Bowl Games, Lies and Basketball Talk...
Nope, this isn’t a sports oriented redo of the 1989 Movie “Sex, Lies and Videotape”, rather my observations and maybe a rant or three about the Big Ten’s performance in bowl games to date, the carpet bagging Nick Saban and the onset of the conference basketball season.
A lot has happened since we last spoke, just before the Christmas holiday. Bowl games have been played. Nick Saban played Judas, 2007 style. Bobby Knight broke the record of records in college basketball. Big Ten hoops – conference style – got underway. There is an awful lot to get caught up on, so without further ado…
Minnesota pulled a Northwestern and gave up the largest second half comeback in bowl history, surrendering a 31-point lead en route to an overtime loss to Texas Tech in the insight bowl. No big deal right? I mean, it was only the Insight Bowl. Not. That loss, it appears, got one of the longer tenured coaches in the Big Ten canned soon afterwards. Merry Christmas Glen Mason. You’re out of a job.
“If we had not lost the way we had lost, we probably wouldn't be here today," athletic director Joel Maturi said at the presser announcing Mason’s ouster. Truth be told, this was just the last straw in a pile of blown leads and a decade that saw Minnesota have success, but never as much as they could have. 3-15 records against arch-rivals like Michigan and Wisconsin didn’t help the cause either.
Hey, Mr. Maturi, I hear John L. Smith is available!
Purdue meanwhile was just flat out getting pushed around the field at about the same time in the Champs Sports Bowl. Maryland dominated every facet of the game leaving Purdue with an 8-6 record. Purdue lost its last two games of the season (at Hawaii and this contest) leaving many to wonder what lies ahead for the gold and black.
Iowa may well have best represented the Big Ten, at least as far as the losing teams go. The Hawkeyes struggled to a 6-7 record this season, including seven losses in the last nine games and four in a row to close the season. But, that aside, Iowa put up a good fight in a game most expected Texas to win by just showing up. The Hawkeyes jumped ahead 14-0 and appeared to go ahead 21-3 when a shaky ineligible man downfield call brought back a score and was then followed up by a game changing interception and subsequent touchdown drive.
The 26-24 loss that left the black and gold with a losing record capped off a miserable ending to what someone I know (me) predicted would be a Rose Bowl season.
Penn State brought home the first “W” for the Big Ten this bowl season, in somewhat surprising fashion. Most, myself included, figured that Tennessee, who was a couple of heartbreaking losses from playing for the SEC Championship, would win rather easily in this game. But as they say, that’s why they play the games. Penn State won with a tremendous defensive effort and solid, ball control on offense. The victory was the 22nd bowl win for Joe Paterno – an NCAA record.
On Wisconsin! The Badgers had a tough one with the Razorbacks but closed out a phenomenal first year for Coach Bret Bielema with a school record 12th win. The funny thing was how Wisconsin won the game. It isn’t surprising that the Badgers played staunch defense, but it is a little eye-opening that it was the aerial attack and not the ground game that produced the offense needed to garner a win. Wisconsin won what was supposed to be a battle between two of the best young tailbacks in the country (P.J. Hill and Darren McFadden) despite a net of minus five yards rushing for the game! Who says you have to be able to run the ball to win?
Just when it was looking brighter for the Big Ten, Michigan took the field in Pasadena. Ouch. Another ugly loss in the Rose Bowl for the maize and blue. The Wolverines never quit in this game and there were several opportunities to do so, but the stubborn game-planning of Coach Carr and his staff was evident again and it cost Michigan another big game loss.
Where was the offense that looked marvelous in Columbus? USC adjusted its game to a pass-first, pass-second, pass-third style and it dizzied the Michigan defense. Why didn’t the Wolverines adjust? That’s been a common question after four straight bowl losses and four losses in five years to rival OSU. Is Lloyd Carr becoming John Cooper? Will 2007 be his last? Stay tuned this summer when the ’07 previews hit the blog.
Lies, bald faced lies…
Raise your hand if you are surprised that Nick Saban had a change of heart and took the ‘Bama gig. My hand isn’t up. In fact, it’s on the floor. You see, the sure-fire sign that slick Nick is gonna bolt for greenback, er greener pastures is the series of denials that happen as much as a month before the change of heart. MSU fans know. We went through this almost every year. He didn’t leave for the NFL but finally bolted for LSU after five years of post-season speculation and denial that he was looking.
