Slight variation in schedule… think of this as TWTW meets Wednesday’s regular SBP. Here’s the tunes behind the guy behind the guy.
2013 started almost the same way that every other year has started since I can remember… with a slate of B1G Ten games, highlighting how many people who live in the midwest want to flee to warmer climes for some semblance of a vacation. I still haven’t figured out how the scheduling geniuses who have an entire slate of games and “bowl week” to work with decide to run four of them at semi-simultaneous time times, though.
You’ll note that I said “almost”… one of the major differences this year was the lack of Buckeye football; in case you hadn’t heard, they had a one year vacation from the post-season. What’s intriguing about that fact is that we seemingly had it shoved down our throats throughout the regular season by the good folks at the four letter network, and yet I can count on one hand the times I heard the words “Ohio State” or “Buckeyes” thus far in the bowl season. Penn State, too, although you’d think that one of the things that would be covered would be how teams playing got their losses this year; the Rose Bowl’s discussion included the review of their overtime losses, but didn’t mention by name two of the teams that handed those to them.
I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised, though… you want the games to be celebrations of the teams that are playing, and it’d be a shame to see anything hamper the narrative of next Monday’s “Championship” game; reminding folks of another undefeated team might cast a pall on that sacred moment. However, I don’t seem to remember Southern Cal being erased from the post season even when they were ineligible- their 10-2 record last year was certainly a topic of commentary.
Anywho… Ohio State hasn’t lost a game in over a year, and that can’t be taken away from them or their fans.
So let’s dive into the spectacle that was B1G Tuesday, taking a look at all of the outcomes and then reflecting on what this might “mean” for the conference and college football as a whole. Remember, the results you witnessed might have been different should the two outsider programs be in the mix this season… B1G fans, how are those “you’ve got no bowl game” taunts holding up for you these days?
What a great win for the Wildcats… their first since 1949, which resulted in SBN’s “Sippin’ On Purple” summarizing the festivities thusly:
While this was the only game where the B1G school was favored, it’s still a great accomplishment for Coach Fitzgerald and his team to beat a team that was undefeated and highly regarded earlier in the season… you know, before they actually played Alabama, LSU, and aTm.
It was also great to see the Bulldogs struggle against the quick pace and frenetic energy that Northwestern’s offense brings; MSU’s struggles against a mobile quarterback were documented against Manziel, but the lack of “B1G Speed” and some poor decisions by the Bulldogs made for a great day for Evanston’s team.
And that would be the true conference highlight of the day.
I spent most of the day texting with our B12 correspondent and OkSU fan about the “quality” of this game; he continued to remind me that this was a Purdue team that took Ohio State to overtime. I also informed him that they’d pushed Notre Dame to the limit, but were operating with an interim head coach and had also lost to every team with a pulse (and Minnesota) they’d played. This one was ugly early and often, and will be used by those who love the transitive property as a source of c0nference assessment and self significance (more later).
I’ll be honest, though- I didn’t watch it, and not only because it was relegated to ESPN U (“the Ocho” was busy). This one was over as soon as the team accepted the invite; I’m looking forward to seeing what Coach Hazell can do.
This game was expected to be ugly, but the least attractive part of it was the latest “special uniforms” that Dave Brandon/Adidas “honored” the Wolverines with. Again, there’s no reason to mess with one of the most iconic looks in college football, even it if makes me personally nauseous.
Big Blue played much better than they looked, and managed to have a lead late with eleven seconds left in the game. That’s when South Carolina connected a deep pass against double coverage to pull out a five point victory. Coming into the game, Michigan’s pass defense was statistically one of the best in the country; although, it’s difficult to say that this is due to the scheme/talent or if it’s due to people preferring to run against the Wolverines. On Tuesday, it seemed that they were unable to get any pressure without bringing multiple rushers, but they struggled to play the necessary coverage behind that in order to be successful.
Other than “good job, great effort”, Tuesday also saw Denard Robinson “setting” a record for career rushing yards by a quarterback. Here’s the thing, though- Denard hasn’t lined up exclusively as Michigan’s quarterback this season following his injury in the Nebraska game. For the past five games, when he’s been healthy he’s been used as either a wildcat running back, a slot receiver/running threat. That’s not a quarterback; particularly since it’s been well documented that he’s unable to throw these past few games (not that that stopped them at any other point during his career).
Oh, and if you thought I wasn’t going to include this, you don’t know me very well:
Seriously… who’s supposed to block him? The “shove” block from the tackle? The fullback? The pulling guard? Or is he not supposed to make the tackle out of confusion and pity?
The best part isn’t Clowney scooping the ball up like he was picking up a biscuit, or that “All Conference” Tackle Tyler Lewan was on the sidelines with “cramps” most of the day. Nope, the best part is that if you track Smith’s yardage based on where his helmet is during the game, he ends up about negative 15 on the day.
Looking back, we can do no better than our friend Lord Jeff Buck from Buckeye Planet in reviewing the 2012 TTUN campaign-
8-5, lost to every team with a pulse, needed extreme luck to beat Northwestern in overtime, failed to score a touchdown in three separate games, should finish unranked. Hard to believe that some moron picked Michigan to be the best team in the country this year: Bob Asmussen Looking Stupid Trying to Defend Picking Michigan No. 1 in AP Poll.
I realize that Michigan played, and lost to, the top three teams in the country this season, but they lost those games by a combined 80-41 (average of 26.7 to 13.7), were outgained in those three games by 1,066 yards to 847 yards (average of 355 yards to 282 yards, and they failed to gain over 300 yards in each game), and lost the turnover battle by 13 to 5 (they committed at least three turnovers in each loss).
Well, there’s also this: 26-21.
This is another matchup that looked like a mess on paper but ended up being much closer in reality- the Huskers were in it until the fourth quarter; unfortunately, reinforcing the stereotype that Coach Pelini struggles to make second half adjustments. That being said, they faced a team that might be playing Notre Dame for the title if it weren’t for some atrocious clock management in the SEC championship game… given what everyone said about the game prior to kickoff, this was a valiant effort on the part of the team from Lincoln.
Nebraska’s Blackshirt defense also came into the game among the leaders in pass yardage defense, but the same question remains- is that due to scheme or because people found that it was easier to just run on them? Rex Burkhead had a great game in his final go as a Husker, and at times the “Good Taylor Martinez” even showed his face. There were too many moments, though, where TMart regressed to his “just skipping rocks” style of passing… perhaps next year will be the time we see less of “Opie Taylor” Martinez, huh?
In the B1Ggest game of them all, this game was a time warp event with offensive schemes that personified Rose Bowls from the 1970s; ironically the last time Stanford had won this event.
After giving up a quick several scores, Wisconsin’s defense did settle down and managed to control a very powerful Stanford offense. The Badgers did struggle against one of the better defenses in the country- the one that managed to go into Eugene and hand the almighty Ducks their only loss of the season and a chance at a national title.
However, the Badgers would come close until a late interception cost them a six point loss. It was a rare mistake for Badger senior Curt Phillips, who managed to energize Wisconsin late in the second quarter with a scamper up the left sideline on his thrice repaired knee.
For a team that struggled early in the year, it was a fine finish against a quality opponent. Yet all the scoreboard and box score will show is that Wisconsin has lost in their last three trips to Pasadena; and the B1G’s final Rose Bowl champion still sports scarlet and gray.
And so, the B1G ends New Year’s Day a dismal 1-4. Including the great “pre-games”- where Minnesota put a scare to Texas Tech, and Sparty upset one of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the conference enters 1.2.13 a combined 2-5 in bowl play.
That record doesn’t tell the whole story- as we mentioned before, a number of schools were playing above their weight class due to the absences of the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes. Consequently, few (including this writer) gave the conference’s team much chance in their games this December/January, which resulted in lots of “moral victories” and “things to build on”. But since when did the B1G become about moral victories?
Which brings us back to the ultimate question- What do “bowls” mean? Outside of the usual things we’ve talked about before- (B1G teams will almost always be playing against a natural home field advantage; these events are money pits for everyone involved outside of the bowl commissions), there are way too many other variables in play to make any sweeping assessments.
We’ve talked about the coaching carousel- the nature of the sport is that a number of coaches accept new opportunities before January and step away from their teams, impacting preparation and the normalcy that teams thrive on. In addition, there are always teams who don’t care- they’re playing because it’s what they do not because it’s something they’re excited about. Southern Cal’s loss to Georgia Tech and West Virginia’s collapse against Syracuse certainly fall in this category- both squads look as they were sleepwalking throughout the game. For that matter, it’s possible that one of the best games of the postseason thus far may have been impacted by this as well- Les Miles commented publicly that he wasn’t satisfied with his team’s bowl assignment; could that lack of investment resulted in the questionable play calling that cost the Tigers the game?
These factors, combined with the “any given Saturday” reality that one team may just match up with another really well makes it difficult to draw any huge conclusions from an exhibition season other than that one team beat another team in a contest on a specific day. And yet, because we need something to talk about to make ourselves feel better about our favorite programs (said the guy who’s writing all of this for similar reasons), we start making logical connections and sweeping generalizations to fill the time period until next August. I still wonder, though- why no loathing for the ACC (who only won their sixth BCS game in 15 years) or the PAC12?
Some of this is compounded by fan behavior; if your program isn’t very good, why not bandwagon onto the successes of teams that beat you. This is pretty uniquely a southern football thing- I’ve never heard Tennessee/Wake Forest/Stanford/Texas fans cheer “S!E!C!/A!C!C!/P!A!C!/B!1!2!” when Kentucky/Duke/UCLA/Kansas wins a basketball title.
Across The NCAA
In spite of my open schedule, I was unable to get to the theater over the holidays. As such, I haven’t seen Les Miserables yet, which is really disappointing given how amazing this review makes it sound. So, I just have to listen to this musical selection and watch the clip below with my kids: