Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Still, this is a big loss for a Gopher offense that really can't afford to lose playmakers.
Smith only had 50 yards receiving last season, but he played in 12 games and, based on how he performed in the spring game, really looked like he was getting a grasp of the offense. He's got speed and good hands, and figured to be a big part of the Gophers passing attack this season.
There does not appear to be any word on where Smith will end up, but folks in Kansas are already salivating.
Friday, May 22, 2009
We've already been over most of what was discussed. Negotiations for new bowl agreements apparently won't begin until the fall. The one for the Big Ten that's currently up in the air is with the Capital One/Champs Sports bowls in Orlando. The Big Ten and SEC had concerns about Orlando's aging Citrus Bowl, as much-needed renovation plans have stalled because of the economy. We'll see if they have a clearer picture of things in the fall or not. Personally I would have LOVE to see them work something out with the Cotton Bowl to have a Big Ten/SEC showdown in Jerryland aka the new Cowboys stadium, which is supposed to be 19 million stages beyond ridiculous. I know the Captial One Bowl currently is Big Ten vs. SEC, but the Cotton Bowl is more prestigious, and would present an even bigger stage. Still, Orlando is a great destination for a bowl game, so no complaints if they work things out to stay there.
The most interesting thing to me that came up (since adding a 12th team has zero traction) is the movement to add a ninth conference game. While this would be fantastic for Big Ten fans to get an additional conference game instead of Air Force, Syracuse or SDSU, I was really surprised to hear that schools would give up not just a lucrative home game, but a lucrative home game that's a guaranteed win against a crappy D1/1-AA opponent (and yes I'm aware of the new "Bowl Subdivision" name for 1-AA. It's political correctness crap and I refuse to use it). As you know, despite the addition of a 12th regular season game a few years back, the standard to qualify for a bowl game remained at just 6 wins. Hooray! Let's reward mediocrity! Let's lessen the standards of making a bowl game! Yeah I hate that idea, and think it should be bumped to 7 wins, but if these lower tier bowls (and there seems to be a new one popping up every year) keep making money, then I guess more power to them.
ANYWAY, I was suprised school Presidents and AD's were ok giving up a home game/free win that gets them one step closer to a bowl game. Could the Big Ten possibly care about their fans and integrity and the spirit of real competition?
Um no...this from Michigan AD Bill Martin:
"As the guarantees [for nonconference games] go up and up and up and the fans want to play our sister institutions in the conference, to me it's a no-brainer. Play 'em."
I bolded the real reason a ninth conference game is being considered: the crappy schools are demanding more and more money to get the crap kicked out of them. I guess if there's anything good coming out of today's economic climate, it's actually making it more feasible for schools to play real games instead of glorified exhibition games.
I would love to see them go even a step further and have 10 conference games so everybody plays everybody, but I know that will never happen. Despite the scheduling problems it would create (obviously with 11 schools, one school will only play 8 conny games every year), I'd still rather have that ninth game than the cheapy. From the story Rittenberg wrote, it looks like this could be a real possibilty when the schedule opens up again in 2012.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Of course, this doesn't mean AD Joel Maturi will stop pushing for money, as there's always more the athletic department needs. At the top of the list is a new basketball practice facility AND a new baseball stadium. In today's economic climate, I highly, highly doubt he gets both. When Tubby's hoops program blows up this season and they make a deep NCAA tourney run, he (or more likely the coach who replaces him when he flees for a better job) will get more than enough support for the basketball practice facility. But a new baseball stadium? For a non-revenue sport? Are you kidding me? Good luck with that one, Joel. Unless T. Denny is a big baseball fan too.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Ok seriously, I have some opinions about the Gophers, the Big Ten, and things in general as we meander slowly (although let's be honest, the month of May has flown by, has it not? Anyone else surprised it's already May 20? Doesn't it seem like the month just started?) towards the start of college football season. Feel free to discuss these in a civilized, non-internet-bashing manner. You know, like Linda Richman used to say on "Coffee Talk" (you know, back when Mike Myers was funny?)- "the holy roman empire was neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire. Discuss...discuss..."
...actually this is a good place to start: Which former funny comedian is more past his prime? (I refuse to use the phrase "Jump the Shark" anymore. We need a new one)- Mike Myers or Will Ferrell?
No seriously, who? At first glance you'd probably say Myers because his last movies was "The Love Guru" and the last Austin Powers was just not that funny. But did you see the SNL season finale with Will Ferrell?!? WHAT HAPPENED? It sucked! How hard is it to put Ferrell in his old characters and make them funny? Apparently really difficult. The only two good skits were of course Jeopardy, and the Lawrence Welk one (which was only funny because of Kristen Wigg's small hands). Also look at his recent movies- Land of the Lost looks terrible, I refused to see Semi Pro, and Blades of Glory was funny only because of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler (they will have the funniest kids on earth right?). In Ferrell's defense I will say Step Brothers was one of the most awkward and hilarious 90 minutes I've experienced in awhile, and I was one of the few people who really enjoyed him in Stranger Than Fiction. I don't know, for me, Ferrell has entered the "Dave Matthews Stage" for me (I used to be a HUGE DMB fan. Gigantic. Then came the "Everyday" album and I was disappointed. Then came "Stand Up", I listened to it once, threw it away, and haven't been back since. I still love his old stuff, but I'm not buying anymore new material or going to see him in concert until he goes back to the old stuff) where I'm no longer automatically going to see something he does just because it's him.
WHO WILL BE THE GOPHERS STARTING QB AT THE END OF 2009: Adam Weber or MarQueis Gray?
