Tag Archives: Jerry Kill

Minnesota removes interim tag from Tracy Claeys – probably a good idea

On Wednesday morning, the Minnesota athletic department announced that Tracy Claeys, long-time assistant of former head coach Jerry Kill, was made the full head coach of the football team and signed to a three-year contract. All things considered, it’s not a terribly controversial position to take that this was the right move.

It isn’t an original or novel position either, as several others have written. By retaining Claeys, and almost assuredly most, if not all, of one of the most semi-famously stable coaching staffs in college football, on permanent basis, the team gets essentially continuity from Kill and his style and the best chance of holding onto most, if not all, of its 2016 recruiting class.

As it stands, the class hovers around the 30th best in the major services, and is considered to be the program’s best since Tim Brewster’s first class in 2008. Kill was steadily bringing in better talent, including in-state players that would have been lost to Wisconsin, Iowa, or a Michigan team in different times, and it was one of several strong indicators that he was the right person for this job. The others being consecutive 8-5 records in 2013 and 2014 and last season’s appearance in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, the first New Year’s Day game for the Gophers since the Kennedy Administration.

Coaching this team was for Kill, and is for Claeys, a culmination of a career spent working up the ladder the hard way. Have a look at the histories of both and you’ll see that, along (roughly) with offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, they’ve been together since Claeys was defensive line coach for Kill at DII Saginaw Valley State in 1995. Their trail goes through DII Emporia State, FCS Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, and, since 2011, Minnesota.

Obviously, the coaches’ demonstrated work ethic and dedication to craft and character is a powerful example players can follow – an important characteristic in the college game, where the vast majority of players don’t get the opportunity to earn a regular paycheck in football. This sounds like sappy sentimentalism for a supposed, mystical bygone era, but when every win means you’re one step closer to a winning record, it’s quite a bit more authentic. Authenticity in coaching football appears to be the consensus book on Kill, Claeys, and their present cohort.

At a “developmental” program like Minnesota, this kind of approach and attitude is probably even more critical than it would be at a “brand-name football factory.” During the latter part of the Glen Mason administration and well afterwards, Gophers would routinely show up on NFL rosters and practice squads and even on some draft boards. Players like Matt Spaeth, Tyrone Carter, and Ben Utecht come to mind.

Claeys is on record saying that he didn’t want the job this way – who would? – but he did want a head coaching job someday. His contract calls for $1.5 million in 2016, which is a bit below Big Ten/major conference scale; his three years are also short of the much more standard four or five. Claeys pays it all no mind:

“I’m comfortable with three years, because really, any head coach has three years . . . They can say there’s five years on the contract. If they don’t have three good years, they’re done. I’m very comfortable with everything about the contract. It’s our job to continue to improve, which we will. All that stuff will take care of itself.”

The job is clearly not a stepping stone for Claeys; he will make his stand right here in Minnesota of the Big Ten.

Minnesota, of course, also has an interim athletic director after the unfortunate August ouster of former athletic director Norwood Teague. Ongoing major capital projects complicate the department’s picture even further. For the department to keep the revenue-generating football program on solid footing, under a coach who should be as close to a known quantity as they can find, takes at least one thing off its worry list. With the coaching carousel the way it is already this season, Minnesota’s retention of Claeys look that much more sound.

Minnesota hasn’t been a powerhouse since the early 1960s – and to be more accurate, probably since the late 30s or early 40s. The program is still fifth in conference championships, but hasn’t sniffed one since 1967 (which was shared with Purdue and Indiana). Mason had the most success recently until Kill came along, but eventually even Mason’s was adjudged not enough. Tim Brewster replaced Mason with much fanfare and hope, but left the program in much worse shape than he found it. Kill, like he did at all of his other stops, got the program back on track. Now Claeys takes over to extend what Kill started; whatever that might be, it still seems as good as anything Minnesota’s had in the last 50 years. Ponder that: 50 years.

Although he’s served as acting and interim head coach other times before, Claeys took over this time facing, in succession, Michigan, Ohio State, and now when it’s for good, Iowa. With Iowa rolling, getting Floyd of Rosedale back is probably even harder than Gophers’ attempt to keep the Little Brown Jug two weeks ago. Illinois won’t likely be a respite, and then there’s Wisconsin to end the regular season. With Claeys firmly at the helm now, Minnesota might be able to just concentrate on finally getting that damn Axe back. Failing that in 2015, the Gophers can look forward to the foreseeable future sitting about in about as good a place as they can reasonably ask for.

Campus Pressbox 34: A Magpie Tournament and Adjusting Cups in College Football

Mike Wilson (@pigskinopinion) and Seth Merenbloom (@SMerenbloom) talk about the first week of the College Football Playoff Poll, the officiating at the Duke/Miami game, and the solid careers of Frank Beamer and Jerry Kill.

Topics:

  • College Football Playoff Poll: Week 1
  • Miami/Duke officiating: What type of discipline should be done?
  • Frank Beamer career: Who should take over?
  • Jerry Kill career: What does Minnesota do?

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More Than A Friday: Kill, Sloppy Football, and Site News

The Golden Gophers have been something of an uncomfortable subject in these parts, at least as a talking point. Understand, this is the Northern Illinois perspective that motivates that feeling of awkward towards the University of Minnesota, and specifically their departing head coach Jerry Kill.

When Kill led our beloved Huskies, he did well. In a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, NIU named Kill to replace the retiring Joe Novak after a disappointing 2007 season. Novak did many good things in Dekalb, but no one was writing home about what they did during that 2-10 season, which featured a 34-31 home loss to another directional Illinois school, Kill’s Salukis of Southern Illinois.

Kill went 23-16 in his three seasons leading the Huskies. He lost the Independence Bowl and the International Bowl in his first two seasons, and led the team to an 8-0 record in conference play before a devastating loss to Miami in the 2010 MAC Championship, which turned out to be his final game in the mid-major ranks. Were the Huskie faithful upset to be abandoned by their leader prior to the Idaho Potato Humanitarian Bowl? Sure.

Should they have been? Yeah, why not? No one, even a small school in rural Illinios wants to hear their program isn’t good enough for a man to finish what he started. Argue the flaws of the system, or the machine that is College Football as a business, if you will, but no matter how much I support the red and black, Minnesota is a better job than Northern Illinois.

NIU won their bowl game with an interim coach and ended up getting a huge win in the human resources department, poaching Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to replace Kill. So, it’s been “screw Minnesota” for the last six seasons, but the next guy did them dirtier.

Now, to be fair, Doeren was a staggering 23-4 in his two MAC Championship-winning seasons at NIU. His 2012 squad was and remains the only Mid-American Conference team to crash the high-major party, but that Orange Bowl berth against Florida State would be another contest the student athletes would take on without their full time head coach. Doeren would see plenty of Florida State in his next gig, with a guaranteed matchup against the ‘Noles in the ACC Atlantic Division. To date, he’s had little success with NC State in that regard, where’s he’s 0-for-2, with 2015 contest yet to be played.

As far as Kill is concerned, it was another “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” case with Minnesota, with Tim Brewster’s 2010 squad failing to achieve victory against the Huskies in Week 4 at home. Raise your hand if you recall anyone coaching the Gophers between Glen Mason and Kill1Note: my hand is not raised.. I suppose we can anticipate Kill having a role on the Big Ten Network in the near future.

Kill isn’t walking away because he cannot win, Minnesota is 29-29 with three bowl appearances since he’s taken over. He hasn’t lost his passion for a game that seems to have threatened to take his life, at least from where I sit. He’s choosing his remaining years over the game, and that’s admirable.

Going back to 2005, his heath issues have been among the world’s worst kept secrets. He had a seizure while leading SIU in 2005, and in 2010, he was treated for dehydration after a game at Northern. From 2011 to 2013, Coach Kill had four gameday seizures, promoting a 2-game leave of absence in 2013, but all seemed well when he returned to the Gophers sideline in 2014, where he seemed to have coached without incident.

Then, this week, he retired, citing health reasons. And, it was admirable. Poof; the animosity from NIU was gone. They felt bad for the guy. You might even say they were grateful for what he did for the Huskie football program and maybe even his mark on the game of College Football. This led me to wonder if we might want to let the Doeren thing become water under the bridge, but no such thing was happening.

“Oh no. NC State can still suck it!” And there you have it.

Whatever I Watched Last Night, It Wasn’t Good Football

I honestly don’t know how, in a vaccuum, I could watch a 3 OT College Football game with a dog in the fight, and come away unentertained or unimpressed, but Oregon and Arizona State did just that on Thursday night in Tempe. The Sun Devils ran 100+ plays on offense, but ignored their bread and butter for the most part, running the football. The ground game is also Oregon’s go-to, but they got away with not going to that well tonight, with a 61-55 road victory.

I prefer physical football, and I think we got that from Oregon’s Royce Freeman and ASU’s Kalen Ballage, who exploited your garden variety poor tackling we’ve become accustomed to in Pac-12 Country. The visiting Ducks didn’t seem to need physical as much, as they relied on explosive plays and defensive breakdowns, and the Sun Devils were happy to yield the latter of just enough occasions to prevent the Ducks from flying back to Eugene with a 4-4 record in a disappointing season.

Oregon’s problems aren’t new. Through this dominant run that seems to have come an end this season, they’ve never been fantastic on defense. It just hasn’t shown because the offense scoring 60 points per game2That’s a perception stat, not a researched one., which masks a lot of defensive deficiencies. The code seems to have been cracked; pick them apart and don’t let them off the field on third down.

Another thing, Vernon Adams, for all he gives you, just isn’t Marcus Mariota. Say what you want about system quarterbacks, but Mariota would thrive in whatever system he played in. Ditto for Mark Helfrich. He isn’t Chip Kelly, and when the Ducks find their backs against the wall, they don’t have that guy on the sideline with the confidence to know they’ll overcome the adversity. It didn’t show so much in Year 1 with Helfrich, but it was there.

As for the Sun Devils, they have turned the corner as a program, but they’re not ready for prime time on a consistent basis. Give it up for Todd Graham, building this program into something better than anyone I’ve ever witnessed, a team that plays with pride and counts on its defense to win, but they’re missing too many pieces to get it done in 2015. It doesn’t mean he should be on a hot seat3Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either., but he has to keep the Arizona high school talent in state and in Tempe. There are plenty of good quarterbacks in this state, and he’s still still going with Mike Bercovici.

Don’t get me wrong, Berco plays with the heart of a lion, and we saw plenty of that on Thursday night, but they can’t take the next step without more talent at the most important position on the field. Now, we just have to see if this 4-4 start is a slide back to mediocrity or simply a down year for Graham and the program. For a great program, these should be the worst of times, but if we’re back to business as usual at ASU, those three consecutive 10-win seasons we saw from Graham to start his tenure with the Devils will soon be easily forgotten.

MTAF News

I want to take a minute to introduce some additions to our More Than A Fan family. B. George Young, Chase Holik, and Nick Brzezinski joined our staff this month. BG will offer a little bit of local flavor to people in my neck of the woods, as our Arizona columnist, so stay tuned to what’s happening in the World of Sports, here in the desert from Mr. Young. Chase joins us from Austin, Texas, where College Football is kind of a big deal; he’ll opine on what’s happening in the state of Texas and the Big 12. Nick’s column will debut next week, with a zany breakdown on everything from the weekend, and I sincerely hope you look forward to that at least half as much as I do.

Josh Flagner is a familiar name around here, or at least he should be, he launched the site and handed me the keys last month. He’s been around with his football picks, and he’ll continue to do that for rising TV star Jeff Nomina’s NFL Pick ‘Em Contest, but I’ve given Josh a new role. It will be similar to what BG is doing for my local market, but back in Cleveland. Yes, we do have a fantastic regional site for Cleveland sports at MTAF Cleveland, but I felt it was unfair to neglect my native land on an all-sports site, like our publication’s main page is.

That’s all for this week; I wish you all the best for a great weekend, as my two worlds collide at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday, where the Cardinals visit the Browns for the first time since 2003.

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1. Note: my hand is not raised.
2. That’s a perception stat, not a researched one.
3. Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either.

College Football: Week 1 Features Ohio State’s Embarrassment of Riches

It only took five days, but our first weekend of College Football is in the books. We had a lot of chalk and some disappointment, but it was the “Wow!” moments that really jumped off the page. The bar was really set high for the individuals that the consensus expects to be in the running for that big heavy trophy, and for the schools interested in playing in that little tournament, well, they just had to win.

From the home of the Belk Bowl to the campus of the last program to slay the dragon that Urban Meyer built in Central Ohio, it was an extended weekend of debuts, vengeance, and perhaps an introduction to some new contenders. We’ll start in Blacksburg, where the first unanimous Preseason AP #1 team in the country took on Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies, seeking their pound of flesh for what took place in Columbus a year ago.

