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Tag:Northwestern
Posted on: July 29, 2008 8:24 am
 

Five things you should know about the Big East...

 

1. Can things get any better? Left for dead after the ACC expansion, the Big East has more than pulled its weight. 
It is 8-2 the past two seasons in bowls. It had four teams ranked in the AP 10 at various times in 2007. West Virginia is a national championship contender. The middle of the league is a strong as any league, except the SEC -- Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida and Connecticut. Commissioner Mike Tranghese deserves a lifetime achievement award in his final season.

2. Bill Stewart, come on down: The West Virginia assistant's surprising battlefield promotion after the Fiesta Bowl win was one of the more surprising developments of 2007. Now the former Rich Rodriguez assistant must produce. The Mountaineers are loaded this season with Rich Rod's leftovers. But Stewart has shown an ability to recruit too. West Virginia has 13 commitments and is actually slowing down recruiting in order to balance out the class. Too many skill players want to follow in the footsteps of Pat White and Steve Slaton. Stewart needs more linemen. His first recruiting class (2009) could provide the foundation for years to come.

3. The hottest of seats is at Syracuse: Along with Washington's Tyrone Willingham, Greg Robinson is considered one of the first coaches to be fired. He has won seven games in three seasons, never more than four in any year. There has been little improvement in a program that used to be a regular resident of the top 25. The only weak sister in the Big East has to play at Northwestern, West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers and Notre Dame as well as a home game against Penn State. Where should we forward your mail, Greg?

4. South Florida is not going South: That wasn't a fluke last season when the Bulls rose to No. 2 in the country. D coordinator Wally Burnham has built a crushing unit led by returning All-American George Selvie. Quarterback Matt Grothe doesn't fit in any category, he just wins. Don't be surprised if South Florida is undefeated going to West Virginia on Dec. 6.

5. Pittsburgh is headed ... You tell me: Up? Down? The upset of West Virginia provided momentum and Dave Wannstedt has recruited well but the world is waiting to see the Panthers take the next step. A second-place Big East finish is doable, especially with under-the-radar Heisman candidate LeSean McCoy at tailback.

 

Posted on: July 28, 2008 10:59 am
Edited on: July 28, 2008 11:00 am
 

Five things you need to know about the Big Ten...

 

1. Ohio State is really, really good: The rest of the league, not so much. In building up to this point, the Buckeyes have played in the last two BCS title games. This is the team that was supposed to win it all. As long as the SEC doesn't show (Ohio State is 0-9 vs. the conference in bowl games) the Bucks should win the national championship.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league has slipped in recent years. While Ohio State is chasing its fourth consecutive conference title (third outright), no team has stepped up to challenge it. It certainly isn't Michigan (lost six of the seven to Ohio State). Iowa and Purdue have declined. Northwestern is Northwestern. The Big Ten was 2-5 in bowls last season. Only 28 players were drafted, fifth-best among I-A conferences.

2. Illinois is the IT team: It's not all about trashing the rest of the league. The Illini fired a shot across Ohio State's bow by winning in Columbus then advancing to the Rose Bowl. Ron Zook wants his previously scatter-armed quarterback Juice Williams to complete 70 percent of his passes. (Williams says he can do it). The defense should be the strength even with the loss of linebacker J Leman. If Illinois gets past Missouri in the opener this could be a special year.

3. However, Wisconsin will finish second: Bret Bielema has won 12 and nine games in his two seasons in Madison. He is loaded again this season and gets Ohio State at home. The only question is at quarterback which never seems to matter at Wisconsin. Going back to 2004, the Badgers are 25-1 at Camp Randall. Look for another January bowl.

Wisconsin is one of only three teams to play in that month each of the last four seasons. The others are USC and West Virginia.

4. JoePa doesn't know: He spelled it out at Big Ten media days when asked (again) how long he's going go. "I-D-O-N-T-K-N-O-W". The Nittany Lion In Winter is working without a contract this season. That's going to make it easier for president Graham Spanier to make a change after the season. The next question (and battle) is whether the replacement comes from inside or outside the staff.

5. Rich Rod takes off: With no proven quarterback, tailback or receiver Rich Rodriguez brings his zone read spread option to Ann Arbor. Piece of cake, right? Well, the last "outsider" at Michigan (Bo Schembechler) seemed to do OK.

Rodriguez has been well received and should finish 8-4 or 7-5 in his first season. Watch out, though, in Years 2 or  3.

  

 

Posted on: June 24, 2008 12:56 pm
 

Choking on bowls

OMAHA, Neb. -- NCAA Managing Director of Football and Baseball Dennis Poppe confirmed for me Monday what I've been wondering about the proliferation of bowl games.

When it comes to new bowls, it's promoter beware.

The NCAA in April approved two more bowl games, the Congressional Bowl in Washington D.C. and the St. Petersburg  Bowl in -- guess where? -- St. Petersburg, Fla.. That brings the total to 34 bowls. Do the quick math and that means 68 bowl slots. There were only 71 bowl-eligible teams last season.

Poppe, here for the College World Series, calls that a safe "margin of error." Three teams? (Actually, the number  varies from year to year but it's still close. In 2006, there were 73 bowl-eligible teams.)

 The pressure is not on the NCAA, which does little more than certify new bowls, but on the bowls themselves. If there aren't enough bowl eligible teams, there simply won't be bowls.

"The only option right now is that the bowl wouldn't have a game," said Poppe, a former lineman for Missouri's 1970 Orange Bowl team. "That's what it always has been (but) we reaffirmed that. The association's position is that granting a license doesn't necessarily guarantee a game."

If there was a possible shortage, why did the NCAA certify the two new bowls? Legally, it doesn't have much choice.  It might be surprising to know that the NCAA has little to do with the postseason. It certifies bowls, assigns officials and sets rules. Other than that, cities, promoters, schools and conferences stage the games.

If there is a glut of games, the public loves it. Average attendance at the 32 bowl games in 2007-08 was the highest in eight years. That would suggest that although seven bowl eligible teams didn't make the postseason last year, there are fans out there willing to watch the likes of Troy, Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe. (The other four bowl eligible teams that did it get invites were South Carolina, Northwestern, Iowa and Louisville.)

The next hurdle for bowl executives could be the dreaded Academic Progress Rate. Beginning in 2009, teams that have posted a sub-900 APR three consecutive season could be banned from postseason competition.

"We are in an area where the margin is pretty thin," Poppe said. "I still think we should have enough teams ... The theory is to provide as much opportunity as possible."

 You might have noticed that the newspaper industry is in shambles. This is not gloating. While we Internet hacks seem to be the lucky ones, our hearts go out to colleagues who are being downsized because of corporate mismanagement.

Two good friends left their jobs recently. Wendell Barnhouse of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram took a buyout after more than three decades in the business. The Star-Telegram has decided to do away with its national college football beat as part of its downsizing.  Also, Howard Richman was let go at the Kansas City Star after a quarter century with the paper. He was covering Kansas State, nailing every breaking story on the beat.


These guys are two examples of how the reader is losing. Newspapers still haven't figured out to make their product  work in a changing media environment. Sure, the Internet is a threat but you would have thought by now that someone would have figured how to reconfigure newspapers.

The major problem is papers being run by corporations instead of journalists. This guy Zell who owns Tribune Co. literally scares me.

It used to be about putting out a good product. Now it's more about profit margin. This bastardization of a vocation causes good people like Wendell and Howard to leave the profession. Courage, guys. We're thinking about you.

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com