Tag Archives: maryland terrapins

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

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Week 1 – September 4, 2017

Welcome back to college football, the weekend was glorious, wasn’t it? We’re left with just Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech on the Week 1 schedule, so I think it’s a good time to play the Good, the Bad and the Ugly game with Week 1. Short of Tennessee losing and Butch Jones being left on a tarmac at Atlanta’s airport, nothing can top what we’re about to talk about.

The Good

Easily the best story in college football this week is UAB. After a three-year hiatus and my friends in Tuscaloosa doing everything in their power to prevent football in Birmingham, the Blazers have returned and were triumphant over Alabama A&M. On their first drive, UAB went 76 yards in fourteen plays and converted a touchdown on fourth down. Solid start.

UAB’s football schedule is mostly “easy,” but a solid showing against Florida on Sat Nov 18 could go a long way in bringing more of the right kind of attention to the program in 2017 and beyond.

Also, nice to see a record crowd for UAB in its return, but the long-term success of the program depends on constant support from fans and the community.

The Bad

This wasn’t a great opening weekend for three of the major football teams in Texas. Texas A&M was up on UCLA last night and forced the Bruins to score 34 points without a turnover is nothing short of amazing. Honestly, I turned the game off and switched to NASCAR then Netflix. If we started the evening with Jim Mora at the top of the coaching hot seat, he was quickly replaced by Kevin Sumlin.

Then there’s Tom Herman’s debut at Texas. For the record, I didn’t think Herman was ready for a job like Texas when he was hired and I’m not saying that Saturday’s loss to Maryland cemented that thought to me, because one game does not make a coach. Herman will have his team playing better, and as Chase will tell you this week there’s a lot that likely needs to happen behind the scenes for the Longhorns to get better. Turning non-Power 5 Houston around is a lot easier than turning Big 12 Texas around. That said, in the earlier three meetings between Maryland and Texas, Maryland had never scored; on Saturday they scored 51.

Last, we must talk about Baylor. I think we knew at some point all the shenanigans related to the off-field sexual assault was going to catch up to them in a big way. Coaching changes, players leaving or refusing to play there, negative press, and the constant stories hurt. Did I ever think it would show itself against FCS Lamar in Waco? absolutely not. Do I think this is absolute rock bottom for Baylor? Not even close.

The Ugly

99-0 was the score between St. John’s University and St. Scholastica (yes, she is real because I’m Catholic and I also checked Wikipedia.) in beautiful Collegeville, Minnesota. Per SB Nation, St. John’s used – and get ready for this one – almost 180 players in this game and wanted to play the fourth quarter with a running clock, but the men of Benedictine from Scholastica said, “No, thanks.”

Amazing.

And as a bonus: The Weird

Lane Kiffin. Down by 23 as his FAU Owls are facing the Midshipmen of Navy, the game is already in its third lightening delay and it is nearly 1am and Kiffin refuses to let the game go. He forces both teams to come back out, btw – Navy had already eaten their post-game meal, only to lose the game 42-19.

We get it, Lane – it’s still all about you.

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Wikipedia

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.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Over/Under: Big Ten East

Last time I wrote, I did over/under projected victories for the Big Ten West this upcoming season based on what we know as of now and as promised, I have the Big Ten East this time around.

Indiana 6-7, 4-5 = Over 7-5, 4-5

Defensive coordinator Tom Allen takes over at head coach and the Hoosiers are eager to continue to build upon their success from 2016 when they made back-to-back bowl trips for the first time since 1990. In Allen’s first year, the Hoosiers defense made vast improvements, improving from 121st in yards allowed per game (509.5) in 2015 to 45th (380) in 2016. Linebacker Tegray Scales led the FBS with 23.5 tackles for loss and Rashard Fant led the conference with 17 pass breakups. Yet, despite the defensive success, Indiana struggled mightily on offense with 29 turnovers (123rd) and a 71.4 red zone score percentage (127th). If the Hoosiers can improve in these areas, getting several more wins shouldn’t be hard.