Ohio State 42 Virginia Tech 24

The story has been told, time and time again. Cardale Jones has never started a game in his own stadium for Ohio State, and on Monday night, he earned his first regular season victory, so it’s long past the time we stop referring to him as the Buckeye’s 3rd-string quarterback. In case you felt his previous three performances were some type of sorcery on the part of Meyer last December and January, the junior from Cleveland showed the magic is still there on Ohio State’s first possession, hitting Curtis Samuel on the money with a throw off of his back foot, good for a 24-yard touchdown. The next time the Buckeyes snapped the ball, Ezekiel Elliott went 80 yards to make it 14-0 in favor of the defending champs, perhaps making fans in Tuscaloosa feel better about things, but likely not.

It appeared the Buckeyes were going to roll, but misfortune, the type that goes beyond taking the field at Lane Stadium without Joey Bosa or Jalin Marshall on the field, struck, and the Hokies ripped off 17 unanswered, taking a 17-14 lead into the break. A missed Ohio State field goal gave the home team some momentum towards the end of the first quarter, but all of the credit in the world goes to Virginia Tech for designing a wheel route to full back Sam Rogers, who was all by himself on the left sideline. The big man had to hustle, but Eli Apple stood between him and the goal line and he shook the Buckeyes’ the third-year corner out of his shoes to cut the early advantage in half. Without the services of Marshall, Meyer had Elliott back returning punts, and call it inexperience or whatever, but the All-World running back struggled to field AJ Hughes second punt of the night, and four plays later, another nicely designed throwback to Ryan Malleck on third down gave the Hokies the lead.

Anyone remember Braxton Miller, the forgotten head on the three-headed monster of Ohio State’s open competition for the starting role last spring? They gave him a new number and a new position, and it only took him about a half of football to get his sea-legs beneath him. He did have a couple of rushing attempts and a nice diving 24-yard catch in the first half, which I think showed us he’s still a legitimate player, even when not behind center. On the third play of the second half, he took a pass from Jones and tip-toed by the Hokie defender, down the right sideline for 54 yards and the score. On the Bucks next offensive play from scrimmage, he gave the Scarlet and Gray their first Wow Moment of the season with a spin move that you can, yeah, only do on video games. From there, the rout was on.

https://vine.co/v/etJnO1lvnKm

Give Beamer and company some credit; they nearly made Mark May look smart. While the final score really was indicative of the game we watched, they did some really good things to take the straight-up running game away from Ohio State, despite big plays from Elliott and Miller, and they found enough vulnerabilities in the defense to put some points on the board and make this prime time affair interesting into the late night hours of Labor Day. The game really didn’t get out of hand until Brenden Motley had to spell starting quarterback Michael Brewer.

Unfortunately for Brewer, we live in a world where what you say with a certain expectation of privacy is subject to “going viral”. He was caught on camera, and yes, it’s likely he knew it was in his face, spouting off some one-liner about how it’s going to take a lot more than a fairly brutal hit he took on the Hokies last drive of the half to knock him out of the game. You can’t blame the kid; he was talking to his teammates in the locker room, more so than the national television audience through the lens of ESPN’s camera, but people are going to talk about karma. To that, I say “whatever”.

It’s widely believed that this is Ohio State’s last real test before Michigan State visits Columbus in November, and it’s hard to disagree. Up next, the Buckeyes get Hawaii, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan at home, and then a relatively simple conference slate, though I’m not ready to overlook Minnesota’s visit to the ‘Shoe on November 7th. For the Hokies, don’t expect the season to instantly go down the toilet after this acceptable performance. Last year, East Carolina beat Virginia Tech on their home field a week after they stunned Ohio State. Don’t expect Furman to follow suit; in fact, I’d say you can expect the Hokies to get their own pound of flesh from ECU on the road in a couple of weeks, and for them to be competitive in the ACC.

Marshall 41 Purdue 31

It was tough sledding for Darrell Hazell and Purdue in the only game on the slate for this pre-NFL Sunday. If Hazell and his signal-caller Austin Appleby never see Tiquan Lang again, it will be too soon for the both of them. Though, I’m very open to the possibility that Appleby never saw Lang at all, yeilding two pick-sixes to the Thundering Herd’s junior safety, which were good for the first and last scores of the game.

On the game’s very first play from scrimmage, Lang stepped in front of the intended receiver, and went 30 yards untouched to give Marshall the early lead, but there was still a good 59 minutes and change of football to be played. Purdue was able to recover on a DJ Knox touchdown run, on his way too a 100-yard day on the ground, but the game went back and forth all afternoon. The visiting Boilermakers led for most of the first half, until Devon Johnson put Marshall back up 34-31 with a 6-yard score, but Appleby had one more chance. After timeouts by both teams, it appeared the Purdue junior had too much time to think about it once again. And once again, an ill-fated pass attempt fell into the hands of Lang, who had to work harder on his second return, cutting across the field for a 55-yard score to put it to bed.

Given their early success in making the jump from Division I to Division I-AA with Chad Pennington and Randy Moss nearly twenty years ago, it’s difficult to believe Sunday’s win, in front of a home crowd of nearly 39,000 in Huntington, was the school’s first win over a Big Ten program, but the Boilermakers seem to be giving a few mid-Majors that milestone in recent years.

Alabama 35 Wisconsin 17

Hey Badger fans, I think Derrick Henry just scored again! Okay, maybe not, but the Alabama junior running back averaged 11.3 yards per carry, en route to three touchdowns on the ground at “The House That Jerry Built” in North Texas on Saturday. It probably would have been more, but the end zone kept stopping him. If there’s honestly a debate about the quarterback position at Alabama, and I don’t think there is, we gained no clarity about it on Saturday night. My gut tells me Nick Saban will let Jake Coker assume the role, unless his poor play forces his hand or Cooper Bateman takes things to a new level in the time he’s getting.

So, I know Gene Chizik was 5-19 at Iowa State before being awarded the Auburn job, where he landed the services of Cam Newton and won a title in his second season, so maybe I don’t read too much into Paul Chryst’s 19-19 mark at Pittsburgh. Seriously though, in Chryst’s debut with the Badgers, he wasn’t just behind the curve with the X’s and O’s, that Big Ten size and strength, which is supposed to be their finest asset in Madison, it’s not there. I’ve long thought that Barry Alvarez was the reason Gary Andersen chose a new gig in Corvalis over what he’s built in Madison, but he might have just seen the writing on the wall with what he wasn’t able to recruit. Sorry, but 16 yards on 8 carries for Corey Clement just isn’t getting it done; Melvin Gordon III isn’t walking back through that door and head coaches will dare Joel Stave to beat them all season.

Texas A&M 38 Arizona State 17

Is it possible to lose a game by more than just the numbers on the scoreboard? In being picked apart by Scottsdale, Arizona’s Kyle Allen and Christian Kirk, the very successful head coach of the Sun Devils, Todd Graham, was exposed for losses to the state of Texas in the recruiting game. Allen, the sophomore quarterback fighting off highly touted freshman Kyler Murray, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but Kirk was the star of the show. You get sick of hearing about video games when you’re discussing actual human athletes, but between his 79-yard punt return that put the Aggies up 14-0 early and his 66-yard touchdown catch and run, that status quo had cheat codes on their mind. I’d reference the Game Genie here, but it would be lost on everyone not born between 1975 and 1985.

After A&M’s season went downhill after their big win in the opener against South Carolina a year ago, Aggie fans can only be cautiously optimistic about Kevin Sumlin’s squad’s chances in the SEC. On the other hand, after watching how hapless the ASU offense was in Houston, there has to be some concern about senior quarterback Mike Berovici, a guy that wasn’t spectacular in his understudy role in 2014, despite the team’s success in games he started.

This neutral site game was the only game of any sort on the 2015 schedule that paired a Pac-12 school against a team from the Southeastern Conference. If you’re an SEC honk, you want the Sun Devils to dominate their conference. If you support a Pac-12 contender that isn’t Arizona State, you’re probably hoping your program isn’t basically a coin flip for that fourth playoff spot with a member of the SEC in December.

Northwestern 16 Stanford 6

We should probably acknowledge this battle of Academia that took place in Evanston, the most watchable matinee of the day on Saturday. Was this more about Kevin Hogan and Stanford being inept on offense, or does Pat Fitzgerald have a great defense at Northwestern? I fear David Shaw may be on the decline, the more we see time separate this program from the days of Jim Harbaugh.

One thing I’m hearing and I don’t agree with is that Stanford is suddenly too slow. Sure Hogan isn’t a runner on the level that Andrew Luck was, and Ty Montgomery is gone from the offense and special teams, but Michael Rector isn’t slow and we should see more of Christian McCaffrey in both the running and passing games. My guess is the offense works it out, but I don’t know if the glass is less than half-full when I look at that defense. The departing talent hasn’t been replaced, or the newbies haven’t been developed, but Northwestern owned the line of scrimmage when they had the ball. That’s going to be a problem for the Cardinal all year.

The victory in the trenches translated to a good game for running back Justin Jackson, who ran for 134 yards. However, it was quarterback Clayton Thorson’s 42 yard run, on what looked like a designed draw play, that represented the only touchdown of the day. The Wildcats will host an FCS team next week, and visit Duke in a few weeks, but expect them to finish non-conference play 4-0, setting up a big match up with Minnesota, on October 2nd at Ryan Field.

Ole Miss 76 Tennessee-Martin 3

Yuck, just yuck. Hugh Freeze, you’re in the SEC, and I know you want the home game at whatever price, but playing FCS foes is totally beneath you. Indiana got lucky doing this, but Wyoming, Washington State, and Kansas were not. Shame on everyone who partakes in this practice, even you Arizona State, where I’ll watch you rebound against cal-Poly, but still, Yuck!

Michigan State 37 Western Michigan 24

Kudos to the AD’s in East Lansing and Kalamazoo for making this happen, with the mid-major hosting the high major. PJ Fleck, your Western Michigan program isn’t quite there yet, but they didn’t look out of their element with a big boy from the Big Ten in town.

Michigan State might want to work on kick coverage this week, while the Broncos shouldn’t change a thing. Row your boat, fellas.

Charlotte 23 Georgia State 20

This game kicked off at 12:30 PM, during my work day on Friday. I caught the end on the ESPN app in my office. It was fourth College Football game I’d watched with some interest in a 24-hour span; yeah, I need help.

For the 49ers, it was their first game as an FBS program, and obviously also their first victory, but the Panthers of Georgia State made it interesting in the end.

TCU 23 Minnesota 17

I don’t know if I just don’t like the idea of B being a Heisman candidate, or if I have the bar set too high for him and, really, the rest of the Horned Frogs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think TCU is phenomenal when they have the ball, and that’s where the expectation comes from, but they just didn’t seem to have it, despite a nice victory over an underlooked Minnesota team on Thursday night at TCF Stadium.

He’s got weapons all around him, most notably Josh Doctson, and 246 passing on a day he rushed for 92 is far from underwhelming, but in real-time, I didn’t think he was anything special. That just tells me we haven’t seen anything yet from the offense. Based on what SMU was able to do to Baylor for 30 minutes on Friday, they might make for an interesting opponent for Gary Patterson’s defense, still a question mark for me after Minnesota had many opportunities Thursday.

Jerry Kill has a nice little team in Minnesota. They hung around the entire game, even if TCU did adjust better at the half. Rodney Smith seems like a good find; the freshman had 88 yards on 16 carries, but a lot of it that offensive line. Junior quarterback Mitch Leidner needs to be more efficient or throw the ball less, but I don’t know how much less he can throw it, considering he was sacked 20 times a year ago.

That Ref Deserves a Hug

Sometimes, I just can’t get over how the universe can even itself out. Two years ago, going left to right across the Big Red “N” at midfield in Lincoln, a backup quarterback heaves up a prayer. You know the rest, Jordan Westerkamp is on the receiving end for the touchdown and the win against Nebraska. Redemption is spelled R-O-N (Kellog).

Fast forward to Saturday, BYU down 28-27, 1 tick on the clock for Tanner Magnum, on in relief of the injured Taysom Hill. Mitch Matthews hauls it in for the win, but #11 Terenn Houk is the star of this Vine.

https://vine.co/v/eTVKrzL5T0E

…and the rest.

These are all of the items that are too short for a capsule of their own.

