Tag Archives: B1G

Maryland Defense Steps Up B1G in First Conference Win

The Terps made their presence in the Big Ten felt this past weekend by crushing the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington. Maryland dominated in almost every facet, and it was the closest the team has come this season to playing an all-around complete game. Two Maryland quarterbacks accounted for two touchdowns each, and Stefon Diggs and Deon Long both had big days. But the story of the Terrapins’ success in this game was their defense.
Indiana entered the game with one of the nation’s leading rushers in running back Tevin Coleman. Prior to Saturday’s contest, Coleman had averaged an astonishing 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns per game. Backup running back D’Angelo Roberts was adding 71 rushing yards and another touchdown per game. The Terrapin defense expectedly couldn’t entirely quiet the talented duo, but it contained them enough to force the Hoosiers to rely more on the arm of quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Coleman still finished the game with 122 rushing yards (a chunk of this coming on a 43-yard scamper with the game well out of hand) and a touchdown, but considering his status as one of the most dynamic backs in the country the Terps understandably had their hands full.
The win at Indiana came as a surprise to much of the college football world, including the four hosts of ESPN’s College Gameday who unanimously picked Indiana to prevail over the Terps. But who could blame them? Indiana had just upset then-No. 18 Missouri. Maryland’s defense had allowed opponents to rush for an average of 200 yards per game entering Saturday’s matchup, including giving up 370 rushing yards to Syracuse the week prior. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman is virtually unstoppable with the ball in his hands. The recipe would seem to spell disaster for the Terps. But the defense played admirably, led by linebacker Cole Farrand.
Farrand finished the game with an eye-popping 19 tackles, which unsurprisingly led the Big Ten in Week 5. His presence in the middle of the field was unmistakably felt by the Hoosier offense, and he was a prominent reason the Terps were able to limit (relatively speaking) the Hoosier running backs to 165 combined rushing yards and just one touchdown. Farrand earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance. The senior linebacker is the second Terrapin defender to be awarded the honor in as many weeks; last week cornerback Will Likely earned the recognition.

The Maryland defense shined in the Terps' Big Ten debut, led by LB Cole Farrand. Photo courtesy elkharttruth.com.
The Maryland defense shined in the Terps’ Big Ten debut, led by linebacker Cole Farrand’s 19 tackles. Photo courtesy elkharttruth.com.

In addition to stymying the Hoosier’s rushing attack, Maryland’s pass defense was impenetrable. After averaging 237 passing yards per game this season, Hoosier quarterback Nate Sudfeld was held to just 126 yards with one interception. Will Likely was the culprit yet again, recording his Big Ten-leading third pick of the year.
Starting quarterback C.J. Brown played well in the first half, completing 10 of 15 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Brown added 22 yards and another touchdown on the ground, but was forced out of the game after an injury to his left wrist. The injury was to his non-throwing hand and will hopefully not prevent him from taking the field against Ohio State this Saturday. Backup Caleb Rowe played the entire second half and performed well, throwing for 198 yards on 12/18 passing with two touchdowns. Social media erupted during the second half with fans calling for Rowe to be named the Terps’ starter going forward. Barring injury or a serious setback in performance, C.J. Brown has shown he can be relied upon as an efficient quarterback and will maintain his starting position under center.
Maryland receivers had success against the Indiana secondary, as two Terps finished the game with over 100 yards receiving. Predictably, Stefon Diggs was one of the two, as he caught six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Deon Long was the other, and it was reassuring to see the senior wideout finally have the opportunity to put up the numbers he is capable of. After catching a total of 11 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown through the first four games of the season, Long nearly matched those numbers Saturday by grabbing 10 passes for 108 yards. True freshman receiver Juwann Winfree also recorded his first catch as a Terp, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Rowe.
Kicker Brad Craddock also deserves some recognition, not just in this article but nationally. He is the only kicker in the conference (with more than one field goal attempt) to have a perfect field goal percentage. He’s 10 for 10 on the year, and most of these haven’t been chip-shots. Craddock is 6 for 6 on attempts of 40-49 yards and 3 for 3 from 30-39 yards. He knocked in two from 48 yards and another from 30 against the Hoosiers, and is also 22/22 on PATs for the year. Following Saturday’s win at Indiana Craddock was selected as the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Top Star of the Week. He is one of only eight kickers in the nation to remain perfect on the season.
The win was Maryland’s first against a Big Ten opponent as members of the conference and their fifth consecutive road win dating back to last season. A win in their first Big Ten game is forever etched in Maryland football history. The offense shredded the Indiana defense but Maryland’s defense won this game, despite being without several key defensive starters. Cornerback Alvin Hill and defensive end Quinton Jefferson have been lost for the year with knee injuries, and linebackers Matt Robinson and Alex Twine missed the game with upper body injuries. In spite of the mounting injuries, the Terps held the potent Indiana offense to just 332 total yards and one touchdown.
The Buckeyes of Ohio State make the trip to College Park to face the Terrapins at Byrd Stadium this Saturday in what will be a true test of how good this Maryland team really is. But for now, the Terps are 1-0 in the conference and sit atop the Big Ten East standings.

Controlling the Narrative: The Unique Environment for Rutgers and Maryland

Shifting the narrative and controlling the message is nothing new. Up until a few weeks ago, the NFL was a master at controlling the narrative and seemed to get certain information released in the right doses and at the right times. Likewise, the way a college football season is viewed can be influenced greatly by how a season is pitched to fans and supporters. A new coach begins the season as a beacon of hope, but after a few losses, the attention can be diverted to the incoming recruiting class and giving young players valuable experience. In many ways, getting a critical mass of people to tweet about a certain way of viewing the season can turn the way a season is spun into “fact.”
As the two newcomers to the Big Ten, Maryland and Rutgers are in a very unique position, especially this season. Not counting their wins and losses this season, Maryland is 21-27 and Rutgers is 27-21 since 2010. Coming from the ACC and Big East, respectively, Maryland and Rutgers were both seen as teams that would probably struggle adjusting to the more physical style and general step up in competition provided by the Big Ten. With this perception, both teams are very dangerous as they are playing with nothing to lose. If they are unsuccessful in their first foray into the Big Ten world, the narrative of the season will simply be written off as a year of adjusting to the different style of play and completely new opponents while trying to recruit the type of players that will allow each team to matchup favorably with the teams in the new conference. Any wins, or even close losses can be spun into reasons for optimism and seen as building blocks for next year.
Especially in college football, the way that a conference performs is very important and can color the way a fan views his or her favorite team. Having the best record in a conference that is having a down year doesn’t provide the same sense of pride and fulfilment that accompanies winning a conference when all teams are at full strength and playing at a high level. As a Wisconsin fan, making the 2013 Rose Bowl with a pedestrian 8-5 record wasn’t accompanied with the same feeling of pride as the previous two. However, given the low expectations for Maryland and Rutgers in the 2014 season, this concept does not apply.
With the way the 2014 season has gone for the Big Ten, it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that no team from the conference will be in the end of the year playoff. Critics will point at the fact that being the best team in an already weak conference that was further weakened by an injury to one of its best players, Braxton Miller, is not much to be proud of. This scenario puts Maryland, and to a lesser degree, Rutgers, in a unique position. Rutgers’ chances at having a real impact in the Big Ten were severely hurt when top playmaker Paul James suffered a torn ACL. Maryland continues to be a dangerous team with experienced quarterback CJ Brown and explosive wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Fortunately, both teams can adjust the narrative accompanying their season in an easy and relatively believable manner. For both, a successful season can be spun as a beacon of hope and as a sign that more winning seasons will follow. After all, both teams played a season of entirely “non-conference” games against supposedly superior opponents and emerged with more victories than defeat. On the other hand, a losing season can be easily written off as an adjustment period or, at least in the case of Rutgers, attributed to injuries.
In an attempt to create their own narrative, Big Ten detractors, of which there seems to be an infinite supply, will undoubtedly point at successful seasons by Maryland or Rutgers as proof of a weak or “overrated” Big Ten. However, considering that the Big Ten is clearly the weakest of the five “power” conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC), calling the conference overrated makes little sense. Ironically, the success, not the failures, of the two Big Ten newcomers will help conference detractors while at the same time providing hope to the Big Ten faithful that the conference might have added two teams that can help bring the conference back to its former glory and national prestige.

NR = Northwestern and Rutgers or Not Ranked, depending on who you ask!

NORTHWESTERN
 
The old saying, “it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” totally applies to the 2014 Northwestern Wildcats team this year. After allowing what seemingly looked like a guaranteed bowl bidding season slip through their paws last year, the Wildcats are looking to scratch their way back to respectability in 2014.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald has established an “expect to win” mindset around Evanston and entering his 9th season the Wildcat faithful expect him to do just that this year. There is absolutely nothing I can see that can stop this team from playing in late December or maybe even on New Year’s Day. If I were putting together a puzzle I would have to say all the pieces are here and ready to be assembled, with the offense having its entire line back, two senior running backs, two senior receivers along with     Trevor Siemian finally solidifying himself as the Wildcats starting QB. If the Wildcats defense which has nine returning starters on the books can stay injury free, they’re going to frustrate a lot of O-coordinators along the way. LB combo Chi Chi Ariguzo and Collin Ellis will lead the Wildcats D, and that means there’s a lot of teams that are going to get stopped in Evanston once they stop in Evanston.
 
 

RUTGERS

 
As much as I’ve been trying to find a silver lining for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights joining the BIG conference, the only bright spot I see for the program hailing from       New Brunswick, New Jersey is REVENUE. They’re going to make a lot of money playing in the BIG conference, and that should help offset some of the impending medical bills they are going to accrue. Once BIG conference play begins, it will truly be like the JV, coming over to the Varsity field to scrimmage for Eight games when the Knights hit the field. Coach Kyle Flood had better hope for a Typhoon that could possibly washout the BIG conference season. If not, we may be changing the name from the Scarlet Knights to the Bloody Knights.
Having unanswered questions at QB might be the least of Rutgers troubles. A suspect O-Line that gave up 3 sacks a game last year must improve on its Matador blocking style. Like my old coach used to say, if you’re not going to hit ‘em… At least stand in their way. The defense will have some fresh new pieces in place to line up along         LB Steve Longa, who had a great 2013 season and will probably be the most intriguing Knights defensive player to watch. Surprisingly, the Knights defense only gave up 100 yards a game on the ground (4th in FBS) last year, but not to discredit their efforts, they were playing in a conference where the only time you see the ball on the ground is before the snap.
So don’t expect victories when you see the Knights play this year, merely commend them on their efforts to participate aggressively while being pummeled into the turf!
Forever Football,
One Man Shan

Big Ten Year-In-Review

Some say the best thing about the BCS is that it exposed the Big Ten, who allegedly received way too much credit for their strength on the football field over the years. I’ve always rejected that notion, but the past couple of years has made it difficult to argue. I still think it’s more of a recent thing than a historic thing, but we live in the present, and it is what it is.

It’s been somewhat of a running joke, between Damien Bowman and I, that the Big Ten is hardly worth our time, here at the College Football Roundtable. For me, it’s basically just satire, but I think the Big Ten shame is all business with my podcast partner. Look, there’s some merit to it, which goes far beyond Ohio State losing back-to-back National Championships; top to bottom, the Big Ten really doesn’t have it, whatever it may be.

For this conference’s Year-In-Review, we’re going to take a sarcastic or satirical approach, to feed the trolls, if you will. I offer you a brief summary of what happened to each team, how they feed that narrative (that the conference should be relegated to the FCS), and why that assessment just might be wrong. Granted, criticism might be natural in some cases and whoever “they” are, “they” might not be wrong in saying whatever negative things they tend to say about some of these programs.

Purdue

What happened in 2013? It was a rough first year for Darrell Hazell in West Lafayette. Their lone victory came, and it didn’t come easily in a matchup with in-state FCS rival Indiana State. Indiana State’s only win came over a school named Quincy; I had to look this up, but the Quincy Hawks are a Division II school in Illinois that finished near the bottom of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. A week after holding off a late comeback surge from Indiana State, they lost to Notre Dame by a single touchdown, and then went on to lose to everyone except Illinois by double digits. Their signature moments included the 31-24 loss to Purdue and a 14-0 loss to Michigan State, if that tells you anything about the 2013 Boilermakers.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…I had to look up Quincy University to demonstrate how meaningless their win over Indiana State was. They didn’t score a single point between October 12th and November 9th, which was only two games, but still.

That’s wrong, because…it isn’t Purdue’s fault that Indiana State stunk. They did win that game 70-7. And as far as the near-month-long scoring drought is concerned, that was Michigan State, Ohio State, and a bye week, but still.

Illinois

What happened in 2013? They took down the really bad teams on their schedule, lost to the teams that were heavily favored, and snuck in a few surprises in games that I’d have considered a coin flip. After Cincinnati punished Purdue 42-7 in Week 1, the Illini weren’t ready to let Cincinnati think they were a Big Ten-caliber team, with a 45-17 drubbing of Tommy Tuberville’s Bearcats. They had a respectable showing in defeat at Soldier Field, to what we believed to be a pretty good Washington team at the time, losing 34-24. They did what they were supposed to do to Miami, the MAC conference’s bottom feeder, then the Big Ten had their way with them. Tim Beckman is certainly on the hot seat in Champaign, after a week finish that included a 4-point win over hapless Purdue and a loss to a broken Northwestern team at home.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…they managed to score 32 points or more in four of their losses, and three of those were by at least 17. It speaks volumes to the level of defense they pretend to play in the Big Ten, when the second worst team in the leauge is putting up video game numbers on offense.

That’s wrong, because…they might have been all that terrible after all; they might just need to work on their defense that allowed 60 points to Ohio State and 56 to Wisconsin. The only utter beating they took was 42-3 loss to Michigan State, magnified by the fact that it was not only a home game, but the Homecoming Game.

Northwestern

What happened in 2013? Northwestern came out of the gate at 4-0, with non-conference wins over the Pac-12 and ACC, and then a couple of tune-up games against the MAC and FCS. They were ranked, and deservedly so, with Ohio State coming to town for a game on national TV; Ohio State outlasted them, winning by 10 on a fluke touchdown in the end. Unfortunately, that was the first of seven straight losses the Wildcats, bitten badly by injury, suffered. The losing streak was gut-wrenching, but not as bad as it might sound. Nebraska needed a Hail Mary, and they took Michigan to three overtimes, before losing 27-19 at home in a game they had plenty of opportunities to win. They salvaged the season, to a certain extent, with a season-ending victory at Illinois.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…the Wildcats were ranked, then lost 7 consecutive games. Now, it isn’t Northwestern’s fault they were, perhaps, overrated. Venric Mark was hurt all year, and Kain Colter missed significant time, but a lack of depth in Evanston really cost Pat Fitzgerald a chance at a good season and a bowl game.

That’s wrong, because…they didn’t get to play Purdue, which easily could have been a bowl-clinching sixth win for the Cats. People, over time, forgot how close they came against Ohio State. And, it’s okay to dismiss Ohio State as nothing on the national stage, but in Big Ten-speak, they remain the cream of the crop.

Indiana

What happened in 2013? If you don’t count Michigan in this group, they were probably the best of the bad teams in the Big Ten. They, like Purdue, had a chance to tee off against Indiana State, then lost a close one to Navy, beat eventual MAC champion Bowling Green, and didn’t play dead against SEC runner-up Missouri. Kevin Wilson has them playing offense; they put up 28 against Michigan State and Missouri, and couldn’t quite finish drives at Ohio State, where they had one of the more impressive 28-point losses you’ll ever see.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…nobody respects Bowling Green or Penn State, easily the Hoosiers best two victories of the year. What people will notice is a 51-3 loss at Wisconsin, and maybe even yielding 36 points to Purdue at home to wrap up another season without a bowl in Bloomington.

That’s wrong, because…they aren’t necessarily waiting for the hoops season to start in August any more. Like I said, the offense can do good things, but the defense needs to do what traditional Big Ten fans so desperately miss about this league, and that’s tackling the ball carrier.

Michigan

What happened in 2013? What always happens in Ann Arbor? When Michigan beats Notre Dame, everyone is ready to hand them the crystal football, and says never mind that they almost lost to Akron and Connecticut. Then, when they poo the bed in Happy Valley, a 4OT loss, and everyone is canceling their flights from Detroit to Pasadena in January. Their only victory after a 63-47 shootout win over Indiana on October 19th was a triple OT miracle at Northwestern. The highlight of their season might have been a 1-point loss/moral victory at home against Ohio State to end the regular season.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…I asked, and got a serious answer from Lost Letterman’s Jim Weber (a Michigan guy), how much are they missing Rich Rod in Ann Arbor? Brady Hoke’s days are probably numbered at Michigan. I mean, this is supposed to one of the conference’s banner programs!

That’s wrong, because…Notre Dame! They beat #14 Notre Dame in September, the same Notre Dame that just played for a National Championship in January. The Irish came into the Big House, and they lost 41-30. LOUD NOISES!

Penn State

What happened in 2013? With no big picture to think about for the next three years, Penn State has the advantage of not carrying that burden of what happens to them in December or January. A 3-point loss to Central Florida at home looked a lot worse when it happened in September than it turned out to be. A 20-point loss at Indiana can probably be taken at face value, ditto for the loss at Minnesota, but the Michigan meltdow in quadruple overtime probably would have served at the season’s best moment, if it weren’t for their stunning upset at Camp Randall over Wisconsin, which ended the season for probationary Penn State.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…Jerry Sandusky! The kids! The conference advocates that behavior. It really is no joking matter, what happened under Joe Paterno’s watch at Penn State, but it’s time to move forward. In all seriousness, they probably gave the conference a black eye by shocking Wisconsin in Madison; the Big Ten might have been able to boast about three elite teams otherwise.

That’s wrong, because…this probation is going to hit Penn State harder each year, given the scholarship reductions after surviving the intital set of transfers. Ultimately, probation is what made the departure so easy for Bill O’Brien after 2 seasons, but might lead to an upgrade with James Franklin running things now.

Minnesota

What happened in 2013? Jerry Kill spent some time in the hospital, but what else is new? The Gophers did a decent job keeping the out-of-conference schedule soft, so they could enter league play at 4-0. That meant they’d only need to win two games in conference to qualify for the post-season. After a couple of sound beatings from Iowa and Michigan, you wondered how realistic that was, but they didn’t win two games. They won four, in a row, against Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana, and Penn State. They dropped their final three contests, including the Texas Bowl, but you have to think they’d take 8-4 with a December bowl every year in those parts.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…they feast on the Mountain West, the WAC orphans, and FCS competition. In Minnesota’s case, guilty as charged; the path to 4-0 went through UNLV, New Mexico State, Western Illinois, and San Jose State.

That’s wrong, because…they’re Minnesota. They were on the level with Syracuse in the bowl game, but no one will be confusing them with Ohio State or Michigan State anytime soon. It’s when they play a non-conference slate like that, and come away 2-2, that they deserve the knock.

Nebraska

What happened in 2013? THey didn’t play a game away from Lincoln until October 12th, which was a layup against Purdue in West Lafayette. They had a good chance to be 5-0, but they couldn’t capitalize on UCLA sleep-walking through the first half, and had their own 2nd half meltdown, allowing the Bruins to escape the Heartland with a 41-21 win. They would lose their second road contest, a 34-23 game at Minnesota, which would have been more of a black eye, if the Gophers didn’t have the great season (by their standards) that they had. No shame in losing to Michigan State, even at home, but beign humiliated in their regular season finale, at home against Iowa, is a different story altogether. Many, perhaps including Bo Pellini, were surprised that Pellini was permitted to coach another game for Big Red, but he answered the call with TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl win over Georgia.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…everyone was a little too proud that the Big Ten achieved victory against an SEC school’s taxi squad in Jacksonville on New Year’s Day. Nebraska has proven to be very average in the Big Ten, in its first three years since defecting from the Big 12.

That’s wrong, because…Nebraska hadn’t been anything special in the Big 12 for many years either. If anything, the immediate success of Missouri and Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference might suggest that the SEC is more sizzle than substance.c

Iowa

What happened in 2013? Something had to give with Northern Illinois, who had suffered some heart-breaking losses to the Hawkeyes, both at Soldier Field and Kinnick Stadium, and it finally did in this year’s opener in Iowa City. After that, the Hawks had a very respectable season; losing to the consensus Top 3 teams in the Big Ten, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. They also made the mistake of scheduling the 2013 chapter of Michigan State for their Homecoming, but who saw them coming? They suffered an unfortunate setback in the Outback Bowl, a game they were very much in, when they lost their starting quarterback and ended up losing the game 21-14.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…Iowa is its 4th best team. Iowa can only be viewed in one way to support the narrative; they lost to a MAC school that was clobbered in back-to-back games by Bowling Green and Utah State. It’s no wonder they couldn’t handle the SEC in a bowl game.

That’s wrong, because…expectations were relatively tapered for the 2013 season. Weisman for Heisman was fun to say, but not realistic. I’m sure they would have rather not lost to Northern Illinois, but the way that game was sold, you’d have almost thought Iowa was the underdog in their season opener, and not the other way around.

Wisconsin

What happened in 2013? Forget the 93-0 combined scores of the Badgers’ first two games at home against Who and Who Tech, because BYU and Arizona State make for a decent out of conference lineup. Of course, in traveling to Pac-12 country, Gary Andersen’s team had to deal with Pac-12 officials. They played the Sun Devils pretty evenly in Tempe, but most certainly had 18 seconds taken away from them, 18 seconds that may have afforded them the opportunity to win, but instead they lost. A few weeks later, they lost Ohio State, in a game they were expected to lose. Then, they blew everyone out, except BYU, until Penn State shocked them at home to close out the season. They ran into a very tough South Carolina team in Orlando on New Year’s Day, and dropped a game where they lost their starting quarterback.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQmNYPOgx40

The Big Ten is terrible, because…Wisconsin didn’t even play Michigan State. Their best win was either at Iowa or at Minnesota, and this is the third best team in the Big Ten. That’s a hand down assessment, isn’t it? Would you really argue with anyone that said this 2013 Badger team was on the same level as the previous two, who lost Rose Bowls?

That’s wrong, because…while I think Michigan State would have beaten them, I think they showed that they could hold their own against South Carolina. And while there are no trophies given for moral victories, if you can hang with Urban Meyer’s and Steve Spurrier’s teams, you could probably hang with every team in the country that didn’t make it to a BCS game. So, this isn’t a ringing endorsement, but how many nice things can you say about a team with these expectations losing to Penn State on Senior Day?

Ohio State

What happened in 2013? Well, the same thing happened with Ohio State in 2013 that happened in 2012; the Buckeyes went 12-0, only this time they were burdened with post-season games. Once again, nobody was blown away by the Buckeyes schedule, both in and out of conference; as it turns out, they got Central Florida a year too soon and the team with the most curb appeal, Cal, in the worst possible year ever. As it turned out, Buffalo and San Diego State both played in a bowl game, the same bowl game, but nobody cares about that. Nobody would have cared about them beating Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State, and nobody would have cared if they played Nebraska and Minnesota, but since they did not see the Cornhuskers or Golden Gophers, I’m sure someone made a big deal about that. What everyone will remember is the last 3 games, the near-miss in Ann Arbor, and the neutral site whiffs in Indianapolis and Miami, to the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl Champions. Most overrated 24-0 team ever, right?

The Big Ten is terrible, because…TATTOOS, MAURICE CLARETT, RAFFLES AT YOUNGSTOWN STATE! Honestly though, it helps the cause if they regroup from the 34-24 loss in the conference championship and finish against Clemson in a showcase game like the Orange Bowl. If they were the only thing the Big Ten had going for itself, it would be a very sad state of affairs, sadder than it already is.

That’s wrong, because…digging up Tressel era scandals is dumb, and how dare we disrespect Michigan State and Clemson in such ways to suggest the Buckeyes are terrible! Michigan State over Stanford in Pasadena helps their cause; as does Clemson over Georgia in Death Valley, but is there a signature win from any of Ohio State’s other 12 opponents, perhaps one they actually defeated, that gives them a case here?

Michigan State

What happened in 2013? It took Michigan State a few weeks to hit their stride offensively, what to do without Le’veon Bell in the backfield, and they lost a sluggish contest to Notre Dame, 17-13 in South Bend. They figured out the formula was Jeremy Langford running with a slightly different design to the offense, and they never lost again, like ever. However, it wasn’t until November, after holding Michigan to 6 points, that the intimidating Spartans’ D was anything more than a cool story. Personally, I started talking myself into this team beating Ohio State, something that ended up happening. After taking down the Buckeyes, I was convinced they could take down Stanford, my pre-season pick to be the National Champ. They did that too.

The Big Ten is terrible, because…they lost to Notre Dame! Stanford lost to Utah! Ohio State lost to Clemson! Nothing they did means anything; the Rose Bowl trophy, the Big Ten Championship, it all meant nothing! I mean, didn’t Purdue play Notre Dame close? Didn’t Notre Dame lost to Pitt? And, what the hell was up with Max Bullough?

That’s wrong, because…they won without Bullough, against one of the better rushing teams in the country. Even if Stanford lost to Utah, they won what everyone seems to believe is the second-best conference in the country. Even if Ohio State had their quirks, and we admit that they did, they weren’t a bad team for losing to the Spartans and Clemson. In a playoff, they’d have had a crack at Auburn or Florida State, but I’m not going to speculate on the results of the unknown in that case. If you think Michigan State stunk, you don’t have an open mind about things.

A College Football Story

Christmas time is such a polarizing time of year, based on your perspective, whether you celebrate the holiday or not.  It brings out the best in some of us and the worst in others.  Some people do the gift exchange thing, others don’t, but everybody, well, everyone who has cable anyways, gets 24 hours of A Christmas Story on TBS every year.

I’ll admit it; growing up in Cleveland and attending school near the Tremont neighborhood where some of the 1983 film’s scenes were filmed, the cinematic staple of the holidays might mean a little more to people from my hometown and region than it does on the national landscape.  Fans of college football in the South might tell you the same thing about their beloved Saturday pastime, and who am I to argue?  It doesn’t mean you can’t be a fan of the game in Columbus, Chestnut Hill, Eugene, or even Missoula.  In that same breath, I might acknowledge a family or two in Laredo, Texas watch Ralphie Parker’s quest for that Red Rider every Christmas.
This year, I’ve decided to take a little more away from the 4 or 5 viewings than just some nostalgia.  Though it’s been done, overdone, and beaten like the dead horse that inspired the saying, we’re going to blend pop culture into sports for the purpose of filling space on a blog.  So, without further ado, here’s the 2013 rendition of A College Football Story…
Ralphie Parker/Michigan State
I guess it’s appropriate that we start with Ralphie, our main character, whose story is being told by his older self.  Whether it was the terror of Scut Farkus or Ohio State, being let down by his mother or devastating early season loss to a MAC team, or coming up short of his goal (an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle), Peter Billingsley played a child-like version of Michigan State in 2013.  In the end, Ralphie does get the air rifle he desires, despite the caution of shooting his eye out, and Michigan State gets to smell the roses in Pasadena on January 1.
Storyteller/Nick Saban
The voice of Jean Shepherd was supposed to be that of Ralphie as an adult, so it’s fitting that Saban used to be the top guy in East Lansing, but the real reason we found Saban to be the best fit to tell the story is because this Saturday game we love so much all revolves around him.  Whether it’s Austin, Columbus, Waco, or that little farm town that Bear Bryant refused to travel to, everything in this world happens from Saban’s point of view; including this season, Nick Saban always has had a say in who wins the crystal football.  The last team to win it all without being Nick Saban or beating him, were the 2006 Florida Gators, who beat Mike Shula’s Crimson Tide, while ol’ Saint Nick was in Miami sowing his NFL oats.

