Archive for ‘College Football’

November 4, 2011

#1 vs. #2: Five years since the last one (Mich vs. OSU, 2006)

Written Ramblings by JS & DJ

Will we see the game of the century on Saturday??

Cue up the Armageddon soundtrack – “Don’t wanna close my eyes, don’t wanna fall asleep cuz I miss you …” The mothership (ESPN) has referred to this weekend’s game between LSU and ‘Bama as Armageddon, that’s why I put up the words of Steven Tyler’s classic song from the 90s. Is the #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama matchup on Saturday the game of the century?? There can’t just be one specific game of the century, it can be a collection games. This one might make it onto the list though. ESPN will break down all kinds of matchups between these two teams and let the viewers know everything about Les Miles’ obsession with eating grass during the games. This game is considered to be the de facto national semifinal. These are the two best teams right now and that won’t change after the SEC championship game. Don’t be surprised to see them in an all SEC BCS title game in January because that would be a pollster’s dream (can’t blame them).

What does a fan do before a matchup between #1 and #2 during the regular season? Do you prepare for the game differently? Does it just seem different than any other game? Mississippi State cancelled class a few weeks ago on a Thursday b/c they wanted the students to get ready for the visiting #1 LSU team. Alabama probably won’t cancel class but there probably has been a differeng buzz around the campus the whole week. How do the students handle it? How does a fan that is away from the campus handle it?

In order to understand how a fan feels before their teams plays in such a monumental matchup, we asked one of our writers JS (Michigan alum) to recollect the last time the top two teams faced off during the regular season. The game had BCS title implications (similar to this one), not to mention it is a big rivalry to begin with. The game was #1 Ohio State vs. #2 Michigan in 2006.

This is our way of getting ready for this weekend’s monster matchup … recollecting the last time this happened in college football. The following is JS’ recollection of the days leading up to the game and the game itself.

November 18th, 2006. That was the date of arguable the most hyped and biggest game in the storied Michigan / Ohio State rivalry. Ohio State was number one in the AP/Coaches/BCS and Michigan was number two in the AP/Coaches/BCS. This was a de facto national championship semi-final where the winner would go to the national championship game. Former Ohio State John Cooper stated: “How big is this game between Ohio State and Michigan? The loser of this game is going to the Rose Bowl.” Compounded with this game was the death of legendary (and that’s not hyperbole) head coach Bo Schembechler and this game took on monumental proportions in the lore of not only Michigan and Ohio State, but college football as well.

To understand the 2006 game, you have to look back at the 2005 season. Michigan underachieved like no other, finishing up a 7-5 season with a wild loss to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. Hopes were decently high for the 2006 squad – a squad loaded with NFL talent (7 offensive players, 8 defensive players, and 1 special teams player are all on NFL rosters right now) would hopefully break through and make a name for themselves. While having 8-4, 9-3 and 10-2 seasons are considered great for many teams; those are disappointing results for Michigan. A Big 10 and national championship are the goals for every Michigan team and while Michigan had recent Big 10 titles (2003 and 2004) they haven’t sniffed the national championship scene since the late 90s/early 2000s. It all changed in against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was at the height of its hype machine with Heisman hopeful Brady Quinn and the schematic wizard Charlie Weis. Michigan had beat up two relative crème puffs in Vanderbilt and Central Michigan en route to a top ten rating (#10). Notre Dame was completely overrated as the number two team in the country. There were considerable discussions about whether or not Notre Dame could contend for the national championship and they all ended that day. Michigan started with a defensive touchdown as the ball bounced out of John Carlson’s name and right into Prescott Burgess’ hand for a pick six. They forced a punt and Michigan got the ball back only to promptly have Henne throw a pick right back to ND. They got down to the one yard line and scored two plays later. That was the closest ND would get to Michigan for the rest of the day.

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November 2, 2011

A Letter to Coach Bielema.

Written Ramblings by DJ

Despite tough losses, Wisconsin still has a path towards Pasadena.

Dear Coach Bielema,

It all happened so fast. Just about a month ago, you were riding high in Madison after thumping the Huskers. There was no stopping the Bucky train after that historic night. Everybody knew Camp Randall is one of the toughest joints to play during the night but nobody expected your squad to hammer another team ranked in the top ten in that fashion. You made it clear during your next game against Indiana that you weren’t afraid to run up the score to help your case in the polls. Actually, you’ve made that clear in the past against other teams too … Tim Brewster, the former head coach of Minnesota is still pissed at you for that two point conversion you pulled off despite the 25 point lead. You did everything you were supposed to during the first five weeks to prove that the Badgers were a contender. The media bought in as they hyped up the Badgers and essentially crowned them as the favorite to win the Big Ten.

