Posted: Friday December 16, 2005 12:20PM; Updated: Friday December 16, 2005 5:54PM
The Other College Football
Bowl season begins on Tuesday and doesn't slow down until Jan. 4, with the dream USC-Texas matchup in the Rose Bowl. But if you can't wait that long, there is plenty of great football action this weekend. Tonight in Chattanooga is the Division I-AA championship between Northern Iowa and Appalachian State, and tomorrow in Salem, Va. is the Division III championship (also known as the Stagg Bowl) between Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater. Though these schools might not have the name recognition of Penn State or Texas, there are plenty of reasons to watch (and love) the lower divisions.
If you think USC's 33-game winning streak and two straight national championships are impressive, how about Mount Union, which has won seven national titles and is 134-4 in the last decade, including a 110-game regular-season winning streak which was snapped earlier this season. Think the quality of players at these lower division schools isn't as good as many Div.I-A programs? Think again. Among the many NFL stars who attended lower division schools are Terrell Owens (Chattanooga), Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State) and Randy Moss (Marshall). Among the current crop of lower division players, don't be surprised to find quarterback Erik Meyer of Eastern Washington or Brett Elliot, quarterback of Division III Linfield, on an NFL field soon.
Who are your favorite small school stars and what are your reasons for embracing the little guys?
-- Andy Gray (Fri 11:30 a.m.)
Erik Meyer of Eastern Washington who has total comand over the Eagles Offense. He could be a great pro. Not drated high, but still good. Maybe a career backup like Ty Detmer.
How about a pair of Justins on the UWW squad? Justin Beaver and Justin Jacobs are a part of the best backfield in the nation (D-3, of course). Beaver is small, but he can sure run like mad. 2000+ yards? WOW. Jacobs is one of the underated QB's in the league. If anyone saw him keep his "cool" in D3's version of the Ice Bowl last week saw a man who can play in a big game, bad conditions, and play EXTREMElY well. Mind you now, Beaver has two more years and Jacobs will be back next year. Scary isn't it?
If D-II and D-III gives us such great football, why doesn't anyone pay attention to them in week 2 or 3? I know why, because the regular season doesn't matter. D-I football is the greatest sport because it's the only sport in which every week is important. You think Spurs fans care about game 45? Or Red Wings fans care about the 60th game of the year? Heck no. But I bet Florida State fans are concerned about what happens in game 7. D-II and D-III football is boring because the games don't matter one bit until the playoffs, just like every single other tired and boring sport.
Wow, this is one of the most illogical arguments I've heard in a while. First off, you can't compare football to another sport because football plays far fewer games than everyone else. But I do think Spurs fans care about game 45. That's why they are fans. I've watched just about every minute of every Celtics game since I was 14 because I'm a Celtics fan. I also think they'll be NBA champions within four years, but that's another argument for another day. The point is that fans watch sports all season, not just the playoffs.
What about D-II? I know Grand Valley has dominated this division the last few years, but it is hard to discount the "in-between" division for its games and players. Especially considering the great in-state rivalries such as Grand Valley and Saginaw Valley here in Michigan. One of these days the Cardinals will get over the hump and win their own championship. If only they didn't have to meet GVSU in the secoond round.
Last week's Div. II championship game was just as exciting as any Div. I game I've ever watched. The best football game ever is Northwest Missouri States win over Carson-Newman in 1999 (4 OT for a national championship!)
There is a lot of great talent that comes out of the lower divisions in college football. But, don't think all of them are "embraced". T.O doesn't recognize his university (UTC). Neither do UTC fans recognize him!
It seems like every year, Mount Union is able to field a team that has the ability to play with teams from a higher division. They have an offensive line that averages 285#. They have depth at all positions (with 2 RB's able to rush for over 1000 yards). Even with the talent of all those players, it is the ability of Head Coach Larry Kehres to not only recruit and coach these individuals, but his ability to do it with class and ensure that they all contribute in the classroom as well. Not many D-1 schools can say that.
As an Illinois State University student, I gotta go with two of our own. First is wide receiver Laurent Robinson. He finished the season with 86 catches for 1,465 yards and 12 touchdowns. He capped off his season with a 292 yard performance against Indiana State. Another Redbird who is one of the best I-AA players is defensive end Brent Hawkins. He led I-AA in tackles for loss (26.5) and forced fumbles (7) and was second in sacks with 17. Both these guys are great players, a ton of fun to watch, and hopefully the world will be watching these guys play on Sundays for years to come.
Mike in Detroit must have gotten into whatever Matt Millen has been smoking, because he has no idea what he's talking about. Winning regular season games gets teams into the playoffs, so how can you argue that they don't mean anything. I'm sure that running behind the same fullback he ran behind in highschool has helped Justin Beaver put up those gaudy numbers. You can't buy that kind of chemistry.
Tim Steed of moraine valley. he has 4.3 speed and an amazing left arm.if this kid doesnt get a shot at the big time, then theres just no justice in the sports world.
How about the guy Michael Jacobs from Northeast Florida State, have you seen the numbers he's put up this season? He's crazy and yet no one has heard of him.
There's nothing better than small college football. Just ask your own columnist Austin Murphy. His book on the St. John's University team in 1999 was a great read and followed a bunch of good guys through the playoffs. There's simply no better environment. No scholarships. No quitting. Just pride in the game!
Although he probably won't get play in the NFL, I think you have to give recognition to Travis Lulay from Montana State in the Div. I-AA. He was one of the most dominant quaterbacks in Big Sky history and also the most exciting punter in all of college football.
Hey you guys shouldn't forget about the NAIA. Carroll College is going for their fourth straight national championship and have arguably the greatest QB ever to play in NAIA history.
I think D-III athletics are great. As a Hardin-Simmons University graduate I take great pride in the fact that my school has the winningest football program in Texas over the last ten years. My question is how anyone can say D-III games don't matter every week. HSU and Mary-Hardin Baylor, last year's D-III national runner up, are consistently in the top ten in the country, and yet one of them manages to get snubbed from the playoffs nearly every year, if they have only one loss?
Barrick Nealy, for Texas State is one of the best Div. 1-AA QB's around. Think a Div. 1-AA version of Vince Young! Nealy has thrown for 18 touchdowns on 192-of-338 passing this season. The Dallas native also leads the team on the ground with 1,013 yards on 146 carries and 13 rushing scores.
If Richie Williams for App State gets to play tonight, you are in for a treat. The kid is the Southern Conference's all-time leader in total yards and is as explosive with his feet as he is with his arm. He sprained his ankle last week and is questionable, but he is one of the best and most exciting to watch at any level.
I'm a bit biased because I attend NWLC, but Sam Durkin of the Nort West Liberty College Sharks is one of the most inspirational storries in all of college athletics. Despite losing the use of one of his arms in a hanggliding accident, hes fought off morbid obesity to become one of the best pass rushers in our entire division. He leads the team in sacks, and his "beer-b-ques" have made him the coolest guy on the team.
I was at UTC when Terrell Owens was there. And I can tell you that he was just as unpopular there as he is in Philly right now. All of Chattanooga is glad he doesn't embrace UTC.
Let's not forget about 1-AA powerhouse Montana! Montana has put up some solid NFL Player. Tim Houck was a heck of a corner for the Pack & the Eagles. Kirk Scrafford had a great career with the 49ers at O Tackle. Let's face it between, Montana, Montana State & Carroll College there is Good Football in Montana!
Adrian Peterson out of Georgia Southern was insane to watch and reminded me of Hershel when he would run over four guys.
Northern Iowa has sent a ton of guys to the NFL. Kurt Warner, Bryce Paup, James Jones, Benny Sapp, Brad Meester, Ryan Hannam, Dedric Ward and many others. Watch for the Panthers to win their first title tonight