Every Friday, NCAA.com will run ‘Third and Long,’ a look at three different questions facing the college football world. This week, our three respondents are Craig Thomas, Ryan Cooper and Eric Vander Voort.
1. This week there’s a game at Bristol Motor Speedway. We've already had games this season at Lambeau field and at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia. What venue that hasn’t hosted a college football game would you like to see host one?
Craig Thomas: If we continue the ‘let’s make it bigger, so it can be better’ approach currently sweeping across sports, we are only a year or two away from building a raised football field over the Churchill Downs infield for Louisville-Kentucky football game. Or actually having Navy hosting Notre Dame on the USS Enterprise (the decommissioned vessel, not the Starship captained by James Tiberius Kirk.)
Sometimes bigger isn’t better, and you get a better hamburger at the farm-to-table restaurant than the place that has sold more than a billion burgers.
MORE: What to watch, Week 2
Let’s have some of the nation’s biggest football teams play in their state’s smaller venues – bring big-time college football to high school stadiums. Here are three stadiums I’d like to see host games:
1) Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Urban Meyer coaching Ohio State in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame against his alma mater Cincinnati?
2) Ratliff Stadium in Odessa, Texas. This stadium was made famous in the book ‘Friday Night Lights.’ There are five Power 5 programs in Texas, plus SMU and Houston – surely we could find two teams that have clear eyes and a full heart – right?
3) Stadium Bowl in Tacoma, Washington. This is a 15,000 seat stadium that overlooks the Puget Sound.
Ryan Cooper: If two teams are interested in making the trip out to Australia like Hawaii and Cal did to start the season, why not go huge scale at the Melbourne Cricket Ground? The capacity of over 100,000 and all-the-way-around circular seating layout could provide a really cool atmosphere. It has already been used for Australian rules football, so it could easily work for the American variety. Obviously it’s unlikely to completely fill up and you probably wouldn’t see two top-tier teams playing, but it could still be very neat.
Eric Vander Voort: One of the coolest things I’ve seen in any sport the past year is the MLB game that the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins played at Fort Bragg, an Army base in North Carolina. A new venue was built for it, which is being turned into a multipurpose recreational facility.
The fact that it was a crowd of military personnel and their loved ones made it even more special. I’d love to see more events like that. Now, it may be unrealistic to think that an Army-Navy game could be played on a military base instead of the NFL stadiums it currently rotates through, but what about a game involving at least one of the academies? Perhaps Army, Navy, or Air Force could find a game on their schedule to move to a base.
2. There aren’t as many matchups between top teams this week as there was last week. But is there a team you’re putting on upset watch?
RC: This is a tough one, with just about every top 25 team facing either an FCS or significantly weaker FBS opponent. I suppose I’ll go with Akron at Wisconsin. The Badgers went from being unranked to in the top 10 in one week, and their true standing probably falls somewhere in between. They could be due for a letdown after a signature win over LSU, though it’s also very possible that the confidence from that win will lead to another great performance. The Zips are a solid team, though, with a good quarterback in Thomas Woodson who threw six touchdowns last week and one of the nation’s top deep threats in Jerome Lane. Lane torched the VMI secondary to the tune of 196 yards in Week 1 and could be a lot for Wisconsin, which basically only had to worry about the run against LSU, to handle.
EV: Jacksonville State has a history of close calls with FBS teams. The Gamecocks came incredibly close last year to knocking off Auburn before falling in overtime, and they beat Ole Miss in double OT in 2010. The 2015 FCS runner-up is no walk in the park for any team, and LSU could have its hands full this week.The Tigers didn’t put together a scoring offensive drive from their own territory last week in a loss to Wisconsin. Their only TDs came on a pick six and following a Badgers’ turnover in their own end. The offense seems to have a lot to figure out.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks, No. 5 in the FCS coaches’ poll and have 13 FBS transfers on their squad. Nine of those are from the SEC. They started their season off with a 31-12 win against North Alabama last week, and they won’t be easily intimidated heading into Baton Rouge on Saturday.
CT: No. Remember, nothing in life is free. Week 2 is the price we pay for all the fun we had Week 1.
3. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of Week 1 performances, whether by a team or an individual player. But who impressed you last week that you think is here to stay in 2016?
EV: What we saw from Clemson WR Mike Williams showed me that he’s going to be the kind of game changer we thought he could be for the Tigers. We knew he was talented, but Williams missed out on last year’s run to the national title game due an injury in the first game when he collided with a goal post.
Williams is back and better than ever, totaling 174 yards on nine catches in Clemson’s opening-weekend win against Auburn. He makes the Tigers that much scarier – they already were bringing back a Heisman finalist in Deshaun Watson and a talented back in Wayne Gallman. Add one of the best receivers in the country to that mix, and they could be primed for another run to the CFP.
CT: This is hot take that should get me a guest spot on ‘All Takes Matter,’ but the team that will be my must-watch of the season is Houston. They have everything that makes football fun here are three reasons why you should root for Houston this year:
Tom Herman got UH diamond grills last year because he told his players he would do it if they won the AAC. He does fun things like this while still being all football coach-y.
They have an athletic big guy tearing up the defensive line AND he wears a skill player’s number. Ed Oliver is a joy to watch. He’s already spanned a parody Twitter account called (Not) Ed Oliver @BigEdDestroysYou. His first college game was against Oklahoma. He had seven tackles and two sacks.
Gary Ward Jr. is the best double-threat quarterback in college football without the first name of ‘Deshaun.’
RC: Curtis Samuel at Ohio State. I think he can be everything that Braxton Miller failed to be last year, in that he’s a dynamic athlete who Urban Meyer could plug into any role he sees fit. Miller struggled to find consistency in his conversion from quarterback to H-back, but Samuel is a lot more familiar with the role. Is he going to have 250-plus yards and three touchdowns every game? Of course not. But the Ohio State offense lacks playmakers, so it will be a point of emphasis to get Samuel involved, and he’s as dangerous as anyone once he gets the ball in his hands.