Thursday, January 28, 2010

It Might Get Loud

I finally watched the documentary of that title last night, and it was definitely worth the wait. If you're a fan of the guitar, or rock music in general, you NEED to find it and watch it. It's freaking amazing!

I bring this up not only so I have an excuse to talk about the movie and music, but because after giving it some thought, I see a similarity between my feelings about that movie and my feelings about the Gopher offense. No really.

I love so much of that movie and so much about our Gopher offense, yet there's a glaring discrepancy I see in both: in the movie it's the fact director Davis Guggenheim chose to have U2's The Edge involved at all, and for the offense, it's that Brewster stubbornly wanted to keep an offense that didn't work with the talent we have at quarterback, and therefore netted us Jeff Horton as an OC. While I don't agree with either decision, and wish each "director" would have made a different choice, after watching It Might Get Loud (especially the deleted scenes and the interview from the Toronto Film Festival) I understand a little more on why the decisions were made. And since it's impossible to remove The Edge from that movie or Jeff Horton and a pro-style offense from the Gophers, it's helping me learn to live with it.

For what I loved about the movie, well, I'm currently a Jack White freak, with a man-crush that borders on obsession. I have no clue how to play the guitar and probably never will, but I think (and believe even more so after watching the movie) that Jack White is a musical genius. I love rock n roll and love the blues, and to hear what Jack does with both of those things just blows my mind. The White Stripes are my second favorite band on the planet- the Tragically Hip always and forever will be first. As an aside, do you have what Jermo calls "A holy trinity" of bands? Back in college he and his buddy Chris came up with that name of three bands that will always and forever be your favorites. We each had our three, and yet, and at least for me, two of the three have changed. Mine used to be the Hip, Dave Matthews Band, and another Canadian band called Our Lady Peace. As much as I still love Dave's old stuff, I've stopped listening and buying his music since the "Everyday" album. I bought the Stand Up album, listened to it once, hated every single second of it, then either threw it out or took it to Cheapo. I don't remember which, I just know I don't have it anymore. Our Lady Peace was like our little secret, an awesome rock band that nobody down here really knew about. They pumped out six great albums, and then the lead singer started dating some hippy chick, the music turned political, and they were done. There's nothing wrong with starting as a political band- Bob Dylan, U2, Rage etc- but it seems like the ones who end up getting there later in their career end up sucking. Maybe it's me. So at this point, I'm not even sure who my holy trinity of bands would be- the Hip, White Stripes and...?

Ok what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, my Jack White obsession. You get the idea. Jimmy Paige? Only the greatest living guitar player and a musical legend. I know it's really unoriginal to say Led Zeppelin is the best rock band of all-time, but I mean really, they probably are. I love their music and to get to hear Jimmy still rockin' today in the movie, as well as get a lot of background on how he started and what his influences were, was fantastic.

For the Gopher offense, like Jermo I am clinging steadfastly to the belief that we have talent. We definitely have talent at QB, and I'm hoping we see more of it from Adam Weber, and better opportunities for MarQueis Gray. I also know Moses Alipate was a well-respected high school recruit from Bloomington, who might just be the pro-style passer this offense needs. In any case, lack of talent at quarterback is not an issue. Running back? We certainly don't have the world's best runners, but if they'd actually have some decent holes to run through instead of having defenders meet at, or behind, the line of scrimmage they could actually be pretty could. And assuming (I'm crossing my fingers AND my toes as I type this) we don't lose anymore commits between now and Wednesday, I like the prospects of all three freshmen running backs we're bringing in.

Wideouts? Gobs of talent and tons of potential. I believe DaJon McKnight can be our go-to guy with more experience and more reps. Nobody has more potential than Troy Stoudermire with blazing speed and a knack for big plays...he just needs to learn how to catch the ball. Brandon Green should be a good possession receiver, Bryant Allen looked good for a freshman, and I still believe Hayo! Carpenter can contribute something as a senior. Add to that big-time incoming freshmen like James Green and Chris Hawkins and...oh that's right, ok nevermind. Still, our returning group should be ready for a breakout.

The offensive line I'm not crazy about, but I maintain we have talented kids there. Maybe/hopefully all they need is an offseason of workouts, reps, and a little seasoning and they'll start performing better. We certainly don't lack for size and strength up there, we just need them to start producing!

So much to love about IMGL and the Gopher offense and yet...each has a major flaw as I see it: The Edge and Jedd Fisch's pro-style offense.

Before I talk about The Edge, let me say this: I like U2. "Where the Streets Have No Name" is not only my favorite U2 song, but it's one of my favorite songs by any band ever. U2 have stayed together for 30+ years and is still cranking out decent music. It's unprecedented really. The Edge is a quality guitar player and a big part of their success, but he does not belong on a stage or a movie with Jimmy and Jack. He just doesn't.

Jimmy and Jack's talents are, well, talent. The Edge's is technology, and making the same three or four chords and notes sound different with computers. Whoopty doo! As the movie went on anytime The Edge came on both my wife and I were thinking and eventually saying "Stop talking The Edge, and stop playing with your computers and your three chords and show us the crazy amazing cool **** Jimmy and Jack are doing!!!!" Again, both of us are U2 fans (more for the old stuff in the 1980's and Achtung Baby but still), but we just couldn't understand how The Edge was in this movie and seemingly getting more air time than Jimmy or Jack!!!

(And since I know you're wondering who I would have replaced him with, the answer is simple and obvious: Slash. If you're doing a documentary on the electric guitar, and you want to include a guy who goes by a stage name and is one of the best guitarists alive, it had to be Slash. Had to be. And yet it wasn't.)

Similarily, while I love the talent we have on the Gopher offense, I thought the 2009 season was a pretty good indicator that Brewster made a bad choice in hiring Jedd Fisch for this "project" and that his offense was wrong. Good system with the right people maybe, but with quarterbacks whose strengths are running, throwing the ball deep, and making plays on roll-outs and play-action? Yeah not so much. And yes despite the glaring failures of 2009, Brewster was adament about keeping the system. So much so, promising guys with bright futures were passed up (in this scenario, we'll say Josh Heupel is our Slash) so we could take someone the coach loved and who could be sold to some fans as a QB guru (much the same way the director clearly loves The Edge and can be sold to the throngs of U2 fans).

People have stated in the comments here and on the other fine Gopher sites that bringing in yet another OC with yet another new system would spell disaster, to which I counter that your top two QB's, and most of your offensive players, have played in spread systems before. A new guy with spread tendancies (like, oh I don't know, JOSH HEUPEL?!?!?) is going to do similar things to what Mike Dunbar tried to do with his version of the spread two years ago. A different system? Yes. Completely foreign to our offensive players? Absolutely not.

I disagree with the decisions Guggenheim and Brewster made, and because I'm stubborn, will always believe my way (Slash and Josh Heupel) would have worked better.

Still, because we're living in reality, I know I'm not going to get my way. While it's always fun to whine and complain and take cheap shots (which I would never, ever stoop to. Ok, that's probably not true), perhaps trying to understand the rationale behind it can help me come to grips with the decisions. I'm not going to agree with it, but at least if I understand why a decision is made I'll have an easier time accepting it. The reason for both decisions? Continuity.

I understood the choice of The Edge much better after watching the interview with the cast and crew at the Toronto Film Festival (which is included in the extras on the DVD). Those in charge explained that Jimmy, Jack, and The Edge were their top three choices because they had different styles, spanned different eras, and that they also got along really, really well. It ended up working really, really well for the movie when the three of them met and talked and jammed on a sound stage. Is Slash a better guitarist than The Edge? Yep, he is, but would his personality have worked for the movie, and would he have gotten along or cared he was on stage with Jimmy and Jack? Maybe, maybe not. I see now how The Edge worked in cohesion and continuity with the other two guys, and how his different take and style on the electric guitar added a different element to what Jimmy and Jack brought. I would still have chosen Slash, but I understand why The Edge was chosen, and that he accomplished what the director wanted.

I've heard Tim Brewster use the word "continuity" way too much in the past couple of months, yet after watching IMGL, I understand a little more why he does. Like me, Brewster believes there's talent on his offense, but unlike me, he believes all they need to be effective is more time, more reps, and some of that good old fashioned continuity. He believes that Weber and Gray and the running backs and the receivers and, most importantly, the offensive line just needs more time together doing more of the same things to be better. He believes that more time in the same offense makes everybody more comfortable and therefore better when working together. He believes that if the line blocks and the backs churn out yardage that Weber will have more time and will make better throws, making easier catches for our receivers (I believe Weber couldn't complete a timing pattern if his life depended on it no matter how much time he had, but that's me).

Guggenheim and Brewster believe continuity was the best way to achieve success on their chosen projects. While I disagree with the inclusion of The Edge, IMGL was certainly a success and the scenes with the three guitarist are all pretty amazing. So I'm hoping that while I disagree with how Brewster is going about trying to achieve success with his offensive project, that like Guggenheim, continuity will be the key to his success.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jeff Horton Gets A Favorable Contract- For The U

Kent Youngblood has details of new Gophers OC Jeff Horton's contract figures which, if everything goes well, will pay him $590,000 over two years. Pretty good pay to run someone else's offense, no? Upon closer look, the deal looks very shrewd for Minnesota:

According to the contract, Horton will earn $250,000 during the upcoming season. If he's on the staff on March 1, 2011, he will get a $40,000 bonus. Horton is scheduled to make a $300,000 base salary in the second season of the deal. The contract officially runs through Feb. 15, 2012, and is contingent upon coach Tim Brewster remaining in his position.

