Friday, January 2, 2015

My Top 20 Memorable Games of 2014

NOTE: This is a list of the top 20 most memorable games I attended. It is not necessarily the most competitive games or most exciting games. Competitiveness and excitement are factors that I considered, but the overriding factor is how memorable the event was. Is it something I’ll remember in 10 years? Another key is that these are games I actually attended in person, not watched on TV.
I went to 213 sporting events last year. This is the second year I have kept a “game journal” – where I write down the date of the event, who played, who won, who I went with, where the game was and any other important information. I also write down stats if a player has a big game and write how the game ended if it was a particularly exciting finish.
As you read this, I hope you feel inspired to go to more sporting events in 2015. Whether it’s a high school football game, college basketball game, professional golf tournament or even a little league baseball game, go to it with an open mind.
The reason I love going to games is because no matter what sport it is, no matter what level of competition it is, there is always a chance for you to see something you’ve never seen before.
Last year, narrowing down a list of the top 20 memorable games was tough. This year, it was nearly impossible.
I could simply list every Springdale boys’ basketball game leading to its appearance in the 7A state championship game and all of Arkansas football’s close losses and call it good, but I went to many other memorable events this year that have to be on the list.
Here are my 20 most memorable games. Enjoy…
20. September 26 – Fort Smith Northside @ Fayetteville
Just a couple weeks after knocked off top-ranked North Little Rock, Fayetteville was the No. 1 team in the state and hosting No. 3 Fort Smith Northside. A 24-point second quarter gave the Bulldogs a 24-13 halftime lead, but the Grizzlies pulled within 24-19 in the third quarter.
With 1:48 left, Northside scored a touchdown and converted a two-point conversion to take a 27-24 lead. Fayetteville wouldn’t go away, though, returning the ensuing kickoff to about the 25-yard line. However, after getting to the 4-yard line, the Bulldogs threw an interception in the end zone on third-and-goal with less than 30 seconds left to seal the win for the Grizzlies.
Making the game better was the talent on both teams. Fayetteville had two Arkansas commits (C.J. O’Grady and Dre Greenlaw), while Northside had one Arkansas commit (Daytrieon Dean) and a Class of 2016 four-star recruit (Deontre Hardwick).
19. April 23 – Arizona Diamondbacks @ Chicago Cubs
This was a good game, but it makes the list because of its historical significance – it marked the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Wrigley Field. I was able to talk my dad into going with me and he managed to secure field passes from former Arkansas and current Cubs pitcher Blake Parker.
Before the game started, we watched as Cubs legends (like Ernie Banks and Billy Williams) and Chicago Bears legends (like Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus) were honored only a few feet away.
Of course, it was also a good game featuring an ending that perfectly summed up the Cubs’ last 100+ years of existence. Leading 5-2 heading into the ninth inning, the Cubs lost 7-5. Chicago’s closer couldn’t find the strike zone and when he did, a potential game-ending double play ball hit the second base bag and went into the outfield. The Diamondbacks took the lead on a blooper that the right fielder dove for and did not come up with. It turned into a triple and the right fielder was injured on the play. Typical Cubs.
18. May 11 – No. 20 Texas A&M @ Arkansas
Although Arkansas came up on the wrong end of it, this was a classic back-and-forth baseball game. Texas A&M led by three runs before the Razorbacks tied it up in the sixth inning and took a one-run lead in the seventh.
The Aggies regained the lead with a two-run ninth inning, but again, Arkansas was able to tie it up in the home half of the ninth and force extra innings. Arkansas had a chance to win the game, but Jake Wise, Arkansas’ lone senior playing on senior night, popped up with runners on second and third.
Texas A&M got a lead-off home run in the 10th, but Arkansas responded by loading the bases with no outs. However, after Andrew Benintendi and Brian Anderson struck out, Eric Fisher flew out to give the Aggies a 6-5 10-inning win.
17. January 21 – Springdale @ Springdale Har-Ber
As I mentioned above, the entire Springdale boys’ basketball season was one heart-attack finish after another. The Bulldogs were clearly better than the crosstown rival Wildcats, but Har-Ber led by two points in the third quarter.
