Tag Archives: Iowa Hawkeyes

Why Does Kirk Ferentz Have A Job?

The world of college football, coaching is a tenuous career. You have to appeal to the athletes, their parents, boosters, the school, and fans. In order to keep your job you have to deliver winning seasons, conference titles, bowl wins and, depending which conference you reside in, College Football Playoff berths.

So why in the world is Kirk Ferentz still the head coach at Iowa?

Every team in the Big Ten has had at least two coaches since 1999 when the Hawkeyes hired him away from his position of the offensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Michigan State has had three, Ohio State has had two not including interims, Wisconsin has had three and Michigan have had four. Those are some of the winningest programs in the conference and each of them has hired at least one more Iowa.

So what makes Kirk Ferentz so special?

It’s got to be all those national championships, right? Well… Kirk Ferentz has never led Iowa to a national championship. The Hawkeyes have never even played for a national championship. So it’s definitely not all those championship trophies that are on display.

But national championships aren’t the only championships. What about conference championships? He’s surely got a couple of those.

Iowa has won two Big Ten titles under Kirk Ferentz but the most recent of which was way back in 2004. This will be the 13th straight season without a Big Ten Championship although Ferentz did take the Hawkeyes to their only division title in 2015 before falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. It’s clearly not championships that are keeping Kirk Ferentz employed as a head coach.

Bowl games! It’s got to be a stellar record in the postseason!

Well… this can’t be right. Kirk Ferentz has not won a bowl game since the 2010 Insight Bowl. Ok, so he hasn’t won in a while. Has Iowa even been there? Yup, sure have. Iowa has only missed out on a bowl game twice since the 1999 season. The problem is that Kirk Ferentz is 6-8 in those games. I almost want to say that it’s an achievement to make that many games but come on. All it takes is a .500 record to make a bowl game these days. It’s more embarrassing that they missed out in 2012.

In fact, Kirk Ferentz and Iowa have a penchant for losing games they shouldn’t.

In 2016, the Hawkeyes lost to North Dakota State of the FCS. In 2014, it was a loss to in-state rival Iowa State which has happened more than a few times. Let’s also not forget losses to Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, and pre-PJ Fleck Western Michigan.

Now, the Hawkeyes have produced four first-round NFL draft picks and seven other picks for the second and third round since 2010. But that’s not enough to keep someone employed.

There’s clearly talent being brought into Iowa for the most part but imagine a top-tier coach. The Hawkeyes are paying Kirk Ferentz like a top-tier coach but he’s not producing like one. Ferentz was paid more in 2016 than Dabo Swinney of Clemson who won the National Championship. He makes the same as James Franklin of Penn State who won the Big Ten.

So what gives?

It’s not some magical formula that Kirk Ferentz has or that he has some kind of blackmail leverage over the Iowa administration. It’s that Iowa has their expectations set too low. The Hawkeyes are willing to settle for “pretty good” or “just ok” because that’s all that Ferentz has produced.

This isn’t on Ferentz who has found a comfy gig and is working it for all its worth. You can’t tell me that other coaches wouldn’t kill for expectations like that. There’s no pressure to win! Maybe the fans get restless but clearly not the administration. They gave Ferentz an extension and raise after producing one 12-win season in 2015. One! It was the first double-digit win season since 2009. Most programs are firing those kinds of coaches.

So I’m changing my call. I don’t want Kirk Ferentz to be fired anymore. I want the Iowa administration to be fired and to bring in someone who cares about winning. Then they can fire Kirk Ferentz.

E-mail Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Big Ten Power Rankings Week 2

When I initially did the power rankings, I didn’t expect too much movement to happen but since then, things have been stirred up especially after the four losses in Week 2 particularly Ohio State’s.

