Division I-A just around the corner for TSU

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Mike Amos

Sports Columnist

I can’t tell you how many people have walked up to me in the last week to talk about Troy State playing Nebraska and Miami in football next season. There’s a lot of excitement in the air! To be exact, Troy State plays Nebraska in Lincoln on Sept. 1 and Miami on Oct. 6.

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The times for both kickoffs will be announced at a later date.

Yes! Troy State University in Troy, Alabama is moving its football program to Division I and will play two of the nation’s top football teams next season. You can throw in Mississippi State in Starkville on Oct. 13 and Maryland in College Park in Nov. 3 to add to the big pie.

Will Troy State be gobbled up like a pancake by those four teams? I say no. Will they lose all four games; I say again no.

Football is a game played by 18, 19 and 20 year year old young men. Some are more talented than others. Some are stronger and faster then others and some play the game harder than others. But they are all young men who put their pants on one leg at a time.

Yes, Nebraska, Miami and Mississippi State have more talent than Troy State. They have 85 players on full athletic scholarships, while Troy State has 63 total scholarships. That will change in the next few years when TSU works its way to the 85 scholarship limit for Division I-A teams.

Of course, Nebraska and Miami can attract the top high school and junior college players in the country to come play for them. Mississippi State, a power in the Southeastern Conference, gets pretty much who they want in the state of Mississippi’s junior college ranks and at least half of the top players in their state. They go into Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Georgia and Florida for their talent.

All three of those schools are established "big time" programs that can easily lure the top players to play for them.

Troy State on the other hand is a prominent Division I-AA program that races with the UAB’s, Tulane’s, Memphis’, Georgia Southern’s, Louisville’s and Southern Mississippi’s to get the players that the Southeastern Conference school’s and Florida State pass up.

All seven of those schools have enjoyed measurable success with those players over the years.

Troy State enters the world of "big time" college football very similar to Southern Mississippi. Southern Miss, of course, struggled for years against the powerhouses, especially in the days when there were no limits to how many players a school could sign. Alabama could sign a hundred if they wanted to back in the 50s and 60s. So could Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The big breakthrough for the Southern Mississippi’s came when the NCAA cut scholarship limitations to 25 several years ago.

Now Southern Miss can compete with any team in the country.

Troy State, I think, will take the same road as the Golden Eagles. Play on the road against the big boy’s until you’re good enough to beat them and it might come sooner then people think. I can remember USM beating both Alabama and Auburn in the same year. I can remember Brett Farve and his team beating Florida State in Tallahassee a few year’s ago. There’s not much difference in USM and TSU other then 85 scholarships!

Troy State might not grow to be another Alabama or Auburn, but it can be conceivably another Southern Miss and that’s not bad at all.

I’ll say this, if Alabama and Auburn give Troy State enough chances in the next 10 years, Troy State will beat one of them or maybe both. Like I’ve said so many times before, Troy State gets its players from the same places everyone else does and that’s the finest recruiting grounds in the country; Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. Why can’t TSU be another Southern Mississippi and a power in college football?

Troy State is located in the heartland of college football and has been very successful in the NAIA, (one National Championship), NCAA Division II, (two National Championships), and NCAA Division I-AA, ( the third winningest team in the 90s), so why can’t they be successful in NCAA Division I-A?

Measuring success in I-A might be a little different then the 10 and 11 win seasons TSU was used to having I-AA.

If Troy State can play .500 football in I-A playing against the big boys, I would think they did a good job. If they go 7-4 like Alabama-Birmingham did this past season, I would think it wonderful.

There’s no question in my mind that TSU can play straight up or beat teams like: Vanderbilt, Memphis, Tulane, Louisville, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Duke, Kansas, Texas Tech, Utah, New Mexico, Maryland, Houston, UAB, Rice, Louisiana Tech, Army, Navy, Oklahoma State, Indiana, Texas-El Paso, Central Florida, Tulsa, Wyoming, Baylor, Rutgers, Hawaii, SMU and more. That will tell you right now that we can win in Division I-A. The big problem right now is getting any of the above teams to play Troy State. They know what you and I know, TSU can beat them!

So right now the big boys will play us. I don’t know what will happen after we knock one of them off. The first one we’re going to beat is Maryland. Yes, TSU will beat the Terps on Nov. 4 at College Park.

My feeling is this Troy State team is big and strong up front and that’s where the big boys usually beat the smaller schools. If you don’t get knocked off the ball you can stay with teams like Mississippi State.

Give Larry Blakeney three years recruiting in Division I-A in the best recruiting grounds in America and Troy State will make you proud against any foe. Blakeney has a special talent for getting players to play hard for him. Just like Southern Miss, Troy State in the next ten years will be a power in college football.

Remember what I said: