Was It Actually Fun?
I remember looking forward to bowl season a couple weeks ago. Pressure was off the Big Ten, we were swimming in positive vibes, everything was good... it’s a great feeling. Now that the conference has gone 3-7 in bowl season, it’s not really that the sky is falling and things are terrible, really. People might paint it as that, but it’s not.
No, it’s more just ... losing sucks. You want to win. You’re competitors. If you lose, you want to go back out there again and do it right. And we didn’t do that, and the only way to make up for it now is by getting ready for 2017. Working in the dark.
So, no, it wasn’t particularly fun. Except for the Ohio State game, of course. That - well, that was plenty of fun.
A Wild Finish To Bowl Season
A lot happened in the immediate aftermath of Clemson’s 31-0 beatdown of the Buckeyes. Assistant coach Tim Beck, rather universally disliked, is gone (off to Texas, funnily enough), with former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson now stepping in as co-offensive coordinator. This is bad, bad news for us.
There was also another, smaller exodus of talent leaving the not-so-friendly confines of Columbus. While a lot smaller than last year’s draft class, this wipes out the three top players from the Buckeyes defense: cornerback Gareon Conley (memorably a Michigan commit once, eventually a phenomenal and frustrating opponent), middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, and All-American safety Malik Hooker will all be moving on.
And, on the offensive side, center Pat Elflein is gone as well. J.T. Barrett will be returning, though, for an 11th season.
Kirk Ferentz reminds me of former New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. It’s his way or the highway, sometimes everything lines up perfectly for a really memorable season, and sometimes you just come out flat. This game, it was all empty.
C.J. Beathard competed hard, but he had absolutely no help from his receivers in the last game of his college career. (Only one receiver, a former walk-on named Riley McCarron, had a catch. And he had just one, for 11 yards.) In the end all Beathard could do was chuck passes deep for Florida’s DBs to feast on, and Florida’s defense obliged by picking him off and setting up their offense with great field position. Whether that gives their offense any reason to be confident in themselves, I don’t know.
Akrum Wadley had a great game by leading his team in rushing (115 yards) and receiving (21 yards), but now he’s 50/50 on returning or heading to the NFL. It should be pointed out that Wadley was a former two-star recruit out of Newark, New Jersey, so at the end of the day you have to live and die with Ferentz’s strengths and weaknesses.
Overall, this team comes back in 2017 with a lot of holes to fill. Top corners Desmond King and Greg Mabin, offensive components C.J. Beathard, RB LeShun Daniels, WR Matt VandeBerg and both starting tackles, and defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson will all be moving on. I’ve learned not to ever worry about Kirk Ferentz replacing linemen, but the offensive turnover might hurt.
The best part about games like this one is it gives people who aren’t fans a window into what’s so enjoyable about the sport. Also, thanks, Penn State, I needed this one.
The Nittany Lions are in great position for next year. Objectively, they and the Buckeyes have to be viewed as the favorites for the Big Ten East, but Michigan will be right on their heels. As far as the Big Ten East’s “middle class,” Indiana worries me more than Michigan State or Maryland do.
No Tommy Armstrong, slight problem for Mike Riley and company in this one, who were also without Jordan Westerkamp while their leading rusher, Terrell Newby, was hampered with injuries.
Ryker Fyfe played decently well in Tommy’s absence, going 17/36 for 243 and 2 touchdowns, but the Tennessee Volunteers - who had given up 110 yards to Texas A&M’s quarterback Trevor Knight and 132 yards to Alabama’s quarterback, Jalen Hurts - did not have to worry about facing a mobile QB like Armstrong. Armstrong finishes in a number of categories as the best QB in Nebraska history.
The biggest problem in this one, though, was handling Tennessee’s own mobile quarterback, Joshua Dobbs, who finished with 409 yards and four scores.
"He did a nice job of throwing a lot of balls right on time, but it looked like to me, too, that when it wasn't there, when it wasn't right on time, he moved around, bought time where he moved around and ran," said Mike Riley. "Those plays were hard on us."
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the name Corey Davis, Western Michigan’s superstar wide receiver. But if you were like me, you probably haven’t seen him in action.
Well, do yourself a favor and check this out - one of the more enjoyable highlight reels I’ve seen in a while.
As for the Badgers, Wisconsin is returning enough talent next year to be viewed as the prohibitive favorites for another division crown. Whatever they lose - a QB here, a running back there - they already have options to replace them.
Hitting the Links Is Passed Out On The Couch
A little early and a little painful, maybe, for the “legacy” conversation, but hats off and thanks a bunch.
Really? Because it looks pretty tough.
I definitely didn’t expect this quiet of a season for Gary, or for the hype that surrounded him when he got here. Still, he’ll be one of the stars of the defense next season (hopefully).
The most common sense name I’ve heard is Craig Bohl, who coached NDSU from 2003-13 and went to Wyoming to help ‘ease the transition’ to FBS; other possibilities are Bryan Harsin, Dave Aranda, Scott Frost, and FCS national title contender Bo Pelini.
You know, I didn’t know this until this week, but the NCAA will be voting in April to change the number of assistant coaches allowed from 9 to 10 for all FBS programs. Which is huge news for every program, including Michigan - they would not only be able to replace Jedd Fisch, they could add another assistant later in the summer once this passes.
This is a very handy link by our friends at H&R. The more that I’ve seen of Jeff Brohm, the more optimistic I am for Purdue football - I’ll have some time in the next couple weeks to go into more detail.
Kevin Wilson’s offensive coordinator has been kicked to the curb, and a former Michigan O.C. has replaced him.
This isn’t a home run hire, but it’s a very solid one. Indiana’s best chance at success is probably going to be from some more smashmouth, anyway, and DeBord is a veteran guy that Tom Allen can trust.
One of the best linebackers in the Big Ten is jumping ship. Also of note, MSU’s Montae Nicholson is leaving Michigan State.