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CNY's "Must See" CFB Games in 2015

Apr 09, 2015 -- 11:52am

For most sports fans, the coming of Spring means baseball season is officially here, MLB Opening Day has arrived! Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited to see what the Mets can do in 2015, but I’m also excited for the start of the College Football pre-season!

They say birds chirping and flowers blooming are the first signs of Spring, but for me, Spring is also the first sign of pigskin!

Syracuse Football held its annual Spring Game this past Saturday and Cornell began practices on Monday. Both teams are looking for bounce back seasons after a combined record of 4-14 last year.

For Ithaca College, its sights are set on capturing a third straight Empire 8 Title and forging a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Bombers were cut down in the Tourney’s first round by Hobart.

Cortland State didn’t play beyond the regular season, but did get the last laugh, beating IC in the Annual Cortaca Jug Game with seconds remaining to send its Senior Class out on a high note. 2015 will also be the Red Dragons first season as a member of the E8.

It may be April, but I’m already looking ahead to the Fall and the start of the 2015 College Football Season. Here are three Central New York Football Games that you should mark down on your calendar -

 

September 26th at Carrier Dome

Syracuse v. LSU – What a non-conference get for Syracuse! I still can’t believe SU managed to somehow get LSU, an SEC powerhouse, to make the early season trek to the Salt City. I would have been impressed if Syracuse simply managed to schedule the Tigers down in Baton Rouge, but to get them to come north, I am floored! This game means a hell of a lot more to Syracuse than it does to LSU. Sure the Tigers will probably win by 20, but LSU is doing ‘Cuse a favor by playing them.

The last couple of years, Syracuse scheduled football royalty like Notre Dame & Penn State, but those games were played down in NYC. The thrill of playing at MetLife was the draw for the Fighting Irish & Nittany Lions, not the Orange itself. There is no gimmick involved with bringing LSU up to the Dome. This game is extremely important to Syracuse in terms of showing recruits that they can put together a tough non-conference schedule to go along with their ACC games. It’s not every day an SEC opponent marches into the loud house. SU fans, enjoy it!

 

October 10th at Schoellkopf Field

Cornell v. Harvard – To be the best, you need to beat the best. Since 2000, Harvard has seven Ancient 8 football titles. Cornell’s matchup with the Crimson will be its second Ivy test of the season. Last year, the Crimson cruised past the Big Red 24-7 in Cambridge.

What will the Big Red’s record be when the defending Ivy Champs march into Schoellkopf? They could be ups in the win column after games against non-conference foes Colgate & Bucknell and Ivy rival Yale or they could be desperately looking for win #1.

Only the 4th game of the season, the Harvard Game is a big time test early to help fans decide which type of team the Big Red has in 2015 - a winning team or a losing team. Win or lose, look at this one as a “measuring stick” game.

 

November 14th at Butterfield Stadium

Ithaca College v. SUNY Cortland (Cortaca Jug Game) – The importance of this game doesn’t need much explanation. It’s the holy grail of Division 3 rivalry games. However, there are a few interesting storylines to follow in 2015.

  •  Cortaca will be a conference game for the FIRST TIME EVER. This season will mark Cortland’s first as a member of the Empire 8.
  • The Red Dragons have won the last 5 straight against the Bombers. Ithaca College is in danger of graduating a third straight senior class to never win Cortaca.
  •  Ithaca College has won back-to-back Empire 8 Titles and has made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. C-State hasn't made the tourney since 2012.

Every year, Cortaca is the biggest, little game in Central New York!

 

Honorable Mentions:

November 21st at Franklin Field in Philadelphia

Cornell at Penn (Trustees Cup Game) – This would’ve been on my list if wasn’t being played down in Philly. It’s the 5th most played college football rivalry of all-time, dating back to 1893. C-U has only won 2 of its last 5 match ups with the Quakers, but both of those wins came in the City of Brotherly Love. Since Cornell’s last Ancient 8 Title in 1990, Penn has captured 9 Ivy crowns, the last coming in 2012. To be the best in the league, Cornell needs to make a habit of beating the best in the league. This includes its old rival, Penn.

A goal for CU Football in 2015 should be to simply play meaningful games in November. This is the last test of the season. Where will the Big Red be at this point in the year?

Also – it’s worth noting that this season will mark Penn’s first without Al Bagnoli roaming the sidelines as head coach since 1991. The Quakers new head man is Ray Priore, the program’s former Defensive Coordinator. Can Coach Priore keep the winning tradition alive in Philly?

 

September 19th at Butterfield

Ithaca College v. Hobart – This is game 2 of the season for IC. It’s a big test early on against a perennial ranked opponent. Also, that ranked opponent eliminated the Bombers from the NCAA Tournament last season. We can call this game a grudge match.

 

Those are my picks for the top CNY College Football Games of 2015. What games are you looking forward to the most?

Check out the full schedules below:

Syracuse

Cornell

Ithaca College

SUNY Cortland

 

Catch Jeremy Menard on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca (1160/107.1) & ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 PM alongside Eric Silverman. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyJMenard.

Stadium Road Trip

Mar 12, 2015 -- 2:49pm

This time last week, I was making my way across our beautiful country on a road trip with my girlfriend, Becca. It was a chance for us to spend quality time together and see what America had to offer. Prior to this week long excursion, I had never gone on a lengthy road trip, as least one that stretched beyond 10 or so hours in the car. I was hyped to check out some of the nation’s best burger dives, breweries and sports stadiums.

Becca had spent the previous two months taking grad classes in Arizona. I took a one-way flight from Syracuse to DC, then from DC to Phoenix to meet up with her. We began our cross-country trek in the desert.

 

Along the trip, we spent nights in the following cities:

El Paso, Texas

Austin, Texas

New Orleans, Louisiana

Tallahassee, Florida

Charlotte, North Carolina

Martinsburg, West Virginia

 

Overall, the trip covered 15 states::

Arizona

New Mexico

Texas

Louisiana

Mississippi

Alabama

Florida

Georgia

South Carolina

North Carolina

Virginia

West Virginia

Maryland

Pennsylvania

New York

 

As far as good eats and libations go, I got my hands on a ½ pound, two-handed burger in Houston and slugged a few pale ales in Charlotte. The sports highlights of my trip came in Baton Rouge, Williamsport & Austin. I laid my eyes on three iconic stadiums for the first time.

 

3 – Tiger Stadium (LSU Football) – Baton Rouge, LA

Heading to the Big Easy, we got stuck in traffic on Interstate-10, crossing the Mississippi River. To get around the hold up, we detoured into Baton Rouge. As we drove down a basic two-lane highway, out of nowhere popped Tiger Stadium. There it was. Surrounded by roads, burnt grass medians and parking lots was Death Valley. It was my first time seeing an SEC Football Stadium in-person. Whoa baby was it big! More than 102,000 people can cram into that place on game day. We were racing against daylight, so I wasn’t able to take a peek inside, but just looking at the exterior of a big time football stadium was a treat.

 

 

2 – Howard J. Lamade Stadium (Little League World Series) – Williamsport, PA

On the final leg of the trip, heading north from West Virginia toward Ithaca, we stopped in Williamsport to check out the home of the Little League World Series. As we pulled up along the outfield fence of the snow covered diamond, I felt like a little kid again. My mind reverted back to my 10-year-old self. When I was a little kid, Williamsport was the place I wanted to be. At that age, who doesn’t? The Bigs seemed so far off and unattainable as a youngster, but the Little League World Series…that felt possible! It was neat to finally see it in-person, even if it was covered in white stuff. I always make a point to watch the games each Summer.

 

1 – Darrel K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium (Texas Football) – Austin, TX

When I think of college football, I think of Texas. With twelve D1 FBS programs (more than any other state) The Lone Star State IS college football. Although, the Longhorns have struggled the last few seasons, Darrel K. Royal Stadium is still a top football destination. As we approached the edge of the stadium, I caught a glimpse of the burnt orange Texas end zones and felt goose bumps on my arms. Some of college football’s all-time greats have called this place home – Heisman Trophy Winners Earl Campbell & Ricky Williams, quarterbacks Vince Young & Colt McCoy and 1963 National Championship linebacker Tommy Nobis. Despite several renovations, Darrel K. Royal Stadium, originally opened in 1924, is a great piece of sports history. Before I left campus, I also took a brief stroll through the program’s football facility and museum located right behind the playing field. I took a quick snapshot of Ricky Williams’ Heisman before getting back on the road.

 

It truly was a wonderful road trip. For many, the stadiums I ventured to are as familiar to them as the back of their hand. But, for me, seeing them was a treat.

Although I have crossed three stadiums off my “Must Visit Before I Die” bucket list, here are three destinations that still sit at the top of the list:

1 – Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs Baseball) – Chicago, Illinois

2 – Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers Football) – Green Bay Wisconsin

3 – Arthur Ashe Stadium (US Open Tennis) – Queens, New York

 

Catch Jeremy Menard on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca (1160/107.1) & ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 PM, alongside Eric Silverman. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyJMenard.

CU Wrestling - 13 Straight Ancient 8 Titles

Feb 09, 2015 -- 10:25pm

This season, Cornell wrestling is streaking!

68 consecutive Ivy League dual meet wins

42 straight dual victories against current EIWA opponents

61 consecutive wins against unranked foes

However, one streak stands out among the rest.....13 straight Ancient 8 Titles. This is a streak that dates back to the 2002-03 season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were champions of the NFL & The Florida Marlins won the World Series. Those Florida teams may have hit the basement since, but the Big Red has stayed on top.

Since the streak began, Cornell is an undefeated 65 – 0 v. conference opponents. Think about that for a moment....Cornell is the gold standard for Ivy League Wrestling. It's a great accomplishment for any team to win it's conference, but for the same team to do it more than a decade straight without a loss - that is just downright remarkable.

 

Take a look at the top consecutive title streaks in Ivy League Men's Sports history (courtesy ivyleaguesports.com):

 

13 – Cornell Wrestling (2002-03 – Present)

 

10 – Cornell Men's Gymnastics (1967-68 – 1976-77)

10 – Cornell Men's Lacrosse (1973-74 – 1982-83)

10 – Princeton Men's Lacrosse (1994-95 – 2003-04)

 

9 - Princeton Men's Lacrosse (1956-57 to 1964-65)

9 - Columbia Men's Fencing (1959-60 to 1967-68)


9 - Harvard Men's Indoor Track & Field (1961-62 to 1969-70)


9 - Harvard Men's Ice Hockey (1982-83 to 1989-90)


9 - Princeton Men's Swimming & Diving (1983-84 to 1991-92)


9 - Harvard Men's Squash (1990-91 to 1998-99)


9 - Cornell Men's Lacrosse (2002-03 to 2010-11)


 

8 - Yale Men's Swimming & Diving (1962-63 to 1969-70)


8 - Harvard Men's Heavyweight Rowing (1963-64 to 1970-71)


8 - Penn Men's Fencing (1975-76 to 1982-83)


8 - Columbia Men's Soccer (1978-79 to 1985-86)


8 - Dartmouth Men's Cross Country (1984-85 to 1991-92)


8 - Columbia Men's Fencing (1985-86 to 1992-93)


8 - Cornell Men's Outdoor Track & Field (2002-03 to 2009-10)

 


7 - Harvard Men's Squash (1961-62 to 1967-68)


7 - Harvard Men's Cross Country (1964-65 to 1970-71)


7 - Cornell Men's Ice Hockey (1966-67 to 1972-73)


7 - Penn Men's Outdoor Track & Field (1970-71 to 1976-77)


7 - Harvard Men's Swimming & Diving (1977-78 to 1983-84)


7 - Harvard Men's Squash (1982-83 to 1988-89)


7 - Cornell Wrestling (1986-87 to 1992-93)


7 - Penn Wrestling (1995-96 to 2001-02)

 

No Ivy program has ever strung together the success that Cornell Wrestling has experienced. You can check out the entire list of Ancient 8 streaks (men's & women's sports) here.

 

Coach Rob Koll equates the program's success to three factors:

1 -The Friedman Wrestling Center - “It draws great kids in who are more serious about the sport. Once they get here, it makes it easier for them to reach their goals. They've got a study hall here so they don't have to run back to the library. They have a training room here so they don't have to run across the street to go work on injuries and they've got a weight room. In the old days, we would lose a lot of kids, because it just took too much time to be an athlete here at Cornell.”

2 - The Cornell Coaching Staff - “The staff is very positive. They're not the kind of staff that runs kids off. They make it fun for the guys to be a part of the program.”

3 – Positivity - “Nobody comes off the mat trying to lose. I often see these coaches, a lot of young coaches in particular, just screaming and yelling and cursing at the kids as if the kids lost to spite the coach. I've never had a kid go on the mat with the intention of losing. They all want to win. Some have physical limitations, some haven't trained hard enough, but the only person who feels better is the coach. It may be cathartic for them, but I really do believe that it hurts the athlete. We try to keep it as positive as possible under the circumstances.”

 

Wrestling fans took notice of the Big Red's success a long time ago. Cornell sport fans have also opened their eyes to the streak. It is now time for the rest of the sports world to take notice. Wrestling isn't a sport that generally captures headlines or grabs the front page. But, for the Big Red, it should.

“I got recruited to a great school and we've kept the tradition alive," CU Senior Jace Bennett (197) said. "We've only gotten better since I've gotten to school here. Even though some of our national performances haven't placed quite as high, I think that our teams have been progressively getting better.”

For the 13th straight year, Big Red Wrestling has cruised through the Ivy League. Next up for Cornell is the post season and a national stage.

Cornell hosts Drexel this Sunday in the opening round of the National Duals at Newman.

Listen back to every Cornell Wrestling Dual with ESPN Ithaca's PodCenter.

Catch Jeremy Menard on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca (1160/107.1) & ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 PM, alongside Eric Silverman. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyJMenard.

When a Win Feels Like a Loss

Dec 29, 2014 -- 12:00am

What happens when a win feels like a loss?

The Bills finished the 2014 season 9-7, earning their first winning record since 2004. That's a great accomplishment, right? At the beginning of the season, I would have signed up for 9-7 in a second. Hell, I probably would have sold one of my kidneys to finish 8-8. But, as the season wore on and the dominos seemed to fall in Buffalo's favor, expectations became playoffs or bust. It's amazing how fickle fans cane be sometimes.

I like to think that the personal emotions I feel after a Bills game are similarly felt by other Buffalo fans.

For example, after a win, I feel the following:

 

Happy

 

Elated

 

Satisfied

 

Excited

 

Energized

 

On the flip side, when the Bills lose, I feel the following:

 

Angry

 

Disappointed

 

Frustrated

 

Exhausted

 

Upset

 

Seems par for the course of a Bills season, right? Well, that's what's weird about this season. Despite watching my favorite team finish off the year with a win for the first time at Gillette Stadium against the rival Patriots, I didn't feel my usual “Winning” emotions. Instead, I felt a hodge-podge.

When the final whistle blew and the teams met at midfield to shake hands, I jumped to my feet and clapped with a smile on my face. The Bills have beaten the Patriots! Life is good!

Well, kind of.

Five seconds later, I found myself 180-degrees from those emotions.

Despite the win, I slowly settled into “loss” mode. Anger came over me. I became frustrated with how the season sorted out. The scoreboard might have shown a Bills victory, but missing the playoffs once again made it all feel like a loss.

Am I happy about the Bills winning record? Yes. I'm elated. Am I upset the Bills didn't make the playoffs for the 15th straight year? Yes. More than ever.

With each win the Bills notched this season, playoff expectations grew. Sports are tough. Regardless of where pre-season expectations begin, wins increase those expectations and the importance of the season. The Bills beat the Pats, but New England will have the final laugh. Tom Brady & Co. will be playing in the playoffs next month.

Give me a few weeks and my emotional state will even out. Buffalo hasn't been playoff bound in 15 seasons...what's another year of waiting, right?

What I need to do is think about all of the good this year's team accomplished, instead of the bad. Buffalo's special teams and defense are among the best in the NFL. The offense showed flashes of quality play. Strides were definitely made this season. They finished 9-7!

Deep breathes Bills fans. Good times are on the horizon (hopefully).

From now until the start of training camp, my fingers are crossed that new talent is added to the roster and the Bills chance of snapping their playoff draught in 2015 increases. One Bills Drive, go out there and get a quarterback!

 
Catch Jeremy Menard on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca (1160/107.1) & ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 PM, alongside Eric Silverman. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyJMenard.

Oh, the People You'll See!

Dec 15, 2014 -- 1:50pm

Once an NFL season, I make the pilgrimage out to Western New York to catch a Buffalo Bills home with good friends. Yesterday, I found myself losing my voice cheering for my favorite team as they knocked off Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Not bad. In the last three years, the Bills are 3-0 in games I attend. Now that’s a stat!

An NFL football game is a gameday atmosphere unlike any other an American sports fan can experience. Walking through the parking lot at Ralph Wilson Stadium before the game, I saw five-star food being cooked on a charcoal grill, winnebagos complete with wet bars and cable TV as well as a “Buffalo Bills” Elvis sighting. After each annual game I attend, I reflect back on the experience during my return drive to Ithaca. What stood out to me this time around that was different from last year’s game? Honestly, not much. The tailgate and gameday scene was exactly what I hoped for and have grown to expect. With that being said, I’ve decided that there are 5 types of fans you ALWAYS see at an NFL game.

1 – Super Fan: These are the guys (and girls) who dress in their favorite team’s colors from head to toe. There are fans who simple throw on a jersey and hat (like myself) and then there are others who take it a step further. “Buffalo Bills” Elvis definitely falls under this category. I even saw a guy with “Wing Man” written on the back of his jersey with a foam chicken wing on his head!

2- Jumbotron Fan: These fans treat the game like they are at home or a sports bar watching the game on a giant TV. Don’t expect Jumbo Tron fan to actually watch the action down on the field. He catches each big play with multiple camera angles on the stadium’s giant television.

3 – Wake Me Up When It’s Over Fan: These fans miss most of the game, because they went a little too hard with the tailgate. The guy who sat two rows to my left in an Aaron Rodgers jersey that showed up a little tipsy to the game barely even made it through the first quarter, before taking a game long nap in his seat. For some, the real event on gameday is the tailgate. If you sip too much of Grandpa’s cough syrup before the game, you might not remember what happens on the field. I’m sure many Packers fans wished they fell asleep and did not witness yesterday’s loss.

4 – The Trash Talking Fan: These fans are proud of the team they root for and want to make sure everyone knows it. Let me tell you, it takes guts to march into enemy territory and trash talk the home faithful. I saw a bit of it yesterday, but overall, I was impressed with the class shown by Green Bay fans.

5 – The Fantasy Football Fan: Fantasy Football is one of the hottest tickets in town. Forbes estimates that the Fantasy Football market is worth $70 Billion! Many football fans (such as myself) have more than one fantasy team with several players from different squads scattered across my rosters. On gameday, it's important to constantly keep an eye on the stat lines of your fantasy players. Throughout an NFL game, it is now common place to see people flipping through their iPhones, letting out positive yelps and negative groans depending on their team’s progress. Once in a while, you’ll even see a fan cheer for a player on the opposing team, because he’s starting in their fantasy league’s playoffs!

Going to an NFL game in person is without a doubt a memorable experience. Win or lose, there's always something exciting to see and watch at a game. Yesterday, I had a blast at The Ralph. Aside from seeing each one of these types of football fans in person, I also witnessed the best win the Bills have had in over a decade. For the first time since 2004, the Bills are guaranteed NOT to have a losing season. It feels pretty damn good to be a Bills fan.

Catch Jeremy Menard on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca (1160/107.1) & ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 PM, alongside Eric Silverman. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyJMenard.

Sports Fans - Keep the Faith!

Oct 30, 2014 -- 2:42pm

The Giants are champions of the baseball world! Enjoy San Francisco, enjoy.

Any time a team starts to fill out their hand with rings in a short period of time, the word dynasty gets thrown around. The Giants have now won 3 championships in 5 years…they are a dynasty! Sure, why not. I’ll give it to you.  It is impressive for a franchise in any sport to not only win in the postseason, but to do it with consistency. That’s the key word here…consistency.

Let’s give Doc Brown a call and jump in his Delorean for a trip back in time…back to a time when Giants fans were among some of the most miserable in the sport. The last five years have been great for San Francisco, but before that?....Woof.

San Francisco has won the World Series a total of 8 times: 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954, 2010, 2012, 2014.

Take a look at these dates…it’s like looking at Ivy League Football National Championships. Half of San Fran's titles came before 1940. Of the remaining 4, 3 of them have come in the last 5 years. Look at that gap between 1954 and 2010. That’s 56 years!

Throughout this year’s series, the underdog Royals were the hot button topic on sports talk shows. Can the “no name” darlings of the post season win their first title since 1985….1985! That’s only 29 years! I understand this season also marked the team’s first postseason since that year, but still.

Take some solace Royals fans knowing that you were beaten by a team and a fan base that not so long ago, were in your shoes. The Giants are what losing fan bases should hope there team’s become.

I’m a lifelong Bills & Mets fan. I have never celebrated a National Championship during my lifetime. I have never made plans to skip work to attend a victory parade. Heck, postseason appearances for my time over the last several years have been few and far between.

I hope the Mets become like the Giants. I hope the Bills do as well. I hope they become teams who not only snap championship losing skids and learn how to win, but learn how to do it consistently.

San Fran took a 56 year championship drought and shortened the waiting period to only 2 years. Will they win it again in 2016…who knows? That honestly doesn’t even matter. What matters is that the Giants are proof that trends can be bucked and teams can find ways to win.

My BTL co-host Eric Silverman always rags on me for being too big of an optimist with my beloved Mets and Bills, but I always respond, why not? The Royals and Giants are great examples as to why sports fans need to always have faith that their favorite teams can turn it around. It might not happen over night or over a 50 year period, but just someday it can happen. I mean the Giants just won ring number 3 in the past 5 years. Crazier things happen.

Catch Jeremy Menard on "Between the Lines" on ESPN Ithaca (1160/107.1) & ESPNIthaca.com weekdays from 4-5 PM, alongside Eric Silverman. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyJMenard.

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