The Parade/Florida State at Pitt
What’s a little confusing for us Cleveland folk is the movie’s opening, which takes us to the top of the Terminal Tower in the opening credits, down past Higbees (now, the Horseshoe Casion), to a parade on the streets of what we assume is downtown Cleveland, but the story takes place in a part of Indiana that’s considered suburban Chicago.  Anyway, the movie starts with a parade, which gets us I the mood for Christmas, the same way the Labor Day showdown between Pittsburgh and Florida State at Heinz Field readied us for the college football season ahead.  Jameis Winston was incredible and near-perfect, filling the shoes of first-round pick EJ Manuel so naturally that the former Seminoles quarterback was quickly made to be an afterthought.
Santa Claus/ACC
Kids are always super excited to see Santa Claus, whether you see him on TV or in person, but sooner or later, there’s always a reveal.  The ACC tends to give us a September Santa every year, but then there’s that reveal.  For Clemson and Tajh Boyd, the excitement came with a somewhat convincing win over traditional SEC contender Georgia in the opening weekend.  Virginia Tech is sometimes that Santa, but they’re the type of Kris Kringle that has a poorly constructed fake beard that doesn’t fool even the most naïve toddler, so when Alabama dropped a bag of coal on their laps, no one on the scene at the Georgia Dome batted an eyebrow.
Randy Parker/Michigan
It would dishearten former Michigan running back Mike Hart to know that the little brother currently resides in Ann Arbor.  There’s something redeeming about Randy, even though he’s an easy target for the local bully, has weird eating habits, and can’t put his arms down in his winter gear.  He also needs to get into the only bathroom of his Cleveland Street dwelling, but big brother currently occupies the spot, so there’s no vacancy, a la The 2014 Rose Bowl Game.  Now, just think of Scut Farkus as the bully, the weird eating habits as their refusal to play defense, and the reality that Brady Hoke’s husky figure prevents any legitimate chance at putting his arm’s down, though he never bundles up.
Old Man Parker/David Shaw
David Shaw is a noble man that’s won major awards, mostly of the Pac-12 Conference ilk, that I’m sure Mrs. Shaw doesn’t care to have showcased in the front window of their home.  The thing is, he provides for the young men who come to the farm to play football for him, and they reciprocate with undying loyalty.  He has his battles with the furnace, and by furnace, I mean Utah, but his eye is on the prize with the Christmas feast.  The thing that may have ultimately denied him that feast turned out to be the Bumpus Dogs, known in Pac-12 country as the USC Trojans.
Mother Parker/Mid-American Conference
Oh, she’s nice, isn’t she?  She doesn’t really play anything more than a consoling role; she cares for her children and stands by her husband, except when he’s trying feast before it’s time to feast.  Occasionally, she’ll get in the way of Iowa or break a lamp, then use up all the glue on purpose, but all she really wants to do is help.  Ultimately, you just want the MAC to do their part to help tune up the Big Ten, making Buffalo a good team to somewhat compete with Ohio State, but not to actually beat them.  She pulls Ralphie away from a donnybrook and consoles him when his glasses break.  She does want to be part of the BCS party, but many think that would involve her overstepping her bounds and would prefer she maintain a smaller role.
Scut Farkus/Ohio State
Remember when Urban Meyer told Aaron Hernandez to kill a guy, put an intoxicated Carlos Dunlap behind the wheel, and ordered Carlos Hyde to assault some girl in a club?  Okay, none of that really happened, we think, but regardless of whether I’m writing to an Ohio fan base that doesn’t want to be the portrayed by a character with yellow eyes, Ohio State fits that bully role this year.  Nobody respected their schedule, nobody wanted them at the adult table at Christmas, and nobody thought they needed to shove Michigan in the snow.  There is no middle ground with Ohio State, the way it seems, you either love them unconditionally or you want to poison the Ohlentangy River that flows past the Horseshoe, and infect the team and their rabid fan base.  It’s pretty redeeming when Michigan State, I mean Ralphie, gets their comeuppance in the end.
Grover Dill/Notre Dame
See Scut Farkus/Ohio State.  Polarizing and disliked in the same breath as Ohio State from outside of their own fan base, but not quite on the same scale in the present tense.  They are a little bit of a toad in their own right, but they do have that win over Michigan State.  I know what you might be thinking; the math doesn’t work on this.  Grover Dill didn’t beat up Ralphie, but also get smeared by Randy, the way the circle of parallels between Michigan, Michigan State, and Notre Dame would have to line up here.  Well, I’m using the Mystery Science Theater 3000 defense here; it’s just a silly column, so relax.

Miss Shields/Mountain West Conference
She’s a lot like Mother Parker, just as the Mountain West has its similarities to the Mid-American Conference.  She’s another consoling figure with some level of authority.  She has to put up with that desk drawer full of sophomoric gag toys, just as the MWC has to tolerate the blue turf in Idaho and the expense of a trip to Hawaii every other year, but they’re entitled to good things too.  But, when TCU takes up a spot in the Rose Bowl, you take it as a slap in the face, like when the Little Sisters of the Poor grade the theme for your Christmas dreams as a C+.  Were we happy when Fresno State was put in their BCS place by San Jose State, then validated when the Pac-12 suggested they didn’t belong anywhere near the big-boy table?
Triple Dog Dare/Iron Bowl
Like I said previously, it all comes down to Saban sometimes. Alabama double-dared Texas A & M to beat them in College Station, then they double-dog-dared LSU to beat them in Tuscaloosa, as they had two years prior.  In both cases, it was no dice for the other guy.  Just as Schwartz and Flick, who was played by kid named Schwartz, talked it up prior to the event, the Iron Bowl triggered some discussion before-hand as well.  Next up, would have been the triple dare, which was arguably AJ McCarron’s 99-yard pass to Amari Cooper, which gave the Tide a 28-21 lead over Auburn late in the 2013 Iron Bowl, but we’ll skip right over the Triple Dare, as Schwartz opted to do at that old Tremont school.  To really get into the tongue to frozen, rusty flagpole part of this football season, Nick Saban sent Adam Griffith out to attempt a 57-yard field goal, with a berth in the SEC Championship on the line.
In other words, he Triple-Dog-Dared Auburn to win the game and the SEC’s West Division…

