Posted on: September 2, 2010 4:07 pm

Whither the Slab Of Bacon?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As we mentioned earlier, Wisconsin seemed to be the primary loser of the new Big Ten division alignment; they're in a different division than geographical rivals Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska, and nobody can look up at Ohio State in their division and think, "great!"

But the Big Ten did do Wisconsin a favor by awarding them a protected rivalry with Minnesota instead of Iowa or Nebraska. For one, Minnesota is a traditionally weaker opponent than the Hawkeyes or Huskers, which can only help Wisconsin's uphill climb for a division title. More importantly, though, Wisconsin-Minnesota is one the oldest rivalries in college football, taking just one year off (1906) since both programs started playing football in 1892.

The Badgers and Gophers have played for Paul Bunyan's Axe since 1948, and while it's cool that the two have shared a trophy for over 60 years, that only accounts for about half of the two schools' rivalry. And it just so happens that before the Axe was adopted, from 1930 to 1943, Wisconsin and Minnesota played for the Slab of Bacon. Yes, the University of Wisconsin assures you, a college football trophy called Slab of Bacon:

The Slab of Bacon trophy was the precursor to Paul Bunyan's Axe as the prize in the Wisconsin-Minnesota football series. Apparently, the trophy was presented to the winning school by a sorority from the losing institution. The trophy was discontinued in the 1940s and was discovered in a storage room at the UW Department of Athletics in 1994. It is currently housed in the football office at Wisconsin. 'We took home the bacon,' Coach Barry Alvarez said, 'and kept it.'

There's no small irony in the fact that Wisconsin actually lost the last Slab of Bacon game, but well played all the same, Alvarez.

So, Badgers. So, Gophers. The Big Ten has seen fit to honor your deep and lasting tradition. Honor that tradition as well, and bring back the Slab of Bacon.

Posted on: September 2, 2010 12:54 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2010 2:24 pm

UGA's Green still uncertain for Saturday

Posted by Chip Patterson

GreenAs Georgia head coach Mark Richt is preparing for the Bulldogs' season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, he is having to question whether or not he will have wide receiver A.J. Green on the field and eligible.

That, however, is not a question that he is prepared to discuss in public.

"Are you expecting A.J. to play Saturday?" Richt was asked at his post-practice media briefing Wednesday evening.

"A.J. Harmon? Yeah," Richt replied, referring to a backup offensive lineman.

"Green," the questioner corrected.

"You know I can’t talk about that," Richt said. "It’s a good try, though. I just can’t talk. I don’t know the answer to anything other than I’m not supposed to talk about the situation. And I really don’t know."

Richt, Green, and the rest of the Georgia athletic department have been prohibited from discussing anything related to the NCAA's investigation as to whether or not Green has had any inappropriate dealings with agents.  While Green's case has not been as high-profile as South Carolina's Weslye Saunders or North Carolina's Marvin Austin (both of whom are suspended indefinitely), he still has yet to be cleared for Saturday's game.

Green was one of six receivers listed by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo in the rotation for Saturday, but no one would comment as to whether they were expecting the junior receiver to play.

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Posted on: September 2, 2010 11:03 am
Edited on: September 2, 2010 2:24 pm

USC could go independent? AD thinks "why not"

Posted by Chip Patterson

In more fascinating indie talk, there are some albums I've been meaning to pick up this from the last six months.  In less fascinating indie talk, USC athletic director Pat Haden is causing a stir by not ruling out a break from the Pac-10.

Haden has been making headlines since taking over for Mike Garrett about a month ago, whether it's about giving back Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy or keeping a short leash on new head coach Lane Kiffin, it is clear the new AD is not afraid to speak his mind.  So when asked about the possibilities of USC following BYU's lead and going independent in football, Haden did not hold back.

“I think you always have to look at every opportunity,” Haden, who’s starting his second month on the job, said from the football team’s hotel in Hawaii.
“We’re a happy member of the Pac-10. I don’t have any ulterior motives or plans to advance the ball on this. I think the Pac-10 with a new commissioner and new opportunities has some growth built in already.  
“But would we every consider it? I think you have to. As an athletic director in today’s environment, you have to consider every alternative.”

There goes Haden, pulling the old press question oreo (agree-deny-agree) and leaving everyone with little to no conclusion as to whether or not this is an actual possibility.  

The one piece of BYU's break from conference monogamy that will get the attention of other major football programs is the eight year television deal they signed with ESPN.  USC has a much larger audience on the national level and would be able to negotiate a more lucrative deal should they decide to make the move for independence.  

But for now USC needs to focus on the task at hand and that is getting back into good graces with the NCAA and continuing to build despite their current sanctions.  That campaign will begin late this evening, with their season opener at Hawaii.

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Posted on: September 2, 2010 9:43 am
Edited on: September 2, 2010 11:24 am

Ingram "doing extremely well" after knee surgery

Posted by Chip Patterson

Okay Alabama fans you can stop holding your breath, your star is just fine.

The defending national champs and top-ranked team in the nation received quite the scare with the news that running back Mark Ingram, the defending Heisman Trophy winner, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday.  

But when head coach Nick Saban addressed the media after Wednesday's practice, he seemed very optimistic about Ingram's recovery.

"Mark is doing extremely well," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said after practice Wednesday. "He didn't have a lot of swelling, which is a good sign. That has a lot to do with how quickly he can come back."
"He's been here, but he hasn't been on the field because we're trying to keep him off his leg so he doesn't get the swelling," Saban said, "and (he) has been really working hard on the treatment."

Ingram was already ruled out for San Jose State this Saturday and is officially listed as week-to-week.  One advantage Tide fans do have is second string running back Trent Richardson.  Richardson ran for 751 yards and 8 touchdowns last season, not too shabby for a true freshman backing up the Heisman Trophy winner.

Richardson could easily be the starting running back on many teams in the FBS, and having him allows Nick Saban to possibly be more cautious bringing Ingram back to the field.  After minor surgeries like this it is not uncommon to see players can be back on the field in as soon as 1-2 weeks.  But with Alabama's schedule Saban could afford to let Ingram rehab for longer.  

After San Jose State, the Tide will host No. 19 Penn State in Tuscaloosa followed by a trip to Duke on September 18.  Letting Ingram rest for the first three weeks would allow him to come back full strength when Alabama faces a tough back-to-back at No. 17 Arkansas and hosting No. 4 Florida.

VIDEO: Our own Tony Barnhart discusses Ingram's absence and the upcoming season with Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

Posted on: September 2, 2010 8:25 am
Edited on: September 2, 2010 2:25 pm

Report: UNC could be missing up to 16 on Saturday

Posted by Chip Patterson

Yesterday we received the news that Marvin Austin would not be suiting up for the Tar Heels' opener against LSU in Atlanta.  No one was surprised, as Austin's eligibility has been questioned since the beginning of NCAA investigations in Chapel Hill earlier in the summer.  But late last night, ESPN's Joe Schad began reporting that up to 16 players, including both the first and second string running backs, could end up sitting for Saturday.

Here are the reports, via Joe Schad's Twitter

Joe Schad Twitter 

While as many as seven members of the starting defense have been speculated to be in jeopardy because of a recent move to the scout team, this is the first time that mention of Shaun Draughn or Ryan Houston (running backs) have been mentioned.  Another interesting note from the reports is North Carolina's possible exploration of alternative punishments.  Such action could suggest the Tar Heels are expecting to receive more than just a few minor punishments, and are already strategizing a way to best salvage the season.

Again, these are all reports and the only official word is of Marvin Austin's indefinite suspension.  There are also a lot of qualifiers in those reports ("may," "possible," "exploring"), but for North Carolina the news seems to be getting worse before it gets better.

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Posted on: September 1, 2010 10:11 pm

Big Ten division winners and losers

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The new Big Ten alignment doesn't come into effect until 2011, but who comes out the best and worst among conference members?

