Illinois, And A Stable of Coaches
This June, Eleven Warriors looked at an alarming trend in the Big Ten - almost three-quarters of the league's coaches had been with their team for three seasons or less. The top tier of the Big Ten was well-established, but beyond that upper crust was a league with, in the mind of one writer, a patience problem.
Coming up on one off-season removed from that, a very small number of Big Ten coaches are on the hot seat. Brady Hoke, of course, is done. Tim Beckman is next in line. Some could also argue that Kevin Wilson, Bo Pelini, Darrell Hazell, or Pat FItzgerald also are on the hot seat, but it's unlikely any of them will be fired.
In the case of Tim Beckman, the issue of patience is an important one. Yes, there is that ghoulish-looking 2-20 conference record. And, like Hoke, Beckman was not an inspiring choice from the start: just a 21-16 coach at three seasons in Toledo. Pressure has been ramping up on the athletic director, and the message is clear: We can do better. We will not tolerate losing.
The strange thing is that when Tim Beckman said recently Illinois could win as many as 8 games next year if he was retained, there's actually some evidence in favor of that. The team grew from 11- and 8-point wins over Youngstown State and Western Kentucky to start the year, and ultimately knocked off Minnesota and hung within 10 of Wisconsin. In 2015, they'll have a full season of Wes Lunt and be able to make more strides on the line of scrimmage. What Illinois does have to do is be competitive for top assistant coaches, something it has not done.
The mistakes of yesteryear (hiring a 21-16 MAC coach instead of getting top talent, among them) not withstanding, Beckman is a case where things seem to be working, and he deserves the mantra of "patience" thrown his way. Elsewhere, coaches that had been granted plenty of patience already - Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald, specifically - have shown some good coaching chops, even if, in Fitzgerald's case, it comes on a 4-6 team that's underwhelmed before this week's win at Notre Dame Stadium. By and large, the Big Ten's coaches have vindicated themselves in 2014, even if they coach losing teams like Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, and Northwestern. The big wins haven't come for the conference, but the growth that produces them has mostly been there.
When Jerry Kill first started at Minnesota, his team went 3-9 as his quarterbacks failed to throw for 50%. With time and a vision, Kill started to replicate what he had built at Southern Illinois (five consecutive 9-win seasons before heading to Northern Illinois) and Northern Illinois (a 10-win season in his third year). Kill is an example of the power of patience. It's possible other coaches - from Beckman, to Kevin Wilson, to Darrell Hazell - will start getting some convincing wins. If the Big Ten coaches have earned some patience, though, it comes with a backdrop of accountability, regardless of the time or effort put in.
Hitting the Links Hates Notre Dame
The Mirror Lake Jump is a great tradition in Columbus the week before the Michigan game. The campus braintrust has been considering doing away with it, and in their defense the jump does cause quite a few people to need some light medical attention. It's an ongoing tug and pull between the students and the school.
What doomed Muschamp was his inability to develop athletes on offense and be or find a mastermind on that side of the ball. On defense, Muschamp is a terrific coach and he'd be worth a near-head coaching salary as a DC.
Dontre Wilson is out, as well, until a bowl game. Eleven Warriors also runs down a couple other important points on Ohio State's run defense and average field position. One of the Buckeyes' secret strengths has definitely been their special teams giving them good field position and backing up the opponent, and it's unlikely Michigan will execute as well as Minnesota did.
Also, the way to attack Ohio State's defense is clear: run the ball. Their defensive line is a little light and quick on the inside, and David Cobb lit them up just like Jeremy Langford before him. Michigan has to start running the ball with authority if it wants to win against the Buckeyes.
We were all Wildcats for a weekend as NU knocked off Notre Dame. This article highlights an interesting trio of games between the Wolverines, Wildcats and Fighting Irish.
The best string of games this year, though, was Bowling Green beating Indiana, Indiana beating Missouri, and Missouri dominating Georgia, 34-0. In head-to-head-to-head-to-head logic, Bowling Green is then 41 points better than Georgia. In reality, there's enough inconsistency with college players, exacerbated by the regular schematic chess, breakout players, or injuries, that teams will perform much better some weeks than others. A win in, say, Week 7 is only part of the larger picture of a season.
Because, Notre Dame beating Michigan 31-0, Michigan beating Northwestern 10-9, and Northwestern beating Notre Dame 43-40 makes no sense.
Continuing that train of thought, a close loss to an elite team cannot be taken as too much of an indictment on another good team. Realistically, #25 Minnesota will drop out of the rankings for falling 31-24 to Ohio State, but actually that's not a performance to bring their ranking into question at all - far from it.
There has been some criticism of the Playoff Committee releasing weekly rankings, something that I am starting to understand. Weekly rankings are too easy to fall victim to the flavor du jour. Monthly rankings, perhaps, would be better - it would keep fans abreast of the committee's train of thought, and be more accurate through separating the trends from the aberrations.
Maybe it's just me, but there's something thrilling about games in terrible conditions. It heightens the tension and immediacy of the moment. Ohio State and Minnesota was a terrific game, and a beautiful one as well.
Following up on some great Vines from Northwestern's loss to Michigan, Inside NU has some gifs from Pat Fitzgerald's roller coaster ride in this week's win. Really, they're terrific for any situation.
Coleman has added his own legacy to Hoosier football, and it's nice to see fans mourn the lost opportunities to create a better legacy for him, one with more highlight wins and bowl appearances. I hope that something has awoken in Big Ten football fans, because there's nothing to stop us from stealing great coaches and packing our stadiums and making other teams hesitate when they walk on our fields.
Andy Staples talks about Florida's next moves, Melvin Gordon's Heisman candidacy, and Pac-12 South mayhem.