The last part of the last sentence is the smart part for the Gophs: IF Tim Brewster remains as head coach into 2011, Horton will get his cash. If not, he gets his $250,000 and is shown the door with the rest of Brew's staff. $250K is a lot of money for just about any profession, but it's not a lot for an offensive coordinator of a Big Ten school.

This further explains why we ended up with a OC who has never called plays and, despite his good work with QB's at Wisconsin, hasn't been offered an OC position anywhere else. The contract is clear to everyone that it's a one-year lower salary deal, and IF , and only if, Brewster starts making good on his promises to improve the program and get us a seven or eight win season, then he and his entire staff are out the door.

It also gives me hope that if and when Brewster gets his contract extension Joel Maturi told us was coming, that a similar structure will be given, with a base salary, and bonuses contingent on him staying on. Or, even better would be an extension where the Gophs owe him nothing if he's fired, but I highly doubt he'd sign that.

Bottom line, it's a make or break year for Tim Brewster and the coaches at Minnesota: I hope Jeff Horton can fix the quarterbacks and our offense, I hope Brew can close strong and bring in some more good recruits for 2010, and I hope Kevin Cosgrove can get a bunch of young and talented kids to play at the level our 2009 defense did. If they don't, Maturi will find someone who will.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This One Goes to 11

The Daily Gopher reports the Gophers have had yet another player decommit as three star wide receiver Chris Hawkins of Channelview, Texas is going to TCU. If you're keeping score at home, that's the 11th player to decommit from the Gophers 2010 recruiting class, and the second one that's decided to go to play for Gary Patterson at TCU (I've heard other accounts say it's the ninth decommit, but the headline doesn't work as well with nine).

Apparently the hiring of Jeff Horton as offensive coordinator does not quite get the recruits fired up as much as it does for Brewster. Let's hope Coach Brew, who according to Joel Maturi and Brew himself is a fabulous recruiter, can start bringing more players into the program instead of having them leave. Obviously not all of the decommits are Brewster's fault, as the loss of four star receiver James Green was because of academics. Still, losing at least nine kids after they've pledged to come here is never a good sign.

He did get a commitment today from JUCO corner Dwight Tillman, which brings the number of commits who have committed but are unsigned back up to 21. He shows as unrated by Rivals, but there was a rumor from he also had offers from Wisconsin and Illinois. Not sure who to believe on that. Regardless, let's hope the news the next couple of weeks before national signing day is about bringing more talented recruits to The U, and not about more of them leaving.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Minnesota Football Fan's Lament

Just for today, I'm going to use this space to talk about Minnesota's purple and gold football team instead of our beloved Maroon and Gold. With the recent tragedy in Haiti (if you haven't already, please donate to the red cross or one of the many other charities and relief organizations fighting to help the people in Haiti), it's probably silly to feel depressed and down because of a football game. And yet I do.

I've been a Vikings fan since 1987. As most of you probably know (and if you don't you will now) I'm not from Minnesota. I'm actually not even from this country. No matter how long I live here or how passionate I am for the Gophs and Vikes, I'll never be considered "One of Us". Hopefully you can accept my thoughts and feelings on these two fine football teams anyway.

Growing up in Vancouver without an NFL team, I somehow decided to become a Vikes fan. I blame Anthony Carter, who at the time mesmorized me with his grace and acrobatics catching a football. I had posters of the guy up in my room as a kid, and to this day he's still my all-time favorite Viking. I don't remember much about the 1987 NFC championship game loss to the Redskins other than being disappointed but feeling like I had made a good choice. Then came the Herschel Walker trade. And the Denny Green Era. 1998. 2001 and 41-doughnut. Chilly. T-Jack. And then this year.

It was yet another kick in the crotch and punch to the stomach all at the same time. I heard Dan Barreiro on the Dan Patrick Show this morning, and he said he'd rate yesterday's loss behind only the 1998 loss as far as most painful. I would agree. 1998 was a complete and total shock. We were a much better team than the stinkin' Dirty Bird Falcons, and I still can't, and probably never will, believe we freaking lost to Atlanta.

Last night just left me depressed. New Orleans is a great team with great players and a great coach. No shame in losing to a quality team, except we gave them the game. We really did. For me there was a lot of blame to go around, but I don't feel like one person should shoulder it more than others. The Vikes dominated New Orleans in every single stat category except for the two that mattered most: the final score and turnovers. The turnovers KILLED Minnesota and it's what ultimately cost them the game. That and the inexcusable, inexplicable 12 men in the huddle penalty. Oh my good lord. A few thoughts and then I'm done talking purple until September:

I watched the game with a few people, including my wife and brother and law Dave, both of whom are die hard Packers fans (to the point they both wore Packer sweatshirts last night). They were both very gracious to me in defeat, and Dave even made the point that this loss could bring Vikes and Packer fans a little closer together, since this is almost exactly how Green Bay lost to the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship game. Favre making a dumb throw that gets picked off and essentially loses them the game. I can't solely blame Favre. That throw, along with his other pick, and a third that Greer dropped, were awful, awful throws. On his last throw Favre should have run for five yards or thrown the ball away instead of trying to do what every person who has ever watched football knows not to do, which is throw the ball across your body to the middle of the field. Never. Never ever ever. But Favre did.

Still, we would have never gotten here without him. We'd be lucky to have even made the playoffs with T-Jack or Sage at QB. As Dave said, and had been telling me all year "Just wait. He'll kill you at the worst possible time." And he did. And yet, this is what we signed up for back in August. He was our best option at the time and despite all the retirement-unretirement circus and the schism and everything else, the Vikes made the right choice to get Favre. Does he come back next year? I don't know and I don't care. I hope he does (unless a better QB falls out of the sky. Donovan McNabb maybe? then again, you can't seriously say he's better than Favre), but I'm not reading, listening to, or watching a story about Favre between now and the end of training camp.

Regardless of what happens with Favre, the one quarterback move the Vikes absolutely, positively have to make is drafting Colt McCoy. From what I've seen and read from all the so-called draft experts, McCoy will not be a first round pick, which means the Vikes can trade up to get him in the 2nd just like they did T-Jack. McCoy reminds me so much of Drew Brees it's scary. Smaller guy with the heart of a lion and incredible accuacy and timing. Bill Walsh said the two things he looked for most in a QB were decision-making and accuracy, and that arm strength was WAY down the list. You won't find a QB in the draft who is better at those first two things than McCoy, and I think he could end up being the steal of the draft. I want him in purple.

According to stat nerds, fumbles are supposed to be somewhat random. How else to explain that the Vikes were one of the best teams in the NFL taking care of the football, and suddenly yesterday they can't hang onto it to save their lives? I don't get it and that's probably the most frustrating part. New Orleans is a helluva team and deserving to win, but AP was right: the Vikes gave that game away. You won't convince me, or any other Vikings fan otherwise. Credit New Orleans for attacking ballcarries and trying to punch the ball out. That very could have been planned, and was something they saw on tape. Whatever it was, I still blame the fumbles on Minnesota, and that, coupled with Favre's two awful picks, cost Minnesota the game.

Oh how quickly our opinions can change. To start the year, AP was considered by some to be the best player in football. After last night's game, and after a regular season where he had just 3 100 yard games, nobody's saying it anymore. He's not washed up. We don't need to cut him or trade him. He's still capable of being one of the best backs in the league. I'm still glad to have him on the team, proud that I own an AP jersey, and hope he plays his whole career here. But obviously, he needs to fix his fumbling issues AS"AP". Ahman Green did it, having major issues with Seattle before going to Green Bay to become the Pack's all-time leading rusher. Tiki Barber too had fumble problems early in his career before figuring them out. It can be done, and Peterson needs to figure it out.

I don't trust him. I've never trusted him. After yesterday's loss, that definitely hasn't changed. You can't blame the loss on Childress, but he certainly played his part. The 12 men in the huddle penalty is the fault of the players, but especially the coaches. How on earth can you come out of a timeout and NOT HAVE THE RIGHT PLAYERS ON THE FIELD?!?!?!? As the play-caller for the offense, that one's on Childress more than the other coaches. And that's not even the one that baffles me most: what about that last drive? Chilly admitted in the post-game interview he was being conservative and playing for overtime, that the percentages said despite having 2.5 minutes on the clock and all three of your timeouts remaining (and a fourth with the two minute warning), the best play was to run the clock out. Un-freaking-believable. It makes no sense whatsover because in that scenario, after Minnesota ran two run plays for zero yards, causing the Saints to use up their last two timeouts, had the Vikes not converted a third and ten New Orleans still gets the ball back somewhere around their 30 yard line (at worst) with about 90 seconds left to get into field goal range. So Chilly's thought process told him to be gutless, play scared, and hope for a coin flip in overtime- which the Vikes lost.

Now, you can say that Minnesota had gotten into field goal range anyway even with the conservative start, but what happens if the Vikes go for it to start the drive? They would have had more time and more timeouts left, and there's a good chance the 12 men on the field never happens. Maybe that's just me rationalizing and trying to find another way to blame Childress, but I feel like that strategy really, really cost us.

Honestly, I'm much more upset about what happened in regulation than what happened in overtime. Is the NFL overtime rule idiotic? Of course it is. Whomever won the coin toss won the game. We knew that. New Orleans won the toss and did what they had to do. It's a stupid rule that both teams don't get at least one possession, but I don't see it changing anytime soon. Did the Vikes get jobbed on the pass interference call, even though David Thomas had no hope whatsoever of catching that ball? They did, but it never should have come to that.

Let's end this on a good note. The Vikes D was unreal. You could not have asked for more out of them. To hold the mighty Saints offense to under 300 yds total offense in regulation is amazing. They played the game of their lives the second half, and despite how many times the offense kept giving the ball away, the defense kept giving it right back with another chance to win. Hats off to Leslie Frazier, the rest of the coaches, and of course the defensive players for the effort. As much as everything else sucked, the defensive performance was truly epic. Those guys deserved better.

Alright enough whining, complaining and bemoaning the fact the Vikes found new and terrible ways to rip my heart out and stomp on it. It's going to probably take me until Super Bowl Sunday, but I will find the gumption to cheer for New Orleans. Great team, great story, and if anybody deserves it, it's them. I just don't have the heart of emotion to believe that quite yet.

Now back to your regularily scheduled Gopher football programming.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Can We Expect from Jeff Horton

Ok, I've had a chance to calm down. Jeff Horton is our offensive coordinator. Jeff Horton is our offensive coordinator. JEFF FREAKING HORTON IS OUR FREAKING OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR!?!?!?

I don't love this choice. Not at all. Not even a little bit. Brewster went out and got himself a Yes Man, a guy with no future of ever being a head coach again, let alone an offensive coordinator. Since getting canned at UNLV back in 1998 Horton has been a career position coach at best. 1999-2005 coaching QB's at Wisconsin. 2006-08 with some bad Rams teams (they won a grand total of 11 games in those three seasons) his job was, according to his bio, "assisting with special assignments and administrative duties." Seriously. And that was as recently as two years ago. Last season he was QB coach with Detwah, and all sarcasm aside, looked to do a pretty good job with #1 overall pick Matt Stafford. I mean it's the Lions- the fact Stafford didn't get killed, injured, or throw 9,473 picks has to be seen as a victory, right?

Still, not exactly the resume I was hoping for, and not one that inspires me to believe great things are ahead for our offense in 2010. You wonder if guys like Heupel or any of the other candidates were ever seriously interested, or if they interviewed just to get their name out there, and lauged in Brew's face when he told them they were not only coming into a situation where they could very well be one-and-done, but they were also going to be forced to run someone else's offense. It'd be one thing if you got the playbook and schemes to an offense created by Mike Leach or Brian Kelly, but to be forced to run an offense that produced the worst offense in the Big Ten and one of the worst in all of college football?

No wonder Horton's the guy we ended up with. Who else would be desperate enough to take this job? A guy who hasn't called offensive plays at any level since at least 1998, and even then I don't have confirmation he did so at UNLV. Or previous to that at Nevada.

So Horton's our guy. Judging from the places he's been, we can only guess what this means for us. Obviously we hope it's NOT more of the same of 2009. The ray of hope for me is that in his time at Wisconsin he developed John Stocco and Brooks Bollinger into really good, productive Big Ten quarterbacks. He also certainly seemed to have Stafford going in the right direction with the Lions. Let's hope that means he can get through to Weber and Gray, and get some better production out our signal callers. Another is that he sees Fisch's offense in a different way, and uses different looks to get our QB's rolling out instead of using so many straight drop backs that don't favor the strengths of Weber or Gray.

Obviously, a big part of how well our QB's do are completely out of Horton's hands. So much depends upon Tim Davis getting a heck of a lot more out of our offensive line, and our offensive line opening holes for our running backs so we're not so completely dependent on our passing game to move the ball. Play-action fakes and bootlegs and rollouts don't do much good if the running game isn't a threat, or if the O-line is so porous our QB's are running for their lives.

Jeff Horton, quarterback developer? As my dream of Josh Heupel or anyone else with a pulse has died, this is the hope I'm going to cling to. That and that Brewster knows what he's doing.

New Gophers OC is Jeff Horton?!?!?

Just heard Paul Allen of KFAN say that Detroit Lions QB coach Jeff Horton is going to be the new Gophs' offensive coordinator. If you're like me, you're thinking: WHO?

Exactly. He was a grad assistant at The U in 1984, was the head coach at Nevada in 1993 before taking the head job at UNLV, where he went 13-44 in five seasons. After getting canned in Vegas he was the QB coach for the Badgers from 1999-2006, then was hired on Scott Linehan's staff with the Rams in 2006. He joined the Lions as QB coach in 2009.

This is exactly the kind of hire I was afraid of: a desparate guy with no big future that's not going to get an offensive coordinator position anywhere else. I'm hoping this rumor is just that, I'm still holding out for Heupel, but it sounds like those hopes range between slim and none.


Just as I posted, the Strib's Kent Youngblood put a post up claiming he's hearing the same thing. No official word yet, but and GopherIllustrated are both reporting it. Excuse me while I go slam my head in the car door for a few minutes.

2010 Big Ten preview Part II

No word yet on who the new OC is going to be (definitely won't be Sandy or Seth Cohen or Ryan Atwood...anyone? Anyone for an OC reference? No?), so let's get this whole way too early (and way too long) 2010 Big Ten preview wrapped up. Here then, is the top 5, as I see it today. Oh, and go Vikes!!!!

5. Purdue Boilermakers (2009 record: 5-7 Big Ten: 4-4)
6 on offense, 5 on defense
Non-con: @Notre Dame, W.Ill, Ball St, Toledo
B10 miss: Iowa and Penn State. No really.
Roadies: Northwestern, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan St

Reason(s) for Hope:
Their biggest reason for Hope is head coach Danny Hope. A program that had started to slide at the end of Joe Tiller's tenure, Hope started turning things around in West Lafayette far faster than I thought possible. The Boilermakers played hard on the field, and Hope hit the recruiting trail hard off it, especially in Florida, where he's already made inroads. The offense loses five starters, but returns top rusher Ralph Bolden and Big Ten receptions leader Keith Smith. They also have two quality options at quarterback with Caleb Terbush and U of Miami transfer, and former high school All-American, Robert Marve. Another reason for Hope? Have you seen the schedule? Did you notice they do not play Iowa or Penn State? They also don't have to play Oregon this year.
Reason(s) for Concern:
Losing three of five starting offensive linemen and their entire back seven on defense. The defense wasn't very good last year anyway, so perhaps all the speed Hope has been recruiting can step in and improve a unit that finished 9th in scoring defense and 7th in total defense in the conference.
This is definitely a bullish prediction, and one that will probably change before the season begins, but follow my logic here (or perhaps complete lack thereof): the 2009 version went 4-4 in the Big Ten, lost a heartbreaker to Notre Dame in the final seconds because Danny Hope made a rookie mistake, lost by two ON THE ROAD to eventual PAC 10 champ Oregon, lost to Northwestern because after jumping out to a 21-3 lead they turned the ball over on six of their last eight possessions, and lost to Michigan State by 3. Sure, everyone can play the "yeah but" game and say how good their season could have been. I only bring this up to say Purdue was better than a five win team in 2009, and I expect them to be better in 2010 with their returning starters and better recruits. Remove Oregon from their non-conference schedule, and once again they don't have to play Penn State or Iowa, two of the four best teams in the conference. While Danny Hope could hit a sophomore slump, call me a believer, and I see every reason this team could and should win four or five Big Ten games again and finish 5th in the conference.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions (2009 record: 11-2 Big Ten: 6-2)
7 on offense, 4 on defense
Non-con: Youngstown St, @ Alabama, Kent St, Temple
B10 Miss: Purdue and Wisconsin
Roadies: Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana

Reason(s) for Hope:
Evan Royster chose not to go to the NFL, and his return, along with Stephfon Green, gives the Nittany Lions the best one-two punch at running back in the Big Ten. The JoePa's also get their top three wide receivers back in Derek Moye, Graham Zug and Chaz Powell, and most of their offensive line. Defensive end Jack Crawford could be the next great Nittan Lion defender and a probably first round pick.
Reason(s) for Concern:
You mean other than losing QB Daryll Clark, the best QB in the Big Ten the past two years? Or losing their trio of stud linebackers in Josh Hull, Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee? Or how about 1st team all-Big Ten DT Jared Odrick? Or what about road games against defending national champ Alabama (guess we can stop making fun of Penn State's Glen Mason-esque non-conference scheduling), and the two top teams in the conference in Ohio State and Iowa? Besides all of that, you mean?
I don't think you can ever say Penn State is having a rebuilding year, but I'm hard pressed to believe they can be as good as they were last year. Clark is by far the biggest loss for any team in the conference, and while Kevin Newsome could be a good QB, he threw all of 11 passes last year, so it's anybody's guess. Penn State has recruiting extremely well, so perhaps it'll be a piece of cake to replace all of those linebackers and Odrick, but that's still asking a lot. The 2010 team will have less experience than 2009 against a tougher schedule. They're not going to be awful, but they won't be in the hunt for the Big Ten title or a BCS bowl either.

3. Wisconsin Badgers (2009 record: 10-3 Big Ten: 5-3)
10 on offense, five on defense
Non-con: @UNLV, San Jose St, Arizona St, Austin Peay, the UW school for the blind, the all-girls school of Madison, Waukasha Jr. high school, Madison Pop Warner Bears
B10 Miss: Illinois and Penn State
Roadies: Michigan St, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan

Reason(s) for Hope:
The only offensive starter who doesn't come back is TE Garrett Graham, and as good as he was (All-Big Ten), Lance Kendricks should fill in just fine. Everybody else from the conference's offensive leader in scoring (31.8 pts per game), total offense (416.9 yds per game), rushing (203.8 ypg and 33 TDs) and time of possession (33:54) returns, including Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay. Defensively B10 Rookie of the Year LB Chris Borland headlines five returning starters, including All-conference safety Jay Valai. Oh and have you looked at that schedule? It's not UW's fault Arizona St has gone in the tank (I'm sure when they scheduled the Sun Devils series a few years that they were a middle-of-the-pack Pac 10 team), but you can pretty much guarantee four non-conny wins right now. They skip Penn State, and get Ohio State and those tricky, tricky Northwestern Wildcats at home.
Reason(s) for Concern:
They lose a ton on defense, including all-conference end and pass-rushing force O'Brien Schofield (24.5 TFL and 12 sacks. Good lord). His production will not be replaced by one guy, and they lose some other key pieces. The Badgers are going to need some new guys to step up in a big, big way on defense. The Big Ten road schedule is also tough, as Iowa looms (and will be one of the biggest conference games of the year), Michigan, especially at the Big House, always seems to be a challenge for Bucky Badger no matter how bad Michigan is, and Spartan Stadium is not an easy place to play these days. There's also the question of Bret Bielma: the pressure is on and expectations are high. Does he wilt in the spotlight or prove he's a worthy successor to Barry Alvarez? He's definitely a question mark at this point.
Despite the Badgers big losses on defense, their offense will not only be good, but the style they play will keep their defense off the field for long stretches with their smash-mouth, clock chewing running game. They also have the four NC cupcakes to get the defense ready for conference play. On paper, they're a better team than Iowa heading into 2010, but I couldn't bump them ahead of the Hawkeyes because Ferentz has proven more than Bielma (at least thus far), and Sconnie has to travel to Iowa City this year.

2. Iowa Hawkeyes (2009 record: 11-2 Big Ten: 6-2)
6 on offense, 8 on defense
Non-con: E Illinois, Iowa St, @ Arizona, Ball St
B10 Miss: Illinois and Purdue
Roadies: Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern, Minnesota

Reason(s) for Hope:
Eight starters return from one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, and DE Adrian Clayborn's decision to return for his senior season cannot be overstated. Ricky Stanzi should be healthy and ready to go, and if he struggles, James Vandenberg proved he's more than capable of running the offense. The Hawks also get their top runners back, including Jewel Hampton, who if completely healthy from a knee injury could be a force, and their top two wide receivers. They also get their three toughest Big Ten opponents at home, as Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State all have to come to Iowa City this year.
Reason(s) for Concern:
More than Iowa fans want to admit. I know Iowa always have good o-linemen, but losing four of five starters has to be a concern, as is all-conference TE Tony Moeaki, who was a big part of the offense. Defensively they do return a ton and getting Clayborn back was key, but their losses are nonetheless big. CB Amari Spievey was one of the conference's best and will not be easily replaced. Neither will all-Big 10 LB's Pat Angerer and AJ Edds.
As I said, I like Wisconsin better on paper, but that's the thing about Iowa: they always seem to be better than they're supposed to be. They never have highly ranked recruiting classes but keep winning games and cranking out NFL players. They weren't very good offensively last year (10th in the Big Ten in both scoring and total offense), but as always, they did just enough to win. Bottom line, I give them the nod because of Ferentz, because of cardiac Stanzi, and because all of their three toughest games are at home.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2009 record: 11-2 Big Ten: 7-1)
9 on offense, 7 on defense
Non-con: Marshall, Miami, Ohio, E.Michigan
B10 Miss: Michigan St and Northwestern
Roadies: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa

Reason(s) for Hope:
It's not that Ohio State is favored to win at least a share of its 7th straight Big Ten title in 2010, it's that nobody else is really in the conversation right now. Sure Iowa and Wisconsin could be good, but these Buckeyes get 16 starters back from a team that walloped Oregon in the Rose Bowl, and should start the season in everybody's national top 3. Outside of Alabama and perhaps Boise State, nobody in the country returns more talent, and more proven talent, than the Buckeyes (to the people in Eugene- you have a great team that will be ranked in the preseason top 4, but you got thumped). Terrelle Pryor could finally live up the hype. Devier Posey looks like a star. A returning offensive line finally played like an Ohio State offensive line is supposed to. Cameron Heyward and Ross Homan could be All-Americans (Heyward could be a top 10 pick). Simply put, this could be the best team head coach Jim Tressell has had, and that includes a national title winner, two runners-up, and those teams that won six straight conference titles.
Reason(s) for Concern:
It's getting ridiculous in Columbus to have worries about anything other than whether the Buckeyes can win the national title. Seriously, that's about the only concern Buckeye fans probably have right now. Sure they lost some good defensive players, but keep in mind they lost NINE defensive starters from their very impressive 2008 team, and all the 2009 group did was put up better numbers. So why should we expect anything less in 2010? Personally, my only concern is Jim Tressel: was the Oregon game a sign of things to come or an abberation? Remember in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl Terrelle Pryor looked like the second coming of Vince Young and Jesus in the loss to Texas, prompting the media to tab Pryor as the preseason player of the year. Of course we know what happened, as for most of last season Pryor and the offense struggled as Tressell kept things so conservative it looked like it belonged on Fox News. Finally, after months and months of fans wailing and gnashing teeth for him to open up the offense and set Pryor free, he did, and the kid destroyed a really good Oregon team. You would THINK Tressell watches that tape and understands that letting Pryor loose is the way to go, but then again, we thought that last year and it took him until the bowl game to figure it out. I know, the other 10 teams in the conference would kill for this to their big concern, but so it goes in Columbus.
Does Tressell open it up a bit or go back to his button-down sweater vest bore-you-to-death offensive style? With that defense, will it really matter until the national championship game? Miami isn't USC, but is still a top 15 team with a ton of speed so it'll be a good early season test for the Buckeyes. They get Penn State at home, but I think their two toughest games will be at Wisconsin and at Iowa. It's national title game or bust for the 2010 Buckeyes, and anything less will be a disappointment. 10 other Big Ten schools would love to have that problem.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Open Mouth, Remove Foot

So remember all of that negative pessimissm I had about Tim Brewster being able to find a viable candidate for offensive coordinator? Remember how I said it would basically be impossible to find anyone with a pulse who would be crazy enough to take this job? Well, allow me to apologize for ever doubting Brewster, as a post this afternoon from Adam Rittenberg has caused me to do a 180 on this whole fiasco Jedd Fisch's departure has caused. And I'm serious. All sarcasm aside here. I mean it. I do. Really.

Rittenberg reports that the Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel was in town yesterday to interview for the OC job. Heupel is from Aberdeen, South Dakota, and played his college ball at Oklahoma where he led the Sooners to a national title in 2000. After bouncing around the NFL for a few years, he took a job as a grad assistant under Bob Stoops, went to Arizona with former OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to be the tight ends coach, then came back to OU a few years ago to be their quarterbacks coach. Only 31, Heupel is pretty highly thought of around the college football world, and would be a FANTASTIC hire for Brewster.

Rittenberg points out the one caveat is that Heupel comes from a spread system at Oklahoma, and Brewster thus far has maintained he wants someone to run Fisch's pro-style offense. Then again, just about every other rumored candidate comes from a spread system too. Seems like Gopher fans are pining for Major Applewhite, but I'm telling you, Heupel would be just as good a get. Sure, he'd be yet another candidate to use Minnesota as a spring board, but I'd rather have a guy like Heupel give a few good years of actual, meaningful, productive offense than hiring an older retread OC who can't get a better job anywhere else.

If Brewster somehow pulls Heupel out of this whole mess, I'll give Brew a standing ovation and two thumbs up. That is, just as soon as I can get my foot out of my mouth.

Fisch Gone: what does it mean?

By now you've heard that Jedd Fisch is gone.    As they say, Jedd, on your way out, don't let the door hit'cha where the good Lord split'cha.

I'm not going to go back over how inept Fisch's offense was, how poorly they ranked in every offensive statistical category, how schizophrenic the play calling was, or how it never appeared that there was any kind of offensive game plan or adjustments.  Really, I'm not going to go back over those things. 

When it comes to Fisch leaving, in the words of Ron Burgundy, "I'm not even mad."

But there's a bigger issue here, and it's not exactly the elephant in the room.  Pre-dating even Tim Brewster, this football program has had a revolving door of coordinators for a decade now.  The question is, does this have more to do with the head coaches, or the program in general. 

Look, Tim Brewster is right, this is a business, and everybody wants to be a head coach, so they are going to take the job that is going to be the best means to that end.  But I have a hard time believing that if Jedd Fisch thought he had the opportunity to be a successful offensive coordinator at Minnesota that he would have left to be a QB coach in the NFL. 

Now, maybe we don't think Fisch's opinion of the Minnesota program (which clearly can't be too high) matters much here.  And maybe Fisch just wanted to be in the NFL all along and taking the Minnesota job was a hiatus for him.  And maybe getting the opportunity to work with someone like Pete Carroll was just too tempting to Fisch.  I don't know.  But I still have to believe that if Fisch saw the offense turning around next year he would have been on the sideline at The Bank this year. 

Which is why I think this has more to do with Minnesota as a program, or maybe more accurately, the perception of Minnesota as a program.  You see, while Tim Brewster is trying to change the culture here at Minnesota, and in a lot of ways he is doing the right things toward that end, the true litmus test is on the field, and the results on the field still feel an awful lot like they did in the Mason years.  This is why, when it comes to coordinators, he can't get past the national perception that a program like Minnesota cannot be successful in the long term.

So how is Tim Brewster going to get past this perception and keep some coordinators around for more than 2 years?  You guessed it.  Win, and win now. 

Gone Fisching

It's officially official- Jedd Fisch is leaving Minnesota to become the quarterbacks coach of the Seattle Seahawks. His departure means Brewster will have to hire his third offensive coordinator in four seasons, and that senior QB Adam Weber will be playing for his fourth OC in five seasons. Yikes. As hard as I've been on Weber, that is not a recipe for success for a QB, no matter how good or bad they are.

As I said yesterday, this creates quite the problem for head coach Tim Brewster. Fisch's system was trying to fit square pegs into round holes- his two best quarterbacks, Weber and MarQueis Gray, both have strengths that do not fit a classic pro-style offense. Anyone who watched Minnesota in 2009 saw this was obvious, yet Brewster has remained steadfast that he wants the new OC to maintain continuity by keeping Fisch's playbook, right down to the terminology. AS GN says over at The Daily Gopher (and props to those guys for getting pub in Rittenberg's blog. They're definitely the hardest working bloggers in all of Gopherland), maintaining continuity is pretty much impossible at this point, but in hopes of saving his job, Brewster says he's sticking to the plan.

I've said this before and will say it again: Weber's run a spread system before. Gray ran it in high school. Most of your linemen have run the spread too. Yes, it'd be a departure from Fisch's system- BUT IT WOULD FIT YOUR CURRENT PERSONEL, ESPECIALLY AT QUARTERBACK!!!!!!

While I would love to believe, even for the briefest of moments, that Brewster realizes this and just gets the best man for the job, I can almost guarantee you it won't happen. Brewter is desparately coaching for his job, and he clearly seems to think getting a Fisch clone is the best way to keep it. It's not, and for all the anti-Brewster people out there, this could be the final nail in his coffin. But then again, maybe whomever he brings can still make something happen despite being hamstrung by Brewster's demands.

The Strib has a list of possible replacements from outside the program, but the guy who makes the most sense is current o-line coach and running game coordinator Tim Davis. Yes, he's never called plays, but if you want continuity, Davis will know the players, and Fisch's system, better than anyone Brewster could bring in. Let's just hope Davis emphasizes more of the packages and plays that play to the strengths of Weber and Gray instead of trying to force them to be pocket passers.

Heck, maybe Brewster will be right, and all these kids needed was another offseason to keep learning the same offense and same plays. Maybe just another year of experience is all they need. While I'm not Brewster's biggest supporter, I'm going to watch this team regardless of who is coaching and what offense they're running. So here's hoping the new OC can turn our group of offensive players into a productive unit, because I'm not sure I can handle another year of offensive ineptitude like we had to endure in 2009.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Maturi says Fisch is Going to Seattle

Still no official word from the Seahawks or Jedd Fisch, but in a Strib story published late last night, Gophers AD Joel Maturi says Fisch has already flown the coop:

"I believe he's gone," Maturi said. "I believe it will be official soon, that he will no longer be our offensive coordinator."

Asked if he's talked to head coach Tim Brewster about finding a replacement, Maturi had this to say:

"We have not chatted specifically about it, about names," Maturi said. "He's out recruiting hard right now. My comment to him was, 'Take a deep breath, do the right thing for the football team and for him. There is no need to hurry.'"

Um, Joel? I would disagree with your last sentence. There IS a need to hurry and get someone else in here ASAP to at least maintain the illusion of continuity. The Daily Gopher is saying that two more recruits, CB Allen Veazie and OT Josh Allen, are backing off their commitments, and WR Chris Hawkins is taking a visit to TCU. The last Gopher recruit to do that, Texas four star RB Josh Huff, ended up committing to the Horned Frogs.

We need a new OC in here to stop anymore commits from jumping ship. This is not an ideal situation, and losing his OC can't be blamed on Brewster. He's out there recruiting as hard as he can right now and trying to add to the recruits he has, and also keep the ones he's got. Fisch leaving is out of his control, but the fact Fisch is leaving is telling of just how dire the situation is in Dinkytown right now.

Think about it: Fisch is going to leave his post as an offensive coordinator at a Big Ten school to take a quarterbacks coach job in the NFL for comparable, or perhaps even less, pay. Anyway you slice it, that's not a lateral move, that's a step down. Why take a step down unless you're worried about your job security? Is Fisch concerned that his offense isn't going to get any better in 2010 and he'll be out on his can looking for work at this time next year?

It's the only rational explanation I can think of for wanting to take a demotion. Perhaps the recruits are seeing it too, which is why they're also leaving. Whether Maturi gets Brewster his extension or not, it's clear the word is out that Brewster's days seem to be numbered, and that even though Brew is back for 2010, he won't be around for 2011. As much talent as I believe is on the roster, you have to believe that if Brewster puts together another six win campaign and a crappy bowl trip, it's not going to be enough for him to keep his job. So if at least seven wins is the bar, I'm sorry, but I just don't see seven wins on the 2010 schedule. I just don't. They should win three of four non-conference games, but there are no gimmes in the Big Ten this year. Everybody looks like they should be as good or better than they were in 2009 (with the possible exception of Penn State, who should finish in the top four in the conference again, but won't be in the hunt for a BCS game), which means you can't look at the games against Northwestern, Purdue, and Illinois and say those are automatic wins. They're certainly not un-winnable, but they're not going to be easy. Neither will Michigan State or USC. And need I remind you that Brewster is o-fer against the remaining teams of Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, and Penn State.

If ever there was a year for Brewster to break his Trophy Game drought, or just to pull an upset and beat a team they're not supposed to, 2010 will be it, because that's what it's going to take for him to keep his job.

This then raises the question of who Brewster can get to replace Fisch? You can cross off any of the big-name offensive coordinators at other schools, and any prime-time position coaches who have aspirations of being a head coach for two reasons: One is that nobody who has good potential and are in a good position are going to leave their current job to move to Minneapolis in what looks like a one-and-done situation. Somebody in the Strib comments section mentioned Major Applewhite as a possibility, but dream candidates like that aren't coming.

They're not coming because Brewster could very likely be in his last year as head coach, AND because of his assertion that he wants whomever the new coordinator is to keep the status quo and keep Fisch's offense intact. So you're coming to a one-and-done situation AND you have to keep the former guy's offense and terminology?!? Admit it, you'd have to be pretty desparate to take that job. It's why I think Brewster will end up promoting O-line coach Tim Davis. He's already here, he's been around the offense, and he'll certainly take the job. If Fisch took a step down from the Gophers to the Seahawks, maybe the new guy will leave a better situation for this one. It's about our only hope right now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Way, WAY Too Early 2010 Big Ten Preview

As we wait for Jed Fisch's departure to become officially official, and now that the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft has passed, we might as well take a gander at how the Big Ten will look for the 2010 season. After the way the conference finished up the bowl season, I can tell you the Big Ten looks strong- very strong. There's at least one legit national title contender that should start the season ranked in the national preseason top five- and maybe even top three- two more in the top ten, a fourth in the top 12-15, and perhaps even a fifth that lands somewhere in the top 25.

2010 really could be the Season of the Big Ten, and should improve upon the seven teams we sent bowling in 2009. The league should only be better at the top, but much deeper, as 10 of the 11 teams have legit hopes of going to a bowl game. We'll go in reverse order of how I see them finishing. This, of course, is not only subject to change, but WILL change once recruiting is finalized next month, we get a look at spring ball, and the Gophers have players that either don't qualify academically or get arrested. Oh for the days when we used to be able to make those jokes about Iowa...those days, by the way, were this time last year.

(By the way, check out this fantastic schedule chart from I will be looking at that rougly 1,000 times between now and the end of next season)

11. Indiana Hoosiers (2009 record: 4-8 Big Ten: 1-7)Returning: 8 starters on offense, 4 on defense
Non-Conference: Towson, C. Michigan, and two more cupcakes yet to be named
Who They Miss in the Big Ten: Michigan St and Minnesota
Big Ten roadies: Ohio St, Illinois, Wisconsin and Purdue. And they play a "home" game against Penn St. in DC.
Reason(s) for Hope:
The Hoosiers return just about everybody from a productive offense, including their top running back and a really good receiving tandem of Tandon Doss and Demarlo Belcher.
***UPDATE***As John M so astutely pointed out, Indiana QB Ben Chappell is not gone. Not at all. In fact, he's nly a junior, he'll be back for his senior season in 2010. OK suddenly things are looking better and better for IU.
Reason(s) for Concern:
Pretty much all of their defensive starters who were sorta kinda good from a defense that was definitely not. Also, this is Indiana, where we never expect them to do much.
Bill Lynch will be coaching for his job, and if he gets the Hoosiers to a bowl, he should not only keep it, but be the Big Ten coach of the year. IU SHOULD be able to win their four non-con's considering they're all crap, but as usual they'll find a way to get blown out by Virigina or someone like them.
After John's reminder that Chappell returns, the Hoosiers look a lot more intriguing. If they can find a way to stop people, and just figure out how to finish games- remember they had leads on Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa last year before losing them all- IU could make some noise in 2010.

