Posts Tagged 'big ten'

College FootBlog Week 6 Recap

Mark Richt may have gotten himself off the hotseat last weekend (photo courtesy of blogs.ajc.com)

Week 6 of the college football season is in the books, and once again, College FootBlog brings you a complete recap of the week that was.  Check out our breakdown of five key bits of info you can’t do without as we continue through the 2011 college football season.

No Florida Schools in the Top 25: Florida State was supposed to be the bell cow of the ACC and the state of Florida in 2011, but after suffering their third straight loss to Wake Forest last weekend, the ‘Noles are out of the top 25.  Much hype was surrounding the Florida Gators, but back to back games against Alabama and LSU would be enough to drop anyone.  The Gators were hammered 41-11 by LSU, and the second-straight loss was too much to keep them in the rankings as well.  Miami, USF and UCF have all been mentioned in the top 25 at different points this season, but all have lost critical games this season, and all are on the outside of the polls looking in.

Red River Blowout:  Many (including myself) thought Texas was way overrated coming into this game–the Longhorns were ranked as the #11 team in the nation, but very few predicted the kind of beat down the Sooners would deliver last weekend.  The OU defense outscored Texas in this one, accounting for three touchdowns.  The fast-paced OU offense did their damage as well, on their way to a 55-17 blowout victory for Oklahoma.

Michigan off to the quietest 6-0 start in history: The dominance of Wisconsin and the implosion of Ohio State have been the main topics of discussion this season in the Big Ten.  That has overshadowed a fantastic start by first year head coach Brady Hoke’s perfect start in 2011.  Hoke has done a lot with very little, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but the Wolverines aren’t getting much love.  A win at rival Michigan State this weekend would not only make the Wolverines bowl eligible in mid-October, it would also serve as notice to the college football world that, while Michigan is still not a top 10 team, Hoke has cleaned up Rich Rod’s mess much faster than anyone could have imagined.

Mark Richt gets 100th win: After starting the 2011 season with a loss against Boise State and a heart-breaker at home to South Carolina in week 2, the Bulldogs won their third straight game last weekend at Tennessee.  The win was head coach Mark Richt’s 100th as a head coach in Athens.  Richt, who came into this season on the hot seat, has Georgia playing better than any team in the SEC East.  A win against rival Florida on October 29th could buy him an extra year and vault the Dawgs into an SEC Championship Game.

In a stunning revelation, Ohio State is the “poster child” of compliance:  I was under the impression that massive suspensions of key players, the untimely departure of a hall of fame coach amid controversy, inappropriate dealings with boosters and free tattoos and gifts from a known Columbus drug dealer were signs that an athletic program wasn’t keeping very good tabs on its student-athletes.  Fortunately, for people like me, who were completely misunderstanding the situation at OSU, their president Gordon Gee took the liberty of clearing up that slight misconception.  Gee informed the Ohio State faculty last week that OSU is the “poster child” of compliance.  In the wake of that announcement, Charlie Sheen is expected to announce that he is the poster child of child care, Lindsay Lohan is expected to announce that she is the poster child of sobriety, and Carrot Top is expected to claim he is the poster child of comedy.

Big 12…11…10…9…

The Big 12 Conference is looking more like a countdown for a space shuttle launch than it is a football conference these days.  The 2011 season will be the first year since the inception that, despite still being called the Big 12, the conference will only have ten teams.

Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten (which now has twelve teams) and Colorado moved to greener pastures and potentially more revenue with their move to the newly established Pac 12 Conference.

The Big 12 seems to be shrinking by the day these days (logo courtesy of Big 12 Conference)

Over the last few days, there are more and more rumblings of Texas A&M moving to the SEC, which would likely be straw to break the dwindling Big 12’s back.  But the move to college football’s most powerful conference won’t go through without the Big 12 Conference pulling out all stops to maintain the status quo (if there is one).

Regardless of what the Big 12 officials and the state of Texas choose to do, in the end, A&M would be crazy not to jump at this opportunity.  The SEC has long been the best conference in all of college football, and with their recent contract with ESPN, their recent dominance of the BCS National Championships (an SEC team has won the National Championship in each of the last five years), and recent talk of courting Florida State or Virginia Tech to create two, separate 7-team divisions, the SEC shows no signs of looking back.