Maryland 6-7, 3-6 = Under 4-8, 1-8

In head coach DJ Durkin’s first season, Maryland improved from a 3-9 record to finish 6-7 and nabbed a bowl bid after drastically reducing their interceptions from an FBS-leading 29 to nine and also brought in the 17th-ranked recruiting class for 2017 in the off-season. There’s a lot of optimism and the future looks bright for the Terrapins but there are some huge obstacles including inexperience at quarterback with Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe moving on, suspect pass protection (49 sacks, 127th) a bad turnover margin (minus seven, 107th), not to mention a tough Big Ten East division. Remember Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan outscored Maryland 159-20. I see the Terrapins taking a step back before they go forward.

Michigan 10-3, 7-2 = Over 11-1, 8-1

With the departure of 17 starters and finishing 1-3, it is going to be a fascinating season for Michigan as they look to improve upon a 10-3 record in Jim Harbaugh’s third season. For most teams, losing that many starters would certainly be a devastating blow but with three loaded recruiting classes and continuity at quarterback with Wilton Speight returning, the Wolverines should remain a top contender for a conference championship. Plus, defensive coordinator Don Brown, who helped Michigan finish No. 2 in total defense and produced similar results at Boston College in 2015 with much less talent, returns. Yet, even if these underclassmen can deliver, I still think that the more experienced Buckeyes have the edge.

Michigan State 3-9, 1-8 = Over 5-7, 3-6

Coming off a disappointing 3-9 season and with a sexual assault investigation against several Spartans underway, things are not exactly sunny in East Lansing. Plus, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this team such as if projected starting quarterback Brian Lewerke, who had shown some flashes of potential in his limited experience before breaking his leg against Michigan, can be a reliable playmaker. He will need to deliver for an offense that was minus 58 in fourth quarter point differential. Also, can the Spartans improve upon a weak pass rush that yielded a measly 11 sacks? A lot of improvement will be needed to contend again but getting to a bowl is still within reach.

Ohio State 11-2, 8-1 = Over 13-0 (Big Ten champion), 9-0

In 2016, Ohio State appeared poised for another title run but J.T. Barrett had problems getting the ball downfield as the Buckeyes averaged 6.8 yards per pass attempt (88th in FBS) so new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day were hired to fix that. I and my fellow writer, Mark Silverman feel this could be a deadly offense with Wilson calling shots. On defense, only one team was more effective in the red zone, with the Buckeyes giving up touchdowns just 37.5 percent last season (15-40). With the exception of Raekwon McMillan, starters return at every spot in the front seven. If Barrett returns to 2014 form and the defense delivers, this is a legitimate national title contender.

Penn State 11-3, 8-1 = Under 10-2, 7-2

Despite starting 1-2, the Nittany Lions won nine straight to take the Big Ten due in large part to an explosive offense led by Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. Averaging a conference-best 9.3 yards per pass attempt, McSorley made tremendous strides in his second season, totaling 29 touchdowns, eight interceptions and 3,614 yards (No. 1 in Big Ten), while Barkley led the conference with 18 rushing touchdowns. On defense, there are holes up front with both starting defensive ends gone but an experienced secondary with Marcus Allen and Grant Haley. There’s a lot to like here and while I don’t see them beating Ohio State in magical fashion again, I see them securing another 10-win season.

Rutgers 2-10, 0-9 = Neutral 2-10, 0-9

The gap between Rutgers and the league’s elite is already massive as the Scarlet Knights were outscored an insane 224-0 against Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. Unfortunately, at the rate the elite teams are growing and recruiting, I see the gap becoming larger before it gets smaller. Even with the hiring of Jerry Kill as offensive coordinator and the return of Janarion Grant, who is tied for the most kick and punt return touchdowns in history with eight, there’s only so much a few men can do here. Plus, it’s still a mystery if presumed starter Giovanni Rescigno is the answer at quarterback. It’s going to be another long year as Rutgers remains the conference’s doormat.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Bilal Kamoon

The Real Madness of March

Every year, I spend far more time and energy than I should filling out my NCAA Tournament March Madness bracket.  I debate whether chalk or Cinderella’s will prevail.  I agonize over which 12-5 upsets are ripe for the picking.  I look at strength of schedule and see who beat who, as if that matters.  Then, I spend the entire tournament second guessing myself.

