnt orange. The only teams in this tournament (and the only teams in the FBS that I can think of) who wear burnt orange face off in the Sweet 16 – which is a shame because it’s a classic and underrated color for a college football uniform.

Projected Winner: Texas. There will be no Hail Mary play set to Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ for the Vols, as Texas controls the game in a 24-13 victory.

#3 Texas Tech vs. #14 New Mexico State

Texas Tech looked mediocre all year – which is what you would expect from a team in a consolation tournament. The reason they wound up with the #3 seed is merely because they play in the Big 12 and finished right at the .500 mark. New Mexico State also finished right at the .500 maximum mark, but they also were playing in the Sun Belt Conference. Both teams really have an equal shot at this one, and I have a hunch that this might be the only game these two play before one is eliminated in the Elite Eight.

Projected Winner: Texas Tech. They played against better competition throughout the season, plus Texas Tech beat Arizona State who beat New Mexico State. Both of those games with Arizona State were decided by a single score – so I’m guessing this would be close as the Red Raiders win 27-21.

#4 Purdue vs. #13 Florida

Purdue was actually borderline good this year, they kept some close games with some good teams. They lost by one score to Wisconsin and 10 points to Northwestern, as well as having some nice victories against Missouri and Iowa. Florida was awful, with the exception of a three game stretch in September when they beat Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. Florida also beat UAB 36-7, but leading up to that they had lost 5 in a row. Granted, Florida was playing against SEC competition all year, but they still weren’t good.

Projected Winner: Purdue. Big Ten usually doesn’t beat SEC, but this is an exception. Purdue and their Brohm Bros coaching staff beats the Gators 37-12.

#5 Ole Miss vs. #12 Syracuse

Ole Miss got destroyed 66-3 by Alabama, but they did end the season with a 31-28 victory over Mississippi State. The highlight of Syracuse’s season was a 27-24 upset of Clemson, but that was one of only four wins the whole season.

Projected Winner: Ole Miss. Riding high off their victory over in-state rival and top-15 opponent Mississippi State, Ole Miss takes that momentum to squeak out another 31-28 victory – this time over Syracuse’s Orangemen.

#6 UCLA vs. #11 Virginia

UCLA went into this year with a top pro prospect at quarterback in Josh Rosen, but they still just went 6-6. The UCLA Bruins did come within five points of beating ranked Southern California in November. Virginia also went 6-6, but they did beat ranked Boise State in Idaho.

Projected Winner: Virginia. The Cavaliers had much more convincing wins throughout this season, and have beat a ranked opponent on the road. So this one goes to Virginia in a 40-36 victory.

#7 Minnesota vs. #10 Utah State

In P.J. Fleck’s first year at the helm for the Golden Gophers, they struggled with consistency. Both teams were either blowing teams out or getting blown out, their was no in-between for either team. Utah State’s biggest win was a 61-10 victory over a San Jose State team that won two games all year, and their biggest loss a 59-10 loss to Wisconsin.

Projected Winner: Minnesota. Rodney Smith will score 3 touchdowns in three different ways in this game – one rushing, one receiving, and one on a return. Smith was incredibly versatile for the Gophers this year, and that will help them overcome the Aggies 41-17.

#8 Duke vs. #9 California

Duke started out 4-0 before losing six straight, but then finished with two solid wins to finish at 6-6. The Blue Devils from Duke had a very strong 41-17 victory over ranked opponent Northwestern. California also started off hot going 3-0 before three straight and then finishing the season at 5-7.

Projected Winner: Duke. They started off hot, tapered off, but then ended up getting hot at the end of the season. I think Duke can keep rolling strong at least through this round. Duke wins this one 31-9.

 

Final Four of the College Football Playoffs

In continuation of my blog mini-series, I present the Final Four. In the previous two posts, I outlined the set-up for a 16-team college football playoff that would feature every conference champion as well as other teams that finished the season with an exceptional record. I then traced the results of each match-up leading up to the Final Four, and here are those Final Four match-ups:

#1 Clemson vs. #12 Texas Christian

Clemson is coming fresh off of a tough match-up with a Miami Hurricanes team that was determined to not lose to the Tigers thrice this year – but ultimately Clemson held on to win 30-24. Clemson’s other win in this playoff bracket was a 45-27 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions. TCU is coming off of a convincing 42-19 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, after upsetting Ohio State 34-23 in a turnover battle which the Horned Frogs won. Going in to this match-up, it looks to possibly be the end of the road for TCU since Clemson looks to be the better team by a quite a bit. TCU’s only hope is that Miami tired out the Clemson Tigers in their Elite Eight game.