  1. Penn State (previous ranking: 2): The 2016 Big Ten champions are back in the driver’s seat after a 33-14 victory over in-state rival Pittsburgh. Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley accumulated 183 yards and two scores while Trace McSorley totaled 164 yards and three touchdowns despite missing several wide open receivers, mostly in the first half. Other than that, it was a solid victory and the Nittany Lions look like the team to beat in the Big Ten.
  2. Wisconsin (3): A classic, 31-14 Badger win as Jonathan Taylor ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns, joining Zach Brown, Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche as the only true freshman in program history to rush for over 200 yards. Ameche and Dayne were Heiman trophy winners. In addition, the defense looked stout against Lane Kiffin’s Owls, holding them to under 250 yards in total offense.
  3. Ohio State (1): Oklahoma avenged last year’s loss to Ohio State in Norman with a 31-16 win. Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield torched the secondary for 386 yards and three scores while J.T. Barrett was just 19 of 35 for 183 yards as the passing game was wildly inconsistent and below average. Buckeyes need a playmaker to emerge on offense. The loss is hard to swallow but it really doesn’t affect their chances as a contender.
  4. Michigan (4): A week after a 33-17 victory over Florida in which the Gators were held to 192 total yards, the defense looked very stout in a 36-14 win over Cincinnati. The Wolverines D kept the Bearcats at 200 total yards and had two pick-sixes. However, quarterback Wilton Speight, who threw two pick-sixes versus Florida, continued to struggle with accuracy and consistency. He needs to improve if Michigan wants to contend.
  5. Maryland (11): Fresh off a 51-41 upset over a then-ranked Texas team, the Terrapins continued where they left off and put on quite encore in a 63-17 rout of Towson. They gashed the Tigers for 367 rushing yards with D.J. Moore scoring three times and freshman under center Kasim Hill looking good in his debut.
  6. Iowa (6): The Hawkeyes defense looked strong in their 24-3 win over Wyoming, holding potential NFL draft hopeful Josh Allen to 174 yards but was consistently getting beat against Iowa State. Fortunately, first-year signal-caller Nathan Stanley passed for 333 and five touchdowns and tailback Akrum Wadley had 190 total yards as Iowa came back from a 10-point deficit to escape 44-41 in overtime. Defense needs to play better.
  7. Michigan State (9): After last season’s 3-9 debacle, the Spartans are off to a promising 2-0 start following a 28-14 win over Western Michigan as the defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown in eight consecutive quarters. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for 161 yards but showed he’s also a dual-threat as he rushed for 81 yards including a 61-yard touchdown run. The Spartans have off this week before hosting Notre Dame.
  1. Indiana (10): It will be interesting to see what Indiana does at quarterback as it has two capable throwers. Senior Richard Lagow, who threw for 420 yards versus Ohio State, is still the starter but after struggling early against Virginia, redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey replaced him, completing 16 of 20 passes for 173 yards and two scores as the Hoosiers won 34-17.
  2. Nebraska (7): The Cornhuskers are a tough read. Nebraska allowed the Oregon Ducks to go up 42-14 at halftime but held the Ducks scoreless in the second half and scored three unanswered touchdowns, nearly rallying from a 28-point deficit before falling 42-35. Yet, quarterback Tanner Lee threw the last of his four interceptions with two minutes remaining and Bob Diaco’s new 3-4 defense has allowed 1,063 yards this year.
  3. Minnesota (8) Good things are happening for new head coach P.J. Fleck. Minnesota trounced Oregon State 48-14 on the road as the defense forced three turnovers and running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks combined for 253 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, two areas of weakness were addressed as quarterback Conor Rhoda cemented himself as the outright leader of this team and Tyler Johnson has emerged as a go-to receiver.
  4. Purdue (12): Purdue has impressed me so far. They put up a valiant fight versus Louisville in a 35-28 loss and put on an offensive clinic (558 yards) in a 44-21 victory over MAC contender Ohio. Head coach Jeff Brohm promised an up-tempo, high-scoring offense and the Boilermakers haven’t disappointed. Watch out for quarterback David Blough as he led Purdue on a 24-0 first half run.
  5. Northwestern (5): I picked Northwestern to be a contender in the West this year but its play so far has concerned me. The Wildcats escaped against Nevada in Week 1 and were decimated by Duke 41-17 on Saturday as quarterback Daniel Jones accounted for 413 total yards and four touchdowns. Northwestern signal-caller Clayton Thorson was picked off twice and Justin Jackson rushed for 18 measly yards on seven carries.
  6. Illinois (14): Yes, the Fighting Illini came into Champaign as underdogs to Western Kentucky, a Conference USA team that averaged 45.5 points per contest in 2016, best in the country. However, none of that mattered as the young defense of Illinois held the Hilltoppers to one score and 244 yards while also getting 111 rushing yards from freshman Mike Epstein in a 20-7 win.
  7. Rutgers (13): Following a 16-13 loss to lowly Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Rutgers showed how incredibly far behind the other Big Ten programs it is. The game was the Eagles’ first victory over a Power Five opponent in 59 tries and I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg for how ugly things will get for the Scarlet Knights this season. A long, treacherous road lies ahead.

Image: flickr user morebyless

2017 Big Ten Predictions

I almost canceled my Bold Big Ten Predictions last season after I made some questionable calls from 2015. But last season, well, I’m going to take a moment to brag and have my confidence restored. I completely nailed the decline of Michigan State, Iowa’s C.J. Beathard, and that the Big Ten would come down to the very last game of the season. Although I might have been a tad off on Indiana getting to eight wins.

Let’s focus on the positives and forget the stuff I got wrong and get on with this year’s bold predictions.

The Big Ten East is a mess again and it’s glorious

I know both teams are loaded with talent, but Michigan and Ohio State sent a ton of players to the NFL last season. Penn State lost their top receiver but bring back Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley. Those are your big three in the East that are going to be jockeying for the top spot.

Penn State gets Michigan at home and goes to the Horseshoe but Ohio State goes north for the 2017 version of The Game. There’s a chance that they all end up at the last game of the season at 11-1. It’s unlikely but possible. I see a team like Indiana throwing a wrench into things or possible P.J. Fleck making his mark on the Big Ten world when the Buckeyes go to Minnesota.

Since they got a decent ranking to start the season, the Nittany Lions could potentially end up as the highest ranked team when it’s all said and done and they’re my pick to win the East.

A new contender rises in the Big Ten West

OK, here we go again. Get your purple and white ready because we’re getting back on the Northwestern bandwagon! I’ve been saying for a while that head coach Pat Fitzgerald has been criminally underappreciated by everyone but Northwestern fans. This year he’s going to force them to appreciate him as the Wildcats win the Big Ten West after they return almost everyone from 2016.

Stick with me because this makes sense instead of a hunch.

Northwestern should enter Week Four at 3-0 and headed to Wisconsin followed by Penn State at home. That’s rough and they’ll probably enter Week Six at 3-2. After that, the toughest game for Northwestern is traveling to Nebraska who lost basically everyone from 2016.

Wisconsin has an unproven young quarterback in Alex Hornibrook who lost his job last season. They end the season on the road at Indiana, home for Iowa and Michigan, and then back on the road to Minnesota. That is a rough stretch and I think the Badgers split the series at best. Wisconsin stumbles at the end and Northwestern finishes strong to end at 10-2 and their first trip to Indianapolis.

The Big Ten dominates the rankings

As you might’ve guessed, I expect the Big Ten to be pretty good this season. It’s going to be one of those years where the teams keep beating one another to prevent any one team from getting too high up in the polls but there’s going to be a lot of them there. You’ve got the obvious teams in Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in the rankings to start the season. As you might expect, I’m predicting Wisconsin and Northwestern to find themselves in the top twenty to top fifteen.

Then there’s Minnesota. Maybe it’s because I have ESPN and their show on P.J. Fleck on but that guy just seems special. I think Minnesota is going to shock some people and spent a healthy part of their season inside the Top 25.

Bonus super bold prediction: Jim Harbaugh gets someone from the SEC mad again.

I know, super bold, right?

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E-mail Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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2017 Big Ten Power Rankings

Only nine days until college football Week 1 officially starts, though as my fellow writer Mitch Gatzke wrote, it leaves much to be desired.  Stanford versus Rice from Australia is your headliner. Yay. Can you sense the sarcasm? For me, it kicks off on Thursday August 31st when Ohio State takes on Indiana. Speaking of the Buckeyes, based on how 2016 unfolded in the Big Ten, here are the unofficial power rankings for 2017 with that team from Ohio sitting on top. Enjoy.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes

The Ohio State Buckeyes are completely stacked for another playoff run and poised to win a conference title. With 15 starters returning, arguably the best front defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has coached, an offensive line that features two potential first-round draft picks (Jamarco Jones and Billy Price) and the hiring of Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator to help J.T. Barrett return to freshman form, this is by far the best team in the Big Ten.

  1. Penn State Nittany Lions

Nipping at the Buckeye’s heels will be the Nittany Lions, who went from conference afterthought to Big Ten champions after reeling off nine consecutive wins in 2016. The dynamic duo of quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley fit seamlessly into Joe Moorhead’s up-tempo, spread attack and will have four returning starters on offensive line to protect them. Yet, the luck they had last season against Ohio State will be long gone in this year’s rematch.

  1. Wisconsin Badgers

Coming into this season, Wisconsin already had a void at outside linebacker with T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel departing and then inside linebacker Jack Cichy suffered another season-ending injury. Fortunately, there is a lot of depth and experience on the defense for first-year coordinator Jim Leonhard to work with. Plus, the offensive line returns all five starters and with a more feasible schedule, the Badgers will be the favorite in the Big Ten West and a top-ten team.

  1. Michigan Wolverines

So close, yet so far away defined the 2016 Michigan Wolverines as two late season losses by four measly points cost them conference glory. Now, only four offensive starters and one defensive starter return and even more pressure will be on Wilton Speight to deliver with a new receiving corps. Jim Harbaugh has recruited some good raw talent, but I feel the Wolverines will take a small step backwards before reaching their full potential.

  1. Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern has a solid chance to make some noise this season with a speedy, explosive defense that features a disruptive front seven and an offense with the strong arm of Clayton Thorson and the tireless workhorse Justin Jackson. Unfortunately, they’ll be without the leading receiver from the Big Ten last year in Austin Carr and need a reliable target to emerge. Also, they ranked 108th in pass defense and face their biggest divisional opponent Wisconsin in Madison.

  1. Iowa Hawkeyes

While the Hawkeyes have limited experience at quarterback with presumed first-time starter Nathan Stanley and few receiving options besides Matt VandeBerg, they possess one of college’s best offensive lines and a home-run threat in senior running back Akrum Wadley. On defense, they also are raw and young at most of the skill positions. Yes, they’re anchored by linebacker and leading tackler Josey Jewell but one man can’t do it all. Nonetheless, their ceiling is still 7-9 victories.

  1. Nebraska Huskers

Though the Nebraska Huskers started 7-0 and had a great opportunity for a championship game invite in 2016, they lost four of their final six. Now, they are in a state of transition with pro-style quarterback Tanner Lee under center trying to resuscitate an offense that averaged 211.7 passing yards a game (86th). On defense, they still have a very stout secondary in their new 3-4 scheme but with all the changes, I see more growing pains than success.

  1. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Even with P.J. Fleck’s infectious positive energy, that only goes so far. The Gophers have essentially no experience at quarterback and wide receiver besides leading wideout Rashad Still (18 catches). They’ll have to rely heavily on running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, both of whom averaged over 4.7 yards per carry and combined for 1,808 yards but the offensive line is thin and lacks depth. The defensive line is lean as well. Expect a middle-of-the-pack finish.

  1. Michigan State Spartans

Jekyll and Hyde perfectly describes the Spartans last two seasons, plunging from a conference champion to a basement dweller, and it remains to be seen if they can rebound after a rough off-season. I believe with their three-headed monster in the backfield (L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes, Madre London; 3,300 combined rush yards)and the return of quarterback Brian Lewerke, who played well versus Michigan before breaking his leg, the Spartans will compete for a bowl bid. Anything more is wishful thinking.