When the dust settles, we take a quick peak at where the other teams in the conference could end up:

Texas: The Longhorns should be kicking themselves for not jumping at the opportunity to join Colorado when the Pac 10 came calling last year.  Instead, Utah jumped at the chance to get out of the BCS purgatory known as the Mountain West.  Look for the Pac 12 to become the Pac 14 in an attempt to rival the SEC 2.0 version in 2012 or 2013.

Oklahoma: Like their hated rivals, Texas, there was a lot of talk last year of the Sooners joining the Pac 12, despite the fact that Texas and Oklahoma are nowhere near the Pacific coast, which was the original geographic concept of the conference when they were the Pac 8.  You lost yet?  Anyway, look for the Sooners and Longhorns to continue their rivalry within the same conference, which will likely be the Pac 14.

Missouri: Like the Huskers, the Big Ten courted the Tigers last season, but Mizzou opted to stay, especially once it was confirmed that Texas was staying.  The Big Ten would love to bring on the Tigers and bring a great rivalry with Nebraska inside the conference.  This would make the Big Ten’s thirteenth team, and maybe at this point, they really should think about dropping the “Big Ten” name, even though they have retained that name despite having eleven teams since Penn State joined the conference in 1993.

Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State will have to scramble to find a home.  These programs have had flashes, but unlike Mizzou, Oklahoma and Texas, they haven’t quite been able to crack or stay in the Top 25 for more than a year or two at a time.  And that will hurt them and possibly leave them with no choice but to join a new version of the Mountain West, but for basketball, Kansas may have to pull a Notre Dame and go independent.  Confused yet?

Rumors and scenarios will run rampant in the coming months, but one thing is for sure.  The Big 12 was already on life support, and A&M’s likely departure will be the death of the conference.

New Big Ten. New Favorite?

Wisconsin was already in good position to challenge for a Big Ten title this season, but one of many replacements head coach Bret Bielema had to contend with was the quarterback position, which had been vacated by Scott Tolzien.  As consistent as Tolzien was last season, the Badgers just upgraded this afternoon, when former NC State three-year starter Russell Wilson announced that he will be suiting up in Madison this fall.

Russell Wilson adds a new dimension to the Wisconsin offense (google images)

Wilson, who also plays professional baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization was released from NC State by head coach Tom O’Brien.  O’Brien wanted to have his team focused on the 2011 season, and he felt that Wilson’s baseball obligations hindered that focus.

This, despite overwhelming success in his three years as the Wolfpack’s starting signal-caller.  In his time in Raleigh, Wilson amassed over 8,500 passing yards and over 1,000 yards rushing, while throwing for 76 touchdowns, compared to just 26 Int’s.

His presence at Wisconsin should make a very immediate impact.  Unlike the spread offense at Auburn (which was reportedly the other finalist Wilson considered), Wisconsin is a more traditional offense, similar to the one he ran for three years when he starred at NC State.  The only difference is that Wilson never had a running game to rely on like the one he will join in August.

Although bruising tailback, John Clay is no longer there, the Badgers will once again boast one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, led by sophomore James White and junior Montee Ball.  Ball fell just four yards short of breaking the 1,000 yard mark, while White tallied 1,056 yards as a true freshman.  The tandem put up those numbers, despite splitting carries with Clay.

Cynics will point to the departure of both offensive tackles, including Gabe Carimi in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Badgers will only reload in 2011 on a unit that has been a hot-bed for the NFL.  Expect senior guard Kevin Zeitler to be the next high draft pick to lead another smash-mouth running game this fall (and you can also expect to hear Zeitler’s name early in the 2012 NFL Draft…mark it down).

If the Wisconsin defense, led by safety Aaron Henry can hold up their end, Wilson and the Badger offense will be much more explosive than in year’s past.  Wilson is quite possibly at his best when the pocket breaks down–just ask Florida State, who gave up three rushing TDs to Wilson last season.

He adds escapability and play-making ability to an offense that only lost one game in the Big Ten last season.  Add talented wide out Nick Toon to the equation, and Bielema may just have the formula for a Big Ten title run and a shot at being a top 5 team.  Although one player doesn’t make a team, a smart, athletic quarterback who is a proven winner will only make Wisconsin better.  At the least, the Badgers will be favored by many to lock up the newly expanded Big Ten.

Fail! To the Victors!

In 2007, Michigan decided that the Lloyd Carr era was over.  The only problem was that the storied program didn’t have anyone locked in to take the vacant position.  Speculation was that LSU’s head coach Les Miles would return to Ann Arbor, where he played and coached, but Miles made an announcement before he led his LSU Tigers into that year’s SEC Championship game.

