Monday, August 23, 2010

We're moving to The Daily Gopher

Remember when Denny Green said "If you're looking for Denny Green, look on the high road, because that is where I'll be"?

Apparently the high road that Denny was speaking of was a stint as a coach in the soon-to-be-defunct UFL.

Anyway, Jeffrick and I have decided that the Gopher Football Blog has run its course.  The feeling started coming over me several months ago, and then coincidentally we were asked to join The Daily Gopher, an invitation which we accepted.

So, if you're looking for Jeffrick and JDMill, you won't find us on the high road, we'll leave that to Denny Green. Where you WILL find us, however, is at The Daily Gopher.

I started this blog right around the time that Tim Brewster started heading up Gopher Nation, and it's been a lot of fun.  I was excited when I brought Jeff on and we began doing some podcasting.  But it's always been difficult to juggle life and put together a blog that communicates our love and passion for Gopher football.  At The Daily Gopher we'll continue to get to write and podcast about what we love, we'll get the benefit of the tools and support of a very strong blog network, and we won't feel the pressure to promote and try to build the blog.  In short, we'll get to do what we love without all of the administrative mumbo-jumbo that comes along with it.  We'll miss it here, but we are really looking forward to our new home.

If you weren't already reading The Daily Gopher every single day, I'm not sure why not, but you should start (and it should be easy to find because I've already hyperlinked to it 4 times.

Thanks for your readership over the last couple of years!

Jeffrick & Jeremy

p.s. You will continue to find me writing at Off Tackle Empire (formerly The Rivalry, Esq).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Few Things to Get Excited About

Like Jermo said last week, I too am really, really excited for Gopher football to start. Dare I say, I'd almost call myself optimistic about what we should see out of Brew's Crew this season, especially when compared to the incredibly low expectations that have been set for this team by every possible media outlet that covers college football. The Gophs have been picked to finish no better than 9th in the Big Ten this year in every publication and preview I've read, and I've seen nary a Gopher player picked as first or second team preseason Big Ten. Adam Rittenberg on his Big Ten blog on E! has been listing his top five units for each position (Backfield, offensive line, linebackers etc) and not once has Minnesota been ranked. Brewster is apparently guaranteed to be fired and we've got nothing to look forward to but getting the snot kicked out of us all season long.

Well I, my friends, am choosing to look differently at all of this. Am I expecting a trip to Pasadena this year? Or even our first New Year's Day bowl since the dawn of time? Um no. I think realistically a six win regular season is reasonable, and if things go really well, perhaps even seven. And sure the doom and gloom that everyone expects is possible, but there is just so much more to look forward to. Consider the following;

It's Adam Weber's last year as a starter.
Seriously, how great is this? This will be the last season that I'll have to endure bad start after bad start after bad start, only to hear his supporters blame everyone else- the offensive line, the coaches, the receivers, BP, Obama, the cast of Jersey Shore- for Weber's struggles. I hope Weber has a good year and meets his supporters' expectations, but I'm not exactly holding my breath. His 2008 2nd Team All-Big Ten season was an absolute fluke, taking advantage of his first seven games when he was great, as well as the weakest year for Big Ten quarterbacks in the history of humanity. He will NOT be an all-conference quarterback again (although a big part of that is because of just how loaded the Big Ten is this year. Holy Moses the conference is as deep and talented as it's been for at least the last decade, if not longer), but I'm not even hoping for that. Just a completion percentage north of 55 would be dandy, as well as more TD's than INT's. Really.

MarQueis the WR?
So Weber beat MarQueis fair and square apparently, and now Gray is getting a ton of reps at wideout. As long as Brewster is being truthful when he says Gray will get another crack at the starting QB job next year (although really, Brewster can say whatever he wants because there's a good chance he won't be around next season anyway. So he can say that Gray will be the QB and the Gophs will win 21 games and be better than the Vikings and that he'll be sole reason for an economic turnaround. Seriously, he can say anything and it doesn't matter if it's true. Perhaps his next gig should be to run for governor? Can't be any worse than Pawlenty), I applaud this move. It DOES get your best athlete on the field and in the game, and he'll be another weapon for Weber to throw to. I'm guessing the faster Gray learns the nuances of playing receiver, the more reps he gets, unless more than one of DaJon McKnight, Troy Stoudermire, Brandon Green, and Bryant Allen really asserts themselves, there's a starting spot there for Gray for the taking.

An Athletic D-Line
The more I read about our young, athletic D-line, the more excited I get. Brandon Kirksey could be a force inside, and how can you NOT get all amped up for redshirt frosh Rashede Hageman? a 6'6 280 pound freak of nature blowing over, around or through blockers off the edge? Sign me up!

The Home Schedule
Yes it's going to be tough, but when was the last time we've had USC, Penn State, Ohio State AND Iowa all come visit Dinkytown in the same season? Oh that's right, never. I'll take this schedule over Cupcake Central that we saw under Glen Mason every time. Now if we can just start competing and winning some of these games, it'll be even better.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shhhhhh... I have a secret

I finally admitted it on the phone to my uncle on Friday evening.

I haven't even told Jeffrick yet.

I've really been trying to suppress it, but it bubbled out of me on Friday and for some reason, before the sun rises on this Sunday morning I'm prepared to share it with all of Gopher Nation.  Or at least the dozen or so people that read this blog when they are trying to kill some time.

I blame the media.  They've been printing quotes by Gopher players and coaches and they've seeped into my subconscious.

I blame some of the posters over at Gopher Hole because some of them have been talking about it for months as I lurked quietly back, shaking my head and rarely posting anything in response.

I'm beginning to feel a bit of optimism about this Gopher football team.

There... I said it.

I know, I know, I've been negative for months.  I was annoyed by Adam Weber all of last season.  I was disgusted by our play in the Insight Bowl against Iowa State.  I was skeptical of Brewster's insistence on there really a quarterback competition going on during the spring.

But as actual football is returning to our lives, my attitude toward what we might see on the field this fall is thawing out a bit.  

Here are a few things that I wasn't really thinking clearly about that currently have me a little bit excited.

*Yes, we lost 9 starters on defense.  Yes, that is a staggering number.  And yes, the two starters that ARE returning had an injury (Royston) and a run-in with the law (Theret), during the off-season that put them slightly in doubt for the upcoming fall.

But saying that we lost 9 starters on defense and then automatically assuming that that means this will be a completely inexperienced defense just isn't the case.

Consider that of the 13 games that the Gophers played last season Kim Royston, Kyle Theret, Keanon Cooper, Gary Tinsley,Ryan Collado, Michael Carter, Anthony Jacobs, Jewhan Edwards, D.L. Wilhite and Brandon Kirksey saw playing time in 11 or more of those games, and all are in the discussion to be projected starters this season.

Yes, the defense will be young, but it will also be filled with plenty of guys who have seen significant playing time, albeit not necessarily as starters.

*Jedd Fisch might be a pretty smart offensive game-plan guy, but when it comes to actual coaching he might be an idiot.  This is college football, this isn't the NFL, and by all accounts, Fisch installed an offense for the Gophers last fall that was filled with motion and intricacies that our players just weren't equipped to handle.

Add to that the fact that Fisch (and I'll put at least part of the blame here on Brewster because while Fisch was calling the plays, Brewster is STILL the head coach of this team and when the fish stinks, it stinks at the head) seemed more than willing to abandon the run in games painfully early last season and continually called plays that forced Weber to make throws into the flat (his least comfortable and least successful type of throw), and you begin to see why maybe it's not such a horrible thing that ol' Jedd headed west to try out NFL pastures.  That, and he's an idiot.

I'm not quite prepared to say that I'm super excited for Jeff Horton, but in retrospect, I'm pretty glad that Fisch is gone.  Additionally some of the things that I've been hearing have me at least intrigued about what Horton is doing with Weber and the offense.

Adam Weber, from the PiPress last week:
"We've had only 15 practices with coach Horton so far, but I already know that we're not going to try to trick ourselves," Weber said. "This style of play is more of a traditional style of football. For a while the spread became very popular, and it still is, but this style of play is more suited for the talent we have on our team. For me, I feel most comfortable in the I-formation with play-action fakes and being under center. That's what I was recruited to play. I wish I had more seasons with it."
A couple of things become clear from that quote.  First, Weber isn't in awe of the offense in the sense that it's over his head.  He seems to be comfortable with what is being installed and happy about getting back to something more simple.  Second, Jedd Fisch was an idiot.

Another point is that Weber appears to be in much better health than he was at this time last season.  Looking back, perhaps not enough was made of the fact that Weber was coming off of shoulder surgery and hadn't had the chance to condition in the off-season the way you'd like to heading into a Big Ten football season.

A guy who is confused by the offense he's trying to run and is also not confident in his body is a really good formula for a poor season... which is exactly what Weber had.

I would like nothing better than to see Adam Weber have the kind of season that he had in 2008, and with the  talent that he has around him, this could translate into some very good numbers.

*There are definitely a lot of expectations in place for the 2010 Gopher Football season... fortunately almost all of those expectations are very low.

You cannot find a place anywhere on the internet that predicts the Gophers to finish anywhere but the bottom three in the Big Ten.  In fact, in a completely unscientific research project, funded only by me and fueled by Diet Mountain Dew, I went to The Google, and searched "2010 Big Ten Football predictions." (My research methods are quite advanced, I know.)  Of the articles on the first page of results that actually ranked how they thought the Big Ten would pan out in 2010, EVERY SINGLE ONE predicted the Gophers to finish DEAD LAST in the conference.  (To which my wife replied "'s going to be a painful season.")  Every.  Single.  One.

Call it bulletin board material, call it motivation, call it whatever you want.  The fact is nobody expects us to do jack squat this year, and considering how last season ended, and considering that we lost perhaps the single best player in the history of the program from an offense that was... well, bad, that shouldn't be too surprising.

To quote a line from the Gin Blossoms song "Hey Jealousy": "If you don't expect to much from me, you might not be let down."

So here's to having low expectations... but secretly having a little bit of optimism.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Notes on some notes

Ladies and gentlemen of Gopher Nation... do you feel that?  Do you feel the rumble?  Can you feel the air moving?

THAT'S RIGHT GOPHER FANS... practice has started.  This morning at 6am I was running wind-sprints at the Gibson-Nagurski football complex... okay, that's not true, but the Gophers were.  And so it begins.  IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON!!!

Both the PiPress and the Strib (by the way, Phil Miller, welcome to the Gopher beat, you're already a breath of fresh air) had tidbits on the Gophers yesterday and I thought I'd add my own tidbits to their tidbits.

Marcus Fuller is reporting that Ra'Shede Hageman has become a beast.
"Former tight end Ra'Shede Hageman's transition into a load at defensive end amazes even Kirksey, a junior defensive tackle. They both bench press over 400 pounds, but Hageman power cleans 390 pounds."
Hageman looks like he could make an impact on the D-line as a redshirt freshman and how nice would it be to see a true pass rushing and run stuffing, long and lean lineman coming off the end.  Also, remember when this guy chose to go to Minnesota because he wanted to play TE?  Doesn't look like he's got much interest in lining up on the offensive side of the ball anymore.

Fuller also talked to Brandon Kirksey, who will be a team captain this fall, and Kirk is ready to step up and, along with his coaches, expects to be one of the top D-tackles in the conference.

"Gophers coach Tim Brewster said the 295-pound Kirksey has a chance to be one of the top defensive tackles in the Big Ten this year. 
The St. Louis native said he's been hearing that kind of praise from his defensive line coach Tim Cross since last season ended, and even more after he was named a captain.
'It motivates me to know that my coach feels that way about me,' he said. 'It's nothing new. Coach Cross and I always talk about it, but it's time to fill the shoes.'"
I have loved our defense that last couple of years, and I feel like they got a bad wrap in 2009 because they were constantly playing from behind and having to make up for where the offense left off, but with 9 starters graduating, there's been some concern about them.  But I'm getting more and more excited to see how this defense performs.  It definitely is lacking experience, but by all accounts they are a more talented group than we've seen the last couple of years.

PhiMill says that Brewster and his staff will be isolating the freshman for the first 3 days of practice in order to give them more individualized attention.

"Freshmen will take the field at 9 a.m. each morning, and everyone else will practice at 3:30 p.m. After a weekend of coaching emphasis on fundamentals and technique, the newcomers will join the vets on Monday as regular two-a-days begin.
'It will help, most importantly, from a confidence standpoint,' Brewster said of his 20-member freshmen class. 'They'll go into the fourth day with the older guys much more confident.'"

Here we go folks.  We're going to start getting reporting on ACTUAL football, not just quotes and jottings and conference expansion and realignment and recruiting, but actual football!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spending our time in the doldrums

"I was spending my time in the doldrums..." is the opening line of the song "Lost For Words" by Pink Floyd.  It's one of those songs that I haven't actually heard for probably a decade, but it sometimes pops into my head, and that opening line in particular describes how I feel about these last days of the summer of 2010 without Big Ten Football.

I really wanted to be excited about Big Ten media days.  I really wanted to be excited about hearing what Brandon Kirksey, Kim Royston, Adam Weber and Coach Brewster have to say about the upcoming Gopher Football season.  I had convinced myself I was going to follow it closely and write blog posts about it and that it was going to be an exciting way to jump into the football season.

But then I realized something... it's all just talk, it isn't football, and it isn't quite quenching my thirst for Gopher Football like I was hoping.

Then something else happened.  As a fan of the Vikings, the news hit today that Brett Favre (allegedly) will be retiring for real this time.  Suddenly I was thinking "this is good, this will be a good distraction for a couple of days until Gopher football practice kicks off."  But you know what?  I got bored with the Brett Favre news in about 20 minutes.

So here I sit again, spending my time in the doldrums, just waiting for Gopher football season to start.  I can't wait for the talk and the speculation to stop and for the season to just begin.  I even think that I might be excited about practices (it's possible I'll be wrong about my excitement for practice like I was excited about media days) because at least we'll be hearing about how the players are performing and who looks good, instead of just the constant speculation.

All I can say is bring on the football!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Devin Crawford-Tufts is fast!

Ladies & Gentlemen of Gopher Nation, please watch this video.  The gentleman who comes from WAY behind of the fourth leg of the MN State High School 4x100 meter relay is Gopher recruit Devin Crawford-Tufts... and as you'll see, he's fast.  DCT blows by the guy who was in first place at the beginning of the leg like he's standing still.

Crawford-Tufts is your next Golden Gopher star WR and will join the Gophers in the fall of 2011.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

3 coins in a fountain, and 2 cents on the coaching hot seat

There's been plenty of talk about Brewster being on the hot seat...

The Daily Gopher here.
Fringe Bowl Team here.

And both of those blogs point to national publications that have placed Coach Brewster in the Top 10 of coaches in college football whose derrière might be feeling the flames heading into the 2010 season.

We've even mentioned it a few times around these parts, but I'd like to mention it again.  Oh goody!  Goody for you!  Right?

(For the record, I do not plan to give my opinion on whether or not Coach Brewster should/should not be on the hot seat, because I think there are arguments to both sides and I'm on the fence about which is more valid... at least for now... that might change by the time I finish writing this.)

Let's look at 2 questions, and a speculation:
Why does Coach Brewster NOT deserve to be on the hot seat?
Why DOES Coach Brewster deserve to be on the hot seat?
And, despite what the national media and bloggers have to say, does Joel Maturi have Brewster on a hot seat?

Why does Coach Brewster NOT deserve to be on the hot seat?

FBT says:
"If you go back 42 years, every Gopher head coach has gottenthe benefit of the doubt for at least 5 seasons, including Salem and Wacker."

Certainly true.  The history of Gopher coaches would suggest that Coach Brewster be given through the 2011 season to prove himself, get all of his players on the field, and solidify his coaching staff.

Another reason people believe Brewster should be given 2 more seasons is that he has done a good job of increasing the talent of recruits that are coming through the doors of the practice facility.  I don't think anyone would argue with this.  In his 3 full years of recruiting classes, Brewster has ranked 3rd, 6th, and 6th in the Big Ten, while the previous regime was consistently 9th or 10th.

Additionally, Coach Brewster has worked hard to instill an expectation of winning at the U of M.  This actually could end up being his own undoing if he ends up not being able to live up to the expectations of Rose Bowls and Big Ten Championships that he is aspiring to, but at least he's talking about those things.

Tim Brewster really believes that Minnesota can have a competitive program.  He really believe that Minnesota is historically a good program that can get back to that point.  He really believes he can win here.  That's a lot more than we can say for the previous regime.

Why DOES Coach Brewster deserve to be on the hot seat?

Gopher Nation, over at The Daily Gopher says this:
"In just three seasons Brewster has not beat one rival.  In three seasons Brewster has not beat one team that he wasn't supposed to beat.  In three seasons Brewster's teams have not improved as the season went along."
The only argument that he might get, and it wouldn't be coming from me, is that the 2008 win at Illinois was a game that one might say the Gophers weren't supposed to win, but that argument loses all water when you consider that Illinois pretty much fell off the face of the football earth after that game.

Another argument that I've heard is that Brewster's seat should get hotter sooner because he inherited a better team than did his predecessors.  Let's look only at records.

Here are the past 6 Gopher coaches, and the combined 3-previous-years record of the teams they inherited:

Cal Stoll : 11-18-2
Joe Salem:  18-16
John Gutekunst, including the Holtz years:  12-22
Jim Wacker: 14-19
Glen Mason: 10-21
Tim Brewster: 20-17

Now, I realize that 3 years is an arbitrary number, but we have to start somewhere.  With these numbers in mind, Tim Brewster is the only Gopher coach to inherit a team with a winning record since Joe Salem came on board in 1979.

If the success of the new coach in a program is measured by his ability to take the team from its current level to a higher level, then it seems clear to me that Brewster started with the bar set at a higher level, albeit still a mediocre level in the grand scheme of things, than his 5 predecessors.

Despite what the national media and bloggers have to say, does Joel Maturi have Brewster on a hot seat?

Considering that Maturi gave Brewster a contract extension, many would say that he doesn't have Brew on the hot seat.  But I don't think that move necessarily communicates confidence in his coach as much as it communicates a desire to show recruits some stability in the program.

My fear with Maturi isn't really whether or not he has Coach Brewster on the hot seat, but what criteria he is going to use to make that decision.  And even more concerning than that, is if he even has an idea of what that criteria should be.

The reason I have this fear is because of how Maturi fired Mason.  Now look, I'm not saying Mason shouldn't have been fired, because I was leading the parade, the bandwagon and the charge when it came to that move.  But what I think is concerning about how Maturi fired Mason is that I have my doubts that Joel had any idea what would or would not constitute firing his coach until he was suddenly faced with an embarrassing collapse of a loss in a mediocre-at-best bowl game.  I don't have any insight into this, it's just how I feel in hindsight considering some of the other moves Maturi has made and things he has said.

When he was suddenly faced with that situation, he was up against the clock of the coaching staff's contracts being automatically renewed.  That bowl game collapse was the only thing that really separated that year's Gopher squad from Mason's previous 7.  They finished right around the .500 mark, they made a bowl game, they ran the ball well, and they were defensively susceptible to teams who threw the ball more than 50% of the time... all the hallmarks of Glen Mason football.

So do I think that Coach Brewster is on Joel Maturi's hot seat?  I don't.  And the reason that I don't is because I have my doubts that Joel Maturi has a standard in mind for what SHOULD put a coach on the hot seat at all.  I don't think that he's comparing Brewster to other coaches from the U or outside of the program. Again, I have no direct knowledge of this, just a feeling.

While Brewster has done several very good things at the University of Minnesota, he has been given the keys to the castle to do so (upgraded facilities, increased resources in recruiting), and the good things he has done have not translated into wins on the field.  Any measure of a coach HAS to put wins/losses at the top of the criteria, and by that criteria, Coach Brewster has maintained the status quo at best.

So the question for Joel Maturi actually goes back to the firing of Glen Mason.  Maintaining the status quo wasn't good enough to keep Glen Mason around, so why is maintaining the status quo good enough to keep Tim Brewster around?  And furthermore, why is maintaining the status quo good enough for Brewster when he's been given better facilities and tools with which to recruit and run his team?  The answer from Joel Maturi, I would hope, would be, it isn't good enough.

So if it isn't good enough, how long does Brewster get to outperform the status quo?

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Arguement FOR a Geographical Big Ten Realignment

Earlier in the week E! Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg addressed the central question in Big Ten realingment: what to do with Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska?

The four neighbors share borders, values, rivalries and would seem to make perfect division mates. Nebraska is the fourth winningest college football program of all time, while Wisconsin and the dirty Hawkeyes have strong programs who in the last 20 years have won a Big Ten title, played in the Rose Bowl, and seem to make regular trips to New Year's Day Bowls. Iowa and Wisconsin have a strong rivalry building, as the two have met 85 times, the first in 1894. The Huskers and Hawkeyes are neighboring farming states who absolutely, positively eat, sleep and breathe Nebraska and Iowa football, and despite the two border states having played so little over the years, there's still a healthy rivalry brewing between the fan bases. Wisconsin and Nebraska have almost no history, but considering they share the same colors, and their fans share many of the same values and passions, them meeting annually would be a most natural fit.

Minnesota? Um yeah we were good like 50 years ago, and our sucktitude of late, especially in games against the three schools, have us bordering on irrelevance in the minds of their fans. But, the one trump card we have to play is that the Gophers have more history with these three programs than any other school in the country:

- The Gophs and Badgers have Division 1's oldest rivalry, as they've met 119 times, the first in 1890. They've played for Paul Bunyan's Axe- THE best rivalry trophy in sports- since 1948.
- The Gophs are Iowa's oldest rival, as the two first met in 1891, and have played for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy every year since 1935
- Minnesota has played Nebraska 51 times, more than any other Big Ten school, and lead the series 29-20-2. Of course, the Huskers have won the past 14 straight meetings, which includes the Gophs worst lost ever when Nebraska thumped them 84-13, so you can't really call this a rivalry.

Still, if you're going to split the Big Ten into two divisions, these four schools clearly belong together. Add the two neighboring schools Illinois and Northwestern from The Land of Lincoln and it would create two perfect divisions from the standpoint of competitiveness, geography, and maintain rivalries. Honestly, not one fanbase in the Big Ten would be upset if the divisions were split with a simple East/West geographic split. Everyone wins right?

Wrong. The only people who don't like this idea are the ones who drive the bus when it comes to college football- the Almighty Dollar. Yes television execs would not be thrilled to have three of the four highest profile Big Ten schools- Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State- in the same division. For television it'd be fantastic when Nebraska represents the West and would play any of the Big Three east schools. But what happens in the years Nebraska doesn't make it? The TV folks like the odds of splitting these four teams to better ensure they meet in conference championship games more often.

The problem here, besides the obvious fact that what's good for the fans is not being judged as good for the conference, is that this reasoning is flawed. I haven't seen anyone questioning the Big Ten's reasoning for NOT wanting to split the divisions by geography. Hear me out on this one, if you will...

With the addition of Nebraska, the Big Ten now has four strong, nationally recognized college football powers, which includes Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. All four of those schools "move the needle" nationally when they're on TV, which is why the conference obviously would like two of those four to meet in their new conference championship game as much as possible.

I totally get that. I would not argue that those four schools are the four most popular, and that even though Wisconsin and Iowa have excellent programs, they still aren't in that class of the other four for national followin. I also understand that the Buckeyes, Wolverines, and Nittany Lions have won or shared the past eight straight Big Ten titles, and have been extremely successful over the years.'s Stewart Mandel gave his opinion on what Big Ten realignment should look like, and was the first to use actual records to back up the claim that the Big Three shouldn't be in the same division. Mandel looked at the records of the 11 current Big Ten schools since the conference added Penn State in 1993, and looked at the Husker's record since the Big 12 was formed in 1996. Here's the chart he came up with:

1. Ohio State 106-29-1 (.779)
2. Michigan 94-42 (.691)
3. Nebraska 75-37 (.669)
4. Penn State 86-50 (.632)
5. Wisconsin 79-54-3 (.581)
6. Iowa 71-64-1 (.522)
7. Purdue 63-70-3 (.463)
8. Michigan State 63-72-1 (.463)
9. Northwestern 59-77 (.434)
10. Illinois 45-90-1 (.331)
11. Minnesota 44-92 (.324)
12. Indiana 33-103 (.243)

That right there is some good information. Despite Michigan's recent struggles, as well as the recent strong play of Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska (all three schools should start 2010 ranked nationally in the top 10), it shows over two decades how good the "Big Three" and Nebraska have been.

Now I could argue that there's no guarantee Michigan will return to its Lloyd Carr glory days (how ironic- and TRUE- is that statement for Michigan fans?), but Mandel gives a pretty clear view of exactly what conference Commish Jim Delany and company will be looking at: that based on these stats the Buckeyes, Wolverines, Nittany Lions, and Huskers have been, and will continue to be, the four flagship programs for the conference.

Fine. So just to be clear, maximizing TV dollars for your title game is the ultimate goal for the Big Ten, right? They are hoping to get the biggest ratings year and year out for the next decade for that game, and the best way to ensure that happens to have as few championship games as possible that DON'T include at least one of the Big Four, and hoping to have as many as possible that would include at least two of those four?

So if that's the case, I have one simple question: wouldn't splitting these four up actually HURT your chances of doing that?

Splitting them two-and-two just means a BETTER chance of not having any of them in the conference title game and giving you worse ratings. While it seems like Ohio State would win any division every year for eternity based on the way they've played under Jim Tressell, they did have some "struggles" under previous head coach John Cooper (I use finger quotes around the word "struggles" because it was a span that 95% of college football fanbases, including Minnesota, would kill for) where they played in the Rose Bowl just once between 1986-1998, when the BCS was then created.

As mentioned earlier Michigan is down now and there are zero guarantees Rich Rod, or the next coach, quickly get them back to an elite program. Penn State is great now but from 2000-2004 were just 26-33. Nebraska, once the most dominant program in the country, are still awaiting their return to glory since legendary coach Tom Osborne retired after winning a share of the 1997 national championship. Frank Solich took over, and in hind sight had a good run going 58-13 from 1998-2003, but because he didn't win the Huskers national titles and ONLY averaged nine wins a season, he was run out of Lincoln on a rail. The next four years under Bill Callahan from 2004-2007 were the definition of average with a record of 27-22. Bo Pellini looks to be getting things back to a championship level with a 10 win season in 2009 and the school's first national ranking since 2005, but again, all of the recent history for our Big Four schools show dominance is never permanent. So to split these four two-and-two almost guarantees less meetings between them in a conference title game.

Having Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in the same division means you're almost guaranteed to have one of those three in your conference title game every year- and just having one of those three automatically means bigger ratings because of their national following. Sure playing the Huskers would give you a ratings bonanza, but even against Iowa or Wisconsin the numbers would be very strong because of the success of those programs. And when Northwestern or Illinois has a sneaky season and represents the West, you still have a much better chance of getting good TV numbers because you'd have a much better chance of one of the Big Three representing the East to offset a less "popular" program being in the title game.

By my count, a simple geographic split of the Big Ten would keep All of the key rivalries intact, current and new ones would be strengthened, the divisions would be very competitive AND TV execs would have a much better chance of maximizing revenues for the Big Ten championship game by keeping Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in the same division. Sounds like a real win-win for everyone. Now if only I could convince the Big Ten of this.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Some thoughts on divisional split

Everyone is talking about how the divisions will be split once Nebraska joins the Big Ten fray... so why should I be any different?

Rittenberg today made his grand entrance into the discussion, with a proposed divisional alignment that, in my opinion, is just way too complicated.  I get that divisions need to maintain a competitive balance, and they need to maintain rivalries, and that geography is really the last thing on anyone's mind, even though it does enter the discussion.  But I don't think you can just ignore geography completely.

OSU, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska are generally accepted as the "traditional powers" when discussing division alignment, and you'll get no argument here.  So let's consider that the top tier.  Then let's lay out two more tiers...

Tier 1: OSU, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska
Tier 2: Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State
Tier 3: Minnesota, NWestern, Purdue, Indiana

We can all argue about how Northwestern is on the rise, and we can argue about how Illinois is down but are generally competitive, and that Purdue is on its way back, and we can bring all of the historical records we want to the table... fine.  This is just one man's argument.

If the tiers listed above hold true, in a 12 team conference, we of course want 2 teams from each tier in each division.  This, in theory, should take care of the issue of competitive balance.

To continue the formula that the Big Ten has mentioned, the next two most important factors, in order, are rivalries, followed by geography.

Now, I've seen only two arguments about this.  The first is that an East-West divisional split makes sense because of geography, while still maintaining rivalries, and manages to do a reasonable job of maintaining competitive balance.  The other argument is Rittenberg's, that the East-West split doesn't get competitive balance close enough, so let's completely ignore geography and only focus on balance and protecting rivalries.

What I haven't seen is anybody arguing for a different kind of geographic split besides the obvious East-West option, so I decided to look at the possibility of a North-South split that accounts for geography and hopefully also maintains rivalries and balance.  In my mind it would look like this:

Tier 1 teams: Nebraska, Michigan
Tier 2: Wisconsin, Michigan State
Tier 3: Minnesota, NWestern
Tier 1 teams: OSU, PSU
Tier 2: Iowa, Illinois
Tier 3: Indiana, Purdue

Clearly each team would play their 5 other divisional opponents every year, followed by a combination of a protected rivalry (you've seen them all over the internet, I'm not going to rehash them here), and a round-robin of teams from the opposite division.

You are still going to have protected rivalries across divisional lines, which is a given, but in this scenario you have natural protection of some rivalries, and can still easily protect many others across divisional lines.

For example, Minnesota would play each of these teams EVERY year:
Wisconsin (rivalry)
Michigan State
Michigan (rivalry)
Iowa (protected rivalry)

From here there are options...
1) Two more conference games on a rotating schedule of the other 5 schools from the Big Ten South, and still schedule 4 non-conference games.
2) A second protected rivalry (Iowa would still want to play Wisconsin every year and you'd probably like to see Nebraska play Iowa and OSU/PSU, etc), bringing the list of conference teams you'd play every year to 7.  This would then mean that the final conference game would be rotated among the remaining teams in the other division.  The unfortunate thing would be that you'd only see those other teams once every 4 years (i.e. Minnesota would only see Ohio State every 4 years).
3) A second protected rivalry game and drop the number of non-conference game to 3 (like the Pac10 has been doing for years).  In this scenario Minnesota would see Ohio State at least every two years.

There's going to be flaws with every system, and some of you have maybe already tuned me out (Jeffrick) because I have Ohio State and Michigan in separate divisions.  Personally, I like the idea of having Michigan and Ohio State in separate divisions.  Assuming Michigan regains its composure and joins the national power discussion in the coming years, I can't bring myself to envision a Big Ten where Michigan and Ohio State would NEVER play for the Big Ten title.  I realize that by protecting rivalries and then having them in separate divisions that means they may play twice a year, and possibly on consecutive weeks, but again, I just can't envision those two never being able to play in the Big Ten title game, which would be the case if they were in the same division.

Personally, I would like to see geography come into play with these divisions.  The Big Ten is already a regionally proud conference and I think there's merit in maintaining regional flavor when splitting divisions.  I also realize how difficult that is, which is why I set out to look at another option.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Texas Now STAYING in the Big 12?!?!?

You've probably seen the joke already: you know it's a strange time in college football when the Big Ten has 12 members and the Big 12 has 10.

But it could get even stranger if Chip Brown of is right: Texas has now decided to STAY in the Big 12.

How is this possible? Well honestly this should have been a plausible option all along because it's an option that looks to give the Texas Longhorns the most money AND most control over their product. And that's what this whole thing has been about from the beginning.

According to Brown, a former beatwriter for one of the Dallas papers and a guy who seems to be more informed about expansion than anyone else covering it, Big 12 commish Dan Beebe made a late pitch to the Horns claiming a ten team Big 12 could still command a TV deal that would pay each member about $17 million a year (the same as the SEC), AND Texas would be free to pursue their own TV network, which would apparently make them an additional $3-$5 million a season. Add to that the reportedly $20 million in fees Nebraska and Colorado would owe the conference for leaving, and you can see how this still looks plenty appealing for Texas.

And of course if it's appealing for Texas, you know the rest of the Big 12 lackeys will be on board since they either a) have to go where Texas goes or b) is better than the alternative of being without Texas either in the MWC or who knows where else?

Well at least it's appealing for eight of the nine other current members whose colors aren't burnt orange: the lone dissenter remains Texas A&M, who also according to Brown have an invite to the SEC if they want it and would have a 6-3 vote from their Board of Regents to accept it if the vote was held right now.

Tough call for the Aggies: stay with what you know, continue your 100 year rivalry with Texas, and continue to cater to the Horns every whim. Or leave for a much tougher conference, but one with more prestige, more money (by adding the Aggies the SEC would add the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio markets, which would assuredly push each team's TV payout north of $20 million a year), and would get them out of the shadow of the Longhorns. Perhaps A&M uses this as leverage to demand a bigger payout from the Big 12, or to balance the TV revenue a little so Texas doesn't get more than everyone else.

While every school is trying to do what's best for them and makes them the most money, this entire process revolves around Texas and everyone has to follow. So I find it interesting that for the second time in a month, the Horns have managed to push the onus and blame onto someone else for what happens to the Big 12, knowing full well that regardless of the outcome Texas will still come out better than anyone else.

Stay tuned. E! is still saying this morning that Texas, OU, OSU and Texas Tech are bound for the Pac 10. I tend to trust Brown's reporting on this a lot more than E!SPN's, but until an official announcement is made, we'll hear a lot of differing opinions on what will happen.

We do know there will be Board of Regents meetings at Texas and Texas Tech tomorrow, A&M regents meet Thursday, and the Texas Legislature has called a hearing for Wednesday to try and get attention- I MEAN to work for the best interests of their wallets- I MEAN to work for the best interests of the state universities and their tax payers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Some Expansion Questions to Ponder

With Colorado officially off to the Pac 10 and Nebraska's "official" announcement about moving to the Big Ten expected today, college football is in a state of flux that we haven't seen in...well probably ever. So many scenarios, so many possibilities, so many different takes on what could happen. After reading a LOT of informed opinions this morning with the opening match of the World Cup on in the background, I have a few expanded related questions...


Unless I'm missing something, the answer is unequivocally NO. The Big Ten made a solid addition with Nebraska and will now be able to get their coveted championship game with 12 teams. Without question they are stronger now than before, and are the most stable, profitable conference in all of college football. So for me, it makes no sense whatsoever to continue expanding if it doesn't include Notre Dame or Texas (and for some reason, I am growing less and less enamored with the idea of UT joining us. More on that in a bit). If Texas goes to the Pac 10 and takes the rest of the Big 12 South with them, why does that force the Big Ten to expand?

