Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Insight Bowl: MN Offense v ISU Defense

The following is a reposting of an article I wrote at The Rivalry, Esq. last week...


Around here we call ourselves "The quintessential Big Ten smoking room."  They don't allow smoking in offices anymore (shame), so today, I'm hijacking our subtitle... Welcome to The proverbial Big Ten water cooler.

Fsimageresize_aspx_mediumI thought about postponing these tidbits until after Christmas (yes, I said Christmas, not "the holiday"), but let's be honest: between your company paid holiday (THEIR word, not mine) potluck, the secret Santa reveal, the white elephant unwrapping, extra trips to the coffee machine to kill time, and the multiple YouTube videos that are floating around the office today... you're looking to kill some time.

You could be reading about The Rose Bowl, the National Championship, or even last night's Las Vegas Bowl and the veritable tornado that they played through.  But instead you are here, reading about the Insight Bowl.  In the words of Napoleon Dynamite: "LUCKY!"

When Minnesota is running...
The Gophers rank 112th nationally in rushing offense... YUCK.  97.6 yards/game.  I'm not going to go into why this is the case, just know that it's clearly a huge issue.  Thankfully ISU rushing defense isn't so stellar, giving up 169 yards/game (89th nationally).  The Gophers broke the century mark in rushing 6 times this season, and they were 5-1 in those games.  They broke 200 yards only once and that was against Purdue, a game in which Adam Weber only attempted 10 passes.

When Minnesota is throwing...
... may heaven have mercy on all of us.  Look, let's just get this out of the way right now: the Gophers offense is BAD.  Fact.  Throwing the ball, the Gophers rank 82nd nationally with 198.2 yards/game.  The Gophers complete just 51% of their passes.  Add to those stats 15 INT's (vs just 14 TD's), only TWO games all season with more passing TD's than INT's, only TWO games all season with more than 250 passing yards, and you begin to understand why I'm developing ulcers.
Saving grace?  ISU doesn't stop the pass well.  They give up 245 yards/game, 95th nationally.

When Minnesota is in 3rd down...
If there's one thing the Gophers do well on offense it's... oh, wait.
Here's a surprise, the Gophers rank 93rd nationally in converting 3rd down opportunities, doing so just 35% of the time.  And what about ISU? They stop their opponents when they are in 3rd down situations 39% of the time.  This is getting depressing.

When Minnesota is in the Red Zone...
HEY!!! The Gophers rank 52nd nationally when it comes to scoring in the red zone!  How about that?!?!  But guess what?  It just so happens that ISU does pretty well defending the red zone... in fact, ISU ranks 4th nationally in this category allowing their opponents to score when they make it to the red zone just 68% of the time.

What it all means...
Yesterday I told you about how the Gophers needed to stop the run, and stop Iowa State in the red zone.  So today, let's just go ahead and assume that the Gophers need to establish the run, and score when they get into the red zone.

Album-crap-attack_mediumHere's the truth: I have absolutely no clue what this game is going to be like.  All season long I kept saying how I couldn't figure out who the Gophers were, how they are a team without an identity.  Breaking down the stats proves this.  Offensively the Gophers aren't good, but they have had glimpses of being okay.  Defensively the stats say they are painfully mediocre, but they have had moments of greatness and bouts of complete craptasticness.

I haven't watched Iowa State play even a single down of football this season, but breaking down their stats... ISU is the the Gophers of the Big 12.  They aren't great at anything, they rank at the bottom of the list nationally in almost every category that matters, they fancy themselves a decent defensive team, but the numbers don't necessarily back that up, and if the statistics (which look not unlike Minnesota's) are any indication, they don't have much of an identity either... making it pretty ironic that these teams are playing in something called The Insight Bowl.
The only difference I can see in these programs right now is that Iowa State outperformed their expectations this year reaching a 6-6 mark, while the Gophers underperformed reaching the same mark.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Insight Bowl: ISU Offense v MN Defense

The following is a reposting of an article I wrote at The Rivalry, Esq. last week...
Here's a list of topics that I was considering writing about today and in parentheses the reason why I'm not writing about them:

Iowa State v Minnesota: national impact (There isn't any... moving on.)
Giant_20corn_20cob_20hat_mediumIowa State v Minnesota: two programs on the rise? (I can't lie to you and tell you that I feel like the Gophers are on the rise right now... get back to me in 9 months.)
Cheesehead v Corn-on-the-cob-head: which is the better food related headware? (While I have very strong opinions on this topic, it doesn't have anything to do with Minnesota or football.)

Ultimately, as a Gopher fan, the pending college football bowl season is difficult for me to get excited about because no matter how hard I try I can't get myself real excited for the Insight Bowl.

Sad, I know.

Statistically the Gophers were one of the worst teams in the Big Ten this season, and shockingly, Iowa State, from a statistical standpoint, appears to be almost as bad.

38075_colorado_iowa_st_football_mediumWhen ISU is running...
The one thing that ISU appears to do is run the ball, averaging 177.3 yards/game, which ranks 36th nationally.  Their leading rusher is Alexander Robinson who averaged 96 yards/game, and had give 100+ yard games, one of them against a stingy Hawkeye defense in week 2.

On the flip side, the Gophers give up 146.7 rushing yards/game (64th nationally), so this area of the game could be worth watching.

When ISU is throwing...
From a passing standpoint the Cyclones aren't quite as hot.  ISU passes for just 182.1 yards/game, ranking them 97th nationally.  The Cyclones do not have a receiver that ranks in the top 100 nationally (as a side-note: neither do the Gophers).  Their leading receiver, Marquis Hamilton, averages just a shade over 47 yards/game receiving.  The Gophers, on the other hand, are giving up 217.6 passing yards/game, ranking them 60th nationally.
When ISU is in 3rd down...
Lastly, a very telling stat that often says a lot about defenses and offenses, is 3rd down efficiency.  How often can you convert on 3rd down?  How often can you keep your opponent from converting on 3rd down?  Like turnovers, this is a stat that can tell us a lot.
The Cyclones rank 48th nationally, converting on 41% of their 3rd down attempts, while the Gophers rank 102nd nationally, allowing their opponents to convert on nearly 45% of their 3rd down attempts.

When ISU is in the Red Zone...
FdlqvodfpkglwvaWhen ISU gets into the Red Zone, which they did 36 times this season, they scored 83% of the time.  Meanwhile, when the Gophers let their opponents inside the RZ, which happened 37 times this season, they let them score 81% of the time.  OUCH!
What it all means...
While the Gopher defense isn't one that strikes fear in the hearts of many people, they have had a decent season (at least as far as Gopher defenses go), and they rank in the 60's in rushing yards, passing yards, and total offensive yards given up/game.  ISU's offense, on the other hand, is all over the board, ranking 36th in rushing, but 97th in passing.
Bottom line: the Gophers need to stop the Cyclones running game and keep them out of the red zone (sounds like a familiar formula doesn't it?).  When ISU ran for over 200 yards they were 5-1 this season.  The Gophers only gave up 200 yards or more rushing 3 times this season, and they lost 2 of those games (the third was a bit of an anomaly in Air Force, a team that pretty much only runs, and only passed for 125 yards against the Gophers).
The formula for this game is not unlike any other game the Gophers play... stop the run.  If they can slow the Cyclones on the ground the Gopher defense will have a great chance to do what it did a lot of 2009: keep the team in the game and hope and pray that the offense can produce SOMETHING.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Brewster to Get His (Undeserved) Contract Extension

It's not official yet, but it looks like any day or any minute now Tim Brewster is going to get a contract extension. The "money" quote from AD Joel Maturi:

"We need some stability," Maturi said. We've proven that just changing coaches at Minnesota isn't the answer. We need stability. I'm excited about the recuits that are here and those who are coming and coach Brewster deserves the right to coach those recruits."

Maturi goes on to say that there's still a lot of details to be worked out, one of which I hope is either a VERY favorable buyout to the University, or even better (but less likely) no buyout whatsoever. Look I understand Maturi when he says he wants to have some stability and assure recruits and Brewster's assistants that he's going to be around awhile. I also get Maturi REALLY likes Brewster's recruiting abilities, as he mentions them in the story for the umpteenth time.

I get that, but when do the results on the field start to matter more than made-up recruiting rankings? When does a record of 6-18 in the Big Ten and 0-9 in trophy games start to matter? If there's little to no buyout, Maturi will show that on-field results DO matter, and that 2010 is a make or break year. If Brewster somehow weasels his way into a hefty buyout and continues to stink it up on the field, then we would have a much larger issue than just a football coach who can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk- we'd have an AD who doesn't know the difference between the two.

Until we know the details of the contract, I'm going to give Maturi the benefit of the doubt and hope/pray/assume/cross my fingers AND my toes that he's giving Brewster the stability he's been clamoring and scamming for (lest everyone forgets that Brewster attempted to invent a rumor that Kansas wanted him) but holding his feet to the fire that 2010 needs to be better or he's out, and it'll cost the University nothing more than the 5th year on his first contract. I know Christmas was last week, but as Gopher fan, that's the best gift I can hope for.

Big Ten Expansion, Part IV

Jeff and I started discussing the possibility of Big Ten expansion by email. Over the next several days we will debate this back and forth over email, and will post our exchanges here, for your reading pleasure. Late in the week it appeared that based on his research, Jeff had changed his tune slightly.  We continued discussing other topics within this topic anyway.  This email exchange took place last week, but due to work and Christmas festivities I didn't get a chance to post it.



We seem to be in agreement that the Big Ten expanding is a good idea.  So now the question is, should they expand just to 12, or to 14 or 16?  It appears that they are exploring all 3 possibilities. 

Let’s assume that the league is expanding to 12, and let’s assume that Notre Dame is NOT going to be that 12th team.  Who do you want to see the Big Ten add?



Before we get to who the 12th Big Ten team should be, let's talk about whether 12, 14, or 16 is the right number. BamaHawkeye over at TRE had an interesting take about the Big Ten going REALLY BIG with either a monster program as the 12th team, or even an expansion to 14 or 16 teams.

He has some good points about the Big Ten really needing to make this worth their while, which is why they're not going to just add any school if they go to 12 (I agree and we'll get into that in a minute), and might even add three teams to push the league to 14 teams, or even go crazy with five more to go to 16.

Even BH admits 16 teams just could not work for football unless you went to a quasi-playoff, and as cool as that idea would be, as he says, it's not going to happen. So 16 is out because it's just too many for football.

14 teams? Part of me thinks it's still too many. IF we stick with eight conference games, you'd be playing the other six in your division, plus two more in a cross-over, meaning you'd be playing only eight of the 14 teams in the conference or barely half!. I'm sorry, but what's the point if almost HALF of your teams won't even play each other in a given year? It's not even close to a true conference title in that scenario. Sure 12 isn't perfect either, but playing 75% of the teams every season is a lot better than barely 50%. Then again, if the Big Ten could grab Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri to create a true east/west, I think maybe I'd put up with so many teams not playing each other. And good lord would the level of basketball improve too with Kansas and Missou joining.

Still, I think it'll only come down to adding one team. The Big Ten has been the most conservative conference in the country, and while BH's argument has merit, it just seems to me like too big of a jump for the old-school Big Ten to make. I mean, hell almost had to freeze over just for them to decide to add Penn State, and that one was a no-brainer!

So IF the conservative ol' Big Ten adds just one team and it can't be Notre Dame, who should it be? I'm going to tell you who it likely will be, and also who I want it to be if we can't have the Irish. Texas would be a dream, but as BH and others have mentioned, it just doesn't make any sense for them to leave. They get a bigger piece of the revenue pie than anyone else in the Big 12, and even though the Big Ten might offer more money in TV deals, I'm still not sure they'd make more because they'd have to split everything evenly. Plus their road trips are fairly short. As much as a boon as it would be for the Big Ten to grab Texas, the other 11 schools aren't going to offer them the same concessions and disproportionate revenues they're getting in the Big 12.

Let's get rid of the other candidates and get down to who it will be and who I want to be the 12th team: Rutgers and Syracuse make no sense whatsoever. You're not grabbing the New York City market with either team because it's a pro sports town whose only interest in college sports is in basketball. Yeah Rutgers grabbed a few eyeballs when they almost won the Big East a few years back in football, but that's really the only success they've had. Syracuse would be a nice addition for basketball but their football program is a long way from being anything, and even when they're winning they're too far away from NYC to be considered New York's team. Boston College has the same problem, as Boston is a pro sports town and only a small percentage of people there care about BC.

Pitt would be interesting in a rivalry standpoint for Penn State and for adding a really, REALLY good basketball program, but otherwise adds nothing else. The Pittsburgh market isn't going to add much unless the Panthers start winning like the Tony Dorsett Era, which isn't going to happen as long as Dave Wannstedt is coaching. You're also more likely to see Santa Claus come down your chimney than see Penn State approve Pitt, as they have no interest in putting a state rival on equal footing with them.

Which brings us to a few Big 12 schools: Iowa State is not happening because who the hell cares about the city of Aimes, Iowa? That's all you'd be adding for television ratings because the rest of the states care only about the Hawkeyes, and the Cyclones bring absolutely nothing in football or basketball. Kansas only makes sense if you're expanding to 14 and bringing a few more Big 12 schools with you. Expansion is clearly a football issue and as great as KU is at basketball, they add virtually nothing for football (no offense to Turner Gill, who I think should do a great job there).

Which leaves us with the likely choice of the Missouri Tigers. They're good enough academically, makes sense geographically, as they're already rivals with Illinois and could be a new one for Iowa, have had a pretty good football team the last decade or so, and would also add the St. Louis market for TV. This would not be a huge splash, but would certainly be logical, and is probably the most likely choice as of now.

But the team I want the Big Ten to add is Nebraska. Sure, they haven't been "NEBRASKA" on the field since Tom Osborne retired in the late 90's, but their name still carries a ton of clout in the college football world, and current coach Bo Pellini certainly seems to have them going in the right direction. While Nebraska is not a hugely populous state, the Huskers still garner a national following, so for TV revenue, you'd be adding much more than just the state of Nebraska.

I'm obviously not a Huskers fan, but I see them being willing to leave too. Since the Big 8 turned into the Big 12, they lost their biggest rival in Oklahoma, as the two don't even play every year anymore. Colorado was supposed to replace the Sooners, but the Buffs have been in a nose dive this entire decade, and I just don't see Nebraska having any big rivals they'd hate to lose in that conference. They'd be a much bigger deal in the Big Ten (maybe I'm wrong, but they seem to get lost in the shuffle with all of the Big 12 South teams getting more publicity), and there'd be some great midwestern rivalries to build. Plus I have to think their fans would fit in better in the midwest than they do in a southern conference.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Insight Bowl is the Unofficial Beginning of the 2010 Season

It's not that we're not going to miss the senior class of 2009. We really are. I mean, how could you NOT miss guys like Eric Decker, the Tow-Arnetts, Matt Stommes, and nine of our eleven defensive starters? But in a Marcus Fuller story today for the PP, Gophers head coach Tim Brewster said what everyone already knows: auditions for the 2010 team start against Iowa State.

Now sure, offensive starting spots should have been open for competition after the Ohio State game, but never late than never right? At least the ever-positive Brewster is finally admitting his woeful offense just might have some problems, and that bringing eight starters back on offense is not necessarily a good thing:

"We've been an inconsistent football team this year offensively," the Gophers' third-year coach said. "I think our whole offense is being challenged; every player on the offense, not just (quarterback) Adam (Weber), not just the receivers. We want to challenge everybody to go out and play well."

It tells you how bad the offense was when the team is going to lose nine of its eleven defensive starters, yet Brewster doesn't say a word about competition on that side of the ball. Sure, part of that is that there won't be as many opportunities for playing time in the bowl game because we have so many seniors on defense, but I wonder if, like me, Brewster is much more confident about our defense next year than our offense. I certainly am. I know we lose our entire front seven and both starting corners, but we have some talent on the D-Line, some really good speed at linebacker (especially if Sam Maresh is somewhere close to 100%), and well you know about my man-love for corner Michael Carter. While this unit will be forced to gel quickly, I have little doubt right now that our 2010 defense can be every bit as good as the 2009 group.

But the offense? Yeesh, that's another story. While it's not going to take much for the group to be better, I'm hoping we're setting the bar just a wee bit higher than that. I want a competent offense that can actually, you know, move the ball and score and stuff. I want an offense that doesn't have to settle for field goals to beat a 1-AA opponent, or can actually score a few points against Iowa. Really, I don't ask for much. It's Christmas, after all.

I think we've covered the quarterback situation, so I'll spare you my 9000th take on that whole thing. Wide receiver is without question the position I have the most confidence in, although it's probably sad that my reason for feeling that way is I'm clinging to the glimmer of hope that was the Michigan State game. Da'Jon McKnight has a chance to be an all-conference performer, and as someone who did not play football his sophomore or junior year of high school, he just needs to reps to get there. Brandon Green, if he can ever stay healthy, is an excellent possession receiver who can actually get deep- we just have to have Jed Fisch actually call for him to run further than 10 yards down field. I think Green could be the go-to guy, if only he's given the opportunity. Troy Stoudermire is an enigma who should not be counted on to be a major factor, but is a nice fourth option for the occassional times he can get deep and actually catch the ball. Bryant Allen showed some flashes as a freshman, and if nothing else has some athletic ability and will hopefully show some more consistency next year.

The two real question marks are Hayo! Carpenter and incoming freshman, and former Tennesee recruit, James Green. Some people around football already believe Green will walk right in and start for us next year, but forgive me if I'm a little more cautious in my expectations. After all, it was Hayo! who about this time last year was being touted as an instant-starter and impact player out of junior college, yet in 2009 on a team DYING for somebody to fill the Decker void, Carpenter saw the field about as much as you or I did. There's no doubting Green's credentials, but jumping from high school to the Big Ten is a big jump, and whether he can step right in and be our go-to guy is certainly not certain. And can we get ANYTHING out of Carpenter? Was he simply the most over-hyped player in the history of ever, or can he get his stuff together and get on the field in 2010 and be the guy we thought we were getting?

At running back, we're pretty much left hoping that either Kevin Whaley continues to improve or one of the trio of incoming freshmen- Devon Wright, Lamonte Edwards and Darnell Kirkwood- pans out. Duane Bennett just has not recovered to be the kind of player he was before last year's knee injury, and DeLeon Eskridge sucks. There, I said it. He sucks. Unless you have an offensive line opening gargantuan holes for him, Eskridge can do absolutely nothing on his own but fall down. Shady Soloman has been working with the defensive backs during the bowl practices, and you can bet that if he couldn't get regular touches this year, there's no way he factors into the running back competition next year.

Finally, we have the most important, and most worrisome, group on the team: our offensive line. We have not had good line play in Brewster's three seasons here, and if the offense has any chance whatsoever in 2010, no matter how good the skill position talent, we're going nowhere without the line playing much, much, much, much, much (ok you get the idea) MUCH better. And from the looks of it, unless we're able to land some guy named Seantrel, we're going to have to count on the same group of guys getting a lot better, because there doesn't appear to be much in the way of immediate help coming in. The only guy that I've heard could compete for playing time right away is four star New Brighton, MN tackle Jimmy Gjere and like with James Green, counting on a true freshman is always dicey So we're looking at the same guys who couldn't get it done this year and hoping they can get it done next year.

If nothing else, the Insight Bowl should provide some insight (sorry, couldn't help it) into what the offense could look like for 2010. Let's hope it doesn't anything like what we saw in 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

We debate Big Ten Expansion, Part III

Jeff and I started discussing the possibility of Big Ten expansion by email. Over the next several days we will debate this back and forth over email, and will post our exchanges here, for your reading pleasure. Late in the week it appeared that based on his research, Jeff had changed his tune slightly. We continued discussing other topics within this topic anyway.


I must say, I'm in favor of having Ohio St and Michigan in the same division so they only play once a year, not twice. Rittenberg has a post up with an argument for the same, but that's about the only one I've heard. Not only does the rivalry mean more if it's only played once instead of possibly twice, but how redundant and boring would it be to have them play each other in the last game of the regular season in their annual game- and then play again two weeks later? Who wants to see that? And what happens if both teams go into the regular season game already having sewn up spots in the conference title game? Just seems ridiculous to me but I have a feeling Michigan and Ohio State people would disagree.

Also, while Notre Dame won't be joining the conference, they now have zero logical reasons for not doing so. David Haugh in the Chicago Tribune does a great job of laying to rest all the old arguments Notre Dame folks use for saying why they won't join a conference. The three biggest reasons are always money, their sweet-heart deal with the BCS, and their schedule but all of those are now moot.

Notre Dame makes $9 million a year from their NBC deal: Well guess what? Thanks to the Big Ten Network, EVERY team in the Big Ten- even Minnesota!!- brings in at least $20 million a year in TV and radio revenues. So joining the Big Ten would actually make Notre Dame more TV money, not less.

As for BCS eligibility, when the whole BCS sham started in 1998 there were only four bowls and you needed to finish in the top eight to be considered for an at-large selection- except Notre Dame, who only needed to finish in the top 14. Well since 2006 when they added the fifth BCS game, now everyone needs to be top 14 to qualify as an at-large, so Notre Dame's built-in advantage is gone too. What's more, with the Big Ten locking up the Gator Bowl for a fourth New Year's Day bowl, Notre Dame would have much better bowl choices in the Big Ten than they would by staying independent.

Finally the schedule: Notre Dame used to schedule as tough as anyone in the country, but with the addition of a 12th game and nobody except the Pac 10 really striving to schedule tough out-of-conference games, the Irish either aren't finding big time teams to play, or they're not looking. Their 2009 schedule, yes the one where they went 6-6, had just one ranked team on it to start the year (USC) and had only three by year end thanks to surprisingly good seasons (Pitt and Stanford). Look at Notre Dame's future schedules and it's cream puff city. They can whine all they want about how being forced to join a conference would rob them of rivalries, but as you might guess, that's a golden load of baloney too. They could still schedule Navy and USC, leaving two games a year open to schedule their cupcakes (it looks like long time rival Stanford is off the schedule in 2013. Probably because The Cardinal beat them too much?(. It's clear they no longer care about a strong schedule, so really, them whining about losing rivals is a joke.

So the only reason they have left is probably the biggest reason I hate them- because they think they're better than everyone else! But that's really it. Yet another reason to hate the Golden Domers.



I’ve got mixed feelings about OSU & Michigan being in the same division. Historically those are the two best teams in the conference each year so it seems to me that they should have the opportunity to play for the conference championship. Additionally, if they are in the same division, does that make it less likely that two Big Ten teams get BCS bids? Having said that, I do see your point about having them play only once each year. As you can tell, I'm non-committal at this point about my feelings on OSU & Michigan being in the same division.

What I do not want to see happen is for the Big Ten to end up being an incredibly unbalanced conference, like the Big 12. The Big 12 North, outside of maybe Nebraska some years, is fairly irrelevant in the overall scheme of the Big 12. Yes, I know that Nebraska almost upset Texas in the Big 12 Championship, and that is precisely why you have championship games. But take 2008 for example: Missouri won the North division, but there were at least 3 teams in the South (Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and maybe Oklahoma State too) that were better than Missouri and all of them were far more relevant on a national level. But I digress.

I agree 1000% with you about Notre Dame, and Jack Swarbrick basically admitted to as much:
“Independence is a big part of the tradition of the program and our identity. We'd sure like to try to maintain it... All of this has a lot more to do with our priorities than it does with business issues. Our independence is tied up in a lot of the rivalries we have. We play Navy every year and have the tradition of USC weekends. Frankly, it works pretty well to play USC in October at home and in November at their place."


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Would a Conference Championship Game Have Cost the Big Ten Two BCS Participants?

Part of the great debate of Big Ten expansion hinges on whether a conference title game would cost the Big Ten a second BCS team. No other conference has had more BCS bowl game participants than the Big Ten has, which makes all eleven schools a ton of extra cash for Christmas shopping- or paying their head coaches' salaries, whichever comes first.

As someone who is not the biggest fan of expansion unless the 12th team is that rich Catholic school from South Bend, I have generally assumed a conference title game would knock a second team out of a BCS game, and certainly out of the national championship game.

But is this actually true? Well, instead of just throwing out my usually rational (or perhaps irrational) theories without any merit like usual, I decided to do some actual research using those "facts" thingys to form an opinion. Sure it's not as fun and it's more time consuming but hey, people seem to like arguments based in facts and reason instead of opinion- well unless you're an old crotchety sports columnist (or pretty much any former player in any sport) who argues the merit of Jack Morris or Jim Rice's Hall-of-Fame candidacy based on things like grit, determination, clutchness, and how "feared" they were.

To conduct this study, let's use Jermo's North/South conference alignment (Chadnudj went into much further detail on said alignment plan over at TRE) placing a 12th team X in the south. We will assume 12th team X was crappy and did not figure into the division winners in our study.

For each season of the BCS from 1998-2009 we'll look at whether the Big Ten got a team into the national title game and how many teams the Big Ten had in the BCS, and whether a pseudo-conference title game would have helped or hurt these results. Let's start with 2009 and work backwards, shall we? Oh and remember, that only since 2006 has their been five BCS games, and a team only need to be ranked in the top 14 to be eligible for an at-large selection. Before that there were four games which required a top eight finish to be an at-large selection, with the national championship rotating between the four sites.

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose: #8 Ohio St (10-2) Orange: #10 Iowa (10-2)
North Division champ: Iowa
South Division champ: Ohio State
If the North won: Ohio State is out with 3 losses, but Penn State likely replaces them
If the South won: Iowa is definitely out with 3 losses, but Penn State likely replaces them.
2 teams?: yes

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #8 Penn State (11-1) Fiesta- #10 Ohio State (10-2)
North Division champ: #18 Michigan St (9-3)
South Division champ: Penn St
If the North won: Michigan St to the Rose, Ohio St to the Fiesta
If the South won: Penn St to the Rose, Ohio St to the Fiesta
2 teams: in either scenario, yes

National Championship: #1 Ohio State (11-1)
BCS Bowls: Rose- #13 Illinois (9-3)
North Division champ: Michigan (9-4 and not ranked!!)
South Division champ: Ohio St
If the North won: OSU is out of the natty title, but still in a BCS bowl
If the South won: OSU goes onto get slaugthered by LSU and Illinois still goes to the Rose Bowl to get slaughtered by USC.
2 teams: Yeppers!

National Championship: #1 Ohio State (12-0)
BCS Bowls: Rose- #3 Michigan (11-1)
North Division champ: Michigan
South Division champ: Ohio St
If the North won: In all likelihood, Michigan to the NC against Florida and OSU to the Rose
If the South won: OSU to the NC against Florida, but would the Rose Bowl have taken two loss Michigan (especially considering they would have lost two straight games?) ahead of #6 Wisconsin who were 11-1? Either way the Big Ten gets two teams.
2 Teams: Yes again

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #3 Penn State (11-1) Fiesta- #4 Ohio State (10-2)
North Division champ: #20 Michigan (7-4)- I think they win a 4-way tie with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern who all finished 5-3. The Wolverines and Wildcats were both 2-1 against the group, and Michigan beat NW. Makes sense, right? Sort of?
South Division champ: Penn St
If the North won: Michigan to the Rose, OSU to the Fiesta
If the South won: PSU to the Rose, OSU to the Fiesta
2 teams?: yes we can!

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #13 Michigan (9-2)
North Division champ: Michigan
South Division champ: Purdue (7-5)
If the North won: Michigan to the Rose
If the South won: Purdue to the Rose, Michigan or Iowa (ranked 11th) would not go to a BCS game
2 teams: no either way

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #4 Michigan (10-2) Fiesta- #8 Ohio State (10-2)
North Division champ: Michigan
South Division champ: Ohio St
If the North won: Michigan to the Rose, Ohio State OUT!
If the South won: Ohio St to the Rose, Michigan OUT! (the lowest ranked 2-loss BCS conference team that year was Miami at #10, and 3-loss Michigan certainly would have fell below them and out of the top 8)
2 teams: NO! Our first case where a conference title game would have kept two teams out of the BCS that would otherwise have made it. Of course, using the current standards with five bowls and top 14 eligibility, Michigan, Purdue, AND Iowa would have all qualified.

National Championship: #2 Ohio State (12-0)
BCS Bowls: Orange- #3 Iowa (11-1)
North Division champ: Iowa
South Division champ: OSU
If the North won: Iowa to the NC vs. Miami, OSU to the Orange or Fiesta
If the South won: OSU to the NC vs. Miami, Iowa...still probably to the Orange, but the conversation gets REALLY interesting when you're testing them again fellow 2-loss teams K-State, USC, and Texas.
2 teams: Probably.

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Sugar- #8 Illinois (10-1)
North Division champ: Michigan (8-3)
South Division champ: Illinois
If the North won: Michigan to a BCS game, Illinois not so much
If the South won: Illinois to the Sugar, Michigan not to a BCS game.
2 teams: nope

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #17 Purdue (8-3)
North Division champ: Purdue
South Division champ: Ohio State (8-3)
If the North won: Purdue to the Rose
If the South won: OSU to the Rose, Purdue drops out
2 teams: no

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #7 Wisconsin (9-2)Orange- #8 Michigan (9-2)
North Division champ: Wisconsin
South Division champ: Penn State (8-3)
If the North won: Sconnie to the Rose, Michigan the Orange
If the South won: Penn St to the Rose, Michigan the Orange
2 teams: yes

National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #9 Wisconsin (10-1) Sugar #4 Ohio State (10-1)
North Division champ: Wisconsin
South Division champ: Ohio State
If the North won: Badgers to the Rose, OSU might remain in the top eight, but they might not
If the South won: OSU to the Rose, Wisconsin out
2 teams: probably no either way

So in the eleven years of the BCS Era, only twice would a Big Ten Title game possibly have kept a second team from qualifying, and both times they were pre-2006, meaning that with today's standards, the Big Ten still would have had a second team eligible for selection.

This is why it's a good thing to actually do some research once in awhile. Even though the Big Ten has gone through some "down years" lately, especially in the eyes of the college football public, the conference has still had no shortage of success getting a second team into the BCS. The research tells me that adding a championship game would not hurt the Big Ten in this quest, so that barring a disasterous season, the conference can count on big revenue from a conference title game AND two BCS Bowl participants.

I have to say, this definitely shoots a big hole in my argument about the Big Ten losing revenue by adding a 12th team. While I still feel like they should hold out for Notre Dame, I suppose I can't blame Jim Delany and the presidents for going full steam ahead with a 12th team.

I hate it when facts get in the way of my arguments!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We debate Big Ten Expansion, Part II

Jeff and I started discussing the possibility of Big Ten expansion by email. Over the next several days we will debate this back and forth over email, and will post our exchanges here, for your reading pleasure.

I am going to work backwards through your backwards comments and start from the beginning...or something.

I definitely think the golden goose is in danger of being slaughtered. From what I've seen and read from Big Ten people this week, they are upset about exposure and money, and not necessarily in that order. I have not seen definitive proof from anyone in these arguments that the Big Ten would make more money from a conference championship game while getting only one team in the BCS instead of keeping it the way it is and getting two. And even IF you were still able to get two teams into a BCS game with the regularity the Big Ten has this decade, you'd then be splitting the payouts 12 ways instead of 11. I just don't see how this makes them more money.

The exposure debate is ridiculous. They're acting like a bunch of fatcats who buy a Benz and show it off to their friends, only their fatcat friends from Georgia and Texas both get a Bentley and a Ferrari, and suddenly no one's interested in the Benz anymore. Deal with it. You want exposure? Remove your antiquated and archaic rules that say no night games in November (a rule that makes absolutely, positively no sense whatsoever. The Saturday night primetime games get better national ratings than day games do, so why would you take yourself out of that equation?) AND that conference games can't be played past the weekend before Thanksgiving. Neither of these make any sense whatsoever.

And don't even think of using the words "tradition" and "ruined" in the same sentence. People who want more exposure are willing to water things down with a 12th team and a championship game but are not ok with moving games back a weekend or two? There would be some griping about ruined tradition and whatnot, sure, but it would vanish as soon as folks realized that yes, playing regular season games late into November and early December keeps the Big Ten relevant and talked about just like everyone else.

The argument I cannot make is against your divisional alignment of north and south. It would indeed keep every meaningful rivalry intact, and also maintain competitive balance.

Finally, I also disagree that this would make the conference more competitive. Our national image problem is not going to be fixed by adding more teams to our conference. The complaint now is that play no one and can't win any big non-conference or bowl games. Adding a 12th team isn't going to change that. What WILL fix it is when the quarterback play and the skill position talent improves (things are looking up for 2010. I know I said that last year, but come, it HAS to get better, right? Right? Please?) and we get more high-profile guys up for national awards. As completely and totally overrated as the Best Quarterback or Running Back Stiff-Arm Award (aka the Heisman) is (I mean really? Ndamukong Suh is the best player in the country by a mile, but because he plays defense he finishes fourth?), it generates attention for the conference- and since Troy Smith won it a few years ago, there hasn't been a quarterback or running back who even entered the discussion.

Bottom line is fans and Big Ten folks want more money and more exposure for their conference, yet I remain unconvinced adding a 12th team does either- and in fact could further hurt our reputation. Get with the 21st Century and allow night games in November and December and an extra bye week that pushes the conference schedule back into late November and early December and you'll get your exposure and maintain a steady stream of two teams into the BCS. Oh, and it would also help if we'd start winning some of those BCS bowls and actually producing some skill position talent that was watchable.

Ok, feel free to backwards and forwards your way through those comments, and I'll throw this at you: does anyone else but Notre Dame make any sense if we did add a 12th team? If so who? And what do you think of having Michigan and Ohio State in the same division (a la Oklahoma and Texas) so they're only playing once a year instead of twice?



I’m just going to work through, not backwards or forwards on this one. 

First of all, some assumptions.  I agree that this discussion needs to throw “tradition” and “ruined” right out the window.  The only tradition that matters is winning.  I also agree that pushing games beyond Thanksgiving and allowing night games all season would be helpful for the league.  Let’s put those issues aside as I think they are secondary.

I still don’t see how having a 12th team and a Championship game means that we won’t have 2 teams in the BCS picture.  Take for example this year and say we had two divisions with just the existing 11 teams utilizing the North/South split that I proposed.  Iowa would have won the North, OSU would have won the south, and they would have met in a Big Ten Championship game.  The winner clearly goes the Rose Bowl, and I have a hard time believing that the loser wouldn’t still be going to a BCS game.  The Big Ten gets two teams in the BCS because the conference is competitive and we draw fans… I don’t see adding a 12th team changing that.

To your exposure point, I get it, the coaches shouldn’t be complaining about that.  But let’s assume that the teams that play in the Big Ten Championship both make the BCS… doesn’t having one more highly televised, highly exposed, highly competitive game late in the season help both of these teams heading into bowl season?  If the conference is going to get a better reputation on a national level it has to start in BCS games.

Now, as far as splitting the payouts 12 ways instead of 11, I see your point.  However, I think a Big Ten Championship game trumps that.  You’ve already got major cities in the Big Ten conference that would be great venues for this game (Mpls, Chi-town, Indy, Cincy, Cleveland) on a rotating basis and depending on which team you add, you can also rotate in Pittsburgh or Kansas City.  There’s zero doubt that a Big Ten Championship Game would sell out every single year and bring in a ton of money (the SEC clears about $12m/year after operating expenses just on the SEC Championship)… which the conference schools get to split.

Lastly, for the record, I like Missouri as the 12th team for many reasons… and so do their fans...


We debate Big Ten Expansion

Jeff and I started discussing the possibility of Big Ten expansion by email.  Over the next several days we will debate this back and forth over email, and will post our exchanges here, for your reading pleasure.



Sounds like the Big Ten is about to get serious on this whole expansion issue. A 12th Big Ten team? A conference title game? A ridiculously rich conference trying to get even more ridiculously rich?

It seems to me like the good folks running the Big Ten (aka Jim Delany and the conference Presidents) just can't leave well enough alone. The conference gets more teams into BCS games than any other conference which, last I checked, makes them huge money thanks to the BCS bowl payouts. Having a title game puts that in serious jeopardy of continuing.

There's also the question of fit. Other than the hated Golden Domers, who else fits as a Big Ten team? Pitt? Syracuse? Rutgers? Missouri? North and South Dakota State? Thankfully for the Gophers I'm just kidding about the last two, but really, without the Irish (who are absolutely, positively not committing to a conference), does anyone else make sense?

And then how do you align two divisions? It cannot be done fairly geographically (you cannot have Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State all in the East division), and any other arrangement means we'd lose Wisconsin or Iowa to the other division. I hate those schools, Jermo, but we all need to be in the same division!

I know the Big Ten presidents can't see past the big, fat wads of cash that a conference title game would bring them (at least in the short term), but aren't they risking killing the golden goose?



I am going to work backwards through your questions (because it’s the end of the year and the people I “get” to work with everyday seem to be pulling this kind of crap on me). 

I don’t think anyone is risking killing the golden goose… I think they are just looking to fatten it up a bit, or make it more goldener… which isn’t a word, but you know what I mean.

I hate Iowa and Wisky too, but I disagree that you need to have them and Minny in the same division… regardless, a North/South split, which by far makes the most sense, accomodates keeping them in the same division.  Split up Michigan (north) and OSU (south) and let the chips fall geographically after that.  I do think the map lends itself to a pretty clear North/South split, with the 12th team falling into the South. Here's what I would envision it looking like.

As for which team comes to the Big Ten, THAT’S the big question, and it really drives everything else.  You and I agree that Notre Dame makes the most sense, and we agree that it doesn’t matter because they will stay independent.  My opinion is that the next options are Pitt and Missouri, and I think they both provide a decent fit.  Geographically they both bring rivalry in football (Pitt/PSU, Mizzou/Illinois), they are both good academic institutions, and are both fairly strong in non-revenue sports as well.

It’s true that the Big Ten gets more teams into the BCS, and it’s true that that makes them money, but I’m not sure why a 12 team division changes that?  I think what it does do is make the Big Ten more relevant late in the season, which we currently are not. 

The almighty dollar is certainly in play here, and it’s a big reason that the Big Ten would want to expand.  As a fan I think this makes the Big Ten more relevant and more competitive.

We’ll clearly dig further into the specific issues…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Big Ten Expansion is Coming

In what's always a heated topic among Big Ten fans, it looks like Big Ten expansion could soon become a reality. From the "where there's smoke there's fire department"'s Adam Rittenberg blew the first puff of smoke Friday in a blog post where he quoted Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez saying the Big Ten will push for expansion- not should, will.

"I have a sense [Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany] is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it," Alvarez told the board. "I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators."

Today started with another post from Rittenberg, this one showing Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee in support of expansion:

"We have to be thoroughly modern and realize the world has moved on, and having a playoff for the Big Ten championship makes sense," Gee told The Columbus Dispatch. "I'm not planting a stake in the ground on that issue, but it's something we now need to tackle."

The Chicago Tribune then published this report saying an official announcement was due from the conference today essentially confirming that expansion would be moving from "a backburner issue" (which Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has called it in the past) to a front burner.

Yep, a 12th Big Ten team may soon become a reality. That Tribune piece does a good job of hashing over just why this is coming up now, and of course, the three biggest reasons are money, exposure, and money.

The Trib story guesses a Big Ten title game (probably in Chicago, Indy or Detroit, or maybe it rotates?) would probably be worth at least $5 million to the conference, and when you add in the likelihood of it being broadcast on the conference's very own Big Ten Network, well, you can see the dollar signs adding up in the conference president's head. But is a short term money grab worth the risk of damaging an already very marketable and very popular product?

No doubt this game would be supported, at least much better than the ACC championship game, which up to this point can be considered nothing short of an absolute failure. Since their inaugural game in 2005, which pitted juggernauts Florida State and Virginia Tech, the game has not sold out. In 2008 they had barely 27,000 people attend and had an "improved" crowd this year of 42,000.

Sure, football is much more popular in the Big Ten than the ACC, but outside of the "Big Five" fan bases, will the other six travel for a conference title game? Whenever Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa are involved, you can guarantee a sell-out with just one of those fan bases alone. But what happens if Armageddon strikes and you get Northwestern vs. Minnesota? Or Purdue vs. Illinois? If the Big Five fan bases aren't involved, is this still a profitable venture? You would assume those games would be the exception and not the rule, but then again I doubt the ACC saw their sagging attendance numbers as a possibility. They certainly didn't predict the downfalls at Florida State (played only in one conference championship) and Miami (shockingly have not played in one yet). Is the current woeful Michigan program a blip on the radar screen, soon to be turned around, or are they in for a longer drought like FSU or Nebraska? Certainly with five very strong fan bases, they can make up for a slumbering giant if that's what Michigan turns into, but again, you never know.

The bigger question with this game becomes whether you run the risk of knocking out a second BCS bowl game participant. The Big Ten has had more teams involved in BCS games and the VERY lucrative payouts that go with them than any other conference. Why? Because unlike the PAC 10, we don't have nine conference games, which takes away one cupcake non-conference win from half of your teams, and two, we don't have a conference title game knocking out one of our potential BCS teams. With the popularity of Big Ten teams with the BCS bowls, maybe this wouldn't be such a big issue, but then again maybe it would: say Ohio State and Iowa met for the conference title game: If Iowa wins, would a BCS game want a three loss Buckeyes team? If Iowa loses, would a BCS game want the four loss Hawkeyes? And would any BCS bowl have the stones to take Penn State over the loser of that game when they weren't deemed one of the two best teams in the conference?

I actually want to dive into this later in the week and see that if in the BCS Era, would a conference title game really have made a difference on whether we got one or two teams into a BCS game? My hunch says it would, but as this year's BCS bowls show, bowls LOVE the Big Ten travelling hordes, and so long as two of them are in the top 14 are eligible, they're going to do their best to take them.

So maybe this is an issue, and maybe it's not, but I'll reserve judgment until doing some research.

Finally, the Trib article says that more and more Big Ten folks are grumpy that the conference doesn't have any good games after Thanksgiving. Um hello? Isn't that what we've all been saying for like the past five years?!?!? Thanks for finally paying attention! A Big Ten title game would certainly solve this problem, but then again, so would an extra bye like the PAC 10 has, and allowing conference games to be played after Thanksgiving. I know there's traditionalists firmly against moving the Ohio State/Michigan game and other rivalries, like our "rivalry" with Iowa, past the Thanksgiving weekend, but this would easily keep the Big Ten in the national conversation right through the end of the regular season without having to dilute things with a conference title game.

Plenty to be discussed in the coming weeks and months, but if there's already this much smoke around the issue, especially coming not just from prominent AD's like Alvarez, but from university President's (who of course make all the decisions), I have to think this will be happening, and happening soon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Monday Musings

Minnesota football fans can officially breathe a sigh of relief after Kansas announced the hiring of former Buffalo coach and Nebraska QB great Turner Gill as their new head coach. Yes, those pesky rumors, who were definitely NOT started by anyone associated with Gophers coach Tim Brewster (at least according to him), can finally be put to rest and we can get on with concentrating on the Insight Bowl vs. Iowa State. I don't know about you, but I was fretting all last week about whether Brew's Crew and his 6-18 Big Ten record would be snapped up by another school who saw his obvious coaching prowess, but thankfully, it looks like he's all ours for the bowl game, and 2010. Phew!!!

Last Thursday, the day Brewster announced he was definitely not going to Kansas, he also mentioned that MarQueis Gray will be playing receiver in the Insight Bowl, but will still be part of an open competition for the starting quarterback job in the spring. Everyone I've heard and read has applauded the better-late-than-never decision to open up the quarterback competition in the spring, and is also fine with Gray getting into the Insight Bowl as a wideout since Brewster and o-coordinator Jed Fisch clearly had no intention of ever allowing him to play meaningful reps at quarterback this season.

Fine. It's the whole "let's find a way to get our best athletes on the field" ploy, even though your best athlete in Gray should have been allowed to play a series or more at quarterback because your current quarterback sucks. Let's also gloss over the fact Gray's season was officially wasted with this move (I mean really- we didn't redshirt the kid because we wanted to use him for one play a series to hand off or run up the gut- a play that by the fourth game of the season every defense knew was coming?), and ask the question no one seems to be asking:

What happens if MarQueis Gray is really good as a receiver? What happens if Gray lights up the Cyclones in Tempe for some big catches and a couple of scores? What happens if he's able to catch Adam Weber's passes that usually sail behind or five yards over the heads of his other receivers? What happens if Gray makes Weber look good in a bowl win over Iowa State? Do you think there's ANY chance Brewster will let him go back to quarterback in the spring? Any at all?

And even if he did, short of a Weber injury, do you really think Gray's going to be allowed to win the job from a fifth year senior when he was never allowed to win the job this season? If Gray goes out in the Insight Bowl and dominates, that not only means he's going to look good, but it means Weber's going to look good, and it's going to be very difficult to convince Brewster and Fisch, who by the way will be coaching for their jobs next seaon, to give Gray any real chance to fight for the starting QB spot.

Basically, we are setting Gray up to go from one of the most coveted dual-threat quarterbacks the school has ever had and turning him into a wide receiver without ever giving him a real opportunity to prove he could play quarterback in the Big Ten. And that would be an awful shame.

Furthermore, whether Gray gets a chance or not, based solely on what we've seen this season, as well as last off-season, why are we to take Brewster at his word and believe the quarterback job is really up for grabs? Unless Weber suffers a horrible injury, no matter how well Gray or Moses Alipate (the darkhorse candidate in all of this, as he's the laser-rocket armed pocket-passer Fisch's pro-style offense needs) plays in the spring, won't Weber win it anyway? I mean really, how awful could he possibly play in the spring to lose the job? Certainly no worse than he did during the regular season, yet he went completely unchallenged all season long.

Based on Brewster's track record, I'm not going to believe anyone other than Weber will be the quarterback for this team in 2010 because Brewster sat there and watched Weber stink it up for the entire 2009 and did nothing about it but make excuses for him. So why would it be any different in the spring or next year? The only thing Brewster has proven he can do is talk (and tweet) but we've yet to see him back it up with his team's performance on the field. I feel like I've been saying this all year (probably because I have) but I'd love to be proven wrong, starting with the Insight Bowl and a win over Iowa State.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You just gotta love Notre Dame...

Honestly, who do they take us for.  Here's my favorite quote from Notre Dame's Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick:
"I am very pleased that a thorough and extensive search has led us to a new head coach in Brian Kelly, who I am confident will help us accomplish our goal of competing for national championships."
A thorough and extensive search?  Really?!?!  Don't you mean "I am very pleased that a quick search in which our top candidates swiftly turned us down has led us to a new head coach in Brian Kelly"?

I'm not saying Brian Kelly is a bad coach, I'm not saying that he won't succeed at Notre Dame and I'm not saying that he wasn't a good choice for the Irish.  I'm just saying that he clearly wasn't Notre Dame's first choice and that it was obvious from the minute Charlie Weis' seat got hot that their first choices (Stoops, Meyer, etc) weren't interested in the job, meaning that Brian Kelly was the most likely to get the job all along.

I'd wish Brian Kelly luck, but that would be insincere on my part.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brewster Backpedaling Faster than Tiger Woods' Sponsors

The Strib and the Pioneer Press both have stories this morning of Gopher head coach Tim Brewster saying he has no interest in the Kansas job, never had interest in the Kansas job, and has no idea how his name even came up for the Kansas job...

"It happens every year," Brewster said of the rumors. "Last year I was asked about Tennessee. It's unfortunate that unsubstantiated rumors circulate in the coaching profession this time of year. ... I'm not a candidate for any other job. I'm where I want to be, and I'll be here for a long time."

Poor Tim. If only he could find those jerks who started those unsubstantiated rumors! He'd tell them a thing or two! Of course if you believe Lou Nanne or Pat Reusse or any other number of sources, the rumors started when people close to Brewster contacted Kansas asking if they were interested in him! Kansas, like you and I and anyone else who's even the least bit familiar with the Gopher football program under Brewster and his 6-18 Big Ten record probably just laughed before hanging up the phone.

Considering we've seen zero evidence that Kansas had legitimate interest, we have to assume it was indeed Brewster who was trying to increase his leverage from none to almost none by inventing interest in him from other schools. AD Joel Maturi called his bluff yesterday, saying he wouldn't stop Brew from finding another job and said nothing about all of this attention leading to an extension, and so Brewster has wisely backed down, running away from this little Kansas rumor faster than corporate sponsors are running away from Tiger Woods.

This is an ugly situation for a program that needs something positive right now. After another 0h-for-November against Big Ten opponents, Gopher football fans finally got some good news as we drew a beatable opponent in Iowa State and their equally anemic offense. That positivity lasted less than a day as Brewster's dirty little tactics spawned Monday and had blown up in his face by Monday night. For all of Brewster's huffing and puffing about how much he loves Gopher football, this was a spineless and selfish tactic aimed only at bettering himself, the football program be damned.

Personally, I think it's a fireable offense, but as many have pointed out, it would have put us in a tough situation, having to seek yet another new coach, and put the whole thing in flux yet again. Because of that I'm guessing Maturi had to simply tell Brew he was either coaching here or nowhere next year, and if he didn't like it he could go coach Kansas or Timbucktoo or anywhere else he pleased, but he wouldn't be forcing an extension.

Brewster's toughest job now won't just be beating Iowa State and trying convince Maturi he's worthy of an extension, it's going to be trying to win back the Gopher fans. The Strib ran a poll asking if the fans would be unhappy if Brewster took another job, and 5792 of the 6611 votes cast- 87.6%!!!!- said no! The Pioneer Press ran a similar poll asking if Maturi should fight to keep Brewster and of the three answers available, 72.10% of the 2058 respondents chose c) No. Be grateful someone else will take him off the U's hands. Another 20% answered B) Why? He's not going anywhere. Let's see how he does next year., meaning just 7% of those polled think Brewster is worth fighting for.

If you can't tell, I'm definitely with the majority, and I'm a VERY reluctant member of Brew's Crew right now. I know firing Brewster now would put Maturi and the program in a tough situation, but I refuse to support giving a guy with that pristine 6-18 conference record and an o-fer in trophy games an extension. Of course, Maturi should not be made blameless in this whole mess either, as had he made a better hire when fired Mason (Florida defensive co-ordinator, who just took the head job at Louisville yesterday, would have been nice), we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place!

Hopefully for the next three weeks we can just concentrate on football and beating Iowa State, and we'll see what happens after that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brewster says he's got no interest in Kansas

Tim Brewster told David Shama, at Minnesota Sports Headliners:

“'I have had no contact regarding the position,' Brewster told Sports Headliners.  'I haven’t spoken to anybody.  I have no interest in any other job besides the University of Minnesota.'

In answering questions about how the rumors may have started, Brewster said it wasn’t possible that anyone representing him officially or as a friend might have contacted Kansas officials without his knowledge."

Brewster to Kansas.... WHAT?!?!?!

The reports that Tim Brewster's name is in the proverbial hat to be the next football coach at Kansas started showing up on Tuesday, and my only response was... HUH?

There are so many things wrong with this that it's actually mind blowing.

First of all, why would Brewster leave Minnesota for Kansas? 
Greener pastures?  While Mark Mangino had some success at Kansas, it wasn't what you would call sustainable success.  I don't know a lot about the Kansas program, but I just do not see where that job would be a more attractive job than Minnesota at this point.  The only reason that Tim Brewster would look to go to a program like Kansas would be if he had determined that he couldn't build a winner at Minnesota.  The question then becomes why he thinks he could build a program at Kansas.

But even before that happens, you have to ask, why would Kansas want Tim Brewster? 
After a 7-1 start in 2008 Brewster's name was hot and was even tossed around to replace Fulmer at Tennessee.  But the Gophers collapse late in the season put an end to that pretty quickly.  After watching Brewster produce a 6-6 season at Minnesota, a 14-23 record over 3 seasons, and getting blown out by your own program at the 2008 Insight Bowl, what would possibly make Tim Brewster, at this point, an exciting prospect for Kansas?

And then, to make this story even stranger, there's the response from Joel Maturi...

"'There are rumors that he's going to Kansas, so I don't know,' Maturi said Tuesday. 'What can I say? So I can't guarantee it, no. I can't guarantee the decisions of other people.'"-- St Paul Pioneer Press
Of course you can't.  But THIS is your response to the rumors that your highest paid coach, the highest paid employee at your university (and if I'm not mistaken, the highest paid employee of the state of Minnesota), is possibly leaving?  Really?!?!

"I chatted with (Brewster) about it very, very briefly. I told him I'm getting tired of all of these Kansas calls. That's kind of been my conversations with him."  -- St Paul Pioneer Press
Again, your football coach is rumored to be in the running for the job at another university, and the response is to talk to him "very, very briefly"?!?!?! Might be a good time to sit down with your coach and have a heart to heart... but that's just me.

"'I don't think it's inappropriate, if the coach is doing what he thinks is in his best interest,' Maturi said from New York on Tuesday." -- Star Tribune
But clearly Maturi isn't willing to go out on a limb and say what he thinks is in the best interest of his football program.  Why isn't Maturi saying that he doesn't want Brewster to go anywhere?  Should we be reading into this?

Or is this all smoke and mirrors by Brewster's agent to get him a contract extension and Maturi is just calling his bluff?  Perhaps Maturi is listening to the rumors and thinking, "Who else would want this guy right now?  I haven't even decided if I do."

At the end of the day there probably isn't anything to the rumors, no matter where they came from.  But Maturi's response to the situation is very interesting, and you have to wonder if there is something more to that part of the story.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gophers Lose Two Recruits

First of all, happy blizzard day! Safe travels to you on your drive home work tonight, be it hours, days, or even weeks. I think we'd all secretly been missing a good blizzard, right? Right? No? Just checking.

Well the Gophers football team will be missing two pretty good recruits from its 2010 class, as the Strib's Kent Youngblood reports two players have decommitted from the Gophs. Defensive back Antoine Lewis of Illinois will be attending Purdue, and definitely could have helped our secondary depth, but even more devasting is the loss of four star HB Josh Huff from Texas, who will be going to TCU.

The GopherIllustrated article Youngblood references has a quote from Huff saying Brewster's contract situation "definitely played a factor." Really? You don't think it's perhaps because TCU head coach Gary Patterson is building a juggernaut down in Ft. Worth, or because Purdue head coach Danny Hope beat Ohio State with a solid offense and had a very good first season? I'm going to go ahead and bet that the Gopher's performance on the field, as well as those at TCU and Purdue, were the main reasons these two left, and not because they were worried that Brewster doesn't have a contract extension THREE YEARS INTO A FIVE YEAR DEAL despite doing absolutely nothing to deserve it. Oh sure, his recruiting has improved, but his teams haven't proven anything in the actual games to warrant an extension.

Brewster does not deserve a contract extension and should not get one unless he wins beats Wisconsin or Iowa next year AND gets us to eight regular season wins. That's what we hired him to do, and Four years into his time at Minnesota that's what should be possible now that he'll have recruited just about every player on his roster by 2010.

either Huff or Lewis truly are leaving for that reason, then that's too bad, but it's not worth giving Brew a cushy extension, because judging him by what his team has done on the field so far there's no possible justification for a raise and more job security. The man has next fall to prove his value to us as the head coach, and if recruits are scared off by that, so be it. Extending Brew just to coddle a few recruits would cutting off your nose to save your face. So what if you get a few more kids in your recruiting class but then continue to underwhelm and underperform on game days? You then still have to fire Brewster but are now locked into even more money, which is going to hurt Minnesota's chance to hire a replacement.

Brew's contract status should not change even if we beat Iowa State, and should not be addressed until the end of year four, which would be next fall at about this time. Recruits aren't staying away from Minnesota because of Brewster's contract, they're staying away because so far Brewster hasn't been able to put a decent product on the field.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Monday Musings

Since Jer has already has an excellent post up on the Gophers going to the Insight to play Iowa State (seriously, each and every Gopher football fan should send Christmas cards to the Insight Bowl folks for taking Iowa State over Missouri. Tim Brewster should send flowers, chocolates, and Rolexes. Instead of playing a high-scoring team that could have blow us off the field, we instead get an almost carbon copy of the Gophs- good defense, and an offense even worse than ours. No really, they are. I didn't think there was a winnable bowl matchup available that didn't involve the word "Detroit", but I'm so thankful to be wrong. And so thankful to the Insight Bowl. THANK YOU!!!), I'll try and cover the rest of the goings-on (a word? probably not. But we'll go with it) from a busy college football weekend...

...I did say Alabama would beat Florida in the SEC title game, but I did not predict Bama QB Greg McElroy to have the game of his life and outplay some guy named Tim Tebow in the process. Kudos to Bama and their coaches for an excellent game plan, as they spread it out and threw early to keep the Gators off balance, then went to work with as good a 1-2 rushing combo as there is in the country in soon-to-be-Heisman winner Mark Ingram and bulldozing freshman Trent Richardson. Defensively, the Tide were so impressive slowing down the Urban Meyer spread, especially the run game. Because of Mt. Cody in the middle, the Gators were both unable and unwilling to run inside, and with SO much speed on the Bama D, Florida didn't have a hope in heck of getting yards going east and west.

...Bama was the clear winner of the battle of 1 vs 2, and they should just hand the BCS trophy the Nick Saban and the Tide right without even playing the next one. Stewart Mandel, like I'm sure everyone who watched both the SEC title game and Texas' lucky, sloppy, turnover ridden win over Nebraska, is expecting a Tide blowout win- and not just because of the two outcomes on Saturday. The stat that has me thinking Texas has no chance is this one from Mandel's weekly College Football Overtime column:

Consider: In his three games against top 40 pass defenses this season (Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska), (Colt) McCoy has thrown for an average of 192 yards, with two touchdowns and five interceptions. (Overall: 270.2 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs). Alabama's pass defense ranks seventh nationally.

Bama's defense, of course, is as good or better than anything Texas has seen all season (well other than practice. Let's not forget the Horns' D is also ranked top 3 in the country), and if they struggled to move the ball on Nebraska, how the heck will they do it against Rolando McClain, Mt. Cody and the rest of the Alabama D? Mack Brown and the Texas coaching staff will certainly earn their paychecks in the next six weeks trying to figure out just how in the heck they're going to beat Alabama.

...Cincy had an improbable fourth quarter comeback to knock off Pitt and make a BCS game, but you have to wonder what chance they stand against Florida. Sure, Cincy's passing offense will be better than anything Florida has seen, but the Gators will also be by far the most physical team on both sides of the ball that the Bearcats have played all season. Plus, there's also the looming question of who will be coaching Cincinnati by then?

...Love the TCU/Boise game in the Fiesta Bowl considering that TCU vs. Florida wasn't possible because of the order of selection. One of the country's best offenses against on the country's best defenses should make for great theater.

...Unless you're a fan of one of the three or four ACC schools that got passed up, how can anyone be against the Gator Bowl selecting 6-6 Florida State to play West Virginia? I am infinitely more interested in watching Bobby Bowden's swan song against his old school than I would have been if Miami, Clemson, North Carolina, or anyone else from the ACC was in this game. We talk all the time about how bowls are about money, so why is anyone up in arms about the Gator making by far the best business decision available?

...Speaking of the ACC, think they're regretting the whole conference championship game idea? They staged a fantastic game that barely anyone saw, either in the stadium or on television. The game was on ESPN directly opposite the Texas/Nebraska tilt (I don't know about you, but I was watching the Big 12 title), and while the game drew more fans than the 27,000 who showed up last year, 42,000+ this year isn't exactly something to brag about. How long until this game is moved to the home field of the higher ranked team just to ensure a sell-out?

...For the Big Ten, Iowa got the bowl bid they deserved, and I think got the best matchup possible for a Big Ten win. Yep, Georgia Tech's offense is potent, but the one thing the Hawks do well is defense, and Tech's defense isn't exactly great. While I will continue to hate Iowa with every fiber of my being, for the sake of the conference Iowa needs to win this game.

...Don't know about you, but I was pretty shocked when I heard the Outback was taking Northwestern over Wisconsin. Perhaps all the Wildcat fans who don't show up for home games will make the trip all the way down to Florida, but I can't believe the Outback passed up the 30 or 40,000 Wisconsinites who would have packed up their beer, brats and cheese, and made the trek down there. And even for television ratings, I can't fathom how Northwestern is more appealing. Did you watch one Northwestern game all year besides when they played Minnesota and you HAD to watch? Me neither. It also hurts the conference as I think Wisconsin had a much better chance to beat Auburn than the Wildcats do. Then again, I thought BuckyBadger would beat Northwestern and the Wildcats would have a down year (remember when we beat them? Sigh...that was fun), so what do I know? Watch Pat Fitzgerald waltz down there and beat the Tigers.

...We have plenty of time to preview and muse about all the bowl games, so I'll finish with wondering whether the Big Ten can get a winning bowl record this year. Looking at the matchups, it's not going to be easy, and your Maroon and Gold HAVE to win because of some other mismatches.

Dec. 29th
Champs, Orlando- Wisconsin vs. Miami
Should be the most competitive non-BCS game, and a virtual toss-up right now.

Dec. 31st
Insight, Tempe- Minnesota vs. Iowa State
I like the Gophs here, but then again I'm biased. And I also still can't believe we drew Iowa St instead of A&M or Mizzou.

Jan 1st
Rose, Pasadena- Ohio State vs. Oregon
Hard not to like the Ducks in this one. Heck, it's hard not to love the Ducks in this one.

Outback, Tampa- Northwestern vs. Auburn
Auburn has to be favored here by at least a TD, right?

Capital One, Orlando- Penn St. vs LSU
Might be nice for the JoePa's to actually beat a ranked team. Couldn't come at a better time, either.

Jan 2nd
Alamo, San Antonio- Michigan St. vs Texas Tech
With the suspensions at Michigan State, and considering we threw for 416 on them when they had everybody playing, will the Red Raiders be the first team to throw for 1,000 yards in a single game?

Jan 5th
Orange, Miami- Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
Another toss-up of evenly matched, two loss teams. I'll favor Iowa with Stanzi back, but only because I have to.