The Rich Rodriguez experiment did not go well for Rodriguez or Michigan (google images)

Michigan then turned to Rich Rodriguez, despite not being the program’s top choice to fill the vacancy, and despite the fact that Rodriguez’ coaching style was in stark contrast to the Wolverine’s 4-3 defense and pro style offense.  It was not a pleasant three years for Rodriguez or Michigan football.  In his brief tenure at Michigan, Rodriguez was 15-22 with just six wins against Big Ten opponents.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon showed that the program didn’t necessarily learn their lesson, firing Rodriguez in favor of what he thought would be Jim Harbaugh, who led the Stanford Cardinal to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory.  Harbaugh instead opted to take the head coaching job for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.  Brandon quickly turned his focus once again to Miles.  But, once again, Miles said thanks, but no thanks.

Brandon is hoping the third time is a charm, and Michigan announced today the hiring of San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke.  Brandon insists that Hoke was Michigan’s first option, but the timing of his hiring suggests otherwise.  Hoke’s season with SDSU wrapped up on December 23rd, when he coached his Aztecs to a bowl victory over Navy.  And yet the decision to hire him did not take place until after Harbaugh and Miles were not only finished with their bowl games, but the decision also came after each coach publicly announced their decisions to coach somewhere other than Ann Arbor.

On paper, Hoke actually looks like a better fit for the traditional Michigan program–he did, after all, coach as an assistant at Michigan from 1995-2002.  Hoke actually has an overall losing record (47-50), but he has shown an ability to revamp programs.  He led Ball State to a 12-1 record in 2008, and after a losing season in his first year at SDSU, Hoke led the Aztecs to a 9-4 mark.

He will have his work cut out for him as the head man in Ann Arbor though.  Not only will all eyes be on him to see if he can right the ship, the new head coach will also have to revamp, recruit and reconstruct Michigan’s defense, which ranked 110th in the FBS.  He will also have to give the Wolverine offense its second complete overhaul in four years if he goes with a more traditional offense that the Wolverines have been known for in the last few decades, instead of Rodriguez’ spread attack.

Add the fact that Hoke is taking over a programs with only three weeks before National Signing Day, and it could be at least two years before fans of the Big Blue can expect any reason to celebrate.  Brandon will go down as a genious or a moron when the dust settles, and nothing in between.  If he can’t dig the program out, Brandon will be looking for a new job long before Hoke will.

Week 9 College FootBlog 3rd & 1

Week 8 in college football was saw another big upset and saw a Heisman contender move to a Heisman front-runner.  We cover these topics and more in this week’s edition of our 3rd & 1.

1st:  Oklahoma’s lack of a vertical passing game finally caught up with them.  Whether it is conservative play calling or zero confidence in quarterback Landry Jones, the Sooners’ lack of the intermediate and deep passing game was finally exposed by the Missouri Tigers this past weekend.  In match ups against Florida State, Texas and Mizzou, it was abundantly clear that the OU coaching staff does not want the sophomore QB to make reads down the field.  Until the Mizzou weekend, Jones’ weaknesses were somewhat masked by a barrage of bubble screens and the fast pace of the no-huddle offense.  Mizzou walked their safeties and corners up to the line of scrimmage and kept the bubble screens in check, and begged OU to challenge their pass defense.  Still, the OU play calling was bubble screens and quick slants, and it cost the Sooners one loss and could easily cost them another if the coaching staff doesn’t improve the passing game.

QB Cameron Newton has led Auburn to an 8-0 start this season (google images)

2nd:  The Heisman Trophy is Cameron Newton’s to lose.  Auburn’s  junior signal-caller eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in last weekend’s victory over previously undefeated LSU.  Although his passing numbers were far from explosive (10 for 16 for 86 yards), the elusive QB rushed for over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a LSU defense that had previously only allowed one player, Tennessee’s Tauren Poole, to break 100 yards.  Newton is 9th nationally in total yards per game with 305.1 and has already accounted for 27 touchdowns, despite going against the stout defenses of the SEC.  If he can put up similar numbers in the Iron Bowl, not only will he have a great shot at the Heisman, but he will have the Tigers in position for a BCS Championship.

