College Football: Weak schedules could hurt Sun Belt’s standing in 2014

In a story today for the Daily Record, I wrote about how Texas State has one of the weakest schedules among Sun Belt Conference teams.

The Bobcats’ 2014 opponents went a combined 57-88 in 2013. Based on last season’s results, Georgia Southern was the only SBC team with a weaker schedule than Texas State.

Last season, the SBC was among the strongest non-automatic qualifying conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It doesn’t appear that will be case this time around.

Here are a few other observations…

1. New teams looking for bounce-back seasons

Four new schools join the SBC in 2014: Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Idaho and New Mexico State.

Maybe the Vandals and Aggies will be better in the future. But, both teams didn’t have good seasons in 2013. Idaho went 1-11 and N.M. State was slightly better at 2-10

The Mountaineers also had a down season in 2013 (4-8 record). Georgia Southern went 7-4, including an upset victory over Florida in the Swamp. But the Gators weren’t the Gators in 2013 as Will Muschamp’s team finished the season at 4-8.

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern both made the Football Championship Subdivision their home last season and it’s always a huge jump to FBS. It could be a few years before either team does well.

2. SEC schools prominent on a few schedules

For as many bad things as you could say about 2014 schedules in the Sun Belt — only Georgia State faces a slate that had a winning record in 2013 — there are a few teams that have challenged themselves against the mighty Southeastern Conference.

Seven SBC  schools scheduled SEC teams. Those are Arkansas State, Idaho, New Mexico State, South Alabama, Troy, UL Lafayette and UL Monroe. The Warhawks will play the most (three; Kentucky, Louisiana State University and Texas A&M). In all, seven different SEC schools were represented on SBC schedules. In addition to the three I mentioned earlier, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina are also featured on SBC slates.

That’s a good thing to see from Sun Belt schools.

3. How about the Bobcats?

I like what Texas State is doing.

The Bobcats have a Big 10 school (Illinois) on their 2014 schedule and the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles on their 2015 slate.

But I want to see more.

Dennis Franchione has enough ties to schools in the SEC and Big 12 to put those teams on future schedules. You have to wonder if that SEC school 2 1/2 hours to the east would schedule Texas State. Texas A&M would be a great add for the Bobcats, but it might not be easy to make it happen.

Even so, the Bobcats probably wouldn’t have any problem getting a few other  SEC schools to play them. If Texas State is able to make that happen, it will only enhance the program’s reputation and make it more attractive for bowl bids down the line.

 

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College Football: Smith receives another honor from Phil Steele

Shortly after Phil Steele released his preseason All-Sun Belt Conference teams, he recently unveiled his All-America picks.

Texas State’s Brandon Smith again found his name on the list.

The now-junior wide receiver followed up his First-Team All-SBC selection by being chosen as a preseason Fourth-Team All-American. Smith was one of two SBC players to receive such a distinction from Steele as he joined Idaho’s Austin Rehkow.

Smith burst onto the scene in the Bobcats’ tilt versus UL Lafayette last season. The Prattville, Alabama native returned two kickoffs against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Smith scampered free for a 92-yard touchdown in the third quarter — and one-upped himself with a 100-yard return in the fourth quarter. With that, the junior became the 13th player in NCAA history to have two kick return scores in a single game.

Smith was a consistent threat in the return game during the 2013 season as he averaged 29.9 yards on 20 returns. That mark ranked fifth in the nation and second among SBC returners.

A punter last season for the Vandals, Rehkow led the nation with 47.8 yards per punt. In the Bobcats’ 37-21 victory over Idaho last season inside the Kibbie Dome, Rehkow tallied punts of 55, 62 and 65 yards. Rehkow was tabbed as a preseason Fourth-Team All-American by Steele.

Aside from Rehkow, Texas State will face Illinois’ V’Angelo Bentley this season. Bentley was chosen as a preseason Third-Team All-American kick returner by Steele. The junior defensive back had a 100-yard return versus Southern Illinois.

The Bobcats and Fighting Illini will meet for the first time Sept. 20 at Memorial Stadium in Champagne, Illinois. Texas State faces the Vandals Oct. 4 inside Bobcat Stadium.

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College Baseball: Bobcats hear their names called in 2014 MLB Draft

Friday was a big day for Austen Williams.

During the sixth round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals picked Williams. This was the sixth consecutive draft that Texas State had a player go in the first 10 rounds.

“It was kind of surprising,” Williams said of being selected by Washington. “I didn’t hear from the Nationals before they drafted me. I hadn’t been in a lot of contact with them before the draft like I had been some other teams (Yankees).”

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How Tyler Mayforth Sees The Sun Belt Tournament Going

Fact: UT Arlington is scalding hot.

Fact: Texas State has a formidable starting rotation.

Fact: A top seed hasn’t won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in a few years.

Fact: UL Lafayette is still UL Lafayette.

It’s known that the most complete teams win come May and June, which is why the Ragin’ Cajuns will be crowned the 2014 Sun Belt Conference Tournament champions in Mobile, Ala. this weekend.