Let the other conferences fight for the remaining scraps and see what happens. Conference expansion is all about money, and about making MORE revenue for your current members. No other scenario that doesn't involve the Irish or Horns seems like it would make the Big Ten's current members more money, so why bother? If the B10 stops at 12 teams, it does NOT mean the door on further expansion has closed forever. In a year, three years, or five years, the Big Ten is still going to be making a ton of money and will still be a desirable destination for any school not in the SEC, and possibly the Pac 10 (while the potential Pac 16 COULD be a big money maker, there's no way of knowing until it actually happens and we see what the TV revenue looks like). We can still get anyone we want outside of those two conferences just like we could today.

Furthermore, why risk shutting out the Irish entirely just for a quick money grab now? No, if you're expanding beyond 12 it only makes sense to do so with Notre Dame, and if the folks in South Bend aren't quite ready yet, we can wait.


ESPN radio's Colin Cowherd, as well as Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg, have both raised this question, and I have not heard a rational explanation for it yet: really, why does these two schools leaving kill the Big 12? Why couldn't you add two of Utah, BYU, TCU, or Boise State and keep right on trucking? What's becoming evident is that the entire conference revolves around Texas (and primarily around UT), and the Big 12's formation was a shot-gun marriage where the Horns called the shots and have basically been running the thing all along.

So what's really changed by losing two disgruntled members? The conference still has the state of Texas teams and OU, and Texas still has its unequal revenue share: so why isn't that good enough anymore? New Big 12 blogger David Ubben has the simple answer: money. UT is the richest athletic department in the country, yet they're perfectly willing to screw the rest of their Big 12 brethren to get even more.

To me, that was the most ironic-and ridiculous- part of the whole "Pledge Your Allegiance" deadline Texas- I mean the Big 12- imposed on Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado earlier in the week: the Horns were trying to pin the blame for the Big 12 falling apart on these three schools when it's really Texas who's trying to make the whole thing crumble. UT could still make a ton of money by keeping the Big 12 together, but they see a bigger prize available in the Pac 10 or Big Ten (while there's a lot of different scenarios floating about, one that will NOT happen is Texas to the SEC). So out of one side of their mouths Texas is talking about loyalty to the Big 12, out of the other their talking to Larry Scott and Jim Delany in hopes of getting a better deal and screwing the rest of the Big 12. You stay classy, Texas.


What am I missing here? The Aggies and their conservative fan base are a perfect fit in the culture of the SEC, and would be a complete misfit in the Pac 10. Not only that, but while A&M doesn't have quite the pull the Longhorns do, they would still have a ton of fans in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio that would make them, and the SEC, a ton more TV money. As a matter of fact, I don't see how it's possible that A&M could make more revenue in the Pac 10 than the SEC.

So not only does it make more sense financially, culturally, and geographically to join the SEC, but they could also put the screws to their arch-rivals Texas. A&M would get a really sweet deal of their own, and would certainly lessen what Texas was trying to do in the Pac 10. It's a win-win-win for the Aggies.


Rittenberg posed this idea in his latest chat, and I have to say, it makes all the sense in the world: the Big 12 is obligated to provide an automatic qualifier for the BCS every year. So instead of the Mountain West scooping up the remaining Big 12 schools and then petitioning the BCS for a bid, why wouldn't the remaining Big 12 schools just add the Mountain West and voila! they can keep their automatic BCS bid without having to ask for one? I would bet Big 12 commish Dan Beebe and the folks in the Mountain West figured this one out a long time ago, and when the Big 12 South leaves for the west coast, this could happen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Welcome Nebraska!!

It won't be official until Friday, but the first expansion domino has fallen: according to the Chicago Tribune the Nebraska Cornhuskers will join the Big Ten.

And we here at GGFB couldn't be happier! What happens to the Big 12 because of this? Who else, if anyone, will be invited to join the Huskers in Big Ten expansion? For now, who cares? As Stewart Mandel of did, let's take a moment to appreciate the Huskers:

* They're the 4th winningest program of all-time (Michigan is #1, Ohio State #5, Penn State #9)

* They bring THE classiest, most passionate fan base in the country. True story- at home games in Lincoln, Husker fans applaud their opponent before and after the game. In between, they expect Big Red to beat the bejeesus out of them. But don't mistake kindness for weakness: they travel anywhere and everywhere, including a rare trip to Notre Dame stadium a few years ago where Husker fans made up 47% of the crowd in South Bend. Expect more of the same when they visit Big Ten cathedrals like The Big House, the Horseshoe, Happy Valley, and everywhere else. When NU comes to Minneapolis for the first time, the town will be awash in red, and TCF Bank probably will be too.

* They're not quite Notre Dame in academic reputation, but they're AAU members and a research institution. Good enough for me!

* Don't the Huskers just FEEL like a Big Ten school? Like this is where they should have been all along? The crowd, the culture, the midwest proximity just makes Nebraska the perfect fit in the Big Ten.

* They will be insta-rivals with bordermates Iowa, but do you know which Big Ten school has played more games against Nebraska than any other? You guessed it, your very own Golden Gophers! The two have met 51 times, with the first meeting in 1900 and the last in 1990. Minnesota leads the all-time series 29-20-2. Still, we cannot call them "rivals" because the Huskers have won the past 14 meetings (the last in 1990) by a combined score of 553-100. So yeah, we have some work to do to make Nebraska care about us at all.

* Still, I'm saying right here and right now it's time to drop the worthless Governor's Victory Bell "rivalry" trophy we have with Penn State, and create a new one for our first meeting with Nebraska. Nobody on either side- not here or in Pennsylvania- gives a crap about the Minnesota/Penn State trophy or the rivalry. Don't get me wrong, I love to see us play a storied program like Penn State, but it's a manufactured rivalry and trophy. The matchup with Nebraska- despite the drubbings they've handed us the last 40 years- is quite the opposite. There's a ton of history there and one that should be celebrated. Regardless of what else happens in expansion, I would say the chances are VERY strong that Minnesota will end up in the same division as the Huskers and NOT with the Nittany Lions. Minnesota/Nebraska will once again become an annual game like it was for so many years, and it should be celebrated as such. We probably have two years until Nebraska starts competing in the Big Ten, so let's start figuring something out!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Expansion Rumors: Is this the beginning or much ado about nothing?

Most people, myself included, love rumors and speculation and endless possibilities. We love the idea of "What if?" more than what actually happens. It's why where Lebron will end up this summer is getting more attention than the NBA playoffs. It's why SOME people were disappointed with the ending of Lost (and let me just say I'm one of them, and justifiably so. Through 4 seasons the writers had some great ideas and asked some mind-bending sci-fi questions. In season 6 their explanation proved they had no answers for any of it and came up with a story arc that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Island or any of it's crazy sci-fi properties. It was a huge cop-out, but I'll admit, I still really enjoyed the first five seasons. The sixth? Not so much).

Still, it shows that despite some incredible ideas and directions that something could go, usually it doesn't. NBA free agency is another example. In one form or another the NBA offseason is filled with crazy trade rumors and speculation and usually...nothing happens. This year? More of the same I think. Oh sure, somebody like Amare Stoudermire or Joe Johnson could change teams, and perhaps Chris Bosh too. But in the end, I think you'll see Bronbron stay in Cleveland, Wade stay in Miami, and Dirk Diggler stay in Dallas. Maybe Bosh joins DWade in Miami or maybe he gets shipped to the Lakers. Maybe. But because professional athletes overwhelming care more about money than anything else, I think the big boys will stay with their current teams because they can get the most money.

Which brings us to all of the conference expansion rumors that have been swirling since December when Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez and others in the Big Ten starting floating the idea that the conference was thinking expansion again. Don't get me wrong, I'm as intrigued by this stuff as anyone else, especially because as a Gophers fan, whatever happens will impact their teams.

But while I guess a 16 team Big Ten, or the latest rumor of a 16 team Pac 10, is possible, I'd say minor changes are much more likely than major ones. College football is the Old Boys Club of Old Boys Clubs, and none of them are exactly huge risk takers. They are protecting their wealth and status at all costs with a convoluted BCS system that makes less sense, and would probably make them less money, than a playoff. But they still cling to it because it's safe and because they remain in control.

I don't think the parameters of expansion are much different. Yes, the Big Ten has been risk takers, as starting the Big 10 Network was an incredibly bold move that has paid off ridiculously well. So now they're trying to strike while the iron is hot much like, say, Google looking to buy up competitors. It's a shrewd move, and if done correctly, will be another masterstroke from Jim Delaney.

But make no mistake, for EVERYONE involved three things matter over all else- protecting their wallets, their prestige and their control over both. As they've proven with the BCS, the men and women running NCAA schools and college football don't give a damn about competition, they care about making money and whatever you and I as fans will pay to see it, that's what they're going to charge us. While as fans I would love expansion to be about making the Big Ten stronger on the field, remember these are also the same people who helped usher in a 12th regular season game that EVERYBODY uses to schedule a crappy opponent so they can make money and pad their win totals so they can make more bowl games.