  • Penn State, I’m glad you went to Philly to play Temple, but how did you lose that game?
  • Michigan, you can’t run the ball and don’t have a real answer at quarterback. Jim Harbaugh isn’t saving you right away.
  • Between the Cactus Bowl and Friday’s somewhat awkward return to Boise for Chris Petersen, I’ve now bailed on Washington at halftime in consecutive games, only to learn the second half was interesting, the next day. Show up in the first half, Huskies.
  • Nicely done, Josh Rosen.   What a performance for the true freshman; he came with a lot of hype, but lived up to it.  UCLA wasn’t playing an FCS school on Saturday, they were hosting a Power 5.  It was Virginia, but still.
  • Northern Illinois, that’s two years in a row that you’ve dominated UNLV, but let them hang around. A MAC rival will take advantage at some point, just watch.
    We’re so spoiled with digital options for viewing, that it was aggravating that CBS Sports didn’t have an option and I’m told didn’t regionally switch to the UNLV-NIU game in DeKalb, while overtime was played in Tulsa.
  • By the way, way to finish your win over Florida Atlantic, Tulsa.
  • So, Auburn is pretty good.  Louisville might be too, but not based on their play Saturday.  Either way, good to see Verne and Gary on CBS in Week 1. (They called Ohio State-Navy for CBS Sports Network to open the 2014 season)
  • Play-by-play announcers and color analysts, it’s okay to punt in College Football. Not every opponent is Oregon, and not every situation near or behind midfield equals four-down territory. Our game is about field position, and you win it by punting when appropriate.
  • Adults that paint their bodies and dedicate their lives to “me time” on camera for their favorite College Football team don’t deserve the air time.
  • I’d rather get neutral site games than no game at all, but there’s something about the games being played on campus. Steve Spurrier, that atmosphere sucked with all of the empty seats in Charlotte. Go to Chapel Hill or have Larry Fedora bring his team to Columbia, and stop trying to do too much.
  • Nice touchdown reception, Robert Nkemdiche.  We’ll talk more about the two-way play of the Ole Miss pass-rusher, when they play an FBS foe.

Lastly, I think I underestimated how cool Scott Van Pelt’s midnight Sportscenter would be, because I was mostly upset about losing his radio show on my mid-day drives. I’d planned on getting straight to my writing room when the game ended, but I stuck around. It’s a shame the technical stuff had to be difficult in Virginia, I really would have loved to see him interview Braxton Miller.

Back on Sunday to discuss Week 2…61 hours until Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky kickoff.

Damien Bowman: Five Teams with the Most to Prove in 2015

Seth picked this topic, and it’s a good one. There are so many teams that have so much work to do based on how good or bad they were in 2014 that picking five is the toughest part. I’m actually doing this one on time, and I can’t cheat, so I’ll go off the path a bit.

Choose one team from each of the Power 5 conferences that you think has the most to prove in the 2015 CFB season.

ACC: The easiest target is Virginia Tech – not Florida State, they’ll be fine – but because I don’t think the Hokies make any significant improvement until Frank Beamer is gone, I’ll use these limited keystrokes on another team: Clemson. I would never call their schedule ‘easy,’ but I will say in 2015 the expectations for success of Swinney and company should be much higher than they’ve been in the past. The Tigers are known to do well early in the season, only to commit what I call ‘Pac-12 Suicide.’ Basically losing to a team they have no business losing to in an otherwise normal playing situation. College football is about as unpredictable as it gets, but assuming they survive Louisville and Notre Dame then their next big challenge is Florida State at home on November 7 and the season finale at South Carolina on November 28.

Clemson has depth issues at linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, and cornerback. So, basically everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, but on the positive side the offensive line looks as solid as it can be after losing so much in the draft. Tigers look good at wide receiver and might have help coming from the receivers. Make no mistake, Dabo Swinney’s entire 2015 campaign will be based solely on the defensive side of the ball though.

Big 12: Texas. Are there other teams in the Big 12? I mean there are, but Texas is the big dog…that went 6-7 last year under first year coach Charlie Strong. Strong has a lot to prove this year and given their schedule, their record after this season may resemble the 2014 campaign. Texas’ non-conference opponents are Notre Dame, Rice and Cal. Four years ago, I probably would have bet two months’ pay the Longhorns would win all three, now I’d guess they’ll beat Rice and maybe split Notre Dame and Cal. Honestly it depends on which Longhorns team shows up.

And wasn’t that the biggest problem for the 2014? We never knew which team was going to show up? Losses to Baylor and TCU cannot happen in 2015. Texas is supposed to be the biggest and best team in its state and many can argue if they repeat last year, they might be the third or fourth behind Baylor, Houston, TCU and Texas A&M.

Alright, Houston and Texas a&M might be a bit of stretch, but the point is the same. The schedule makers were not kind to Texas forcing them to play Notre Dame, TCU, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor on the road. Somehow Charlie Strong must find a way to work through the adversity and compete for the conference championship.

Big Ten: There are actually too many choices in this conference. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but that’s where we are. I believe though Minnesota has the most to prove. It’s time to find out if Jerry Kill’s success over the past few seasons can be maintained or the Golden Gophers have just been average in a bad division. Not forgetting how good the team was in 2013, we have to remember the team fell back to Earth in 2014. Now is the time we find out how good of a recruiter Jerry Kill and staff are, and find out how those kids stack up against the rest of the Top 25 with home games versus TCU and Michigan and what’s hopefully a night game at Ohio State on November 14.

What helps the Gophers to most is that the rest of the Big Ten West is mostly in shambles. Wisconsin hired Paul Chryst to replace Gary Andersen who left for Oregon State, but there’s no way to know how good or bad the Badgers will be. Nebraska hired Oregon State’s Mike Riley to replace Bo Pelini. This cycle is vicious. If there were a chance for Minnesota to win the division, 2015 would be it. Jerry Kill and company must seize this opportunity to show how far the program has come along.
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Pac-12: Southern Cal? Probably. This year they’re finally off Reggie Bush (I hear Pete Carroll was there too) sanctions and will return this season with their full allotment of scholarships. USC has had many coaches since Pete Carroll left, but many believe based on the 2014 campaign (9-4) they should be right in the mix to compete for the Pac-12 South. In case you forgot who else was in the South: Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State who all had 10 wins and all also finished inside the Top 25 in 2014.

What sets USC apart from the other three? At this point nothing does. It’s all on them to go out and earn back the respect they lost over the past four seasons. Steve Sarkisian has to find a way to put the drama of USC in the rearview mirror and face the tough challenge that is the Pac-12 South. As respected as Pat Haden is, there cannot be a repeat of him coming down from the press box to talk officials during the game. There also cannot be a repeat of student-athletes like Josh Shaw lying about injuries. Those incidents are the types that can destroy seasons for young teams like Southern Cal.
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SEC: Ole Miss. Easy. The men in Oxford have to prove that last season wasn’t an aberration. They also need to remind everyone which program is still the biggest and best in the state of Mississippi. Dan Mullins has done a hell of a job recruiting at Mississippi State, but really Hugh Freeze has all the resources in the world. All the marketing. All the swagger. Sure the Rebels stumbled at the end of the season, but being at or near the top is tough. Now is when we’ll find out if any of the three potential Rebel quarterbacks (Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan or Davante Kincade) are worthy of the starting job to replace Bo Wallace.

Ole Miss is “lucky” enough to get Alabama in Week 3 (September 19) and doesn’t face Auburn until November 7. Even though Ole Miss opens with two cupcakes, we’ll know by halftime of the Alabama game if this team has anything in its gas tank for 2015.

There you have it, five teams from five power conferences that have the most to prove? Which five teams do you think have the most to prove in 2015? Mitch, Warren, and Ryan give you five teams they think have the most to improve in 2015. Check them out.

Leave a comment below or e-mail Damien at [email protected].

Minnesota: In Cobb We Trust

The success or failure that the offense of the Minnesota Gophers will experience this year will come down to the ability of one individual. I am not referring to Coach Jerry Kill and his attempts to create new plays for the team or even sophomore quarterback, Mitch Leidner, but senior running back David Cobb. As my title would suggest the Gophers will need to put a lot of faith in Cobb if the offense is going to do much this season. Cobb had plenty of success last year and was the first Gopher running back to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since 2006. If the Gophers plan on maintaining or even improving on last season’s 8-5 record they will need more from Cobb. And Cobb looks to be ready to answer.
Cobb was relatively unproven coming into his junior season where he became a featured part of the Gopher’s offense. He rushed for over 1,200 yards on only 237 carries and scored seven touchdowns for a team that was not all that explosive offensively. Considering the team rushed nearly 600 times last year (586) and totaled 2,538 yards Cobb was vital to this team’s success. It can safely be assumed that Cobb will get even more work this season.
His average yards per carry was over a yard better than what the rest of the team last season; therefore, Cobb should be expected to carry this team on his back for much of the season in the rushing game. The team’s success is also closely linked to him having the ball in his hands and his ability to do something once he has the ball. Last season the Gophers were 5-1 when Cobb passed 100 yards rushing in a game and if that is a predictor of team success in the future there should be no reason that Cobb is not touching the ball more than 20 times per contest. Despite the fact that top recruit running back Jeff Jones joins the Gophers this season, expect his role to be limited into potentially spelling Cobb on long drives or when the outcome of the game is no longer in doubt (winning or losing).
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Cobb should also play a larger role in the passing game this season as well. While last season he had less than 200 yards receiving, I think we can expect a jump in his inclusion and production in the Gopher’s passing game. With a relatively inexperienced quarterback in Leidner starting for the Gophers, having a solid running back to rely on will be beneficial for his development. This will especially come into play when Leidner is under pressure and will need to dump off quick passes to Cobb either underneath or out in the flat. Also the fact that Leidner in his limited playing time was the Gopher’s second leading rusher last season will help to open up both Cobb and Leidner’s running game.
Thus David Cobb should be in for a monster season this year. It could even be one that Gopher’s fans will talk about long after it is over. As long as Leidner is able to keep opposing defenses honest with a consistent passing game and keep eight men out of the box, and Cobb is able to remain healthy as the primary back for the duration of the season, placing our trust in Cobb could prove more rewarding than anyone might expect.

2013 Big Ten Preview

For the Big Ten, 2013 could finally be the year.

B1GFinally, a team from the Big Ten could dethrone the SEC and win a BCS National Championship. The problem is, however, that team must bulldoze their way through the rest of the Big Ten to do so.

There is no question that team is the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are ranked number two and are as strong- on paper- as any team in the country.

So what’s the story with the rest of the conference?

It’s weak.

Try as hard as it may, the Big Ten can’t seem to shed the Big Ten label: “big and slow”. While certain teams will be able to use their size to their advantage and produce a solid season in doing so, the majority of the Big Ten will be as bad as advertised.

All that being said, we’ll go team-by-team and take a look at each team and prognosticate the season that lies ahead.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Projected Record: 13-0

Projected Big Ten Record : 8-0

Braxton Miller
As previously mentioned, Ohio State is by far the strongest team in this B1G conference. Lead by Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes could find themselves averaging 40 points per game on their way to becoming one of the most talented offensive teams in the country.

Defensively, the Buckeyes have question marks- the biggest of which is the defensive line. After losing Jonathan Hankins, John Simon, and Garrett Goebel, the Buckeyes look to replace experience with raw talent, as Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt, and Adolphus Washington lead the young d-line class.

Overall, the Buckeyes SHOULD go undefeated as they are the most talented team in the conference, but watch out for their October 5th matchup with the Northwestern Wildcats. After a successful season last year, Northwestern is looking to make a statement and what better way to do so than to beat the Buckeyes in a primetime night game at home on national TV.

 

 

Nebraska CornhuskersTaylor Martinez

Projected Record: 10-2 

Projected Big Ten Record: 7-1

Nebraska is another very strong team in the B1G, especially after returning QB Taylor Martinez and RB Rex Burkhead for the 2013 campaign. Martinez has seemingly improved year after year, regardless of his less-than-stellar mechanics and is certainly ready to finish his Cornhusker career as one of the best Nebraska quarterbacks of all time.

It’s the defense, however, that is questionable and may keep them from a Big Ten Championship. The front seven is a very young and inexperienced group, as they lost five starters last season, and will need to step up should Nebraska be a legitimate contender for a BCS Bowl berth.

The Cornhuskers play one out of conference game that they won’t win, and that’s a battle with the UCLA Bruins in Pasadena. UCLA is one of the most improved teams in college football- much in thanks to Jim Mora Jr.- and may get the best of this young defensive unit. In the Big Ten, however, Nebraska may lose one game and it may be the B1G Championship.

Northwestern WildcatsVenric Mark

Projected Record: 10-2 

Projected Big Ten Record: 6-2

The Wildcats are primed and ready for a HUGE year on the outskirts of Chicago. One of the better dual-threat QBs in the country, Kain Colter is ready to lead a dynamic offense, but will have the help of star running-back Venric Mark and bona-fide passer Trevor Siemian along the way.

Returning seven players on the defensive end, the Wildcats are looking to improve on their 47th ranked defense last season in which they allowed just 4,916 yards and 35 total touchdowns as a unit.

The Wildcats are a very strong team, but not quite strong enough to go undefeated. While the game against the Buckeyes is certainly highlighted, their battle with Wisconsin in Madison and the matchup with Nebraksa are going to be a very tough as well. If they somehow pull out these wins, Northwestern could legitimately run the table.

 

Michigan Wolverines

Projected Record: 10-2

Projected Big Ten Record: 6-2

Michigan may be one of the most intriguing teams in the Big Ten due to their poor performance last season. Coming in, the Wolverines were expected to compete for a Big Ten Championship and instead finished with five losses.

Head Coach Brady Hoke may be out of a job should that happen again, but the real pressure lies on QB Devin Gardner, who was actually more of a WR for most of the season last year.

Devin Gardner

Defensively, the Wolverines sport a tremendously talented group of young and old. Frank Clark is an emerging star on the defensive line, which may be one of the best in the Big Ten. Almost opposite of the Cornhuskers, Michigan’s strength is their defense which can go a long way in the Big Ten.

Michigan’s season relies on essentially four games: Notre Dame, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Ohio State. Their record in those four match-ups will determine exactly where they end up when the dust settles in 2013. The good news: the play three out of four of those games at home. The bad news: they’re the third-least talented of those four teams.

Wisconsin Badgers

Projected Record: 9-3

Projected Big Ten Record: 6-2

Almost needless to say, this year is going to be a very transitional one for the Badgers as they try to replace some huge pieces.

The first piece is obviously head coach Bret Bielema, who left Wisconsin suddenly and then confessed that he was always a “closet SEC fan”. He was replaced by Utah State’s Gary Andersen, who is absolutely a tremendous football coach in his own right.

Gary AndersenIf Andersen has a tight grasp on these players and this conference, the Badgers could be well on their way to another B1G Championship. They return 25 seniors in 103, making them one of the most experienced in the entirety of the conference.

This season, however, the Badgers may not get so lucky as to find another “free agent” QB to lead their offense. A three way competition between Joel Stave, Curt Phillips, and Tanner McEvoy may ultimately prove fruitless and the Badgers could be sent searching for answers on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, they’re a rarity in their 3-4 scheme but have questions in their defensive backfield. Only one starter returns for the pass-coverage unit and that could be troublesome in this offensively-dynamic conference.

Wisconsin has three tough games on the schedule and may lose all three. The first is a non-conference battle with Arizona State that may prove to be a tough test. The next is Ohio State’s first night game of the season and that may be too much for them to handle. The final test is home against Northwestern with a chance to prove they belong at the to of this conference. Outside of those three games, however, Wisconsin should have a pretty smooth ride.

Michigan State Spartans

Projected Record: 8-4 

Projected Big Ten Record: 5-3

We all remember the anemic Michigan State offense last season and that offense may be well on it’s way back in 2013. A 7-6 team last year thanks to that lack of offensive production, the Spartans shouldn’t be all that different this year. QB Andrew Maxwell returns for his fifth year with Michigan State, but only his second as a starter.

Andrew Maxwell

This season he won’t have Le’Veon Bell to hand the ball off to and that may force him to make the throws necessary to win his team some games. Ultimately, I think we’ll see a better Andrew Maxwell in year two.

Mark Dantonio has built a defensive juggernaut and that’s the only saving grace for this Michigan State football team. A superbly talented group on defense, the Spartans will fill the holes left by three senior stars with no problem.

Again, that’s the way Dantonio has recruited.

The Spartans season will come down to three straight, very important games near the end of the year. A loss at Notre Dame will leave the Spartans with a 7-1 record going into this stretch: vs. Michigan, @Nebraska, and @Northwestern. If they somehow squeak by in two or three of those three games, the Spartans will be well on their way to a very successful season.

Indiana Hoosiers

Projected Record: 7-5 

Projected Big Ten Record: 4-4

Kevin Wilson is well on his way to completely rebooting a down and out football program in Bloomington, Indiana. With his wide open offensive scheme, Wilson is going to allow the Hoosiers to score points and score points quickly.

Tre Roberson will be back behind center for the Hoosiers in 2013 after a injury-plagued 2012 and will have receiver Shane Wynn as one of his primary targets. A Cleveland-native, Wynn had 68 receptions for 660 yards for an average of 9.7 yards per reception and six touchdowns last season. With Roberson back in the fold, Wynn could be even that much more dangerous in 2013.

Shane Wynn

Defensively Wilson’s group is not as effective. It was Wilson’s job to bring offense to Bloomington and he has done so. The defense will be the next project. Overall not an awful group, the defense is looking to replace seniors lost on the defensive line while making sure to bolster the production of the defensive backfield.

The Hoosiers have a pretty tough schedule, but will certainly make do with what is in front of them. Trips to Columbus, Madison, Ann Arbor, and East Lansing, as well as home battles with Navy and Missouri could put this team below .500, but the Hoosiers offense is going to take care of a few games and keep them above that mark.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Projected Record: 6-6

Projected Big Ten Record: 2-6

Regardless of the Gophers’ performance over the last couple of seasons, one thing is for certain: you have to love Jerry Kill. An absolute fighter, the head coach of the Gophers spent most of last season dealing with seizures and other problems that kept him off the sidelines. Each time, however, there was Kill itching to get back to the sidelines he loves.

blg 15 maturi presser.JPGThe Gophers seem to finally be adjusted to Kill’s offensive system and have bought into his program, but the problem lies in the talent pool. There just isn’t that much there. Sure, they have a solid offensive line, but what good is an offensive line if there’s no one to protect or block for?

The problems don’t stop there, however.

The defense was consistently inconsistent last season, but did finish the season ranked number 33 in the nation in terms of total defense. The issue was that when they stopped the run, they couldn’t stop the pass and when they stopped the pass, they couldn’t stop the run. It was a see-saw season that will need not be replicated in 2013 if the Gophers want to finish above .500.

The Gophers have a great non-conference schedule, but run into that brutal Big Ten Legends division almost right away. After starting 5-0, the Gophers could lose their next seven games, but should pull out at least a single victory.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Projected Record: 6-6

Projected Big Ten Record: 5-3

Last season was an inspiring one in Happy Valley, as head coach Bill O’Brien took this Penn State team to where no one thought was possible. After an embarrassing start, the Nittany Lions finished 8-2 to finish the year at 8-4- incredibly successful considering all the adversity they faced.

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Even after O’Brien returned after much NFL speculation, last season will be the last good one for quite a while thanks to Jerry Sandusky.

The bottomline for the Penn State offense is that they need to run the ball and run it often. Last season, 1,000-yard rusher Zach Zwinak lead the offense to their their successful season, as the Nittany Lions were 1-3 when he touched the ball less than 12 times. If they want to have any success, they’re going to have to rely on their stud back to get the job done again.

Defensively, there is no replacing Michael Mauti. Mauti was the inspirational leader of this Penn State team last season and his presence will be sorrily missed not only in the locker room, but on the field as well. At “Linebacker U”, senior Glenn Carson and junior Mike Hull will have to step up to mirror the production they got from the position last year.

Penn State’s recruiting is slowly going to decline and it’s already starting to show. The talent pool isn’t nearly what it used to be in Happy Valley and the unfortunate thing is that it’s fault of no one who is currently in the football program.

The out of conference Penn State schedule is sneakily difficult, as Syracuse, UCF, and Kent State could all derail their bid for a good season in State College. It wouldn’t be surprising if one, two, or all three of those teams beat the Nittany Lions, although it also wouldn’t be likely.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Projected Record: 4-8

Projected Big Ten Record: 1-7

A once proud and elite football program, the Hawkeyes and the pink locker room they afford their opponents are no longer intimidating.

Kirk Ferentz- the second longest tenured coach in Iowa history- will hand the reigns to sophomore Jake Rudock, as he tries to restore this program to it’s prior glory. Unfortunately, Ferentz and the very green Rudock will fail to do so in year one of this experiment.

Jake RudockThe strength of this Iowa team, as seemingly always, is their offensive line. Again, just as was the case with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, what good is an offensive line when they are much more talented than the skill players they block for?

While the offense may be nothing to write home about, the defense should actually be a productive group. A solid defensive line will certainly help with the run-stoppage, Iowa did lose one of the Big Ten’s best in cornerback Micah Hyde last season. If they can find another Hyde, which is as unlikely as it seems, their defense may help them to win more than four games this season.

The Hawkeyes narrowly escaped Northern Illinois in their opener last season, but will fail to do so this season as the Huskies are primed for a huge 2013 campaign. Starting at 0-1 wouldn’t be great, but a loss to Iowa State in the third game of the year would be even worse. Iowa’s goal should be to beat their less-than-mighty in-state rival, Purdue, Missouri State, and Western Michigan, while improving with each game of the season.

Purdue Boilermakers

Projected Record: 2-10

Projected Big Ten Record: 1-7

For the Purdue Boilermakers, the future looks bright.

The present? Not so much.

Although his first year at Kent State may seem contrary, Darrell Hazell isn’t going to be able to turn around this Purdue football program around in just one season and it’s not even his fault.

Hazell

The Boilermakers schedule is absolutely brutal this season and it starts nearly right away. After opening up the season away against a good Cincinnati team and at home against Indiana State, the Boilermakers face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Wisconsin Badgers, and Northern Illinois Huskies in back-to-back-to-back weeks.

That stretch could render them with just a single win heading into Big Ten play where, again, they’re overmatched.

There is a sneaking submission, however, that Purdue is going to compete with the Buckeyes when they come to West Lafayette. As was evidenced last season, Ohio State continually struggles with the Boilermakers and Hazell will certainly worsen that problem.

Purdue may only have a single win coming into their final game of the season with the hated Hoosiers and a win there could salvage the entire season.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Projected Record: 2-10

Projected Big Ten Record: 0-8

The 2013 season is going to be more of the same for the Fighting Illini and head coach Tim Beckman. Beckman was brought in to revive this Illinois football program, but when the cupboard was left bare it’s going to take some time.

While the excitement for senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase was abounding just a couple of years ago, the dual-threat athlete has been underwhelming in his three years with the Illini.

His decline can be seen clearly in his numbers and they’re absolutely alarming.

Freshman year: 1,825 yards, 17 TDs, 8 INTs.

Sophomore year: 2,110 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs.

Junior year: 1,361 yards, 4 TDs, 8 INTs.

Aaron BaileyPrediction: four-star freshman Aaron Bailey (pictured left) will start almost right away for the Illini.

The experience on offense is certainly not mirrored by the young and exuberant defense, which is looking to turn things around. The growing pains may be abounding- especially on the defensive line- but could be worth it as they learn on the fly in the Big Ten.

With the complete overhaul of this team in it’s nascent stages, it’s hard to see the Illini winning more than one or two games. Of course, Scheelhaase could return to his freshman form or Bailey could become the go-to guy, but more than likely this teams offense is going to be abysmal.

Illinois will beat Southern Illinois to start the season, but after that it’s anyone’s guess. Home games against Cincinnati and Miami (OH), as well as a “home” game with Washington at Soldier Field, are going to be tough and so is their Big Ten schedule which features Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern.

While the losing and the growing pains may be tough to swallow, for the players, the coaches, and the fans of the Illini it’s going to be all about patience.

Review: How They’ll Finish

Leaders

1. Ohio State Buckeyes 12-0 (8-0)

2. Wisconsin Badgers 9-3 (6-2)

3. Penn State Nittany Lions 6-6 (5-3)

4. Indiana Hoosiers 7-5 (4-4)

5. Purdue Boilermakers 2-10 (1-7)

6. Illinois Fighting Illini 2-10 (0-8)

Legends

1. Nebraska Cornhuskers 11-2 (7-1)

2. Northwestern Wildcats 10-2 (6-2)

3. Michigan Wolverines 10-2 (6-2)

4. Michigan State Spartans 8-4 (5-3)

5. Minnesota Golden Gophers 6-6 (2-6)

6. Iowa Hawkeyes 4-8 (1-7)

Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State Buckeyes over Nebraska Cornhuskers, 45-28.

Final Notes

  • The teams to look out for in this conference are Ohio State, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Michigan. While they are projected to finish in that order, look out for Michigan to excel or Northwestern to finish in the top ten.
  • If Ohio State doesn’t go undefeated, it’s their own fault. Fans in Columbus should be disappointed in anything outside of a National Championship appearance.
  • Indiana is a surprise team to look out for. Their offense is real and if their defense can hold up, watch out for Kevin Wilson and his team in Bloomington.
  • Michigan State may finish near the bottom of this conference. If Andrew Maxwell isn’t a different Andrew Maxwell this season, things could head south quickly for the Spartans.
  • Michigan is probably better than projected, but it’s hard to tell. We haven’t really seen Devin Gardner at his fullest and no matter how the defense plays, it’s going to be Gardner that guides the ship.
  • Finally, Notre Dame should be in this gosh darn conference. I know they have selfish financial goals, but so many schedules in the Big Ten have Notre Dame on them. It’s ridiculous really.