Interesting Tuesday in college sports, to say the least. We’ll get to all the movers and shakers, but first a little traveling music.
Most of the frustration was aimed at the inclusion of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, who we’ve argued here before is only a finalist due to his team’s success, solid (but not great) numbers, and the great “story” that his season has been- both for him and as a heart of the awakened echoes of the Irish program. Tony Gerdeman from the OZone compared Te’o to AJ Hawk, the last linebacker to be seriously considered for the Heisman, and found that Hawk’s numbers eclipsed the Irish’ star. He, along with the guys at Land Grant Holy Land (check out the infographic) continue to compare his numbers to Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier- Gerd points out that, in the last three games of the season, Shazier outplayed Te’o and almost doubled his statistics, minus the interceptions. Given that Te’o plays in a variation of the Tampa 2 defense which requires more coverage, this might make sense- different roles for both players. But it does highlight the fact that Te’o is a debatable finalist… and as such, might have just as well been left home with Miller and Marquis Lee (who I believe is the best player in the country this season).
With no hope of a national championship, the Buckeyes saw excellence as its own reward—and achieved it. What better example of pure sportsmanship could there be? Next year, Ohio State will once again be jockeying for a high-profile bowl berth and all the cash that flows from it. This year’s team, by contrast, will stand forever as the one that played not for money but for pride.
Filed Under: Things I Should Have Had My Wife Watch Before Going To The Game
The B1Ggest news on Tuesday was the surprising revelation that Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema had decided to leave that program and take the job as the new head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Some pointed this as being a sign of the conference’s downfall- a man left a B1G champion to go to a mid-range SEC program that will probably never win a divisional title (say hello to Alabama, LSU, and aTm for us, Bert), but there are other factors in play here as well.
First, it’s probable that Coach Bielema thought that this was the perfect time to make a transition. He’s won three straight trips to the Rose Bowl, (although one was a shared conference title, the second was after an Ohio State coaching meltdown, and the third came with a 5 loss team and a huge asterisk), and the strength of the top two teams in the conference was not going to dissipate any time soon. He had to also look in the mirror and realize that his record wasn’t likely to improve with the shifting conference schedule: In his tenure, he was 23-1 against Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois, while only amassing a 16-18 record with the rest of the conference. He was also 11-14 versus ranked teams while he was in Madison, 2-4 in bowl games and 0-2 in the BCS. The ceiling may have been reached.
Second, though, the money was better. Projections have him making a million more in Fayetteville in addition to the possibility that he’ll have greater funding to complete his staff- the B1G is notoriously “thrifty” when it comes to hiring assistants (tOSU and TTUN are exceptions, and it shows). Given those factors, the move makes sense for him… and is hilarious for the rest of us who have believed all along that Wisconsin is a second tier program in the conference who just happened to have risen to the top for a while. Iowa did it, Northwestern did it, Michigan State did it, and some would say that Penn State did it as well. If you’re going to be in the middle of the pack, at least go where you’re going to get paid.
And now the irony- A man raised on a pig farm is leading the Razorbacks in the SEC, a conference he said he didn’t want to be anything like when complaining about Urban Meyer’s recruiting strategies. And he traded “jump around” for folks who think this is a good idea:
Godspeed, Bert… It was good knowing your name. Too bad you won’t get to coach your team to their third straight BCS loss.
Commentary: BCS Mess
Before we got all bent out of shape with all of the changes on the coaching carousel, the drum that was being beaten to death by the media was all about how horrible the BCS is this year. Most of the angst has been focused on whether or not
Boise State Northern Illinois deserved their Orange Bowl bid against Florida State. It was particularly frustrating for NIU fans as well as people who are tired of the Four Letter Network’s influence on this whole issue. As a friend of mine posted on Buckeye Planet-
ESPN is complaining because they’ll take a ratings bath in the Orange Bowl, and they weren’t able to engineer the matchup they wanted. They saw the chance that Kent State had to get in to the BCS, and they responded by having several talking heads mention the 33-point loss to Kentucky lately, trying to influence voters to drop Kent State out of the top-16 if they beat NIU.
But ESPN apparently didn’t foresee the possibility of NIU jumping into the top-16 with a win over Kent St. So they didn’t have the time to trash NIU’s resume before the voters placed them into the top-16. And it was the human polls that got NIU into the BCS – the computer averages for Nebraska, UCLA and TSUN were all higher than NIU’s.
ESPN tries to influence the voters to fit their agenda all of the time. Last week Rece Davis asked a couple of talking heads about the possibility of tOSU reaching AP #1, and he framed the question something like this: “Ohio State got a close win over a Michigan team that was thrashed by Alabama, do you think they have a chance to be AP #1?”.
This week, does anybody think he’ll ask this question: “Bama just squeaked by an UGA team that lost to South Carolina 35-7, do they deserve to stay ahead of undefeated Ohio State?”
It’s important to remember that these events are purely exhibitions, money makers who are only geared to be profitable for the tax exempt committees that sponsor and facilitate them. And, given that only 2 of 36 bowls are not on ESPN/ABC, and that ESPN owns controlling shares of at least seven games, the other goal is television revenue. As such, the FLN has every reason to try to do what’s profitable for their interests and partners… and that’s different than “reporting”.
The other thing to realize, though, is that this is the “unintended consequences” for those across the conference and the nation who wanted Ohio State to get “hammered” for their transgressions. Like Southern Cal before them, Ohio State’s absence in the national post-season exhibition situation will be felt deeply- their bowl ban breaks a seven year streak of the B1G having two teams in BCS games. Consequently, Northern Illinois gets in, and the rest of the “marquee” gets shuffled in the BCS. Just think how things might have been- Ohio State/Notre Dame, Alabama/Oregon, Florida/Kansas State, Stanford/Oklahoma, Louisville/Florida State… that’s a pretty good slate of games, even if it doesn’t include another B1G team.
Instead, because of Ohio State and Penn State’s sanctions, many of the B1G are playing above their heads one or two slots. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Las Vegas has ever single conference team as an underdog in their games; the closest matchups are Michigan State and Northwestern at +2. So, get ready for another year of “The B1G can’t win big games…”; as if this season wasn’t already full of examples of the conference’s struggle.
In addition, the “little brothers” of the B1G are missing out on their payday this year. We’ve talked before about how it’s actually more financially lucrative for Indiana to continue to be inadequate during the season- no bowl expenses and they still get their cut of the conference’s bowl share. A share that will be less this season, without a National Title game or an additional BCS payout or the bowl money from Penn State’s appearance. Granted, this year OSU and PSU don’t get a cut of the conference money, so the rest of the schools do profit from their situation… but overall, the fact remains that the conference needs its programs to be strong, and that starts at the top.
So, fans of other programs- enjoy the games, make your jokes, and remember two things. 1) Ohio State only has to miss the post season this year, and has pretty significant plans for it in the future, 2) The sport you love will be significantly better when they’re back.
Around the NCAA
‘Tis the season… to really hate your neighbors: