The official change doesn't happen until later this summer, but rest assured this is not your father's Big Ten conference any longer. Now, teams like Michigan and Wisconsin and Iowa will be joined by a former cornerstone of the ACC (Maryland) and an also-ran Big East team (Rutgers). There are bags full of money somehow involved, I think.
So as the winds of change sweep through the midwest only to continue on east to the Atlantic coast, so to do we at Maize n Brew figure out what the hell to do with the off season. There will be draft coverage this week, looks back at the basketball team and its past success (as well as the questions ahead of it), and more Michigan football and recruiting coverage than you can shake a stick at.
But that isn't all. Once again we have decided to take a look around the conference to try and figure out what is going on as the 2014 football season approaches. Not only are there two new additions to the conference, but the divisions have shifted and placed Michigan in close proximity with its two closet rivals who happen to be coming off impressive seasons. Most of MIchigan's old division is now grouped together with the other westernmost teams.
Over the next three months we will take a look at each Big Ten team. Things will start in the west with the other division and then shift east mid summer so we can focus more on those teams standing between Michigan and a much needed conference championship run. A full schedule (starting with each Monday):
May 5th - Purdue
May 12th - Illinois
May 19th - Northwestern
May 26th - Minnesota
June 2nd - Nebraska
June 9th - Iowa
June 16th - Wisconsin
June 23rd - Maryland
June 30th - Rutgers
July 7th - Indiana
July 14th - Penn State
July 21th - Ohio State
July 28th - Michigan State
Yes, Michigan State is last and not Ohio State. That is what happens when you win all of your conference games, knock OSU off a two season-long win streak, and win the Rose Bowl. However, we aren't here to talk about Michigan State....
First thing's first. Purdue was pretty freaking terrible last year. The Boilermakers won one game last year, a home tilt against FCS Indiana State in the second week of the season that Purdue still won by less than a touchdown.
Was Darrell Hazell in over his head in his first year? That possibility cannot be discounted. He had just two seasons as head coach under his belt before stepping into the job in West Lafayette. Those two seasons came at Kent State where he went 5-7 and then 11-3 with an OT loss in the MAC championship. Prior to that he had spent the better part of the last decade coaching at Ohio State. Hazell knows the Big Ten and midwest, so what happened?
Just about everything. Purdue slowly worked Rob Henry, a glorified running back, from the quarterback position to let freshman Danny Etling take the reins. His first five games all featured completion percentages under 56% with three of those being significantly under 50%. It also didn't help the offense much that of the six players with 10 or more carries, only one had a yard per carry average better than 4.0. Meanhwhile, the defense gave up over five yards per carry and a total of 55 touchdowns during the season.
The good news for Hazell and his team is that most of the offensive production from last year returns. The bad news is that Ricardo Allen, Bruce Gaston, and Will Lucas aren't walking through that door on defense — and these are three senior losses from a defense that was already bad.
Hazell's first season on the sideline was every bit as disastrous as Tim Beckman's in Illinois. If Hazell wants to deflect some of the heat, winning a few more games this year is a must. Mostly, just the look of progress would be welcome. Purdue looked equal parts lost and incompetent last year. Changing that will go a long way toward not only saving his job, but it will also be the first step toward rebuilding Purdue into the kind of winner it hasn't been since Drew Brees was in town and Hazell was still coaching at Rutgers.
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