You know my opinion on this one- I think it will be Gray. He's just too damned good not to. And that's saying something, considering Rittenberg ranked Weber as the 18th best player in the entire conference. And I'm not disagreeing with him- I just think Gray is better. If Weber were a senior, then yes, I could see Gray biding his time on the bench, waiting for his shot next year. But Weber has two more seasons, and there's just no way you sit Gray for two more years when he'll be better than Weber and give you a better chance to win by midseason. Of course, all of this is a guesstimate, as we're not going to know what Weber or Gray looks like until the season starts. But as of right now, this is how I'm voting.
WHICH IMPENDING COMEBACK ARE YOU MORE SICK OF: Brett Favre's or Michael Vick's?
Back when I had a radio show, Jer and I used to play a game called "Would You Rather"? If you didn't like one of the two choices, we'd always give a third option which was "death by killer bees" (although I think when/if we get this game going again for the podcast this fall, the third option will be "sitting through the entire 55-0 Iowa loss again"). If asked this question for Would You Rather, I would definitely chose "Death by Killer Bees".
WHO WILL BE THE BETTER RECEIVER IN 2009: Eric Decker or Arrelious Benn?
Of the two Benn is the better pro prospect, but I think this year he steps up and becomes the better college receiver too. And not jut better than Decker, but better than everyone in the country. That's right, I think Benn is your 2009 Biletnikoff winner for the nation's best receiver. Sure, he was good last year, catching 67 for 1055 yds (an avg of 15.7) and 3 TD's, but with an improved Juice and improved talent around him, he's going to be a beast. And this is not to take anything away from Decker, who last year led the conference with 84 catches for 1074 yards and 7 TD's. I just think/hope/pray Weber and/or Gray will spread the ball around more when they throw. Last year Weber's options were throw to Decker for a completion, or throw to anyone else for an incompletion. For 2009, after what we saw in the spring, we think/hope/pray that one or all of Troy Stoudermire, Brandon Green and Broderick Smith (not to mention incoming JUCO transfer Heyo Carpenter) will step up to give the Gophs some other viable receiving options. So Decker actually having to catch less passes will be better for everyone- just not for his competition against Benn for best wideout.
WHICH PROGRAM WILL WIN ANOTHER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FIRST: Michigan Football or Kentucky Basketball?
With the news today that top point guard recruit John Wall has chosen Kentucky it's the Wildcats, and it's not close. Calipari has a history of turning programs around quickly, but with the signing of Wall to go along with four other top recruits plus the return of Patrick Patterson (and probably last year's leading scorer Jodi Meeks) the Wildcats could win a national title in year one. Funny, I don't hear anybody like ESPN.com's Pat Forde sqwaking now about how Calipari isn't the right guy to lead UK back to glory. As for Michigan and Rich Rodriguez, I still think he'll get Michigan turned around and back in the title hunt, but it'll be interesting to see if he's given the time to do it.
WHO WILL BE THE BEST QB IN 2009: Terrelle Pryor, Daryll Clark, or Juice Williams?
In my QB rankings a few weeks ago, I had them ranked 1) Pryor 2) Williams and 3) Clark, but you know what? I think Juice could be the guy this year. He's got BY FAR the best receiving core in the conference to work with, an more experience O-line, some depth at HB, and this will be his third year running the offense. Yep, I'm going to go ahead and say it now: Juice Williams will be better than Terrelle Pryor in 2009.
WHOSE SHOES WILL BE TOUGHER TO FILL: Shonn Greene's or Javon Ringer's?
I'm actually going to say Ringer's, and this is not a slight to the hated Hawkeyes. Yes, Greene rightfully won the Doak Walker as the country's best running back and outrushed Ringer 1850 yards to 1637, accounted for 75% of Iowa's rushing yards, and scored 20 of their 30 rushing TD's. However, he was virtually non-existent in the passing game, catching just 8 balls for 49 yards. Ringer's 1637 yards accounted for a ridiculous 96.7% of Michigan State's rushing yards last year!?!?! Not only that, his 28 catches for 190 yards were fifth best on the team, and believe it or not, the Spartans actually threw for more yards than the Hawkeyes last year! Greene was well deserving of the Doak Walker, but Ringer was more valuable to the Spartans, and he's going to be much tougher to replace. Iowa has former high school all-American Jewel Hampton, and a seasoned QB and O-line to ease the transition from Greene. Michigan State? Good question. They're trying to find a new QB, have no experience at HB (Glenn Winston, who was their top kick returner and one of the few guys with experience at HB, was arrested and suspended from the team indefinitely), an underwhelming group of wideouts, and some holes to fill on the O-line. Mark Dantonio is making great strides with this program, but Ringer's shoes are going to be very, very tough to fill for 2009.
Which Lost character were you hoping would get knocked off in the season finale: Kate or Kate?
I'm going to go with a third option, which would be Kate. A fourth would have been the entire Love Square.
WHICH TEAM WILL FINISH SECOND BEHIND OHIO STATE? Penn State, Iowa, or Illinois?
Thus far the general public seems to like Penn State, and you know how much I think of the Illini this year, but as much as it absolutely KILLS me to say it, I really think the Hawkeyes will finish second this year. Yes, Shonn Greene and Mitch King are big losses (especially King), but they've got more than enough talent coming back to offset it. If Stanzi develops as expected behind the conference's best O-lines, I think they upset Penn State in Happy Valley (no small task playing there at night, but that's why it would be an upset), meaning their only loss in conference would come November 14th at Ohio State. I hope I"m wrong, and I hope this acts as a reverse jinx, but I think the dirty Hawkeyes will be the Big Ten's second best team in 2009. You have been warned. WHO HATES IOWA?
Friday, May 15, 2009
ANYWAY, sorry a definite non-Gophers/Big Ten/college football tangent there, but then again, that's kind of the point- for the next two months, there's going to be NOTHING new to talk about for your Golden Gophers and the Big Ten. Comments? Suggestions? Discussion topics? We'll figure something out to try and keep you entertained in this space (which is of course making a large assumption that we've entertained you at all up until now), so in the meantime here's a very scant few college football news stories from around the country...
Former Dukie PG Greg Paulus has decided to play QB at Syracuse. I think this we all figured this is where he'd end up, as it made the most sense- well, as much sense as a guy starting at quarterback who has never played college football and who hasn't taken a snap of any kind in four years can make. Whatever. The publicity this has gotten certainly won't hurt a Syracuse program that has disappeared faster than David Ortiz' power, but considering he's only there for a year, I'm not sure how much this helps them either. Of course, Gopher fans will find out for sure Saturday, September 5th when the Gophs open the season against the Orange.
Former Miami QB Robert Marve is now considering walking on at Tennessee. As the story says, the Hurricanes won't release the former high school star to the Vols, Florida or LSU because they think those schools made contact with him illegally before officially leaving the Miami team. At first glance it seem like Marve would be crazy to pass up a full-ride and an almost guaranteed starting spot at Purdue in 2010, but Tennessee needs QB help in the worst way, and he'd only have to pay for school in 2009 before being eligible again for a scholarship in 2010. His parents are apparently rich if they're fine with him having to pay a ton in out-of-state tuition, or maybe they're "banking" on his transfer there making him NFL millions (oh snap! Come, on that was a good one). While Marve isn't a guaranteed college star, he would have been a HUGE get for Purdue for 2010 in their quest to get back to being relevant in the Big 10, but as of right now, I'd be surprised if he doesn't spurn the Boilermakers for the Vols. He's supposed to decide today or next week. Or next month. What is he, Brett Favre?
SI.com's Andy Staples, who is pinch-hitting for Stewart Mandell during the college football offseason, had a couple of good nuggets in his column this week. One is ACC commissioners continuing to push the idea of an early high school recruit signing day in December. The idea was shot down by NCAA schools as a whole, but it seems to slowly be gaining momentum. It seems like college coaches are becoming more and more in favor of it, while AD's are not, which is puzzling to me. Why would AD's be against getting talented recruits locked in earlier?
Also from the column is a story about Auburn assistant coaches making recruiting visits to Alabama high schools in a stretch Hummer limo. No seriously, they are, complete with Auburn decals and flags. They've been getting flack from some people
because in these tough economic times it IS ridiculous to be out and about in a stretch Hummer limo. But as Staples points, as does the article from Alabama.com, it's gotten Auburn exactly what it wanted, which was exposure and attention, not only away from rival Alabama, but from other SEC schools. As you can see from the pics, the idea has been a big hit with the schools they've visited, and have people down there talking Auburn football. I don't expect to see other schools follow this idea (can you see Coach Brewster and his assistants rolling around Minnesota in a stretch Gophers Hummer), but you've got to give credit to the Tigers' assistants for thinking outside the box here.
In other news...um yeah, that's about all I've gotten. As I hope you know, ESPN.com does a great job of covering college football with their full-time PAID bloggers, and they've got some good stuff up with spring recaps for every conference. In looking at how the spring went around the country, it looks like the teams who we thought would be at the top of the polls really did nothing to disuade that thinking. Florida should dominate the SEC East again, believe it or not Ole Miss looks loaded in the SEC West (that should be the best division race in the country as Alabama and LSU still have a ton of talent, Arkansas finally has a QB, and Auburn is always good), Oklahoma and Texas slot right in behind Florida for preseason #1, and how bout USC? They lose a QB and pretty much their entire defense from last year? Hey no worries. QB Aaron Corp apparently looked awesome (and he doesn't work then super frosh Matt Barkley will step in and if he doesn't former super frosh Mitch Mustain is there and if he doesn't... well you get the idea), they have like 19 former high school All-American RB's (the scary thing is I'm only slightly exaggerating there), the line is good and Damian Williams, who might be the best WR in college this year, anchors a deep receiving corps. And replacing the defense? Like at all those positions on offense, the Trojans just plug in former high school All-Americans to replace the vacating college All-Americans. Ho hum. I think USC waxes Ohio State by at least 3 TD's when they meet in September. Again.
Finally, the Big Ten looks to be in better shape than I thought at QB heading into the fall. You're probably sick of hearing how craptastic the position was as a whole last year, but that's because it's true- it was craptastically crappy. But this year? The Big 12 is miles ahead of everyone else to start the year, but you could make a case for the Big Ten having the second best group. I mean, other than the Big 12, who else boasts a better top 3 than Terrelle Pryor, Daryll Clark, and Juice Williams? And if Ricky Stanzi and Adam Weber improve on solid performances last year (or if MarQueis Gray just outplays him), that's five really, really good QB's right there. Things are definitely looking up for the conference for 2009- now if only the season wasn't still four months away!!
Friday, May 8, 2009
GOPHERS FOOTBALL WIN ON FIELD, NOT SO MUCH IN THE CLASSROOM
The NCAA's latest attempt to prove they're not just a greedy, money-making monopoly and that they really do care about the "student" part of their student athletes came out this week in the form of the Academic Progress Report. The school that had a score lower than 925 (probably derived by a formula more complicated than the QB rating system) in any sport would lose scholarships. Your Golden Gophers and the Ole Miss Rebels were the only two schools whose football teams didn't "make the grade" (ohhhh you see what I did right there?), and had three scholarships taken away. They can recoup them with better scores next year.
In the Strib article, AD Joel Maturi says the main causes were:
"a 2007 campus sexual assault that led to the dismissal from the team of five players and conviction of Dominic Jones; transfers after the coaching change from Glen Mason to Tim Brewster; and poor academic performance by Brewster's first recruiting class in 2007. Only eight of 19 players remain from that class, which was hastily put together after Brewster got the job in January 2007."
The academics of the football squad is actually improving with Brewster, as their fall score was 957. The Gophs obviously were the worst in the Big Ten, who fared pretty well as a conference.
Penn State 976
Ohio State 968
Michigan State 931
The real surprise to me on this list was seeing Penn State #1. With all of the off-field problems they've had in Happy Valley lately, it's obviously not affecting the kids' school work any. Also I thought Iowa scored really well considering how many of their players were probably doing their homework from the backseat of a police car (come on, that was too easy. Like I was going to pass that one up?).
TWO OF THREE HAWKEYES PLEAD GUILTY TO UNDERAGE BOOZING
One of the players was Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz's son James, a freshman center, who had arrested for the second since October for an alcohol related incident. Look, I know, you know, we all know most college kids under 21 drink. It happens all of the time. But to be not just a football player (who is going to draw more attention to himself than a regular student), BUT THE COACH'S SON, and get arrested twice in your first freaking year on campus for boozing it up in public? I can understand it happening once, hey fine, we all make mistakes, but twice? I mean, how freaking dumb can you be?
COACHES POLL COULD BECOME EVEN MORE OF A JOKE
Why is more not made of what a total sham the weekly Top 25 Coaches Poll is? Of all the ridiculous things about the BCS (and there's a lot of them), the most ridiculous is that this poll makes up ONE FREAKING THIRD of the BCS rankings every week. ONE THIRD!!! This from a "coaches poll" that I can guaranteed is not filled out by one single college coach. Ok maybe the very first one, since they have all spring and summer to do it, and so Steve Spurrier can cast his one first place vote for Duke (where he got his first head coaching job). Oh what's that? They made him stop doing it because they thought it makes a mockery of the poll? Really? You know what else makes a mockery of the poll? THE ENTIRE POLL ITSELF!?!?! Good freaking gravy, college coaches do not, or at least should not, have the time to give an accurate poll of who the best 25 teams are in the country every week. They know their own teams, they know the teams they play each week, and they probably know enough about the teams in their conference. But for a Pac-10 coach to know if Minnesota is better than Oregon State, or a Big 12 coach to know if Texas is better than LSU? There's no freaking way!! The coaches ballots are filled out by either a grad assistant or the school's sports information director or the assistant sports information director or the assitant to the assistant of the sports information director. But hey, this is one third of the rankings for the BCS. Of course it is.
Anyway, to try to put some level of accountability on this whole biased, uninformed process, college fans and media wanted the coaches vote to be public. Every coach, every week. The coaches only relented to doing this for the final poll of the season, and now, they want to take that back. Why? Because they had the folks at Gallup take a look at it, and apparently that's what they're recommending. Look, I can understand all of the Gallup polls being secretive and not revealing a person's voting record, but this is not like voting for office. It should be public just like the voting record of senators and congressmen/women/people/PCblahblahblah. You're one third of the ranking for a system that will put HUGE money in your conferences' pockets and your school's pockets and therefore YOUR pockets if you vote for your team and those in your conference into a BCS game or higher than they deserve to be. Call me crazy, but I think a poll that has that much of a ramification on the outcome of the end of seasoson should be made public. Of course this would actually make sense for the fans, and when have those running college football ever done anything makes sense for the fans? Exactly.
FORMER CRAPPY QB SUES VIDEO GAME MAKER FOR LIKENESS OF HOW CRAPPY HE WAS
Former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller is suing college football game maker EA Sports and the NCAA, saying the video-game maker wrongly uses the names and likenesses of athletes and the NCAA sanctions the practice. As you no doubt know, NCAA players cannot make any money from their college success while in college, and therefore the NCAA can not sell college jerseys or merchandise with a players' NAME on them. Of course, the NCAA gets around this by selling college jerseys every year with the numbers of the team's best player on them, but since the name isn't included, they have argued successfully that the jersey number has no relation to the player because his name isn't on it. This is all a bunch of baloney, of course, because you know damn well Ohio State fans are buying up #2 Buckeyes jerseys and Minnesota fans are buying up #7 Gophers jerseys because that's the number of Terrelle Pryor and Eric Decker (I would LOVE to see a study forcing the NCAA to prove that people are buying the jersey because it's their school jersey and not because of the player wearing it. If you went to the Gopher school bookstore and put a #7 jersey and a #0 jersey side by side, I can guarantee you that a #0 jersey wouldn't see until they were out of #7 jerseys).
Likewise the EA Sports NCAA Football video game (my favorite game on the planet), does not use player names in the game, but instead has players on the roster that are identical to the players on a college football teams every year, they just use the player numbers for names. For example, Decker would be named "WR #7" in the game. His height, weight, number and game ratings would be exactly like those of Eric Decker, just without the actual name. In the article the NCAA and EA Sports appear confident they'll beat this in court, but I'm not so sure. I mean, when you give a player his actual name, the in-game announcers say it. If the players are just supposed to be random players and are NOT based on the real guys, then why are the in-game announcers able to pronounce all of the names once they're changed?
It also just seems REALLY random that Keller would do this now, and not when he was in school. NOt only that, but I would think the jersey thing would be even more obvious and easy to disprove than the video games. Just have to wonder what Keller's motives are in all of this, especially when he says he's "not interested in getting compensated for himself." Maybe he's just mad they didn't make his unlikeness better than he actually was?
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
His reasons, though, like this one...
"I think most in the Big Ten are satisfied with the 11-team conference and would only entertain expansion if the 12th team was compatible academically, philosophically and athletically,"
...is the same baloney conference commish Jim Delaney was spewing over the weekend. This is the same kind of crap about competitive balance and everything else the BCS folks use to argue why we don't need a playoff. The reason we don't have a playoff system is because the people in control make too much money to give up that control. And the reason we won't see Big Ten expansion anytime soon is because it doesn't guarantee the conference any more money than they're already making.
They already have great contracts with ABC and ESPN, and have ties to the best bowl on the planet in the Rose Bowl, as well as two New Year's Day games in the Capital One and Outback Bowls. At worst, your top three schools are going to play on New Year's Day, and most years, including five of the last six, your top five schools will be playing in NYD or BCS games. You can't get any better than that. Would it be great if the Big Ten started winning more bowl and nationally-televised games? Sure, but to be honest, it doesn't matter much because regardless Big Ten fans travel extremely well to support their schools and they watch them on TV too. Win or lose on the field, sponsors are winning with Big Ten teams in their games, and that's not going to be improved with a 12th team.
People will talk about the benefits of a championship game, but the only reason conferences want it is to make more money. Delaney referenced the ACC Championship game and what a debacle it's been (they have had problems selling out their title game, as well getting people to support their teams in bowls. They were giving away tickets for a dollar to last year's Orange Bowl). This is not an accurate comparison because the ACC is a basketball conference and their two "powerhouse" schools Miami and Florida State have been way, way down of late. But even if those two returned to glory, you're not going to see the same fervor for football that you will in the Big Ten. I wouldn't see the conference having any problems selling out their title game unless they drew Northwestern, but even then I think the locals and fans of the competiting school would gobble up the rest of the tickets. The ACC also has the problem of hosting their title game in Jacksonville, Florida, which is really only close to FSU and Miami. This would not be a problem in the Big Ten because the three most logical sites would be Soldier Field in Chicago, the new Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, or Ford Field in Detroit (as much as I hate the Packers, it'd be pretty cool to see the game held at Lambeau, but that would only be a one-time deal if it happened because it's just not that close to very many schools) are all pretty central and easy to get to for any of the 11 schools (well except Minnesota, but we'd get screwed no matter what).
But would the game really make the conference more money? I don't think so. Under the current system, you've already got your eight conference games, and NOT having a title game means more teams remain in contention for the BCS games, and BCS games make more money than a conference title game. Since its inception, the Big Ten has played in 19 BCS bowl games, which is more than any other conference (the SEC is second with 17). Big Ten teams travel well, so the BCS bowl will take a school from that conference whenever it possibly can. NOT having that conference title game keeps more of them in play.
Then there's the question of who to add. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, agrees Notre Dame makes the most sense. But of course, unless viewership of Fighting Irish football on NBC plummets and they lose their TV deal and/or the BCS reconfigures so that Notre Dame has to make the top eight to qualify just like everybody else (currently they need to only finish ranked 12th or higher to qualify), there's zero incentive for ND to join a conference.
Delaney's point, although he would never say it this succinctly, is that if you can't get Notre Dame, then why bother? Pitt, Missouri, Syracuse, West Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers are all fine schools, but none of them are going to raise the exposure for the conference like Notre Dame would.
Finally, how would forming 2 divisions make any sense? You couldn't do it geographically because it makes zero sense to have Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State all in the same division. You'd have to do what the ACC did and divide it up essentially by program strength so you could balance it, but even that's a crap shoot because as we're seeing now at Michigan, Florida State and Nebraska, a rich history and tradition guarantees you nothing. It'd be a big headache to keep as many rivals together as possible and let's be honest, in the end, teams with less clout like Minnesota, Purdue or Michigan State would get screwed and would probably lose a rivarly game.
Look, the Big Ten's situation now with 11 teams isn't exactly perfect, but it's not exactly broken either. The best thing the conference can do to enhance its image is start winning some bowls and nationally televised games (we're looking at you, Ohio State!), and we'll save expansion talk until it becomes a good economic decision for Notre Dame to join or when hell freezes over. Whichever comes first.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Before we get to that, a quarterbacking aside that Peter King brings up in his excellent weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column. It’s always worth a read, but I wanted to bring your attention to the third page, where he talks about what a trav-sham-a-mockery it is that both Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and Mizzou’s Chase Daniel went undrafted last weekend. Why? Because they were considered “system QB’s” who were too small and lacked arm strength. King sums it up much better than I ever could, but to echo his thoughts, it’s just ridiculous to me how much emphasis is placed on arm strength and workouts instead of how a guy performs ON THE FREAKING FIELD in college. You know, in the actual games. I was hoping that former Purdue QB Drew Brees had broken this stereotype, as Brees stands barely 5’11 and does not have a strong arm, yet in my mind is one of the three best QB’s in football right now (Peyton and Brady the other two). Sure Harrell and Daniel were “system” guys who threw a lot of passes out of the shotgun, but shouldn’t their resumes as leaders and winners who ran their offenses efficiently count for something? Former 49er coach Bill Walsh might be the greatest offensive mind who ever lived, and he said that when scouting a QB, accuracy was the first thing he looked at and arm strength was WAY down the list. Yet with all the innovations in scouting and technology around the game of football, we still have two guys like Harrell and Daniel go undrafted because they don’t have cannon arms or can complete that 20 yard out “with zip”. Because, you know, there’s a LOT of 20 yard outs to complete in an NFL game (and if you’ve ever seen a 20 yard out attempted in the NFL, you’d be the first to see it). Matthew Stafford’s Georgia teams underachieved EVERY year he played there, and despite NFL talent at every offensive position surrounding him, as King notes Stafford in his last two years as a Bulldog completed only 59% of his passes (Harrell was at 71%). But hey, because Stafford is 6’2 and can throw the ball to the moon (even if he was aiming for the ocean), he’s your #1 overall pick.
Anyway, onto a very unscientific ranking of the QB situations in the Big Ten now that spring ball has concluded. These rankings are not solely based on passing yards but overall effectiveness, as in today's college football world, an option "dual-threat" QB in the right system can be even more valuable than a classic drop-back passer. Also, let's be honest: I'm not sure Big 10 quarterbacking as a whole has ever been worse than it was in 2008. My goodness gracious, when posing the question "would you rather watch the WNBA or Big 10 quarterbacking?" I actually hesitated before saying Big 10 quarterbacking. Just the fact I hesitated at all shows how bad it was. While I expect improvements in 2009, we've got a ways to go until we reach the Big 12 level of excellence. Still, we've got to start somewhere and have nowhere to go but up. We hope.
TIER V: The State of Indiana
Not good times for the smart kids of West Lafayette. The hugely disappointing Curtis Painter (by the way, to further add insult to injury with the Harrell and Daniel comments from above, Painter had an awful year- completed 59% of his passes for just 2400 yards, 13 TD’s and 11 INT’s-yet still got drafted. For the love of pete, somebody please explain the NFL draft process to me! Please!) graduated and the hugely promising Brandon Siller has been given the boot for academic reasons. So that means your candidates for the 2009 starting spot are 5th year seniors Joey Elliott (who last year was 8-15 for 81 yards) and Chris Bennett (who has not thrown a pass in a real game in his five years on campus), along with redshirt freshman Caleb Terbush (obviously hasn’t attempted a pass yet), who won the Offensive Newcomer award in spring camp last week. While Miami transfer Robert Marve could help in 2010 IF he chooses the Boilermakers, that’s not going to help a very inexperienced trio in 2009.
The Hoosiers should be a little better than their rivals from West Lafayette considering they get a returning starter back, but probably not much better. Redshirt junior Ben Chappell had the starting gig all to himself even before former star Kellen Lewis was kicked off the team last week, and while that should erase any doubts about who The Man is in Bloomington, losing Lewis' athleticism at receiver or "The Percy Harvin combo platter" position that Lewis probably would have played doesn't help Chappell or the Hoosier offense any. Word out of spring ball is that IU is going full bore with something called "The Pistol" offense, where the quarterback stands about a yard behind center instead of further back like the shotgun (I only know about this because it's a formation used in the NCAA College Football video game, and it just happens to be my favorite game ever). Chappell could be throwing a lot more often, but considering this is Indiana, well, we'll have to wait and see if that's a good or bad thing. Teddy Schell is the only other QB on the roster who's thrown a pass (all of four- he completed one against the Badgers last year), and while one scouting service had him as the top ranked QB in the state of Illinois coming out of high school, if Schell has to see significant time, the Hoosiers are in real trouble- well probably no more than usual for IU football, but it wouldn't be good.
TIER IV: Pointing and Laughing at You While We Still Can
Want a sign of how bad the quarterback situation is at Michigan? How about when you're even entertaining the idea of playing a former high school All-American QB who hasn't played football in four years? Sure, Michigan won't be bringing former Dukie point guard Greg Paulus to the Big House in 2009, but the fact they even flirted with the idea shows just how far this position has fallen under new coach Rich Rodriguez. While I do believe Rodriguez will have this program back competing for Big Ten titles in two years (if the fan base lets him survive that long), there's certainly no Pat White in Ann Arbor for 2009. Sure, there are two talented true freshman who COULD be the next big thing in Rodriguez's spread in time, but unless that true freshman is Chad Henne or Terelle Pryor (and if you have a top-10 caliber team around them like Michigan in 2004 or Ohio State last year), it's going to be another long year offensively for the Wolverines. Still, they can't help but improve on last year's woeful passing offense, which was dead last in the conference with a meager 147.6 yards per game. Tate Forcier enrolled early, and was the starter after spring camp, but expect fellow true frosh Denard Robinson to push him once he arrives on campus in the summer. Any other QB's on the roster are simply providing depth, as Forcier and Robinson are the only two who fit the skill set Rodriguez is looking for. 2009 will probably provide plenty of growing pains, but it should lead to big strides for 2010.
The good news- Wisconsin gets their top QB back from last year. The bad news- Wisconsin gets their top QB back from last year. Hell, Brett Favre's exit from the Cheesehead State was less of a mess than the Badgers were at QB last year. In 2008 outgoing senior Allan Evridge and returning senior Dustin Sherer combined for a level of awful that hasn't been seen in Madison since before the days of Barry Alvarez. I understand that because Wisconsin will always be one of the best rushing teams in the nation (unless Bielma can screw that up too. Here's hoping) that they're never going to be ranked very highly as a passing offense. But they're going to need a helluva lot more from their quarterbacks than they received last year. The team won their first three games easily with Evridge as the starter (who for the season completed 53% of his passes for just 949 yards, 5 TD's and 5 INT's) because all he was asked to do was hand the ball off. But once Big 10 play started and they faced some real defenses, Evridge actually had to start throwing the ball and reading defenses, and it resulted in losses to Michigan (who was winless coming in) and Ohio State. He started 2-10 against Penn State and during a 48-7 blowout Sherer was brought in for (comic) relief. The Bucky Badgers would go a less-than-impressive 4-3 the rest of the way (Sherer completed just 54% for 1389 yards, 6 TD's and 5 INT's), with their only quality win coming at home against Illinois. They spanked Indiana (of their 601 total yards, only 160 were throught the air), squeaked by the Gophers, and escaped with their lives against something called Cal Poly 36-35. The coaches expect Sherer to be better, but if he falters at all, expect them to hand the reigns over to redshirt freshman Curt Phillips, a former high school All-American and Tennessee's Gatorade player of the year in 2007, who was apparently impressive in spring ball. Junior Scott Tolzien is a distant third right now. You have to wonder if Wisconsin, ala Ohio State last year, wouldn't just be better off ditching the senior in favor of the uber-talented freshman.
TIER III: Wait what?
