The Biggest Disappointments of 2014
There's really no way around it.
1. The Big Ten
This has been the storyline of the early going. No team has been immune - except Rutgers. Honestly, did anyone see this coming?
Not everyone was predicting Iowa would win 10 games, so a shaky start there, by itself, isn't earth-shattering. Vegas gave a big edge to Oregon in its game with MSU, so perhaps that wasn't surprising, either. Northwestern has been terrible, and most everybody apart from Northwestern writers saw that one coming. But all told, this has been a bitter pill to swallow.
2. A dearth of healthy quarterbacks
Both Texas and Ohio State's seasons have been submarined by the injuries to David Ash and Braxton Miller, and this past Saturday, it was Brett Hundley's turn as the Heisman hopeful left the field with an arm injury. This season has been unkind to a number of Heisman candidates that fuel the sport's most exciting games. Oklahoma State, Minnesota, and Baylor have also suffered starting quarterback injuries in the first couple weeks.
3. New Coaches
The off-season was full of stories about the new hires - Chris Petersen at UW, Charlie Strong at UT, Bobby Petrino at UL or James Franklin at PSU. Franklin has paid off nicely, but he's been the only one. Sarkisian's first weeks have been full of optimism, but that came crashing down around the time Tyler Murphy ran for his 150th yard of the night against USC's defense last week. Derek Mason's had already fallen several weeks ago, in an embarrassing 37-7 loss to Temple.
It's still out there, but the upper crust of football is now inhabited by teams like Oregon, Auburn, Baylor, and Texas A&M. The recent bastion of defense, the SEC, now has six of the top 25 offenses in football. Teams that have built their name on defense, like Stanford, Michigan State, and Alabama, have been trying their hand at winning with explosive offenses. Basically, this season has shown teams blending the tried and true philosophy of defense with some of the new-age philosophies on how to attack defenses. And it's made for more elite and deadly teams.
5. The SEC East
South Carolina was an early favorite to win the division, right up until games started being played. Then they beat Georgia, the other favorite, which dropped the Bulldogs to 13th in the AP Poll (behind five SEC West teams). Florida hasn't shown it can compete at a high level, and Vanderbilt has absolutely fallen through the basement. Tennessee just finished getting shelacked by the Sooners. Technically, it still is the SEC, but not nearly as difficult a division as its Western counterpart. Good things (for SEC fans) may still happen, but it's been very different than expected so far.
Hitting the Links Can't Avoid Talking About It
This is the second straight TMB HtL where there's a Buckeye link that looks at the larger picture. This was a very quality article by Eleven Warriors, making several good points and calling out people as high up as Purdue's athletic director for the lackadaisical approach. Until things like this get fixed, Wolverines and Buckeyes should stand together to protect Big Ten football.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but from here on out I'm done questioning the Big Ten's longtime commisioner, Jim Delaney. He may be evil, have recruited Keanu Reeves for his New York law firm and be the owner of an illegal chrome sports car (too shiny to be on the road), but he has put the Big Ten in a position to win, that the conference hasn't taken advantage of. Penn State and Nebraska were great additions, and Rutgers made me eat a lot of words while the expansions gave B1G fans something to talk about during the off-season. He's given teams the money to hire great coaches and great assistants. The Big Ten has a lot of problems, but he isn't one. Rutgers, also, isn't one.
I seem to remember not liking their spunk. Now I like their spunk. On The Banks wrote a retort to the article above.
Fun fact that this pointed out: the MAC has more Power 5 wins than the Big Ten does. Also, Level 100 is appealing.
Read what the enemy is saying in advance of this week's game.
In between the lines, you can hear a tired fan who wants change. Actually, it's not even between the lines: "This is 21st-century football. The good coaches know it. And slowly but surely, the coaches who remain stuck in the 20th century will go away, never to come back. What's that buyout figure again?"
In between the lines... ah, forget it.
This reviews the many early struggles by Trevor Siemian's group.
This writer sees a giant mess in the Pac-12 South, and after this past week's game, it's hard to disagree.
BC's win over USC came from an intense effort by the players and a lot of gutsy calls by the coaches.
This was a very strange start to the UCLA-Texas game.
Michigan has won 22 of 23 and 39 of 42.
Get an early breakdown on what Michigan is up against this weekend.
Everything is in the A to C+ range.
Breaking down some of the numbers from the B1G's non-conference start.
The #9 team here can claim a win against USC on its resume.
Stat of the week: Zero Big Ten teams rank in the top 40 nationally in turnover margin.