Inevitably, I get caught in between rooting for my bracket and cheering for those Cinderella’s that capture our hearts.  It ends up being a very stressful month and at the end, I never feel like I have fully enjoyed what is truly an amazing sporting event.

I like to act as if I know what I’m talking about when predicting these games.  Really, I don’t.  None of us do.  Why bother pretending?  It’s not like I’m a big college basketball fan anyway.  I mean, sure, I watch the tournament religiously.  The first Thursday and Friday of games are days that I believe should be national holidays.  Why play the charade of going to work and acting like I’m not watching online?  I am.  #SorryNotSorry (I am, however, sorry I just used that expression. #NeverAgain)

Anyway, when it comes to regular season college basketball, I never watch many games.  This season though, that’s never been truer.  Confession: I watched a grand total of three full college basketball games this winter.  The complete list: Mt. St. Mary’s vs. Michigan (I was actually in attendance), Xavier vs. Cincinnati (Go Bearcats! #BeatX), and Tulsa vs. Cincinnati (Again, I was in attendance).

So, yeah, I don’t really have any idea what went on this college basketball season.  (Though, I hear tripping people has become a hot button issue.)  What I do know, from hardly following along, is that there was a lot of movement in the Top 25.  It seems to me that this is one of those years where there are a ton of good teams in the field, but not many great ones.  Is that a fair assessment?  Honestly, I’m asking.

Let’s highlight some things as I take my first look at the bracket.  (That’s right; I didn’t watch the selection show either.)

East

Hey!  Mt. St. Mary’s made the field… sorta.  The only first round upsets I have here are Marquette over South Carolina and New Mexico State over that Baptist school in Waco, Texas.  Give me Virginia over Florida in the second round.  Other than that, there’s nothing too exciting.  Looks like an easy path to the Final Four for defending champion Villanova.

Midwest

Woo, lots going on here.  First, Michigan State got lucky.  The Spartans are bad but the Hurricanes sound beatable.  The rest of the first round seems pedestrian but man, look at these possible second round matchups.  Kansas vs. Michigan State is enough said.  Iowa State meets Purdue in a battle of teams with high hopes.  Creighton vs. Oregon will be fun.  And Michigan gets a shot at revenge against Louisville.  I’m still upset about 2013 and, as a result, I’m going into full homer mode.  The Wolverines beat the Cardinals, the Ducks, and the Jayhawks on their way to Phoenix.  (#SorryNotSorry… Damnit, that didn’t last long.)

West

Smart guy alert in the 8-9 matchup as Northwestern and Vanderbilt get together.  Wait, the Northwestern Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament!  Congrats to them.  I’ll even pencil in an opening round win for them before getting smacked by Gonzaga.  Give me the other smart guys at Princeton to pull the upset on Notre Dame.  On the bottom half, I’m going a little upset crazy.  Florida Gulf Coast makes another run to the second weekend with wins over Florida State and Maryland.  And St. Mary’s finds its way to the Elite Eight for a fourth try at besting West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga.  You know what they say, “it’s tough to beat a team twice, thrice, four times in the same season.”  Well, Gonzaga will.

South

I’ve got Seton Hall beating Arkansas for the same reasons I have Marquette beating South Carolina.  I’m Catholic and the SEC is still a terrible basketball conference, until proven otherwise.  Middle Tennessee State earns its second tourney win over a Big Ten opponent in as many years, my second 12 over 5.  Cincinnati will beat UCLA with a superior defense the likes of which the Bruins have never come up against.  Unfortunately for my adopted school, the Kentucky Wildcats will be waiting in the Sweet Sixteen.  North Carolina will be able to handle Coach Cal’s bunch en route to yet another Final Four.

Final Four

Last year’s championship game was so phenomenal, why not have a rematch?  Michigan and Gonzaga fall victim to destiny.  This time around, Villanova won’t need a buzzer beater.  The Wildcats will repeat, beating North Carolina quite easily.