Winners: Most of the conference, actually. Michigan and Ohio State keep their end-of-season rivalry, and they're each the marquee members of their own divisions. If they're not to meet for the title, then effectively nothing has changed about their tradition; if they do, then so much the better, as far as the Big Ten's coffers go. Penn State and Nebraska are the second in command in their respective divisions, and they get to start a protected rivalry with each other that's sure to move needles for television rating. Northwestern and Illinois have an annual game guaranteed, plus their own divisions in which to play spoiler--and Wildcats fans must be especially pleased that they've now got an annual divisional game against the Hawkeyes in what's rapidly becoming a contentious showdown. Minnesota gets to be in a very geographically friendly division, and they get to play for every one of their trophies every year.

We'll call it a draw: Iowa and Purdue have no reason to be protected rivals, and Delany's explanation that "both teams have won conference titles recently" is at best a non sequitur. But Iowa was rewarded with a season-ending game against Nebraska, to the delight of both fanbases, and Purdue has all the protected games they could have asked for. Likewise, Michigan State-Indiana is a total head-scratcher, but at the very least, each team stays in the same division as their in-state rivals.  

Losers: Holy hell, must Wisconsin be upset about this new alignment. Consider A) that the Badgers were the only team in the Big Ten without a season-ending rivalry game up until Nebraska showed up, and B) the amount of work Barry Alvarez has done as the de facto mouthpiece of the conference during realignment talk. Surely the Big Ten would reward the Badgers, yes? Au contraire, bonjour: Wisconsin's request to get a rivalry game with Nebraska was flat-out denied, and the Badgers don't even share a division or protected rivalry with historical rivals Iowa anymore. Oh, also, they're in a league with Ohio State and Penn State, a top twosome that seems much tougher than Michigan or Nebraska do for the near future. Nobody's got more beef than the Badgers about this lineup.

Posted on: September 1, 2010 9:28 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 9:35 pm

PSU: Paterno tabs true frosh Robert Bolden at QB

Posted by Adam Jacobi

For the first time in his history as the coach of Penn State, Joe Paterno has named a true freshman his starting quarterback to start a football season. According to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Robert Bolden beat out sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin for the Nittany Lions' feature role:

Penn State just confirmed what The Patriot-News reported first earlier in the day: true freshman Robert Bolden will start at quarterback Saturday against Youngstown State at Beaver Stadium.

Shortly after Wednesday's practice, Joe Paterno made it official in a statement issued on

"Based on what we have seen to this point, Bolden has a slight edge right now, but we are confident all three quarterbacks are ready to go and hope to give them an opportunity to play until we settle on the one that gives us the best chance to win," Paterno said.

For Penn State fans, this shouldn't necessarily be construed as a failure on the part of Newsome, who certainly seemed like the presumptive starter at this time even three months ago. If anything, considering the praise that has been leveled at Bolden out of summer practice, it's a remarkable accomplishment on Bolden's part, and would seem to indicate that Penn State is better off than if Newsome had just taken the reins straight away.

Of course, regardless of how skilled a passer and runner Bolden is, Nick Saban must be salivating at the prospect of unleashing his vaunted pass defense on a true freshman making his first road start in week 2. Sure, Saban's replacing most of the starters from his title-winning team from last season, but he's doing it with guys who have been learning and practicing his defense for years. Will Bolden have the maturity and wisdom to find any room in that defense?

Posted on: September 1, 2010 7:53 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 8:25 pm

BYU and Notre Dame hook up; what do we call it?

Posted by Adam Jacobi and Chip Patterson
In totally unsurprising news, BYU has made its first scheduling announcement of its independent era by securing a six-game series with Notre Dame through 2020. This was a pretty obviously necessary move for BYU, who needed a high-profile opponent with the flexibility of an independent schedule, and Notre Dame is singularly equipped to fill that need.

Of course, BYU and Notre Dame also have a little bit in common; they're both independent universities, traditional football powers, and iconic academic representatives of their respective religious denomination. They were practically made to be rivals. And if they must be rivals, well, every rivalry deserves a nickname. Here are our suggestions:
  • Holy War
  • This One's For All The God Marbles
  • Sects And Violence
  • The Granddaddy Of Us All
  • The Indie 100
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or