McNeese cornerback Terence Cahee pumps up the crowd as they enter the field before their game against McMurry on Saturday. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:52 AM
Now that the Sgt. Schultz portion of the college football schedule is over — we know nothing — and things will really get interesting.
McNeese State’s next opponent, Weber State, could be pretty good despite an 0-2 record. Or not very good at all. That verdict is difficult to decipher after the Wildcats opened their season with losses to a pair of traditionally strong FBS teams, Fresno State and BYU.
That’s the way things are early in the season, when having polls is completely ridiculous. Using the convoluted logic of that system, someone could argue that Louisiana-Monroe beat Arkansas because it is a Top 10 team, not because the Razorbacks are not one. It is possible, though severely unlikely, such a thing is true about the Warhawks. We just won’t know until they have more than one game under their belt.
The problem with early-season polling is that it is based on speculation more than merit — thus Florida State checking in at No. 5 in the AP poll despite their embarrassingly soft first two games against Murray State and Savannah State.
We see the issue of potential versus merit play out at the FCS level as well.
Central Arkansas went on the road and handily beat the same Murray State team that faced the Seminoles last week. Pretty impressive. But not impressive enough, apparently, as the Bears fell out of the Top 25 despite the win.
Meanwhile, Maine remains ranked after losing its opening game to FBS Boston College. That’s not to say the Black Bears aren’t better than the UCA Bears, but we haven’t received enough of a sample size to be make that call. That’s why I think no college football poll should be conducted until the final week of September.
But rankings sell tickets — CBS was running a No. 1 Alabama at No. 8 Arkansas promo during NFL games on Sunday, no doubt grimacing the whole time — so that logical step will likely never be taken.
Though there is still much to discover about this season, we have at least seen enough to determine that McNeese is pretty good. I’d argue that there was no point in the last two seasons when the Cowboys looked as crisp as they have the last two weeks.
Six different running backs have contributed to an ground attack that has piled up nearly 600 yards in the first two games. They have converted 42.9 percent of third downs, a number they’ll want to keep above 40 throughout the course of the year. They are averaging better than 35 minutes time of possession.
More importantly, the Cowboys are winning the stat that matters most whether the opponent is from FBS, FCS, Division II or the LHSAA — turnover margin. McNeese stands at plus-6 in turnover margin after two games, with the only giveaway being a somewhat fluky interception that came off a deflection.
The Cowboys finished plus-1 in turnover ratio last year. The Southland’s two playoff teams, Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas, were plus-28 and plus-11 respectively.
McNeese clearly looks better right now than it has in a few years. The question, which starts being answered this week, is
by how much.
Alex Hickey covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org