Projected Winner: Clemson. I have a soft spot in my heart for a good Cinderella story – but they are rare and typically stop after one or two upsets. Clemson comfortably rolls into the National Championship game with a 38-9 victory as they keep Kenny Hill and the Horned Frogs out of the endzone the entire game.

#2 Oklahoma vs. #11 Central Florida

Oklahoma has breezed by the first two rounds, racking up a 59-13 victory over the Toledo Rockets in the first round and a 45-17 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers in the Elite Eight. UCF, on the other hand (no pun intended, sorry Shaquem), has pulled off two very close upset victories. In the first round, they knocked off the #6 Southern California Trojans 31-27 and then upset the #3 Georgia Bulldogs 26-20. UCF is the major underdog for this match-up, much like they have been all season.

Projected Winner: Oklahoma. Yet again, Cinderella stories very rarely end up in a championship, and yet again we have #1 vs. #2 playing in a championship game. Oklahoma proves to be too much for a tired UCF Knights (not Golden Knights) team that is not used to playing in bowl games – and certainly didn’t enter this year expecting three extra games on their schedule. Oklahoma yet again wins by a large margin with a 51-23 victory.

So what was the point in expanding the playoffs to 16 teams if we are now down to #1 Clemson versus #2 Oklahoma? Well, NFL scouts now get to see players like UCF’s Shaquem Griffin and other smaller school standouts going up against bigger competition. This tournament also likely helped NFL scouts to temper their expectations of many of the Wisconsin players who might have looked a little better than they actually are (not that they aren’t still good NFL talent, but they don’t have multiple first round draft picks as you might think a one-loss Big Ten team might have). Plus, 16 teams is better for television and the fans. We get more games that mean more.

Elite 8 of the College Football Playoffs

I was slightly surprised how many people read my Sweet 16 article, so I figured I might as well keep going with this series until I “crown” a national champion. If you are confused as to why some teams aren’t in the Elite 8, you might want to go back and read my Sweet 16 article on my proposed bracket for an expanded College Football Playoff. Basically what I did was took the top 4 that the Playoff Committee had already selected, added every conference champion, and then filled out the rest of the spots with teams that deserved it. So here’s the Elite 8 round:

#1 Clemson vs. #8 Miami

We already saw this match-up once this year – in the ACC Conference Championship game. In that game, Clemson shut down Miami in a 38-3 blowout. In this bracket, Miami is coming off of a tough game against Auburn, a game in which they came away with a 37-34 victory in double overtime. Clemson, on the other hand, is coming off a big Sweet 16 victory over Penn State (who won their play-in game against the Sun Belt Conference Champions, Troy, with ease). Clemson beat Penn State 45-27 and are still alive in their pursuit to defend their title.

Projected Winner: Clemson. After Clemson already beat Miami by 35 this year, it would be hard to justify picking Miami to advance to the Final Four. Although, I do think Miami would keep this one closer. Clemson takes this one with a score of 30-24.

#2 Oklahoma vs. #7 Wisconsin

Neither team really faced a strong competitor in the Sweet 16 round. Oklahoma blew by Toledo 59-13 and Wisconsin handled business by dealing Boise State a 38-14 loss. Oklahoma and Wisconsin both faced Big 10 champion Ohio State this season, the Sooners took down the Buckeyes in early September while the Badgers fell to the Buckeyes in the Big 10 Championship game. Wisconsin went 1-1 against opponents that are currently ranked (lost to Ohio State and beat Northwestern), while Oklahoma went 4-0 against opponents who are currently ranked (beat TCU twice, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State).

Projected Winner: Oklahoma. Wisconsin looked great all year, but they only beat 4 teams that finished above .500 (Florida Atlantic, Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan). Oklahoma runs away with this one 45-17.

#3 Georgia vs. #11 Central Florida

Looking back at the Sweet 16 round, Georgia narrowly avoided being upset by Florida Atlantic in what ended up being a 34-31 victory and Central Florida did upset Southern California 31-27. If UCF wants to keep this Cinderella story alive, Shaquem Griffin is going to have to play his heart out yet again – and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind doing that for a shot at Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners in the Final Four. These teams come into this game with one loss between the two of them, and that was Georgia who lost to Auburn (which they then avenged in the SEC Championship Game). Interestingly enough, in the actual world of college football, UCF is facing Auburn in the Peach Bowl on New Years Day. But this is my College Football Playoffs, and UCF is still playing for a shot at a national championship instead of a fancy fruit basket.

Projected Winner: UCF. Georgia has been nearly unstoppable all year, I think at this point both teams are running low on gas – so UCF runs on heart and escapes to the Final Four with a 26-20 victory.

 

#12 Texas Christian vs. #13 Notre Dame

Nobody would have possibly seen this match-up. TCU capitalized on Ohio State mistakes to make it out of the Sweet 16 with a 34-23 victory, and Notre Dame got to be everybody’s hero when they made Alabama look overrated with a 28-23 victory. Neither of these teams are likely to advance past Clemson to the title game, but even making the Final Four will be a huge accomplishment for whichever school wins this game.

Projected Winner: TCU. This game ends up surprisingly being a blowout when TCU wins 42-19. Notre Dame finds themselves fatigued after their theatrics in Alabama the previous round and is incapable of keeping up with TCU.

 

Sweet 16 of the College Football Playoffs

Here is yet another article to address the same old question of why Division III football, Division II football, and Division I FCS football know how playoffs work but Division I FBS football can’t figure out. But rather than complain or show why they’re wrong, let’s just pretend they know that they are wrong and they need a 16-team bracket for this year. So obviously they would pick me to do this – right? Well, they didn’t, but I came up with a bracket for them anyways. You’re welcome.

#1 Clemson vs. winner of Troy vs. Penn State

Clemson gets this spot because the College Football Playoff Committee put them at #1 already. Like I said, I’m not here to say they are wrong, I’m just giving ideas of how it can expand, so the top four teams in this bracket will remain the same.

Realistically, I could have just said #1 Clemson vs. #16 Penn State. However, as you will see, I made sure to include every conference champion in the bracket. I did debate leaving Troy out of the bracket because they did not have a championship game (the Sun Belt Conference will have a championship game starting in 2018), but ultimately decided I’d let them in. That being said, they have to play against Saquon Barkley and a Penn State team that looked destined for the playoffs and a Big 10 championship until they lost to Ohio State by one point and then to Michigan State by a field goal the following week.

Projected play-in winner: Penn State pulls through with a 38-13 victory over Troy.

Projected winner: Clemson. Despite Penn State’s convincing victory over Troy, the defending national champions prove to be too much for the Nittany Lions. Clemson advances to the Elite 8 with a 45-27 victory.

#2 Oklahoma vs. #15 Toledo

Oklahoma also is a mere formality since they were already selected for the playoffs. Their opponent on the other hand makes it in as the champions of the Mid-American Conference. They overcame Akron University in their conference championship, thus giving them a spot in my playoff bracket.

Projected winner: Oklahoma. Toledo doesn’t belong here, and their fans better leave Baker Mayfield alone so he might show some pity on them. Oklahoma advances with a resounding 59-13 victory.

#3 Georgia vs. #14 Florida Atlantic

Georgia stays at #3 and doesn’t have to play a pissed off Baker Mayfield right away. But what they do have to face is the Eastern Mississippi Community College Lions who are this year’s NJCAA National Champions – nevermind, it’s just a Florida Atlantic team that is seemingly filled with former EMCC players from Netflix’s ‘Last Chance U.’ As if three big Netflix stars (QB Deandre Johnson, WR John Franklin III, and DE Tim Bonner) wasn’t enough, their head coach Lane Kiffin has made a name for himself on social media recently. This game could have lots of media hype heading into it.

Projected winner: Georgia. As much as this has Cinderella story written all over it, I think Georgia is too good to let that happen – Georgia narrowly avoids being the first team in FBS history to be the victim of a Cinderella story with a 34-31 victory over FAU.

#4 Alabama vs. #13 Notre Dame

Alabama rounds out the top four according to the College Football Playoff Committee. And their opponent is a team that looked like they might have been in top four contention until they were obliterated by Miami (FL) the second week in November. Prior to that, Notre Dame’s only loss had been a 20-19 loss to #3 Georgia. This game is probably the best match-up in the Sweet 16.

Projected winner: Notre Dame. Alabama is Alabama, but even the mighty fall. I give this one to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in a 28-23 game that goes right down to the wire.

#5 Ohio State vs. #12 Texas Christian

Ohio State won the Big 10 Championship Game over Wisconsin, who had previously gone undefeated. Because of this, and the Big 10 being the Big 10, Ohio State earns the #5 spot in the playoffs. Their opponents are the runner-ups in the Big 12, the TCU Horned Frogs. Leading up to the Big 12 Championship, TCU was considered to be on the brink of a College Football Playoff spot if they managed to beat Oklahoma. However, Baker Mayfield had other plans as he lead the Sooners over the Horned Frogs 41-17. Because of that loss and not being a conference champion, TCU drops to #12.

Projected winner: TCU. Ohio State has looked very beatable this year. They were trailing Indiana in week one until they ran away with a W in the fourth quarter, then Mayfield and Oklahoma beat Ohio State convincingly in Ohio, then later on Iowa blew out Ohio State 55-24. While they did win the Big 10 against an undefeated Wisconsin team, I don’t see them being able to go far in this playoff, and it ends here as TCU pulls out a 34-23 victory.

#6 Southern California vs. #11 Central Florida

As PAC 12 Champions, Sam Darnold and the University of Southern California Trojans lock up the #6 seed in these playoffs. Their opponents are also conference champions, from the American Athletic Conference. They are lead by passionate linebacker Shaquem Griffin, whose brother Shaquill plays for the Seattle Seahawks. I could go into much more depth on Shaquem and how he plays with only one hand, but there have been many articles already written about him that you can look up if you want – and I recommend you do because he has quite an inspirational story.

Projected winner: UCF. They went 12-0 and are conference champions, they beat two different ranked opponents (Memphis twice and Southern Florida), and they have yet to score less than 31 points (they were held to 31 by SMU and Navy). While USC is great and all, it only takes one game. UCF wins this one 31-27.

#7 Wisconsin vs. #10 Boise State

Wisconsin deserves to be in the playoffs. Prior to a narrow defeat in the Big 10 Championship to Ohio State, they were undefeated. In this match-up, I believe they are grateful to be the higher seed and not have to travel to Boise, Idaho to face the Broncos on their blue field. Boise has knocked off some big teams before. These two teams have only faced each other once in their schools’ history, and that was a game in Wisconsin, in 1997, that Wisconsin won 28-24.

Projected winner: Wisconsin. The Badgers had one bad game this year and it just happened to be at the worst time possible. They win this one 38-14.

#8 Miami (FL) vs. #9 Auburn

Remember when I said that Alabama vs. Notre Dame was the best match-up in this Sweet 16? Yeah, I take that back right now. The U looked like they had returned to their glory days of the 90’s, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and I’ll just stop there because my point is those glory days were glorious. However, they lost back-to-back games to end the season and they weren’t really close. Whereas Auburn was a dark horse candidate for the playoffs until they lost to Georgia. Remember, while they did lose three games (Georgia, LSU, and Clemson), they also beat Alabama.

Projected winner: Miami. This one is going to not one, not two, not three, not four… Okay maybe just two overtimes in South Beach is what it will take for Miami to advance with a 37-34 victory.

Long Reign #Sacksonville

I called it. I have been enamored with this Jacksonville Jaguars team since last year. I thought their off-season additions could transform them into a playoff team this season. What I did not expect was that that playoff appearance was not going to have to be just a wildcard spot. The Jaguars are not only #1 in their division, but they are also just one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots who are tied atop the AFC.  Yes, that is correct, the Jacksonville Jaguars might not be playing in the wildcard round yet again – but this time it could be because they are waiting for the divisional round after earning a first round bye. But how has Jacksonville transformed into #Sacksonville ? Here is how:

Calais Campbell (DE)

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Free agent signing Calais Campbell has been a huge addition straight out of the gate. He notched four sacks in his first regular season game (and yes, I was starting him in my IDP league). Campbell has not stopped though, he currently has 11.5 sacks and has forced 3 fumbles. It’s no secret that Campbell has been a huge factor in this defense that became the first defense since the ’84-’85 Chicago Bears to have multiple games in a season with double digit sacks. Campbell has also helped out with 39 tackles thus far. For these contributions to the kingdom of #Sacksonville, he is a dearest friend of the divisional crown – dilly dilly!

Yannick Ngakoue (DE)

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Every dominant pass-rusher needs a sidekick. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had Aaron Kampman. Michael Strahan had Osi Umenyiora. J.J. Watt has Jadeveon Clowney, when both can stay healthy. Calais Campbell had Darnell Dockett, and now he has Yannick. Yannick has added 9 sacks and 5 forced fumbles to the totals for #Sacksonville, as well as 20 tackles. For these contributions to the kingdom of #Sacksonville, he is also a dear friend of the crown – dilly dilly!

Telvin Smith (OLB)

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Telvin Smith has been with Jacksonville since being drafted in 2014, and he currently leads this 2017 team with 76 tackles. He has added a sack to their total, and a forced fumble. In addition, has has tallied 3 interceptions, one of which he returned for six. For these contributions to the kingdom of #Sacksonville, he has been a true leader and a good friend to the crown – dilly dilly!

Jalen Ramsey/A.J. Bouye (Cornerbacks)

Trying to throw before the pass rush of #Sacksonville gets to you? Good luck. Ramsey and Bouye have a combined 6 interceptions with 68 tackles. While it’s not impossible to throw on these two, they make it tough and can easily make opposing quarterbacks pay. For these contributions to the kingdom of #Sacksonville, they must surely be considered good friends of the crown – dilly dilly!

Barry Church/Tashaun Gipson (Safeties)

As if having two elite cornerbacks wasn’t enough, the Jaguars have a pair of very good safeties. Having lived in Wyoming during Gipson’s time at the University of Wyoming when he and Chris Prosinski made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks, I consider myself blessed to have seen him play before the nation recognized him as being elite. The safety duo has combined for 89 tackles, a sack, 4 interceptions, and a touchdown. For all these contributions to the kingdom of #Sacksonville, they are regarded as good friends of the crown – dilly dilly!

Marcedes Lewis (TE)

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Marcedes Lewis has been a Jacksonville Jaguar since he was taken in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, which makes this his 12th season in the black and teal. Throughout these first ten games, he has caught 14 passes for 209 yards and 5 touchdowns – which is the second highest touchdown total of his career (he caught 10 touchdowns for the 2010 Jaguars). For his contributions this year and for over a decade, Marcedes Lewis is one of the most dearest friends of the crown – the dillyest of dilly dillys to Marcedes!

Leonard Fournette (RB)

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I have a hunch nobody is worried about Fournette having put on a couple pounds since his LSU playing days. And he certainly doesn’t play a guy who ran just over a 4.5 40 yard dash (just watch him take the ball 90 yards for a touchdown versus the Pittsburgh Steelers). Fournette has amassed 896 rushing/receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. For these contributions to the Jaguars offense, he too is a dear friend of the crown – dilly dilly!

Blake Bortles (QB)

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Sorry Blake, you’ve been too inconsistent. Twelve touchdowns through ten games to go with 7 interceptions and a passer rating of 81.8 just won’t cut it. Please follow Coach Marrone as he gives you a private tour of the pit of free agency.

Pit of free agency! Dilly dilly!

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The Josh Allen Project: Episode 3.5

Last night’s Episode III in the Josh Allen Project was published at about the start of the second quarter of Wyoming’s game against the Colorado State Rams. The Border War had just started, and both teams were battling for the coveted Bronze Boot. At the time I hit the publish button, Wyoming had just recently nailed a field goal to tie the game up at 3-3.

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Midway through the second quarter, the Rams ran in the touchdown to take the lead again as the rain was starting to come down harder. Refusing to lose, Josh Allen drove the Cowboys into field goal range to cut the deficit to four points going into halftime. On that drive, Allen completed two of his three passing attempts for 35 yards, while also running twice for 19 yards. This 54 yard drive set up a Cooper Rothe field goal as the time expired in the first half with the rain now pouring down.

By the time the teams came out for the second half, the rain had turned to snow and was still coming down with the same intensity. Due to the weather, both teams had to focus more on the run. Wyoming took the opening kickoff and then pounded the ball into field goal range on a 9 play drive that covered about 60 yards in three minutes, thanks in large part to a 40 yard run from Colorado-native Austin Conway (a wide receiver who also added 35 yards on a pair of catches). Wyoming cut the Rams lead to one point on that first drive. Neither team would score again until four and a half minutes into the fourth quarter when Colorado State pushed their lead back to four points with a field goal.

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Two plays into the following drive, Josh Allen fumbled the ball back to the Rams. Things did not look good for Allen and the Cowboys until the forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing Rams drive. With seven minutes left in the game, Josh Allen and the Wyoming Cowboys had a chance to go down the field to try and score some points. The drive started with a 17 yard pass from Allen to the fullback Drew Van Maanen, a Colorado-native, to put them at midfield. That 17 yard pass would be the last time the Cowboys put the ball in the air, as they then ran the ball six times (twice with Allen and four times with sophomore running back Kellen Overstreet). The Rams also helped the Cowboys out with a 15 yard facemask penalty that was tacked on to the end of a 16 yard run by Overstreet. With four minutes left, Overstreet punched the ball into the endzone on a three yard run to give Wyoming their first touchdown and their first lead.

Following the touchdown, the Cowboys led 16-13. The Cowboy defense forced Colorado State to punt after going a quick three and out. Wyoming then ran the ball five times before ultimately lining up in the victory formation to kneel the ball down in victory.

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While Josh Allen did not look amazing on the stat sheet (although he did lead the team in carries and rushing yards again), he dominated when it most mattered. He showed the same mental toughness and drive that has drawn comparisons to Brett Favre. Considering he played most of this game in pouring rain and blowing snow, it seems reasonable that his passing numbers were subpar (10/20 with 138 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions) – although he did have twelve carries for 60 yards. Snowy games like this are never a good indicator of the numbers a quarterback can put up, but they definitely can show you what kind of a quarterback you have under center. Decision-making is something you can work on with film. Allen showed leadership when his team needed him, and that is a trait you can’t study and work on in the off-season.

 

The Josh Allen Project: Episode III

Every time I see “Episode III” written out featuring roman numerals, I think of the third episode of Star Wars. Well, the third episode in chronological order of the movie timeline… If you haven’t been living under a rock since the late ’70’s, you know what I mean. Episode III written in roman numerals always reminds me of the film ‘Revenge of the Sith.’ And why shouldn’t it? If you type in ‘episode three’ into a Google search, ‘Revenge of the Sith’ is the first thing that will show up in the results. If you type “episode 3” into a Google search, ‘Revenge of the Sith’ will pop up first. Heck, you can have a spelling typo and search “eisode 3” and the same thing will pop up.

Point is, “Episode III” seems to be pretty connected to ‘Revenge of the Sith’ in everyone’s minds including mine own. What does that have to do with Josh Allen? Well, a couple weekends ago, Allen and the Wyoming Cowboys played a close game against Boise State and ultimately fell short. The following week however, Allen and the Cowboys got their revenge in the form of a 42-3 massacre of the University of New Mexico Lobos.

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As previously mentioned, Allen and the Cowboys kept things close against Boise State. In fact, they were leading 14-10 going into the fourth quarter. Up until that point, Josh Allen had been doing everything he could to keep Wyoming on top. While he did struggle in the passing game, he also was the teams leading rusher in yards (62 yards), carries (18), touchdowns (well, one touchdown), as well as the longest run by a Cowboys player (19 yards). Allen was not receiving much help from the rest of the Cowboy offense, but the Cowboy defense was holding things down on their end. Then came the fourth quarter. Boise State’s pass rush became too much for Allen, who stood helplessly behind a Cowboy offensive line that needs improvement desperately. Not only did the Cowboys’ offensive line collapse in the fourth quarter, but their defensive finally broke down. While Boise State’s defense held Wyoming to just 22 yards in the fourth quarter, senior transfer-student Montell Cozart (formerly of Kansas State) stepped in big time to replace quarterback Brett Rypien. Cozart led Boise State to a victory in the fourth quarter by running in for a short touchdown and then throwing a touchdown to end it.

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The following week, the Cowboys knew they needed to bounce back if they wanted to still have a shot at the Mountain West Conference championship game at the end of the year. And bouncing back is exactly what they did. New Mexico was not prepared for what was about to happen when they flew into Laramie. The Cowboys defense forced seven turnovers and held the Lobos offense to just a fourth quarter field goal. With the defense doing their part, Josh Allen’s job was much easier. Allen threw four touchdowns and added a fifth touchdown with his legs, while not turning the ball over once the whole game. The Cowboys dominated every aspect of the game en route to a 42-3 victory. Perhaps the game could have been even higher scoring, as Wyoming led 42-0 at the half. But it seemed like Coach Bohl slowed down the team a little bit out of good sportsmanship.

Looking forward, Josh Allen needs to continue to make the improvements he has been making. He has shown that he is comfortable rolling outside the pocket and throwing on the run. He has shown he can move around inside the pocket to avoid sacks. He has shown he can make precise passes both from the pocket and on the run. He has shown that he can make plays happen when he tucks the ball down and runs. What he needs to do is keep showing improvement in reading coverages (which he has been doing well at recently), especially if he is going to compete in a league where defenses are better at hiding their coverage and disguising it. He also needs to learn a little bit more with his decision-making, sometimes he is too quick to tuck and run. As he prepares for the NFL, he will also certainly become a little more cautious when running the ball so that he can have a longer career.

Overall, I would say he is still a first round draft pick. I am now almost certain he won’t be taken in the top 5, maybe not even the top 10 picks in the draft. However, that could actually be very beneficial for him, as the Jacksonville Jaguars will likely possess a mid-round pick. Which brings me to my first suggestion of where might be a good fit for him to play professionally – the Jacksonville (or should I say… Sacksonville?) Jaguars.

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Jacksonville has an elite defensive unit this year, and their offense seems to be doing just fine with rookie running back Leonard Fournette. The only thing Jacksonville will be missing next year (once the other half of the Allen “brothers” is off the IR and healthy again) is a consistent quarterback. Bortles could be done in Jacksonville after the 2017 season, as cutting him would save them 20 million dollars that they could use to help lure in one more big-name player (Jarvis Landry is set to be available if Miami doesn’t give him an extension – and they have already shown that nobody is safe in Miami). Combine a free agent wide receiver like Landry (or even Terrell Pryor) with Josh Allen and the already existing team, and Sacksonville is looking like a serious contender for Super Bowl 53.

 

The Josh Allen Project: Episode II

Sometimes the sequel ends up being better than the original, but that currently does not look like the case so far in the Josh Allen Project. During the previous installment, which was the first, the outlook on the 2017 college football season for University of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was quite bright. However, just under half way through the season, it’s looking like he might be struggling. Yes, Allen’s Cowboys are 4-2 with a 2-0 record in the Mountain West Conference – but he is beating the teams he is supposed to beat, and not any of the teams where it should be a challenge.

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Allen started off the season with a rough loss to a 4-2 Iowa team that is currently sitting in third place in the Big Ten West, although Iowa did suffer just a two point loss to #4 Penn State who is currently unbeaten and so far uncontested (other than the Iowa game). Although Allen did throw two interceptions while completing 58% of his passes, he was not helped out much by the rest of his offense. The Wyoming defense, on the other hand, looked for much of the game like they could hold down the Hawkeyes’ offense led by sophomore quarterback Nathan Stanley who had backed up C.J. Beathard (who is now the starter for the San Francisco 49ers) last year. The Wyoming defense took the ball away from Iowa thrice on fumbles and the senior cornerback Rico Gathers, an Iowa native, added an interception for a total of four takeaways by the Cowboys. But it was quite evident that the offense had to get used to not having runningbacks Brian Hill (now with Atlanta Falcons) and Shaun Wick, receiver Tanner Gentry (now with the Chicago Bears, and tight end Jacob Hollister (now with the New England Patriots).

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Second week of the season, Josh Allen was given a much easier opponent in the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. He amassed 328 passing yards with a pair of touchdowns, while completing 69% of his passes. However, things went back to being rough the following week when the Oregon Ducks came into Laramie with an undefeated record and left with a 49-13 victory over the Cowboys. Against the Ducks, Allen only managed to throw for 64 yards on 24 attempts with an interception, his completion percentage was a mere 38%. On the bright side, Allen was able to gain 25 yards on the ground (on 8 carries) with a touchdown.

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The following week, the Cowboys had a much more winnable match-up going against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. However, Allen remained mostly dormant until the game went to overtime tied at 21. In overtime, Allen found receiver James Price for a 25 yard touchdown on the first play. The following drive, Wyoming linebacker Cassh Maluia ended the game with an interception to give Wyoming the 28-21 victory. Allen ended the game with just 92 yards and the lone touchdown, while completing just 47% of his passes. The next week, Texas State came into Laramie for the Cowboys’ fourth straight home game. This time Allen and the Cowboys easily handled the Bobcats en route to a 45-10 victory. Allen finished with 219 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions (for the second week in a row) – while completing 58% of his passes.

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Last week, Josh Allen and the University of Wyoming went on the road to play against Utah State. The Cowboys and Aggies played a close 60 minutes, but ultimately Wyoming was victorious by a score of 28-23. Josh Allen threw for 208 yards while adding 36 more yards on the ground. He completed 69% of his passes while throwing an interception and a touchdown, he also added a touchdown on the ground to total for two scores on the night.

 

Despite some of the struggles this year, Allen has still shown that he is getting better. Allen has shown that he can maintain his poise and make things happen in close games – which will be a valuable asset at the next level. Currently, Mel Kiper of ESPN has Allen ranked as a top-15 pick in the upcoming draft class and points out that Allen has a severe lack of talent surrounding him, and he believes that Allen will only get better once he starts playing on Sundays. Kiper’s fellow ESPN analyst Todd McShay went a step further and stated that he believes Josh Allen is a top ten selection, and says he is even better than UCLA’s Josh Rosen. Looking forward, Allen will have to show that he can keep improving. He is going to have to start beating the teams he is expected to beat and stop having close games with teams he should be able to light up. Josh Allen and the Wyoming Cowboys have the perfect chance to show they can win the Mountain West this year when they travel to Boise State this weekend to face a Broncos team that is also 4-2 (2-0 in the Mountain West). Wyoming did beat Boise State last year when the Broncos were ranked #13 in the nation, so we will see what happens when the two face off this Saturday.

 

The Josh Allen Project: Episode I

In the NFL, it is often said that you must have a good quarterback to be successful. The NFL is a league where quarterbacks, not defenses, now win championships. While some teams are blessed to already have their guy, other teams suffer through a seemingly eternal struggle to find the quarterback who will turn their franchise into a dynasty. This search starts in the colleges. NFL scouts examine many options for players that their team should select, and sometimes they find a gem. The thing about these “gems” is that sometimes they show up in the most obscure places. The next biggest star to play in the NFL next year (assuming he forgoes his senior year) is no exception, as he is Josh Allen – the quarterback for the University of Wyoming.

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For a school like Wyoming to be drawing interest from every NFL scout requires something (or someone) rare to be on their roster. That is exactly who Josh Allen is – a rare once-in-a-lifetime talent. The University of Wyoming has had 85 football players drafted in their history, and Josh Allen has a chance to be the most notable. That title currently belongs to running back Jim Kiick of the historic 1972 Miami Dolphins team that is still the only team to have a perfect season.

After taking over the starting quarterback position last year, Allen completed 56% of his passes while throwing for 28 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions – while also accumulating just over 3,700 yards through the air and on the ground. Allen also added seven rushing touchdowns, as well as a four yard touchdown reception on his one catch of the year – thus further demonstrating his athletic ability. Allen also forced one fumble and accumulated three tackles.

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Versus Nebraska last year, Allen looked quite shaky as he threw five interceptions in a 52-17 blowout loss. However, if you look later in the year, he learned fast. One game in particular that sticks out to me as a game that proves Allen can compete at the next level was his performance in a comeback win against #13 Boise State. Early in the second quarter, Boise State was up 14-0 before Allen fired a pass to tight end Jacob Hollister (who is now a member of the New England Patriots) to cut the lead to one score. Less than three minutes later, Boise re-extended that lead to two scores on a touchdown run. However, Allen wasn’t going to let Wyoming lose, he lead the team to a pair of field goal drives and capped another drive off with his second touchdown to Hollister – thus leaving the Cowboys down by one point with thirteen minutes to go. With just under eleven minutes left in the game, Boise State increased that lead to 28-20 with a 33 yard touchdown pass from Brett Rypien. With under seven minutes left to go, Allen struck again, this time to receiver Tanner Gentry (now with the Chicago Bears) and then hit receiver Jake Maulhardt for the game-tying two point conversion. With the game tied, it was the defense’s turn to shine as defensive tackle Chase Appleby forced the fumble on Brett Rypien that resulted in the game-winning safety with just a minute to go for the offense to eat the clock.

In that game, Allen demonstrated drive and passion that matches that of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Allen has shown that he can make plays with his arm and legs while also keeping possession of the football (something Favre frequently struggled with). That is what makes Allen so dangerous, in college and eventually the National Football League.