Tag Archives: Ohio State Buckeyes

Big Ten Football 2009: Cupcakes Galore

With the confirmation Wednesday that Illinois will close its season with a game at Cincinnati, all the Big Ten football schedules are set for 2009.

First off, while Illini fans sound irritated that their team will play Fresno State at home and Cincinnati on the road — both capable squads – after the Big Ten season is over, at least they’re real opponents.

Good for the Illini. It may mean another 5-7 season or, worse, a trip to the Motor City Bowl at 6-6. But it at least shows some willingness to play competition.

Either that, or Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther failed miserably at finding a patsy to squeeze into his schedule. I hope it’s that deal about wanting to play someone.

If only every Big Ten AD and coach had the same attitude. Hey, the Big Ten isn’t winning BCS titles anyhow and flops miserably every time it sends Ohio State to slaughter in the championship game. So why not make the regular-season more meaningful with actual ballgames?

Only 14 of the 44 nonconference games in ’09 are against BCS conference teams or Notre Dame. That’s ridiculous.

Are you the Big Ten or just the Ten? Actually, you’re the Eleven, but that horse has been beaten to death.

Only three league teams — Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota — are playing two BCS conference teams among their four non-league games. Wisconsin isn’t playing any.

Before noting the cupcakes, let’s give some kudos to the proud and the few who are at least playing interesting games.

Ohio State gets the return date on its home-and-home series with USC.

Purdue heads to Oregon after hosting the Ducks last fall.

Indiana filled out its schedule by taking a game at Virginia, thus becoming the only Big Ten team to play two of its nonconference games on the road.

Cal is playing at Minnesota and Arizona is at Iowa, so those are 2008 bowl teams from the Pac-10 coming into Big Ten lairs.

But by and large, Big Ten non-league slates are another big pile of bleccccch.

Nine games are against FCS (I-AA) opposition. Purdue and Ohio State are the only Big Ten teams not devouring FCS prey. A few are among the cream of the FCS crop, like Northern Iowa and Wofford. But …

Delaware State (5-6 last year) at Michigan?

Towson (3-9) at Northwestern?

Eastern Illinois (5-7) at Penn State?

Penn State is playing all four of its nonconference games at home, against Akron, Syracuse, Temple and mighty Eastern Illinois. That’s absurd. Are you a football power or not? If you are, act like one and schedule somebody.

Playing two Mid-American Conference teams, an FCS squad and Syracuse, the Least of the Big East, is great for wins. It won’t work too well in those BCS computers, though.

Ranking the non-league schedules by toughness is difficult, because most are lousy. But here goes:

1. Illinois: Vs. Missouri in St. Louis, Illinois State, Fresno State, at Cincinnati (The series with Mizzou is a good one, and Cincinnati is fresh off an Orange Bowl appearance.)

2. Minnesota: at Syracuse, Air Force, California, South Dakota State (Air Force and Cal went to bowls, Syracuse is on the road, and S.D. State is one of the better FCS teams a Big Ten team is playing.)

3.  Purdue: Toledo, at Oregon, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame. (Toledo was lousy in ’08, but the other three went to bowls and Oregon won 10 games.)

4. Wisconsin: Northern Illinois, Fresno State, Wofford, at Hawaii (The three FBS teams went to bowls, and Wofford won nine games and played South Carolina to a 10-point game.)

5. Ohio State: Navy, USC, vs. Toledo in Cleveland, New Mexico State (The USC game goes a long way here, obviously.)

6. Michigan State: Montana State, Central Michigan, at Notre Dame, Western Michigan. (Doesn’t look like much, but the three FBS teams went to bowls, the two MAC teams are in-state clubs that will be motivated, going to South Bend is no picnic, and Montana State was 7-5)

7. Iowa: Northern Iowa, at Iowa State, Arizona, Arkansas State. (UNI’s a terrific FCS team, and Arizona’s legit. If Iowa State were just a little stronger …)

Now it gets bad.

8. Indiana: Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, at Akron, at Virginia. (Western Michigan is a good program. Playing on the road twice should count for something, though all it really means is Indiana is a Big Ten football program without much clout.)

9. Michigan: Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Delaware State. (Four home games. Not a Top 25 team in the bunch. This isn’t the Michigan scheduling we’ve known for the last half-century. Bo Schembechler would never have scheduled Delaware State.)

10. Northwestern: Miami (Ohio), Towson, at Syracuse, Eastern Michigan. (Not a good opponent in the foursome. Only playing Syracuse on the road keeps the ‘Cats from being ranked below … )

11. Penn State: Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Eastern Illinois. (What, Slippery Rock, Swarthmore, Susquehanna, and Scranton/Dundler-Miffin weren’t available?)

Set It In (Wet) Concrete: Iowa vs. South Carolina in Outback Bowl

Erin Andrews and Steve Spurrier. One will be at the Outback Bowl.

Erin Andrews and Steve Spurrier. One will be at the Outback Bowl.

The Tampa Tribune believes it, I believe it, and you should believe it. Iowa will play Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl.

No one from the game or elsewhere will confirm it, because the BCS and the other lords of college football would come at the bowl with the wrath of a thousand roided-up defensive linemen. But it would take something bizarre for the Outback not to match Hawkeyes and Gamecocks.

South Carolina is the lone logical choice for the Outback. Alabama and Florida will play in BCS bowls, Georgia goes to the Capital One, and Mississippi to the Cotton. That leaves 7-5 South Carolina and 7-5 LSU. The Bayou Bengals are headed for the Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta, and USC (that’s what South Carolina calls itself) goes to Tampa on the heels of a 56-6 loss to Florida followed by a 31-14 defeat at state-rival Clemson.

The only currently ranked team the Gamecocks have beaten this year is Mississippi. They beat Wofford, 23-13.

With Ohio State headed to the BCS — likely to play Texas what would be an excellent Sugar Bowl matchup — Michigan State represents the Big Ten in the Capital One and the Outback then chooses 8-4 over 9-3 Northwestern.

The Outback Bowl has been a sellout the two times Iowa has been a participant. Tampa-St. Pete likes that. A lot.

The Tampa Tribune’s story: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/dec/01/expect-south-carolina-face-iowa-outback/

Iowa’s Bowl Possibilities: From Florida to Detroit

No one, and I mean no one, can offer a convincing prediction about which bowl Iowa will attend this season, if any.

The reason: There are way too many Big Ten games in November that you can’t safely forecast, and three of them are among the Hawkeyes’ final four contests.

Can you say Iowa will win at Illinois? No, not even with the way the Illini have sputtered. Illinois will be a motivated team with the ever-dangerous Juice Williams at quarterback. However, you have to like Iowa’s chances of rushing with its typical 2008 success after seeing the Illini’s run defense at Wisconsin Saturday.

Can you say Iowa will lose at home to Penn State with certainty? No. Is Iowa’s defense significantly less than Ohio State’s? No. And the Buckeyes held the Nittany Lions to 281 yards and 13 points Saturday night in Columbus.

Can you say Iowa will definitely win at Minnesota in the season-finale? (We’re calling the Hawks’ home game against Purdue a win between the Penn State and Minnesota outings.) Obviously not with the way the Gophers have played in racking up a 7-1 mark.

So, Iowa can conceivably finish the regular season 9-3, 8-4, 7-5 or 6-6. That’s Tampa and the Capital One Bowl all the way down to Detroit and the Motor City Bowl.

I can’t see the Capital One Bowl as possible for Iowa. Maybe there’s a 1 percent likelihood. Say Ohio State loses two of its last three games and Iowa wins out. But there’s a 1 percent likelihood of a lot of things in life not worth worrying about.

This is why bowl projections are so absurd until, say, the regular-season has one week left. If Iowa upends Penn State, the Nittany Lions are out of the national-title picture and everything goes haywire for the Big Ten. It’s hard to see an 11-1 Penn State and a 10-2 Ohio State (if it wins at Illinois) both in BCS games, especially with Boise State and probably Utah snapping up spots.

On the flip side, the Hawkeyes have plenty of work to do just worrying about beating Illinois this week despite the Illini’s October pratfalls against Minnesota and Wisconsin. If the Hawks lose in Champaign, they could be staring at 5-5 once Penn State leaves Kinnick Stadium. Then it’s beat Purdue and try to beat Minnesota in the Metrodome for a winning season.

You go from dreaming of the Outback to tumbling past the Alamo and Champs Sports to the Insight and perhaps the (gasp) Motor City.

Minnesota, by the way, is the great wild card. The 7-1 Gophers ought to be 9-1 after they’ve hosted Northwestern and Michigan. Then they play at Wisconsin before the Iowa game. Minnesota could conceivably be 10-1, and probably no worse than 9-2, when they make their all-time Metrodome finale against the Hawkeyes in an atmosphere that should be frenzied.

Where Illinois, Northwestern and Wisconsin fit in bowl-speculation is unclear at best. The Illini are 4-4 and have four games left that could all go good or bad, including a trip to Western Michigan. Northwestern is bowl-eligible at 6-2, but doesn’t have a game left in which you’d call it a solid favorite. Wisconsin, 4-4, plays at Michigan State and Indiana before coming home for Minnesota and Cal Poly. That could be a 6-6 team.

If Ohio State doesn’t make it to a BCS bowl, we could be looking at eight Big Ten teams and seven affiliated bowls. For the first time in its agreement with the Big Ten, the Motor City Bowl may be in a position to pick who it likes best from the conference. What it really wants, of course, is for 2-6 Michigan to morph into a Michigan football team, win its final four, and bring its 6-6 record to Ford Field in downtown Detroit to play some fabulous Mid-American Conference club.

You can’t have everything, Motor City Bowl.

The Hlist: USC is Merciful, Missouri is Miserable

Opening kickoff

“In Iowa, where Kirk Ferentz faces the prospect of losing his job precisely because his program has become a feeder team for the Iowa City Jail, things get worse than usual. Ferentz’s kid James, a freshman lineman, got pinched on underaged drinking (shock!) charges. The crime is of questionable import until you figure it might take Dad from the hot seat to the guillotine.” — Tom Ziller, Sportingnews.com

It seems an exaggeration.

First downs

1. Buckeye Nuts: These are a few excerpts from letters to the sports editor in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch, written after Ohio State’s 16-3 win over Purdue and before OSU’s game at Michigan State on Saturday:

“With the exception of a few, this team needs to follow the yellow brick road and ask the wizard for a heart. While they are at it, the offensive line could ask for courage and the offensive coordinator could ask for a brain.” — Chris Sturgill, Worthington

“If (head coach Jim) Tressel keeps calling plays like he has recently, I’d make early reservations for the Outback Bowl, or wherever third-place Big Ten teams go.” — David Scott, Columbus

“Beanie Wells is capable of 200 yards per game, but the O-line seems to refuse to play with emotion for an entire game. … A promising season is likely to slip away without major improvement.” — Tom Scurlock, Washington

Wells ran 31 times for 140 yards in the Buckeyes’ 45-7 win at Michigan State on Saturday. OSU is OK.

2. One Week, Two Burials: A week ago today, Texas Coach Mack Brown approved a suggestion to bury the game ball from the previous Saturday’s 45-35 win over Oklahoma on the Longhorns’ practice field. Several Horns players then drank a Kool-Aid-like concoction to make them “forget” the big win over the Sooners and focus on the coming week’s game, against Missouri.

Score one for superstitions. No. 1 Texas buried Mizzou, 56-31.

Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy completed 29 of 32 passes for 337 yards. He passed for two touchdowns, ran for two others. He has completed 81 percent of his passes this season, a pace that would easily break the NCAA’s record of 73 percent.

“We need to continue for him to be who he is,” Brown said. “I don’t know if we need him to be any better.”

3. Abnormally Normal: In a season-full of upsets, no Top Ten teams got dumped Saturday.

Not that Southern California feared the reaper. Associated Press reported that two hours before kickoff USC players “menacingly rocked their buses, as if they couldn’t wait to get on the field.”

“Our guys had a ball playing football today, from the locker room on out,” USC Coach Pete Carroll said after his team’s 69-0 laugher over Washington State.

It’s fun being good. USC has won its last three games by a total of 141-10 since an upset loss at Oregon State. The Trojans have scored 117 unanswered points.

USC is ranked fifth in the BCS standings. Carroll’s response: “It doesn’t mean anything about anything.”

(Don Hawkins)

4. Son Sits in Mountains: Colorado’s Dan Hawkins is a father and a coach, but not necessarily in that order during games.

Hawkins pulled starting quarterback Cody Hawkins, his son, after two series of the Buffaloes’ game against Kansas State. In came true freshman Tyler Hansen. With his red-shirt removed, Hansen passed for 71 yards and a touchdown and rushed 19 times for 86 yards. Colorado won, 14-13.

“You have to do what you have to do,” Coach Hawkins said of the move.

Fumbles

1. Lanced in East Lansing: “What’s the one thing you did well today?” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was asked after the Spartans’ 45-7 loss to Ohio State.

“I thought we did a good job in warm-ups,” he said.

Michigan State running back Javon Ringer was held to a season-low 67 rushing yards.

“We’ve been trying to prove to people we’re not the same team, where we lose one and fall apart,” Ringer said. “This game, I’m telling you, is not gonna be that hard to get over. Next week is Michigan, and that’s the game we really look forward to. That game’s in a whole different category.”

Yeah, it’s a game against a team the Spartans can beat.

2. Missouri Breaks: After Texas crushed Missouri, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo was asked what he thought of Missouri’s body language.

“Body language?” Orakpo replied. “I don’t know. I just play football. I ain’t no doctor.”

Ranked No. 3 two weeks ago, the Tigers could use a healer after consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas.

“There’s no excuses,” said Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel. “They outplayed us, out-blocked us, kicked us, running, passing, coaching, everything.”

At least Pinkel has the Tigers’ weaknesses pinpointed.

3. Shooting Blanks: Washington State’s run of 280 consecutive games without being shut out was snapped in their 69-0 debacle of a loss to USC. The Cougars mustered just 116 total yards and four first downs.

“I think our team — a lot of guys are used to losing,” griped WSU defensive end Andy Mattingly.

It seems likely. Wazzu had Pac-10 defeats of 66-3, 63-14 and 66-13 before this game.

USC could have made it 90-0 had it desired. The Trojans played four quarterbacks. They let the last 16 seconds of the first half run out with the ball at the WSU 10 and timeouts left to use.

The Hlist thinks USC wanted to leave the Cougars with enough of a program so it can play at USC next year.

4. Lou’s Loose Lips: Even when you can understand Lou Holtz, he doesn’t always make sense.

ESPN analyst Holtz apologized on the air Saturday for mentioning Adolf Hitler in a discussion of the leadership skills of Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez during an ESPN studio show the night before.

“Ya know,” Holtz said Friday, “Hitler was a great leader, too.”

Wow. On top of that, Holtz predicted the winners of five of Saturday’s key games around the country, which he and broadcast partner Mark May do each week. He was wrong on all five.

Final gun

“This is an embarrassing situation, and I’m hoping this is the lowest point in our season.

“We have a very fragile football team; there’s not much confidence in the locker room right now. It’s not a pretty thing.”

San Diego State Coach Chuck Long after his Aztecs’ 70-7 loss at New Mexico.