There you have it.  Now all that’s left to do is wait until Thursday so I can hide my internet browser behind some important-looking work stuff and enjoy this damn thing for once.

I recommend you do the same, but don’t expect many of you to.  That chance at glory is too tantalizing to pass up, isn’t it?  Yes, you’d rather drive yourself crazy trying to arrive at the perfect bracket that you’ll literally never achieve.

And to you all I say have fun losing your group for the umpteenth time to your aunt who bases her picks on the team mascots.  After all, this is the real madness of March.

E-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll send you back an invite to my bracket group.  Should be easy to beat me since I’m not trying, right?

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Big Ten Does Its Best MAC Impression

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Big Ten’s recent adoption of Friday football is exactly that.

Last week, the conference announced the inclusion of six Friday night contests in its 2017 television partnership with FOX. “All things considered we thought it was worthwhile to dip our toe in the water,” said Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner.

Sure Big Ten, it’s fine to dip your toe in the water, but understand this: there’s a big, blood-thirsty shark lurking in that water. That shark? The #MACtion.

The Big Ten can conceal its jealousy for the Mid-American Conference no longer. After years of watching weekday football from the outside looking in, Delany and the Big Ten finally caved to their better instincts. The only way for the Big Ten to solidify itself as a premier college football conference is to follow in the MAC’s footsteps.

After all, what does the Big Ten have that the MAC doesn’t? The MAC’s best team is ranked above ten teams in the Big Ten and defeated two of those teams. You can’t tell me watching Purdue on a Saturday is that much more valuable than watching Miami University on a Friday.

Let’s not even consider the fact that weekday games are a terrible idea for the Big Ten. Let’s not even consider the horrific effects it’ll have on recruiting for benchmark programs like Penn State and Michigan. Let’s simply evaluate how pathetic it is that the Big Ten is stooping to the MAC’s level.

By adding weekday games, the Big Ten is admitting it cannot compete within the traditional Saturday slate. Maybe Ohio State and Wisconsin can. But Illinois? Iowa? Rutgers? Maryland? Not so much. Moving to a weekday sends the clear message that those teams are effectively as hapless as MAC members when it comes to generating television revenue. It also sends the message that attendance at those games are so bad already that moving to Fridays – where they’ll presumably lose ticket sales – won’t really matter.

The Big Ten has never looked stronger in recent history, which is why the decision to relegate their product to Friday evenings is so peculiar. Perhaps the Big Ten brass understand that action needs to be taken in order to salvage the lagging members of the conference.

Or maybe they’re just paying homage to their conference from another mother. Looking at you, MAC. Never change.

Email Cole at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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It’s Time to Talk About the Terrapins

The Big Ten is having what can be generously declared a bounce-back year for the most part. There are currently three teams dwelling within the AP Top Ten, with the University of Michigan looming large at No. 2 in the nation. Lurking just outside at no. 11 is Wisconsin and Penn State joining the party this week at no. 24. Almost a third of the top ten and 20% of the rankings? Yeah, that’s pretty good.

It’s fair to talk about the teams that reside inside the Top 25. They’ve played well and earned the right to be ranked. However, there’s another team in the Big Ten that deserves a mention and is getting more or less swept under the rug. Iowa’s getting some talk still, Northwestern’s drawn some attention after a hot streak and Rutgers is being mentioned for all the wrong reasons.

But no one wants to talk about Maryland.

First off, shame on everyone because Maryland’s mascot is a terrapin named Testudo, which is awesome. Schools with cool mascots should always be mentioned. Looking at you, Wake Forest.

Now I know when you look at the record, 5-2 isn’t terribly impressive. Fun fact: ten schools in the AP Top 25 have two losses. Three inside the top ten have a single loss. Wisconsin has two losses, is ranked 11th, and hasn’t really beaten anyone. Sure the Badgers beat LSU but how good is LSU really? Probably not very so let’s not dwell on those two losses.

Maybe Maryland’s five wins aren’t the most impressive, but wins are wins. Beating Michigan State isn’t all that impressive these days but UCF is a pretty good team. They’re beating the teams they’re supposed to and their loss to Penn State looks a little better right now.

