Notre Dame Does Not Need Big Ten Expansion


Notre Dame Fighting Irish Leprechaun Logo

The identity of the Notre Dame football program always has been one-of-a-kind. So now the question posed to university administrators, alumni, fans and athletes, “Does being independent in football weigh enough as part of our tradition?” The answer could determine how stubborn the Irish can be toward joining the Big Ten Conference — and all of college football is waiting.

By Kevin Hunt

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Jim Phillips, CEO of Northwestern’s Athletic Program Part 1

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By Paul M. Banks

In 2008-09, Chicagoans became well aware of how Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, along with team Vice President John McDonough re-branded the Blackhawks from red-headed stepchild to main event on the Second City’s sports stage. Forbes named them the biggest turnaround in sports business history. When you’re a university Athletic Director, you have responsibilities which often come quite close to matching those of a professional franchise owner.  Northwestern’s A.D. Jim Phillips is looking to be the next executive to accomplish such a feat.
“John McDonough is a close friend, I spend a lot of time with him, as well as executives from some of the other pro teams because they know the market,” Phillips said when I visited his office for an extensive interview earlier this year. Phillips went to Wrigley Field for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic, as well as several other Hawks homes games, taking in the buzz surrounding the team. “I wanted to see what they were doing to revitalize the program, and John is the architect of all that.” daleyhawksjeryse1

Phillips articulated what fundamental principles he noticed working effectively, and how he’s implementing them at Northwestern University.

“One is the fan experience; people want to be entertained, as this economy has affected everybody. I can’t control the product on the field, the wins and losses, but I can hopefully control something with the experience. Getting good tickets and finding a place to park can’t be a hassle. We can’t have a hassle at the concession stands. There has to be lots of family friendly things to do before the game, as part of a broader vision of fan experience.

“Second is target-marketing. Surely, it’s a target audience that will make a difference for us, studies have shown. Pricing is also a critical component, we held the line, and in several instances we even decreased even though other teams in the Big Ten increased their prices. Also, certainly the internet has really taken the head over the direct mail. But there’s still a huge area for that contact. When somebody from our office calls you to thank you for being a season ticket holder and asks you, was it a great experience? Did you enjoy yourself? Was it affordable, something you want to again?”

Like Rocky Wirtz, Phillips is a man of the people: greeting everybody in his path, getting involved in the community, talking in-depth with fans and media alike. He gets to know the journalists covering his team, as Phillips knows increasing awareness for his program is an essential component of his innovative marketing style.

“You certainly got to allow people to have access to your team, that’s what we’ve done with Stretch with the Cats before the spring game, autograph sessions, etc. to break down the barriers that may be real or imaginary within teams or organizations. Hopefully, we can build on the successes of the program and further that. Certainly, the last 15 years we’re third in conference in Big Ten championships behind only the Big 2, but we haven’t had a litany of success over say the past 50 years, especially in the ‘70s there were some rough times,” Phillips articulated.  northwestern

Despite the program posting a very respectable 6 bowl appearances in the past 14 seasons, they may still be haunted by the ghosts of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Wildcats failed to record a winning season from 1972-1994, including an especially putrid period in 1976-1981, when the Wildcats went 3-62-1. But encountering and conquering challenges is nothing new to Phillips.  When he served as Northern Illinois University Athletic Director, he and former Iowa AD Bob Bowlsby arranged a football game between NIU and Iowa at Soldier Field. The September 1st, 2007 match-up was a sell-out; setting a Mid-American Conference attendance record for a home football game at 61,500.

“When I signed the lease agreement at Soldier Field, my hand literally shook because of what they wanted to rent the facility and I thought: how many tickets do I have to sell in order for this thing to break even? And we did a lot more than break even, but that’s just part of being aggressive through marketing and promotions.”

What’s Your Favorite League Overall?

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By the TSB Staff

October brings the busiest time of the year for sports, and the multitude of choices might cause overload for the fan. It’s a plethora of choices on parallel with the amount of art displayed in the churches and museums of Florence, Italy. When I visited the “flowering city on the Arno River,” I was amazed by how much marble and canvas had been aesthetically crafted across the city, the multitude of options made it hard to choose what I wanted to see it first and fit it all in the time I was allotted. That’s what it currently feels like as a sports fan in autumn, especially so on the weekends. So how do you prioritize which game you want to watch? I unleashed my editorial staff to make their case for each one. –PMB

H. JOSE BOSCH:

College football is, without a doubt, the best sport in America because college football appeals to that small part of all of us that never wants to truly grow up. College football takes us back to the times when the beer was cheaper, the breasts were perkier and the days never ended; they all just blended together in one hedonistic mess.

College football has bands and student sections and cheerleaders and almost all of them are under the age of 25, which makes for a lot more fun for everyone else who is over 25. They look better, cheer better and have a lot more fun. At the best stadiums they create a toxic environment that is America’s closest answer to the mass hysteria you see in South American soccer stadiums. While bags of urine aren’t thrown on the field, bottles of urine certainly roll their way down stadium steps from time to time. And that is almost as awesome.

College football reminds us of our own football glory days. Those times in college when we tried to convince our friends that we totally could score a touchdown from five yards out if we were given four downs. Why? Because college football still seems so accessible to the former athlete. We went to class with these guys, ate at the same student union and went to the same parties. So many of them seemed so normal that you almost felt you could be a part of that group.

Who watches an NFL game and thinks they can compete at that level? But, for some reason, even though almost all Division I football players could easily kick our ass, we somehow believe we could hang with them if only some coach from the past had believed in us.
College football also has true upsets and underdogs. It still absolutely sucks for the favorite when they lose a game for two main reasons: without a playoff a loss can mean your national championships hopes could vanish and they don’t have the solace of a big paycheck to come home to. Oh, not to mention they have to walk around campus for a week while everyone else around the critiques why they sucked so much.

If those kinds of raised stakes aren’t enough to pump you up than you seriously have no soul.

College football is the best sport in the country. Period.

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PAUL SCHMIDT:

There’s lots of reasons to love college basketball. There’s the obvious arguments, like the college game is pure, without the obvious faults of the pro game. They always play defense in college basketball, and the wide variety of talent bases and schemes always make for intriguing game play.

There’s two things in my mind that always set college basketball apart from every other sport.  First would be the student bodies and fan bases. Quite simply, college basketball fans are the most rabid and informed of all fans. The arenas are, in general, conducive to making things as loud as possible (I say in general because if you’ve ever been to Allstate Arena, where DePaul plays, well…). Every fan base has its own crazed section: You’ve got the Cameron Crazies, the Izzone, The Paint Crew, The Orange Krush…just to name a small few.  Some stadiums you just don’t sit down.  At Florida, in one half of the stadium you wear blue, the other half orange.  In short, the crowds, the stadiums, the atmosphere and yes, the cheerleaders, all make college basketball what it is in person and at home on TV.

The second…quite obviously…is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  There is nothing quite like it in any other sport. The NCAA has even tried to re-create the same atmosphere with its other sports by holding selection show specials, and amping up the one-and-done atmosphere (most notably with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and the NCAA Baseball and Softball College World Series’), and have only gotten into the same zip code with atmosphere and dedication of its fans once (surprisingly, the NCAA men’s hockey tournament).

Is there any greater day than Selection Sunday, with the culmination of all of the major conference tournaments, and then finding out if and where your team is going in the Big Dance?  Is there any event that really lets you feel like the little guy has a chance to win?   The NCAA Tournament is just the perfect combination of sport, marketing and opportunity.  Maybe it was all by accident — but it certainly was a happy accident.

