Lots of nearby college football this year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 16, 2005

College football season is just three weeks out, and sports fans around the nation should probably replace the batteries in their remotes between now and the start of September just to be ready.

With the ever-expanding coverage of 1-A football on TV growing not only every Saturday, but practically every night of the week not already commanded by the NFL, it will be relatively easy to have a minimum of six nights a week with some type of football on the tube.

Want to get out and watch some good college football in person?

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Yes, it’s true that our Commonwealth holds only the Hokies and Hoos when it comes to the 1-A level, but may a suggestion be made to look at numerous other very talented and exciting teams around Virginia, some of which reside much closer and conveniently than Charlottesville or Blacksburg.

The heartland of 1-AA football for the entire nation is probably in Virginia now.

As far as excitement goes, just ask a local Hampton, William and Mary, or James Madison alum or fan about last year playoffs.

Oh yeah, playoffs, 1-AA football has a 16-team playoff.

Playoffs, that magical, wonderful word that every college football fan longs for, the idea that would end, or at least significantly reduce, annoying terms such as &uot;BCS&uot;, &uot;strength of schedule&uot;, and &uot;mid-majors.&uot; Every year in 1-AA, D-2, and D-3 there is an undisputed national champion.

And if the Green Terror of McDaniel College can be expected to play 15 games in a season, well, I guess that’s too much for Texas; sorry, that’s a different editorial.

Hampton University is ranked #13 in the preseason 1-AA poll and is the reigning MEAC champions. Hampton is picked to repeat in the MEAC, with 12 Pirates earning preseason All-Conference recognition. Just a bit further up the peninsula is William and Mary, ranked ninth in the nation following a season that saw a school record in victories, and a playoff run that ended with a nationally-televised semifinal loss to JMU.

The Dukes went on to win the national title, and while Harrisonburg is not really local, JMU’s football team might as well play home games over in Chesapeake or Virginia Beach because the Dukes have 24 players from Hampton Roads on their roster for this fall.

For those still waiting for ODU’s football aspirations, Norfolk State is already in 1-AA. The Spartans have a new coach, 27,000-seat Dick Price Stadium, and a home schedule with in-state foes Virginia State, Liberty, and rival Hampton on it.

Speaking of rivals, the Tribe takes on the Dukes on Nov. 5, and then Richmond for another chapter of &uot;The Oldest Rivalry in the South&uot; a couple Saturdays later.

National rankings and repeated conference success also describes Christopher Newport up in Newport News.

The Captains enter their fifth season of football with four conference championships already onboard.

The Captains have also excelled largely because of local high school talent.

CNU begins the season ranked #16 nationally in D-3.

Chowan, Newport News Apprentice, Randolph-Macon, and Hampden-Sydney are also D-3 schools well within driving distance.

With the talented players that all of Virginia, but especially Tidewater, constantly gets out of high schools, it’s no wonder that local colleges are gaining from it.

Go ahead and stuff yourself with the smorgasbord of Tuesday night games on ESPN2/Classic/U, but if you haven’t before, check one or two of these teams in person.

You don’t need to go very far or spend very much, and the play on the field will impress and quite probably bring you back.

Andrew Giermak is a staff writer with the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9617.