College Football Week Three Preview

The weeks are ticking by as the college football season gears up for the third weekend of action. So far there has been little movement in the play-off places, aside from surprise package LSU starting strong and pushing itself into contention. This weekend doesn’t have the all-star matchup’s of last weekend, but there is an important rivalry game and some great low key interesting games.

1) Iowa – Iowa State Preview

This rivalry going underplayed on the national scale, but it’s real and deserves the recognition it’s getting this weekend. The College Gameday crew are visiting Ames for the first time.

This matchup is tough to predict, much like most rivalry games. Iowa is nationally ranked and matches up well talent wise, led by potential top five pick edge rusher A.J Espinosa. On the other hand, Iowa State is at home and is coming off an impressive 8-5 season last year. Iowa State started slow this season, but I think they edge this close game.

2) Washington State – Houston Preview 

This is a game most would overlook as both teams are not powerhouse programs, but this will be a very interesting game. Washington State comes into this game ranked 20th, but they have yet to be tested this season.

This Houston side will be a stern test for the Cougars. The game is being played in Houston, and this team is led by quarterback D’Eriq King, one of the most exciting players in college football. Houston almost scared Oklahoma opening weekend and both sides will put up points in this game.

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Iowa players lift the Cy-Hawk trophy after their close win over Iowa State last year. Who wins it this year? Photo: Thorn Compton/TimesRepublican.

3) Virginia – Florida State Preview

This is also a game many would pass up, but for ACC fans this game will have long running implications throughout the season. Virginia are riding the crest of a wave, having been nationally ranked the past two seasons, for the first time since 2004-05.

Things couldn’t be more different at Florida State, a storied program that has started badly this season. Losing the home opener to Boise State brought back memories of last season, and scraping past ULM 45-44  asked more questions then answers. Virginia needs to beat Florida State to take control of the ACC Coastal Conference.

4) Under the Radar Games 

Week three specialises in these under the radar games like the ones mentioned above, with yet more hidden away. Stanford travel to Orlando to take on the UCF Knights, a key game for both sides. Stanford wants to bounce back from last weekend’s loss to USC, and UCF wants to prove itself against major competition after being overlooked in recent seasons.

Elsewhere, Arizona State travels cross-country to East Lansing, to take on 18th ranked Michigan State. Michigan goes in as favourite and they should get the home win. Ninth ranked Florida takes on a Kentucky side reeling from the loss of QB Terry Wilson.

5) Stanford OL Walker Little Out for Year

Stanford offensive lineman Walker Little is having season ending knee surgery, which is a big loss for the Cardinal. He was their best lineman and the junior was expected to be a first round draft pick if he declared next year.

His loss is massive for a team trying to bounce back after losing to USC last weekend. It’s unclear at the moment whether he will stay in school or simply leave the program to focus on his rehab for the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Stanford lineman Walker Little went down in the opening game, and is now out for the season. This is likely the last time he will play for Stanford. Photo: Tony Avelar/AP Photo.

6) Injuries to More Future NFL Draft Picks

Whilst these players are not household names nationally, their injuries have implications for the 2020 NFL Draft. Senior Purdue linebacker Markus Bailey is undergoing season ending knee surgery, and will most likely declare for the draft. He is a promising player that could have been a day two pick, but this is unclear now with this injury.

South Carolina QB Jake Bentley is a more recognisable name, but has struggled to improve his draft stock after early college hype. He is out for the year with a foot injury, and he may apply for a medical redshirt to come back for one more year and try to improve his diminishing draft stock.

7) Latest Heisman Rankings

As of week three there are a number of contenders for the 2019 Heisman Trophy, with a new front runner seemingly every week. After his remarkable debut at Oklahoma it was Jalen Hurts out front, now it seems after week two Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa leads the standings.

He played more snaps last weekend compared to Hurts, with both having the chance to boost their numbers as they face poor South Carolina and UCLA sides respectively. An outside emerging bet is LSU’s Joe Burrow, who just like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray before him is shooting up Heisman boards with his impressive start to the season.

8) Clay Helton on Hot Seat at USC

This will seem a weird headline to write after USC upset 23rd ranked Stanford last weekend, but he has this week lost a key ally within USC. Athletic Director Lynn Swann resigned earlier this week, removing a big supporter of head coach Clay Helton.

Many called for Helton to be fired after a disastrous 5-7 season last year, yet Swann was a keen supporter of Helton. Now that he has resigned, the athletic department will likely go in a different direction if they struggle again this year. They have a very difficult schedule, and starting QB J.T Daniels is out for the year also.

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USC coach Clay Helton is on the hot seat now that AD Lynn Swann, left, has resigned from his position. 2019 may be a tough year for Helton. Photo: The Big Lead.

9) California Passes Law Allowing College Athletes to Get Paid

This is a story more for the future than the here and now, but this is a big step in the right direction for college players to get some compensation. This law would allow student-athletes at California college campuses to earn money from their likeness.

This has been a major talking point in college sports which divides opinion, with the NCAA likely to do everything in their power to stop this. They have already mentioned that if this becomes law in 2023 as currently scheduled all California universities would be removed from NCAA competitions. This is certainly not the last we will hear on this matter.

10) Top Players Entering Transfer Portal 

The transfer portal has increasingly become a key component of college football in recent seasons, and this week two more talented young players have entered their names into it.

2019 five star defensive end Antonio Alfano has entered his name, after running into issues at Alabama surrounding missing school to be with a relative as they deal with a medical condition. He may stay at Alabama, but will have a lot of schools contacting him for sure. Four star USC wide receiver Devon Williams also entered his name this week, seemingly unhappy with a lack of playing time at the school. He would be another big addition to any program in the country.

 

That wraps up my preview for the upcoming weekend of college football, let me know if you have any thoughts on this piece let me know either in the comments section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.  Finally, a big thank you for anyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

 

 

 

 

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College Football Week Two Roundup

The college football season is now truly underway, with some brilliant matchup’s this past weekend that remind us all why we love the game. There were not any major upsets, but the games were entertaining from start to finish as the top ranked teams asserted their dominance. Let’s take a look at ten talking points from this past weekend.

1) LSU Win Big

LSU were the big winners of week two, knocking off a top ten Texas side in their house 45-38. The game of the weekend lived up to expectations, and now LSU fans are dreaming of the college football play-off.

QB Joe Burrow had a monster 471 yards and 4 TD’s, with receiver Justin Jefferson getting three of them along with 163 total yards. LSU have often struggled at the QB position, but now they have a stud in Burrow. They have NFL talent on both sides of the ball, and can legitimately think of the top four now.

2) Texas Have Plenty to Play for 

Texas will feel disappointed they could get a statement win at home, however they still have plenty to play for this season. It’s been a difficult decade for this storied program, but they now have a team with legitimate top ten hopes.

Boyhood fan Sam Ehlinger had a monster game 401 yards and 4 TD’s along with 60 rushing yards, leading the team. Texas were in this game until the very end against the best LSU side in years. They dropped to 12th in the AP Top 25 poll, but they can easily get back into the top ten.

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LSU QB Joe Burrow is the answer their fans have been waiting years for. He has led them to a play-off spot in a flying start to their season. Photo: AP/Michael Democker.

3) Clemson Overcome Texas A&M 

Clemson passed the test with a convincing 24-10 victory over a resurgent Texas A&M team. The final score doesn’t accurately reflect that Clemson flat out played better than Texas A&M throughout.

QB Trevor Lawrence rebounded from a patchy opening game with some beautiful throws, notably his TD. He added a rushing score also, and with how talented this Clemson team is he needs only to play sensibly and execute for them to have a good chance of victory. Texas A&M looked second best, but there’s no shame in that when you play Clemson.

4) Big Upsets in Week Two

Part of the fun of college football Saturday’s is checking out whose on upset alert, and there was some big results this past weekend. Maryland was the pick of the bunch, dismantling 22nd ranked Syracuse 63-20. This was a massive win that puts the program 22nd in the AP polls, the first time they’ve been ranked since 2013.

Other notable upsets were 23rd ranked Stanford getting rolled over by USC 45-20, an especially impressive result when considered USC lost it’s starting QB J.T Daniels for the season in week one. 25th ranked Nebraska also fell on a missed FG against Colorado 34-31.

5) Michigan Survive Close Call

The Michigan revival under Jim Harbaugh hasn’t quite gone to plan so far. His return to Ann Arbor was supposed to bring the glory years back but so far it hasn’t quite worked out. Only once have they finished in the top ten and they haven’t finished better than 10-3 under him.

So far this season they have looked less than convincing. They gave up 21 points in a 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee, and this past weekend needed double overtime to beat Army 24-21. Army played an incredible game in the Big House, however no disrespect to Army, but they shouldn’t be scaring Michigan this much in their stadium.

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Michigan players celebrate a double overtime scare against Army. They will need to improve before they face tougher competition. Photo: David Guralnick/Detroit News.

6) Heisman Week Two Report

After a scintillating week one, it was a quieter weekend for some of the key players in the early Heisman Trophy race. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts saw limited action in a 70-14 demolishing of South Dakota, going 14-18 for 259 yards and 3 TD’s, along with 47 rushing yards.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was similarly dominant in their 62-10 win over New Mexico State, going 16-24 for 227 yards and 3 TD’s, with 33 rushing yards also. After falling behind in the opening week, Trevor Lawrence of Clemson reasserted himself in the Heisman race with his win over Texas A&M.

7) AP Top 25 Rankings

After a fairly predictable opening week, week two saw some movement in the AP Top 25 polls. The biggest move is LSU claiming the final play-off place in fourth, displacing Oklahoma and Ohio State after their statement win against Texas.

Michigan dropped from seventh to tenth after two uninspiring wins against Middle Tennessee and Army, vaulting Auburn and Florida to eighth and ninth respectively. Texas dropped from ninth to 12th, along with rivals Texas A&M who fell from 12th to 16th after losses last weekend. Washington fell from 14th to 23rd after a 20-19 upset loss against California.

8) True Freshman Impressing 

The 2019 season has already seen some true freshman QB’s assert themselves at their respective programs. Hank Bachmeier has impressed as Boise State upset Florida State on opening weekend, now they sit 22nd ranked and 2-0.

Sam Howell has done the same at North Carolina, leading them to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2014. He’s led the Tar Heels to comeback wins against South Carolina and Miami, showing up big in both games. Bo Nix has led eighth ranked Auburn to a massive in against Oregon, showing that the future is looking bright for these three programs.

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Boise State true freshman Hank Bachmeier was a highly rated recruit who has now led his team to a 2-0 start and top 25 ranking. Photo: Boise State Broncos.

9) Storied Programs Start Slow

Many of the teams in the early Top 25 rankings are not a surprise, however some other storied programs have started at the other end of the spectrum. Tennessee were the shock of week one as they lost to lowly Georgia State, but they lost again 29-26 against BYU. This is the first time they have started 0-2 since 1988 and head coach Jeremy Pruitt is definitely on the hot seat.

Miami lost a close game to Florida on opening weekend, but now compounded it with a 28-25 loss to North Carolina. They are now 0-2 for the first time since 1978, with new head coach Manny Diaz already struggling.

10) More Quarterback Injuries in Week Two

The opening two weeks have been rough for quarterbacks, with the likes of USC and Northwestern losing their starters on opening weekend. Week two unfortunately saw South Carolina QB Jake Bentley go down with a Lisfranc fracture on his left foot. This will require season ending surgery, and is a tough break for a player who was hoping to build his NFL Draft stock this season.

Kentucky QB Terry Wilson was the other big casualty, as he is now out for the season after tearing his patellar tendon in his knee in his teams win against Eastern Michigan. This is a tough break for a player who led the team to it’s first ten win season since 1978 last year.

This rounds up some of the main talking points from a busy week two of the college football season. If you have comments about this piece or the week two results feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to anyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

 

 

 

College Football Week Two Preview

The opening week of college football didn’t provide many shocks, but that should change this weekend. There are some marquee games which will impact the Top 25 polls, as teams get up to speed after the opening week. Let’s look at the ten major talking points heading into week two.

1) Texas A & M @ Clemson Matchup 

The biggest matchup of the week is Texas A & M visiting Death Valley to face number one ranked Clemson. Last seasons game in College Station was a close 28-26 Clemson win, with home field advantage giving added confidence.

Texas A & M are now in their second year under Jimbo Fisher and showed signs of improvement in week one despite facing lowly Texas State. This will be a close game where Clemson will have to be at their best to win, but they will enter the game as favourites.

2) Massive Opportunity for Trevor Lawrence

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence took the college football world by storm last year, coming in mid-season and leading them to a national championship as a true freshman. This year the expectations are massive yet in the opening week he struggled.

He went 13-23 for 168 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT’s, yet the Clemson team still handily beat Georgia Tech 52-14. This can be put down to opening week rust, but this will not cut it against a very talented Texas A & M side. Clemson will need more than it’s rushing attack to win this game.

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Trevor Lawrence struggled last weekend, and will need a big game against Texas A & M if he harbors Heisman hopes this year. Photo: Ken Ruinard/Greenville News.

3) LSU @ Texas 

This is another massive game involving a team from the Lone star state, as LSU rolls into Texas. This top ten match-up between sixth ranked LSU and ninth ranked Texas will have play-off implications.  Both sides won comfortably in week one and have looked resurgent this season.

After years of struggle at the position, both LSU and Texas now have QB’s they feel confident with. Joe Burrow for LSU has rebounded from a difficult time at Ohio State, whereas Sam Ehlinger has lived out a dream and proved people wrong at Texas. This will be a highlight game this weekend.

4) Sam Ehlinger and Grant Delpit Marquee Matchup 

There are plenty of big name players on both teams, but the key matchup of the game will be Sam Ehlinger and Grant Delpit. Ehlinger has improved every year whilst at Texas, and could rise up draft boards with another good season. Key to that will be a impressive win in this game.

Standing in his way is the player some have called the best player in college football. LSU safety Grant Delpit is a likely top ten pick in next years NFL Draft,after proving himself a beast at LSU. Whoever wins this matchup will likely prove key to their teams victory.

5) Can Cincinnati Shock Ohio State?

A potential shock of the weekend could unfold in Columbus, Ohio, as Cincinnati will prove a stern test for Ohio State. The Bearcats are feeling confident after a 24-14 win against UCLA, and have taken a massive step forward these past two years.

Head coach Luke Fickell has taken them from 4-8 to 11-2 last year, along with an AP Top 25 berth. He was a former player and coach at Ohio State, so he knows the school well. Ohio State were not challenged in week one, and therefore new QB Justin Fields may struggle if pressured early. Ohio State should win, but an upset could happen.

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Texas QB Sam Ehlinger grew up a longhorns fan, and has helped restore them back to prominence. A win against LSU will thrust them into the play-off hunt. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images.

6) What Can USC do Against Stanford? 

This game was set to be another big matchup, however both teams are dealing with quarterback injuries. K.J Costello will miss this game for Stanford with a head injury, and J.T Daniels has a torn ACL for USC.

Stanford will go into the game as favourites as they are ranked 23rd in the polls, and their QB Davis Mills matches up well with USC QB Kedon Slovis. Mills is more experienced and was a former five star recruit, whereas Slovis is a true freshman going up against a good Stanford defence.

7) Can Opening Weekend Losing Sides Rebound? 

Opening week losses can ruin a season after it’s barely begun, so this week will prove crucial to those who lost last weekend. Top of the list is Oregon, who lost agonizingly to Auburn. They face a good Nevada side, however they should rebound comfortably.

Making unwanted headlines last weekend was Tennessee, who may struggle again this week against BYU. Both sides are 0-1, however BYU’s 30-13 loss to 13th ranked Utah is respected more than Tennessee’s loss to Georgia State. This will be a close game that BYU should feel quietly confident about.

8) Upset Alert for Week Two?

Everyone in college football loves upsets, and there’s some contenders in week two. Clemson could fall to 12th ranked Texas A & M, whereas sixth ranked LSU could lose to a very good ninth ranked Texas side.

Outside of these Maryland are coming off a 79-0 win and could upset 21st ranked Syracuse at home. As I mentioned above Cincinnati could also shock Ohio State in Columbus. 25th ranked Nebraska face a tricky road test against a good Colorado side. Teams that might also struggle include West Virginia, UCLA and Tennessee.

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The moment Oregon’s hopes of victory faded in the final seconds against Auburn. Their season effectively starts this week now. Photo: Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports.

9) Games of the Weekend

The two standout games are undoubtedly Texas A & M at Clemson 3.30PM ET Saturday, before LSU travels to Texas 7.30PM ET. All four teams are ranked in the top 12 and would love to make early play-off claims with a win.

Outside of the obvious games, some hidden gems include Syracuse travelling to Maryland noon ET, Cincinnati vising Ohio State at the same time and Nebraska at Colorado 3.30PM ET.

10) Injury Curse Strikes at Northwestern 

Opening week injuries are tough, especially in this case. Northwestern QB TJ Green is out for the season after suffering a foot injury in their loss to Stanford last weekend.

The injury occurred in the third quarter, and means he may now be forced to seek a medical redshirt to preserve his eligibility as a fifth year senior. Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson will now take over, with the former five star prospect having a bye week to give him extra time to learn this offense.

That wraps up my preview of the main talking points heading into a loaded week two of the college football season. If you have any thoughts about this weekend’s game leave them in the comment section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you for reading this article!

 

 

College Football Week One Talking Points

This is the first in a new series, examining the main talking points from the opening week of the college football season, from the eyes of an Englishman now living in the U.S.

The opening weekend didn’t throw up many shocks, however here are my ten major talking points. Also a quick disclaimer before I begin, this is simply a shallow dive into the main stories of the week through the eyes of a fan, if you want more in-depth articles it’s probably best to read the analysts articles.

1) Big Win for Auburn and Bo Nix 

Bo Nix and the Auburn Tigers took down the Oregon Ducks 27-21 in the only surprise result between ranked teams last week. The true freshman Nix threw a go-ahead touchdown with nine seconds remaining in a legendary moment on his debut.

Nix struggled during the game, going 13-31 for 177 yards with 2 INT to match 2 TD’s, but the five star phenom has Auburn fans feeling excited about the next three years. Auburn jumped to tenth in the AP Top 25 poll, and now face Tulane in their home opener on Saturday.

2) Oregon Big Losers in Week One 

Oregon will feel distraught after an especially tough opening week loss. The team played well throughout and led right up until the final nine seconds, with a long recovery ahead if they want to compete for the College Football Playoff.

Senior QB Justin Herbert was the better QB in the game, going 28-37 for 242 yards and a TD. Receiver Johnny Johnson III built good chemistry with Herbert, to the tune of seven receptions for 98 yards. This is a tough loss, but starting this week against Nevada, their schedule helps them going down the stretch.

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Bo Nix played beyond his true freshman status to earn the comeback win against Oregon last weekend. Photo: Ron Jenkins (AP).

3) Jalen Hurts Already Anointed Heisman Favourite?

Jalen Hurts proved the pre-season hype on him as a Heisman contender was justified in week one. The Oklahoma QB had a monster six touchdown game in their 49-31 win over a good Houston team. 332 passing yards and 3 TD’s was matched with 176 yards rushing and another 3 TD’s.

The Alabama graduate transfer smashed the Oklahoma record for single game yardage with 508, Baker Mayfield previously held it with 396 yards. Some call it the Lincoln Riley effect, but Oklahoma could have three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners come December.

4) Big Debut for Justin Fields

Another high-profile summer transfer showed up big in week one, Ohio State QB Justin Fields. The sophomore standout was key as Ohio State rolled over Florida Atlantic 45-21. He lit up the first quarter with 4 TD’s, in a statement performance on his debut after transferring from Georgia.

This Ohio state team is loaded with NFL talent, and Fields has shown after week one he can take over from Dwayne Haskins. The team will face a tougher test this week against Cincinnati, but they have already shown this team will be a serious play-off contender this season.

5) Florida State Return Still on Hold 

The Florida State Seminoles hoped to put last season behind them, but old demons returned in a 36-31 loss to Boise State in Tallahassee. The team collapsed in the second half after looking dominant in the first half.

QB James Blackman looked good with 327 yards and 3 TD’s, but they let Boise State score 23 unanswered points to steal the win. This FSU team has plenty of NFL talent, but under Willie Taggart they struggle to close games out. 5-7 is not acceptable at FSU, and Taggart will feel the pressure even more after this loss.

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A Florida State players reflects the mood of the team as they let Boise State come back for the win as the pressure piles on head coach Willie Taggart. Photo: Mark Wallheiser/AP.

6) Georgia State Win Upset of Week One

Another historic program currently struggling is Tennessee, and their home loss to Georgia State 38-30 was undoubtedly the shock of the opening week.  It’s been a while since Tennessee has been a title contender, but this is a new low for the once proud program.

A fourth quarter collapse gave the underdog Georgia State team the win. This is a historic win for their team and they deserve the plaudits. This season may prove tough for Tennessee fans in the ultra competitive SEC.

7) USC QB J.T Daniels Out for Season 

Week one was brutal for USC despite a 31-23 win against Fresno State. This is because of a torn ACL for starting QB J.T Daniels, after being sacked in the second quarter.

Daniels was a five star phenom in California and was hoping to step up after a mixed freshman season. USC had PAC-12 championship hopes, which now lie in the hands of true freshman Kedon Slovis. The season just got a whole lot tougher for USC.

8) Running Backs Put on a Show

Running backs stole the show for a lot of Offences in week one. Clemson junior Travis Etienne led the way with 205 yards in their win against Georgia Tech. Fellow junior D’Andre Swift ran for 147 yards in Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt. Jonathan Taylor got 135 yards and 2 TD’s against USF.

Cam Akers of Florida State and Eno Benjamin of Arizona State are two more highly touted backs who ran for over 100 yards on opening weekend. All of these players are juniors, which means the 2020 NFL Draft running back class may be the best in years.

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Clemson Running Back scampers past his sideline in one of his three touchdown runs to open the season. He will likely be a first round NFL Draft pick next year if he declares. Photo: Richard Shiro/AP.

9) UCLA Struggle Once Again

The Chip Kelly era started with massive promise, but is now in danger of flaming out. The once heralded coach is now on the hot seat after they lost their opening game 24-14 to Cincinnati.

UCLA struggled with ugly turnovers from QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and struggled for identity in a tough loss to a better Cincinnati team. The 3-9 record last year is well below expectations and this season hasn’t started any better.

10) No Major Top 25 Surprises in Week One      

Week one didn’t provide much upsets for the top 25 ranked sides, other than Auburn upsetting Oregon. Ranked teams usually like to start the season with easier opponents to give them time to get up to speed before the real season starts.

The NCAA does try to provide showcase games in the opening week, but more needs to be done to ensure we get bigger games in the opening week. For now the AP top 25 has stayed largely the same other than Auburn and Oregon moving.

That wraps up my brief look at some of the major talking points from the opening weekend of college football. Do you have any thoughts on these points or your college football team? Let me know either in the comments section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to anyone who reads this I really appreciate it!

 

 

 

English Football in Need of Financial Change

The football news this week has been dominated by the devastating ongoing saga with League One clubs Bolton Wanderers and Bury FC, with Bury being removed from the English Football League (EFL). Their plight has opened the debate regarding the current financial state of English football and whether more can be done to prevent this happening again.

Bolton and Bury FC are two historic clubs within the EFL, with Bolton founding members in 1888 and Bury joining six years later. After over 130 years in the EFL, their future’s appear bleak with Bury on the verge of liquidation and Bolton two weeks from the precipice. They are victims of financial mismanagement from dodgy owners who promise the world but deliver little.

The Premier League is lauded as the richest domestic league in the world, with TV contracts totaling £9.2b and exorbitant players transfers coming in every summer. Yet down below in the EFL this financial picture is far less rosy. Every year 24 teams in the Championship fight for entry into the promised land, with two automatic spots or by winning the play-off final, dubbed the richest game in football as the overused cliche goes.

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One picture can tell a thousand words. The future of Bury FC is now very bleak. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

This fight for promotion has led to a massive inflation of transfer fees and wages for players, which is now reaching an unhealthy level. Wolves paid F.C Porto £16m for Ruben Neves in their pursuit of promotion in 2017. The top 16 signings are over £10m, and all have come in the past five years. With these big signings come increasing wages also.

The latest financial figures from the 2017/18 season show that wages increased once again from £693m to £748m. The combined revenue for all 24 team is only £701m,showing that clubs are taking massive financial risks gambling their future in search of the Premier League. The clubs wage bill is only one cost of many and if this is over 100% of total revenue this is a massive problem for their long-term sustainability.

Clubs are now overly reliant on wealthy financial backers, however the EFL Owners’ and Directors’ test has come under scrutiny for its perceived lack of stringency. The problems at Bolton and Bury have come about thanks to bad owners like Ken Anderson at Bolton and Steve Dale at Bury being allowed to purchase them. Anderson passed the test despite being previously being banned from being a company director for eight years in 2005.

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Ken Anderson has every reason to look pensive. He can’t pay back high interest loans he used to buy the club, yet has paid him and his family almost £700 000 since 2016. Photo: Chris Vaughan – CameraSport/Getty Images.

Dale is a mysterious businessman who bought Bury for £1 in December 2018 as they struggled with massive financial problems. The clubs only description of Dale was as “a very successful businessman”, this is despite 43 of the 51 companies ever associated with Dale being liquidated. The EFL has admitted that they didn’t follow the usual checks on him because of the dire financial situation the club was in. These loopholes have allowed dangerous men like Anderson and Dale to own football clubs when they shouldn’t have been anywhere near them.

The troubles at Bury and Bolton are cautionary tales for the rest of the EFL, with plenty of clubs struggling with finances. In the Championship the latest figures paint a bleak picture. The league is spending on average 115% of total revenue on wages, a practice that cannot continue without more clubs going bust. Birmingham City were the worst offenders at a colossal 202%, a massive figure that ultimately led to a nine-point deduction last season with losses of £48.8m in three years.

Other clubs that are in danger of massive losses include Reading (197%), Derby County (161%), Brentford (135%), Nottingham Forest (122%) and Preston (113%). Reading have spent a lot in recent seasons both on transfer fees and wages, and reported a £21m loss in 2018. They need promotion in the coming seasons or they’ll breach Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules and face the same problems as Birmingham.

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Bury owner Steve Dale promised fans he would save the club in May 2019. Only three months later the club are on the brink of being liquidated. He will go down in history as the man who destroyed a proud local club. Photo: Bury Times.

Derby sold Pride Park to owner Mel Morris to avoid FFP penalties as the club was on the verge of making a loss of £40m. The club has a top eight wage bill and this will only increase with the arrival of Wayne Rooney in January 2020. The club have come so close to the Premier League in recent seasons, with the arrivals of Rooney and former Eredivisie winning manager Phillip Cocu a big statement of their intentions.

Nottingham Forest have spent lavishly since new owner Evangelos Marinakis took over in 2017, with marquee signings including Joao Carvalho for £13.5m and high profile managers. The club made a small loss of £5.6m last year, with the figures from this year will show which direction the club are heading in. Will they go all in for the Premier League or will the choose a more sustainable financial model?

Both Brentford and Preston are much more stable than the figures suggest, with both having low wage bills and have been reliant on player sales to balance the books in recent seasons. Their success in mounting play-off pushes in 2017/18 with wage bills that ranked fifth and fourth in the league respectively is a massive achievement. Both have also made big profits from the transfer market, with Brentford making £46.4m in the past three seasons. Preston have made £16.1m in that time frame.

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Neal Maupay signing for Brighton after a stellar season at Brentford last year. The £20m fee is massive for Brentford and explains both their on pitch success and their off pitch financial stability. Photo: Premier League.

It’s clear from this week that the EFL has to do more to monitor who can buy football clubs, and how they are being run. An independent body that would handle the Owners’ and Directors’ test would surely help with the decision making process, along with added checks to ensure people like Anderson are not allowed to buy clubs using high interest loans that will only make the situation worse in the long run.

The financial situation in the Championship is skewed every season with the advent of more relegated Premier League teams and their vast parachute payments. This is driving the competitive market up as teams have to spend more to keep up. This is leading to some reckless financial situations as more clubs will end up on the brink of financial ruin unless they drastically reduce spending, which then will inevitably lead to a decline in their performance on the pitch.

English football and especially the EFL are in a very important time right, with more needing to be done to avoid another potential Bury or Bolton from occurring. We’ve seen this week how these clubs are focal points for the community, it’s vital everything is done to avoid losing them. Let’s hope that the examples of Bury and Bolton shock the EFL into action. Finally, my thoughts go out to both the fans of Bury and Bolton at this difficult time as they struggle for survival.

Massive thanks must go to http://financialfootballnews.com/ and https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk for their research which helped create this article. 

Do you have any thoughts on this issue? Feel free to either comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. I also want to say a massive thank you for reading this article I really appreciate it!

What Next for the Red Bull Junior Program?

The first weeks of August are typically a quiet one within Formula One. This is the referred to as the “summer break”, a three week break between the Hungarian and Belgian Grand Prix’s. That tranquility was shattered last Monday when it was announced Red Bull racing driver Pierre Gasly was being demoted to the junior Scuderia Toro Rosso team, with Alex Albon going the other way.

The news caught the paddock by surprise, despite what has been a disappointing 2019 season for Gasly. Only just over a week ago at the Hungarian Grand Prix Red Bull team principal Christian Horner publicly said he was not in danger of losing his seat. Clearly since then there has been extensive talks within Red Bull which has led to this change, but what does it mean for the famed Red Bull junior program?

On the surface it doesn’t look good for them. The program has since 2001 helped young drivers and graduates of the scheme has included four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, seven time GP winner Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr along with countless other drivers who have forged careers outside F1. This year has not been kind to the development program as they now two of their four F1 seats occupied by drivers they previously dropped.

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Pierre Gasly in his now final race for Red Bull this year at the Hungarian GP. It will be interesting to see how he handles the demotion to Toro Rosso. Photo: Motorsport.com.

Both Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat and newly promoted Albon found themselves coming in from the cold as Red Bull lacked suitable junior candidates to fill these seats. This sends a mixed PR message to their current junior drivers. At the end of June they announced they had dropped Dan Ticktum from the program after a poor start to his 2019 season in the highly competitive Super Formula series in Japan. This was only eight months after he had won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix, and was close to joining Toro Rosso for the 2019 season.

With one of their brightest talents no longer involved with the program, the viable alternatives are a little further away. They have now supported Mexican Patricio O’Ward, however it is very difficult to judge his results in his results in FIA F2 and Super Formula debuts. Lucas Auer is also racing in Japan, currently he is 9th in the Super Formula series after four of seven rounds.

The current issue for Red Bull is that they currently do not have any young drivers who would qualify for a F1 super-license. This is only awarded based on points earned for success in junior categories, with 40 the minimum required. The closest to earning one so far in the Red Bull ranks is Estonian Juri Vips, who would gain 25 points for his current second place in the FIA European F3 series.  This would mean he would need a top five finish in FIA F2 or a top three in Super Formula to gain enough points.

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Estonian Juri Vips is battling for the FIA European F3 title, and at this moment looks the most likely Red Bull junior driver to progress to F1. Photo: Motorsport.com.

At the present moment Vips is the teams best bet for a future F1 role. Vips is in contention for the title and a likely promotion into either F2 or Super Formula. The issue is that the talent pool at Red Bull has run dry in recent years, leaving the team short on young drivers which is leading them to look elsewhere at the likes of Kvyat and Albon. This problem won’t be rectified for several years as the likes of Vips, Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda potentially progress from European F3.

Of the nine Red Bull young drivers Vips appears the most likely to step up to F1, although this could be two-three years away yet. This is a problem for a team that is notoriously ruthless with their drivers, as shown with their mid-season demotion of Gasly. So much can change in that time as drivers may struggle to step up or the team might want to go in a different direction with drivers.

The future is almost impossible to predict in a sport that is so focused on the here and now. What will the team do at the end of the year? Will they retain Kyvat, Gasly or Albon? The team have one of the brightest young talents in Max Verstappen, but they need another young talent to fill the other space at Red Bull. At this early stage it’s hard to tell if the likes of Vips or any of their other young drivers can fill that seat in the future.

If you have any comments on this piece let me know down below in the comment section or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you for reading this piece I massively appreciate it!

 

 

Operation Puerto and it’s Legacy Part 2

Before getting started I just wanted to say a massive thank you to anyone who read part one of this story I massively appreciate it! If anyone hasn’t yet read it yet they can find it here.

Last time we made it up to early 2006 and by this time not much had happened with Manzano’s allegations. A Spanish Sports Council investigation was dropped due to lack of evidence and the sport of cycling moved on denying any of his allegations. Things began changing  in early 2006 when the Spanish Guardia Civil opened a police investigation on these allegations based on endangering public health crimes.

The police began investigating Fuentes using wire taps of his phone and covert surveillance on his movements. What they were quickly able to establish was that Fuentes had become a major player in the doping of professional cyclists. Just in May alone they were able to place him with a wealth of Spanish connected riders.

Whether it was Santiago Botero and Constantino Gutierrez on the 4th May, Oscar Sevilla on the 13th May or Jorg Jaksche on the 14th May it was clear that Fuentes offices in Madrid had become a one-stop doping shop for most in the peloton. Multiple blood bags with dates matching their arrivals would later be found in medical freezers in Fuentes apartments. As well as cyclists flying in on an almost daily basis Fuentes was also orchestrating doping for many top name riders competing in the 2006 Giro D’Italia that month also.

Phone records from this time period show Fuentes talking with his assistants Alberto Leon Herranz and Jose Luis Merino Batres, along with Comunidad Valenciana DS Ignacio Labarta Barrera, who were organising the doping in Italy. After both stages seven and eight on the 13th and 14th of May Fuentes and Labarta Barrera comment on the days stage, talking about the contenders they have doping links with.

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Ivan Basso grimaces during his victorious 2006 Giro D’Italia win. Months later he would prove a key player in Operation Puerto, casting overwhelming doubt on his Giro win being clean. Photo: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com.

Those include dominant overall winner Ivan Basso, who is linked in the documents with having taken a blood bag two days before his first stage win on the 14th May, however this has never been confirmed. Second place Jose Enrique Gutierrez was also listed as a client of Fuentes, with his documents suggesting he took two bags, one days before the Giro and the second on the 12th the same as Basso. Michele Scarponi and Unai Oso Eizaguirre were also mentioned as having finished well with both later being implicated by documentation to using Fuentes for doping.

The first shocks of this investigation were felt on the 23rd May with Spanish police arresting Liberty-Seguros directeur sportif Manolo Saiz along with Fuentes and three others. Raids of Fuentes medical practices found a trove of performance enhancing drugs and documents linking him to professional cyclists. 

Between two medical practices in Madrid Spanish police uncovered 185 refrigerated blood bags along with plasma bags to maintain the blood and medical equipment for blood transfusions. Police also found Actovegin,Andriol (testosterone), Eposino (EPO),Jintropin (HGH),Synacthene, Vivarin (Caffeine tablets) and six different varieties of Insulin.  The majority of these medications were illegal in Spain and were bought from counterfeit labs across the world. Along with these were a trove of legal medical products such as Prozac and Diazepam. 

Police also found a jar of white pills with a hand-written known which they believed to be a steroid called Oxitosone. They uncovered a mysterious red powder which they believe was given to athletes to use to contaminate any doping tests to ensure they would not test positive.

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The man at the centre of this scandal, Eufemiano Fuentes leaves Spanish court during his trial for charges of endangering public health. The case has floundered in court since his initial arrest in May 2006. Photo:AP.

In police interviews on the 24th May Liberty-Seguros team director sportif Manolo Saiz noted star rider Roberto Heras requested working with Fuentes in early 2004. From here fellow former Kelme riders Marcos Serrano and Angel Vicioso made similar requests. After impressive 2nd and 7th places in the 2003 and 2004 Vuelta Saiz then requested that Isidro Nozal work with Fuentes from late 2004 onwards.

Barely six months later Nozal would be suspended for two weeks after registering a hematocrit of over 50% at the 2005 Dauphine Libere, a key Tour de France warm-up race. He would later admit to having done three blood transfusions with Fuentes in 2005.

What the documents would show was that Fuentes had extensive links with the doping of the two Spanish teams Liberty-Seguros and Comunidad Valenciana. He appeared to have a personal relationship with Liberty-Seguros DS Manolo Saiz and Comunidad DS Jose Ignacio Labarta along with his prior relationship to the team as their former doctor in their Kelme days as well as having his sister Yolanda Fuentes as the teams doctor from 2001-2006.

He was directly linked to the likes of Roberto Heras, Jorg Jaksche, Joseba Beloki, Isidro Nozal, Marcos Serrano, Michele Scarponi, Angel Vicioso and David Etxeberria at Liberty-Seguros to name just a select few of many. He had similar longstanding links at Comunidad Valenciana along with a wealth of foreign riders who used him for doping.

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Spanish climber Roberto Heras wearing the leaders jersey at the 2005 Vuelta a Espana. After a positive EPO test from the penultimate day Heras was stripped of victory but was later reinstated in 2012 after numerous court appeals. Heras had requested working with Fuentes 18 months prior to this race. Photo: Rodolfo Espinosa/Brand.

In this early stage however this information was not public with media speculation leaking slowly as more and more riders were speculated to have worked with Fuentes. Amid this hysteria the teams looked to protect themselves with T-Mobile asking riders to formally distance themselves from Fuentes whilst Phonak suspended star riders Santiago Botero and Jose Enrique Gutierrez.

On the 1st June Comunidad Valenciana DS Jose Ignacio Labarta resigned, as Liberty-Seguros ended their sponsorship of the old ONCE team. This left the team scrambling as they transitioned from Liberty-Seguros-Wurth to Astana-Wurth. The sport was descending into farce as Astana-Wurth were first banned and then allowed to compete in the 2006 Tour de France as the 2006 Spanish National Road Race was cancelled after 500 meters because of a mass rider protest.

The biggest drama from the case would come only two days before the start of the 2006 Tour de France. I’ll explain what happened and bring us to the modern day in the third and final installment of this thread which will be coming very soon!

Thank you for reading part two if you have any feedback or comment at all feel free to leave it below you can find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.