As for prestige, I'm talking about their academic standing and the image of the conference. For the Big 12 and SEC this isn't such a big deal, but for the Big Ten and Pac 10, this is a HUGE deal. If you want to join either of these conferences, you're going to not only need to add a lot of value (i.e. new revenue) but also academic standing. This is the part so many people seem to overlook. The Big Ten is the Ivy League of the Midwest, and the school presidents, who have to answer to faculty and donors as well as athletic boosters, are not going to let academics slip in the name of more money. Even more so with the Pac 10 for one simple reason: unless they change this at their meetings coming up, to get accepted into the Pac 10 ALL 10 SCHOOLS MUST APPROVE. The Big Ten I believe needs 8 of 11 votes, but in the Pac 10, if one school doesn't like you, you're not getting in. And there's one school in that conference who really, really, REALLY values academics, and that is Stanford. The Cardinal are NOT going to have their academic standing, and those of the conference they're in, slide in favor of more money. With all of the research, grants, and donors they have, Stanford prints money with or without athletics. So while more money from a new TV deal would be nice, it's not going to come at the cost of what they consider to be a lesser academic school.

Finally, the schools are going to do whatever possible to maintain control over both their revenues and their academic standing. It's why even though both Notre Dame and Texas would make more money by joining the Big Ten, they both won't unless something forces them to because they can still make a lot of money by themselves.

Which bring us to the past Thursday when ran a story-at the same time the Big 12 meetings were about to begin- saying the Pac 10 was going to extend invites to six Big 12 schools: Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado, and Texas Tech.

Is there validity to it? Perhaps, as the article states, both the Pac 10 and some of the schools named aren't exactly denying it. And I know where this takes some people: a 16 team Pac 10, then a 16 team Big Ten adding Nebraska, Mizzou, Rutgers, and one of Syracuse/UConn/Pitt which forces Notre Dame to join and escape the collapsing Big East. While I guess this scenario is possible, I'd say it's more likely Lebron signs with the Timberwolves than this actually playing out.

For one thing- there's not a chance in hell Stanford ever lets Texas Tech into the Pac 10. Ever. Never ever. Not happening. I could be wrong, but even if the Longhorns say they'll join the conference by the Texas Legislature demands Tech goes with them, from everything I've heard and read Stanford values their academics to the point they'd put the kibosh on that. But maybe not.

Bottom line is that everybody involved has been in "wait-and-see" mode. Nobody wants to make the first move. So does this mean the Pac 10 invite rumor is the conference making the first move? Or are they just testing the waters to see what happens and who reacts? I'm guessing it's more of the latter, but then again they see the writing on the wall. They understand completely that's there's only so much TV money to go around and only so many networks that will pay it. Their TV contracts and bowl alliances suck, and they're all coming up for renegotiation, so the time is NOW to build as attractive a package as possible.

So I'm sure their aim is definitely Texas. Creating a cable sports network that would be on basic packages in California and Texas would be huge. Adding the states of Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and possibly Colorado, Oklahoma, and even Utah, would vault them right into third in the college football power structure behind the Big Ten and SEC. Again, all 10 Pac 10 schools need to be in agreement which is why I'm really doubtful they would offer Texas Tech.

Still, in a game that so far has everyone involved in "wait-and-see" mode, it'll be interesting to see if the Pac 10 is simply firing a shot across the bow to see how people react- or if this really is a shot to the heart of the Big 12 that will get this whole expansion process rolling.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things are so bad I'm turning into an optimist

I am a realist. Some would say a pessimist, especially when it comes to Gopher football. I'm one of those crazy people who thinks that with the right coach Minnesota should be able to compete for a New Year's Day bowl birth every season, not just once a century. I advocated firing Glen Mason, and even with all that's happened under Tim Brewster, I still do. I'm believe if Brewster doesn't win seven regular season games this season, he should be fired too. I was anti-Adam Weber last season and do not believe he was ever a 2nd team all-Big Ten quarterback or will be again.

I am a realist, and some would say a pessimist when it comes to Gopher football. But things have gotten so bad and so negative around here, I'm starting to look like an optimist by comparison. I mean, what else can you do with the Sam Maresh news but laugh about it? Heading into the offseason I was SO excited about the potential of our defense, yet since then we've now lost both of our middle linebacker candidates to suspension or academics (although I've heard Tinsley could make it back?), and both of our senior starting safeties- one to suspension and the other to injury. We should get both back, but really who knows? And would it surprise you in the least if it was announced today that Theret was booted off the team and Royston's injury was career-ending?

Yeah, me neither. At this point NOTHING would surprise me when it comes to the Gopher football team. I'm officially prepared for the worst because the worst keeps happening. Maybe having zero expectations is a good thing?

I've also found someone in media who is much more pessimistic about the Gophers than I could ever be- and no, it's not Pat Reusse. It's the college football writers at the Sporting News, who have released their preseason Top 100 rankings. Now, I've said since the offseason you could make an argument for the Gophs being as good as the 7th best team in the Big Ten and as bad as 9th or 10th. But not 11th. There's no way they're in worse shape heading into 2010 than Indiana. Well guess what? The boys at TSN disagree. The Hoosiers are ranked 78th in the country. Illinois is 94th. Our Gophs? 98th. Yep, they think we're going to be the worst team in the Big Ten, and easily one of the worst in the country.

But that's not all: check out the writeup from head writer Matt Hayes, who projects Minnesota to go 2-10 overall and just 1-7 in the Big Ten. I mean that, that is a pessimist right there. Even in my wildest and worst dreams I can't see the Gophs winning less than four games. But TWO?

And Hayes' confidence in this happening is high:
Even if Weber returns to his old form, he can't play defense. There will be too many young guys playing in big games for the first time — and against a brutal league schedule that includes favorites Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The schedule IS the toughest the Gophers have seen in years, but only two wins? Either I'm turning into an optimist or that's just crazy. Also, Hayes apparently thinks Minnesota would have a better chance of winning if they put Eden Prairie's high school team out there instead of Brew's Crew. Check out his positional rankings:

QB (C), RB (D+), WR/TE (C-), OL (B-)

I will not argue with his rankings of the skill positions. Until proven otherwise I'd say those are bang on. I'd even say he's pretty optimistic by giving our offensive line- which was our biggest offensive problem last year- a B-. Hayes, like me and every other Gopher fan, is apparently thinking a year of experience will make them better and serviceable. Let's hope so.

DL (D), LB (C), DB (C-), ST (C)

Now here's where I disagree strongly. As mentioned earlier we are currently without our two senior safeties and our two starting middle linebacker candidates. Yet I still maintain that while our D lacks in experience, this is still going to one of the fastest and most athletic groups we've seen here in a long, long time. Our D-line has so much more potential than a "D" gradeand could really be the strength of the team. Yes, our LB's are definitely hurt by losing Maresh and Tinsley (and by the way, this ranking was given BEFORE the Maresh news broke), but with guys like Keanon Cooper, Mike Rallis and Spencer Reeves, there's still plenty of talent there. The secondary? Michael Carter by himself is better than a C- rating. We will get Royston back from injury, and whatever happens with Theret, we'll be ok at the other safety spot. We ARE thin with depth at corner, but I still see a ton of potential in this group.

So maybe all of this negativity and bad news has made me crazy, or maybe I'm just turning into an optimist, but 6 or 7 wins is a possibility this year. Despite what Matt Hayes says (and I'm sure there's be plenty more pundits who will agree with him), we have the talent on defense this year, and IF our offensive line improves and one of the true freshmen running backs step up, our offense will be much better too. The schedule will indeed be tough, but I can find six or seven wins on this schedule.

And if it doesn't happen and we miss a bowl game, then Tim Brewster is gone and we'll get a better coach. And regardless of what happens this season Adam Weber will be gone too. See? All positive signs. This being an optimist thing isn't so bad after all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The poor get poorer...

Well folks... Jeffrick said it so eloquently over text message to me... FAAAACK!!!

As I sit on my deck on this beautiful Memorial Day weekend I decided to check the old Twitter feed on my Blackberry, where I read this from The Daily Gopher...
"Sam Maresh no longer a Gopher"
Stomach punch.

According to the Strib:
"Sam Maresh has one more hurdle to clear in his quest to play Division I football. Maresh, the highly-recruited linebacker from Champlin Park High School who committed to the University of Minnesota in 2007, has left the school because of academic issues.
He will take classes at Anoka-Ramsey Junior College this summer, then attend a junior college this fall."
You should go ahead and read the articles because I don't have the wherewithal to rehash it on this holiday weekend, but needless to say, this is another huge blow to a program that simply could NOT afford anymore.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Is Brewster's Coaching Seat the Hottest in the BIg Ten?

Earlier in the week Jermo touched on what Tim Brewster will have to do to keep his job as Minnesota's football coach beyond 2010. While I wish I could argue against Jermo's beliefs that another six win regular season and a win in a crappy bowl game is all Brew will have to do to be here in 2011, I simply can't, especially with Joel Maturi in charge.