 

3rd:  Oregon’s offense is scary-good.  The Ducks lead the nation with just under 570 yards per game.  Their lowest scoring output so far this season was against Arizona State, when the Sun Devils “held” them to a mere 42 points.  Last Thursday’s 60-point, 582-yard thrashing of UCLA gave the rest of the nation an opportunity to see just how explosive the 2010 Ducks are.  Quarterback Darron Thomas has made everyone forget about Jeremiah Masoli’s departure last spring.  The sophomore QB has accounted for over 1,500 yards passing and 17 TDs to go along with 269 yards and two TDs on the ground.  Sophomore running back LaMichael James has picked up right where he left off last season and currently leads the nation in rushing yards per game with just over 161 YPG.

….and 1:  Only Iowa stands in the way of a Big Ten Title for Michigan StateThe undefeated Spartans invade Iowa City this weekend and face the Hawkeyes, who lost a heart-breaker at home last weekend to Wisconsin (who Michigan State beat earlier this month).  MSU has the luxury of not having Ohio State on the schedule this year, and after this weekend’s trip to Iowa, they wrap up the rest of the regular season with home games against 1-7 Minnesota and 4-3 Purdue, before traveling to Penn State for the finale.  If the Spartans can knock off Iowa this weekend, they can still afford to lose one game and be guaranteed at least a share of the conference title.  Look for Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeyes to give MSU all they can handle in what should be a great game.

College FootBlog Spotlight: Denard Robinson

Heading into the 2010 college football season at Ann Arbor, it wasn’t even clear who the starter at quarterback would be, so there was obviously no talk of Heisman

Oh, what a difference a few weeks can make.  It’s very early in the season, but Denard Robinson has put himself and his team back on the map, and in the process, he may also be saving his head coach, Rich Rodriguez’ job. 

All Robinson has done to this point is lead the nation in total offense and beat hated Notre Dame in week 2.  In this edition of College FootBlog, we examine three reasons for optimism for Michigan fans, and we also break down the three biggest hurdles standing in his way to making the trip to New York this December.

Feeling Optimistic?  Robinson has done more than his part to be in the national spotlight, but here are three factors that play in his favor to continue his momentum:

1.  Opposing Defenses:  With Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin left on the schedule, you would think this would be a negative.  True, going against three of the best defenses in the country will provide a significant challenge, a closer look at the rest of Michigan’s opponents, and more notably, the defenses they will face, should have Robinson salivating.  Of the final nine games of the regular season, the Wolverines will face only two (Ohio State and Iowa) that are currently ranked in the top 25 in total defense.  And next week’s opponent, Bowling Green, is ranked 111th nationally in that category.

Denard Robinson has put himself in the mix for this year's Heisman race (google images)

2.  National Television:  If Michigan can continue to win, they have a chance to play nationally televised games against Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin and the showdown against the Buckeyes on November 27th.  This could backfire if Robinson has a bad game or two, but with his explosiveness and knack for the big play, it could also play hugely in his favor.  He has proven so far this season that the more opportunities he gets, the more big plays he produces.

3.  Ohio State:  With the defensive woes that Michigan has shown (most recently against FCS opponent UMass last weekend), there is very little chance that Michigan will be in the hunt for a Big Ten title this season, and by the time the Big Game against the hated Buckeyes rolls around, the Wolverines could have nothing to lose.  This actually plays into Michigan and Robinson’s favor.  Rich-Rod has been known for trick plays and gambling, but look for him to pull out all stops against OSU.  If the game stays tight, even against one of the best defenses in the nation (OSU), Robinson has the speed and athleticism that is impossible to defend.  This scenario could provide Robinson with a couple of opportunities for a signature Heisman moment if the Wolverines were to pull off the unthinkable and take down the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the final week of the regular season.

Not so fast, my friend.  Here are the three factors that could keep Robinson from punching his plane ticket to New York City:

1.  Ohio State:  Just as this game could catapult Robinson to center stage of the Heisman race, this game could also be catastrophic.  Since his arrival at OSU, Jim Tressel has owned the Wolverines, going 8-1 in this rivalry game.  Of this success, there has been one constant–defense.  Tressel has consistently produced top 10 defenses since coming to Columbus, and the 2010 version could be his best yet.  Also, considering this game is at the Horseshoe, it could be a rough finale to the regular season for Robinson.

2.  Michigan’s Final Record:  Unless Michigan can find a dominant defense in the next two weeks, they will inevitably lose some games this season, and despite the 3-0 start, they have quite a task if they want to finish out the season with 7-8 wins.  Although it is not a requirement that you win your conference to take home the Heisman, the numbers are telling.  Six out of the last seven Heisman winners played on teams that won their respective conference.  Robinson would likely have to “buck” that trend (no pun intended).