Let’s say in the next NCAA Tournament, that a 16 seed beats a 1 seed for the very first time. That, right there has not only become the biggest sports story of the year, but one of the biggest news stories as well.  The David-vs.-Goliath story, the anything-can-happen story. The perseverance wins over all story, saying that if you work hard, and put your mind to it, that you can overcome any obstacles and achieve anything.

How many other sports do you know that can accomplish that in just one game?

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PETER CHRISTIAN

My favorite league? Come on. There’s no doubt it’s the NHL. Sure it’s run by some second rate moron who wouldn’t get in to Death Valley Community College if he applied today, and the league’s ratings suffer because the TV contracts they have are about as lucrative as an eyeball on your kneecap. However, from a pure entertainment standpoint it is the clear winner in my mind. I love all sports but hockey is the sport that clicked first for me. I’m happy watching any part of any game of hockey at any level, so it’s only natural that the league that showcases the world’s best talent is my favorite. But that’s not the only reason.

The NHL has a little bit of everything. Flashy players? Check. Gritty, hard hitting action? Check. Jump out of your seat, Holy-Shit-did-that-just-happen moments? You bet.

Hockey combines athleticism, hustle and hard work with a specific skill set that really defines the personality of its players. Hockey players on principle are guys that are extremely loyal and aren’t afraid to take or throw a punch to prove a point all while showcasing their very specific talent of being able to skate on a pair of blades that are less than a quarter inch wide while using a curved stick to handle a rubber disc on ice. Think about that for a minute. I don’t mean to take anything away from athletes of other sports, but when you really think about all that hockey players DO before they even add in the components of the game (checking, poke checks, goalies, offsides and penalties) it is quite the amazing feat.

Currently the NHL is at a tough spot because they have too many teams (from a financial standpoint) but are exactly where they need to be from a talent level. So if you focus on what’s on the ice only, you’ll be happily entertained, you’ll constantly be on the edge of your seat and you’ll get to see a good mix of scoring, hitting, fighting, strategy and world class skating.

That’s why I love the NHL.

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TOM LEA

You know that time of year when the weather changes and people start to complain about aching joints and muscle pain. Well, considering that time of year is now, at least in the Midwest, some of you probably don’t need to be reminded.

Anyway, when that time of year rolls around for me, I don’t get muscle or joint aches, I simply get the shakes. And it’s entirely because I am so pumped for the NBA season. I mean, once October rolls around and NBA preseason action starts, I am salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs at the thought of the start to the regular season. So, as I sit here and write this, a mere 9 days away from tip-off to the Cavs-Celtics game, I am doing so drenched in sweat while fighting with my hands so they stop shaking long enough to allow me to type.

Now, one may ask where I get this borderline psychotic love for a professional association that so many can’t stand. I simply respond, on TNT.

I mean, where else can you get quality play-by-play announcers and the best studio show for each and every telecast? You got guys like Barkley, Marv Albert, Kenny the Jet, the Czar and Craig Sager. If you didn’t know any better and just looked at a picture of those guys, you would think they are the stars of some VH1 celebreality show. Only they aren’t fighting for anyone’s eternal love, they are just fighting to get enough love for one night. And in Albert’s case, doing so while avoiding harassment charges.

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In all seriousness though, you have some of the most athletic human specimens in the world playing a sport that showcases their skill better than any other. When you see how high some of these guys can jump, how quick they can handle the rock and how well they act like they give a shit each and every game- it makes for high quality drama.

And when the playoffs come around, I mean, I seriously go into a 50 day love affair with my TV. I seriously don’t have a social life and any thing I do have revolves around watching the games that night. I’m beyond obsessed. So much so, that I probably need to see a therapist.

In fact, I just bought the NBA league pass for my computer, so I will have every NBA game at the very same fingertips I am writing this piece with. The thought of that is scary enough. But hell, it’s almost Halloween and I’m in that kind of mood. This is the first time I have ever done this and I am having a hard time typing right now because my hands are shaking with sheer excitement.  This season on The Sports Bank I plan on doing a weekly write-up where I will discuss the best games I saw during the week, the funniest thing I saw during the week, developments, surprises, trends, etc. I will also have a counter where I put up the games I watched and the total number I have.

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2010 NFL Mock Draft

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By Peter Christian

The 2010 NFL Draft is about 6 months away. There is more than half of the NFL season left to play. We still have to wait two and a half months to see a BCS Champion crowned. But the 2010 NFL Draft is about 6 months away. Let’s have some fun. (Draft order is reverse order of Peter Christian and Paul M. Banks NFL power rankings, positional need has been taken into account with each pick)

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#1 St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford QB Oklahoma

Bradford’s injury status is now behind him and he is still looked upon as a potential great NFL QB. If all things stay static (Rams get the #1 pick overall, Bradford stays healthy) you can pretty much guarantee Bradford will be moving his game about 500 miles North and East up I-44. Rams fans have probably already begun counting down the days (190 to be exact) which they have every right to do.

#2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Russell Okung OT Oklahoma State

Russell Okung is as good a left tackle you will find in all of college football. He has the fundamental base of a franchise tackle to go with his physical skills. Okung also gets praised by pretty much everyone for his intelligence as well.

#3 Cleveland Browns

Eric Berry S Tennessee

If you don’t know who Eric Berry is, look him up. He could be the heir apparent to Ed Reed as the elite defensive playmaker in the NFL.

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#4 Kansas City Chiefs

Brandon Spikes LB Florida

Tim Tebow gets ALL the hype around the Gators which means Brandon Spikes isn’t quite the household name it should be. He is the best inside linebacker to come out of college since Patrick Willis and will have a similar impact in the NFL.

#5 Oakland Raiders

Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska

This is pretty much the lowest Suh should go. He is an expert at winning his battle at the line of scrimmage and causes disruption in the backfield constantly. He is an every down defensive tackle due to his dual ability to stuff the run or crash the pocket.

#6 Buffalo Bills

Carlos Dunlap DE Florida

Dunlap is one of the biggest reasons Gator opponents have backfield mishaps. He is fast AND strong which will allow him to cause nightmares for opposing tackles for years to come.

#7 Detroit Lions

Trent Williams OT Oklahoma

The Okung or Williams debate over who is the better choice at offensive tackle is one where there really isn’t a loser. Trent Williams, like Okung, has good feet, strong hands and the talent to become elite in the NFL.

#8 Tennessee Titans

Gerald McCoy DT Oklahoma

McCoy is a pillar of strength that can dominate from the center of the field. He is very agile for a guy just shy of 300 pounds and will be a combine favorite.

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#9 Jacksonville Jaguars

Tim Tebow QB Florida

Tebow gets knocked for his throwing shortfalls but he has the leadership market cornered and if there is any player in the draft pool that will work to better themselves, Tebow is it.

#10 San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina)

Jevan Snead QB Ole Miss

Snead’s stock has solidified as a first rounder but a good run through the SEC could determine if he is picked near the top or bottom. He isn’t elusive by any means but his pocket presence and second nature footwork in the pocket makes him a quarterback with a future in the NFL. He has the ability to throw to any spot on the field but his accuracy fails him when he gets lazy.

#11 Washington Redskins

Dez Bryant WR Oklahoma State

Bryant’s body of work is more than enough to impress scouts even with his current eligibility issue. His body control and athleticism is something that has NFL coaches very intrigued. He has battled injury issues, but when he’s on the field he is a force.

#12 Miami Dolphins

Taylor Mays S USC

If you asked a scout to write down their ideal size and speed numbers for an NFL free safety they’d list: 6-3, 235, 4.4. Oddly enough that is Taylor’s height, weight and 40 time on record. Enough said.

#13 Houston Texans

Greg Hardy DE Ole Miss

Greg Hardy may be the purest sack artist in the draft. He has a lethal combination of speed and power that he mixes up to get to the quarterback. Hardy also has a sort of “Overdrive” that he shifts into once he smells a possible sack.

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#14 Seattle Seahawks

Jahvid Best RB California

Best is exactly what is name proclaims at his position. He has very good vision and an even better instinct on when to turn on the jets. He is very good at making defenders miss at every level. He isn’t a bruiser back but if coupled with a versatile offense he has the makings of the next young playmaking running back.

#15 Green Bay Packers

Charles Brown OT USC

Brown is a people mover that has the benefit of playing in a pro-style offensive scheme that will make the college-to-NFL transition much easier than some.

#16 Dallas Cowboys

Terence Cody DT Alabama

Cody is a big time anchor guy who could go higher if he stays in good shape throughout the combine and workout process. He is a perfect 3-4 true nose tackle and can really control the flow and direction of a play.

#17 Arizona Cardinals

Jermaine Gresham TE Oklahoma

Gresham is an elite pass catching tight end. He can run a perfect seam route or he can cover a lot of space over the middle. He needs to work on his blocking but he should be a touchdown machine with his hands, size and route running skills.

#18 Denver Broncos (from Chicago)

Arthur Jones DT Syracuse

Jones’ is a gap filler and is stronger than Atlas. He is in a Pat Williams type run stopper that will be look like a man amongst boys at times. He plays hard on every play and is of the rare breed of football players that will never quit on any play.

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#19 San Diego Chargers

Jonathan Dwyer RB Georgia Tech

Dwyer is an old school workhorse running back. He can run inside and outside and can handle as many carries as the coach gives him. Dwyer’s a big back, but he has good speed as well and can be the muscle of a two back system or handle the lone number one duties as well.

#20 New England Patriots

Sergio Kindle LB Texas

Kindle is a versatile linebacker that is an excellent attacker. He takes very good angles to the ball and makes tackles all over the field. Sergio’s mix of energy and instincts allows him to overcome the fact that he is a little slower than coaches would want.

#21 San Francisco 49ers

Sean Weatherspoon LB Missouri

Weatherspoon can play both sides of the field (he’ll end up near the ball anyway) and is always around a big play. Whether he’s rushing the passer, busting up a play in the backfield, breaking up a pass or chasing down a receiver from behind, Weatherspoon can do it all.

#22 Atlanta Falcons

CJ Spiller RB Clemson

Spiller’s a fast runner built on a solid frame. His outside running game and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is where he’ll make his mark, but he’s not afraid to go right at a defender. A little extra muscle and being able to show his durability will help Spiller’s stock go up.

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#23 New York Jets

Brandon LaFell WR LSU

LaFell is a rubber band man when it comes to contorting his body in the air to make the catch. His hands are his biggest asset as he catches the ball softly and away from his body. He needs to improve his route running as he isn’t a super fast runner but as long as he makes catches to bail out his quarterback he’ll be a good NFL player.

#24 Cincinnati Bengals

Rolando McClain LB Alabama

McClain is an amazing tackler in space and can cover a lot of ground from the middle linebacker spot. He’s got great fundamentals and has a knack of shedding blockers to make big tackles.

#25 Pittsburgh Steelers

Brandon Graham DE Michigan

Graham is a big body that plays very well upfield. Scouts will love that he is versatile enough to play the end position in either scheme.

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#26 Baltimore Ravens

Arrelious Benn WR Illinois

Benn is the prototype when it comes to the big, athletic receivers. He has the potential to be the first WR off the board if he starts producing or has an amazing combine and workout process.

#27 Seattle Seahawks (from Denver)

Jake Locker QB Washington

Locker’s draft stock has shot up with his solid play this season for the Huskies. I expect things will come down by draft time but he’s raised enough eyebrows to maintain his status as a potential number one pick.

#28 New Orleans Saints

Derrick Morgan DE Georgia Tech

Morgan is a high energy pass rusher with great size. He is an animal off the snap and disrupts plays behind the line of scrimmage with regularity.

#29 Philadelphia Eagles

Jermaine Cunningham DE Florida

Cunningham isn’t as explosive as his teammate Carlos Dunlap but he is more reliable on a play by play basis. He gets to the quarterback with regularity and makes a lot of tackles in the run game as well.

#30 New York Giants

Joe Haden CB Florida

Haden has jumped to the top of the board amongst other corners with solid coverage and ball skills. He makes good reads and adjusts well to the ball when its in the air.

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#31 Minnesota Vikings

Colt McCoy QB Texas

From a mechanics standpoint, McCoy is not quite the best he could be. Yet, he is amazingly accurate and can rifle the ball to almost any location on the field. Though its his playmaking skills that make McCoy an attractive QB to NFL teams in need.

#32 Indianapolis Colts

Patrick Robinson CB Florida State

Robinson is a super fast coverage man that is above average in nearly every aspect of the game. He anticipates routes but isn’t a huge risk taker and tackles well in the open field. He is also a very good return man.

Area College Football Teams Need to Step it Up

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By Paul M. Banks

If you follow college football, you know by now that Illinois was pretty much the biggest disappointment coming out of the gate in week one. Of course, that’s another story for another post, but they did get some redemption tonight when they throttled Illinois State 45-17. And they did that pretty much entirely without their star combo of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn.

More concerning for the Big Ten conference could be the unexpectedly impressive showing by “Directional Michigan,” who gave the conference numerous problems on Saturday. 15 point underdog Central Michigan upset Michigan State 29-27. (Usually, MSU screws up mid-to late season, and dominates in September. Guess they got started early this season)

Eastern Michigan, a 20 point dog to our hometown Northwestern Wildcats, took NU down to the final seconds before junior place-kicker Stefan Demos nailed a 49 yard field goal with 6 ticks left. And Western Michigan lost to Indiana by just four. Maybe it’s a good thing Northern Michigan is a D-II school in the GLIAC conference. And yes, I did have to look that up. And I’m not sure Southern Michigan University exists, but if they did, they’d likely be a thorn in the side of the Big Ten as well. Although other local favorites, Ohio State and Michigan, have looked impressive at times in this young season.

There’s an old football saying claiming, “you improve the most as a team from week one to week two.” If true, it could be a long year for the Big Ten, and maybe a very productive year for the MAC (Mid-American Conference).

“To win a game they way that we did is worrisome across the board. We need to execute better in all aspects. It’s easy when you see the ball run the way it was today, to point the finger at the defensive line. But I’m not prepared to do that yet. I need to watch some video. It is disappointing. We should be better than that,” Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the game. To their credit however, they were missing their top DB (CB Sherrick McMannis) and best DT (Adam Hahn). And their best overall player (DE Corey Wootton) may not even be 100% yet.

Another positive to take away is the fact that Northwestern posted its seventh straight victory versus a Mid-American Conference foe, and they avoided their traditional early season slip-up at the hands of a vastly less talented team. Beating EMU by 3 in ’09 is a lot better than losing at home to D-1 laughingstock Duke in ’07 or to D-1AA opponent New Hampshire in ’06. So, the program has shown some growth, at least in the month of September.


The Sports Bank’s Live College Football Blog: Week 2

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Greetings college football fans! Well, it’s week two of the college football season and since our live blog went so swimmingly last week, we thought we’d come back and do it all over again.

I’m your host, H. Jose Bosch and I, along with a host of TSB writers will take you on a magical journey throughout the Big Ten and the rest of the nation throughout the day. There may be some more Arby’s jokes, Paul Schmidt might break all rules of journalistic integrity and pound Ron Zook’s face in when Illinois inevitably has another disappointing weekend and David Kay will once again risk his life covering a swine flu-infested football team.

Who knows what kind of wacky mayhem will happen!

So sit back, relax and enjoy yourself. Questions, comments or concerns may be addressed in the comments section, where we encourage you to add your input on any game you’re watching. Bonus points for finding/highlighting embarrassing moments. If you can provide a picture, even better. This thread will be for the noon games and we’ll have a second thread for the 3:30 games and beyond.

Oh and yes, Charlie Weis is fat. Go Blue!
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Our Favorite (And Least Favorite) College Fight Song

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By TSB Staff Contributors Paul M. Banks, H. Jose Bosch and Peter Christian

Tomorrow’s battle between Michigan and Notre Dame will feature the two most famous fight songs in all of college sports. For a lot of people, most fight songs sound very similar, and a lot like your standard military march. And that’s not accidental as they are called “fight” songs, not “spirit” songs, as both forms of music have similar ROTC roots. But for college sports aficionados such as us, saying all fight songs sound the same is blaspeheme! Here’s why, as we break down our favorites, as well the ones that annoy us. To make it fair, I told my panel of writers that you were not allowed to select your alma mater’s song.

1. Michigan-

I still can’t figure out how our own HJB graduated from this school. He actually has charm and personality, much more  than any “Michigan Man” I have ever met. Most girls and guys I know rocking maize and blue are to personality what Sarah Palin is to logic and reasoning. But I can’t deny their song, which is my favorite despite my possessing not even the slightest bit of non-loathing for the school. That’s how good it is.

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2. Michigan State-

I have to admit it’s the only fight song that has given me goosebumps (other than The Victors) at a sporting event. Maybe it’s the interstate rivalry or just the enthusiasm of the students when they sing along so carelessly as articles of clothing slowly but surely fall off over the course of the game (seriously guys and gals, wear clothing that fits) But this song always gets my blood boiling in a good way. –HJB

Seriously, take in a game at the Breslin Center and watch the entire crowd sing-along. Then listen as the band cuts off the song when play resumes and the ENTIRE building finishes the song off acapella. Gossebumps everytime. Besides, it was also featured in Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me”. And how many fight songs make it into socially-conscious socioeconomic documentaries produced by polarizing filmmakers?   –PMB


3. Florida State-

Their song is so good it reminds us how dominate the program was in the 1990s and how many great NFL players were once Seminoles. It also makes us forget…what thugs their players are, how little the school even pretends to value education, how slaggish-looking many of their female fans are, well maybe not that last one.

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Other Favorites

Aggie War Hymn – Texas A&M:

I’m not a huge fight song guy (likely a product of not attending a big time football school) but this song has always stuck with me. I love its cadence and how you can hum it all day long without getting tired of it.

Fight On, State – Penn State:

I really like the change in page and the slow build up to the finish.

On, Brave Old Army Team – Army:

Army seems like one of the only teams that should really have a fight song that its teams would get fired up by. I like it. I like it a lot.

Wisconsin:

I was this close to being a Badger after high school and I’ve always had a soft spot for alcoholism and debauchery. While this fight song isn’t anything like the unofficial school anthem “Jump Around,” just the thought of getting piss drunk along with this jovial tune makes me giggle.

Tennessee:

I spent a summer in Tennessee and it’s unreal just how popular this song is. Even people who can’t spell Tennessee or find it on a map sing this with vigor and I’m just talking about those who graduated from UT.

Our Three Least Favorite:

1. Ohio State:

It’s not just because I’m a Wolverine. I hate this song because its pacing reminds me of little knomesaimlessly marching around . Yeah, it doesn’t make sense, but neither does celebrating the spelling of a four-letter word. And script Ohio? Yeah, Michigan’s marching band was the first to do it. Leave it to the Buckeyes to ignore the beauty of the formation and instead celebrate the dotting of an “I.” But I’m not bitter. –HJB

Everything Ohio State does is pretentious. It takes too long to get started and everytime I hear it, I feel like stabbing someone. That seems like a good reason to let it be the worst.  –-PC

2. Notre Dame:

This song just screams pompous, which is fitting because it’s Notre Dame. I feel like I should be wearing a top hat and a monocle while sipping on brandy beside the fireplace while this song plays on the gramophone. Yes, we’re just as pompus and drink just as much wine and eat just as much cheese at Michigan, but at least our fight song doesn’t sound so stuffy. –-HJB

It was used in the closing credits of “Airplane,” so I can say one good thing about it. However, this tune is the most over-played, over-hyped, and over-used piece of garbage signifying everything exemplifying the evils of bandwagonism. There is a reason ND fans, not actually affiliated with the school won TSB’s inaugural douchebracket this past March; a tourney determined by reader polling

-PMB

3. USC:

The more ESPN whores them in their college football coverage, the more I think about replacing ND’s song with this one. Watching USC play on TV is so irritating because their stupid marching band knows literally 2 whole songs, and they play one of them after every first down. It’s more overplayed and sappy than the Celine Dion crapola from “Titanic” was during my sophomore year of college. But I guess it’s ok, because USC (and ESPN in general) pander to front-runner frat boys with no genuine knowledge of sports. Therefore, repitive trash is right up their alley. –PMB

Mostly because it sounds like an instrumental that would open a Hollywood movie from the Golden Age. –-PC

Others we can do without

Oklahoma:

This fight song is kind of the like the song “Oh, Christmas Tree” where no one knows the actual words, so they just keep repeating “Oh Christmas Tree.” How is that inspiring? I’m surprised it doesn’t lull anyone to sleep. I’ve met someone from Oklahoma once. The person had less personality than the computer screen you’re staring at right now. So it’s no surprise this song is as dull and tasteless as it is.

Florida:

it’s just so boring and simplistic (exactly like most of Tim Tebow’s fans). The program may be at the pinnacle, but the song is very forgetable and primitive.

Repairing Sportsmanship after the Oregon-Boise State Incident

 

By Paul M. Banks

You’ve seen it somewhere by now- the ugly incident with University of Oregon and Boise State players, a deplorable scene for kicking off the eagerly awaited college football season. It was all caught on tape and it’s now being re-lived on countless websites through the art of viral video thousands of times.

The Awards and Recognition Association (ARA), founder of the National Sportsmanship Award, expressed concern over this black eye to college football’s image today. The ARA urges the public and the media not to share such negative displays and instead focus on the more common incidents of positive sportsmanship rarely make the news. The incident of negative sportsmanship — physical and verbal — reflects a trend that was identified in the ARA’s Annual State of Sportsmanship survey, fielded by TNS Worldwide earlier this year.