  1. Indiana Hoosiers

The defense, which improved from 121st to 45th in passing yards allowed in 2016, has nine returning starters and should be the strength especially in the linebacking corps with Tegray Scales (23.5 tackles for loss in 2016) and secondary with Rashard Fant (48 passes defended). Richard Lagow has a canon for an arm but needs to work on his accuracy (17 interceptions). If the offense can cut down mistakes and the defense rises up like last season, this is a scary, dangerous team. I forecast a definite bowl game.

  1. Maryland Terrapins

A 2014 four-star recruit by 247sports, there is a lot of hype surrounding North Carolina transfer quarterback Caleb Henderson. He has good size and can run and pass as he commands Maryland’s spread offense and tries to improve an offense that averaged just 178.2 yards a game (106th). The defense is experienced with their senior-laden front seven led by middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. but allowed over 28 points seven times. Sadly, I see them drastically receding.

  1. Purdue Biolermakers

David Blough can air it out with the best of them but he led the league with 21 interceptions and losses his top four pass catchers from 2016. To make things even trickier, Purdue is young on offense with just one returning starter on the line so protection is a concern. Depth on the defensive line and secondary is also a weakness.  New head coach Jeff Brohm maybe an offensive whiz but he has a lot of work to do.

  1. Illinois Illini

Lovie Smith will have a tough time this season as the teams top five pass rushers including standouts Carroll Phillips and Dawuane Smoot as well as leading tackler Hardy Nickerson Jr. are gone. In fact, the defense will be very young and untested and will have one senior starter in corner Jaylen Dunlap. On offense, quarterback Chayce Crouch is healed after attempting just 32 passes and gets two formidable receivers in Mike Dudek and Malik Turner. Other than that, nothing is sound here.

  1. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Four quarterbacks are competing for the starting job and electrifying return man Janarion Grant returns. Other than that, not much to say besides good luck not losing any games by a significant margin. Every year I think they will stop getting killed, but it always seems it gets worse. Is it even possible to be embarrassed more than being shutout 78-0? I hope it doesn’t for the sake of the conference’s reputation.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

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Over/Under: Big Ten West

Yes, I know a lot can happen during spring practice and the summer months so it may seem premature to be doing an article where I’m doing over/under for the upcoming year but with March Madness upon us, I feel like a gambling man and figured to take a risk. This week I’m doing the Big Ten West and the East next time around.

Illinois 3-9, 2-7 = Under 3-9, 1-8

Illinois loses its entire starting defensive line including first-team, all-Big Ten pass-rushing end Carroll Phillips (20 TFL’s, nine sacks) as well as spots at middle linebacker and secondary for a defense that already ranked near the bottom of the conference In almost every statistical category.  Its offense loses quarterback Wes Lunt and, while running backs Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin, who combined for 1243 yards and nine touchdowns, are back, as well as receiver Malik Turner (48 catches, 712 yards, 6 tds), backup quarterbacks Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. were subpar as they appeared in nine games. Lovie Smith’s second year will be even worse.

Iowa 8-5, 6-3 = Under 8-4, 5-4

The biggest question for the Hawkeyes is can sophomore Nathan Stanley, who is slated to be the starting quarterback heading into spring practice, be a reliable leader like his predecessor C.J. Beathard despite his limited experience? Other first-year starters like Beathard and Ricky Stanzi did pretty well and Stanley will have some resources like a seasoned offensive line and tailback Akrum Wadley but few options at receiver even with Matt VandeBerg returning. The other concern is at corner, where they lose the dominant Desmond King and Greg Mabin and have to use raw prospects Michael Ojemudia (five tackles) and Manny Rugamba (19 tackles, two interceptions). I say Iowa takes a step back because of its harder schedule.

Minnesota 9-4, 5-4 = Under 7-5, 4-5

With the departure of Mitch Leidner, Minnesota has very limited quarterback experience. Fifth-year senior Conor Rhoda has just one career start and a host of others are fighting for time including Demry Croft, junior college transfer Neil McLaurin, and redshirt freshman Seth Green and Mark Williams. Yes, starting halfback Rodney Smith was fourth in conference with 1,158 yards and second with 16 touchdowns while backup Shannon Brooks finished with 650 yards and five touchdowns but I see growing pains for a team that went through a very tumultuous season. Plus, they have a new system to get acclimated to with P.J. Fleck and an entirely different staff.

Nebraska 9-4, 6-3 = Under 8-4, 5-4

It’s hard to replace a starting quarterback especially one like Tommy Armstrong Jr., who holds most of the passing and touchdown records for Nebraska, but there is some upside and potential on the roster with Tanner Lee, Patrick O’Brien and Tristan Gebbia. Lee played two seasons at Tulane while O’Brien is a redshirt freshman and Gebbia is an early enrollee who has the second most yards in California high school history (13,109). On defense, Nebraska’s secondary looks strong as starting corners Chris Jones and Josh Kalu (103 tackles, 21 passes defended, four ints) return as well as safety Kieran Williams (five ints) and Aaron Williams.

Northwestern 7-6, 5-4 = Over 9-3, 6-3

Quarterback Clayton Thorson was fourth in the league in passing yards per game (244.8) and tossed 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Running back Justin Jackson had career highs for rushing yards (1,524), touchdowns (15) and yards per carry (5.1). If another receiver can emerge as a reliable target as Big Ten receiver of the year Austin Carr is gone, this offense could be a handful for opponents. On defense, the ultra-talented Anthony Walker is gone but they only have two starters to replace and leading tackler Godwin Igwebuike returns. If Northwestern can improve on pass defense, which ranked 109th nationally, I can see them an upset or two away from division glory.

Purdue (3-9, 1-8) = Over (4-8, 2-7)

There seems to be a lot of optimism surrounding Purdue’s new head coach Jeff Brohm, who led Western Kentucky for three seasons. The Hilltoppers ranked fifth nationally in passing offense and first in scoring offense last year, averaging 44.6 points per game. Yes, the Boilermaker’s lose their top three receivers (DeAngelo Yancey, Bilal Marshall, Cameron Posey) as well as Domonique Young, all of whom combined to haul in 157 passes for 2,122 yards and 17 touchdowns but David Blough has a lot of talent and Brohm’s system could greatly benefit him. Winning one more conference game isn’t much but it’s a step forward for a program that has won two Big Ten games in the past three years.

Wisconsin 11-3, 7-2 = Over 12-2, 8-1

It remains to be seen if quarterback Alex Hornibrook is the answer and can build upon a solid freshman season but the Badger faithful are crossing their fingers he is because if he can deliver, this team could be very dangerous. Yes, they lose both outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel but still should be a disruptive front seven especially at inside linebacker as T.J. Edwards led the team in tackles for a second consecutive season and Chris Orr and Jack Cichy return after suffering season-ending injuries. Secondary, which was second in FBS with 22 interceptions, will also be strong. With all this in mind and a softer schedule, I predict another 10-plus win season.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

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Outback Bowl Preview: Go Get A Steak Instead

It took a long time to research this bowl. Not because I find the matchup overly interesting, but because I got distracted by the Outback menu. There’s a hot take for you: looking at the Outback menu is going to be more exciting than the Outback Bowl.

Throw out the garbage non-conference games at the beginning of the season and Florida and Iowa have only scored more than 20 points a combined five times. That’s five out of 19 games. If you want to get technical, Iowa did score 21 in a loss to North Dakota State which everyone saw coming. Head coach Kirk Ferentz just doesn’t believe in consistency from year to year. Play in the Big Ten Championship one year, get knocked off by an FCS school the next.

But back to those point things. See, you need a lot of them to win the game usually and scoring lots of them is what makes games exciting. Well in addition to not scoring a lot of points, both of these school have highly ranked defense. Florida ranks sixth in overall defense according to ESPN and Iowa ranks 21st. They’re actually tied for eighth in points allowed.

It’s not really Florida’s fault that the team can’t score points. The Gators were 5-1 with Luke Del Rio at quarterback but an injury to him against Arkansas has forced Purdue-transfer Austin Appleby into the starting spot. With Appleby at the helm, the Gators went 3-3 with two devastating losses to Florida State and Alabama.

Would Florida have defeated either of those teams with Del Rio? Maybe Florida State but there probably would’ve been at least a better showing by the Gators.

Iowa, on the other hand, has no excuse. The Hawkeyes are coming into the Outback Bowl after thrashing Nebraska but let’s be real here: Nebraska was a fraud and we all knew it. Starting quarterback C.J. Beathard just didn’t put up the stats like he did in the Hawkeyes undefeated 2015 regular season. He had a pair of backs that accumulated almost 2000 yards and 20 scores but he had that last year too, only with three backs instead.

The real downfall for Iowa was the loss of 2015’s leading receiver, Matt VandeBerg, for most of the season. VandeBerg only has 19 receptions this year compared to 65 the previous year. That was double the catches of the next closest receiver. He’s missed eight games this season and is still tied for third in touchdown receptions. How sad is that? He’ll be back in 2017 but for the regular season, not the bowl game.

The moral of the story? This game is probably going to be brutal to watch.

How do you make an unwatchable game watchable? With gambling!

The line has actually dropped to Florida being a 2.5 point favorite depending on where you look, but for all intents and purposes, we’re going to call it three since that’s what most sites and bowl challenges have it listed at. That’s probably a fair line since there’s bound to be mostly field goals kicked in this game. I’ve also learned that if it starts dropping, Vegas is trying to get you to pick the underdog. I’m onto you, Vegas.

What you’ve got to watch out for is the defensive scores, though. Florida has 13 interceptions and eight fumbles that have been converted into three touchdowns, tying them for ninth in the nation. Iowa has recovered one more fumble but only seven interceptions for one score. The Outback Bowl is going to come down to one team turning it over in the other’s territory. My money’s on Florida to create that turnover so I’m going saying to take Florida and the points.

For some hilarious reason, the over/under has been set at 21. I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time on this. If you’ve gotten to this point, you already know I’m not expecting a lot of points to be scored. You can take the under with confidence in the Outback Bowl.

That’s all the official bets for you but if you need some other things to make wagers on with your friends, enjoy these prop bets I just made up and have fun watching the Outback Bowl:

  • Times Jim Harbaugh is mentioned: over/under, 3
  • Someone picks Alabama to win it all: over/under, 6.5
  • Higher total: touchdowns or turnovers
  • Higher total: Appleby passing yards or LeShaun Daniels rushing yards
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The Silver Lining: Wisconsin Is the Big Ten Front-runner

With a 48-3 shellacking of Illinois on Homecoming Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers have hit their stride at the right time heading into the final two games of the season. And with the chaos happening elsewhere in the country as three of the top four teams were upset the same day, the Badgers playoff chances are getting better and better. The question I’ve been asked is “Are the Badgers the favorite to win the Big Ten?” and the answer is a resounding “Yes.”