10. Illinois Fightin' Illini (2009 record: 3-9 Big Ten: 2-6)
Returning: 5 on offense, 4 on Defense
Non-con: Mizzou, N. Illinois, S.Ill, @ Fresno St
B10 Miss: Iowa AND Wisconsin. Seriously.
Roadies: Penn St, Michigan St, Michigan

Reason(s) for Hope:
Juice Williams is gone. Never thought I'd say that as a positive, but the offense seemed to run just as well or better without the erractic but talented Juice. The Illini return two solid QB options, and The Zooker went out and got some coordinators who will play to their strengths as passers instead of the read option spread. The Illini, who had a top 30 rushing offense, should continue to move the ball well on the ground, as they return all of their tailbacks. The Zooker is coaching for his job, and unlike last year, there's zero expectations for the Illini, so they could be dangerous flying under the radar.
Reason(s) for Concern:
Well The Zooker is still coaching. They have no real proven receivers returning, and seven starters leave a defense that had a lot of trouble stopping anybody.
The schedule isn't exactly easy, as Missouri and Fresno St are quality non-con opponents and traveling to Happy Valley, East Lansing, and Ann Arbor are never fun, but considering the schedule gods somehow have them skipping the Hawks and Bucky Badger- two preseason top 10 teams!!!!- AND have somehow have five Big Ten home game s?!?! The Zooker can't ask for anything more to keep his job. The favorable schedule + a roster stocked with talent + zero expectations outside of Champaign mean the Illini could be a dangerous team in 2010.

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2009 record: 6-7 Big Ten: 3-5)
9 on offense, 2 on defense
Non-con: Middle Tennessee, USD, USC, N. Illinois
Big-Ten Miss: Indiana and Michigan
Roadies: Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan St, Illinois

Reason(s) for Hope:
There's a lot of returning experience at quarterback and receiver, and hopefully the new OC can get to them and use them better than Fisch did. A trio of talented freshmen running backs should push the incumbents, and let's hope another offseason, and more recruits, make the o-line functional and useful. Certainly the running game couldn't get any worse...right? Defensively, there's a lot of young talent returning.
Reason(s) for Concern:
Nine of eleven starters return for an offense that was awful. Was it the coordinator or the players? We'll find out soon enough. The running game couldn't get any worse- except we thought that each of the last two seasons and look what happened. Yep, it got worse. As mentioned, there's talent and speed returning defensively, but so much of it is inexperienced. Sam Maresh's progression at middle linebacker will be a major key. So will keeping him and everyone else on the team out of handcuffs.
You could make a strong case for ranking Minnesota higher than this, but an equally strong case for dropping them lower, so I'll start them here at ninth. This is it for Tim Brewster, and he can't use the schedule as an excuse. He should win three of four Non-con's, and three of four Big Ten roadies are winnable. The home slate? Holy Christmas, it's brutal, but at least it's at home: USC, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa. Yikes. But if you want to be a consisten winner, you have to win some of those. Bettering the six regular season wins from last year looks really difficult, as does just equaling that total.

8. Michigan Wolverines (2009 record: 1-7 Big Ten: 5-7)
7 on offense, 8 on defense
Non-Con: UConn, @ND, UMass, Bowling Green
B10 Miss: Minnesota, Northwestern
Roadies: Indiana, Penn St, Purdue, Ohio St

Reason(s) for Hope:
Seven starters back on offense, including soph QB's Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Uber-frosh Devin Gardner couldn't enroll early, which could be a blessing in disguise. It'll give him a redshirt and put him two full seasons behind the two sophs, making him more than ready to take over in a few years. Forcier handled things incredibly well for a true freshman, and should be improved in his second season running the offense. A ton of young talent back on offense, and most everybody back on defense.

Rittenberg blogged late yesterday afternoon that Gardner has gotten into school early after all. He was able to enroll a week and a half after the semester started, and will be eligible for spring practice. The Wolverines QB battle just got a whole lot more interesting. I'd still chalk that up as positive, as whoever wins that battle will have to be very, very good.

Reason(s) for Concern:
An awful defense lost it's by far its two best important players when juniors Brandon Graham (DE) and Donovan Warren (CB) left early for the draft. They leave a lot of experience behind, but seemingly very little talent. When do you ever think you'd hear that said about a Michigan defense? The schedule also does them no favors with roadies to Notre Dame, Penn State, and Ohio State- and Purdue won't be a picnic this year either.
Outlook:So what's the magic number for RichRod to keep his job? Eight wins? Nine? Certainly no less than that. He's always had a dynamic offense everywhere else he's been and he looks loaded with young talent, especially at the skill positions, so an explosion in points and production can be expected. But can the Wolverines stop anybody? They'll be a better team and WILL be bowl eligible, but I have a hard time finding eight wins on this schedule.

7. Northwestern Wildcats (2009 record: 8-5 Big Ten: 5-3)
7 on offense, 6 on defense
Non-con: @ Vandy, Ill. St, @ Rice, C. Michigan
B10 miss: Michigan and Ohio State
Roadies: Minnesota, Indiana, Penn St, Illinois

Reason(s) for Hope:
Pat Fitzgerald is the most underrated coach in the conference and maybe the country. With three straight seasons with at least six wins, even a pessimist like me has to start believing in Fitz and what this program can do. Four of five o-linemen starters return, which always helps, and while they lose some defensive talent, because of so many injuries last season on that side of the ball, they have guys coming back with starting experience. Oh, and their schedule is cup-cake city as usual.
Reason(s) for Concern:
The loss of QB Mike Kafka cannot be understated. A run-first guy morphed into one of the conference's most dangerous passing threats. Can Fitz work miracles two years in a row with Dan Persa taking over? They also lose their two best receivers, and all-conference end Corey Wooten.
If Kafka was coming back, they'd be pushing for a top five conference finish again, but without him, I have to knock the Wildcats down a few spots. The schedule almost guarantees them six wins, but anything beyond that will be tough considering the depth of the Big Ten. Then again, I doubted them last year and look what happened.

6. Michigan State Spartans (2009 record: 6-7 Big Ten: 4-4)
7 on offense, 8 on defense
Non-con: W.Mich, FlaAtl, Notre Dame, N.Colorado
B10 miss: Indiana, Penn St.
Roadies: Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State

Reason(s) for Hope:
15 starters return, including Big Ten DPOY LB Greg Jones, who should win that award again in 2010. They also return their top 2 QB's and RB's, and including Jones get six of their starting front seven back from an excellent run defense.
Reason(s) for Concern:
Who is going to catch the ball, and who is going to stop the other team from catching it? Senior wideout Blair White went from walk-on to 1st-team Big Ten, and outside of Eric Decker, no receiver will be missed more by his team. The defensive secondary was torched on a regular basis, and Mark Dantonio's going to need to work some miracles back there if the Spartans have any hope of a top four finish. The Big Ten schedule also isn't kind to Sparty, as they miss Indiana (the one gimme win) and have four very, very tough roadies.
Dantonio's going to have to do his best coaching job yet to take another step forward in 2010. They were the preseason darlings of 2009 as the media predicted them to finish third, but they fell well short of that. This year, somewhere between 5-7 looks about right considering what they have to replace and what the schedule holds. Maybe replacing White won't be so difficult, and getting Jones back was a coup, but too bad he can't play safety and corner.

Part II tomorrow. Or maybe Wednesday, depending upon when the Fisch departure becomes official.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Like mana from heaven the boys at The Daily Gopher posted last night that according to Seattle Seahawks beatwriter Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times, the chances of Gopher "offensive" coordinator Jed Fisch becoming the Seahawks QB Coach has gone from probable to likely. How is this possible? How can it be that the man responsible for Minnesota having an offense ranked 109th in total offense, 100th in scoring offense, and 100th in 3rd Down Conversion Percentage get a job in the NFL? How is it possible that the man responsible for Minnesota's quarterbacks being ranked 99th in passing efficiency, 97th in interceptions thrown, and 75th in passing offense possibly be selected as an NFL team's quarterbacks' coach?!?

I don't know and I don't care: I just hope it happens. I hope Pete Carroll continues to drink whatever Jed Fisch Kool-aid he's been drinking long enough to get him the hell out of Minnesota. It'd be nice if he could find a spot for Tim Brewster on his staff too so we could bring in a head coach who talks less and wins more (Kevin Sumlin anyone? Please? Pretty please?), but I'll settle for a new offensive coordinator. Yes, our third in as many seasons. Yes, the third new offense incumbent starter Adam Weber will have to learn. While this kind of constant change and upheaval usually isn't a recipe for success, it's still better than having Fisch calling plays, and trying to fit our square pegs at quarterback into a round hole.

As much as I wanted Adam Weber yanked last year in favor of MarQueis Gray, I'll concede that Weber was not, and is not, suited for a pro-style offense. He struggles to throw the short and intermediate timing routes (and by struggle I mean he's proven to be pretty much incapable) required in the pro-style drop-back passing offense Fisch brought with him from Denver. What Weber does excel at is throwing long passes, and making throws on roll-outs and play-action fakes, which he got to do a lot of in the previous spread, read option offense Mike Dunbar ran in 2007 and 2008. Obviously as a "dual threat" recruit, Gray's strengths also lie in a spread option offense too.

So while Fisch might have improved by leaps and bounds in his second year calling plays for the Gophers, his best options at quarterback still wouldn't fit his offensive scheme even in the best of times. If/when Fisch takes the Seahawks QB job, Brewster should and hopefully will bring in somebody with an offensive more suited to our talent at quarterback, and while it will be our third offensive coordinator in three years, our players should be more familiar, and hopefully more successful, in a system they ran for two years under Dunbar. Here's hoping.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Big Ten Bowls Rule TV Screens...Except for One

Adam Rittenberg has a post up this morning on the success of the Big Ten excelling in bowl TV ratings.

From Rittenberg:
Here's what you need to know:
The Rose Bowl matchup between Ohio State and Oregon on ABC drew the second-highest rating (13.2) -- behind the BCS title game -- and reached 5,143,000 households and 24,025,000 viewers.

The Capital One Bowl between Penn State and LSU drew the fifth-highest rating (6.8), and had a six percent increase in viewership from last year.

The Orange Bowl between Iowa and Georgia Tech ranks sixth with a 6.8 rating but had a 26 percent increase in viewership.

The Outback Bowl between Northwestern and Auburn had a 30 percent increase in viewership on ESPN.

The Alamo Bowl matchup between Michigan State and Texas Tech was ESPN's most viewed bowl and the fifth-highest rated ever. It reached 5,554,000 households and 7,829,000 viewers, and drew a rating of 4.8, which ranked sixth overall and represented a 23 percent increase in viewership.

The Champs Sports Bowl between Wisconsin and Miami ranked 12th with a 3.9 rating but had a 13 percent drop in viewership.

The only bowl involving a Big Ten team which didn't do so well? You guessed it, the Insight Bowl with our very own Golden Gophers against Iowa State. And to say it "didn't do very well" would be like saying Tennessee fans are mildly upset about Lane Kiffin's departure: the Insight was the WORST rated bowl of all 34!!!

Here's a handy-dandy chart with all of the ratings, and as you'll notice, people would rather watch games like Central Michigan/Troy, Fresno St/Wyoming, and the ultimate kick in the crotch- Middle Tennesee St/Southern Miss. Yep two teams from the Sun Belt and C-USA had more viewers than Minnesota vs. Iowa State. I'm going to go out and on a limb and say that if the Gophers are the only Big Ten choice for the Insight next year, what would happen first- the Gophers decline the bid or the Insight forfeit the game? I can't wait to see how much money the U lost because of this game.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Last and Final GGFB Top 25

Looking at the final rankings for this year, our beloved Big Ten shows up pretty well. Our four top teams all won against good competition, and what's better, three of the four return a ton of talent for next year. I want to wait until January 15th for all the underclassmen to declare for the draft before looking ahead to 2010, but the Big Ten looks to be very, very strong for next year.

Anyway, onto the final top 25, made completely and totally with my own bias, but mixed with love, care, and hatred for Iowa. You're welcome. As always, here is the official BCS Standings, as well as the final Sagarin rankings.


1 Alabama (14-0)
Bama 2010= Florida 2009, but in some ways reversed. The Gators lost some key players on offense but returned their entire 22 deep on defense. Bama returns almost their entire offense, but will lose some key pieces on defense, including all-world linebacker Rolando McClain and Mt. Cody. Still, the Tide should be the undisputed #1 to begin 2010.

2 Boise State (14-0)
I'm out of excuses for trying to keep Boise State behind the big boys. Sure, they only played two good teams all year in Oregon and TCU, but they thumped them well enough to make me believe they'd have a chance against Alabama. Not saying they'd win, but they'd be at least as competitve as Florida and Texas were.

3 Florida (13-1)
Ok so both the Gators and Horns lost to Alabama, so the hypothetical question is: who would win on a neutral field? After watching the bowl games, I'm going to side with Florida. I would not fault you for choosing Texas with a healthy Colt McCoy.

4 Texas (13-1)
I know I play too many video games when my thought watching the NC game is "This isn't fair! Somebody hit the reset button? Why can't we hit the reset button?" Tough way for Colt McCoy to go out, but hopefully his shoulder recovers in time for him to work out for scouts. I'd love to see him in Purple next year. Also, why the end was tough for Longhorns fans, the future looks pretty bright with frosh QB Garrett Gilbert. A pretty impressive performance going against a defense with 11 starters who will all probably play on Sundays sometime soon.

5 Ohio State (11-2)
This is me standing up and applauding The Sweater Vest. I applaud him and credit him for opening up the offense and turning Terrelle Pryor loose, which I never thought he would do. THAT Pryor, and that style of Ohio State offense, makes them a national championship contender in 2010, and unlike past years againt LSU and FLorida when they got blown out, they're going to have the horses and the speed to compete with anybody. Once again, the Big Ten title conversation for next year will begin and end with the Buckeyes.

6 TCU (12-1)
I almost dropped them out of the top 25 just for those gawd-awful uniforms. Um, Coach Patterson? Just because Nike wants you to wear some crazy new-fangled crap, doesn't mean you have to. That's about the only bad decision he's made in his time at TCU though.

7 Iowa (11-2)
WHO HATES IOWA?!? I certainly still do, but as much as it kills me, you have to give them a ton of credit for slowing down the Georgia Tech triple-option. While they lose some very key players, they also return a ton of talent, and are right behind Ohio State in the Big Ten entering next year, and could very well start the year in the national top 10.

8 Cincinnati (12-1)

This is not a list of who had the best season, but who the best teams are at season's end, and without head coach Brian Kelly, the Bearcats are just not the same team. That or Florida, and the other teams above them, are simply better. I'd say yes to both.

9 Penn State (11-2)
This will be last time to take shots at Penn State for their gutless non-conference scheduling, as next year's slate includes a trip to Tuscaloosa to face the defending national champs. They didn't play many good teams, and sucked against Iowa and Ohio State, but they played well in poor conditions against LSU.

10 Virginia Tech (10-3)
I might not even have them ranked high enough. Another national title threat next year as they return a boatload of talent.

11 Oregon (10-3)
12 Wisconsin (10-3)
13 Brigham Young (11-2)
14 Georgia Tech (11-3)
15 Nebraska (10-4)
16 LSU (9-4)
17 Miami (FL) (9-4)
18 Utah (10-3)
19 Pittsburgh (10-3)
20 Stanford (9-4)
21 USC (9-4)
22 Mississippi (9-4)
23 Texas Tech (9-4)
24 Central Michigan (12-2)
25 Navy (10-4)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Roll Tide

I'm always excited and yet saddened for the BCS National Championship game: you always go in expecting to see a great game (hopefully this year is no exception), but it also means that no matter what happens, it's the last college football game for almost nine full months. I know, it bums me out too (although if it nine months of not having to watch the Gopher offense, then maybe it's not so bad). So what will we see in Pasadena tonight? Will we get a classic like the 2006 game when Texas upset USC, or a blowout stinker like when Ohio State played LSU...or when Ohio State played Florida...well, you get the idea.

Since the conference title games were played in early December, you know, when Bama crushed the #1 team in the country, and when Texas barely- and I mean BARELY- survived against an all-defense no-offense Nebraska team. It was not so much because of those results themselves, but what those results meant when factored into the whole season. Sure, both teams are 13-0, and sure, both teams didn't have the most daunting of schedules, but Alabama rose to the occassion in all of their tough games, whereas Texas struggled.

The Longhorns were third in the country in scoring offense with an average of 40 points per game, and had the 15th best offense in the country averaging 432.8 yards per game. But here's why I'm worried the national title game could get ugly in a hurry:
The Horns played only two top 30 defenses all season (Bama faced six)- Nebraska (7th), and Oklahoma (8th): Their averages in those games are a little less rosey, as they averaged just 14.5 points and 235.5 yards of offense. Seriously. While Bama doesn't have a defender as good as Nebraska's Ndkamong Suh, they DO have the nation's second best defense, and a pair of corners better than anything Texas has seen all season. Not to mention Bama's 80+ blitzes available to them, Colt McCoy will be lucky to live through four quarters at the Rose Bowl, let alone move the chains and score touchdowns.

Now sure, Texas has had a month to prepare for what Bama is going to bring, but the Horns just don't have many weapons, they can't run the ball, and as the stats show against Oklahoma and Nebraska, their line is shaky at best.

However, thankfully there's plenty of reasons to think Texas has a chance tonight, most of which I culled from's Andy Staples, who had to pen an article today on why Texas has a chance. Upon seeing the headline, I laughed and felt bad for Andy, who defintitely drew the short end of the stick, as senior college football writer Stewart Mandel got the easiest assignment of his career in telling us why Bama wins tonight. But after reading Staples' five reasons, I have to say, I've been swayed: I'm not going to go so far as predicting a Longhorns upset, but I do think we'll get a close, low-scoring defensive battle, probably similar to the Big 12 title game.

Considering the following:
- In the BCS Era, anytime we get a heavy underdog, they seem to win. Ohio State over Miami in 2003. Texas over USC in 2006. Florida beating Ohio State in 2007.

- Bama might have the #2 defense, but don't forget Texas is #3. How do the Horns beat OKlahoma and Nebraska with such dismal offensive performances? Because their defense is unreal. Sergio Kindle and Earl Thomas will be wreaking havoc on a Crimson Tide offense that had by far the best game of their season against Florida, but otherwise have been solid but not spectacular. Yes, the Bama running game will be the best Texas has seen all year, but Greg McElroy stunk in the middle of the season, and if Texas can find ways to pressure him, we could see the mid-season McElroy instead of the guy who had the game of his life against the Gators.

- The Heisman Curse. Like the Madden Cover and SI Cover curses, maybe this exists and maybe it doesn't, but you can't discount the fact Heisman winners have not had a great record in a game like this.

- Turnovers. I know, I know, saying turnovers could decide the game is like saying whoever scores more will win. Obvious, but I still feel the need to bring it up. Texas led the county in takeaways, while Alabama led in fewest giveaways. As they say, something has to give, right? If the Longhorns can force an opportunistic fumble, or pressure McElroy into throwing picks, the Horns have a chance.

As I said, I don't have the stones to pick the upset, but I do think Bama wins a tight, low-scoring ball game 20-17. Whatever happens, I just hope the game is close, and I'll take solace in knowing the offense's can't look any worse than Minnesota's.

Kevin Whaley Dismissed After Arrest

Kevin Whaley is just the latest Golden Gopher football player to run afoul of the law, but this time, the university is taking a stand. According to a report in the Pioneer Press, Minnesota is releasing the redshirt freshman running back from his scholarhship, allowing him to transfer to another school immediately. Where he ends up is anyone's guess, but what we know for sure is he'll never wear the Maroon and Gold again.

Per the Marcus Fuller story:

Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi said the university had to part ways with Whaley after he was arrested on an assault charge at a nightclub in Scottsdale, Ariz., following Minnesota's 14-13 Insight Bowl loss to Iowa State on New Year's Eve.

It's the second time Whaley has been arrested for assault in a nightclub in his brief stint as a Gopher, and apparently the U had had enough. Not sure if this was Brewster's call or if it was forced by Maturi, but either way, two arrests in two years for a decent but not great running back was enough to punch his ticket out of town.

Whaley would have pushed for a starting job in the spring, but with three heralded freshmen coming in, it's not like depth is going to be an issue. Then again, we thought that last year until our top recruit didn't qualify because of academics, and the rest of our backs were underwhelming and unproductive.

More of an issue for me is this: Whaley was the eighth football player just this year involved in off-season incidents. Eight guys! The Gophers had more players show up on the police blotter this year than wins!! Fans will tolerate this kind of stuff if you're winning (Bobby Bowden has probably had as many players arrested and suspended than games won down at Florida State), but if you're going 6-7 and losing to Iowa State? Yeah not so much.

It seems Brewster has rolled the dice A LOT on guys with character issues, and whether it be legal troubles or academic troubles, his players seem to be in the news more for the wrong reasons than the right ones. I don't see this tactic changing, however, as we all know 2010 is a make-or-break year for Brewster (or at least it'd better be). Because he's coaching for his job this fall, and because he hasn't seen the kind of on-field results he, and all Gopher fans, have hoped for, you can be sure he's going to continue to throw good character out the window and continue to gamble on troubled players in hopes he can get just a few that can help him win in 2010.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gophers NEED to Hire Mike Leach

So this morning I log onto one of my favorite college football sites, The Rivalry, Esq. to do some reading. After a few bowl recaps (hopefully the performances by Ohio State and Penn State will shut- as well as Wisconsin last week- will shut some people up about how good the Big Ten is. As much as I hate Iowa, a win over Georgia Tech only improves the conference's image), I saw this post: Gophers Need to Hire Mike Leach.

Intrigued, I read the short post from a commenter, and like him I was skeptical at first. But by the time I got to the end of it, I now have the following question: Give me one good reason why the Gophers SHOULDN'T hire Leach? Really, go ahead, I'd love to hear one.

People are going to argue two things: one is that you don't hire Leach because it's bad publicity. The second is you don't fire Tim Brewster now because it shows instability in the program.

Second thing first: If you watched the Insight Bowl, or any Gopher games in November, you should know instability should be the least of our worries. THE problem right now is that despite all of these acclaimed recruiting classes, Tim Brewster's teams cannot win in November and they cannot win bowl games. Period. They had 15 freaking practices to figure out what went wrong with the offense, and what did they find? They couldn't fix it. Same old stagnant, predictable and ineffective offense. This leads to only three conclusions: 1) Brewster's recruiting classes are vastly overrated, 2) Brewster and his staff can't coach, or 3) all of the above. Any way you look at it, that does not look good for Brewster. And yet after watching this team for 2009, and for his full three seasons here, those are the only three conclusions you're left with.

If you're expecting things to change in 2010 you're either expecting miracles or you know something the rest of us don't. The athletic director has so little confidence in his coach, he said point blank that Brewster could take the Kansas job and he wouldn't stop him. The fan base (that being the few of us left crazy enough to cheer for this team) has so little faith in Brewster, that the vast majority of respondents to polls in the daily newspapers in this town wanted him to take the Kansas job and don't believe he deserves an extension. This coming from the people who follow this team closely.

So again, please try and sell my why it would look "unstable" to can Brewster now, but won't in November or December of next year when we struggle to another six win season. Please, I'm listening.

While you're thinking of that one, I'll respond to the first thing people would say about hiring Mike Leach, that it would be bad publicity: People, at this point for the Gopher football program, ANY publicity is good publicity. There is no hype and no hope surrounding this team right now. None. Zero. Zilch. Go ahead and peruse the dailies and see how far into the archives you have to go to find a story about Gopher football. Head over to our favorite Gopher site The Daily Gopher and see how fired up those guys are about the team (hint- they're not). Heck, look how long it took us to get something up about the loss- or about ANYTHING- and we're supposed to be a Gopher football site!!

Unfortunately the bowl game loss only reinforced what we already knew: the offense is terrible, 15 additional practices added nothing and improved nothing, and considering we return pretty much the same offense we did this year (well, except for our best player and the conference's most important offensive player) we're left to expect nothing less than the shoddy results we were given this year. We already know Brewster is going to huff and puff about improvements and how much he loves his kids and his offense and his coaches and he'll huff and puff about quarterback competition and offensive competition and his players will probably look pretty good in the spring game.

But all of this was true last year, and what happened? 6-7 happened. One of the worst offenses in Division 1-A football happened. Brewster recruited better than any coach has here in a long, long time yet he got out-coached and his team was outplayed in just about ever game this season. He has not won a game in November or December and has not won a single trophy game. No matter what Tim Brewster says between now and the first game of 2010- and as we know, he'll say a LOT- he's going to get tuned out by the media and most sports fans and even most Gopher football fans in this town. And he should, because that's what we've come to expect in his three seasons here. We hope for the best and expect the worst because that's what Tim Brewster has brought us. We will expect that until he proves otherwise, and there's nine really long months until he gets a chance to fix this program, and most of us believe whether Brewster had nine, or nine hundred, months he couldn't get us to a New Year's Day bowl or Big Ten title.

Hiring Mike Leach would change that in a big, big hurry. Would it bring negative publicity? Yes, it most definitely would, at least for a short time. No matter what you read or hear, we don't know exactly what happened down in Lubbock. Did Mike Leach do something wrong? Yes, I think he did, but what exactly happened we don't know, and may never know.

Here is what we DO know however:
- In an interview with ESPN's Reece Davis, Texas Tech University chancellor Kent Hance said that Mike Leach got fired for insubordination, NOT for whatever happened with Adam James.

- Mike Leach was suspended, and then fired, before a full investigation was ever conducted or finished.

- Adam James' dad Craig, the former SMU star and current college football analyst, called and harassed Leach and his son's position coaches all the time about why his son wasn't playing more. He was the worst of "hockey dad's". Other coaches on the staff have not denied this. James has a lot of money and a lot of influence.

- Mike Leach was a hot coaching commodity last season when his Red Raiders almost ran the table, and to keep him, the school signed him to a massive contract extension.

In a subsequent interview with Davis and ESPN, Leach goes onto defend himself on every charge. While this is Leach's side of the story, and you can't believe everything the man says until it's proven or confirmed by others, it paints a pretty clear picture of a coach and administration at odds with each other since the contract extension last year. Considering the man was suspended and fired before the investigation was ever conducted or finished, it seems obvious the school had an axe to grind, and was looking for the first sign of trouble to give him the boot.

And they got one. I'm not defending what Leach allegedly did by locking James in a storage garage because of migraines. No matter how much a kid's dad bothers you, or how much you question the kid's work ethic (again, TT coaches have denied neither claim. From all accounts, James comes across as a spoiled brat who felt entitled to start because his dad was Craig James, and when he was told he had to work for it like everyone else, he whined and cried to daddy), you can't lock him in an equipment "shed" (which has been confirmed is the size of a garage, not a shed). IF that's the entire story and it's entirely one-sided with Leach being the bad guy and James and his family a saint, then you have problems. But considering Texas Tech ran Leach out on a rail before any official investigation was made to find out, and all we're left with is James and the University vs. Leach, that says to me the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

So yes, Leach would be a controversial hire, but make no mistake- the man can coach. And the man can coach offense. We have the weapons at wideout and enough good quarterbacks coming back that I believe Leach could turn this offense around tomorrow if given the chance. And like Tubby Smith when he was let go by Kentucky, Leach would jump at the chance to coach a BCS conference school and rebuild his name. Would he treat this as a stepping stone job and try to bolt for greener pastures like he did at Texas Tech? I would assume so, but that would be true of ANY coach here. Until this program has sustained success like Wisconsin or Iowa, it's always going to be considered a stepping stone job.

For me, Leach has done enough to clear his name in the court of public opinion, and since we're probably never going to know exactly what happened, that's about all you can ask for. You deal with the negative publicity and then sit back and watch the man do what he does- coach offense and win games. He's certainly proven much more in his time at TT than Brewster has here.

Hiring Mike Leach gets you back in the sports consciousness of the Twin Cities, gets you a much better coach than we could ever have dreamed of getting, and gets us pointed towards the New Year's Day bowls and conference titles Brewster promises but doesn't deliver.

Unless you believe in miracles, we're going to be looking for a new coach at this time next year, so why not go get a much better coach than will be available to us, and should be available to us? The time might not seem right, but the time is now. Hire Mike Leach.