7. MICHIGAN STATE
As you've probably heard by now sophomores Kirk Cousins and Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol each threw for about 9 million yards and 4,567 TD's in the Spartans spring game. Ok, so it was only 347 yards and 4 TD's each, maybe it just seemed like more. The numbers are certainly impressive, yet let's keep in mind that a Michigan State secondary that wasn't all that great to begin with, was banged up pretty badly for that spring game. Both guys are pretty talented and could be excellent quarterbacks, but I have a lot of questions I need answered before I can move the Michigan State pivots up the rankings much. How much will they throw now that Javon Ringer is no longer there? How good are the guys they're throwing to? Will the line be able to give them enough time to throw? Will either of these guys establish themselves as the starter, or will we see quarterback roulette?
Under coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats just continue to find ways to move the ball, and continue to find capable quarterbacks. They'll miss graduating senior CJ Bacher, but shouldn't miss a beat with senior Mike Kafka returning. Kafka started two games last season when Bacher was injured, one a loss to Ohio State and the other...the other was the kick-in-the-crotch upset of the Gophers when he was 12-16 for 143 yards and TD's and RAN for another 217 yards all by his freaking self!?!?! MAN I STILL HATE THAT GAME!!! Anyway, Kafka won't be one of the top passers in the conference, but if his decision-making is good, that along with his running abilities could make him one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the Big 10. Sophomore Dan Persa is a talented backup who some thought outplayed Kafka in the spring game. Not a bad problem to have.
I hate Iowa. Have I mentioned that? Because I do. I really, really do. After sitting through the entire 55-0 debacle and watching the pompous, arrogant, classless Hawkeye fans parade around the Metrodome like they were used to electricity and running water...I'd better stop there. Let's just say I wish them the worst of luck this year, and I hope returning starter Ricky Stanzi is terrible- it's just I don't think he will be. I think he could be the greatest quarterback in Hawkeye history, maybe their greatest player ever. Best player in the history of the universe? Not out of the question. Not at all. Ok so I'm trying to reverse jinx him here and would love nothing more than for Stanzi to suck, taking the Hawks with him to a terrible season. I know Jewel Hampton is supposed to be a stud and all, but with Shonn Greene and his 1850 yards rushing gone to the NFL, the pressure is all on Stanzi to lead the offense. Here's hoping he crumbles under it, although I doubt it with the monster offensive line he'll have in front of him. Former QB Marvin McNutt has been moved to wideout and seemed to do well there in the spring, leaving senior Jake Christensen, who was the starter in 2007 but threw just 63 passes last year, as the primary backup. Did I mention I hate Iowa?
Despite all of my love for the Gophers, their new offensive coaches, MarQueis Gray, and all the new fun offensive weapons, this is as high as I can rank the Goph's QB situation. Despite Adam Weber's inconsistencies last year, he was still one of the top five ranked QB's in the conference, completing over 62% of his passes with an almost 2:1 TD-INT ratio. He did everything you could ask, and will have more weapons to play with this year. And that's not to mention my mancrush on the frosh Gray, who could be better than Weber right now. Still, we need to see it on the field from both guys, and no matter how much better we THINK the passing game should be with Eric Decker back, a gaggle of sophomore wide receivers improving, and Troy Stoudermire lighting up the spring game in every possible way, none of it's going to matter if the O-line doesn't take a BIG step forward.
TIER I: The Cream of the Crop
3. PENN STATE
So did the Nittany Lions' success through the air last year have more to do with returning senior QB Daryll Clark, or his three top receivers (Deon Butler and Derrick Williams were taken in the NFL draft last week and Jordan Norwood will be signed as an undrafted free agent) that are no longer with him? We should find out as Clark enters this season throwing to an unfamiliar and inexperienced (albeit talented) group of pass catchers. I know Clark was first-team All conference last year, so this isn't a knock on the talented senior, but with less talent and experience (along with some questions on the offensive line) I see him carrying this offense (along with HB Evan Royster, of course), but I just don't see him being one of the two best QB's in the Big 10 in 2009. Former all-everything high school star Pat Devlin, who proved absolutely nothing in his time in Happy Valley, transferred when the Penn State coaches had the audacity not to give him a shot at the starting gig. Happy trails, Pat- don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out of town. In his place is the very talented true freshman Kevin Newsome, an early enrollee who by all reports looked fabulous in spring camp. I would have to think the hope for the Nittany Lions coaches is for Newsome to spend the year as the #2 guy, making him ready to take the starting job in 2010 when Clark graduates. Redshirt frosh Matt McGloin probably starts the year as the third stringer.
Quick, name the top passing offense in the Big 10 last year. Nope, it wasn't Purdue. Wasn't Penn State either. Would you believe it was the Fightin' Illini with 269.9 passing yards per game? I didn't either. I know the Big 10 was down last year, but it's hard to believe a disappointing 5-7 Illini squad still led the conference in passing, but it's true. Returning senior Juice Williams wasn't as consistent as coaches would like, completing only 57% of his passes with 16 picks, yet he was still an offensive monster throwing for 3173 yards and 22 TD's, and ran for another 719 yards and 5 scores. Juice held up his end of the bargain, he just didn't get much help. I mean, I know the guy is a dangerous runner, but it's never a good sign when your QB is your leading rusher. For 2009, Illinois COULD have the best offense in the conference. I know, I know, they were saying that last year, but with Juice as a senior with a solid O-line, improved running backs and a loaded receiving core, this could be a big, big year for the Illini. I expect no worse than 2nd team All-Big Ten for Juice, and he could push for All-American and conference player of the year awards. I'm telling you, in 2009 The Juice will be Loose. Behind him, backup junior QB Eddie McGee won't just be holding a clipboard, as he got snaps this spring at wideout and looked pretty good.
