College Football: Teams That Need A Hug

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College Football: Teams That Need A Hug

They show up every Saturday despite being 45 point under dogs. We may laugh at their futility on the field, but every year we love seeing them on our schedules.

Guaranteed wins are tough to come by, aren't they?

Is there any reason why we, the fans, should show them more love? Except for pity, is there anything that can change our minds about the ineptitude of these teams?

Perhaps there are some little known team facts that could change our giggles to salutes? Our snickers to "Atta boy"!

Time to show some love for the loveless.

 

Temple Owls.

 

The perennial doormat of Division I FBS football - they have lost two straight years to Buffalo - but at least have very smart players on the roster. The Owls play in downtown Philly (literally) and have had seventeen straight non-winning seasons. They haven't had more than four wins since 1990.

The Owls were unceremoniously kicked out of the Big East (just how bad do you have to be to get kicked out of an eight-team conference?), and eventually joined the MAC.

Enter head coach Al Golden.

His first year (2006) was a nightmare. He had just six returning starters and played an NCAA-high 21 true freshmen. Although the Owls went 1-11, they did beat Bowling Green, and they had a tough schedule - nine of the teams they played were bowl eligible.

The first game against Buffalo was a heart breaker. Tied 3-3 in regulation, it went into OT and the Owls lost 9-3. That game was a lot more exciting than you might think - I watched it (okay, I admit it, it was one of the first games of the season and I was overcome by emotion) and was rooting hard for the Owls.

2007 was a better effort - they beat Northern Illinois, Akron, and Miami (Ohio) in a three-game stretch and added a fourth win against Kent State.

In December, Al Golden was a candidate for the head coaching job at UCLA - and he declined!  

"I am flattered to have been contacted about the coaching vacancy at UCLA," Golden said.

"UCLA is a world-class institution, and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero is a first-class person. However, we are on the brink of something truly special here at Temple. Our staff, student-athletes, and I look forward to what Temple Football will accomplish in the future; we have some unfinished business to take care of."

Can you just feel the good vibes? A coach saying "Nyet" to a BCS program because he's building something special at a cellar-dweller school? Money not clouding his judgment? Prestige not affecting his coaching status?

Temple returns 53 players, having only lost 2 lettermen this season. Look for them to upset Army and Navy, and be the feel good team of the year. Hugs.

 

Florida International.

 

They have only been playing Division I FBS football for a couple of years, but during those years, over forty Golden Panther student-athletes were cited for various NCAA infractions resulting in four years' probation and loss of scholarships.

They, at one time, had the NCAA's longest winless streak at twenty-three losses and the seventh longest streak ever. Let's not also forget that huge brawl against Miami which resulted in eighteen players suspended and a broadcaster losing his job.

They are the youngest team in FBS - they just started playing football in 2002 and didn't play a full FBS schedule until 2005.

Their schedule is daunting this year. They open at Kansas, then travel to Iowa before getting a bye and then hosting the South Florida Bulls. They end their season against the Sun Belt probie Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

There aren't a lot of promising games for this Sun Belt team, and except for maybe North Texas, the team that snapped their losing streak last season, this is one Florida team which won't be bowling for sure. They also have to play that other new Florida team, the Florida Atlantic Owls, who have had much more success than the Golden Panthers.

But you have to have a special place in your heart for a team who has only won five of the last thirty-five games. Plus, they schooled bad-boy Miami on how to brawl on the field.

That in itself is worth a least a hug.

 

Alabama State.

 

Granted, this is an FCS school, but they are truly special. They were hit with 668 NCAA violations including 500 of them for ineligible football players and forty incidents of grade changes. Their unofficial motto is "if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'."

How bad was it at Alabama State? Two of their compliance directors never had any compliance training before assuming their positions. (No pun intended.) Just how one becomes a compliance director without compliance training is truly a great accomplishment.

What further boggles the mind is that those 668 violations could triple when the university starts answering the violations.

“It could be 1,670 violations,” Don Jackson, an NCAA litigation specialist, said.

This school, by the way, was at one time, on Ryan Perrilloux' list of schools to flee to after getting the boot from LSU.

All the more reason to embrace Alabama State even more. If you're going to cheat, then by golly, cheat at an epic rate.

 

Southern Methodist University.

 

They were at one time, a powerhouse in the now defunct Southwest Conference, and from '80-'85 they had the winningest program in Division I football. Then, in 1987, the NCAA administered the death penalty for numerous, and flagrant, NCAA violations.

Their punishment included no football games in 1987, a two-year ban on bowls and television appearances, a limit of seven road games only in '88 and fifty lost scholarships over four years. Ouch.

Needless to say, SMU's absence from play led to the eventual demise of the Southwest Conference, as well as SMU's football program.

Everybody eventually bailed from the team and/or conference, and twenty years later, SMU plays in Conference-USA (after playing in the WAC until 2005) with a new head coach, former Hawai'i coach June Jones.

This year, SMU is bringing back the Pony Express-look, and for some reason, this perfect example of an NCAA-experiment gone horribly wrong has found some fans rooting for them.

It's not that we love SMU, it's that we hate the NCAA's heavy-handed tactics. Go Mustangs, beat the Horned Frogs.

 

University of Buffalo.

 

First and foremost, how many times have naive football fans called the Bulls, the Bills? They indeed, have an identity crisis, unless of course you associate futility with their football program.

(Type in "Buffalo Bulls" under BleacherReport.com's "insert a photo" and nothing comes up. It also gets auto-tagged "Chicago Bulls" and "Buffalo Bills", but not "Buffalo Bulls".)

It's like they fell off the face of the earth. At least the Temple Owls have a picture in the photo archives.

It seems like Buffalo and Temple fought each other tooth and nail every year (OK, really only the last two years but dang it, its intensity is ingrained in my mind!) to at least get one win on their season's record.

Like Temple, the Bulls have a high profile coach in Turner Gill, the 2007 MAC coach of the year. Last year the Bulls went 5-3 in the MAC. The previous seven years they had a total of eight MAC wins.

This year they have a dandy of a schedule including UTEP, Pitt, Mizzou and the always entertaining Temple Owls. When you consider the frigid weather they play in and their average game attendance of 13,568 per game, it's not hard to see why they could use some love.

Go Bills! I mean, go Bulls!

 

Utah State.

 

Not to be confused with BYU or Utah, the runt of the triplets - Utah State - gets no respect. To give you an idea of the discrepancy of wealth spread among the three schools, last year was the first year head coach Brent Guy (6-29 record) could hold a Spring Game because he finally had eighty-five players on his roster. The previous two years he could not.

It's hard to get geared up for Aggies football when you can't show off your talent, or lack thereof, during the Spring.

For sure, Logan, Utah, isn't Provo or Salt Lake City.

Last year the Aggies spanked out two wins after snapping a sixteen-game losing streak - a school record. It was also their first two-game winning streak since 2003. They have a lower attendance-record average (13,131) than Buffalo, which is saying a lot in a football-loving state like Utah.

Futility is thy middle name.

The good news is that shut-outs are becoming increasingly rare. While they suffered three shut-outs in 2006 (20-0, 48-0 and 38-0 to Arkansas, Utah and BYU, respectively), last year they got shut out by only one team: Boise State, 52-0.

Progress? You bet!

In fact, they covered the spread against Hawai'i and seven other teams last year! Despite getting no respect from the oddsmakers and college football fans in general, the Aggies have my total respect.

At least in football pools. Keep up the good work, and best of luck to the Aggies.

Group hug!

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