UL Lafayette leads the Sun Belt in every major hitting category, is first in earned-run average and doesn’t give opposing teams extra chances by walking batters or committing errors in the field. That’s a recipe for success and it will continue to brew up wins at Stanky Field.

Now to the Bobcats…

Strong pitching should carry Texas State to the semifinals against UL Lafayette.

Unfortunately the Bobcats will have one loss on their credit by then.

Look for Texas State, behind Taylor Black, to beat Western Kentucky in the first round.

Following a loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns on the tournament’s second day, the Bobcats should eliminate the Hilltoppers thanks to a strong performance on the mound by Lucas Humpal.

That would put Texas State, with a depleted pitching staff, up against a rested UL Lafayette.

I don’t see Tyler Davenport or Chad Young giving the Bobcats enough quality innings to outlast the Ragin’ Cajuns to prolong their season.

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How Joe Vozzelli sees the Sun Belt Tournament going

UL Lafayette just might have a challenger in this week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournanment.

After the Ragin’ Cajuns cruised to the regular season title, they face a strong field, which will attempt to knock them off. UT Arlington seems to be playing some of the best baseball in the conference with 14 wins in its past 16 games.

Just ask Texas State.

The Mavericks clubbed two homers in an 11-7 win last Thursday night — then they shut down the Bobcats with back-to-back 1-0 triumphs. That was the first time since 2000 that Texas State was shut out in consecutive games.

So, a hot lineup — UTA sits in the Top 25 nationally in seven different offensive categories — and a pitching staff that has turned the corner lately could be all the makings for an upset at Stanky Field in Mobile, Ala.

Look for the Mavericks to beat UL Lafayette and win the tournament title on Sunday afternoon.

UTA’s toughest tilt before it plays the Ragin’ Cajuns for the title on Championship Sunday could be against tournament host and No. 7 seed South Alabama. I expect the Jaguars will play well in front of their home crowd.

The Mavericks still win that game and will go a perfect 4-0 during tounament play.

Now to the Bobcats…

Despite what has been a lackluster finish to the season — Texas State lost five of its past six games — head coach Ty Harrington remained confident that his team could turn things around.

After all, the Bobcats were playing well before back-to-back series losses to UALR and UTA. They had just swept Troy and nearly took a  road series from UL Lafayette. Texas State ended up with one win in Lafayette, La.

The Bobcats will make a deep run in the tournament, which starts Wednesday when Harrington’s team faces No. 5 seed Western Kentucky at 9 a.m. in the first round.

Look for Texas State to beat the Hilltoppers before falling to UL Lafayette. Even if that happens, the Bobcats would likely play both teams twice, because of the SBC Tournament’s double-elimination format.

I expect Texas State will keep its season alive with back-to-back wins over WKU and the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Bobcats have enough dominant starting pitching (Austen Williams, Taylor Black and Lucas Humpal) to steal one game from the tournament’s top seed. Even if Harrington is forced to use all three of those pitchers earlier in the tournament, Dylan Bein is plenty capable of being a solid spot starter versus UL Lafayette.

Faced with a third game against the tournament’s top seed, however, the Ragin’ Cajuns will eliminate Texas State and move onto the championship game against the Mavericks.

 

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College Basketball: Kaspar signs four on Wednesday

Danny Kaspar and his coaching staff logged a lot of miles this offseason trying to find the right players to fill out what will be an important recruiting class.

Well, that work paid off as four players signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday — D.J. Brown, Ethan Montalvo, Cameron Naylor and Jamarcus Weatherspoon. All four are transfers and are eligible to play for Texas State next season.

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College Football: Three storylines for Maroon and Gold Game

After 12 practices and two scrimmages, Texas State is ready for its Maroon and Gold Game today inside Bobcat Stadium.

The Bobcats will have their first real chance to test their new offensive and defensive schemes in what will be closest thing to the season opener they will play Aug. 30 versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The spring game will kick at 1 p.m. and will feature four 10-minute quarters.

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College Football: Teams picked for Texas State’s Maroon and Gold Spring Game

The Bobcats stepped away from practice for one day to have a little fun.

Texas State had team captains select players for Saturday’s Maroon and Gold Game during a fantasy draft Wednesday afternoon. The Gold team was led by captains Craig Mager, Bradley Miller, Kris Petersen and Adrian Bellard, while the Maroon team was led by captains David Mayo, Ben Ijah, Tomas Luna and Matt Freeman.

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College Football: Five things we learned during Saturday’s scrimmage

Texas State’s second scrimmage of spring camp didn’t look anything like the first one.

After the offense dominated the first scrimmage, the Bobcat defense seemed motivated to show that was a fluke. Quarterback Tyler Jones and company struggled to get things going for most of Saturday’s intrasquad game. The defense had three interceptions and two fourth-down stops.

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College Football: Intensity ramps up in Thursday’s practice

It wasn’t an easy day for Texas State during Thursday’s practice inside Bobcat Stadium.

Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione made sure of that with the hardest practice of spring camp. Franchione shared the role of equal opportunity critic and motivator during Thursday’s practice. As Franchione walked around groups of players, he asked a rhetorical question: “How tough are you?”

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