Thus far the college football season has been a mixed bag. More has been written about the cancellations and postponements than the actual football being played. This makes sense, given the importance of the former and the relative unimportance of the latter.
The wins and losses usually feel like meaningful occurrences in the sport, but these last few weeks the games being successfully contested have felt like the wins. That is, of course, not all true as forums have filled up with complaints about the quality of play and Jay Hopson was all-but-fired at USM. As Ed Yong wrote this week about America in the Pandemic, we are close to simply accepting a horrible state of affairs as part of the décor and ignore it like we do other societal ills.
Part of the enjoyment was in how much irrational care was placed on “amateur” sport played by under-23s in the first place. It is still true that we need some respite from the daily grind and entertainment is a valuable tool in maintaining our sanity.
In that context, we are looking at this season a bit differently. Winning the conference will not be the same level of accomplishment as it was the last few season for all the above reasons and because each of the programs is facing varying levels of impact to their circumstances. For one, Old Dominion is not playing this season, which affects everyone in the league, as all the plans for the schedule are changed. The scheduled games are subject to change, and teams are facing each other with vastly different levels of in-season experience. Rice has not practiced so far this season, while UAB is at two games.
Louisiana Tech has postponed what was to be their opener this week against Baylor after 38 players have been held out due to COVID — tests and contact tracing.
All that said, we can enjoy parsing the varying approaches to the challenges faced by the coaches and programs. There are many things to enjoy about football –from the combat on the field to the mind games and strategic planning happening on the sideline. Another is the preparation. Teams are giving their third-and-fourth string players more repetitions to prepare them for playing. Conventional wisdom is the give the players that will play the most repetitions to better prepare them.
We could see new ways of coaching and developing players after this is all over. 1 That is the case at UTSA, where new head coach Jeff Taylor is spending time with the bottom of the depth chart to prepare his team for this afternoon’s game against rival Texas State.
Let us preview the slate:
Charlotte at App State
12 ET ESPN2
Last year App State handled Charlotte relatively easily, but the big takeaway was the explosive 49er offense. Will Healy’s team is not going to take anyone by surprise in this season, and that will be this year’s challenge. No word on how Club Lit will celebrate in the case of a win. Appalachian State is a quality program and has been dating to their days in the FCS.
UTSA at Texas State
230 CT ESPN2
Jeff Traylor is starting his first season as UTSA head coach and will look to re-spark the program that has lost nearly all the momentum from its startup seasons. Traylor will benefit from a healthy QB room, including Frank Harris, the star quarterback that has been injured for the last two seasons. They take on Texas State, a rival, and one they have dominated int heir few short seasons in existence. The Bobcats played well at home against SMU last week even with some notable losses due to COVID. The Bobcat offense will be a challenge for new DC Tyrone Nix and his new scheme.
WKU at Louisville
8p ET ACC Network
WKU surprised last season with a tough defense and a timely offense in head coach Tyson Helton’s first season as head coach. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding, or transitionary season the Hilltoppers finished 9-4, 6-2. In an open season like this one, teams with quality coaching and a strong sense of identity will benefit. That sound like the WKU football squad.
UTEP at Texas
7PM CT Longhorn Network
Contrast the above WKU team with this one and you have a stark one. UTEP has not improved in their time under head coach Dana Dimel, and UTEP is a program in which it is difficult to succeed. The Miners traditional recruiting grounds have been crowded by FBS newcomers UTSA, and Texas State, in addition to their normal rivals for local recruits. Talent can be had in UTEP — look at recent Miners and current NFLers Aaron Jones, Will Hernandez, and Nik Needham — but a successful program is more than a handful of talent. Texas has had its struggles in recent years, but they have more talent, more of an identity, and way more resources.
Again, assuming this ever ends ↩