Saturday, August 04, 2007

Last One Out, Hit the Lights

This will almost certainly be the final post at Hawkeye State.

Now, before you go crazy and start questioning the meaning of life, let me assuage your fears. Long-time readers know of my affinity for Steve Alford's Hair Gel, the immensely entertaining Iowa basketball blog. But there isn't always that much news on Iowa, and it soon became obvious that we were each covering the same material in almost the same style (for example, take a look at our basketball coaching short list, compared with their short list, published within 12 hours of each other). The fact is, you deserve better. As an Iowa fan, you deserve to have all the news covered with wit and irreverence in one place.

That place is The Hawkeye Compulsion, the new joint venture of HS and The Hairgel. Four writers, one topic, and updated far more frequently than my little old corner of cyberspace. And the topics I don't really follow (like recruiting) will likely be covered by someone who cares far more about such things. So fear not, loyal readers. I have not left you.

It's been a fun (almost) year here, and thanks for reading. I'll hopefully see ya at my new place.




Follow me! Follow me to freedom!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

So Who's Sir Robin?: Big Ten Blog Roundtable, Round 1

The first installment of the Big Ten Bloggers roundtable comes courtesy of Badger Sports. Enjoy.

The press and the coaches will be predicting the Big Ten champ at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Wednesday. That's fine, but overdone. In lieu of boilerplate predictions of who will come out on top, which Big Ten team will be the most surprising? Remember, surprises can be good or bad; the underdog who comes out of nowhere to share the title is just as surprising as the favorite who winds up with five losses and no bowl bid.

I'll go ahead and say it: The Ohio State University, and it's not a good surprise. They lose a Heisman winner at quarterback, the most explosive receiver/returner in the conference, Antonio Effing Pittman, and more than half of their starting units on both sides of the football. Throw in games at Big Blue and PSU, and it feels like 2005 all over again. Well, except for the beatdown in Kinnick (Iowa doesn't have tOSU on the schedule this season). In case you forgot:



Imagine it's December, and the consensus in the media is that your team's season was "surprising." Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? What would have to happen for you to consider your team's season surprising?

Oh, that's a very good thing. Iowa has been "surprising" since 2002. In 2002, they came from nowhere to gain a share of the Big Ten championship. In 2003, they lost the Heisman runner-up and still won 10 (and kicked the crap out of Florida in their own backyard). In 2004, they had literally no running game (anyone else remember Brownlee?) and STILL won a share of the Big Ten crown. One of the writers for CBS Sportsline had Iowa at #2 entering 2005 based solely on the fact that he was tired of being proven wrong.

It was at that point that "surprising" became a bad thing. Two disappointing seasons, culminating with last season's 2-6 mark in the conference, have diminished expectations yet again. Now "surprising" would be a 10-win season and a run at the title. That, my friends, is a very good thing.

A preseason player of the year will also be dubbed in Chicago. For your team to succeed, which player or unit is going to have to put forth a "player of the year" performance? What's the one position that would take your team to the next level if it performs above expectations?

The defensive line will make or break Iowa in 2007. Norm Parker's one-play playbook is predicated on the pass rush, especially with a thoroughly mediocre secondary. When we have it (Matt Roth, Aaron Kampman, etc.), we win. When we don't, we lose. It's been that simple for 7 years. With Mattison and Iwebema on the ends, and the enigmatic Mitch King in the middle, they certainly have the capability of doing just that.

Which Big Ten team's out-of-conference schedule would you most want to have this year? Why? Do you think your team will have out-of-conference losses this year?

We don't have Big Blue or OSU this year, so I want Michigan's schedule just so I can see Notre Dame and Oregon. Everyone else seems to be intent on scheduling the powerhouse programs of 1-AA and the various directions of Michigan. Not exactly a barnburner noncoference slate, and a real problem for those of us who are inclined to argue Big 10 supremacy.

Here's a chance to look like a complete genius in a few months: pick the biggest in-conference upset that will happen this season. Justify your prediction!

October 27, 2007. Minnesota catches Big Blue in a Grade A Trap Game (Michigan's next three are at MSU, at Wisconsin, and vs. the Sweater Vests). Yes, Minny will most likely suck this year. But they may have a little brown chance at the Little Brown Jug.

Say something nice about the Big Ten school whose name precedes yours alphabetically. Say something mean about the one that comes after.

Indiana gave us Myles Brand, who is known far and wide as a scholar and a gentleman. His visionary leadership gave us the NCAA you know today.

Michigan stole our school president, and then plunged her into a Supreme Court case over admissions. Also, Ann Arbor is a whore.




USC: great football program, or greatest football program? Also, how about that SEC? Damn, those guys are fast!



USC? Greatest program ever in the history of the world...of Warcraft. As for the SEC, Jim Delaney has already told us they are fast because their heads are lighter. I'm comfortable with that.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Helium Baloon that is the Big Ten Conference: Expansion Mania!

After reading this article with El Capitan and Jimmy Delaney from USA Today, I've got a fever, and the only prescription is a post on Big Ten expansion. (By the way, I know I'm about the last Big Ten blogger to post on this topic, and it's been covered ad nauseam on mGoBlog, Black Shoe Diaries, PJS, etc. I'm slow, I know, and I also know this post will mention plenty of things that have already been mentioned by my Big Ten blogging brethren.)

The expansion talk has come back due to nothing other than the Big Ten Network, meaning that the conference's biggest potential boondoggle has brought back one of the big intraconference debates in recent history. It feels like the Imus firing.

With that, onto the short list of potential candidates:

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

Positives: Best possible fit of academics/athletics/location; already rivals with Michigan (and to a lesser extent MSU/Purdue/Indiana); would improve national exposure, even beyond the levels created by Big Blue/tOSU/Penn State; possible Fat Weis jokes are, for all intents and purposes, endless; possible Malpractice Weis jokes almost as plentiful; museum-esque stadium rules are positively comical; great road trip every other year

Negatives: Might not want in for a variety reasons (everyone focuses on the money they're making on the NBC deal, but there's a certain amount of "remember what happened to PSU" at play, to be sure); despite all the Ironman echoes in Iowa City, not a real rival for the Hawks; even money chance of being arrested in South Bend; their basketball program is thoroughly Iowa-like, and that certainly won't help the hoopsheads

Prognosis: They're the natural choice if they want it, and the kamikaze flirting between the conference and ND for the past two decades is well-known. I don't think they make a move until their current football contract is up (mGoBlog has it at two years). If the BTN is still alive at that point, the conference might have enough money to finally make this worth their while. Odds are 7:2.

MISSOURI TIGERS

Positives: Geographic and academic fit; another program that is ever-so-slightly south, at least by Big Ten standards; a couple of big media markets (StL, KC) open up; natural rival of ILLINI and potential rival of Iowa; one of the few candidates that would shift the balance of the conference westward

Negatives: When you think about it, don't their athletics kinda suck? This is one of the great maybe-sleeping-giant, maybe-red-headed-stepchild programs in the country; consistently losing players from their own backyard (to OU and NU in football, UK & Rock Chalk in hoops); member of the old Big 8, and might not want to leave that; doesn't have the necessary excitement factor; would leave one less team in the Big XII to ruin ISU's season with a devastating late loss

Prognosis: This one makes a lot of sense, but it's certainly not exciting. Seems that Delaney's goal is to sell cable packages, and I don't know how successful this pick would be at accomplishing that. Odds are 5:1.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

Positives: More geographically reasonable than any non-ND candidate; up-and-coming athletic program, with legitimate football and basketball (if you're looking at the last five years, the best football/basketball combo in play); opens up the south, if ever so slightly; free breadsticks at Pappa John's Stadium; they're capable of hiring Rick Pitino and Bobby Petrino; have we so quickly forgotten the beatdown they put on Miami? Let's go to the videotape:



Negatives: While they're a geographic fit, they don't seem to be much of a cultural match for the Yankee Big Ten; might be a flash in the pan, especially with the departure of Petrino; academics are a serious issue; already jumped ship into the Big East just a couple of years ago, and might not be in the mood for another move; they're also capable of hiring John L. Smith; Papa John's breadsticks suck, even if they're free

Prognosis: mGoBlog is right; the academics are a big concern, and the presidents won't get behind a twelfth team if it dilutes the Big Ten's academic standing. Throw in the relatively short history of academic success, and I say probably not. Odds are 6:1.

PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

Positives: Finally gives Penn State a geographic rival; recently strong in basketball; historically decent in football, even if recent results have been lackluster; academically sufficient; would bring former quarterback and TV detective Tyler Palko to the conference

Negatives: Doesn't really bring any new markets to the table (PSU seems to be just as big, if not bigger, in Pittsburgh); based on recent results, this seems to be a basketball-first move for a conference/network that is football-needy; feels like we're bringing them in just to make PSU happy; has more traditional rivals in its current conference; another move to the east; I hate Dan Marino

Prognosis: This just doesn't feel like the great fit that other people seem to think it is. Pitt seems happy in the Big East, with West Virginia on the schedule every year, a constant chance at a conference football championship, and top-tier basketball competition (not to say the Big Ten isn't top-tier, but it's usually not as deep as the Big East). I just don't see this happening. Odds are 8:1.

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

Positives: I hate to admit it, but they're a legendary football program (and recently strong in baseball); no more a geographic problem than PSU was 15 years ago; probably the program most harmed by the Big XII's TV deal (as already pointed out by mGoBlog); maniacal fanbase on par with UM, OSU, PSU, etc.; take your current stock of ISU jokes, change the names, and you're set for pregame heckling; there is nothing more enjoyable than reading the Omaha World-Herald after a Husker loss

Negatives: While they've been working on the academics, they're still not in the Big Ten's league; no basketball program to speak of (in the words of the Frenchmen from Monty Python, "We've already got one!"); another old-school Big 8 member who might not move (especially if it means they lose games against Boomer Sooner); I don't think Omaha qualifies as a top-notch media market pickup; Lincoln police are pricks

Prognosis: Absolutely my favorite pick, but it seems this process is being controlled by the eastern teams. While adding Rutgers/Syracuse/any other non-ND Big East team would leave Iowa and Minnesota with virtually unreachable conference road games, you would hear far more from PSU/OSU/UM if a team was added to the west. Throw in the academic issues and natural Nebraska adversity to change, and I have a hard time seeing this come to pass. Odds are 10:1.

SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN

Positives: Historically good football; always a great basketball program; facilities are good, if drab; not an extremely bad geographic pick (though it would be a real trip from Iowa City); academics are solid to great; Otto the Orange kicks total ass; was the topic of the first post we ever did; great football uniforms

Negatives: They currently suck hard at football, though they are slowly improving; might not be too keen on leaving the Big East

Prognosis: The best way to get east coast exposure without blowing up the travel budget for all programs west of Chicago. That being said, the consensus seems to be that nobody in New York City cares about the Cuse, and God knows nobody west of Buffalo cares, either. There's not a lot to make this a bad pick, but there's not a lot of upside, either. Odds are 15:1.

STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY SCARLET KNIGHTS

Positives: Academically sufficient; opens NYC markets; yada yada yada, you've heard it all before

Negatives: Have you looked at a globe? New Jersey is a friggin' hike; nobody in NYC cares about college sports, and the inclusion of Rutgers isn't going to make New Yorkers interested in Purdue/Indiana field hockey; short-term success, but nobody knows how long this will last; the unfortunate return of Vivian Stringer


Prognosis: Negative. I HATE this choice. It makes absolutely no sense geographically, and it brings little to the table athletically or academically. If Delaney's singular focus is getting into New York, well, this is the pick. Let's just ask Gob Bluth what he thinks about that decision:



That's what I thought. Odds are 15:1.

THE OTHERS
  • Texas - Heh. Good one.
  • Boston College - Makes about as much geographic sense as BC in the ACC...oh, wait...
  • West Virginia - They can't even read.
  • Iowa State - See West Virginia.
  • Kentucky - Wouldn't leave the SEC if you put a shotgun to their head.
  • Cincinnati - Too small.
And the favorite?

NOBODY - 2:1

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Name This Recurring Post

So, the first time I posted a link roundup, the first story was about ESPN stealing other people's stuff. I called that post "It's Not Plagarism if You Link to It." I've called each collection of links since then the same thing. But I just realized I hate that title, and I can't think of a better one this morning. So send in your suggestions, if you so desire.

Big Ten previews will (hopefully) continue this week. Also, I don't want to alarm anyone, but HS reader Dominic has located the elusive J.C. Love Jordan (for those of you who are new, you can catch up on the JCLJ story here). I'm going to try to get an interview next week.

Finally, the Big Ten blog community is in the process of forming an unholy alliance, headed by the three-headed dragon of Dave from Maize n' Brew, Sean from Around the Oval, and Mike from Black Shoe Diaries. Details are still to come, but look for a lot more collaboration between the blogs (weekly roundtables, guest appearances, free stuff).

Now, the week that was:

I've spent the week watching Kige Ramsey on Youtube Sports, and it's obvious why.



Well, Pacman Jonesin' got an interview with our generation's Kronkite. Its brilliance is undeniable. Kige is like a little Buddha covered in an old Al Del Greco jersey.

Ames lost their best returning scorer due to an apparent lack of class. Well, that and the stealing. The stealing certainly didn't help. By the way, with the losses of Smith and Haluska for Iowa and now Taylor at ISU, the rivalry game might be the first 0-0 tie in the history of college basketball.

If you like music, and especially old bootlegs and live performances, take a look at That Truncheon Thing. Springsteen in 1978, Van Morrison in 1970, Radiohead at Reading, the Wilco YHF demos, they've got it all, as well as some interesting writing.

The Sporting Orange has found the guy voting on SportsCenter's "Who's Now" segments. He also loves UFC and Nickelback. I'd make a joke, but everyone in Davenport seems to love UFC and Nickelback, and I don't want to get the Reginald Denny on the way to my car.

Holy crap, Tommie Frazier is rapping:



And, finally, Viva el Sergio! (When will he choke away the lead? Over/under hole 14).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our True Enemy Has Yet to Reveal Himself: Minny

Well, I scheduled this Minnesota preview to run before this happened. Good timing, huh?

I've gotten a couple of emails on the order (or lack thereof) of these previews. I'm simply posting them in the order I receive them. There's no rhyme or reason to it beyond that. I'll post my thoughts on the upcoming season once these are done.

Tomorrow, we'll take a short break from the Big Ten preview for some very exciting breaking news and a few links for your perusal.

Our Gopher preview is from Charlie at Paging Jim Shikenjanski, the unquestionable king of blogs about football teams named after common vermin.

MINNESOTA PREVIEW by Paging Jim Shikenjanski

A new era is set to begin in Minnesota. We have a savior, fresh off a stint as tight ends coach for the Denver Broncos. His name is Tim Brewster, who has come into Minneapolis, spoken to fans and reporters with bravado and raised expectations. "We're going to take Gopher Nation to Pasadena" Brewster said during his introductory press conference, where he wowed Minnesota fans who were frantically trying to figure out exactly who this guy was.

Personally, I think Brewster is smoking some really good hashish, but I respect the man's positive nature. Pasadena? Gophers? We haven't won a B10 title since 1967. Brewster has no head coaching experience above the high school level. He doesn't even have experience as a coordinator. He was hired as a recruiter (claim to fame: recruited Vince Young at Texas, among others) and as someone who has energy to instill in the typically uninterested fan base. That's worked. Brewster is off to a good start for his 2008 recruiting class, and the fan base has taken to his energy and enthusiasm.

The Glen Mason era was both good and bad. It was a vast improvement over the Jim Wacker era. Mason took our fierce rodents to six consecutive bowls. But fans wanted to see Mason--who didn't have the knack for public relations that Brewster does--take the program to a New Year's Day bowl and compete in the top 1/3 of the Big Ten, not in the middle of the pack.
Brewster is saying what Gopher fans want to hear. Should he live up to his word and take "Gopher Nation" to Pasadena, we'll erect a statute in his honor at the new outdoor stadium set to open in 2009.

WHY BREWSTER WILL BE AN IMPROVEMENT: He has a pulse. That alone has endeared him to Gopher fans. He hasn't coached a game yet, nor a practice, but his intensity comes through in television and newspaper interviews. He has promised his teams will play with passion and intensity (something Mason's teams didn't always do). Mason's team's made a habit of pulling defeat from the jaws of victory (the most recent example was the Insight Bowl debacle last year against Texas Tech). Brewster has been promised the Gophers will finish games stronger and play with more heart and passion. That'd be a good start.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: DE Willie Van DeSteeg finished last season with 10 sacks, 14.5 tackles for a loss and felt he had plenty of room to improve. Now a senior, Van DeSteeg will lead a Minnesota defense that is primed to be more aggressive under Everett Withers.

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: RB, Amir Pinnix surpassed 1,000 yards as the primary ball carrier last year. Pinnix is one of just five returning starters on offense. Gophers coaches have promised not to forget about the run, and Pinnix should get his fair share of opportunities in and out of the backfield.

MOST IMPORTANT CAMP BATTLE: The Gophers lost three-year starter and the school's all-time leading passer Bryan Cuptio and will look to either junior Tony Mortensen, redshirt freshman Adam Weber or, as a longshot, true freshman and the head coach's son, Clint Brewster, to take control of the offense. Brewster ran an offense similar to offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar's spread offense in high school, and as a 4-star quarterback recruit, the coach's son might be the most talented quarterback on the roster.

OVERLOOKED NEWCOMER: While most of the media has paid attention to Clint Brewster's decision to back out of his committment to Illinois and follow his father, the younger Brewster may not have the biggest impact of any newcomer. DE Raymond Henderson, who sat out last season after transferring from Tennessee, should play opposite of Van DeSteeg. Henderson was forced out of Tennessee after what is described as minor incident at a restaurant. He had scholarship offers from LSU, Nebraska, Notre Dame, UCLA and Iowa.

POSITION WEAKNESS: Wide receiver. And that's not good when you want to run the spread offense. Senior Ernie Wheelright, who has had slippery hands from time to time, has the talent to be a No. 1 receiving threat. He'll be joined by sophomore Eric Decker in the starting lineup. But after that, the Gophers will be relying on a junior college transfer and some true freshmen to step in.

DON'T BE TOO SURPRISED IF: The Gophers lose to that other border rival, North Dakota State, in an October tilt with the Division I-AA school. Last year, the Bison missed a field goal as time expired to come just feet short of pulling off the upset of the year. The Gophers survived 10-9, and became bowl eligible because of it at 6-6.

FORECAST: Gopher fans expect Brewster to take that step Mason couldn't, if not this year, in the near future. Mason didn't leave the cupboard bare, but it will be an uphill task for Brewster to even take the team to a no-name bowl game. Mason had Minnesota known for a power running game, that featured great backs and a better offensive line. Under Brewster, and offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar, the Gophers will switch to the spread offense. Personnel issues will make the switch difficult.

The Gophers can go 4-0 in the non-conference schedule, but most major publications question if Brewster can even win one game in conference play. The winnable games are on the road (at Indiana, at Northwestern, at Iowa) but the Gophers won't likely be favored away from the Metrodome. But the team's talent hasn't disappeared. The Gophs have been consistently decent, not great, and should be that again. The Gophers go 3-5 in conference and return to a mediocre bowl. The third and final win comes at Iowa as the Gophers retain the coolest trophy in college sports, the Floyd of Rosedale.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Our True Enemy Has Yet to Reveal Himself: Hoosier Daddy

Certainly the most tragic event of this offseason was the death of Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner. As sad as that story might be, it also creates one of the more intriguing subplots of this upcoming season, as an up-and-coming program attempts to build on last season's success.

The Indiana preview is courtesy of John M. at The Hoosier Report. Enjoy.

INDIANA PREVIEW by The Hoosier Report

Thanks to Hawkeye State for inviting me to preview Indiana's 2007 football season. I launched The Hoosier Report last February, late in the basketball season, so I haven't had much of a chance to dig in for football, but here goes.

Hep

It's impossible to avoid the obvious. Our coach died. And not just any coach. While I certainly would not have wished death upon Cam Cameron or Gerry DiNardo (well, outside the context of a heated in-game rant, at least), and while I don't want to trivialize Hoeppner's death by focusing on the football ramifications, this is another cosmic kick in the nuts to a program that has never been able to turn the corner. We thought we had found our Bill Snyder/Barry Alvarez/Frank Beamer. That may not have been true, but our program is once again in turmoil. IU now has its third head coach in four years and may be looking at four coaches in five years. For the second season in a row, a Big Ten program will enter the season shortly after the death of its coach. The IU situation differs from Northwestern's in a couple of respects. First, Hep's death, while heartbreaking, was not out of the blue and has been at least in the back of our minds since the first brain surgery after the 2005 season. Second, unlike Northwestern, which quickly elected to commit to Pat Fitzgerald as the head coach for the long term, IU has promoted Bill Lynch only for the 2007 season.

Head Coach Bill Lynch

So,what of the new guy, Bill Lynch? Lynch has spent the bulk of his career coaching in Indiana. A Butler grad, Lynch spent five years as head coach at his alma mater (which then was a Division II program) before becoming an assistant at Ball State and then Indiana. Lynch's two seasons as quarterbacks coach under Bill Mallory were 1993 and 1994, IU's two most recent winning seasons, so he has that going for him. Lynch then coached Ball State for eight years. After he was fired, Lynch coached Division III DePauw in 2003 before joining Hoeppner's staff as assistant head coach in 2004. In 14 years as a head coach, Lynch has a 81-67 record, but at Ball State, Lynch went 37-53 and was fired after eight years. He led Ball State to the MAC title and the Las Vegas Bowl in 1996 and won a MAC division title later in his career. In between, Lynch oversaw a 21-game losing streak, the longest active streak in the nation when it ended. I discuss Lynch's career in some more detail here, but the bottom line is that coaches who get fired in the MAC generally do not become Big Ten head coaches (although if this post at mgoblog is any indication, perhaps I should change "do not" to "should not"). Nevertheless, the staff that Hoeppner gathered is sufficiently well-regarded that I would guess a winning season and bowl bid would earn him a long-term deal. To his enormous credit, Lynch has continued to obtain verbal commitments despite the uncertainty, although the status of those commitments can change between now and February.

The outlook


So, can Indiana actually earn a bowl bid in 2007, its first since 1993? The schedule says that it's possible. I don't want to overestimate the significance of the schedule. Overemphasis on schedule advantages leads to people to write crazy things, such as in 2004 when everyone was predicting that Purdue would play in the BCS title game mainly because Notre Dame was down and Purdue didn't play OSU or Michigan. IU begins with three winnable nonconference games: Division I-AA Indiana State, at Western Michigan, and at home against Akron (IU plays Ball State at home later in the season). For the first time (at least in decades) IU misses both Ohio State and Michigan, the only conference teams that would seem to be absolutely unbeatable right now for a program of IU's stature. IU plays Illinois, Penn State, Minnesota, and Purdue at home and plays MSU, Northwestern, Iowa, and Wisconsin on the road.

The 2006 season

For the first time since 1994, IU entered the final game of the season playing for something more than the Bucket. After winning the first two games against Western Michigan and at Ball State, Hoeppner took a leave of absence for his second brain surgery. Under the interim leadership of Bill Lynch, IU blew a huge lead against Division I-AA Southern Illinois and then lost to Connecticut. IU was humiliated by Wisconsin, 52-17, in Hoeppner's return, and when IU fell behind Illinois 25-7, it appeared that the Hoosiers once again would be out of bowl contention by Midnight Madness. Instead, as I detailed here, Hep rallied the troops and IU beat Illinois on a field goal as time expired. The next week, IU upset ultimately-mediocre-but-then-thirteenth-ranked Iowa, and instead of heading to Columbus staring down the barrel of 2-6, IU was 4-3 with seemingly winnable games against Michigan State, Minnesota, and Purdue remaining.

IU fell short, of course. After an expected blowout loss at OSU, IU returned home and spanked Michigan State 46-21. IU had a 44-7 lead in that game, and I don't believe that I had seen IU so thoroughly thrash a Big Ten opponent before. Lest our heads get too big, however, the football gods exacted their revenge, and the next week at the Humphreydome, a really ordinary Minnesota team administered a beatdown as thorough as the one IU administered to Sparty the week before (63-26, and it wasn't that close). That loss put the pressure on. IU lost to Michigan, and then fell at Purdue, 28-19, in a really odd Bucket game. The first half was one of the strangest turnover fests that I have ever seen. Curtis Painter tried to hand us the game, and we politely demurred.

IU showed some promise in the passing game and scored some points, but gave up a bunch. Still, IU managed more than one Big Ten win for the first time since 2001, five total wins for the first time since 2001, and entered the Bucket game playing for more than pride for the first time since 1994. It was an up-and-down, rebuilding type season, but if not for the absence and then death of Hoeppner, IU likely would be a trendy pick to win a bunch of games in 2007.

Offense

The best news for IU is on offense. The Hoosiers began 2006 with Blake Powers firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback. In 2007, Powers will be a tight end. Because of injuries, redshirt freshman Kellen Lewis was pressed into duty against Ball State last year. Lewis led an impressive comeback that day and started the rest of the games. Lewis's passing numbers were respectable (completion percentage of 54.9, 2221 yards, 14 TD, 7 INT) and he led IU with 441 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. Setting aside Lewis, IU returns its top tailback and fullback from last season. Marcus Thigpen, best known as a spectacular kickoff returner, rushed for 387 yards and 2 TDs (3.9 YPC). Fullback Josiah Sears rushed for only 232 yards but an impressive 5.8 yards per carry and 4 touchdowns.

WR James Hardy is probably IU's only player who could start for any Big Ten team. In only 20 games (disciplinary issues), Hardy caught 51 balls for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. James Bailey, Nick Polk, and Ray Fisher also return. In all, four of IU's five top wide receivers return.

Although IU lost outstanding center Chris Mangiero, IU returns a bunch of experience on the remainder of the OL. John Sandberg (RG), Pete Saxon (LG), Charlie Emerson (RT), Roger Saffold (LT), and Kyle Thomas (various) all started at least five games last season. Was it good experience? Who knows. It can't hurt.

One challenge IU's offense faced last year was changing quarterbacks midstream. Blake Powers was a pure pocket passer. Kellen Lewis, while certainly a capable passer and not a "run first" quarterback, led IU in rushing and worked nearly exclusively out of the shotgun. That must have been a tough transition for the offense, and hopefully will not be repeated this year. IU has nearly everyone back on offense and should score some points.

Defense

IU's defense was pretty awful last year. IU gave up 408 yards per game last year. Only ten I-A programs (including, interestingly, Minnesota and Purdue) gave up more (throw in Ball State, and IU played three of the ten most generous defenses in I-A; should I be concerned that IU's decent offensive proficiency was illusory?). Only 18 I-A teams gave up more rushing yards per game, and IU was ranked similarly in yards per carry and touchdowns allowed. There were something like 30 Division I-A teams (could you give me some rank numbers, Yahoo Sports?!) who gave up more passing yards per game than IU. The Hoosiers gave up a pathetic 29 touchdowns, fourth-worst in the country. The only respectable defensive statistic is 13 interceptions, which puts IU at the low end of the middle of the pack.

IU does return top defensive back and kick return Tracy Porter, a corner. Porter started his first game as a true freshman in 2004 and returned an interception for a touchdown, and has shown a solid nose for the ball since then. Including Porter, IU returns eight players who started at least a handful of games in 2006, including DBs Leslie Majors and Austin Thomas; defensive linemen Jammie Kirlew, Joe Kremer, and Greg Brown; and linebackers Adam McClurg and Geno Johnson. Again, as on offense, lots of guys back, but IU has to improve every facet of its defensive performance. Despite returning those eight guys, plus two defensive linemen who started a little bit (Keith Buruss and Brian Faires) IU returns only eight sacks. IU's top three tacklers (Porter plus the departed Will Meyers and Troy Grosfield) were defensive backs. IU played lots of young guys last year, but that matters only if they improve.

Special teams

IU's return game is among the best in the nation. Marcus Thigpen averaged over 30 yards per kickoff return and scored three touchdowns. Tracy Porter averaged 18.6 yards per punt return and scored a touchdown. PK Austin Starr made 12-15 field goals, including 7-8 from 30-39 and 1-1 from 40-49. Starr won the Illinois game with a field goal as time expired. The Hoosiers will be breaking in a new punter, as the experienced but unremarkable Tyson Beattie is gone. True freshman Chris Hagerup, who enrolled early and participated in spring practice, is the only punter on the roster.

Outlook

This will be a strange season. If we were entering year three of the Hoeppner era, this would be the year in which we would expect progress. Now, we have a new head coach without a long-term deal and with no idea what our program will look line one, two, or four years from now. That doesn't change the basic equation. IU's coaching staff, with the conspicuous exception of the head coach, returns intact. IU returns loads of starters on both sides of the ball. The schedule is favorable. I'm not going to do some grand, game-by-game prediction. Nothing between 2-10 and 8-4 would surprise me. My prediction is that IU somehow will find its way to 6-6 and go bowling for the first time in 14 years. Why? Well, mostly because the alternative is too horrifying to contemplate. If it doesn't happen now, it's hard to say when it will happen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Our True Enemy Has Yet to Reveal Himself: ILLINI

Chief Illiniwek was a good mascot, and a good man. He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors... and Illinois, and as a mascot he explored the beaches of Southern Illinois, from Carbondale to Danville and...up to... Peoria. He died, like so many young men of his generation, he died before his time. In your wisdom, Lord, you took him, as you took so many bright flowering young mascots at Syracuse, at St. John's, at Hill 364. These young men gave their lives. And so would Illiniwek. Illiniwek, who loved bowling. And so, Theodore Donald Illiniwek, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of Lake Michigan, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince.

Your ILLINI preview is provided by Alma Mater of Illini Talk. At no point does he mention text messaging or Gil Thorp.

ILLINOIS PREVIEW by Illini Talk

It's a Brand New Ballgame in Champaign. Cautious optimism surrounds Illini fooball as we head into the 2007 season. Admittedly a work in progress for the past couple years, the pieces are beginning to fall into place for a respectable Big Ten football team at Illinois:
  • QB Isaiah "Juice" Williams now has college experience. Accuracy is still a challenge, but he continues to improve, he's got a rocket-launcher arm, and he's fun to watch.
  • The improving defense is built around Big Ten tackle leader, senior linebacker J Leman (who is recovering from off-season surgery).
  • Recruiting master Ron Zook has brought competitive athletes to town -- including 5-star wide reciever Regis Benn, another fun one to watch. Benn started classes in Januray, and during spring practices and scrimmages, he proved that he can both catch and earn YACs. Look for the ball to go his direction often.
  • Rashad Mendenhall will carry much of the Illini ground game.
  • One point of interest in the defensive secondary: 23-year-old freshman Bo Flowers has spent the past 4 years playing minor league baseball in the Detriot and Cubs systems. And his D is respectable.
  • A facelift at Memorial Stadium adds to the enthusiasm in Champaign, and Hawkeye fans will get to see the finished product when they next visit (2008).
I expect a .500 record this year -- a major improvement -- and even more competitive games than 2006 (note that only Michigan and Florida played Ohio State better than the Illini last season). A road win in Iowa City would be a bonus this year , but don't count us out (Ed. note: Only if you get Jon Beutjer a ninth year of eligibility).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our True Enemy Has Yet to Reveal Himself: Sparty

OK, let's get to work.

As I wrote last week, we're going directly to the source for our Big Ten previews, because nobody knows these teams better than their fans. Our first installment comes from Scott at The Enlightened Spartan. I'll be adding my two cents next time. For now, ES, the blog is yours:

MICHIGAN STATE PREVIEW by The Enlightened Spartan

The Big Green is the little engine that couldn't. And, it hurts. So, let the ES bring the truth and wisdom to the masses.

Michigan State, heretofore to be known as South Central Michigan State College, has done nothing short of disappoint year in and year out, in the most remarkable ways over the past eight years. Has it really been that long since the $4 Million Man strolled the artificial sidelines along the banks of the Red Cedar River? Indeed, it has. The Green was unwilling to fork out the green to make Mr. Nick bionic, and instead, he fused with the machine known as Louisiana State, took the Bayou Bengal to the promised land, returned to the Not For Long unsuccessfully…. All in the process of making Lee Majors look dour by robbing the bank we call “higher education” to ink with a team named after a monthly menstrual cycle, with a weird elephant as a mascot, and fans wearing soap detergent boxes on their heads.

In a nutshell, my oh my how a decade can heap misery upon bewilderment – and, SCMSC just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Bama. At least not yet.

Enter the Doctor. Mark Dantonio. MD. The 52 year old up and comer from Cincy who wears that ole rugged cross but demands success and attention to detail, a la Jim Tressel. Let’s just make sure the Doctor keeps that pocket book in the desk instead of on the road… but, luckily, SMSC’s tradition doesn’t have a success that can bankroll players like them Buckeyes did for Heisman Award winner Troy Smith and his super sharp duds.

But this is the Big Ten. Demanding success plus experience will probably vault the Doctor to the mid-tier of the coaching ranks and reduce Bozo The Clown induced-stupidity on and off the field reminiscent of Cowboy John L “L is for Loser” Smith. Expect the Doctor’s teams to be more disciplined and better executed, and leave the sideline fiascoes behind to gather historical dust. But, sorry, this year demanding success isn’t enough to equal victories. What SCMSC needs is execution, and depth of talent. Those are the biggest question marks.

The Strengths: The Big Green probably has the most underrated wideouts, running backs, and defensive backfield in the Big Ten.
  • DBs: The Doctor took the Cowboy’s defensive playbook and gave it a failed exorcism. Too may demons, so he just sent it to the fire. In comes Bump-and-Run, which was impressive in the Spring game. Something has to change after hemorrhaging yardage and points the last three years. And, MD has tools to work with. Junior FS Otis Wiley knocked the bejesus out of his Spartan kindred all spring long, and he unloaded the armor consistently on opponents last year. Ditto for DB Travis Key, who isn’t always in the right place at the right time, except for when he can make the highlight reel. These guys are the shit. Nemo, aka Nehemiah Warrick, is a solid cover DB who is the Spartans best tackler in the secondary. Both Kendall (“I still haven’t learned to turn around on deep throws”) Davis-Clark and Ross Weaver have lots of experience. This will be a much improved, and underrated group. It can’t get any worse, but will be better than pundits ever expected.
  • WRs: The Doctor never even bothered to bring the offensive playbook to an exorcism. That one was sent straight to the shitter for a proper burial. The spread is GONE. Out with the flashy, 30 yards to the sidelines and 1 yard down field, and in with the traditional three yards and a cloud of dust, with a splash of flash. Thusly, WRs will not be relied upon to move the chains 60 times a game. And, with SCMSC depleted with loads of overrated and underachieving WRs, it is time to see how the current talent can shine in a more traditional system by throwing that freaking rock downfield. Soph TJ Williams, senior Terry Love, and junior Devin Thomas all have shown significant flashes of brilliance at times – they aren’t returning starters, but us Spartan faithful can see the glory. In this new system, they’ll be more than competent.
  • RBs: The ES is puzzled at the lack of mention of the Spartan running backs. Phil Steele ranks SCMSC #6 in this category – and this is a joke. The Big Green may not have the best OL, but the RBs are right there. I’d rank SCMSC #2 or #3 in the conference here. Junior Javon Ringer is a STUD, the fastest back in the Big Ten and is a muscular phenom. Sure, he’s been injured, but he is a stellar player who strutted his stuff in the Spring Game. He is an excellent running back, in the same mold as Mike Hart. Strong, fast, and darty. But, his backup, Jehuu Caulcrick, is a bowling ball. He is extremely strong, much in the mold of TJ Duckett but with stronger ankles. He moves piles forward. Add in a dash of Ringer Light, aka “AJ Jimmerson” and you have a solid trio with lots of experience and talent. Now, at FB, place Dwayne Holmes. He is a BEAST at 6-0, 275. We Spartan fans have come accustomed to the man absoloutely crush opponents with his blocks, topped by putting down his cranium and pulverizing an Ann Arbor Yellow Belly as a TE two years ago. Yes, Holmes will be more than adequate in this role. He will be extremely effective. He is a bruiser. Add experience, talent, depth, and punishment, and you have to grade this unit out with extremely high marks.
The Weaknesses: The weakness is in the trenches:
  • OL: South Central Michigan State College returns a wealth of experience from a terrible unit the past three years. So what does that mean? The Doctor’s system should help this unit out, changing from a spread offense that relies on speed and nimble footwork, to one that can use some girth and power. There is experience here, especially along the right, with returnees including the Big “O”, junior Roland Martin anchoring at RG and junior Jesse Miller at RT. One the left, unheralded seniors Pete Clifford and Mike Gytvai return as starters. In the middle, John Masters moves over from guard to center, but has been a backup for years. Still, this unit weighs 307-316-285-325-307. That’s 308 pounds of leverage on average. Yeah, lets run, and not pass so much, dammit! Still, this unit has played so poorly the past two years at the expense of former stud Drew Stanton, that it is up to these pizza lovers to prove the ES wrong.
  • DL: The Big Green has had the most pathetic pass rush in America since Saban left for warmer weather. SCMSC recorded 16 sacks last year. That sucks. Basically one-plus a game. SCMSC, however, can implement Pat Narduzzi’s “what a rush!” defense that would make Freddy Kruger proud. Narduzzi will count more on an adequate LB corps help the woeful DL by swarming to the ball instead of spot-playing under the worst-ever defensive coordinator in the history of college football, last year’s Spartan DC Chris Smeland. The line is led by competent ends Ervin Baldwin and Justin Kershaw, but lacks any killer instinct and little depth inside. The DC is praying every Sunday for these guys to stay healthy.
The Rest: Who are the others?

QB Brian Hoyer replaces the oft-injured butextremely-talented Drew Stanton, whose skills were misused and abused by inept Spartan coaches during his tenure at MSU. Hoyer comes in with good arm strength and some game time experience, but had a terrible spring outing. The ES is hoping for an average performance from Hoyer this year, and to rely on his backfield mates to bring home the bacon.

The Spartan LB corps is adequate and deep. Kaleb Thornhill comes from a long line of Thornhills who played LB for SCMSC, and while he puts himself in the right position, he can also get used like a rag doll because he’s a bit light. Better yet, SirDarean Adams has NFL potential written all over him as a smart, positioned player and a sure-tackler.

There is also depth here with talent two-deep. SCMSC replaces an All-America punter with a no-name punter who kicked extremely well in the Spring game, but not as long. He’ll give SCMSC 42 yards a kick, but needs a lot of salami and a few years in the weight room to extend that length. At place kicker is Wheaties boy Brett Swenson, who hit on 15-19 FGs as a true frosh last year, but he cost the Big Green the game vs Purdue with his few misses.

Best offensive player: RB Javon Ringer. The guy is just a stud. Close backup: FB Dwayne Holmes, who will CRUSH anyone in his way.

Best defensive player: LB SirDarean Adams. SDA is as sure of a tackler as there is in the country; the guy just doesn’t miss. Moving his instincts into a leadership role at the weakside will make him more of a playmaker.

Who lays the lumber: FB Dwayne Holmes is a tank.
Who will SCMSC beat that it shouldn’t:  At Purdue.  SCMSC should have beaten this squad last year, and the Spartans had
already fired the Cowboy and still outplayed Tillers’ sissies. SCMSC will go down to that shithole of a town
and kick their arse.
Who will beat SCMSC that shouldn’t: Pitt. SCMSC will be riding high at 2-0, and figuring the shitty Spartan squad that killed Pitt on the road last year should be able to do it at home, no? No dice. This is predictable Spartan territory for a loss. And, to Dave Wannstedt – quite possibly the worst coach in the history of football.

Forecast: The ES figures 5-7/2-6. The problem is that, despite all the optimism of all Spartanland, the schedule is BRUTAL in a better Big Ten. South Central Michigan State College’s non-conference slate is a breeze, especially that matchup against the Goddamn Irish in South Bend. But, the Big Ten is brutal, with stints at OSU, at Wisky, and at Iowa. Add in a home game to scUM and the JoePa “I’m still kicking” Lions, and you have yerself a nightmare rebuilding effort. If the Doctor gets six wins out of this squad, he should be canonized as national coach of the year. Hey, we Spartan fans have been crying in our beers for years over incompetence and utter, dismal failure. But, we still love our little SCMSC. Go STATE!

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's Not Plagarism if You Link to It

Tomorrow (or Wednesday, if I get to golf tomorrow), the Big Ten preview begins. But before we get to ILLINI, it's time for one more rundown of great stuff from the series of tubes:

Our friends at Saturday Soundoffs take a shot at previewing Iowa football. Really, their series of 2-a-day previews of each team has been awfully well done. I don't think they're quite on the reservation with the Hawkeyes (Andy Brodell has hands?), but they're not too bad in general.

Gene Chizik has put his face on a coin. He will eventually build a Mount Rushmore composed entirely of his face rendered in cow manure. In all seriousness, putting your face on a coin before you have coached a down of football for a team that just finished with 2 wins evidences a level of undeserved self-importance generally reserved for Iowa State basketball coaches. I would advocate spitting on the Chizik nickel, but Iowa State student, graduates, and staff routinely clean things with spit; for instance, I had my shoes spit-shined at the airport yesterday by Marcus Fizer.

This has nothing to do with sports at all, but Dirty Laundry has debunked the Nikki Leotardo/carjackers/Boy Scouts from the train shop rumor percolating on the eBays after the final Sopranos episode.

The reigning champions of the college football blogging world, Every Day Should Be Saturday, have published a College Football Blogging Manifesto. I will agree to follow it as much as humanly possible (even the "Bill Simmons' name will not appear on this site" rule). I can't figure out how to link to it, but Hey Jenny Slater has made an equally fantastic addendum (scroll down to July 8).

Two new additions to the blogroll: The Nation of Islam Sportsblog, which might be the single most brilliant thing on the internet, and Clemson blog Danny Ford is God.

And finally, Winning the Turnover Battle scored the interview of the year. That's right, they tracked down the perpetually surprised Snorg tees girl. She's kind of a big deal.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pardon the (Seven Month) Interruption

Well, he's left me again.

Tony Kornheiser's radio show (or at least the Podcast of it) was more or less the only thing getting me through any given weekday. Sometime around 1:00, my iTunes would download another hour and 26 minutes of brilliance. And I would read through medical records and claims reports while listening to stories of kapuchin monkeys, rats in mouths, Peter Yarrow burglars, and the greatness of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic." But, with the looming return of Monday Night Football, Tony has left his show (again) in order to adjust his sleep patterns and prepare for the season.

A quick five-month recap of things I learned from Mr. Tony:
  • For suing his dry cleaners for a lost pair of pants, Roy Pearson should be made to pay, fired, disbarred, and hung by his toenails.
  • Fran Drescher is the worst guest ever. She stinks.
  • A person bearing a striking resemblance to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary could break into your house at any time. Take due precautions.
  • There is likely someone at your grandparent's nursing home making them all laugh with the old "rat in the mouth" trick.
  • Abbie Lowell might be the smartest man in Washington, but he doesn't know squat about kapuchin monkeys.
  • If you're listening to Van Morrison and not drinking Scotch on your porch, well, what's stopping you?
  • David Halberstam is larger than life. John Junior Feinstein is more obese than life.
  • Blind people can't watch television, but they regularly leave it on so they can listen to it.
  • Wilbon loves a good bloodbath, and Phil Leotardo's death was a "Gots To Go" situation.
  • Beads and beaded necklaces are great gifts, though it is slightly better if the recipient intends to purchase Manhattan. If you don't have any beads, Callaway square-head drivers are a suitable substitute.
  • Bob Ryan is a HUGE American Idol fan.
  • The Washington Post ombudswoman is a dope.
  • If you are going to repeatedly quit a job, it's best to have your exit music picked in advance.
And I could go on and on and on. I'm one of the many listeners openly hoping Kornheiser loses his job at MNF, if only so he will return sooner. It will be a cold, dark 7 months waiting for his return. Come back soon, Mr. Tony. The kapuchin monkey demands it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Little Bit of Schadenfreude: The Fire Mark May Uber-Roundtable

The always fantastic Fire Mark May has proposed a set of questions for those of us who are so inclined. I am such a person. (Note: I am not a member of blogpoll, but I'm going to act like I am. I've got my eyes on the prize.)

Your Home Field Advantage

Give the more zealous portion of your fanbase a religion. What's this cult following? Feel free to give the splitters a derogatory nickname.


Um, the Allied Athiest Alliance?

In all seriousness, as a result of 2002-04, there are now two rabid factions of the Iowa fanbase. The "Win or Lose, We Still Booze" crowd really doesn't care about results, just as long as the tailgate continues. The more delusional "Potential National Champions" crowd wants to ignore all aspects of school size, recruiting base, location, and an aging in-state population and expects nothing less than 10 wins per season. This faction did not exist prior to the Capital One Bowl win over LSU. Whether you side with the alcoholics or the just plain crazy (and I have tendencies to get with both, depending on the circumstances), you have to hate the splitters.

In this case, the splitters are the "Up With Douchebags" crowd. These are the people who cheer for Iowa State and Nebraska and Minnesota when they aren't playing Iowa. They are generally from rural central Iowa, have a kid at State or a spouse from Minneapolis, and usually get hit with the empty 40 oz. beer bottles kicked down the street by yours truly after a loss. These people are not to be trusted, like someone who claims to like both Son Volt and Wilco.

Your biggest rival is in town, and College Gameday is coming....to your citaaaaaaay... Create a blatant corporate sellout promotion to appeal to the mass unwashed.


Come to Blain's Farm & Fleet with your Iowa/ISU ticket stub and receive 10% off a Carhart jacket. You get more...at Farm & Fleet. The only other option
would be Old Style beer, the choice of a true tailgater.

Add one local delicacy to your stadium's concessions. Post-tax pricing is optional.

Hamburg Inn omelets. Because nothing caps five hours of binge drinking before an 11:00 a.m. kickoff quite like eight eggs, ham, cheese, and hash browns. All together, as God meant them to be. $6, tax included.

With an unlimited AD budget, add or subtract one thing to your school's gameday experience that has nothing to do with football.


This monstrosity would have to go:


There aren't many places in America where a man who died 64 years ago is revered like Nile Kinnick in Iowa City (the only place I can think of is North Wilkesboro, NC, where Senator Robert Byrd was born; Byrd died 57 years ago, but nevertheless continues to be elected by the great state of West Virginia). The guy was a Heisman trophy winner, a fighter pilot (he died in a training flight crash near Venezuela), a school president, and a law student. He even won the AP Sportsman of the Year in 1939, beating out such two-bit losers as Joe DiMaggio and Joe Louis. A statue in his honor outside the stadium that bears his name is not only proper, it's damn near essential. So when the administration unveiled this statute of what appears to be a Miss Bliss-era Zach Morris and told us it was Kinnick, most of us vomited a little in our mouths.

The replacement statue? Well, I like to think of Kinnick with giant eagles wings, and singin' lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd with an angel band and I'm in the front row and I'm hammered drunk!

General NCAA questions

Coin a hilariously unrealistic stereotype that you would like to "make stick" for this upcoming season.


Ron Zook is being investigated for alleged recruiting violations. While the NCAA first became suspicious when Zook signed a Top-10 class to a school with no tradition, ancient facilities, no recent success of any kind, and an unfortunate history with John "I'm Transferring Because of this Cable Bill" Buetjer, it began its full-fledged investigation when it received tapes of phone calls recorded by Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Redesign your conference or independent schedule with reckless abandon. Be prepared to include compensation for jilted schools and conferences in your explanation.

I'd roll out a new Big 12 (NOT Big XII, you pompous Rome-loving jackasses) with Northwestern and Penn State out and Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Iowa State in. East/West Divisions would be far too east-heavy, so we're taking the ACC way out and saying the first division is Michigan, MSU, tOSU, Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois, and the second division is ND, Iowa, ISU, Wisky, Minny, and Big Red. How much fun would that be? Plus, four of the most neurotic fan bases on the planet would all be involved. Penn State would be rolled into the Big East (which desperately needs a big football name) at the expense of Tampa Community College, er, USF. Northwestern would take its rightful place in the MAC.

Following up on your new realignment, blow up the BCS and devise a national playoff system, money grabs and missed exams be damned. Using your new fantasy conferences is optional.

Well, under the new world order, each conference would have a championship game (that means we'll only have 9 conferences after the Mountain West is rolled into the Pac-12, WAC, and Big XII, and CUSA is cannibalized by the Big East and combined with the Sun Belt). Nine conference champions, 7 at-large selections, 16 teams, winner-take-all, with the Championship played on January 1 at the Rose Bowl.

Last season, it would have given us Wake, Boomer Sooner, Louisville (even with expansion), tOSU, Florida, Houston, USC, Boise State, Central Michigan, Big Blue, Texas, Wisky, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and West Virginia. Dear God, would that be fun. And the also-rans could play bowl games. That way, Notre Dame can still get rich.

Elect one public figure to replace NCAA president Myles Brand. Anyone with proper name recognition is eligible.

Dick Cheney. He'd make USC invade Iran.

It's About That Time



My boss had a luncheon a couple of weeks ago where he met Miss Iowa Diana Reed. Of course, Hawkeye fans know her as Hawkeye Golden Girl Diana Reed, but the mere mention of her name sent a chill down my spine, and it was then I realized we are a mere 10 weeks from football season.

Of course, that means we'll be truly firing up Hawkeye State soon. Through the month of July, we will be previewing each Big Ten squad, complete with a look at each team from a blogger who follows them. Throughout August, we'll be chronicling college football in particular, with a big, huge Iowa football spectacular at some point. By the time it's all over, it will be time for kickoff...

You may have also noticed the Big Ten blogroll has grown faster than Barry Bonds' head. I recommend all of these sites for your summer football fix. A number of these guys will be contributing to the previews.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rod Beck Dead at 38


At the risk of Hawkeye State turning into a full-time obituaries page, I have to mention the passing of former Chicago (and Iowa) Cub Rod Beck. Beck was found dead at his home in Phoenix Saturday. He was 38 years old.

Beck had a brief stint with the I-Cubs in 2003. Most people who have a sort stay with the Des Moines team will live in a hotel. Maybe they would rent an apartment on a month-to-month lease. Rod decided to forgo these options and live in an RV. In the stadium parking lot. Behind the right field wall. Beck would sit on a plastic picnic table, hand out beers, and talk baseball with anyone who wanted to stop by. And the entire town came by at one time or another. By all accounts, he loved Iowa and Iowa loved him. Rest in peace, Shooter.

UPDATE: The Dugout has Rod Beck's first meeting with Jesus in heaven. Brilliant.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Terry Hoeppner Dead at 59

Bad news today on one of the Big Ten's best guys: Indiana head football coach Terry Hoeppner died today from complications of a brain tumor. He was 59 years old. By all accounts, Coach Hep was a charismatic leader, a smart coach, and an all-around great guy. I'll leave it to We Are the Postmen for an IU-centric retrospective.

Sure, Iowa's debacle in Bloomington this year was the true signal of the end (and probably the worst day of my year), but IU's performance that day reminded me of 2000 Iowa/Michigan State, when Hawkeye fans could finally see a glimmer of hope. And when Hep and his players climbed into the stands to celebrate with their loyal supporters (Hep called his team "a shooting rocket"), it reminded me of charging the Kinnick turf to celebrate with that team. There was a certain amount of consolation in losing to a team, a fan base, and a coach who could be so excited.

Indiana fans began to worry when Hoeppner went missing this February, but I don't think anyone knew the extent of his illness until today. Even when it was announced last week that Hoeppner would not be coaching this season, it always seemed to imply he would come back at some point. Needless to say, this came as a shock.

It's far too early to even begin speculating on the effect Hoeppner's death will have on this rising program. That will all be addressed in due time. God bless Coach Hep and his family.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's Not Plagarism if You Link to It

I'm back up and running, and what better way to return to the world of blogging than with a recap of stuff other people have written?

Drew Tate has signed with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the CFL. He has also taken the worst picture in the history of online press guide pictures. Tate joins fellow former Hawkeyes Freddy Russell and Khalil Hill in Saskatchewan. I always knew I would eventually be forced to prefer a team to the Vikings. I never would have thought it would be a team located in a city north of Minnesota.

For the first time ever, Iowa State is underrated. Sports Illustrated has ranked Lames #8 in their list of worst uniforms in college football. For the record, they rank the wicked awesome 'Cuse uniforms #4. Such a travesty just might force me to cancel my subscription to SI until the next time I'm offered free issues at Best Buy.

Cedar Rapids native and Big Blue wideout Adrian Arrington was kicked off the team. Except that, no, he wasn't. But he now has calves of steel.

Yost finally made it into Penthouse. And not for the reason you think. (Completely safe for work, by the way).

Anyone remember how Bill Clinton allegedly stole furniture on his way out of the White House? Well, Steve Alford tried to do the same on his way out of Iowa City. Only, instead of furniture, Steve took email accounts. And cars. And trips to the Final Four. By the way, The Hairgel is temporarily leaving us; Godspeed, OPS.

Also, if you have $1.7 million burning a hole in your pocket, you can own the Golden Boy's house.

Oh, and Ana Ivanovic is very attractive.

Finally, there has been a slight change in plans. I'm still starting my baseball blog, but the name has been changed. So come on over and read about the national pastime at Bat Boy Bobby Savoy (bobbysavoy.wordpress.com).