3.  Robinson Must Stay Healthy:  At 6’0″ and 188 lbs., Robinson is not the biggest, most physical QB in the Big Ten.  His style of play and the number of carries as he gets into the thick of conference play in the Big Ten could prove to be a difficult task.  If he can stay healthy and continue to get the number of carries he has managed to this point, the stats will be there.  One big hit, however, could be the difference maker in whether or not he continues to light up the scoreboard like he has so far this season.

Heisman Dark Horse Part 4: John Clay

In Part 4 of our Heisman Dark Horse candidates, College FootBlog takes a look at Wisconsin running back John Clay.  In case you missed it, we have highlighted three other dark horse candidates, Florida State QB Christian Ponder (see link), West Virginia RB Noel Devine (see link) and Miami QB Jacory Harris (see link).

Each of these candidates has two things in common–they have put up big numbers last season, they appear to be poised for an even bigger season in 2010, and finally, the major media outlets are not giving any of them the attention that the bigger names like Mark Ingram or Terrelle Pryor are receiving.

John Clay and his massive offensive line will look to improve on last season's impressive statistics (google images)

Wisconsin’s punishing running back John Clay certainly qualifies for this criteria.  Despite entering the 2010 season as the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and rushing for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009.  Two other factors point to even bigger numbers in 2010, with the emphasis on “BIG.”  Clay enters two-a-days a few pounds heavier, as he is reportedly tipping the scales at 255 lbs., versus the high 240’s that he played at last season. 

The other key factor that will only help Clay’s quest to become the third Heisman Trophy winner in Wisconsin history is the stacked offensive line.  Senior LT Gabe Carimi anchors an O-line that returns all five starters from a season ago that averages 6’5″ and 325 lbs.

In order to be in a position to get the invite to New York a couple of key factors must work in Clay’s favor.  College FootBlog uncovers these factors and breaks down the likelihood that Clay will be in the running for the coveted award at season’s end.

Clay Must Get His Carries Against the Weak Teams:  The Badgers again have somewhat of a laughable non-conference schedule, with only Arizona State as a decent opponent.  The other games are against UNLV, San Jose State and Austin Peay.  In last year’s soft schedule, Clay only carried the ball 15 times against Northern Illinois and just 12 carries against lowly Wofford.  In the Wofford game, Clay rushed for 70 yards on those limited carries, but could have gone for much, much more, and he left the game without scoring a touchdown when the Badgers took full control over the game.

Will It Happen?  Yes, but head coach Bret Bielema will have the difficult task of balancing stats vs. risk of injury this season, but even though Clay is not as much on the national scene as he should be, he is recognized in the Big Ten as a legitimate threat for the Heisman.  Bielema knows that more carries (particularly against weaker opponents) will get Clay closer to 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, which would force the Heisman voters’ hands when they turn in their ballots.  Look for Clay to get a minimum of 20 touches against each opponent this season, regardless of the score.

Clay Must Show Up in Conference Showdowns:  Clay’s numbers would have been even more impressive, and perhaps the national media would be much more on board with his Heisman run this fall, if he had produced against conference foes Ohio State and Iowa.  In 2009, the bruising running back only managed 134 yards and zero TDs combined against the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, while averaging under 3.3 yards per carry.  Once again in 2010, Clay will go against OSU and Iowa in back-to-back weeks, and each game has a great shot at being nationally televised.  If he can eclipse the century mark in yards in each of those teams, who will each have dominant defenses again this fall, he will be on everyone’s radar.  If he is neutralized in either (or both games like last year), he can probably kiss the Heisman goodbye.

Will It Happen?  The numbers should improve, and he will likely go for 100+ yards in at least one of those games.  We also believe that behind that massive offensive line, he will get into the end zone at least once in each game.  If he does rush for 100+ yards in one game and if he can get to 75-80 yards in the other game plus a couple of TDs, he will be right in the thick of the Heisman talk.  Getting 100+ yards against two of the best run defenses in the country two weeks in a row is a tall order for any running back and O-line combination, and the odds will be against Clay again this season.

If Clay can get more carries, especially against the weak opponents on his schedule, and if he can go for 100 yards against Iowa and/or Ohio State, don’t be surprised if the Big Ten finally endorses him–he wasn’t even voted as the preseason offensive player of the year, despite winning the award last season–and the voters will take notice as well.

Look for College FootBlog’s fifth and final Heisman Dark Horse Candidate later this week.