When you get into the numbers a little more, Maryland starts to look a little better and more deserving of being talked about. Know who has scored more points in the Big Ten than the Terrapins? Michigan, Ohio State, and Nebraska–who conveniently are all in the top ten. Maryland is tied for fourth with Iowa, who was expected to win the West. Maryland ranks fifth in points allowed in the Big Ten trailing, you guessed it: those top ten teams and Wisconsin. Penn State has allowed just shy of 50 more points than the fightin’ Terrapins. That’s Penn State who is ranked by the AP, mind you.

Maybe we’re just getting nit picky. Maybe Maryland being ranked 17th nationally in rushing yards and 25th in points against is just a matter of playing with the numbers. You know what, fine. Maybe you’re right.

You know why we still need to talk about Maryland? Because last year they won three games.

Now I’m no math major, but five is more than three. One more win and not only will the Maryland Terrapins be bowl eligible, they’ll have doubled their win total from last year.

It’s even more impressive if you look at who the losses were to last year. Maryland got blown out by everyone but Penn State. Four losses by more than 20 points, including one to Bowling Green. They were just downright bad, and I think even the players and fans will admit that.

I know that coaching awards tend to go to the coach of the best team in the conference or the nation, but DJ Durkin needs to win the coach of the year award in the Big Ten. What he has done with what he’s got is impressive and might be just shy of spectacular. Durkin has a shot to lock that award up, too. In consecutive weeks Maryland gets Michigan and Ohio State before traveling to Nebraska. Knock even just one of those off and DJ Durkin might be the first coach to get an extension before finishing his first season.

It’s time to talk about Maryland. Do it now so you can say you knew about the Terrapins before they start showing up in the Top 25 poll.

E-mail Tim at .

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How Many Games Would Western Michigan Win with a Big Ten Schedule?

Row, row, row your boat ladies and gentlemen- the Western Michigan Broncos are for real.  After convincing victories at Illinois and Northwestern, the Broncos finished 4-0 in regular season non-conference play. Thus far, they’ve amassed just under 2,000 yards of total offense and they’ve possessed the ball over a quarter longer than their opponents. They’re limiting opposing rushers to 3.4 yards per carry and they’re already +7 in turnover margin.

There’s absolutely no reason the Broncos can’t run the table. With Northern Illinois, supposedly Western Michigan’s strongest intradivisional competitor, off to an abysmal 0-4 start, the ceiling is shattered for P.J. Fleck’s squad to gROW h16her.

Why stop there? Sure, Western Michigan is a popular pick in the MAC West. But how about the Big Ten West? After all, they’ve already vanquished two teams in college football’s strongest conference.

Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking: should Illinois count as an FBS football team? Probably not, but last time I checked, they’re still considered one and Western Michigan beat them. Similarly, the best thing to happen to Northwestern football in the last month is a guy named Trevor Semen Siemian. Maybe it isn’t so unrealistic to imagine the Broncos battling with the Big Ten brass week in and week out.

That’s the burning question no other mediocre sports writer has the courage to answer: how many games would Western Michigan win with a Big Ten schedule?

First, we need to provide the Broncos with a Big Ten schedule. Seeing as Western Michigan literally has the word “western” in it, the Big Ten West seems to be a natural fit. Yet, in order to include the Broncos in the West, another team has to be excluded from the West.

In what’s probably the least shocking news you’ve heard all day, we’re excluding Purdue from the Big Ten West. They’re a disgrace to the game of football at the moment. Given that their colors are nearly identical, you could replace the Boilermakers with the Broncos on any given Saturday and the only way their fans would know the difference is that they’d actually be winning a meaningful game for once.

With that, let’s examine just how well Western Michigan would fare playing Purdue’s Big Ten opponents this season. As for how Purdue would fare in the MAC…we’ll save that for a later date.

Home vs. Maryland Terrapins – W

What’s that? A home tilt against a team that won three games last year? Sign me up. Yeah they’re 3-0, but Maryland’s non-conference schedule was downright criminal. I mean, who doesn’t respect premier programs like Howard, FIU, and UCF? Maryland benefitted from both an easy schedule and sheer luck in the turnover department. A turnover hasn’t been allowed by either of these teams this season. The difference is, it makes sense with WMU- they actually have a good coach.

Away @ Illinois Fighting Illini – W

Western Michigan already won this contest in Week 3 of their actual schedule, so chalk this one up as a W.

Home vs. Iowa Hawkeyes – L

To speak in terms fellow MACtion lovers will appreciate, the Iowa Hawkeyes are simply a better version of the Ohio Bobcats. They’re stout, they’re gritty, they’re conservative, and both have coaches older than the ground they walk on. After Iowa’s blunder against North Dakota State, it’s clear the Hawkeyes aren’t the 12-2 world-beaters that earned Kirk Ferentz an eighty bajillion-year contract. They are, however, experienced. With experience up front and on both sides of the ball, the Hawkeyes wouldn’t allow themselves to falter a second time against a mid-major.

Away @ Nebraska Cornhuskers – L

The way they’re playing at the moment, I’m wary of picking against the Cornhuskers. This hypothetical matchup hinges on a battle within the trenches. Nebraska rushes for 5.1 yards a carry. Western Michigan allows only 3.4 a carry. Nebraska showed enough capability in defending against a spread Oregon attack that I doubt Western Michigan could out-possess or outscore Nebraska.

Home vs. Penn State Nittany Lions – L

I think this is James Franklin’s last season in State College. I’ll give you one good guess as to who I think replaces him. For the purposes of this matchup, I expect Trace McSorley to be a difference maker by the middle of the season. Not like anybody has ever overhyped a Penn State quarterback before…

Away @ Minnesota Golden Gophers – W

I expect P.J. Fleck to revitalize his team after a three-game skid and defeat a ho-hum Minnesota team. Besides that, I’m just going to leave this here:

Home vs. Northwestern Wildcats – W

Western Michigan defeated Northwestern narrowly in Evanston by a 22-21 margin. I’m going to assume a change of scenery to Kalamazoo wouldn’t alter the decision. This is another win for Western Michigan.

Home vs. Wisconsin Badgers – L

This is the only team on this schedule that Western Michigan has no chance of beating. With how swiftly Wisconsin punished Mike D’Antoni Mark Dantonio and Michigan State, even the flashiest of MAC talent simply can’t compete.

Away @ Indiana Hoosiers – W

Indiana just lost to Wake Forest, which is less than ideal. A week before, they only managed a 10-point cushion against Ball State- another MAC member. Once again, it appears all Indiana can do is throw the football. To stop Zach Terrell and Corey Davis, you need to do more than just throw the ball.

Final Record: 9-4 (5-4)

According to my predictions, Western Michigan easily secures a bowl game in the best conference in football. Take that, Purdue.

Am I high on the Broncos? You bet I am. Regardless of my feelings about them, regardless of whether they run the table, regardless of whether they reduce the MAC West to rubble (like Northern Illinois has for years), they’ll never get serious looks as a legitimate contender. That’s a shame for a team as talented as WMU and a coach as talented as Fleck, as well as all other underdogs like them.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, [the Big Ten] is but a dream.

Email Cole Hankins at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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Delany Should Add Texas, Oklahoma

Since Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s ridiculously premature retirement announcement last month, I’ve been wondering what he’s planning for his grand finale.

Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, David Ortiz; these mega-stars all did one-year farewell tours.  Delany laughs as he tells us he’ll be taking four or five years to say goodbye.  To me, such an early announcement means he’s up to something.

The Don

Delany became Big Ten commissioner in 1989.  He’s guided the conference through the dark ages before the BCS all the way to the enlightenment that is the playoff system.

He added Penn State in his first full year in charge, brought in Nebraska in 2011, and reached east in 2014 to reel in Maryland and Rutgers.

He was able to launch a television network for his conference five years in advance of any other Power 5.

The Big Ten’s brand has expanded dramatically under his direction.

Pay your respects to Don Delany, the Godfather of Midwest football.