1. OHIO STATE
I'm going to admit right from the start that the Buckeyes offense last year, led primarily by super frosh Terrelle Pryor, was 2nd to last in the Big 10 in both passing offense and total offense. Pryor had all the help he could ever want, including a solid O-line giving him all day to throw, and his targets, Brian Hartline and Terry Robiskie, both were taken in the NFL draft. Yet Pryor was much more effective and comfortable as a runner than a passer. Still, while he only attempted 165 passes he was actually quite efficient, completing 100 (60.6%) for 12 TD's and just 4 INT's. Considering the kid was all of 18 playing under about as much pressure as there is in college football (Only the QB for Alabama is under more), he did pretty damn well. Sure, he loses his top 2 wideouts as well as first round pick HB Beanie Wells, but I think Pryor improves by leaps and bounds this year. According to those who were among the 95000+ at The Horseshoe, and from reports from spring practice, Pryor already looks much more polished, comfortable, and confident throwing the football. This offense is never going to throw as much as Oklahoma or Texas or Texas Tech, but when the Buckeyes need or want to throw in 2009, they're going to be much more successful doing it.
Friday, May 1, 2009
GOPHERS TO PLAY HOME-AND-HOME WITH TEXAS
Sid Hartman breaking news? I'm as shocked as you are. But according to ol' Sid's colum in the Strib today, U of M AD Joel Maturi has secured a home-and-home series with the Texas Longhorns, with the dates still yet to be determined. Apparently this is a school coach Tim Brewster has always wanted to play (as you probably know Brewster was an assistant in Austin awhile back), and he continues to show he's not afraid to schedule the best schools in the country in the non-conference as the Gophs will host USC in 2010. Sure these are looking like probable losses right now, but I'd MUCH rather have the Gophers in what will surely be nationally televised games against monster opponents than Glen Masons' SEC-style non-conny cupcake 1-AA scheduling we used to have here. Bravo to Brewster and Maturi for taking risks so few schools south of the Mason-Dixon line are willing to take in their non-conny scheduling. This continues the Big 10's tradition of strong scheduling- or as I like to call it "Anti-SEC" scheduling, as earlier this week Michigan State announced they've extended their annual game with Notre Dame, and will also begin series with Alabama and West Virginia in the next few years.
GOPHERS ANNOUNCE 2009 CAPTAINS
I refuse to join Twitter. Absolutely, positively refuse. Yet because of my refusal, I'm apparently now missing out on breaking Gophers football news. Coach Brewster announced his 2009 captains not in a press release, not on the gophersports.com website, and not even on Facebook. Nope, he broke the news on Twitter, saying that QB Adam Weber and WR Eric Decker are the offensive captains, while Lee Campbell, Simoni Lawrence, Eric Small and Garrett Brown are the defensive captains. Maybe Brewster will start Twittering his play calls into the QB's and defense? Maybe he'll Twitter the refs to argue a call. Whatever.
Correct me if I 'm wrong, but I believe the last time this state produced the top ranked high school football player in the country was a Cretin-Derham Hall multi-sport star (somebody named Joe Mauer? Maybe you've heard of him). Well, a multi-sport star from that same school will begin the year as the top ranked player, and his name is Seantrel Henderson. Henderson is a 6'8 301 pound offensive tackle, who is also a helluva basketball player. It's rumored he wants to play both sports in college, and that both Coach Brewster and Gopher hoops coach Tubby Smith would allow him to do so if he chose The U. Minnesota is one of 14 schools on his not-so-short list of programs he's considering along with other Big 10 members Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and national powers like Florida, USC, and Notre Dame. Way, way too early to gauge where the Gophers stand in this race, but it's definitely one we'll be keeping an eye on as they chase the biggest prospect (both figuratively and literally) this state has seen since Mauer.
...and to know who stole his medication. Ok just kidding on the second part. But the 82-year-old Penn State coach really, really does want the conference to add a 12th school. So far, his recruitment of others to join the fight is going about as well as Frank The Tank's call for people to go streaking with him. Everyone else seems fine with an 11 team conference, and personally I think the two division system and conference championship game hurts more than it helps. if they were to add a 12th school Notre Dame is also the only one that makes any sense, but there' s better chance of Lindsey Lohan finding sanity than the Irish joining a conference. Pitt is probably second on the list, but Dave Wannstead and his fireman's stache have about burned that football program to the ground, so I'm not sure what the appeal is there. Syracuse and Rutgers also have zero gridiron prowess. The Big 10 has a meeting this week, but it's doubtful anyone else will be joining Paterno up through the quad to the gymnasium. Maybe Spartans coach Mark Dantonio will bring his green hat? Yeah probably not.
Former Hoosier QB Kellen Lewis was booted off the team this week, a major blow to a program that can't exactly afford to lose talent. Lewis was a breakout star as a redshirt freshman in 2006, and was named 2nd team All-Big 10 in 2007, but last year the wheels totally fell off for Lewis and the offense as he lost his starting gig by the middle of the season. Coach Bill Lynch tried moving him to wide receiver this spring, but due to undisclosed disciplinary reasons, Lewis was given the heave-ho and won't be playing any position for IU this fall. Either as a testament to how good he was, or how bad Hoosier football has been, according to the article Lewis leaves "with the school record for touchdown passes (48), ranks third in career passing yards (6,395) and second in total yards (8,072). Lewis and former Big Ten MVP Antwaan Randle El are the only Indiana players to record 40 passing touchdowns, 6,250 passing yards, 8,000 total yards, 525 completions and 975 attempts in their careers." Not good news for an Indiana team that's being rebuilt for the umpteenth millionth time.
Gee, really? You mean the BCS, who is making billions of dollars from a bowl system that doesn't even come close to awarding a true national champion, thinks a playoff system that would take money out of their pockets is a bad idea? Really? What a shock! Thank God Congress is getting involved to get to the bottom of this whole BCS mess. It's not like there's any other pressing issues in the country to deal with. Also revealed at the BCS congressional hearings is that the sky is blue, water is wet, and Iowa football players can't stop getting arrested. These and other earth shattering revelations are brought to you by the US Government- wasting your tax dollars since the dawn of time.
Have a good weekend everybody.