Villanova Blocking Temple from Full Big East Membership? We Outline Realignment Contingencies

Villanova Blocking Temple from Full Big East Membership? We Outline Realignment Contingencies

We were turned on to this story late last night by John Lamb over at The T Stands Alone.

There are now a variety reports—New York Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Star-Ledger—that Villanova officials spent their time during Tuesday's Big East conference call doing their utmost to undermine Temple's admission to the Big East.

The reports vary from VU simply pointing out other expansion options to the entire call breaking down over "'Nova bashing Temple rather than making a strong case for the league to consider the Wildcats' potential in football."

While Villanova's—alleged—position is understandable in terms of the school attempting to protect its basketball program, it's otherwise short-sighted. To paraphrase Billy Crudup's portrayal of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Too Big to Fail, Villanova—and consequently the Big East—is limiting its options at a time when it has very few.

The entire realignment puzzle seems to revolve around the University of Missouri. Mizzou is threatening to leave the already floundering Big-12 for the greener grass and conference chants of the SEC. In the event the Tigers ultimately opt out and go the SEC way, there is a strong belief that the Big-12 would try to quickly re-expand by immediately going after Louisville and West Virginia. There's also a fear that even if Mizzou stays put, the Big-12 might still make a play for the Cardinals and Mountaineers to sure up their own footing as a viable, money-making, automatic-qualifying conference.

Here's where the contingencies and hypotheticals really get fun (and painful for the Big East). Should those institutions depart, the Big East would be left with just four teams playing football; and if those two do indeed leave, UCONN to the ACC seems more and more likely—especially if Notre Dame were to finally join a football conference or merely transfer its non-football playing entities, thereby raising the ACC's membership number to an even 16.

IF that is the case, then the Big East will have just three teams left playing football—Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida—and will have potentially lost four more basketball-playing members to the ACC and Big-12.

Sound like a mess? That's because it is. And, before moving further, we should also reiterate that the inclusion of the service academies—Army, Navy, Air Force—is becoming increasingly unlikely.

So, at this time, we're going to once more refer to Mike Jensen's Monday piece in the Inquirer explaining some the finer points of conference realignment, specifically the influence of women's athletics. From Jensen:

"The Big East needs eight football members playing women's basketball
and others sports within the league. Just adding football-only members
to replace defectors won't keep the league in business. This increases
the odds Temple will get in for all sports. (It also explains why
Villanova remains in a strong position; it could really help the Big
East, adding a football school without having to add to the basketball
total.)"

If that as indeed the case, then as far as I can tell, the Big East has two options. They can either a) admit Temple and UCF as all-sports members immediately, thereby hopefully bolstering the loyalty Louisville, West Virginia and UCONN or b) continue to drag their feet until they lose their AQ-bid and potentially lack enough member programs to even play football.

Is that a false choice at this stage in the game? Yes; I can't predict (even the very near) future. But is that latter scenario looking increasingly possible? Yes, it is.

Of course, as the guys over at TheNovaBlog pointed out, this could all be one big power play on Villanova's part to have itself admitted for football by acquiescing on its opposition to Temple as a full-member. Such a scenario is, more or less, what Jensen describes above and what we labeled earlier this week as "a scenario with which all parties could potentially live."

Head on over to The T Stands Alone for a full breakdown of who's badmouthing who and check out TheNovaBlog for reasons why the basketball schools—like 'Nova— really aren't ruining the Big East. According to the latter, as matters currently sit, it looks as though the basketball schools are really the ones holding the power in the conference. Funny, I don't think the football schools saw it working out that way.

Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

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Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

DETROIT – The Phillies have an off day Thursday.
 
It will come in handy for Maikel Franco.
 
The third baseman suffered what was termed a sprained right ankle while sliding into second base in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday. He hobbled off the field before the start of the bottom of the inning.
 
After the game, both Franco and manager Pete Mackanin stressed that the sprain was mild.
 
Franco received treatment after coming out of the game and he will again on the off day. Mackanin said he would exercise caution in determining Franco’s availability for Friday afternoon, but did not rule out playing Franco.
 
Franco was adamant. He’s playing.
 
“It’s a little bit sore, but it’s fine,” he said. “It already feels better. I’ll be ready for Friday. With the day off, I know I’ll be OK.”
 
If Franco can’t play, Mackanin would insert super-sub Andres Blanco into the lineup. He had two hits, including an RBI double, and scored two runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco had a pair of singles and is 7 for 15 in his last four games.

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

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Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

After the Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson declared that Sam Bradford was still the No. 1 quarterback.

Pederson reiterated it when a scowling Bradford chose to skip some voluntary workouts and did so again after Bradford returned to the team.

But Pederson's assistants haven't been so clear.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the topic when asked how he brought along QB Matt Stafford — the first overall pick in 2009 — while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions. 

"Don't judge him on somebody else, and then also don't predetermine the results of the race," Schwartz said. "Just let him go play. Don't put pressure on him."

At the moment, it certainly seems like the results of the race are predetermined. It's Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz ... right? 

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was on 94-WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi about the "impression" that Bradford is the No. 1 QB and there isn't an open competition. 

“No, I would actually say that’s probably not the right impression. I'll tell you why,” Reich said. “I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say that you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. 

"So if you’re the head coach you, gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that, as coaches, that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. I mean this is one of the most competitive industries in the world — and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth.

“So I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order, and things have a way of working themselves out.”

So there has to be a order — hence Pederson's QB depth chart — but there also has to be competition.

In other words, there is a depth chart, but it's written in pencil. And a big eraser is nearby.

Let the saga continue.

Training camp is still two months away.

New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

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New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

It's a new year for the Eagles, but the same lowered expectations for Marcus Smith. The 2014 first-round pick recorded only seven tackles and 1½ sacks over his first two NFL seasons, so at this point you can forgive people for being pessimistic about his development.

Smith doesn't blame Eagles fans for being disappointed with his career up to this point. The 24-year-old isn't content with the way things have panned out thus far, either, but sounds as though he's ready to turn the page in a new scheme.

"I understand they want their first-round draft pick to play," Smith said of fan criticism. "I wanted to be on the field, but I wasn't. I learned a lot of things from my first to my second year and I think I've grown and matured a lot, and this third year you'll see a lot different Marcus."

That won't do much to sway public opinion that he's a draft bust. The Eagles, however, are hoping a position change will unlock the potential that led the club to take Smith with the 26th overall selection in the draft.

Smith came to the league a raw prospect to begin with, and was immediately asked to take on the many responsibilities of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. In a 4-3 alignment under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the third-year pro will line up at defensive end, where he'll primarily be used to create disruptions in opposing backfields.

"This is a scheme that greatly limits what he's asked to do," Schwartz said. "Difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact.

"He's very athletic. He's got great size. He's done very well so far, but let's reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them."

Smith admits it's a role he was more accustomed to playing in college.

"I never really dropped into coverage before," Smith said reminiscing of his time at Louisville. "I dropped into coverage in some spurts, I knew how to do it, I was athletic enough to do it, but their thing was they wanted me to go rush the passer and be able to make plays. That's what I'm doing now."

This could be an opportunity for Smith to hit the reset button, in a manner of speaking. He was overwhelmed and couldn't get on the field in a complex 3-4. Schwartz's 4-3, on the other hand, is much more streamlined, letting linemen pin their ears back and do one thing well rather than force them to be jacks of all trades.

"I feel like with Jim Schwartz, we have a great relationship to where I can just go make plays and not think about anything," Smith said. "He always talks about that with me. He says, 'Just go make plays, I don't want you to think.'

"Scheme is definitely more simplified. It's really just go get the ball. His philosophy is hit the ball on the way to the quarterback because we know sacks change games, so if you get a sack fumble and you're able to scoop and score, that's what changes a game. That's what Schwartz's philosophy is."

Believe it or not, there might still be hope for Smith. His 1½ sacks were registered in the final two games of the 2015 season, a late surge that could've been seen as a sign of progress, yet wound up flying under the radar at the conclusion of a lost year. After all, it's not at all uncommon for some players to need a year or two to adjust to life in the NFL.

If Smith has any chance of shedding the dreaded bust label, he certainly has a perfect mentor in teammate Brandon Graham. The 13th pick in 2010, Graham experienced similar hardships when his Eagles career didn't get off to a brilliant start, but has since proven to be a capable starter.

Graham's situation wasn't identical, as his progress and opportunities were derailed in large part because of injury. Regardless, he understands as well anybody the lack of playing time and criticism that comes with failing to live up to high expectations.

"We talk pretty much every day," Smith says of his relationship with Graham. "He actually went through something worse than I did because he went through a couple of years with not playing. He talks to me about it all the time, and told me to keep my head down and keep working and everything will fall into place."

As of now, Smith is currently lining up opposite Graham with the second-team defense, behind Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. The Eagles also used a seventh-round pick on Alex McAllister.

Still, despite the competition, despite his lack of production to date, Smith is keeping a positive outlook and feels as though he has every opportunity to be productive as part of a rotation.

"The way we play and how fast we play, [Schwartz] wants an eight-man rotation," Smith said. "He wants us to be able to be fresh. All of us can play 25-30 snaps a game. He wants us to be well-rested and ready to go because we're gonna be going.

"Whoever is starting, whoever's not starting, I think when you get in the game, just go get it. Once the coaches put you in the ballgame, you've just gotta be able to make plays."

There's no question Smith is running out of chances with the Eagles, that his reclamation story is already beginning to wear thin. The truth is his roster spot might even be in jeopardy if the roster was much deeper, and any contribution in 2016 will be viewed as a pleasant surprise.

There's also no question the physical ability is there. Smith is 6-foot-3 with sub-4.7 speed and told reporters he weighs close to 260 pounds. Point him in one direction with a singular goal — get into the backfield — and the Eagles may squeeze some production out of him yet.