Leg Lamp/The American
You can call it the AAC or just The American, if you’d like.  Just don’t call it the Big East, you can’t do that anymore.  If anyone not named Ohio State had an easy path to undefeated and a title shot, you had to believe it was Louisville.  You could put them in the front window and be proud of that 0 in the loss column, and then Central Florida happened.  After that Friday night stunner at the hands of George O’Leary’s Knights, the first thought was this broken lamp could be fixed with some glue; let’s just attach Louisville’s attributes to UCF, but they were out of glue.  South Carolina used up all that glue on purpose with 28-25 in non-conference play, so Central Florida was bound for whatever BCS bowl would be obliged to take them.  And with a pseudo-lead of two games in conference, it didn’t even matter if they lost again…which they didn’t.
Department Store Santa/Spoilers
Though I never encountered a particularly mean Santa or elves at the mall, the realization that the dude at the mall isn’t the one eating your cookies or providing you with gifts just stinks.  And when he sings that same tune that the mother and teacher did about shooting your eye out, Santa becomes a read dud.  That dud might come in the form of Oklahoma State knocking off an undefeated Baylor, Northern Illinois laying an egg against Bowling Green, Texas not salvaging this train wreck of a season a win over Baylor and a Fiesta Bowl berth, or Arizona State losing their shot at the Rose Bowl with a second loss to Stanford in their own house.  Even as Todd Graham gets kicked down the slide, while making a case for his Sun Devils to be considered for a BCS at-large berth, he’s told he’ll get a 7-5 team in San Diego on December 30th.
HO HO HO.
OH FUDGE/Oregon
Hey Oregon, why don’t you help the Pac-12 fix that flat tire they suffered when Stanford lost at USC?
Really, can we?

So, Oregon’s Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas really wanted to play for a National Championship, but would have been honored to return to the Rose Bowl.  Only, their quotes to the media didn’t come out that way; it was more like they told the Tournament of Roses to go F, dash, dash, dash themselves.

Josh Huff: “I don’t want to play in a Rose Bowl unless I’m playing for a national championship.”
De’Anthony Thomas: “It’s not a big deal at all. We already won a Rose Bowl, so it feels like, ‘Whatever.'”

Well, Rich Rodriguez led his Arizona Wildcats to presenting the Ducks a big ole plate of ‘whatever’, and spared them that trip to the Rose Bowl.  They’re tired of Disneyland, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy The Alamo and the Tower of the Americas in December.
Chinese Restaurant/Rose Bowl

The heavenly aroma still hung in the house. But it was gone, all gone! No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey salad! No turkey gravy! Turkey Hash! Turkey a la King! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone, ALL GONE!

A combination of Notre Dame and the lack of strength anywhere else in the Big Ten, punctuated with Wisconsin’s loss to Penn State, shattered any dreams of Michigan State playing in the very last BCS Championship.  That’s a little bit ironic, when you consider the fact that the Spartans kept Ohio State out of the very first and last BCS Championship games, but the trip to Pasadena itself will serve as the old man getting Ralphie the air rifle.  On the other sideline, the Rose Bowl might feel like old hat to David Shaw at this point, but he can certainly make lemonade from lemons, as disappointing as it may have been to lose twice this season.  The Stanford Cardinal are still going out to eat, and there’s nothing wrong with a little Chinese turkey.
‘Tis the season to be jorry.
Footed PJs/Bowl Games
Our Aunt Clara isn’t giving us a toy rifle or even a football, but you know it’s coming every year.  Look, there are 35 bowl games, 1 that actually matters, and arguably 7 others that we actually care about.  Generally, I’d say there are 8, but this year’s Holiday Bowl leaves something to be desired, with 7-5 Texas Tech matched up with 10-3 Arizona State.  This year, the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Chick-fil-a Bowl, and Captial One Bowl should draw interest from the casual fan, but there’s nothing quite like aesthetically displeasing nature of the pink-bunny-footed-pajamas or the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.
Red Rider BB Gun/BCS Bowls
These money games are a goal for a lot of teams, but for Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, and to an extent, Baylor, missing out on the title game may serve as a setup for disappointment on the big stage.  There’s a clear distinction between these Bowl Championship Series games and even the upper echelon of the non-BCS games, the best example being the Cotton Bowl, which FOX will sell as the greatest thing outside of Pasadena this January.
A BCS Bowl is the brass ring or Red Ryder Air Rifle, everything else is just everything else.  And, when you can’t shoot your eye out, how much fun can you have with anything else?
Christmas Day/BCS National Championship
What I take away from A Christmas Story is, this holiday is what you make of it.  If you just take it as a day to watch bad basketball played in ugly uniforms, have your way with it, NBA fan.  If you want to get drunk and swear at the neighbors and family, have at it Clark Griswold.  If you want to drink egg nog, then take cheap shots at Ohio State and Notre Dame, have at it Mark May.
The BCS National Championship Game will serve as the same type of target.  You can get a keg and a big sandwich to consume while you enjoy the final year of college football’s one-game playoff, drink and eat up.  Or, you can watch a repeat of How I Met Your Mother, and bitch about the once alleged rapist winning a title or how fatigued you are by the Southeastern Conference.
As much as we try to be politically correct, to chastise the film at hand for stereotyping Asians in the final scene, to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, to have a Winter Solstice theme to our parties in December, or to say every game counts in a college football season, we know it’s mostly crap.
It’s all about December 25th, when you’re talking about the “holiday season”.  And, it’s all about this one game, even when propagating the myth that “every game counts”.  So, if I’m comparing a college football season to A Christmas Story, the National Championship Game is the only thing that matters, like Christmas itself.
The game, the controversy, the commercialism attached to it; all of it applies.  You can even remove the letter “C” from the word in both cases, make it the BS Championship or Xmas.  I’m not condoning you do either, but I would recommend diversifying in both cases.  Check out some other bowl games, and maybe mix in the Griswold’s tale of Christmas.
Whatever you do, enjoy yourself.  Be jolly.
 
 

Introducing Time and Change (How Firm Thy OSU Podcast)

McGhee
McGhee
Rich
Rich

It’s my pleasure to announce the MTAF College Football Roundtable has its first spin-off. After seven weeks of a little bit of everything the world of College Football world has to offer, the powers-that-be have decided to give you a lot more of just one thing. Some of you have been asking for more Buckeyes, so a show dedicated to all things The Ohio State University you shall have.

The show will be hosted by Aaron McGhee, the Twitter legend known as @aaronm59, and myself (@JRichTCF).  If you don’t know me, I write about the Pac-12, here at More Than A Fan.  We promise to look at all-things-Buckeye, including the past week’s game, the week ahead, and what the local and national media has to say about your favorite juggernaut in Columbus.

These men have combined to take home three of these beauties. The one on the right also has two perfect seasons, for which he was not rewarded with one.

The title, Time and Change, is meant to pay homage to Carmen, Ohio, but can also be taken literally, just don’t go as far as to check your local listings for the Will Shirley Show. We at MTAF might know, as well as anyone, how quickly things can change on the College Football landscape. It’s taken us nearly a year and half to stop attaching Jim Tressel tendencies to Urban Meyer football teams, but we’re getting there. I’m not saying we’re fans, but Aaron and I both believe that it’s Time to Change this endless run of SEC teams winning the title, not that we really have any say in the matter.

Seeing as how Ohio State began the year as title contenders, we may touch on their pursuit of that crystal football, which is probably going to have to include some discussion on the other contenders. We will make our best effort to avoid letting any team that doesn’t play their home games on the banks of the Olentangy River steal the spotlight.

The show will debut on Tuesday, October 15th at 8:00 PM (EDT) on MTAF.tv, a part of the MoreThanAFan network, and should air at the same time each Tuesday. We will be dropping more knowledge of the Scarlet and Gray than you can handle, but you can be sure that we’ll have some laughs and a good time is guaranteed every Tuesday.

If you forget what happened here on Saturday, we'll get you caught up on Tuesday.
If you forget what happened here on Saturday, we’ll get you caught up on Tuesday.

Like the College Football Roundtable, which airs Wednesday nights on MTAF.tv, we may feature some guests, though you’re stuck with just Aaron and I for our inaugural podcast. If you care to participate or simply offer feedback on what we can do to improve the show, our Twitter and E-mail boxes (listed below) are always open, so feel free to tell us what’s on your mind.

That’s all for now, we hope you’ll join us, this and every Tuesday night. Until then, we’ll see you around the interwebs.

Jeff Rich (Co-Host, Time and Change) – [email protected]
Aaron McGhee (Co-Host, Time and Change) – [email protected]

Damien Bowman (Managing Editor, More Than A Fan) – [email protected]

B1G: Re-Affirming it’s Position at the Top

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how the B1G was currently playing the best basketball in the country.  I made some pretty bold claims about how there were several teams in the conference that could take out any team in the country.  Shortly after making these claims some things began happening in the B1G.

The upsets and parity seemed to begin to diminish.  Indiana and Michigan State began to distance themselves from the rest of the conference.  Ohio State got blown out by Wisconsin and looked the worst that they had all year.  While the games were still worth watching, the two at top began eyeing those one seed’s and the rest of the conference was just starting to position itself for the B1G tournament.

Just when we were about to anoint IU and MSU as the class of the conference, it all came to a screeching halt.  Just like has been the case all season, no team is ever safe in this conference to count a win.  Anything can happen any night. 

The conference was on display last week when MSU and IU faced off on national television and didn’t disappoint.  They showed how much better they were and how well they performed as a team.  Twitter was blowing up as many fans and writers of other teams were taking notice of what was happening.  It appeared that they were separating themselves from the rest of the conference…and the country.

The next question was how would the rest of the conference respond?  Wisky seemed to wake up the Buckeyes.  In what could have been the culmination of disappointing season for the Buckeyes, they responded by spanking a disinterested Minnesota team; a Minnesota team that has looked incredible at times and lost at others, something that is very uncharacteristic of a Tubby Smith team.

The Buckeyes carried that momentum and actually showed like they belonged with a top team when they faced MSU.  Something we hadn’t really seen from the Bucks since an early season matchup with Duke.

Minnesota responded as well, by taking out Indiana in a thriller last night.  While I no doubt believe that Indiana is the best team in the nation, they defiantly have their holes and vulnerabilities.  While some were beginning to question the depth of the conference, it has defiantly re-affirmed its position as the nation’s elite.

Everything is pointing to an end of season showdown between IU and Michigan.  It is very likely that it could all end in a four way tie for the regular season title,  an ending that would be appropriate for how this season has gone.

B1G, what the future may hold.

I’m going to do my best to not beat the dead horse that is the Penn State Football Scandal.  Rather, I want to look at the scandal from a different perspective.  What is the B1G’s next move?  The Big Ten has long prided itself on its strong academic standing as well as being comprised of quality athletic departments who play by the rules and are rarely in the news for negative press.  To be fair, the Big Ten has had well publicized issues, most of which have come from its two marquee programs; Ohio State and Michigan.  No conference has been free from NCAA infractions and to compete at the highest level sometimes you need to interpret the rules a little differently to try to stay competitive (that is a whole other story for another time).

Regardless of what the NCAA decides to do and if PSU finally takes it upon themselves to do the right thing and shut the program down, I believe the B1G needs to take a hard look at disassociation.  PSU obviously lacks the morals and ethical integrity required to be a part of this prestigious conference.  There are conferences in this country who could care less about moral integrity and only care about the product on the field, we all know who they are so they need not be named.  The B1G is not that way.  Our coaches rarely jump ship to the NFL, most programs are built on integrity with a strong focus of graduating players and turning young immature athletes into disciplined, educated contributors to society. Continue reading B1G, what the future may hold.