Unfortunately, for the fourth year in a row, the vast majority of Americans believe that sportsmanship is worse now than when they were growing up. More than 85 percent of Americans think sportsmanship is worse now than in previous years.lavelledwardsstadium

“What happened with the Oregon and Boise players was lamentable, but it is not by any means representative of the vast majority of athletes who participate in organized sports,” says former Brigham Young University Head Football Coach LaVell Edwards, who chairs the selection committee for the ARA Sportsmanship Award. “As a coach, I saw up close the character of the players on my teams and those of our opponents. Believe me, the good far outnumbered the bad. There are plenty of positive role models. The ARA Sportsmanship Award gives us an opportunity to shed a bright light on exemplary incidents and athletes.”

Last year, I spoke with both Edwards and Northwestern University’s Eric Peterman, when the former NU wide receiver accepted the ARA‘s 2008 National Sportsmanship Award.

On Saturday, I asked his former Head Coach about leadership, and who’s stepped up to fill that void (after Peterman’s departure) in his program. “Last year as a program, we volunteered 356 times for 80 different organizations. And yeah it was difficult to lose Eric, but he didn’t do all those. In our developmental process, giving back is critical. There are those who are a lot less fortunate than we are, and those who have made choices that have put themselves in those positions, and hopefully we can lift them up, in any way shape or form. Our young men are priviledged to be playing this game at Northwestern University, so hopefully we can take that 356 individual times and 80 different organizations that we went out and gave back, and hopefully double that this year,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitz was also asked his thoughts on Oregon suspending that player and the incident in general. He was very passionate about it and towards the end, displayed a fair amount of serious anger. Not anything close to Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and his infamous “I’M A MAN. I’M 40!!!,” but this is an issue Fitz feels very strongly about, as does the ARA.

nupractice3

Here’s what Fitz had to say:

I believe, based on the initiative that Grant Taft and the American Football Coaches Association set out for this weekend, to have a ceremonial sportsmanship handshake before the game, shows the initiative we’re trying to have as a coaching body. Obviously that young man (at Oregon) made a poor choice, and he’s going to pay dearly. I look at it from what I’ve seen; I think there’s a crowd control problem in college football. There was a lot of emotion in that game. And to have people come on the field I think is dangerous for players and support staff.

I’d like to see that fixed in college football, so that our players can get off the field in a safe manner and the coaches can as well after ball games. There is no need for [the punch] in our game, there was no need for the initiation of the contact either that enacted the swing. We talked as a staff before the game and used that as a teaching moment. That’s how your life can change, your life can change like that (Fitz snapped his fingers) I also heard there were some coaches that decided not to do the ceremonial handshake today, and to me that’s extremely disappointing for our profession.pat_fitzgerald

And if we can’t recruit the right kind of young men to act properly and carry on the great tradition of football that is about acting the right way on and off the field than I question the young men that we’re recruiting, and I question the leadership of our coaching body. We’re entrusted to be the stewards of the game as coaches. I applaud Grant Taft and Chip Kelly for the statement that he’s making, because it’s unacceptable and it does not belong in our game.”

Tips for fostering positive sportsmanship, created by ARA’s panel of collegiate coaches, are available at www.arasportsmanshipaward.com

The Sports Bank’s Live College Football Blog!

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Today, the writers of The Sports Bank will be bringing all their thoughts to you in live, real time fashion!  Ahh, the wonders of the internets!

Join us today as we give you the inside scoop on who, what, why and how YOUR favorite team is doing!

Just some of the games we will be spotlighting today (all start times central):

Towson St. at Northwestern (11 AM)
Minnesota at Syracuse (11 AM)
Navy at Ohio St (11 AM)
Western Michigan at Michigan (2:30 PM)
Missouri at Illinois (2:40 PM)
Northern Illinois at Wisconsin (6 PM)

Simply look for the bolded portions of the post for your favorite teams’ names and look for what’s going on at the stadium and/or in the minds of the people covering the games!

Minnesota 7, Syracuse 0 (13:48 left in the 1Q)
You can tell this is going to be a wild game, with two great kick returns, a turnover, a touchdown, and Syracuse already knocking on the door…I hope if you made a wager on this game you bet the over.  Defense and the defensive side of special teams already seem to be lacking in this one.
Paul Schmidt

Northwestern 7, Towson 0 7:55 1st qtr
Ohhhh, it’s good to be back, god I love football season especially collegiate level. Wish there was more of a crowd here though

–Paul M. Banks

traffic here near the stadium SUCKED!! I can’t believe Ryan Field isn’t more full when you consider how much traffic was backed up

–PMB

Freshman tailback Arby Fields catches a pass. how about 5 for $5.95? When Kafka knows he’s going to throw to him, do you think he says in the huddle to his teammates “I’m thinking Arby’s man”?

–PMB

NU 14, Towson 0, 3:37 1st qtr.

NU freshman TB Arby Fields score his 1st TD. Curly fries, beef n cheddars, and Dr. Pepper all around.

–PMB

Minnesota 14, Syracuse 3

Tweets from @PeterChristian….he’s on fire today:

“Greg Paulus is not accustomed to going this long in a collegiate game without fist pumping wildly (and annoyingly).”
“Thanks to ESPN for sending their 32nd best booth crew to the Gophers-Orange game.”

A couple of thoughts – Minnesota’s defense looks a little bit better than I thought it would, and their offense looks primed like it’s the middle of the season.  Decker is on fire and Adam Weber is firing bullets.
Oh, and I think Pete might be giving these ESPN2 goofballs in the booth too much credit by saying they are #32…
-PS

Minnesota 14, Syracuse 3 (9:59 left in the 1Q)

Minnesota starting this drive for the first time inside their own territory…and now they are lining up a WR named Stoudamire up at QB….good times.

@PeterChristian was wondering if seeing highlights of Minnesotas Eric Decker catching a thousand balls against Illinois last year was fun…why, yes, Pete, it was.  Thanks for asking.
Heading over to the main ESPN to see the Middies and Buckeyes knotted up at 7….
-PS

Northwestern 21, Towson 0 :37 left 1st

I have to admit everyone on NU who’s caught a pass or done something significant on offense today has a GREAT NAME: Arby Fields, Scott Concannon, Drake Dunsmore, Zeke Markhausen. Fictional names are nowhere near as good as these!
–PMB

Love how Towson’s main receiver and return specialist is named Banks. btw, Arby Fields scored again this time from much further out. Is Towson thinking Arby’s man? Ok, that’s it. I’m retiring the roast beef fast food chain jokes

–PB

arbys

NU 28, TU 0 12:44 left in 2nd

Dan Persa, Wildcats’ 2nd string comes in for a drive. 72 yard bomb to Brewer. He’s elusive like Kafka.

–PB

Kafka had a great 1st qtr 7 of 8 for 92 yards.

–PB

NU Athletic Director Jim Phillips is a very friendly and talkative guy. Just chatted with him. He makes sure to chat with all the journos here

–PMB

Minnesota 14, Syracuse 10 (:32 left in the 1Q)
Nice little ball fake by Paulus and he hit his receiver in stride for a 30 yard TD.
We also got the debut of Greg Paulus jumping up and down hands in the air, as well as several little fist-pumps…not good times.
From @PeterChristian

“Dick Vitale just peed himself with that Paulus TD pass.”

“So much for thinking the defensive backs aren’t going to be the Achilles’ Heel of the Gophers. I just threw up.”
Agreed on the DBs…either Paulus is far better than we all anticipated he would be after not playing QB for 4 seasons, or the Gopher DBs are not very good.
Also, I think it is time for my first beer.  Look out world!
-PS

Ohio State 17  Navy 7

After forcing a fumble, Pryor play-fakes and runs in for a short TD. Pryor is not very accurate, but he CANNOT be sacked, and he’s scrambling and then looking downfield, not just tucking and running.

-JF

Minnesota 14, Syracuse 10 (11:48 2Q)
From @PeterChristian:

“Note to Adam Weber: those kind of INT’s are not acceptable when you’ve been starting for two years.”
Agreed.  I didn’t really know what to say about that pass, because after Weber did a really nice job avoiding the pressure, he looked like a second-string high school QB throwing the ball to a receiver that, under no circumstances, could have been considered open.
The Gopher defense held, and even got their first sack on Paulus (a good sandwich…), but those types of passes have to be worrisome if you are a Gopher fan.
-PS

Ohio State 17  Navy 7 (2:51 2Q)

Interesting development here. After Pryor starts out sizzling… he is replaced by the back-up QB for this drive. What!?  The announcers like the move but I’m not so sure. Pryor doesn’t look thrilled either. Fittingly, on his first pass he is sacked.

-JF

Minnesota 14, Syrcause 13

With more tackling issues for the Minnesota DBs, it bears the question, asked via twitter to @PeterChristian, just what their deal is, when they can’t tackle anyone?? @PeterChristian says:

“Because tackling isn’t cool. It’s like crossing the street at a crosswalk. Not doing it is frowned upon, but sometimes it works.”

Ok, then.  There ya go.

Also, Greg Paulus does NOT look like he hasn’t played in a college football game in his career.  They’re using all these little short passes, their version of the Wildcat, the Orange Stallion, and playfakes to completely keep the Gopher D on their toes. The DB’s not bringing receivers down on first contact makes those short passes VERY effective.

Delone Carter just scampered 20+ yards on a straight draw for the Orange, and just punched it in from one yard out, now making it:

Syracuse 20, Minnesota 14 (1:39 2Q)
PS

Syracuse 20, Minnesota 14 (halftime)

Say what you want to about Greg Paulus, he has completely energized the Syracuse fan base, and their entire team.  They’re fired up to be playing, and excited at their prospects — and the reason that is important is the Carrier Dome gets really, really loud when the student section is rocking.  I’ll call it right now — don’t be surprised if the Cuse manage to find their way to a bowl game this season.  I really like what I’m seeing from them so far.

As for the Gophers, Adam Weber looks really lost so far, and many of his passes are far off the mark.  Just first game jitters/rust?  Or something more?  Keep an eye on this as the game progresses.
PS

Northwestern 37, TU 7 10:30 3rd qtr
I’m surprised Towson even came out for the 2nd half. I would have just stayed inside. And we just had our 1st Wildcat roar of the day… rar rar rar!!

–PMB

I know this is a FCS (formerly I-AA) team, so it’s not that impressive, but still it’s impressive 37-7 total domination

–PB

danny_green_dunking_on_greg_paulus

maybe Eastern Michigan will be a bigger challenge next week. The MAC sometimes gives the Big Ten problems

–pmb

NU 37, TU 14 8:30 in the 3rd

Anybody watch that Big Ten Network Friday night Tailgate show?

No? Yeah, I didnt think so, but anyway, they had this gorgeous new co-host on their who’s an absolute train-wreck on air. Melanie..something. Total babe, but just zero broadcasting skills for the 1o minutes or so I saw towards the end of the show.

This game was pretty much settled since the 1st qtr…it’s 40-14 now. It doesn’t look like they have any other games on the tvs in the press box here. So I’m going to use the 4th here to write my NBC story for the game and get ready to fly out of here to meet Paul S. and co. at joe’s to watch Illinois. I want to get to see a qtr or two of that game before I have to jet again and drive out to Naperville, to get to Lisa’s place for street fest tonight.

OSU only up 6 on Navy- shocking! PSU is crushing Akron 31-7. And Minnesota is still losing. go Cuse!

Ohio State 23  Navy 14

Wake up call for the Buckeyes! Navy just went on a 15 play, 99-yard drive capped off by a 16-yard laser of a TD pass by Ricky Dobbs that took up almost 9 minutes. The defense has some kinks to work out before USC comes to town next week, but the triple option is difficult to defend/prepare for. This is a good early test for Pryor and the inexperienced offense. Just as i typed this, OSU came back and answered with a field goal.
-JF

 

 

 

 

 

Ohio State 29  Navy 14
And just like that the suspense is over. Senior safety Kurt Coleman forces a fumble and the offense cashes in with a score. It’s hard what to make of the defense. Without the forced turnovers, pretty mediocre. Pryor looks like he has improved a lot from last year. He is constantly making plays. Hard to tell against Navy, but the running game looks pretty solid too. Nice response.

-JF

 

 

 

Iowa 17, Northern Iowa 13
Coming at you live from Joe’s Bar on Weed Street here in Chicago….yes I’m live blogging from a bar.  This should be entertaining.

Nice, NICE ball from Ricky Stanzi to Tony Moeaki at TE for the Hawkeyes, but it wasn’t entirely clear that he came down with the ball in the end zone without bobbling it.  Too tough to tell, really.  Now Northern Iowa faced with a tough 3rd and 5 to stay somewhere in the game…and not making it.  I’m not saying that the game is over…but it’s not looking good for the Panthers.
-PS

Syracuse 20, Minnesota 17 (14:10 4Q)
From @PeterChristian – “Nobody on this Gopher offense is on the same page. They’re reading different books. The only ones reading the Gopher playbook is the ‘Cuse D.”

I am telling you, this is a solid job of working with what you have by a not-very-talented Orangmen unit.  They aren’t trying to win it all on one play, like the Gophers seem to be every time they touch the ball.

Of course, Weber just went 40 yards through the air and hit Decker in stride.  So what do I know.

Ohio State 29  Navy 21 

Every time i say something about this game, something crazy happens. Navy just threw an 87 yard TD pass after OSU went for it on 4th and 2 when they were well within field goal range and got stuffed. OSU secondary has serious issues. This game is wacky! I suggest turning it on if you can. -JF

Ohio State 31  Navy 27

NAVY TOUCHDOWN!  QB Ricky Dobbs on a 20+ yard run up the middle. Chris Spielmann is having a heart attack in the booth. It all comes down to the two point conversion…..Navy goes to a spread look and….Pass INTERCEPTED and returned all the way the other way for 2 points! Very odd play call, Navy hadn’t been in the spread all day. Onside kick is unsuccessful. 2:23 remaining -JF

Iowa 17, Northern Iowa 16
I don’t think that I can really ezplain what the hell just happened…I had no sound.  But I’ll try….

UNI had a great drive all the way down the field with no timeouts, and did a fantastic job getting themselves into field goal range.  UNI kicker lines up, looks confident….GREATPUSH ON THE IOWA LINE IT’S BLOCKED GAME OVER!!!!

Wait….no it isn’t.

See, you can’t, if you’re the defense, touch the ball on a blocked kick if it crosses the line of scrimmage.  Acts as a fumble.  UNI knew this and recovered the ball for first down, with one second left, and another 42 yard attempt to win the game.

The UNI kicker lines up.  He looks confident.  The ball is snapped and HOLY SHIT IT’S BLOCKED AGAIN?????????

Unequivocably the most wild finish to a game this season so far.  Yeah, I read it…..
PS

Syracuse 20, Minnesota 20 (OT)
The first college football OT of the year is butting up against the start of the Illinois game.  I’m not happy.

Crap….I’m abandoning the Gophers.  I’m sorry.  Pete is frothing at the mouth though, know this. 
-PS

Illinois-Mizzou, just prior to kickoff
Just know, I’m predicting Illinois to get their first Arch Rivalry win since the inception of this awful nickname…

They just showed the announcers and I don’t know who they are….Ed Cunningham??? WTF, ESPN??
PSIllinois-Mizzou KICKOFF!!!!!
The 2009 season begins with Rejus returning a kickoff 25 yards.  I-L-L!!!

Mizzou 3, Illinois 0 (7:23 1Q)

As far as both teams’ first drives go, this was about as bad as it could have gone.  Illinois didn’t go three-and-out, but had a nice drive stopped by poor Juice Williams decisions, culminating in him NEARLY throwing an interception.

Then Mizzou drove down with relative ease, throwing, running and running an option that I just didn’t see coming.

And in the middle of that drive, Rejus Benn went off the field to the locker room. 

This may be the quickest the Illini have ever made me want to kill myself….

PS      Mizzou 10, Illinois 0
Maybe this live blog was a bad idea….

 

Mizzou again was moving the ball with no problem, and AGAIN, they score.  This time on a long touchdown pass from Gabbart to….someone.  I don’t know who.  I think I blacked out.

Benn is still in the locker room.  This is, officially, the worst I’ve felt about an Illinois game ever…

PS     Mizzou 10, Illinois 3 (13:30 2Q)

 

Well, we’re on the board…I don’t know if it’s a good thing when you see that Baline Gabbart is 8-9 for 100+ yards and a TD.  Mizzou is still moving the ball like it’s going out of style.

STILL no Benn update.  I have to believe, given the way he was walking, it was something above the hips, because there was no limp at all.  Maybe the shoulder again?  He’s got a bad one.  A concussion? He did look….wobbily?  Unsure of his steps?  I don’t know. 

It’s all speculation, and it would be great if SOMEONE would say what happened so we could stop speculating…

-PS     Missouri 13, Illinois 3 (8:36 2Q)

An awful pass by Juice Williams to a wide open AJ Jenkins — Who probably should have caught the ball — led to an interception…two GREAT plays by Martez Wilson stop the drive in it’s tracks though.  Still an FG…

 

But Martez asserting himself with a huge hit is great, and a big tackle for a loss is even better.

Still, much like the crowd in St. Louis, the crowd here at Joe’s Bar on Weed Street is losing interest quickly.  It’s like we knew this was coming.  We’re cut!  The Russian is cut!!

PS  Mizzou 16, Illinois 3


See, this is why you come to the bar with your pregnant wife:  1) she orders fried things with cheese (mmmmmm mac and cheese bites and fried spicy ravioli!!!), 2) she can drive you home when things go inexplicably wrong. 

 

At some point, you have to say Mike Locksley was the heart of the Illinois offense, and that the other Mike, Mike Schultz, isn’t getting the job done. 

Also at some point, if the Illini lose enough games, you have to say Ron Zook (pronounced, according to random old guy announcer that isn’t Ed, Zooooook) is in trouble job-wise.  This team has so much talent….they should go 9-3 or 10-2 no question.  None at all!  Losing to a Missouri team that lost every possible skill player you could imagine in the first game of the year before they really knew what was going on is absolutely inexcusable.  IN-EX-CUSABLE.

I’m going back to my mac and cheese bites.  They’re just more satisfying than the Illinois offense.

Somehow, improbably, still no word on Rejus Benn.  And with music blaring, if it comes at halftime, I won’t know unless one of the people I’ve asked to emails me.  Here’s hoping.

On a side note, I’ve been tweeting all week with @Red_Grange…I haven’t heard from him during the entire game.  I think the Illini killed him again.

Michigan alot, Western Michigan not alot (halftime)
Don’t have a current score on this one but the last time I saw it was 30-0 Wolverines.  Looks like I might have been wrong about the Broncos. 

From resident Wolverine fan Bosch:

“You see Robinson’s speed on that play??  Fuck Pryor!”

I don’t know who Robinson is, but…well, apparently he and Terrelle Pryor are in a romantic relationship….

“It may be the beer talkin, but the big ten better watch out!  I think the Wolverines will be a force!”

Well, what with the Terrelle Pryor fucking and all…..

-PS   Mizzou 23, Illinois 3
Yeah, the worst case scenario just happened.  Huge plays on a Mizzou opening drive to start the second half lead to a 3 yard TD pass from Gabbart to….another nameless Mizzou WR.

 

I mean, he probably wasn’t nameless, but I’m pretty drunk at this point and I don’t remember anything that’s happened and I’m too angry to look.

Benn’s injury is of the ankle variety, despite not limping as he walked off.  No word whether he returns or not. which is awesome.

Incidentally, the Illinois defense is not very good.
-PS

Missouri 30, Illinois 3 (5:14 3Q)

I just didn’t see it coming.  I just didn’t see it coming.

I don’t even know what to say about this game, other than my decision not to drive down to St. Louis on my own dime to cover the game was a really good idea. Really, really good.

I think I’m going to have to divide my Illinois-win-prediction by three to be right this season.  This is just abysmal, and it looks like there is no hope in sight.

Hoohoo just got his first catch.  With 1:30 left in the first Q.  Not like he is one of the best TE’s in the country or anything.

Finally, a tweet from our resident Wolverine fan Bosch:

“This is HJB…what is wrong with your team, man??”

Yup.  That about sums it up.

-PS  Missouri 30, Illinois 9
I wondered what we were missing….a blocked extra point!!! That was it!

 

Apparently Jason Ford is also injured if you’re wondering why we’re getting such a steady diet of suck…I mean Mikel Leshoure. 

I’m running out of bad adjectives for this game.  At this rate, my snark level will be very low for the evening games…

-PS   Missouri 37, Illinois 9
I have a hard time believing I even just typed that score into the posting area.  It’s downright shocking.

 

It’s the worst Illinois loss of the last three years, for one. 

I think, from a rationality there was no way to expect this.

From a fan standpoint, there’s nothing to say other than I feel betrayed and that I feel as though I was sold a bill of goods. 

I find it almost impossible to believe that somehow this is the way we have started a season that could have ended in a very special way. 

Either Missouri is going to be way better than people thought, or Illinois is going to be train wreck bad.

-PS Illinois-Missouri post-mortem
I just got a text from my mother, and Illinois grad. She said, and I’m quoting:
“What ga?”
Quite honestly, that may sum up my feelings…..
PS

 

Wisconsin 14, Northern Illinois 3 14:52 in second quarter

Tweet at 11:30 mark in first quarter:

“To quote Matt LePay: Welcome to the Big 10 Scott Tolzien.”
Mike Lucas shares my thinking that the play almost mirrored the Matt Schaebert/Lee Evans connection in 2004 against Ohio State. Sitting on cloud nine at this point, then reality sets in with the 47 yard run by Me’co Brown down to the Wisconsin 15 on the first play of their second drive. On the bright side, The Badger defense has two sacks already, which is roughly half of what the team had for a total all of last year. If they’re going to give up so many points, at least play with some sense of urgency. I don’t completely understand that saying, but that was my high school football coach’s favorite buzz word. Good thing we didn’t win a game.

Nick Toon is a beast by the way. And I have to admit I didn’t foresee Isaac Anderson’s dual-threat capablities. They have a pretty good crop of underrated receivers. Tolzien just needs to play like Craig Krenzel to give the offense a chance to score. Here comes Curt Phillips…

Halftime: Wisconsin 14, NIU 6

6:54 p.m. tweet- “And so begins Wisconsin’s Chris Leak/Tim Tebow combo, except for the cheerleader pass that Tebow throws. Ride T/P to victory!”

4:10 in second quarter

Welcome to the Big 10 Mike Taylor, and watch that rib contusion you just suffered. His housewarming gift of a fumble inside NIU territory was ruined by Tolzien’s Wakefield knuckler to that cornerback. I love that I can hear the “eat shit” and “fuck you” chants over the television. Totally classy. The Big Ten Network doesn’t have the money to pay for the censors ESPN uses to bleep the chants to “eat_______you.”

1:51 mark-

Make that 0-5 on third downs for NIU. The Badgers aren’t looking too bad on either side of the ball. A bend but don’t break mentality on defense will keep me happy as long as the run-run-pass, more boring than watching paint dry offensive scheme to some level of consistency. 

The best way to describe my feelings at halftime? “Good.” So descriptive, I know. My expectations were pretty low to start, so I’m very happy with both sides of the ball. Tolzien can throw a spiral and the defense is actually creating turnovers and pressure. Now let’s open it up in the second half.

On a separate note, I’m openly campaigning for the Packers to sign Jeff Garcia now that Brohm is out the door. I’ll discuss that later this week.

9:15 in the third quarter-Wisconsin 21, NIU 6

Typical Wisconsin touchdown: A single digit run after some good pass plays. John Clay is bringing back shaving designs into your head to showcase your lifestyle choice. I have a feeling “Tolzien to Toon” will be heard more than a few times this year. Props to Scottie for not emptying his colon before connecting with Al’s son.

Final score: Wisconsin 28, NIU 20

Nothing can ever come easy, but considering all the question marks surrounding the Badgers, all sides of the ball showed a spark that was rarely seen last year. The key word for the rest of the season will be consistency, but the defense was tough, Tolzien’s jock is only stained with sweat, and the rest of the passing game showcased three or four different threats. I’ll have more on this game and the answers to most of those pregame questions next Tuesday. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the fact that the defense wasn’t a game-altering enema like it was so many times last year.

Michigan Wolverines football preview part 1: The offense

11 PSU 1018 JRH

By H. Jose Bosch

Last season, Michigan’s traditional “3 yards and a cloud of dust” offense transformed into 3 yards and I want to throw up. Actually, I may be giving them too much credit: most of the time it didn’t even feel like they could move the ball three yards at a time.

Michigan fans were warned of it. In Rodriguez’s first season with West Virginia he went just 3-8. We ignored it. This was Michigan. Rodriguez wasn’t going to fall the same way he did in puny West Virginia. We had the nation’s longest winning-seasons streak (40) and the longest bowl streak (33) on the line. But we’re haughty, supercilious and we brag about knowing the definition of words no one really uses to describe being arrogant.

upset_rodriguez1So the 3-9 season was a shock to the system. Not a surprise, but a shock. Rodriguez had not only broken the two aforementioned streaks but he also broke a nine-game winning streak over Penn State, a six-game winning streak over Michigan State and a 24-game winning streak over the Mid-American Conference. The only real good news for Rodriguez was that he wasn’t the coach who lost to Appalachian State.

Now that the Wolverines have thoroughly been beaten to a pulp, 2009 will hopefully be the year Michigan channels its inner phoenix and rises from its ashes. Rodriguez coached the Mountaineers to bowl eligibility the year after his 3-8 debut and since he has that experience there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again.

2008 record: 3-9 (2-6 in the Big Ten)
Returning starters: 15 (10 offense, 5 defense)
Total Offense: 290.75 (109th in the nation, 11th in the Big Ten)
Scoring Offense: 20.25 (101st, 11th)
Rushing Offense: 147.58 (59th, 7th)
Passing Offense: 143.17 (108th, 11th)

Notable returns:
RB Brandon Minor WR, Martavious Odoms, LB Obi Ezeh, DE Brandon Graham, and  S Stevie Brown, TE Kevin Koger, WR Greg Mathews, P Zoltan Mesko, C David Molk, G David Moosman, LB Jonas Mouton, OT Stephen Schilling, WR Darryl Stonum, Donovan Warren

Key losses: S Brandon Harrison, DE Tim Jamison, DT Will Johnson, RB Sam McGuffie, DT Terrance Taylor, LB John Thompson, QB Steven Threet, CB Morgan Trent

Quarterbacks: Since Rodriguez came to a school with athletes ill-fitted for his system, he needed to go MacGyver if he had any chance of succeeding. There were times where a paper clip, rubber band and some tin foil might’ve been the better alternative behind center.

Tom and Jerry made a more intimidating duo than Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet. Neither was suited for the job and they couldn’t throw the ball beyond five yards with any semblance of accuracy.

Now that Threet is gone the No. 1 candidate to start on opening day is freshman Tate Forcier. He impressed everyone during the spring game and has the skills Rodriguez wants/needs for his system. Denard Robinson is the other new man on campus and he’s not too bad himself. Expect both to see time under center.

Running backs: The ground game was one of the few bright spots of last season and it was really more of a dull glow than anything else. Brandon Minor emerged as the team’s rushing leader and gave fans a glimpse of how good Michigan could be after career days against Penn State and Purdue. His game could be enhanced this year with a viable quarterback threat. That needed help was especially obvious in the Penn State game when the Nittany Lions finally figured out Michigan couldn’t pass the ball. Next thing you know, eight men in the box.

Minor won’t have his running partner in Sam McGuffie, who transferred to Rice, but he does have Carlos Brown. Brown didn’t look too shabby when both Minor and McGuffie were battling injuries last season and he ran for 115 yards against Northwestern.

Receivers: To really get a sense of the offensive drop off from 2007 to last season, one can look at the receivmartavious_odomsers. In 2007 Mario Manningham led the team with 1, 174 yards receiving. Last year Martavious Odoms led the team with just 443 yards. The lack of a good quarterback and two true freshman starters contributed to this drop in production.

This year the Wolverines don’t lose anyone of significance and they’ll likely have a better quarterback heaving the pigskin. This will bode well for the receiving core. While Rodriguez prefers a running spread, having Odoms, Darryl Stonum and Greg Matthews with a better quarterback could make the offense more dynamic.

Offensive line: Last season Rodriguez had to start from scratch with his o-line. He had to replace four starters. Of the remaining lineman, there were just 16 starts among them and Stephen Schilling accounted for 13 of them. Constant shuffling and injuries made matters worse. The line’s numbers fell (144 rushing ypg last season compared to 165 the year before) but the damage could’ve been worse. Somewhat surprisingly the sack totals dropped (22 last year compared to 28 in 2007). Part of that can be attributed to the various bootlegs Michigan ran but the point is despite everything going against them, the line didn’t perform half as badly as one would expect.

This season all five starters return and there are seven players who have four or more starts under their belt. Returning that many players is always welcomed but it’s especially crucial when you have little time to implement an entirely new system, like Rodriguez is doing now. This unit will benefit greatly from having a second year under Rodriguez and they can make life even easier for the new signal caller.

Overall this offense still isn’t what Rodriguez ideally wants but it’s getting there. Even if the Wolverines showed minimal improvement, all they have to do is cut down on turnovers and it could be a vastly different team. The key will be the quarterback and it will likely fall on Tate Forcier’s shoulders to get the Rich Rodriguez era moving in the right direction.