Springdale quickly erased that lead, going on a 12-0 run en route to a 62-58 win. The victory came despite the Bulldogs making just 13 of 28 free throws.
What really earned this game a spot on my list was the atmosphere. The Har-Ber/Springdale game always has a rowdy crowd with large student sections and this game was no different. It was awesome.
16. November 1 – Arkansas @ No. 1 Mississippi State
The 2014 college football season was significant because it was the first season to feature a playoff at the end of the year. The CFP rankings were not released until the week leading up to this game and Mississippi State earned the first ever No. 1 CFP ranking.
Arkansas came into Starkville, Miss., and nearly crushed the Bulldogs’ national championship hopes, taking an early 10-0 lead. Mississippi State battled back and tied the game in the third quarter before taking a 17-10 lead on a 69-yard touchdown pass thanks to a busted coverage.
The Razorbacks had two chances to tie the game, but came up short both times. After a 17-play, 72-yard drive that lasted 8 minutes and 16 seconds, Arkansas failed to convert on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Then, Arkansas marched down to the 16-yard line before throwing an interception in the end zone with 15 seconds left. It was Arkansas’ 17th consecutive SEC loss.
It was also an amazing atmosphere. The cowbells were incredible and super loud. I was impressed with how well the Mississippi State fans obeyed the rules (no cowbell during plays).
15. April 26 – Auburn @ No. 24 Arkansas
Unlike the Texas A&M game, the Razorbacks came out on top in this extra inning game.
After Josh Alberius collected his first career hit as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, Tyler Spoon knocked him in with a walk-off single. The Razorbacks won 4-3.
Arkansas played in several one-run games (most ending in 2-1 scores) in 2014, but it did not win many of them.
14. September 27 – Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas A&M
I almost looked like a genius because of this game. Arkansas, riding a long SEC losing streak, seemed overmatched against the top-10 Aggies, but I was the only sportswriter in the NWA Media newspapers to pick the Razorbacks.
Arkansas had a 28-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but a pair of Texas A&M touchdowns sandwiched around an Arkansas missed field goal tied the game and forced overtime. The Aggies scored on their first play of overtime, and then stopped Arkansas on a fourth-and-one to win the game 35-28.
Before the Razorbacks’ choke job, the game was already memorable because of Sam Irwin-Hill’s 51-yard touchdown run just before halftime. How often do you get to see a punter do that?
13. June 29 – Walmart NW Arkansas Championship – Final Round
This was the second year in a row that I went to the LPGA tournament in Rogers, but it was definitely more memorable in 2014.
Stacy Lewis, one of the best female golfers in the world and former Arkansas standout, finally won her hometown tournament with a birdie on the final hole. Because I was covering the tournament for NWA Media, I was able to stand right behind the green as Lewis hit her approach and made her final putt to win. It was incredible because there was a large crowd and several Hog Calls.
I also got to see Michelle Wie play, but she struggled in the final round after being in contention heading into the last day.
12. January 11 – No. 10 Florida @ Arkansas
Arkansas has been extremely hard to beat at Bud Walton Arena, but that just what the Gators did. The loss snapped the Razorbacks’ 23-game home winning streak.
It seemed like Arkansas would pull off the upset, but Alandise Harris missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17.1 seconds left with Arkansas up 66-64. The miss allowed Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin to go down the court and hit a game-tying runner.
The Gators ended up winning 84-82, largely because they made 10-of-14 free throws in the overtime period. The Razorbacks had a chance to win, or at least tie it up, at the end of the overtime, but missed a shot after not calling a timeout.
11. November 8 – Lamar @ Central Arkansas
During Arkansas’ two bye weeks, I went to UCA football games because my girlfriend is in the Bears’ marching band. Both games were pretty good, but the game against Lamar on UCA’s purple and silver turf was particularly exciting.
UCA led 31-24 after three quarters and 38-27 early in the fourth quarter. Lamar scored a touchdown (and didn’t convert a two-point try) to pull within 38-33 and UCA answered with a field goal with 2:20 left to go up 41-33.
Lamar wouldn’t go away, though, as it scored a touchdown and converted a two-point try to tie the game and force overtime with 40 seconds left. UCA won 44-41 with a 25-yard field goal by former Razorback Eddie Camara after Lamar fumbled on its first overtime possession.
With that much scoring, it’s not surprising that there were several impressive stat lines. Lamar quarterback Caleb Berry completed 43 of 67 passes for 554 yards and four touchdowns, but he also had a pair of interceptions. His No. 1 target was Reggie Begelton, who caught 13 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
10. December 29 – Arkansas vs. Texas
The last game I saw in 2014 was Arkansas’ glorious 31-7 beat down of Texas in the Texas Bowl.
It was far from competitive, but it was definitely a game I’ll remember for a long time. The Razorbacks’ defense was unbelievable, holding the Longhorns to just 59 yards of offense (with 29 of those coming on their final drive against backups). That is the fewest yards in a single game by an FBS team all season.
There was a stretch of the game in which Texas had -19, -8, -7, -2, and -4 yards on five straight possessions. In those possessions, Texas was limited to -40 yards on 13 plays. Arkansas held the ball for 41:10, compared to Texas’ 18:50.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more dominant defensive performance, at any level.
9. January 4 – Springdale @ Fayetteville
Don’t judge me for having a high school girls’ basketball game in my top 10 most memorable games of the year. In a nonconference battle between the two traditional rivals, Springdale knocked off Fayetteville 44-43 in overtime to win third place at the Bulldog Classic in the Purple ‘Dogs’ gym.
The fact that the game got to overtime was incredible. The Red ‘Dogs trailed by six points with 45 seconds left, but back-to-back 3-pointers by JaVonda Daniels and Kierra Lang tied it up and forced the extra period.
In overtime, Springdale trailed again, down 43-40 with 1:26 left. But again, the Red ‘Dogs fought back and Chasidee Owens made the game-winning layup with 24 seconds left.
8. February 8 – Arkansas @ Vanderbilt
Because I was in Nashville for a college sports journalism conference, I was able to watch Arkansas play Vanderbilt in famous Memorial Gymnasium. The gym was super weird, but I loved it.
The game itself was pretty incredible, too. There were 14 lead changes, including three in the final 30 seconds. Michael Qualls’ 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left gave Arkansas the 77-75 win. The Commodores nearly won the game, but Rod Odom’s 3-pointer at the buzzer missed, despite the good look.
7. November 20 – Conway @ Bentonville
Yes, I have TWO girls’ high school basketball games in my top 10 most memorable games of the year. In all honesty, if it weren’t for all of the amazing games I had already attended, this game would be ranked even higher.
I really wanted to watch Malik Monk in the boys’ game, but I decided to get there for the girls’ game because of Conway’s Jordan Danberry, an Arkansas commit. I was not disappointed.
The Wampus Cats held a small lead most of the game, but a 11-4 run by the Tigers gave Bentonville a 77-71 lead with 32 seconds left. That was enough time for Conway to hit a pair of 3-pointers, Bentonville make 2 of 4 free throws and Conway make two free throws to force overtime.
Bentonville controlled the early part of the overtime period, but a shot by Danberry put Conway up for good with 1:02 left. The Wampus Cats won 92-89 in possibly the highest-scoring high school game, boys or girls, that I’ve ever seen.
Danberry also scored the last five points of regulation (one 3-pointer and both free throws). She finished with 37 points in one of the more impressive high school performances I’ve seen.
6. December 6 – Fayetteville vs. Bentonville
For the fourth time in five years, Bentonville and Fayetteville met in Little Rock for the 7A state championship. It was a classic.
The Tigers led 17-7 heading into the third quarter, but a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a 21-17 lead with 3:05 left.
That was plenty of time for Bentonville, as the Tigers marched down the field and won the game on a 6-yard touchdown run by Dylan Smith with 26 seconds left.
5. January 24 – Springdale @ Fayetteville
When you thought Springdale was dead in 2014, that usually just meant it had you right where it wanted. The rivalry game against Fayetteville was no different.
Fayetteville led by seven points with a little over a minute left before Springdale cut it to five with 1:01 left. The Purple ‘Dogs couldn’t handle the Red ‘Dogs’ full-court pressure or make free throws, allowing Springdale to get back into it.
Tereke Eckwood’s and-one layup and free throw with 23 seconds left gave Springdale a 55-54 lead and capped a 32.7-second span in which he scored nine points. After a missed 3-pointer by Fayetteville, the Red ‘Dogs knocked down a pair of free throws to win 57-54.
4. November 15 – No. 17 LSU @ Arkansas
LSU was ranked No. 20 by the Associated Press (the poll the media usually uses) heading into the game, but was No. 17 in the College Football Playoff rankings. For the sake of symmetry, I use the CFP ranking for this game.
The Razorbacks’ snapped a 17-game SEC losing streak with a 17-0 win over No. 17 LSU. As a numbers guy, it doesn’t get much more beautiful than that.
The game itself was dominated by Arkansas. The Tigers gained only 123 yards of offense, their fewest in a game since 1975. Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 running back recruit in 2014, was held to just nine yards on five carries.
It was the Razorbacks’ first shutout since 2006, first conference shutout since 2002 and first shutout win against LSU since 1929.
All of those stats are great, but the best part of the game came after the clock ran out. I was on the field standing by the Golden Boot when the Arkansas players rushed over to the trophy. I was engulfed in the chaos and made my way to midfield, where fans stormed the field and celebrated.
Here is the video I shot for WholeHogSports during the postgame celebration.
3. December 12 – Smackover vs. Charleston
You might think I’m crazy for putting the 3A state title game ahead of the 7A title game, but hear me out.
Charleston entered the game as the defending state champion and on a 28-game winning streak. Smackover, on the other hand, had a 13-game winning streak after losing its first game to eventual 2A state champion Junction City.
The game was back-and-forth much of the night, but the Buckaroos led 20-13 at the half and the Tigers seemed unable to handle Smackover’s speed.
However, led by Arkansas quarterback signee Ty Storey, Charleston was tied the game up at 26-26 late in the third quarter. The Buckaroos appeared to be marching down the field to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but a fumble gave the Tigers the ball at the 45-yard line with five minutes left.
At that point, Storey took over. He had nine consecutive carries, gaining 51 yards and reaching the 4-yard line. Storey capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left. Smackover reached the Tigers’ 34-yard line, but a Hail Mary fell incomplete to give Charleston a 33-26 win.
It was an unbelievable performance by Storey. The four-star recruit completed 24 of 38 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 35 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He accounted for all five of Charleston’s touchdowns and all but 17 yards of the Tigers’ offense. To put a cherry on top of it all, he had a tackle and pass breakup on defense late in the game.
Smackover also had a future Razorback on its team in wide receiver Jordan Jones. The 2016 Arkansas commit caught four passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.
2. January 28 – Bentonville @ Springdale
I could sit here and tell you all about this game, but I already have. Click here to read my blog post about it just hours after the game ended.
Needless to say, Malik Monk is a special player and I’m glad I can say I’ve seen him play.
1. January 14 – No. 12 Kentucky @ Arkansas
The two-week span of basketball from Jan. 14 to Jan. 28 will be hard to top. My No. 2 memorable game of 2014 ended the span and my No. 1 memorable game started it, but in between, my No. 5 and No. 17 memorable games happened. I was in basketball heaven.
I bet most people already know what game this is, but I’ll remind those of you that don’t: Michael Qualls.
Of course, there was more to it than that. Alandise Harris’ and-one with 9.5 seconds left gave Arkansas a three-point lead in regulation, but Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison knocked down a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to force overtime.
During the extra period, Qualls knocked down two free throws with 26.7 seconds left to give the Razorbacks another three-point lead, but this time Kentucky’s James Young hit a 3-pointer with about 10 seconds left to tie it up.
When Ky Madden’s 3-pointer was off the mark, the game seemed headed for a second overtime… Then Qualls soared above everyone with a put-back dunk with two-tenths of a second left. I was speechless in the stands.
The play was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays and I didn’t think it would ever be duplicated… but Qualls had a nearly identical dunk to give the Red a 99-98 win in the Red-White game nine and a half months later.
I applaud you for making it through my entire list. I do this partly so people can read about these incredible games and partly so I can look back on it in the future.
I also hope this list will inspire you to go to more games in 2015. When you’re bored and have nothing else to do, go to a local high school game. Plan a trip with your buddies to go to a game or two.
Don’t have anyone to go with? Just ask me. I hardly ever turn down a good opportunity to go to a sporting event.

Happy New Year and may your 2015 be full of buzzer-beaters, walk-offs and Hail Mary passes.
If you'd like to read it, here is my top 20 memorable games from 2013: click here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 Arkansas football predictions

I'm not an expert by any means, but here are my predictions for the 2014 Arkansas football season.

Aug. 30 – @ Auburn
For the first time since joining the conference in 1992, Arkansas will open the season against an SEC opponent – a very good SEC opponent at that. Auburn, fresh off an SEC Championship and loss in the BCS National Championship game, is favored by three touchdowns.
While quarterback Nick Marshall won’t start for the Tigers, I expect him to play all but the first series. That said, I believe Arkansas will play Auburn much closer than fans and odds makers think. Brandon Allen will have more touchdown passes than interceptions and one of the Razorbacks’ freshman wide receivers – JoJo Robinson or Jared Cornelius – will have a breakout game.
However, I think the Tigers will be too much for Arkansas to handle and will eventually win by two touchdowns
Auburn 38, Arkansas 24
Sept. 6 – vs. Nicholls State
Coming off a touch loss at Auburn, the Razorbacks will come out firing against FCS opponent Nicholls State. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams will probably not play much in the second half, giving fans a chance to see what Korliss Marshall can do.
When it’s all set and done, Arkansas could legitimately have three 100-yard rushers in this game. Allen will look sharp, but with the Razorbacks dominating the run game (and the time of possession), he won’t have to throw it that much.
Fans will be leaving Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium early, but with smiles on their faces.
Arkansas 49, Nicholls State 7
Sept. 13 – @ Texas Tech
Auburn will have a wide-open offense in week one, but Texas Tech will be Arkansas’ first true pass-happy offense to go up against this season.
The Razorbacks’ secondary will be tested and while I think it will be improved, I don’t see it stopping the Red Raiders. It would not surprise me if Arkansas gives up 400 yards through the air.
Brandon Allen and company won’t be able to keep up with the scoring.
Texas Tech 52, Arkansas 24
Sept. 20 – vs. Northern Illinois
Last year, Northern Illinois rattled off 12 straight wins before losing its last two games – in the MAC Championship and Poinsettia Bowl – but the Huskies will be without Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch at quarterback.
More importantly to Arkansas, however, is the fact that Northern Illinois will have to replace its entire front four, which should allow the Razorbacks to move the ball on the ground. Collins, Williams and Marshall will pile up big yards again.
The perennial MAC powerhouse should give Arkansas a good game, but the Razorbacks will rebound from the Texas Tech game with a win.
Arkansas 31, Northern Illinois 17
Sept. 27 – vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
When Arkansas and Texas A&M met in Arlington as non-conference opponents 2009-2011, the Razorbacks won all three games by an average score of 37.7-24.7, but the last two were decided by a touchdown or less.
I expect this year’s matchup in Jerry World to be another tight one. Allen will have a career day, throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. The loss of Johnny Football will hurt the Aggies, but being in the state of Texas will help them reload opposed to rebuild.
Arkansas will pull the upset and put itself in the driver’s seat to NOT finish last in the SEC West.
Arkansas 41, Texas A&M 35
Oct. 11 – vs. Alabama
No more shutouts. No more 52-0 scores. But still no win.
The Razorbacks are much better in 2014 than in the previous two years, but still aren’t ready to hang with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. In two starts against Alabama, Allen has completed fewer than 40 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns.
That number should increase this season and I think Allen will manage to complete half of his passes and cross the 100-yard threshold, but the Razorbacks will still struggle.
Alabama 45, Arkansas 13
Oct. 18 – vs. Georgia (Little Rock)
When Georgia visits War Memorial Stadium, it will bring along All-SEC running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley.
The Bulldogs also have a very strong defense that includes All-SEC Ramik Wilson, as well as three other players selected to the preseason All-SEC teams at SEC Media Days. That means it will be a long day for Collins, Williams, Marshall and Allen.
Barring injuries or several more arrests, Georgia should beat the Razorbacks handedly.
Georgia 38, Arkansas 10
Oct. 25 – vs. UAB
After back-to-back games against SEC powers Alabama and Georgia, UAB will be a breath of fresh air for Arkansas.
The Blazers’ 2013 season ended in a 62-27 loss to a Southern Miss team that had lost its previous 23 games. Allen and the three-headed attack at running back will have a chance to break records in their final non-conference game of the season.
The Razorbacks should cruise to an easy victory and possibly post their first shutout since a 20-0 win over Utah State in 2006.
Arkansas 38, UAB 0
Nov. 1 – @ Mississippi State
The Bulldogs are a very experienced team with a Heisman Trophy dark-horse candidate at quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Last year, Arkansas had a chance to beat Mississippi State in regulation, but a Collins fumble allowed the game to go to overtime and the rest is history. I think Collins redeems himself with one of his best games of the season, with 150-plus yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Collins won’t be able to do it all by himself, though, and the Razorbacks lose a tough one.
Mississippi State 28, Arkansas 24
Nov. 15 – vs. LSU
The schedule lines up nicely for the Razorbacks this game. LSU will be coming off of its game against Alabama, while Arkansas will be coming off of a bye week.
Leonard Fournette has been hyped as a super star running back, but I think the true freshman will be a little roughed up after playing the Crimson Tide. Trey Flowers, Darius Philon and the rest of Arkansas’ defensive line will do its part to put the freshman in his place.
Of course, the Tigers always have a great defense, so fans could be in for a defensive struggle. I think LSU will eventually prevail.
LSU 24, Arkansas 13
Nov. 22 – vs. Ole Miss
With bowl eligibility on the line, the Razorbacks will be fired up to play the Rebels.
However, Ole Miss could be in the same position and will also be ready to play, meaning fans could be in for a classic shootout. I see at least one special teams touchdown and another good performance from Allen. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will also having a good game.
I doubt this game will be decided in four quarters, but Arkansas will pull out the win in overtime.
Arkansas 41, Ole Miss 38 (OT)
Nov. 28 – @ Missouri
Arkansas will need a win at Missouri the day after Thanksgiving to earn a bowl berth. The Tigers surprised the country with their breakout season in 2013 and will take a step back in 2014, but will still be a contender in the SEC East.
Maty Mauk will be a full-time starting quarterback for the first time, but he got plenty of experience because of James Franklin’s injury last year. Allen will end the season on a high note, with 250 yards and two touchdowns through the air, but it won’t be enough for Arkansas.
No bowl game for the third straight year.
Missouri 31, Arkansas 24
RECORD: 5-7 (2-6)
Stats (difference from last year)
Points per game (based on predictions): 27.7 (+7)
Points allowed per game (based on predictions): 29.4 (-1.4)
Brandon Allen: 55% completion percentage (+5.4%), 2,250 yards (+698), 20 TD (+7), 12 int. (+2)
Alex Collins: 1,225 yards (+199), 11 TD (+7)
Jonathan Williams: 975 yards (+75), 8 TD (+4)
Korliss Marshall: 650 yards (+504), 4 TD (+4)
Receiving: Four players will have 400+ receiving yards (+2)
Total yards per game: 425 (+67.8)
Total yards allowed per game: 395 (-18.4)
Postseason recognition
All-SEC (as I voted at media days): Alex Collins (second team), Hunter Henry (first team), Trey Flowers (first team), Darius Philon (second team), Sam Irwin-Hill (first team)*
*I only voted for two teams, while three teams are recognized. My guess is that Philon will actually be third team All-SEC.
Freshman All-SEC: Jared Cornelius, Cole Hedlund, Bijhon Jackson, Frank Ragnow
Breakout player
Enrolling for the spring semester has proven to help college football players tremendously when it comes to learning the playbook and adjusting to college life.
I believe that is especially true for Jared Cornelius. While JoJo Robinson, Kendrick Edwards and Cody Hollister have received a lot of praise as incoming wide receivers, I think Cornelius will have the best year.
During spring practice, I noticed him hanging around Keon Hatcher, the veteran leader of the wide receivers. He would stretch with Hatcher and make sure he was near the front of lines with Hatcher. These seem like small things, but they are small things coaches love.

That’s why, in my opinion, Cornelius is primed for a breakout year for the Razorbacks.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watch Lists Update

Last week, I did a blog post about the many players named to watch lists between July 7 and July 11. Here's an update that I think you might find interesting now that all 16 watch lists have been announced (the final one came out Friday).

My favorite watch list is probably the Lombardi Award watch list, which features 123 players. Believe it or not, the list will actually be updated before the season starts to include other players that receive "significant pre-season honors."

My advice: Put your game film together and send it in. You might get named to the updated watch list!

Here are the final stats from the 16* watch lists.

  • Of the 128 FBS schools, only seven do not have at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Those schools are: Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Massachusetts, Miami (OH), Southern Miss and Wake Forest
    • That means 94.5 percent of all FBS schools had at least one player on a watch list.
    • Georgia Southern is playing its first season at the FBS level in 2014, while Georgia State will be playing its second FBS season (and fifth season ever after being founded in 2010). Massachusetts did not join the FBS ranks until 2011.
  • Wake Forest is the only school from a major conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC) without at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Here's a list of schools in major conferences that had three or fewer watch list appearances (each time a player is on a different watch list, it counts as one - for example: Arkansas Trey Flowers is on three watch lists, so he counts as three)...
      • Wake Forest (ACC): 0
      • Oklahoma State (Big XII): 1
      • Washington State (Pac-12): 1
      • Boston College (ACC): 2
      • Colorado (Pac-12): 2
      • Georgia Tech (ACC): 2
      • Purdue (Big Ten): 2
      • Vanderbilt (SEC): 2
      • Illinois (Big Ten): 3
      • Kentucky (SEC): 3
      • North Carolina State (ACC): 3
  • Alabama led all teams with 27 watch list appearances. Here's a list of all schools with at least 15 appearances on watch lists…
    • Alabama (SEC): 27
    • Stanford (Pac-12): 26
    • Florida State (ACC): 25
    • USC (Pac-12): 24
    • Oregon (Pac-12): 23
    • Michigan State (Big Ten): 21
    • Georgia (SEC): 20
    • Texas (Big XII): 20
    • Baylor (Big XII): 19
    • Duke (ACC): 19
    • Oklahoma (Big XII): 18
    • TCU (Big XII): 16
    • UCLA (Pac-12): 16
    • Kansas State (Big XII): 15
    • Notre Dame (Ind.): 15
    • Ohio State (Big Ten): 15
    • Washington (Pac-12): 15
  • Of the 17 teams that had 15 or more watch list appearances, only TCU (4-8) had a losing record in 2013. Only six did not win at least 10 games last season.
    • Those teams are: TCU (4), Georgia (8), Kansas State (8), Texas (8), Notre Dame (9) and Washington (9)
  • Arkansas was one of 37 teams that had at least 10 watch list appearances. Of those 37 teams, three had losing records in 2013.
    • Those teams are: Arkansas (3-9), Florida (4-8) and TCU (4-8)
  • The SEC had the most watch list appearances, with 146. Here's how many all conferences had…
    • SEC: 146
    • Pac-12: 144
    • Big Ten: 118
    • ACC: 117
    • Big XII: 111
    • MWC: 65
    • American: 62
    • C-USA: 47
    • Independents: 37
    • MAC: 33
    • Sun Belt: 33
  • However, if you factor in the fact that the SEC has 14 teams and the Pac-12 has 12 teams, the Pac-12 has more watch list appearances per team…
    • Pac-12: 12 (12 teams)
    • Big XII: 11.1 (10 teams)
    • SEC: 10.34 (14 teams)
    • Big Ten: 8.43 (14 teams)
    • ACC: 8.36 (14 teams)
    • American: 5.64 (11 teams)
    • MWC: 5.42 (12 teams)
    • C-USA: 3.62 (13 teams)
    • Sun Belt: 3 (11 teams)
    • MAC: 2.54 (12 teams)
*The 16 watch lists I used for these stats are: Paul Hornung Award, Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award, Mackey Award, Rimington Trophy, Lou Groza Award, Ray Guy Award, Nagurski Trophy, Outland Trohpy, Jim Thorpe Award, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Biletnikoff Award, Davey O'Brien Award, Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Award.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Watch Lists Galore

With football season a little over a month away, it's the time of year again when watch lists for all of the college football awards start coming out.

Each list features prominent names (Jameis Winston, Bryce Petty, Marcus Mariota, etc.) and, well, less prominent names (Old Dominion's Antonio Vaughan, UAB's Hunter Mullins, etc.).

I find the sheer volume of names on the list to be borderline ridiculous. For example, the Rimington Trophy (best center) watch list initially included 64 players. Idaho's Mike Marboe and UTSA's Nate Leonard were added to the list Tuesday, bringing the total to 66 players. (yes, Idaho and UTSA play at the FBS level, in the Mountain Belt of America Conference, or something like that).

With 128 schools playing at the FBS level in 2014, that means 51.6 percent of schools have their center on the watch list. Sure, the Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player) watch list included more players (81), but that is choosing from a field of more than 1,408 players (11 defensive players x 128 schools).

There is only one center on the field at a time.

Here are some more interesting stats I found while looking at the 10* watch lists that have been released so far.

  • Of the 128 FBS schools, only 15 do not have at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Those schools are: Appalachian State, Ball State, Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Massachusetts, Miami (OH), Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, Texas State, Troy, Wake Forest, Washington State and Wyoming.
  • Of the 70 teams that play in one of the six power conferences (American, ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC), only three do not have at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Those schools are: Oklahoma State (Big XII), Wake Forest (ACC) and Washington State (Pac-12).
  • There are 46 schools with at least five watch list appearances. (If a player is on multiple watch lists, he is counted for each watch list he is on. For example, Arkansas' Trey Flowers is on the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy watch lists, while Alex Collins, Hunter Henry, Sam Irwin-Hill and Jonathan Williams are each on only one watch list. There are five different players, but Arkansas has six watch list appearances.)
    • Only four of those teams had a losing record in 2013.
      • Arkansas: six appearances, 3-9 record
      • Florida: eight appearances, 4-8 record
      • Northwestern: five appearances, 5-7 record
      • TCU: 11 appearances, 4-8 record
  • There are 13 schools with at least 10 watch list appearances.
    • TCU is the only one of those teams that had a losing record in 2013.
    • The other 12 schools had a combined winning percentage of .789 in 2013.
    • Only three schools, other than TCU, failed to win at least 10 games last season (Georgia, Texas and Washington).
  • Alabama (not surprisingly) leads the country with 17 watch list appearances.
    • Here's the top 13...
      • Alabama: 17
      • Florida State: 16
      • Michigan State: 16
      • Stanford: 16
      • Oregon: 14
      • USC: 14
      • Duke: 13
      • Oklahoma: 13
      • Texas: 12
      • Georgia: 11
      • TCU: 11
      • Washington: 11
      • Baylor: 10
*For my stats, I included the Paul Hornung Award watch list that was released Monday but for some reason isn't usually included in lists of college football awards. Other watch lists released last week were the Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award, Mackey Award, Rimington Trophy, Lou Groza Award, Ray Guy Award, Nagurski Trophy, Outland Trophy and Jim Thorpe Award.