Monday afternoon QB - regular season review...
As I look out the window at millions of tiny snowflakes that are starting to pile up and soon wreak traveling havoc, I am still in a daze over how fast the Big Ten football season flew by. Maybe it was because - for a change - I wasn't wishing it to end, since my alma mater came through with a stellar campaign. Maybe it's because I'm just so busy all the time (I know, I still owe my bball previews). Regardless, the regular season is over and now the waiting game begins.
Who goes where? Does OSU slide into a BCS game and move everyone up a notch? Does any leap-frogging take place? For the record, it shouldn't. Bowls should flat out be required to take teams in the order of finish. I know, that's not realistic with the money involved, but then why not just make a tournament instead?
For my last football piece in a while, I want to go team by team, give you my postseason awards, my bowl projections and general thoughts on the season that was. After that, I'll get to basketball, we'll have our last football Get Gamm of the year - bowl style - and then we'll slide full time into hoops. Note, we will NOT pick the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this year - too little time! Get Gamm Hoops will start when Big Ten play tips off in late December.
Back to the last Get Gamm for gridiron, several went 6-0 this week, but Buckeye Nation was closer on the margin in the PSU-MSU game, so BN, you're in the spotlight for the bowl picks...
Player of the Week
There are a lot of good choices for POTW this go around. Shonn Greene was a beast - again. Daryll Clark was a phenom (damn the columnist from State College who questioned if his head was right!). Greg Jones had 15 tackles, three for loss. Curtis Painter had the type of game we've been waiting for all season long. In the end, I have to go with the guy who led his team to a Big Ten title - Daryl Clark. A career day for the junior, proving Penn State a worthy champion.
Team by Team
Time for a quick synopsis for each team, including a look at how my predictions played out and what is left for 2008 before the books are officially closed...
Illinois Fighting Illini - The Illini were a dud a year after stunning everyone with a run to the Roses. Just goes to show you what losing a top-notch tailback can do to a team without much of note in the cupboard behind him. It was all on Juice this year and his supporting cast let him down. Illinois failed to ride the wave of momentum created last year and will have plenty of questions heading into 2009. Most pressing? Was 2007 a true one-hit wonder?
Prediction: 9-3 (5-3), T2 and a Capital One Bowl berth
Actual: 5-7 (3-5), T6 and home for the Holiday's
My grade: Missed it by four games overall, two games in conference. D.
Indiana Hoosiers - Indiana never bounced back after that crushing home defeat at the hands of Ball State. The absence of Kellen Lewis all spring seemed to carry over into the fall, and his bouts with a bad ankle didn't help either. Speaking of injuries, there might not be a team in the country as hard hit as the Hoosiers. The emotion that carried IU in 2007 disappeared this year. Can Bill Lynch get it back and make Indiana competitive again in 2009? He probably needs to in order to save his job.
Prediction: 7-5 (3-5), T7 and a Motor City Bowl berth
Actual: 3-9 (1-7), 11 and home for the Holiday's
My grade: Missed it by four games overall, two games in conference. D.
Iowa Hawkeyes - Iowa really came on like gangbusters after an early season slump. In total, the Hawkeyes lost four games by 12 points, beat Penn State and crushed rivals Wisconsin and Minnesota. The loss to Illinois stands out as the only real head-scratcher. The team is set up to contend in 2009 for sure - IF Shonn Greene comes back. Greene was a monster and also the definition of consistency with 12 games in a row over 100 yards rushing. The defense was excellent and the finish puts Iowa in position to possibly jump ahead of a few teams when the bowl bids come calling. I think Iowa goes to the Champs Bowl in Orlando and challenges the attendance record that MSU fans helped set a season ago.
Prediction: 5-7 (2-6), T9 and home for the Holiday's
Actual: 8-4 (5-3), T4 with the bowl berth TBD
My grade: Missed it by three games on both ends. D.
Michigan Wolverines - No one saw this coming. A slight step back while the program adjusted to its first coach out of the Bo Schembechler school of coaches - sure. But this? Michigan put up its worst season in 129 years of football. Rich Rodriguez became the first U-M coach since Harry Kipke in the 40s to not beat OSU in his first try. The Wolverines lost to Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State in the same year for the first time since 1987. It was ugly from the very beginning to the bitter end. The question is, will it get that much better in 2009? Rich Rod has a history of quick turnarounds, but I wonder if he'll have the horses yet...
Prediction: 7-5 (3-5), T7 and a Champs Bowl berth
Actual: 3-9 (2-6), T9 and the worst season in school history.
My grade: Missed it by four games overall, but only one in the conference. D.
Michigan State Spartans - While blowout losses in huge games against Ohio State and Penn State wounded this team, no one expected nine wins. Most, in fact, expected a step back. Mark Dantonio has this program heading in the right direction. The attitude is as strong as it has ever been. The understanding of what it takes to win and the will to do so with backs against the wall is there. The only thing missing can start to filter in now that the staff has shown such quick results - top-notch recruits. If Dantonio and Co. can win with decent talent, imagine what it can do when it has some horses? A bowl berth to the Capital One or Outback is at stake. I think MSU lands in the Outback Bowl, and gets a huge 10th win of the season in the process.
Prediction: 8-4 (5-3), T2 and an Outback Bowl berth
Actual: 9-3 (6-2), 3 with a bowl berth TBD.
My grade: The only one I got wrong was the predicted loss at NU. A-/B+.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - The pleasant surprise of the season. From 1-11 to 7-5 with the all important extra practice time that comes with a bowl berth in their pocket, Minnesota made a big statement this year. This is a young team that hit some bumps after a 7-1 start, but that is still poised to make continued strides. Next year brings a new stadium, another solid recruiting class and another year of experience. Who knows, the Gophers could make a 2007 Illini type run in '09. As for the bowl berth, it all depends on Ohio State. If the Bucks get an at-large BCS berth, the Insight Bowl becomes the destination. I'm not seeing that though, meaning Minnesota gets one more game in a dome this season (Motor City Bowl).
Prediction: 4-8 (2-6), T9 and home for the Holiday's
Actual: 7-5 (3-5), T6 and a bowl berth TBD.
My grade: Three games off overall, one game in conference. C.
Northwestern Wildcats - Another team that made great strides this season. Northwestern made a three game improvement and brought a big game atmosphere back to Evanston on more than one occasion. Wipe out a head-scratching loss at Indiana and the 'cats tie for third and get ten wins. The last few weeks were a battle, with a dinged QB and a third-string tailback thrust into action but the Wildcats found a way to get it done. Northwestern can aspire as high as the Outback Bowl this year, as low as the Champs, but given the win over Iowa and one more win than the Hawkeyes, I like the 'cats to head to the Alamo Bowl.
Prediction: 6-6 (2-6), T9 and an at-large bowl berth
Actual: 9-3 (5-3), T4 and a berth TBD.
My grade: Off by three games all the way around. C.
Ohio State Buckeyes - Well, the third time will not be the charm for Ohio State so a co Big Ten title will have to do. Ohio State sold the current season for the future when it benched Todd Boeckman early on and went with freshman phenom Tyrelle Pryor. That may pay off big time down the road. Ohio State had a very good season, even if it is a downer a year removed from another blown shot at a national championship. 2008 should set the scarlet and gray up for another dominant run in '09 and in the meantime, it will include another trip someplace warm and fun for New Year's. The Buckeyes still can manage an at-large BCS berth, but alot depends on Oregon State and Boise State. If Oregon State wins next week, USC likely bumps the Bucks out. Even then, the lure of a Boise State - Utah "second" title game could also keep OSU out of the BCS mix. My feeling? The Buckeyes get a solid match-up with Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.
Prediction: 11-1 (8-0), 1 - BCS Championship Game berth
Actual: 10-2 (7-1), T1 - bowl berth TBD
My grade: One game off all the way around. A-/B+.
Penn State Nittany Lions - Congratulations to the Big Ten champs and Rose Bowl rep. This season will boil down to one great big coulda, shoulda, woulda. That Iowa loss. I think Penn State was built the right way to challenge for the national title. Strength in all three phases of the game. Solid athletes all around. I'm still not sold that Penn State wouldn't win a four game team tournament and claim the national title. But alas, we'll never know. That's the brutality of college football. It is basically one and done. Still, the Nits should get a good game in Pasadena and have a legit shot at finishing as high as top 3 in the nation. Long live JoePa!
Prediction: 9-3 (5-3), T2 - BCS at-large bowl berth
Actual: 11-1 (7-1), T1 - Rose Bowl berth
My Grade: Missed them by two games on both ends. B.
Purdue Boilermakers - Along with Michigan, probably the biggest disappointment in the league. Coach Tiller's swan song was entirely forgettable - up until the systematic dismantling of rival Indiana. The loss to Oregon sent the old gold into a tailspin that it never recovered from. The shame of it is, Purdue had some pretty good talent. There will be some rebuilding to do and with a new coach, so time will tell how much Tiller will be missed in West Lafayette.
Prediction: 7-5 (4-4), 6 - Insight Bowl berth
Actual: 4-8 (2-6), T9 - home for the Holiday's
My Grade: Missed them by three games overall and two in conference. C.
Wisconsin Badgers - Maybe the biggest dud of them all, not because the Badgers fell flat and missed out on anything, but because after a hot start, this was a team that lost every big game it played and found ways to lose games in myriad ways. It took a wayward kicker for the Badgers to beat a 1-AA foe over the weekend too. Given how the Bielema era has flattened out after a white hot start, it might be time to start shopping for new coordinators. Still, UW managed a bowl berth and that will pay dividends heading into 2009. The win over Cal Poly kept Wisconsin out of Motown for the Holiday's and moved them to the Insight Bowl.
Prediction: 8-4 (5-3), T2 - Alamo Bowl berth
Actual: 7-5 (3-5), T6 - bowl berth TBD
My Grade: Off by only one game overall but two games in conference. B.
Gamm's Postseason Awards
Offensive Player of the Year - Shonn Greene, TB, Iowa
Defensive Player of the Year - James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State
Coach of the Year - Mark Dantonio