Friday, September 25, 2009

Gridiron Gridlocks (& Quick Hits)

It's time to do some football preview talk and get into other sports for Big South play, where the stakes are really high...

The Big South Conference football teams take on a remarkable level of opposition this week--not FBS schools this time, but the cream of the FCS crop, so buckle your chinstraps because these games are going to be hard-hitting contests, but also great fun...let's have a look...

VMI Keydets at #1 Richmond Spiders
...yes, VMI is taking on the top FCS team in the country, which completes the Big South Championship Daily Double--only the Big South Conference has teams playing the defending champions in FCS and FBS (this game & CSU's opener at Florida) this year. The Keydets last played a #1 in 2001, when they faced Georgia Southern after the Eagles had won title #6 for GSU. Contrast that rarity with the fact that games against the Spiders are relatively common for VMI: this game marks meeting #86--and the series is tied 40-40-5. Seriously. Can't get closer than that, now can you? The cynics will point out that UR has taken the last seven in the series, but we refuse to get cynical...

And if all THAT isn't enough to get your attention, how about this gem: sensational offense and special teams weapon Tim Maypray sits just 43 yards short of the Big South record for all-purpose yards (he could salt that one away on the opening kickoff, but we'll give him the first quarter to set the mark).

At about the time that game's wrapping up, the Big South can turn its eyes to the North:

Stony Brook Seawolves at #15 UMass Minutemen...unlike the historic series for the last two squads, these teams have only faced off once before (a UMass win in 2006). Obviously SBU will have work to do, but among the bright spots for the Seawolves: even though they are 1-2, all three games have been decided by ten or less, and SBU has the most efficient Red Zone offense in the Conference--scoring every time they've gotten inside the 20. Star running back Conte Cuttino needs only 54 yards on the ground to be the only SBU player to reach 3000 in his career.

And while that one's going on, we have the headliner at a jam-packed Williams Stadium in Lynchburg:

#6
JMU Dukes at #24 Liberty Flames
...two ranked teams renew their rivalry in the Commonwealth Saturday evening--only the fourth time a ranked Big South team has faced a ranked opponent from outside the Conference. James Madison leads the all-time series 9-5, but LU counters that with a four-game home winning streak (by a score of 133-23). The Flames have a lot at stake--think of it in basketball terms: this game represents a shot at a "quality win" outside the Conference when it comes down to contending for at-large playoff berths (LU has been turned away after winning the Big South the last two years and Coach Rocco want to avoid a similar fate this season). If it comes down to a gamble, the Flames have the hot hand: 4-4 on 4th down this year (one of only 15 FCS schools perfect on 4th this year). Watch out for Mike Brown, recognized by the Conference and national publications for his stellar work at Lafayette--currently second in the Conference in all-purpose yards per game!


Of the three, only one can be seen on the Big South Network: JMU-LU, 7pm Saturday (available for $5.95--order here).

Take the rankings out of consideration for a moment and we find three more football games on the slate for tomorrow:

North Greenville Crusaders at CSU Buccaneers...somebody's gotta win, and that's good news for two teams with a combined 0-7 record. Charleston Southern is 8-1 vs. NGU, including wins in the last five meetings. Believe it or not, this game marks the home opener for CSU after three weeks as road warriors against stiff competition.

NC A&T Aggies at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers...CCU won this match-up 20-7 last year and the Chants have done well against teams from the MEAC. The fans in Conway have cooked up a "black out" to welcome NCAT to Brooks Stadium.

Presbyterian College Blue Hose at The Citadel Bulldogs...these Palmetto State opponents have squared off 60 times before, but not in a continuous series, as the last meeting was back in 1991--and PC hasn't taken a game off of the Bulldogs since 1979. That's not the only streak the Blue Hose seek to turn around--they have also lost six in a row overall and nine straight on the road.


Of that trio of games, the NGU-CSU (1:30pm) and NCAT-CCU (7pm) games can be found on the Big South Network.


So what about Gardner-Webb? Idle this week, but thanks for asking.


Meanwhile, as we dash and smash from clash to clash in football, the big story elsewhere is Big South Conference play--this weekend marks the real plunge into League games for both volleyball and men's soccer. Rivalries renewed and games with double meaning, nothing like it--if you have a chance to catch your team in action, get out there and do it, people! As for women's soccer, the ladies are still a week away from getting into Conference play in earnest, so there's not as much activity on the pitch for them right now.


A quick hoops holler for you--ESPN announced the teams for its annual BracketBusters event, and the Big South has four in the field this time: Radford, Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, and PC. Match-ups, schedules, and TV selections to be announced at a later date.

On our Facebook Fan Page this week, I asked what sport you'd like to see added to the Big South...the responses came back even for lacrosse and rugby (!), with votes also registered for swimming, wrestling, rowing, and roller derby (?!?). Fun--we'll have to ask more thought-provoking questions like that...

That's all for now, gotta run-------ENJOY THE GAMES!
And that's SHOUT, out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Your Big South Network Guide...

...for the last week of September, at least.

Yes TWO DOZEN live event streams for fans of fall sports in the Big South.

But why read me say this stuff when you can watch/hear me say it............

video

Yup, that's all I've got for you today...but I promise more SHOUT before the weekend rolls in, stories and observations on the way then...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big South Observatory


Let's scan the scope about and see what we see out there this week...


First off, how about a BASKETBALL item?
That's right, we've got hoops news--ESPN made the announcement this week that the ever-expanding "Worldwide Leader" will reprise its Tip-Off Marathon and the 24 hours of basketball it entails across the family of ESPN networks. Mark the date of November 17th for the Marathon, and note the time 10am, because that's when the Big South joins the party. Last season it was UNC Asheville hosting Liberty for the season's first Big South Conference game--this year the Flames are back on ESPN, but this time Liberty will host ACC foe Clemson! It was just last year that the Tigers survived a tight one at home against LU, so this has all the makings of a solid match-up...assuming all the players are fully awake for a 10am ballgame, of course.



So now a football observation, while we're on the subject of major out-of-conference competition...the Big South teams are certainly unafraid of taking on FBS--and even BCS--programs, and that is to be commended. While the record is not a good one (don't pretend to be shocked, we're all friends here, just stay with me), the recognition factor is growing with each of these "guarantee" games. Charleston Southern's national profile had never been as high as it was in the lead-up time before CSU lined up in front of Florida in week one--and Jay Mills' Bucs are at it again this week, facing the South Florida Bulls of the Big East. Did we mention Coach Mills recruits players from the Sunshine State? Gardner-Webb, off to a strong 2-0 start, will put its players to the test at NC State Saturday. Liberty's only loss came at the hands of West Virginia, in a game much closer than many forecasters might have believed. Just a few examples...this is good stuff, folks. Hopefully it's just a matter of time before the Big South is pulling upsets of the variety seen in the Colonial-ACC match-ups this year.

A volleyball salute and SHOUT-out to UNC Asheville's Lauren Ficker and Raquel Miotto for being the first multiple player of the week honorees in any of the fall sports--and not only multiple winners, but back-to-back recipients as well! It's early yet, but after four weeks for women's soccer, three weeks for volleyball, two weeks for football and men's soccer, and one week for men's and women's cross country (XC therefore not yet eligible for repeats), only Ficker and Miotto have pulled in the double: Ficker as Player of the Week and Miotto as Defensive Player of the Week. Nice job; congratulations, ladies!

So you're saying, "What about the video guide for this week? Gotta have my update on the Big South Network..." Glad you asked:


video


We close with thoughts in memory of the late Myles Brand. The NCAA President passed away this week after a fight against pancreatic cancer. Brand worked very hard on behalf of institutions and student-athletes across the country, and will be missed throughout the collegiate athletics community.

Until next time, SHOUT--out!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fall Weekends

This is a nice moment.

You see, this is the unofficial first fall weekend...follow me on this--Labor Day is the last gasp of summer, right? Therefore this must be the first breath of autumn.


Truth be told, everybody thinks of these things differently when considering the season--measure by specific months (quarterly), measure by specific days (equinox to solstice), measure by the senses (see leaves change, feel temperatures drop), and so on and so on...


So let's just come to terms mainly from sporting and scholastic perspectives on the facts that we are now in football season, college and pro; that pro baseball has embraced its pennant races and magic numbers; that racing is switching into "Chase" mode; that all schools are in session now; that there are basically indicators in all walks of life starting to pop up around us--in short, that this is now the fall (autumnal equinox purists can get back to me in 11 days, I suppose).


And this is a nice moment because the fall sports seasons have begun, but all the promise and potential is still there. Lost a game? No worries, more where that came from... The rust has been shaken off and the teams tested, but the dreams are still alive. That applies to all our teams in all our sports, and that is a beautiful thing. We are only beginning to learn what possible stars and storylines will determine the shape of victory and defeat for when it will matter most, and that, too, is an exciting prospect. Also, in the South especially, that narrow window you get between "too hot" and "too cold" is something to savor.


So yes, this is a nice moment...don't spoil it for me.


Here's the Video Guide for the Big South Network this week....



video


No more rambling today--get out and enjoy some of the Big South teams in action this weekend--LIVE and in person! Football home openers for PC, Coastal, and Liberty are among the fun stops in the Conference tomorrow, for example. If you can't get out and catch a game (football, soccer, volleyball, or otherwise), check out the streaming games on the Big South Network (14 events Friday-Monday).


Last thought--a SHOUT-out to Big South Conference staffer Chad Cook and his lovely wife Erin, now expecting their second child--very cool, congratulations!

And that's SHOUT....out!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hang on, the Ride is Starting

Last week we wrote about the fresh beginnings of some sports seasons and the pre-launch anticipation of others--well, enough of that already. By the time you fire up the Labor Day grill, everything about fall college sports will be fully engaged: no more waiting, no more exhibitions. It's the thrill of competition, the joy and pain of wins and losses, the wonder of surprise teams and the suffering of disappointments...it's a beautiful thing, this unpredictable drama--ENJOY!

You dig?
As of this writing, every volleyball team in the Big South has played at least three matches. Every squad has at least one win and one loss, with the exception of Gardner-Webb and Winthrop, who have each opened 0-3 (here's hoping they bounce back fast from that slow start). High Point leads the way with a 4-1 record to open the 2009 campaign. It's a stream-a-palooza of volleyball on the Big South Network this week, with ten matches for you to enjoy between now and next Wednesday. Check the schedule to see which ones!

Kick it!
Every team has taken the field for women's soccer at least once so far...the early leaders are undefeated at the top: Charleston Southern (3-0) and preseason favorite Radford (2-0). Meanwhile, there are still four teams hunting for their first victories of the season. The next week brings five women's games to the Big South Network--again, have a look at the schedule for more information.

Gooooooooooooooal!
The men's soccer teams started just a bit later, so no one has gotten more than one run onto the pitch so far this year, with Radford being the only team in the group yet to play a game. The signature win of the young season belongs to Gardner-Webb: the Runnin' Bulldogs went down to Clemson and ran out with a 1-0 win over the Tigers in the season opener for both squads! And of course we have more from the Big South Network, with five men's games hitting the schedule of events there this week.

Down, Set...
YES, football season has arrived!!! In fact, tonight is the first kickoff for a Big South team this year, as Coastal Carolina visits Kent State: the Big South in MAC country! It's just one of three Big South FCS-FBS showdowns in the season's first week: the others are Liberty at West Virginia and CSU at Florida. Two of the opening weekend games (home openers for VMI and GWU) are on the Big South Network streaming schedule. Get fired up, people, it's college football in the South--the BIG South! Of course, that "south" gets extended a bit when we're talking about associate member Stony Brook (playing at Hofstra in a Long Island showdown Saturday), but still, it's all good in the Big South...

Okay, no more plugs for the video streaming in today's entry, I promise. Really.

In the corporate world and in many corners of the sports world, they'll tell you it's all about setting goals for yourself...well, whoever "they" are, they may have a point. We had two social network site goals set for the Big South, and although it looked like we'd come up just short in both for a while, we crossed the tape in both races with one day to spare. The goals were modest to a degree, but still represented a stretch from where we were: hitting 100 Fans on the Big South Facebook Fan Page and 300 Followers on the BigSouthSports Twitter by the kickoff of the first football game (represented by CCU at KSU tonight). I'm happy to say we hit both of those marks this week--but we're not resting on our laurels, oh no--we want MORE. If you haven't found us on Facebook or followed us on Twitter yet, please do so (and please help spread the word about us as well)!

Simply the best: we give a huge SHOUT-out to Liberty's Sam Chelanga, named Runner of the Year in Track & Field News magazine's cross country 2009 preview. Spectacular--and hard to argue, as Chelanga is certainly one of the fastest and most accomplished distance runners out there today.
Okay, folks--that's all the SHOUT for today--lots more to get to out there, so please sit back, keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times, and remain seated until the ride comes to a full and complete stop.
Here we GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Big South Network Guide Strikes Again

Short entry today, folks--just want to get the new video guide to the Big South Network out there for you: over 20 live streaming events in the next week (volleyball, men's/women's soccer, and football)! Here's the clip...and a teaser--the very (and I do mean very) end features a quick tag from some of our finest football players...

video

Remember, subscriptions for single games as well as full sport passes and annual memberships are all available via the Big South Network at BigSouthSports.com!

I'll try to feed you some good info in this space tomorrow (Thursday) as the fall sports season goes from low to high gear in the days ahead with lots of activity all across the Conference through the Labor Day Weekend--stay tuned!