It’s crazy to think that even with losses to Michigan and Ohio State, Wisconsin is in the top 10 of the 2016 College Football Playoff rankings this late in the year. If you would’ve told me that this would happen before the season, I would’ve said you’re crazy. However, they beat several highly-ranked, albeit overrated, teams (LSU, Michigan State, Nebraska) at the perfect time that propelled them to the top of the rankings. What makes it even more unbelievable is that the Badgers have been barely subpar on offense (91st overall), at times facing an identity crisis at quarterback. And they’ve done it with a defense that lost two starting linebackers (Chris Orr, Jack Cichy) and features new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

In the aftermath of the most exciting college football Saturday in recent memory, I was thinking about how we got to this point and all the scenarios for Wisconsin’s best chance at winning the Big Ten.

The most likely scenario is Wisconsin presumably beats Purdue and Minnesota, Penn State wins out and Ohio State defeats Michigan, which means the Badgers will play against the Nittany Lions in Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3. In my estimation, Wisconsin would have the advantage over a Penn State team that incurred several injuries to its offensive line and would have a conference championship on its résumé despite two losses.

Someone came to the conclusion that losing against Michigan and Ohio State might have been the greatest blessing in disguise. If Wisconsin had beaten both the Wolverines and Buckeyes and they in turn didn’t lose to Iowa and Penn State respectively, then the Silver Bullets would be in position to advance to the Big Ten Championship.

Remember last time those two faced off in Indianapolis? Yeah, I predicted Wisconsin would win and then the Buckeyes proceeded to dismantle the Badgers 59-0.

At the same time, that was two years ago, and the Badgers are a different team now. Wisconsin already played pretty stout against the Buckeyes this season as the game had to be decided in overtime even though Ohio State won 30-23. Plus, if we did beat Ohio State in the title game, it would give us another win over a top-10 opponent and would all but guarantee admittance into the playoff.

Ohio State still could advance to the title game if it wins The Game in Columbus and if Penn State gets upset, which as shocking as that may be, could happen given how tumultuous the year has been.

And if Michigan wins out, I’d still give the Badgers a hell of a chance. Wisconsin played the Wolverines tough in a 14-7 loss and beat a struggling Iowa team 17-9 at Kinnick Stadium, something Big Blue wasn’t able to do. Plus, Michigan is reeling from the reports that their leader Wilton Speight will be out for the foreseeable future with a broken collarbone.

It’s a double-edged sword because it would be easier to attain a Big Ten title against Penn State and let that speak for itself, but it would be a walk to make the playoff if Michigan or Ohio State advance and we beat either one even though it be a much harder matchup.

But what if Wisconsin beats Penn State for the Big Ten title? Would Wisconsin, even with a conference title, still make the playoff over a one-loss Ohio State?

I was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio this Tuesday as hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg were discussing playoff possibilities. Both of them agreed that if Wisconsin wins the conference, they would join the playoff along with Ohio State.

I’m not saying that their beliefs are the gospel truth because the selection committee could pick Ohio State over conference champion Wisconsin but if others are saying that, it definitely gives us Badgers fans hope.

However, there is no doubt we are the most enviable two-loss team in the country and whether we make the playoff or not, we are the front-runners for a Big Ten championship. That’s a pretty darn good silver lining.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Wild Weekend and its Implications

What a wild weekend of college football.  Three of the top four teams in the country lost on the same day for the first time since 1985 and drastically changed the landscape of this college football season.  The implications of these losses extend far beyond the College Football Playoff picture.  Each team was exposed, and at least two conference races have been busted wide open.

Here’s what we can take away from a Saturday saturated with amazing football:

 

Clemson’s D has been exposed and Tigers fans should be concerned

Clemson and Louisville are the only two teams with one loss in the ACC, and Clemson owns the tiebreaker over Louisville.  All Clemson has to do is beat Wake Forest (6-4, 3-3 ACC), a team coming off a loss in which they gave up 44 straight points to Louisville after leading 12-0.

However, there are concerns about Clemson’s defense moving forward.

The Tigers gave up 43 points to Pitt, which was the second-highest point total the Panthers have scored all season.  On top of that, Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns (both career highs) and tight end Scott Ordnoff caught a career high in passes, yards, and touchdowns.

Three games ago, Clemson had to claw back from behind to beat Florida State after giving up 34 points, the Tigers’ second-highest point total given up on the season (up to that point).

The Florida State offense is statistically much more potent than Pitt’s, but Clemson’s defense has definitely been struggling. And teams like Virginia Tech and North Carolina may have a chance to take advantage in the ACC Championship game should Clemson make it that far.  I think there is a good chance the Tigers lose that game if it comes down to it.

However, if Clemson doesn’t lose another game this season, it will be a no-brainer selection to play in the College Football Playoff.

 

Michigan’s loss puts Penn State in the Big Ten driver’s seat, not Ohio State

Michigan was definitely impressive early in the season, demolishing Colorado and Penn State in weeks three and four, respectively.  Colorado is now ranked 12th in the latest AP poll, and Penn State has jumped up to number nine.