Thing is, I don’t blame the guy for looking, or even jumping. But dude, don’t lie! Don’t go Judas and deny the rumor three times! You’d think his agent would get him some better prep work for the inevitable questions that arise about available, big time jobs each year. A quite simple response along the lines of “I am focused on my task at hand right now, I’ll field questions about X job after my current season is over” would have been sufficient.
Instead, old Nick built upon the reputation he earned while at Michigan State and really, for the first time, he’s being taken to task for it. Pat Forde of ESPN.com wrote “Saban only lied when his lips were moving.” Legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula called Saban (I’m paraphrasing here) a liar, a fraud and a quitter. ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel asks “Why would he be happy at Alabama when he has had trouble being happy everywhere he has coached?”
Anyway, what’s done is done. I wish Saban well in Tuscaloosa. He rebuilt Michigan State nicely before leaving and it wasn’t his fault that the school hired Bobby Williams to drive the program into the dirt after he left. Roll Tide.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Bobby Knight’s record breaking 880th win the other day. As a kid who “grew up” in Indiana, I’ve always loved the guy. He’s done it his way, and while some of his methods may have been questionable, there is no arguing his success at graduating players and doing it the right way as far as the NCAA rules and regulations are concerned. My hat’s off to you coach.
Now on to the start of Big Ten play… 5-0. That’s the record of the home team halfway through week one of conference play. Not a real surprise considering that home teams traditionally dominate in league play. Indiana and Michigan State gave the best road efforts to date but for naught as Ohio State and Iowa held serve at home and got the wins in those tilts. Michigan and Penn State had little problems in solid home openers as well. The real shocker was Minnesota’s handling of Purdue. Minnesota is arguably the weakest team in the league and yet overcame myriad turnovers to beat the Boilers in The Barn.
This weekend, the Buckeyes go to Illinois, Michigan State stays on the road (Indiana), Penn State visits Purdue, Minnesota heads to Wisconsin and Michigan travels to Northwestern. Home teams will likely stand at 8-2 or better after the weekend.
Speaking of playing on the road, Tom Izzo might want to have some time alone with his infamous sledge hammer and the Big Ten office’s scheduling software program. His Spartans have started on the road for two games each of the last four seasons. Nothing like digging out of a hole in the first week in January. Couple that with the fact that the Spartans have also been getting teams like Northwestern, Minnesota and Penn State just once a season of late and he really has to wonder what the computers have against him!
Ahead of the game, here is next week’s schedule (picks for Get Gamm are due by Tuesday at 7)
Jan. 9 – Ohio State at Wisconsin (Tiebreaker)
Jan. 10 – Purdue at IndianaJan. 10 – Iowa at Illinois
Jan. 10 – Northwestern at Michigan State
Jan. 13 – Indiana at Penn State
Jan. 13 – Tennessee at Ohio State
Jan. 13 – Wisconsin at Northwestern
Jan. 13 – Minnesota at Iowa
Jan. 13 – Michigan at Purdue
Jan. 14 – Illinois at Michigan State
And here are the current Get Gamm Basketball standings, through five games this week. Winners be ready to get me picks ASAP each Monday to make the site for the Tuesday game of the week. Chances are it’ll be Buckeye Nation this week as he sits 5-0 to date.
1 - Buckeye Nation: 12-4 (.750)
2 - Gamm: 11-5 (.688)
T3 - Dan Meyer: 10-6 (.625) - 1 GG Win
T3 - PUFan: 10-6 (.625)
5 - phatsdawg: 8-8 (.500)
6 - BigTenSportsFan: 3-8 (.273)
Oh, and it is never too early to talk bracketology!
Get Gamm Football Standings w/ one to play...
Well, since we all picked tOSU to win the National Title game, Buckeye Nation will hold on for the overall win. Congrats Buckeye Nation! You get $25 to spend in the TFS Store (link to the right). Let me know what you want and email it to me with your addy and I will get it in the mail.
1 - Buckeye Nation: 76-19 (.800) - 3 GG Wins
2 - Dan Meyer: 75-20 (.789) - 2 GG Wins
T3 - Gamm: 74-21 (.779) - 2 GG Wins
T3 - Mayo170: 74-21 (.779) - 1 GG Win
T3 - andrewj1313: 74-21 (.779) - 1 GG Win
6 - phatsdawg: 72-23 (.758)
7 - flakcat: 70-19 (.787) - 1 GG Win
8 - BigTenSportsFan: 59-23 (.720) - 1 GG Win
9 - PUFan: 51-22 (.699) - 1 GG Win