So while Brew's coaching hot seat is pretty warm heading into 2010, it's by no means the warmest in the conference. Just for fun (like a man wearing stretchy pants in his room), let's rank the coaching hot seats around the Big Ten in reverse order and see where Brewster shakes out:

A Cool, Comfortable Easy Chair

Tough to rank these five in any order, as all of their jobs are extremely safe. Still...

11. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Fitz's job is the most secure in all of the Big Ten because he's been the most successful coach in Wildcats' history at a school with little support and even less expectations. Honestly, he could miss a bowl game for the next five years and no one at the school would even fathom getting rid of him.

10. Danny Hope, Purdue
While Purdue has a larger fan base and expectations than Northwestern, they still don't compare to some other schools in the conference. Despite missing a bowl game in his first season, Hope's team was competitive and even exciting, and therefore he's going to get a few more years to get the Boilermakers "back on track" if you will (and I will).

9. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Hawkeye fans LOVE Ferentz, but because of the expectations at Iowa, it wouldn't take more than two "down" seasons for Kirk's seat to start getting toasty. Heck, with the expectations going into this season, if they finish anywhere but first or second you might hear a few grumbles.

8. Joe Paterno, Penn State
Whenever JoePa decides to finally retire, he'll leave as the winningest coach in Division 1 history. With the way the past few seasons have gone, Nittany Lion fans will be thrilled to let him stay as long as he wants. The team is back to competing for conference titles every year, and while everyone knows Paterno long ago started delegating most of his coaching duties to his fine staff, it's working well and everyone's on-board. The only reason I put JoePa here is because if you remember back only five or six years ago when Penn State wasn't winning, the folks in Happy Valley weren't so happy and were ready to push Paterno out the door to retirement as fast as they could. A down year this season (possible with all the losses on defense and QB) and next would be enough for the fans to start clamoring for him to step down.

7. Jim Tressel, Ohio State
All the mighty Sweater Vest has done this century at OSU is win a national title, win or share the last six Big Ten titles, and continually beat the bejeesus out of arch-rival Michigan. At 99% of the schools in the country, they'd be naming streets after Tressel and handing him a blank check. But of course OSU expects more. After losing three straight BCS Bowl games (including two national title game drubbings in 2006 and 2007) and another regular season loss to USC AND a shocking upset to Purdue last year, a sizeable amount of Buckeye fans were lighting up message boards and websites wondering if Tressel was the right guy for the job. Of course the Bucks then ripped off a big winning streak to once again win the conference title and then avenged their previous BCS bowl game losses by handling Oregon in impressive fashion.

For now the folks in Columbus are satisfied, but with a loaded 2010 team that will be ranked in the top 3 in the country to start the season, anything less than another Big Ten title and AT LEAST another BCS bowl game win (if not the BCS National Championship), the questioning will begin again. As a Gopher fan it seems insane to me, as I would take any ONE of Tressel's Big Ten title seasons and take him as our coach for life. But Ohio State is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to expectations.

We're Getting Warmer

6. Bret Bielma, Wisconsin
Heading into 2009 most Badger fans seemed less than thrilled with Bielma's tenure. Considering he played at Iowa I'm not sure what they expected (zing!), but Bielma quieted his critics with 10 wins, including a bowl victory over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl. Bucky Badger enters this season in just everybody preseason top 10, and if Wisconsin doesn't finish the season there- or at least close to it- his critics in Madison will start up again.

5. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Dantonio has done a pretty good job of rebuilding the Spartans in his short time there, but with a disappointing 2009 season coupled with so many player suspensions for the "frat boy fights", he really needs a top 5 finish in the Big Ten in 2010. Not saying he's going to get canned if he doesn't, but his seat will start getting awfully warm heading into 2011.

Is it Me, or Is It Hot in Here?

4. Tim Brewster, Minnesota
If it were me as AD, Brew would need 7 wins this season to keep his job. He's entering his fourth season with a roster full of his own recruits, and all he has to show for it is a string of players running afoul of the law, an 0-3 bowl record, 0-9 in trophy games, and he's yet to beat a team ranked in the top 25. But as long as Joel Maturi continues to run the U's athletic department, well, Brewster could win four games and still keep his job. Or maybe get another contract extension. Who knows?

3. Bill Lynch, Indiana
It's looking like bowl game or bust for Lynch, who with a returning QB and some offensive talent around him, has a pretty good shot at remaining in Bloomington. Still, it's Indiana so you never know.

2. Ron Zook, Illinois
If Zook were at a lot of other schools he wouldn't even have a job, but for some reason, the Illini wanted to give him one more shot at it. The Zooker definitely needs to go bowling to keep his job, but I wonder if HOW they qualify for a bowl doesn't matter too? Like if they go limping into a bowl game, would he still get canned? We're about to find out.

1. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
We finish the list with the man on the hottest seat not just in the Big Ten but in the country. Things have not gone as planned on or off the field for Rodriguez or fans and alumni of the Maize and Blue as he enters his third season. I'm still of the belief that if he would get four years he would win there and start winning big, but he's not getting a fourth year unless he wins big in 2010. What does "winning big" mean? I have no idea, and considering how many differing opinions you read out there, I'm not sure anyone else does either. In my opinion to keep his job he needs to beat Notre Dame, win at least eight regular season games and get them back to a New Year's Day Bowl. But considering how much he's disliked in Ann Arbor right now, even that might not be enough.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hot Seats

Rittenberg wrote this morning about coaching hot seats as did a list of how "hot" of a seat every coach in college football is sitting on.

On a 0-5 scale (0= coach is untouchable, 5= the seat is burning) Brewster gets a rating of 4 along with Bill Lynch of Indiana.  According to CBS Sports, there are only 7 other coaches in all of college football whose jobs are in more jeopardy than Brewster's... and TWO of them are from the Big Ten (RichRod & Zooker).

With 4 Big Ten coaches in the top 10 of this list, Rittenberg points out the obvious:
"It has been three years since a Big Ten head coach was fired, as Michigan State's John L. Smith and Minnesota's Glen Mason got pink-slipped before the 2007 season (Michigan's Lloyd Carr "retired" after the 2007 campaign). But there's a good chance we'll see some movement in November or December."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What could happen?

Here are some thoughts on the upcoming Gopher season and what might happen given some combination of wins/losses.

6 wins (Mid Tenn State, SDSU, No Illinois, NWestern, Purdue, Illinois)
3-1 in the non-con (with the obvious loss to USC) and 3-3 in the Big Ten.  These are three Big Ten teams that the Gophers, based on what we know today, SHOULD beat.  This record would clearly earn the Gophers a bowl bid, but once again to a lower tier game.  If the team wins 6, and the games I've mentioned here are the one's they win, Tim Brewster will be playing for his job in a late December bowl game.  Win that game and he stays, lose it, and he's gone.

6 wins (Mid Tenn State, SDSU, No Illinois, NWestern, Purdue & Wisky OR Iowa)
If Tim Brewster's squad wins 6 games this season and he wins one of the rivalry games, his job is safe no matter what happens in whatever low-tier bowl game they go to.

5 wins (Iowa & Wisky, Mid Tenn State, SDSU, No Illinois)
If Tim Brewster misses a bowl game, but beats both Iowa and Wisconsin, his job is safe.  The schedule is difficult enough that the bar might be set low and he might be able to survive missing a bowl game... but he would HAVE to exercise both of the rivalry game demons.  A five win season can't really be called a success... but winning both rivalry games in one season can't exactly be called a failure.

4 wins
The only way Tim Brewster is around following a 4-win season is if those wins are over 4 of the 5 best teams on the schedule: USC, Wisconsin, PSU, OSU & Iowa.

3 wins or less
Brewster is gone.  In fact, if Brewster doesn't come out of the non-con schedule with a 3-1 record (unless one of those wins is somehow against USC), his job might be in jeopardy before he even hits the conference season.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Phil Steele Announces His 2010 Preseason All-Big Ten Teams

As Rittenberg notes in his blog, college football guru Phil Steele has released his 2010 preseason All-Big Ten teams. Just in case you don't know, Steele publishes a college football preview magazine every year that is full of more stats and information than my belly was the one and only time I was able to eat two Chipotle burritos in one sitting. Seriously. It's just a staggering amount of information. I bought last year's Big Ten preview and will be snatching it off a newstand (ok, honestly, who buys from a newstand? I just like the word, but I'll be buying mine from B&N or Borders or somewhere like that) when it comes out June 8th.

In anticipation of this monumental college football day, Steele releases his all-conference teams. And not just a first or second team like some lazy writers- oh no, Phil releases first through fourth team. He knows who the backup kicker for Idaho State is let alone who the starting quarterback for your Minnesota Golden Gophers, so the man's word is trusted all over the college football world.

Which, for your aforemention Maroon and Gold, might not be such a good thing. The reason?

Well let's just say you could probably find more answers on last night's Lost finale than Gophers on Steele's four team. There's no Gophs on his first team All-Big Ten. Or his second team. Or his third. There ARE three Gophs on his fourth team however: G Matt Carufel (no really), S Kim Royston (assuming his injury heals for the start of the season), and KR/PR Troy Stoudermire.

And that's it.

But at least there were other teams with as few players as Minnesota had right? Well, do you know how many other Big Ten teams had three or less players named on Mr. Steele's four preseason All-Big Ten teams?

Um, zero. That's right, even Indiana had more guys than us with four, including one 1st team member (the dirty, hated Hawkeyes led everyone with 19 selections. Wisconsin had 16. Can't wait for those trophy games!).

So in a season where Tim Brewster will be coaching for his job he has, in the esteemed personal opinion of one Mr. Phil Steele, not a single first, second, or third team All-Big Ten player. Not one. And I don't think Steele is going to be the only college football pundit who believes this. As a matter of fact, I'm betting you'll see nary a Gopher named preseason 1st or 2nd team in any national website, magazine, or TV show in the country.

Now are these predictions a 100% accurate measuer of who's going to be good? Of course not. Guys come from way off the radar every year, like Iowa's Adrian Clayborn last year or Minnesota's very own Willie VanDeSteeg in 2008. It can happen. But it's one thing to have a first or second team selection and a half dozen guys sprinkled across the four teams, where you know you're going to have some solid players and then hope that some others step up. It's quite another for Coach Brew to have zero guys that a really smart, well-versed college football guy believes are worthy of being pre-season first, second, or third team.

What it means is that to keep his job and get more than the six wins he achieved last year, Brewster is going to have to do not only the best coaching job of his time at Minnesota, but perhaps the best of his life in what looks to be the toughest Big Ten conference in years. And if Phil Steele is right, the Gophers will begin 2010 looking up at everybody else.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Well We Have that Going For Us, Which is Nice...

Howdy. Hope you've got your air conditioner out of storage, since we're expecting 90+ degrees here in Minnesota starting Sunday. Like the weather, Gopher news is starting to really heat up too...ok not so much, but we did get some much needed good news around our beloved football program:

Graduation rates are up!

Ok so it doesn't fix our offensive woes or Brewster's problems keeping his kids off the police blotter, but at least this is something good to talk about. As Myron Medcalf notes in the Strib, the U's football program achieved record gains in the NCAA's 2009 Academic Progress Report. I know some people still love the idea that Div 1 football players are "student athletes" but let's face it: this is a business. The U and every other D1 football program really only care about winning games and meeting whatever minimum graduation requirements they have to.

Well with this new-fangled APR, if teams don't meet the minimum standards, like the U did not in 2008, it means a loss of scholarships, and obviously at this point in Brewster's tenure here, we need all the scholarship players we can get.

Check the link for Medcalf's article and more information on the vast improvements the team made academically, but the bottom line for football fans is that we'll get some scholarships back, and whatever your thoughts on what Brewster has done at Minnesota, this is definitely an improvement we needed.

Now if he can just work on the on-field winning and off-field trouble-makers, we'll be in even better shape.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

You'd Better Sit Down Before You Read This

So I haven't written here in awhile, but this one was so big and so shocking and just so monumentous (pretty sure I made that word up...yep, spell check doesn't recognize it so yeah, that just happened) that I had to post here.

You're not going to believe this, but the Gophers announced today who their starting quarterback is going to be. Who is it? Who could it be? Seriously you'll never get it, not ever. It is...

Adam Weber!

I know right? Aren't you glad I made you sit down before you read this? I mean the shock of it could have knocked you out cold. I mean wow. Adam Weber! I just never thought it would happen. This rough and tumble kid from out of nowhere comes into camp and wins the starting job! What a story!

It's so great that Coach Tim Brewster is taking a whole new approach to things in 2010 and that he's ready to wipe the slate clean and replace the guy who last year "led" the worst offense in the Big Ten in 2009 scoring, total offense, and 3rd down percentage and he himself ranked dead last in passing efficiency...

...Oh that's right, Adam Weber IS that same guy from 2009. We said from the moment the words "quarterback competition" came out of Brewster's mouth that it was bullcrap and Weber would win the job regardless of what happened (like oh, I don't know, another abysmal spring game performance). And sure enough, he was handed a job that in reality he never really lost.

So Adam Weber will be our starting quarterback for the fourth straight season, and barring new NCAA eligibility rules, it will be his last. We could say the same for Brewster. But that's the one silver lining of the 2010 Gopher football season: if Brewster doesn't FINALLY start walking the walk, we'll get a new coach in here (Kevin Sumlin or Mike Leach please!) who will. And no matter who is coaching, we WILL have a quarterback competition for 2011, and the winner will NOT be Adam Weber. Sounds good to me!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quarterback competition my @$$...

For the first time in several years, I opted not to attend the Gopher Spring Football game last Saturday.  I suppose this makes me a bad fan, but I've been called worse.  Heck, I'm a Gopher fan, and I've sat next to Iowa fans in the Metrodome... of course I've been called worse.

In any case, for a change of pace the local resident Gopher football experts at the local dailies had some opinions.  I was reading Marcus Fuller's comments in the Pioneer Press when I came across something...
QB Stats from Gopher Spring Football Game...
Adam Weber: 8 of 20, 144 yards, 
MarQueis Gray: 4 of 8, 66 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT 
(Moses Alipate also got 4 attempts in the action, but for his sake I'm going to keep him out of this discussion.)

I guess I see a few problems with these numbers.

First would be the continuing trend of Adam Weber's apparent inaccuracy.  Youngblood reports that the receivers were dropping some balls, so I'll have to just assume that some of Weber's incompletions can be blamed on them.  And I also get that it's JUST a spring game.

But I can't be the only one that, despite what we saw last year, is expecting big things out of Adam Weber this fall.  Weber has been the leader in the clubhouse to win the QB job all spring, and Fuller and Youngblood and anybody else with a pulse who follows Gopher football at all has known it, and has pointed it out as much as possible.

The only way MarQueis Gray was going to win the job from Weber was if Weber's play was so egregious and Gray's play was so spectacular during spring practices, that the coaches just couldn't ignore it, because I can promise you that JUST egregious play by Weber would not have been enough for him to lose the job... THAT was proven throughout the 2009 season.  The fact that there was a supposed "quarterback competition" this spring is just a farce.  

The only quarterback competition on this team was the one that Gary Tinsley and Kyle Theret have going to see who is going to lead the Hennepin County Hens football team against the Ramsey County Ramblers in the Minnesota Penal League Championship Game.

Which leads to my next problem with those numbers.  But before I tell you my next problem, I am going to tell you why you are possibly going to object with this problem, and then I am going to tell you why you are wrong.

You are going to say that Weber got more time with the starters and this is supposed to somehow make us feel better about how the numbers turned out for Gray.  But the reason you are wrong is because THAT is exactly my point and I'll thank you for proving it.

If this was really a quarterback competition, if Gray was really going to get a fair shot at winning the job, if these two athletes were really on an even footing this spring, and if the coaches really were going to wait until AFTER the spring game to make a decision on who the starting quarterback would be... then why do we get this sentence from Adam Rittenberg's recap of the scrimmage: "Three-year starter Adam Weber got most of the work with the first team offense..."  And, whether Freudian or not, he actually just two sentences later calls Gray the "backup."

Rittenberg also goes on to say "...all signs point to Weber, who stepped up his game this spring after a subpar junior season."  I'm going to leave that last little nugget alone, but what about the phrase "stepped up his game"?  How do we know this?  Based on his performance in "live" competition when he completed 8 of 20 passes?

And truthfully, you didn't have to be at the game (which again, I wasn't, and I'm planning on sleeping pretty well tonight), and you didn't need to see the comments from Fuller, Youngblood, Rittenberg, The Daily Gopher, Down With Goldy, I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team, or me, or anyone else for that matter, to realize that in the end, there really was no quarterback competition.

All you have to do is look at throwing attempts in the spring game, and you know everything you need to know.
Adam Weber: 20
MarQueis Gray: 7

Now look, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Adam Weber didn't deserve to win the job, because he probably did.  And I'm not going to tell you that MarQueis Gray did enough to win the job, because he probably didn't.  But that isn't the point.

The point is that I don't believe for one single second that there really was really a quarterback competition this spring.  And I doubt I'm alone in this thinking.  I'm not about to claim a conspiracy theory, but I believe that Tim Brewster has known all along that he would name Weber the starter.  He hired Jeff Horton under the pretense that Horton would not install a completely new offensive scheme, isn't it possible that Weber was part of the package?

But before we get into Roswell-like territory, I digress.

Gray had this to say to Marcus Fuller after the scrimmage:
"Hopefully, it's going to be hard for the coaches (to decide).  I think I had a great spring, so it's up to the coaches now."

Sadly enough, it appears that MarQueis Gray may have been the only one who really believed Tim Brewster when he said that there was a competition for the starting QB job.