It’s time for Delany to make a power move that will send the other four conferences into crisis mode.  It’s time to make a successful money grab to compensate for his inadequate acquisition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014.

This time he needs to look west.

Legal Obstacles

If you never fully tune out of college football then you’ve heard the Big 12 expansion talk this summer.  I assure you, it’s all posturing.

Now that the Big 12 has its championship game, there’s really no incentive to invest in shaky markets, or add schools that don’t want to join.

You know which Big 12 schools seem to be getting a raw deal as they carry the other eight members?

Surely, your mind gravitated to Texas and Oklahoma.

Now, I’m no legal eagle.  I can’t breakdown the intricacies of the Big 12 bylaws.  From what I could gather though, the Big 12 has its members locked in for 99 years, as of 2012.  To withdraw from the conference, there’s obviously a fee, which Delany should offer to pay the bulk of as a welcoming gift to Texas and Oklahoma.

There’s also the issue of the Grant of Rights Agreement.  Again, I’m not a lawyer, I just play one on tv.  I’m not sure, but it looks like even if Texas and Oklahoma were to withdraw, the media rights  for their games would still belong to ESPN and FOX Sports Media Group, per the Grant of Rights Agreement.

Coincidentally, the Big Ten’s media rights are also held by ESPN and FOX.  It shouldn’t be difficult to find a solution here.

Be Proactive

Jim Delany is in a position to make Texas and Oklahoma an offer they can’t refuse.

Jump the sinking ship before it begins to burn.  The Big 12 is in the most precarious position of all the Power 5 conferences.  I’m not even willing to debate that.  If you’re Texas and Oklahoma, how is a move to the Big Ten not a major upgrade?

Put the other Big 12 schools out of their misery.  Texas and Oklahoma are currently operating as the Big 12’s football life support.  Without them, it’s only a matter of time before the remaining schools not named Baylor receive offers to join stronger conferences, which they’ll take if they’re smart.

Join the Big Ten to form what would be the premier Power 5 conference.  I may be a “Big Ten guy” but I’ve never hesitated to tout the SEC as the superior football conference.  However, adding two blue blood programs that compete in one of the sport’s top five rivalries would certainly vault the Big Ten over SEC at long last.

Be proactive, not reactive.  Force the other three surviving conferences to make a move of their own, if they want to keep up.  The more teams a conference has, the bigger that pool of money is going to be.

Sure, you’ll split the pot two more ways, but when those two are Texas and Oklahoma you’re still looking at a serious pay increase for all involved.  There aren’t two other schools available that can come anywhere near the revenue Texas and Oklahoma would bring in.

A Grand Finale

College football is a ruthless environment, even more so off the field than on it.  Yes, it will take an all-out war to pry Texas and Oklahoma away from the conference they helped create.

Delany’s soldiers will have to leave the gun in order to take the cannoli.  He might need them to stash a piece in the bathroom for him.  And someone may have to pull him back in just when he thought he was out.

Delany’s last wish as Big Ten commissioner is to see the family transition to legitimate business and adding Texas and Oklahoma would do just that.

Be on the lookout these next four to five years.  Jim Delany is retiring “soon” and his saying so suggests he’s working on something big.

Featured Image: Wikipedia

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Urban Meyer’s Year: 2016 Big Ten Predictions

Are you pumped for the upcoming season? I know I am. To get you prepared for 2016, I have predictions for the Big Ten. Enjoy!

Ohio State

Yes, even though six starters return, Urban Meyer is an incredible recruiter and will be loaded with young talent. However, youth leads to mistakes and they could drop a game. Plus, they need to dispose those Michigan teams. But even so, this is their conference to lose and if anyone can steer his team towards success despite adversity, it’s Meyer.

Michigan

Despite quarterback concerns, the Wolverines are deep at receiver. As for their defense, which was fourth nationally in 2015, it will be just as loaded with All-Big Ten corner Jourdan Lewis and versatile linebacker Jabrill Peppers. However, Michigan is 2-14 versus Ohio State and Michigan State the previous eight years and I see them losing The Game.

Michigan State

Losing quarterback Connor Cook, receiver Aaron Burbridge and pass-rusher Shilique Calhoun hurts, but the Spartans still have a nice cache of rushers and a strong secondary. Plus, when the Spartans have been cast aside, they seem to reload, rise up and emerge as contenders. But I still believe it’s either the Buckeyes or Wolverines turn on top.

Penn State

Despite having Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions ranked 105th in total offense and gave up 39 sacks. Not much has improved offensively and the defense lost three linemen to the NFL draft. I expect the D to be good but are they elite? I’m not very optimistic, but I still say they safely win 7 games.

Maryland

Although the path to six victories looks favorable for Maryland, there are still some lingering issues. The Terrapins quarterbacks must improve after tossing 29 interceptions in 2015 and their defense that was ranked 90th nationally needs to find a way to step up. Even so, I still see them winning six games.

Indiana

While the offense should remain a high-powered machine with rusher Devine Redding and 1,000-yard receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr., new defensive coordinator Tom Allen will have his hands full for a unit that surrendered over 500 yards a game. Plus, it never helps to play in the brutal East. I see them winning only five games.

Rutgers

After a tumultuous 2015 season filled with distractions, Rutgers wanted a clean slate and hired Chris Ash to turn the program around. But it will be a gradual process filled with inevitable growing pains. The passing defense ranked 118th and they simply don’t have the talent to compete in the East.

Iowa

To me, as well as these guys, Iowa is the favorite in the Wild West because it enters the 2016 season with its key personnel back together again including C.J. Beathard and Thorpe Award winner Desmond King. I don’t think an undefeated season is going to happen but ten wins isn’t shabby as Iowa loses to only Wisconsin and Michigan.

Wisconsin

They will become another vintage Wisconsin running team with Clement eclipsing 1,000 yards and have a fierce defense. But they’ll still lose four games against LSU, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan. There are just too many questions regarding quarterback and receiver.

Nebraska

I do believe they are a dark horse in the division and will not have the same amount of bad luck they had last season. The Cornhuskers have one of the best receivers in the conference in senior Jordan Westerkamp and if Tommy Armstrong Jr. can cut down on the turnovers (16 interceptions), the Cornhuskers should be feared.

Northwestern

A strong core group remains including All-America linebacker Anthony Walker, whose 2015 season earned him the nickname “The Franchise.” But I feel the Wildcats come back to earth after a somewhat overachieving season last year with those ten W’s. Sure, Clayton Thorson has incredible natural abilities but they’ll only get seven wins.

Minnesota

Despite injuries, fifth-year senior quarterback Mitch Leidner had his best season in 2015 as he tallied 2,701 yards and 14 touchdowns and showed he is an incredibly tough leader. Minnesota also has a formidable backfield with running backs Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith, who combined for 1,379 rushing yards. However, they are still behind the top contenders.

Illinois

Lovie Smith was a great hire and should change the culture of the program, but don’t expect instant results. The Illini could have trouble getting used to the newly installed systems and they will have to adjust and adapt quickly if they want to survive. I don’t think there’s enough depth for this team to even be bowl eligible this season.

Purdue

16 starters return but the offensive line has three first-year starters and they ranked No. 110 nationally in total defense last year. The last time Purdue had a winning Big Ten record was in 2006. They’ll get three wins but anything more is wishful thinking. They simply don’t have enough playmakers or talent.

East

  1. Ohio State: 11-1, 9-0
  2. Michigan: 11-1, 8-1
  3. Michigan State: 9-3, 7-2
  4. Penn State: 7-5, 5-4
  5. Maryland: 6-6, 3-6
  6. Indiana: 5-7, 2-7
  7. Rutgers: 3-9, 1-8

West

  1. Iowa: 10-2, 7-2
  2. Wisconsin: 8-4, 6-3
  3. Nebraska:8-4, 5-4
  4. Northwestern: 7-5, 4-5
  5. Minnesota: 6-6, 3-6
  6. Illinois: 4-8, 2-7
  7. Purdue: 3-9, 1-8

Big Ten Championship

Ohio State over Iowa

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter@MDeuces2051.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia