Big Ten Has Strong Bowl Season
The BIG football season ended on a high, although imperfect note (nice job Michigan) when they won 7 of the 8 bowl games their schools participated in. This resulted in bringing back up the debate about how many teams should be in the playoffs.
The debate has recently focused on a six-team playoff, which this year would have included #5 Ohio State and #6 Wisconsin. The #1 and #2 teams would get a bye into the semifinals, #6 would play #3 and #5 would play #4 on the campuses of the higher seeds. One thing would be certain in this scenario, which I don’t think is a bad idea-the fans of teams seeded #7 and #8 would complain just as bitterly about their exclusion as Ohio State and Wisconsin fans complained this year.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
The other debate also had a connection to the BIG when Central Florida, led by incoming Nebraska coach Scott Frost, completed a perfect season by knocking off Auburn in the Peach Bowl (I resist using sponsor names when I can avoid it). I find the most amazing thing about the two-year turnaround from 0-12 to 8-5, then 13-0 is that 51 players were on both the winless and perfect teams. The difference-coaching. Nebraska has a lot to be excited about-they certainly need it after their 4-8 finish this season while Central Florida fans are still stewing about being left out of the playoff.
Speaking of Michigan, they finished the season with a 0-5 record against teams with a winning record. Coach Jim Harbaugh has issued strong denials about rumors tying him to the Indianapolis Colts’ coaching vacancy, and he will continue to face the pressure of high expectations, not to mention a track record of losing to Ohio State.
I saw one of the early projections for next year’s rankings having the Wolverines in the Top 5. Not without much improved QB play they’re not. Harbaugh is waiting on a ruling about the immediately eligibility of highly regarded QB Shea Patterson, who he very publicly poached from Ole Miss, and wonder if he can develop QB Brandon Peters in his junior season. Their defense promises to be nasty again next year, and even decent offensive production could help them live up to high expectations.
I have to admit being tickled by the camera catching Wisconsin Coach Paul Cryst using some apparently colorful language to show his disdain for Miami’s Turnover Chain. Cryst has done a great job at Wisconsin and appears to be a perfect fit for their bland, old-school, but very effective approach to football. Kinda nice to see a little color from him. Not so much Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin, who celebrated a field goal by grabbing his crotch for the full view of the South Carolina bench. Really? Any kicker doing something like that is living very dangerously.
BTW, who thought having a bowl game at Yankee Stadium in late December was a good idea? God bless those fans who braved the weather to show up to watch Iowa beat Boston College.
Saquon Barkley is so far the only marquee underclassman in the BIG to declare for the NFL draft. He is projected near the top in the ongoing mock draft process, which puts him in danger of landing with the Browns. On the plus side, it’s not like there would be a lot of pressure to win right away there.
Northwestern got cute in their Music City Bowl win over Kentucky and threw a pass to QB Clayton Thorson. He caught it for a 24-yard gain (good) and tore his ACL in the process (bad). Not exactly how an NFL hopeful wants to head into his senior season. With star running back Justin Jackson graduating, the Wildcats could be offensively challenged next year.
Most of the top recruits took advantage of the new early signing period in December to lock in their college choices. The current ESPN rankings have the BIG well represented:
Ohio State #2, Penn State #4, Michigan #12, Maryland #22, Minnesota #23, Michigan State #24, Nebraska #33, Wisconsin #35, Purdue #43, Northwestern #44, Iowa #48, and Indiana #50.
Maryland fans have to again be excited about the Terps #22 national ranking, but that still puts them only fourth in their division. It continues to be hard picturing Maryland as a contender for the BIG football championship, but that does give hope to the team being competitive if they can have some long overdue good luck with injuries and keep their QB’s upright for a full season.
You may have seen the story of a person who played a BIG parlay bet, laying down a bet that all BIG teams would win their bowls that would have won him over $18,000. If you don’t like the way your year has started, think how that poor guy must have felt watching Michigan blow a 19-3 third quarter lead, and his $18k.
The start of the 2018 BIG football season is less than eight months away, when Northwestern travels to Purdue for a Thursday night opener on August 30, followed by Michigan at Notre Dame on Saturday, September 1, along with Texas’ visit to FedEx Field to play the Terps. It will be hard to match last year’s opener, but I’m eager to see when all of this talent Coach D. J. Durkin has been accumulating translates into wins.
This is my last scheduled column for Baltimore Sports and Life. I didn’t plan on only contributing for a short time, but my wife and I are taking advantage of an opportunity to move from Maryland to Atlanta. In fact, we will be there house-hunting the day of the National Championship Game, but I won’t be plunking down over $1,000 for a ticket.
This means I won’t have the time to be a regular contributor here going forward. I appreciate the opportunity Chris Stoner gave me to dust off my sports writing chops, and I’ve really enjoyed it. He has very graciously left the door open for me to contribute work down the road if I am so moved, so you never know when I might pop up here again. I am looking forward to being down in the hotbed of college football next season and gaining a whole new perspective on the game, easy access to Chick-Fil-A and Waffle House and perhaps a charming drawl.
I’ll still be on Twitter at @TerpInTheSouth and will pop up on the message boards here from time to time. Until next time, live large and have a happy 2018 everyone!