Illinois, Northwestern Announce Scheduling Updates

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The Big Ten announced today game times for 2010 conference Homecoming games. The Fighting Illini will play at Penn State on Oct. 9 at 11 am CT, at Michigan State on Oct. 16 at 11 am CT and home on Oct. 23 against Indiana, also at 11 am CT. The Illinois Homecoming on Oct. 23 will be the 100th Homecoming celebration on the UI Campus.

In addition, Illinois and Wisconsin have agreed to move the 2011 and 2012 football games to the first Saturday in December. In 2011, the teams will play on Dec. 3 at Memorial Stadium, while the 2012 game will take place on Dec. 1 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

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Is Spring College Football Worth Talking About?

By Paul M. Banks and Melissa Wollering

Despite the fact that media coverage for it has increased exponentially in recent years, how come no one seems to give a flying rat’s ass about college football spring games?
At least no one outside the South anyway. Sure, in places like Ohio State, they’ll draw a packed house for their spring scrimmages, but in most places: YAWN! Ten or fifteen years ago, there was no media coverage at all of spring football practice.

Today, it’s like National Signing Day, much ado about nothing. Is it simply because “spring football” is an oxymoron like “Cuddly Dick Cheney” or “Sober Tara Reid?” Seriously, autumn is a word synonymous with the gridiron or some chick who dances on stages in clear heels. Springtime is for baseball, not football. It’s just unnatural.

Or is the fact that every school uses a different system for scoring their spring games which no one understands except the coaching staff and that particular school. Northwestern had the second most wins in school history last season, yet only 3,000 people came out to watch their spring game (but is it a game when the scoreboard shows 15:00, Purple 0, White 0 the entire time? Their “game” was just 75 plays with no score. And these arcane scoring systems vary greatly from each program, and many schools don’t even have scoring. And with the limited contact and inversion of playing time given what you would expect upon viewing the depth chart, you really can’t discern much about your team. So why does ESPN bother televising spring games, as Homer Simpson would say BOR-RING!

Or is it because there’s just way too much going on right now, NBA/NHL playoffs, MLB regular season, the NFL Draft: there’s just no room for it. Big Ten Network and ESPN U have to broadcast SOMETHING this time of year, so I guess that’s the answer.

–PMB


MELISSA S. WOLLERING:

Spring football at Camp Randall is more about marketing the Athletic Department than it is about gauging individual player development.  I would argue everyone already knows that though, so the coverage of such games (at least by the Big 10 Network) is about branding the network and its product more than anything.

The good news: the University makes it “Family Day” and invites kids and parents to collect autographs from their favorite players, meet Bucky and get a chance to play catch on the field itself before the game. It’s free, so if a family can’t afford tickets to a Big 10 matchup in October, there’s certainly value in the experience.

As for stats on the game, it can take some research. Over the years, the Athletic Department has varied its scoring system and the way it divided players among its “Cardinal” and “White” teams. Years ago, Cardinal was comprised of first-stringers, so White’s points were worth double. Now the teams are a bit more evenly divided in talent and the scoring is standard.

What did I “discern” from the Badgers in terms of potential from this brief glimpse at the ’09 season?  Well, in terms of rushing, Zach Brown exceeded expectations while John Clay wasn’t as impressive as I’d hoped. I learned that if we ever put Frosh Curt Phillips in at QB that he’ll either be so scared to throw the ball that he’ll run it himself on the keeper (which he wasn’t bad at) or he’ll go for the short completion. I learned that our likely QB starter Dustin Sherer feels most comfortable throwing to Soph WR Nick Toon (yeah, he IS Al’s son). Doesn’t appear as though we have a replacement for Travis Beckum and our male cheerleaders need to pump iron during the summer because I feared for the lives of the female members of our spirit squad.

Illini-Badgers Press Row Exchange

By Paul M. Banks and David K.

(PMB) I can’t wait to hear Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan get angry and go off on somebody in post-game. Is it me or does Illinois coach Bruce Weber sound like the squeaky voice teen from The Simpsons?

(DK) If the Badgers drop their 7th straight, I’m setting the odds of a Bo Blow-up at 3-2.  If I break-out into laughter during Weber’s post-game, it will be because of the Paul M. Banks impression of Weber, complete with the dead-on squeaky voice.

(PMB) Thanks man, I only lampoon those I love. The Badgers’ style of play is the reason people around the country think Big Ten basketball is slow-paced with final scores in the 50s for every game. To their credit, they do use “stallball” to reach the conference tourney finals pretty much every year.

(DK) Yeah, except this year, they can’t hit open shots which will land them a first round home game in the NIT- apparently both an invitational and tournament…???  By the way, Badgers are favored by four somehow.

(PMB) The oddsmakers in Vegas must be tripping on their own desert peyote. (With the tie-dyed “Grateful Red” student section right below, I had to make a psychedelic drug reference) What exactly is the difference between an invitational and tournament?

(DK) No idea… Your boy Steve Lavin is doing the game with Brent Musberger for ESPN without Erin Andrews. (That’s just a good excuse for you to put up an EA pic)  I’m really glad I’m not watching this game on the tube because then I would have to hear for the 57th time this season how “Dr.” Chester Frazier wants to be a coach after he’s done playing hoops.

(PMB) Well “Dr. Frazier” will have to do something after all the years he spent studying in medical school. There’s always a good reason to post an Erin Andrews picture, and we never need an excuse to mention my BFF Lav. I can’t believe we haven’t made a joke about Trent Meacham yet, the worst good player (or best awful player) in Big Ten history. But did you know he’s only committed four turnovers in 267 minutes of conference play?

(DK) Jason Bohannon has hit three 3’s already.  YOU’VE GOT TO GET A HAND UP ON BOHANNON!!!  Trent Meacham, not so much… just 4 of 25 in his last six games since knocking down 7 against Indiana.  Although I’m pretty sure I could drop 7 triples on the Hoosiers this year.  Badgers up 10… ruh roh!

(PMB) Yeah I’ve lost Illinois swagger here. Meacham’s great!….against teams that play no defense. I would make fun of Marcus Landry’s Kareem style goggles, but right now my team has their own issues.

(DK) You gotta love the rec-specs.  J-Bo just hit his fifth three of the first half, partially because Demetri McCamey is excelling at his typical half-hearted defensive effort (or lack thereof).  If Cames tried as hard on defense as he does at chucking up threes, he could actually be a good player.  I hope you get to hear Bo refer to someone as playing “like a man” tonight.

(PMB) Who are Bo’s “men,” the big slow white outside shooters (Mike Wilkinson, Andy Kowske, Brian Butch, Joe Krabbenhoft et al) that he LOVES to recruit?

(DK) Don’t forget about Greg Stiemsma.  Looks like the Badgers are going to get one in the “left hand column.”  (That’s another Bo-ism.)

(PMB) Illinois shooting 34% from the field and 11% from three will do that. I’m sure Weber will repeat the most tired of all sports clichés “don’t get too low after the losses, or too high after the wins, keep things even.” You were right about Mike Davis living and dying by the baseline jumper!

(DK) Don’t doubt my scouting reports.  That’s what happens when I’ve watched 160 college hoops games already this season.  I’ve been disappointed in what Alex Legion has, or actually has not contributed to the Illini this season.  I thought he would be more of an impact scorer, but still seems a little lost on the floor too often.

(PMB) If Illinois’ defense continues to be this awful, then the media covering Illinois might have to start talking about Michael Jordan’s kid playing at UI again- even though he never plays more than 10 minutes a game. Anybody here with NBA Draft potential? Could any underclassmen show up in a mock draft down the line?

(DK) I think Leuer has the most pro potential.  He’s 6-10, can shoot from the outside, put the ball on the floor, and has a nice set of moves on the block.  He will need to get stronger- which he definitely already has over his year and a half at Wisconsin.

McCamey and Davis are potential second round picks if they continue to develop.  Illini are hanging around.  Hey, did you hear Frazier wants to be a coach after he’s done playing?

(PMB) Did you hear that Michael Jordan’s son plays at UI? That Alex Legion de-commited from Michigan twice before transferring to Kentucky and then to Illinois?

(DK) So Legion pulled an Eric Gordon huh? (Insert Basketball Judas reference)  Illinois has the same problem the Badgers have had as of late.  If they are not hitting outside shots, they really don’t have anyone who can break you down off-the-dribble and attack the hoop.

(PMB) They lack a real go-to-guy; someone who can carry them, and now teams have figured out how to guard the Illini.

(DK) Yeah, if McCamey isn’t on fire, the Illini are very beatable.  Mike Tisdale just fouled out and was a complete non-factor tonight.  That doesn’t help Illinois either.

(PMB) Like you might have heard once or twice or three-thousand times, Tisdale is on a 6,000 calorie a day diet. Sometimes when I look around in a room full of sports writers, I think they share his dining habits. Speaking of unsightly, that’s how I feel about the Illini deficit. Given that the team you cover is dominating tonight, I’ll let you have the last word.

(DK) First of all, the Badgers aren’t “my” team.  Since I graduated from Marquette, they will always have my heart.  I have grown to appreciate and respect the Badgers, but will NEVER refer to them as “my” team.  Badgers win 63-50.  That’s three straight lackluster performances from YOUR boys.  Time to get a little worried…

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Infield

By Melissa and Jason Wollering

Don’t start hate-blogging about it now because we can’t handle it this early in the year, but Wickie Reeks will almost certainly be hitting at the top of the order again in ’09. Melvin defends Weeks to Baggot in this article. Bernie’s Crew also crunches Weeks’ average stats, pointing out at least he’s not a detriment to the team.

MW: Brother Jay, these articles bring up some great points about two common perceptions. 1. Why do people think second basemen have to be contact hitters, say, like Jimmy Gantner?

JW: For those who remember watching PBS when the show debuted in 1980, “3-2-1 Contact” this: 90 players struck out at least 100 times in ‘08 and 14 were second basemen.

MW: And it’s a little-known fact, last year Weeks was second in runs scored among NL leadoff hitters. He was also #1 in all of baseball in scoring from second base on a base hit – 23 for 24. Eat your pinstripes Johnny Damon; you went 9 for 22. Onto #2: The leadoff guy must BB a lot.

JW: Big sis’, last week Melvin asked reporters how many players walked more than 100 times last season. Answer = Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Fat Al Pujols and Pat Burrell; none of whom are leadoff guys.

MW: Did I ever tell you I sloot Melvin’s argumentative skills? Speaking of walks though…

Prince may be King after $18M, but his increased platoon split is one of Paul Noonan’s 10 Biggest Brewers’ Fears. Coming into the league, he hit against both lefties and righties with fervor. But with the Crew already lopsided, we don’t need lefties thinking Prince is easy-to-manage at the plate. He’ll need to take his walks in ’09. No more .313 OBP, even if that is your “real weight” buddy.

In , seven Brewers minor leaguers signed contracts for ’09: SS Alcides Escobar; 3B Mat Gamel; 3B Casey McGehee; 1B/OF Brad Nelson, C Angel Salome and relievers Tim Dillard and Mitch Stetter. Stetter has the best shot at making the club in spring training as their lefty relief specialist. Dillard’s not out of the question, either.

As for Escobar, his baby’s mama is causing drama. But Alcides’ potential has implications for the team’s best defensive infielder – James Jerry Hardy. Melvin isn’t afraid to say the reason JJ’s never been offered a long-term contract is Escobar. Melvin doesn’t want to ask the SS to move to third either, even though speculation regarding that increased this off-season. Enjoy ‘09 and expect Hardy to contribute big: over the last two seasons he’s hit .280, averaged 25 get-up-get- up-get-outta-here-gone’s, and 77 RBI’s.

And who’s on third? Bill Hall. But there’s some speculation that position could become 3B by committee. Crazy, but true. Mike Lamb worked several wonders for the Crew off the bench last season and will be used again. My clear choice when needed is none other than Craig Counsell. And since my readers enjoyed last week’s flow chart, here’s a comparison graph on Counsell’s production since 2002, courtesy of Right Field Bleachers.

This season, In-Between Hops (the site markets itself as a full keg of Brewers with a couple pints of generic baseball news) calculates there’s a 30% chance the Crew could be the 12th team in MLB History to have four 30-HR hitters and a 7% chance it could be the first team to ever possess five.

Ken Macha is not Pete Rose– but if he were, he’s told the media he thinks five of his guys can knock out 25+. There’s a small chance that seven Brewers could go 25+ in ’09: Braun, Cammie, Prince, Hall, JJ, Hart and Weeks. The odds of this may be similar to me replacing Jim Powell….but nevertheless it is possible.

Shouse…Shouse…let it all out. He’s the next we’ll have to live without as Tampa Bay picks him up. He got a two-year gig, we were offering one. Ray Durham may not play for anyone in ’09. The MLB Network is starting off its first season by spewing hogwash. No Jon Heyman, the Brewers do NOT have interest in free agent lefty Oliver Perez because that investment would be as worthwhile as the last Citibank bailout. Hardricourt sniffs a Boras marketing ploy and we concur.

Surprise! Ben Sheets’ ratings are higher than General Hospital ’s or Days of Our Lives…cmon’ man, I needs me some guarantees. Like Marquette shining without Tom Crean, take your inflated self-worth Ben and issue a courtesy flush.

Don’t have a coronary, but Cappy could be back before the All-Star Break. Melvin estimates as early as May, and some have already shot the Chris Capuano as “Comeback Player of the Year” phrase out. The lefty is recovering from Tommy John’s.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Hill may fly east to nest with the Orioles. This time we’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing with you.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” Cubs’ pre-game WGN radio announcer Cory Provus may be the front-runner to replace Jimmy Powell. Here’s Jimmy’s farewell to fans. Timeline = February 25th. Uecker reaction = “Back in the day, I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for $3,000. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn’t have that kind of dough. But he eventually scraped it up. Say new guy, how do you catch a knuckleball?

Wait until it stops rolling, then go to the backstop and pick it up.”