However, since that week four win, Michigan has had a few games that have raised some question marks. On October 1, Michigan barely squeaked by Wisconsin at home, beating the Badgers in a 14-7 defensive battle. It proceeded to walk all over Rutgers and Illinois (as most Big Ten teams have) then struggled against Michigan State on the road, winning by a score of 32-23.

This is not the same Michigan State team that we’ve seen the last few years.  This Michigan State team is 3-7 and is in the bottom half of the conference in total offense and defense.

This weekend, Michigan lost its first game of the season at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes, 14-13.  Iowa is 6-4 this season and is, by no means, the worst team to lose to. However, a loss to Iowa is not what a team vying for a playoff bid wants on its résumé.

Based on Michigan’s track record, it’s safe to assume Ohio State will dispose of Jim Harbaugh’s boys when they visit the Horseshoe in two weeks.  The Buckeyes have been dominant since they suffered their only loss of the season at Penn State.

The Buckeyes are trending upward, and the Wolverines are trending downward (but I’ll admit, at a far more gradual slope).

If the Buckeyes win next week against Michigan State and take care of Michigan after that, the Buckeyes will have no problem making the playoff, as they’re already ranked number two by the Associated Press.

However, Penn State holds the tie-breaker over Ohio State and has a very favorable remaining schedule.  The Nittany Lions will win their remaining two games and we will see them representing the Big Ten East in the conference championship game.  A Penn State win in Indianapolis would give them a very solid case for a playoff bid, setting up a potential rematch with Ohio State.

 

Washington’s loss may cause a PAC-12 absence from this year’s playoff

USC’s win over Washington made the Huskies the last PAC-12 team to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten.  It also helped Washington State jump to the top of the PAC-12 North Standings.

Teams from the PAC-12 have been beating up on each other all season.  In fact, Washington is the only team with only one loss, and the Huskies still have meetings with Arizona State and Washington State, and possibly a matchup with Colorado, USC, or Utah in the conference championship game.

Washington has played very well this season.  All but two of its wins have been convincing, but with the way the PAC-12 teams are beating up on each other this season, it is very possible that we see Washington lose one more time. That would mean the PAC-12 champion would have two losses and there should be plenty of one-loss, non-conference-champion teams that will be more deserving of a playoff berth.

However, if Washington does find a way to win its last three games, the committee will be hard pressed to leave them out of the playoff.

 

The Playoff Committee will have no easy task

There are a lot of conference titles to be determined, and there will be a lot of one loss teams with a very formidable résumé for the College Football Playoff Committee to choose from when the regular season comes to a close.

Be sure to check out Cooper Goetz’s ongoing coverage of the playoff selection process for more scenarios and opinions.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.

Photo: Sarah McDevitt, Flickr

The Sunday Morning Notebook: Last Name Edition

What?

We just hit the reset button on the season, I think.  It’s Alabama — then everyone else.

I generally struggle to pick which games to write about. This week it’s easy.

I give you The Sunday Morning Notebook: Last Name Edition.

 

Chris Didn’t Blow It

Clemson lost to Pitt, if you haven’t heard.

Chris Blewitt, who owns the best last name of any kicker in the history of football, hit a game-winning field goal with six seconds left to beat the Tigers in Clemson, South Carolina.

Deshaun Watson threw for over 500 yards in the game, but it was Pitt’s Nathan Peterman who stole the show.  A senior, Peterman played out-of-his-mind, throwing for a career-high five touchdowns to lead the Panthers to victory.  Not only is it a career high, but Peterman hasn’t even thrown for FOUR touchdowns this season, and he’s only thrown for THREE touchdowns ONCE in 2016.

Peterman’s 22 completions were the most he’s thrown this year (second most in his career) and his 308 yards marked the first time he’s ever thrown for more than 300 yards in a game.

Speaking of career days, Pitt’s Senior Tight End Scott Ordnoff caught more passes (nine) for more yards (128) and more touchdowns (two) than he’s ever had in one game during his college career.

Good timing from Peterman and Ordnoff.

Notes:

  • Watson threw the ball 70 times for 580 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.  Those numbers aren’t typos. His team lost, but he really boosted his Heisman resume.
  • Clemson’s Wayne Gallman rushed for three touchdowns on just 36 yards.
  • What will this do to Clemson’s playoff hopes? I don’t think anyone can accurately answer that question right now, but if they can win out and win the ACC Championship, I have to imagine they’ll still be in.

 

An Ugly, Boring, Beautiful Upset in Iowa

There isn’t much to report on this game, to be honest. Other than the fact that Keith Duncan became more famous than Duncan Keith for a few hours, as the freshman kicked his Hawkeyes to victory, much like Mr. Blewitt, to give Iowa its first win over a Top-5 team in six years.

Michigan’s Wilson Speight, who many people on my Twitter timeline were touting as the next Tom Brady (insert rolling eye emoji), completed 11 of 26 passes for 103 yards and an interception.

The brightest spot in the game was Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, who rushed for 115 yards on 23 carries.

Notes:

  • The loss for Michigan puts the Wolverines in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten East with Ohio State and Penn State. If those three teams are tied going into the final week of the season and the Buckeyes beat Michigan, that means Penn State would represent the East in the Big Ten championship game (assuming Penn State also wins its last game). Confused? Try this.

 

Can You Say Imatorbhebhe!?

Me neither. But I can say, “Washington Loses to USC.”

That’s right. The number two, three, and four teams lost yesterday, sending the media into a tailspin.

What happened here? USC contained Myles Gaskin and held Jake Browning at bay to upset the fourth best team in the nation.

To be honest, this game didn’t really look or feel like an upset.  USC looked like the better team from start to finish.  Sam Darnold passed the ball well for the Trojans, completing 23 of 33 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.  USC also found success on the ground, getting 93 yards and a touchdown from Ronald Jones II.

Freshman Daniel Imatorbhebhe, pronounced exactly how it’s spelled, baby, finished with 78 yards receiving and this touchdown. It was a remarkable performance considering he only had 114 total receiving yards this season heading into the Washington matchup.

Notes:

  • I have to imagine USC will jump pretty high in the polls.  The Trojans lost three of their first four games, but have rattled off six straight wins, winning by nearly 20 points per game.
  • The Washington loss may mean that the Pac-12 champion will not get into the College Football Playoff. There are a lot of one loss teams that won’t be conference champions that are worthy of a playoff bid (Louisville, Michigan, and Ohio State are possible examples). The way the Pac-12 teams have beat up on each other, it will be hard to send one team to the playoff over the rest.

 

Other Notes:

-Sure, three of the top four teams lost and that’s the first time that’s happened in a single day of college football since 1985. But did you know Auburn lost, too?

-And Texas A&M.

-So did Virginia Tech, by the way.

-To top it all off, in perhaps the craziest development of the day, the most juggernaut program in college football history lost its first regular season game in 113 tries.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.

 

Photo: Phil Roeder, Flickr

What Happened To Iowa?

Before the 2016 season began, the upcoming primetime matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday night was seen as a possible preview of the Big Ten Championship. Many pundits, including myself, predicted the Hawkeyes would be the team to beat in the West, especially with a slew of returning starters including All-American corner Desmond King and breakout quarterback C.J. Beathard, who led Iowa to a 12-0 record in 2015. However, after vastly overachieving last season, the Hawkeyes have been a major disappointment this year, stumbling to a 5-4 record. It’s been baffling to say the least. How did this happen? Let’s take a look.

First, it all starts with the most obvious position, the man under center. Stat-wise, Beathard’s numbers are similar to last year’s, though he passed for more yards in 2015 (2,809) and had nine 200-plus yard games in the regular season. This season, he is on pace for around 2,000 yards and has surpassed 200 yards just three times. In his defense, his favorite target Matt Vandeberg sustained a season-ending foot injury and there is a lack of explosive playmakers, not to mention a banged up offensive line. Iowa has used six different offensive line combinations in nine games. Some say, though, even with a few weapons, good quarterbacks are able to put a team on their back and elevate the play of others. So far, he hasn’t done that yet.

In addition, offensive coordinator Greg Davis has been under fire for conservative, predictable play-calling. Only once since Davis took over in 2012 have the Hawkeyes surpassed 205 yards per game in a season, and that was in 2014. Only once since 2011 have the Hawkeyes thrown for at least 20 touchdowns, and that also was in 2014. Iowa finished 7-6 in 2014. This season has clearly been his worse as the Hawkeyes rank 118th in total offense as well as 109th in passing yards per game (173.8) and average just a measly 6.3 yards per play attempt.

To make matters worse, the Hawkeyes have trouble running the ball, averaging 152.6 yards a game, good for 12th in Big Ten play. Iowa cranked out just 30 rushing yards on 26 carries in last week’s 41-14 loss at Penn State. Iowa’s offense is built to pound teams with the run and utilize play-action passing. With none of the receivers stepping up and an ineffective ground game unable to open up the field, the offense has been rendered obsolete. Also, the offense averages about 29 minutes per game (83rd) and as a result, there is tremendous pressure riding on Beathard’s shoulders and the defense.

On defense, the team is getting exploited in the air and on the ground. Purdue threw for 458 yards three weeks ago while Penn State accumulated 599 yards (359 rushing) last Saturday, the second-most allowed in Kirk Ferentz’s tenure. You know the same head coach who got a fat new contract following one season after losing the Big Ten championship and getting throttled in the Rose Bowl.

Anyway, the Wolverines lead the nation in rushing touchdowns with 36 and rank second in the Big Ten with 251.7 yards per game, so the Iowa faithful better brace themselves for the incoming hurricane. The only way for Iowa to stay within shouting distance of Michigan is to sustain drives on offense, get the ground game going and chew up the clock. Given the incredible limitations on offense going up against the nation’s top defense, that’s highly unlikely. Michigan has hit its stride after thrashing Maryland 59-3 and has no signs of letting up. Something drastic would have to change for Iowa and with three games left, I don’t see that happening.

Besides the long list of problems on offense and defense, some liken the Hawkeyes talent to a developmental program, constructed to win six or seven games and if they rise above that, it’s heavily determined by injuries, circumstances, attrition and luck. I can’t help but agree with that sentiment either.

Due to all these issues, I can understand the Hawkeyes taking a step back. But with so many starters returning, it’s baffling how much they have struggled, to say the least. Instead of front-runners, they are fourth in the West and I’m not sure they even are dark horses anymore. It’s been a rough year and a forgettable season. Until next time you win 9-12 games season, which may be a while given Ferentz’s track record, hang in there Hawkeye fans and good luck. You’ll need it.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image: Flickr user Phil Roeder

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