But you have been in Wisconsin for a while now to understand the fickle nature of the media. You knew the media hypes up teams a little too much and they do it quickly. They get too excited about hottest team now. Heck, you and your buddy Bo Ryan ALWAYS get the short end of the stick in terms of the media hype. There is really nobody specific to blame for what happened over the last ten days. The hype was too much but you had every reason to believe that you were going to run the table. Everything after the first five weeks of play suggested that there was no challenge after the Nebraska game. But at the same time, somewhere deep inside you knew that anything can happen in this conference. You know the unpredictable nature of the Big Ten better than anybody else …

1. You probably didn’t even realize that Russell Wilson was this good. He was the biggest free agent acquisition of the off-season in all of college football and I am sure you played a significant part in the recruiting pitch. But when we saw him carve up the Nebraska secondary with ease; everybody agreed that he was the real deal. After all this is the same Husker secondary that puzzled Kirk Cousins’ offense last Saturday with their zone defense. Because of Wilson’s uncanny ability to throw 40 yard passes on the run, it possibly covered up the holes in the defense … just a little bit. But there was reason to believe that this Wisconsin team was different than the past years because of the quarterback play.

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October 28, 2011

Halftime for the Legendary Leaders: Big Ten 2011 Midseason Summary (Part 1)

Written Ramblings by AH and DJ

This picture will be shown for a while around the Big Ten.

Gameday got it right this time around. The Bucky – Huskers game had all the hype about a month ago with Fowler’s crew roaming the streets in Mad-town. But that was a terribly disappointing game in terms of sheer entertainment value. Four weeks later, Gameday ventured out to Big Ten country again and this time NOBODY was upset about the way the game finished. Obviously Bucky fans weren’t too happy about the outcome but the game was legendary. Big Ten Network will show the heck out of this game for years to come. The game had everything … or did it??

There was only one move that could have made this game better – Gus Johnson. I love the Herbie/Brent combo but the last call and the entire 4th quarter was made for the Gus. This was the perfect game that could use Gus as a “pinch announcer” towards the end. This theory has been mentioned in the past and I hope someday it will come to fruition. If you know the game has the making of a classic, then you ought to be able to pull the current announcers and bring Gus from the bullpen. He doesn’t even need to be there, he can just call the game from the studio. Even better, the viewers can have the option to listen to the current announcers or switch the Gus call on their TV. No idea why anybody would use the other option but there are some interesting people around I suppose. DirectTV can make this happen; it is only matter of time. Comcast/AT&T or any other cable provider will have no chance to compete if DirectTV ever made this move. All you need is Gus to be ready in the studios all day on Saturday. It can be called the “Gus Johnson Redzone Channel” . . . instead of just touchdown calls; the viewer can have him for the entire 4th quarter for the selected games. The producers will decide which game gets Gus but I think the logistics can work out. We potentially could have had this call last Saturday:

“Cousins steps back. Avoids the rush. Heaves the ball …”

“Knock it down, knock it down … A!@#%%$#%^#$^^%$&^” (static on the TV b/c Gus potentially exploded) … “Keith Nichol!! Unbelievable … unbel …” (more static)

One can only hope that this channel will come around someday.

We are almost at the halfway point of the Big Ten season. Three games for some teams, four games for the others. It is time for the half time report on the Legendary Leaders conference. Because not every team has reached their halfway point in the Big Ten season, we will split the midseason summary into two parts. The second part of this post will be continued after this weekend’s games. And there are some pivotal games this weekend. Here is AH’s view of the conference season so far …

Best Surprise Team

AH: Lots of options here. But the designation has to go to a team from Michigan at this point. Which one of the two? Sparty. Why Michigan State? Because they are only one victory from being undefeated in the conference with their lone loss on the season against Notre Dame. They get it done with defense and turnovers. Kirk Cousins was somewhat overlooked in the Big 10 after a decent 2010 and isn’t doing anything to hurt the Spartans. But the defense is bringing it and ranks first in the conference in points against and seventh in the country. With games against Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue and Northwestern to end the year, their season comes to the matchup with Nebraska this week.

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October 25, 2011

Rudy and Touchdown Jesus – Field trip to South Bend.

Written Ramblings by DJ

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

Fortune: Hey kid! You’re not supposed to be here!
Rudy: Hey this place is really somethin else huh? Someday I’m gonna come out of that tunnel and I’m gonna run onto this field.
Fortune: Well it ain’t gonna be this day …

Rudy certainly cared more about Notre Dame than I do but nobody should turn down an opportunity to check out the Golden Dome. My buddy JS’s boss gave him two tickets for the Notre Dame – USC game on Saturday for face value. Attending a game at Notre Dame wasn’t that high on my bucket list of college football items but it is still a good one to get under my belt. Some of the other college football bucket list items include:

1. Attending a night game in Happy Valley (Penn State) for a “white out.” My team (Illinois) wouldn’t stand a chance on the road against JoePa’s crew during a whiteout but the trip will be worth it.

2. Rose Bowl, Pasadena. Illinois makes the Rose Bowl every 23 years, so I might have to wait until 2030. After a 20 year wait, I’ll fly out to Pasadena to see the Illini get hammered on ABC by Oregon or USC.

3. Michigan – Ohio State. This one is realistic … probably will check out over the next few years.

This is a short term list mainly focused around the Big Ten. Do I have any interest to check out an SEC game? I’ll wait until they come up to play a Bowl game in 20 degree weather in Soldier Field. So we headed out on Saturday afternoon towards the College Football Hall of Fame and arguably the Mecca of college football.

We stopped by a gas station before the St. Mary’s parking lot and I couldn’t find any liquor for tailgating. Being hopped up on DayQuill all day wasn’t enough for me so I figured all I needed was three to four beverages. It was a dry gas station. Uh oh, is it really a dry campus?? That is only a myth right? I guess we were about to find out as we headed towards the stadium. The campus certainly had an “Ivy League” feel to it. There are a ton of trees around and the dorms looked like they were part of The Social Network movie. We followed a crowd towards the stadium and most of them had Montana jerseys. Joe Montana is obviously a legend but I wonder if most of the fan base wasn’t upset about his kid not getting much playing time as freshman. It was smart on his part to transfer out of the program because there was no way he could leap Rees or Crist for playing time. There were also a ton of Bears hats within the crowd. There is a reason why ESPN Chicago always shows Notre Dame as one of the “Chicago teams.” The campus is only 90 minutes away from Chicago. Indianapolis is over 3 hours away from South Bend so one could argue that most of the locals would root for the Bears over the Colts. I am not sure I agree with that logic but it makes sense geographically. It is analogous to the folks from southern Illinois that root for the Cardinals and Rams over the Chicago teams. We finally make it to the Dome and check out the numerous tents set up for pre-gaming. There are usually three aspects of a program that are interesting to me when I go on the road.

Outside the stadium

Yep, Notre Dame is NOT a dry campus. I knew that but I had to find out myself. The tailgating scene outside of the stadium isn’t huge but it does exist. There is bar called “The Legends” right outside the stadium and this was the only one we found around there. I asked one of the folks on the shuttle from the parking lot about liquor stores and she said there aren’t that many around the campus which isn’t surprising.

Overall the lot outside the stadium reminded me of Ryan Field (Northwestern) in terms of the size. The crowd certainly seemed more into it with some music and much bigger grills. Talking about grills, we walked over to the “2 for 1” signs near a tent that was grilling brats and burgers. My buddy wanted to get a brat and a burger right before we went in. The guy at the cashier said the deal only applied to burgers or brats but you can’t mix the two of them. Now I was curious even though I wasn’t hungry. I looked at the prices listed and both of them were $4. They seemed to have the same amount of both items. I asked him why we couldn’t mix and match when they were priced the same. His response: “Well that’s the rule.” Did I mention that this tent was set up by the School of Business? He had an “MBA 2011” tag on his shirt. Of course my Notre Dame hatred came out for the first time that night when I said that “business school was clearly not helping” if they price these items the same way but didn’t allow the customers to buy one of each. Something didn’t add up with that system. My buddy asked the girl who was working the grill if that was possible and she gave him the brat/burger combination. Anyway, I took some more pictures of Touchdown Jesus and we headed into the stadium.

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October 13, 2011

“Little Brother” growing up? A look into Wolverine vs. Sparty football.

Written Ramblings by JS and DJ 

Tom Izzo hanging with the one and only ..

Tony Kornhieser from PTI once said that the University of Michigan only cares about accomplishing three tasks in a football season: beat Ohio State, win the Big Ten and sell out the Big House every single game. If you ask any Michigan fan … heck, any college football fan about their rival, the answer is unanimous.  Brady Hoke refers to them as “that school from Ohio.”  There is a close fourth item on the list that TK did not mention … Michigan can’t stand losing Michigan State.  Michigan leads the overall series 67-31-5.  That’s about 70% of the games.  Obviously not that close … but why do they care about the game with Sparty every year?  Or do they even care? This “rivalry” has always intrigued me because mathematically it doesn’t suggest to be one.  I bugged my buddy JS who pees maize (if I said yellow that would be rude) about his take on this subject.  I have my own view as an outsider.  Here we go …

1. Let’s start with the Michigan State side.  Does this matchup mean more for them than Michigan b/c historically they appear to be an inferior program.

JS: In general, I would have to say yes. Michigan State has always looked to be considered equals on the football playing field with Michigan for quite time. However they just can’t quite get it done. To me, I think the most telling story of this issue is when Nick Saban left Michigan State to go and try and resurrect then-mediocre LSU. Why leave Michigan State to go to LSU? While bringing LSU back to national prominence is a good story, a bigger and more grandiose story would have been if he had built Michigan State into a football juggernaut on par with Michigan. THAT would have been the turning point in the rivalry. When Bo Schembechler came to Michigan, he elevated the Michigan – Ohio State rivalry to new levels. Who has done that for Michigan State? No one*. That person should have been Nick Saban and instead he left because (no one from East Lansing wants to admit this) he believed LSU was the better job.

* Sorry to burst your bubble, State fans, but Mark Dantonio does not count. Has he beaten us the last three years? Yes. But ask yourself this – who hasn’t beaten us in the last three years? We also don’t count the 2000 win because of the blatant clock mismanagement that gave Smoker one miracle lob shot to TJ Ducket in the end zone. The time keeper would do the same thing to help MSU basketball steal a win and he subsequently got fired.

DJ:  How does a college football program get recognized by the media (not me) historically? Titles, coaches and great college players (e.g. Heisman winners).  Feilding Yost, Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr (yes, he did win an NC so he was good) vs. John L. Smith and Bobby Williams? Duffy Daughtrey actually won a couple of championships in East Lansing but the program was not able to build upon that foundation.  Schembechler’s foundation was continued by Carr. The fan base is just as loyal on the east side of Michigan.  They just haven’t had that one icon or an event attached to the program which makes it inferior and this shows in terms of recruiting and media coverage.  Nick Saban could have been that guy …

Sparty football is analogous to Texas A&M.  The Aggies – Longhorns rivalry is more than 100 years old.  However, Texas dominates both on the field and in terms of the media coverage. They have the iconic moments and titles … A&M did have one of those icons but couldn’t retain him.  Can you imagine if Bear Bryant stuck around College Station instead of heading over to Tuscaloosa?? Wouldn’t we be looking at that program the same way as Texas?  Abso-freaking-lutely.  Sure, one can say that about just any other school that Bryant would have vacated but it stings more for the Aggie fans b/c they are just as passionate about football as their peers who like to hook ‘em.

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October 10, 2011

Screw you B-S-U

Written Ramblings by AH

Petersen is a great coach! But ...

Boise State continues to dominate their schedule winning their 5th consecutive game by double digits.   You probably didn’t know that because you were probably busy watching The Mentalist on CBS or maybe you were out with friends on the two Friday nights they have played this season or maybe it’s because their opponents are 13-15 on the season (Georgia is the shining gem on their schedule who they played week 1 and had 8 months to prepare for) so ESPN realizes re-runs of the World Series of Poker get better ratings.

I realize that everyone defends them by saying “no one will play them” and that teams are scared of them, but why shouldn’t they be scared.  While Oklahoma and Texas are preparing to face off and both are looking at the rest of their difficult conference schedule – Boise State is playing games against Tulsa, Toledo and Nevada.  So although BSU is still playing games; they aren’t really worried about preparing for these teams — because Boise knows that they can win just playing their regular old game.  So they can prepare fully for the biggest games on their schedule.

You’ll never catch me saying that Boise State “can’t” beat a top team because unlike hundreds of other teams who play in FBS, they have a lot of talent.  But why wouldn’t they attract talent…if you get players to ignore the fact they have to play their home games in Boise, attend school over there and play on a blue field – who wouldn’t want the opportunity to put up ridiculous college numbers and play in a BCS game every year.  So acquiring talent isn’t all that difficult.  Hell, they rarely lose games anyway so you are always a winner.

But this all adds up to one thing – they should never be allowed to play in a BCS title game.  Their schedule and opponents just don’t dictate it.  It’d be like letting an NFL team play their entire season in the CFL and then put them into a one game playoff which decides whether they should play for the Super Bowl.  Sure, the NFL team might lose a game every once in a while but ultimately they basically play 1 game per year to determine if they should be playing for the Super Bowl.  It wouldn’t make sense and I am pretty sure Roger Goodell and the owners would never allow it.  But the college system allows it because it bases the entire decision on some individuals who don’t watch all the games – they just look at records and want Cinderella stories because they are good for radio or TV.

So Screw You BSU – go find real games – or play in the Poinsettia bowl year after year.  The BCS championship game should be reserved for major conference teams – not teams with schedules that rank in the triple digits.