It’s Friday! That’s Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We hit Royals and Cyclones, recruiting stories and NBA trades, Tony LaRussa and Ralph Brown, Faux Pelini and Texas A&M’s nerdy video. But first, the Wisconsin State Journal published a story this week saying Wisconsin proposed a non-conference game (or series) with Alabama. Nick Saban said no.
I applaud Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema for going public with it. Why? Because the Big Ten, after a rough decade, needs all the political points it can muster. These little scores add up.
The SEC plays notoriously soft non-conference schedules, partly because their fans will show up anyway. The Big Ten has a chance, in the playoff era, to draw a contrast with the SEC. Schedule aggressively. Show fans everywhere that the Big Ten isn’t afraid of the SEC in non-conference play.
The current strategy — waiting until January to meet the SEC in a Florida bowl game — definitely isn’t working.
>> “He’s done.” I can’t tell you how many times over the last few years I muttered that phrase in reference to Roger Federer.
Until this morning, Federer hadn’t beaten Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam in 13 months. Since then, Nadal and Djokovic had dominated the sport, meeting in four consecutive Grand Slam finals.
And during that span, Fed had seemingly searched for ways to break down at critical moments. He blew two-set leads last year in back-to-back majors, losing to Jo Tsonga at Wimbledon and Djokovic at the U.S. Open. Mentally, he had the yips.
When Federer lost in straight sets to Djokovic a month ago in Paris, I thought Fed was finished. Never would he win another major.
Then this morning happened.
He jumped on Djokovic in his Wimbledon semifinal. And better yet, he didn’t stumble to the finish line. Can Federer do it again Sunday against Andy Murray? At this stage of his career, he’s never going to be an overwhelming favorite in a Grand Slam final. But the greatest player of all-time needed a confidence boost. And Friday, he got one.
>> The nation’s No. 1 football recruit — Robert Nkemdiche — says he’ll be go to Clemson … if the Tigers offer his high school teammate a scholarship. This story is getting lots of pub nationally. But it doesn’t strike me as out of bounds.
Nkemdiche would be more comfortable at Clemson if Ryan Carter was there with him. College coaches deal with situations like these all the time. (Of course, typically, they don’t appear in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.) If Dabo Swinney thinks the request is over the line, don’t make the offer.
>> Texas A&M’s marketing team was “devastated” by negative reaction to its SEC traditions video.
>> Incredible Twitter nugget from Mike Hlas last night. Iowa State’s football schedule includes five straight Big 12 games against teams that won 10 games last year.
>> One of the great Twitter follows — @FauxPelini — made an appearance on Schick and Nick this morning. Listen to the podcast. It’s funny.
>> “Athletics is becoming to American society what cooking is to the French or painting was to the Italians.” Read here about the U.S. genius cluster in sports.
>> The All-Star game is coming to Kansas City next week. Liz Merrill examines the plight of Royals fans who, for at least one week, are nationally relevant.
>> One of college basketball’s top recruits turned down the big boys to play at Harvard. This week’s sign of the apocalypse.
>> We’re less than 3 weeks from Big Ten media days in Chicago. For sportswriters, that’s the unofficial start to football season.
The top storyline in Chicago will be Urban Meyer. But what about the season?
Will it be Denard Robinson leading Michigan to its first league title since 2004? Or will Mark Dantonio’s defense dominate? Does Nebraska or Iowa, unburdened by lofty national expectations, emerge out of the pack? And is anybody in the Leaders Division worthy of winning the league?
I can’t handicap the race any better than you can. But I will say this: If Nebraska beats Michigan on Oct. 27, the Huskers will likely control their own destiny down the stretch. If Nebraska doesn’t beat Michigan, it’s gonna be a long, cold month of November.
>> Michael Dyer is denied eligibility at Arkansas State. That’s a good thing for Nebraska.
>> Ralph Brown recalls his recruitment to Nebraska.
>> Hiroki Kuroda’s painful road to Yankee Stadium.
>> I’m a day late on this, but Steve Nash will do wonders for the Lakers. He’ll instantly improve the intelligence and efficiency of a team that desperately needed a floor leader the past few years. Will it be enough to beat Oklahoma City in the West? I don’t think so.
>> Gregg Doyel calls Tony LaRussa “gutless.”
>> Finally, Bob Hope introduces the 1984 college football All-America team. Mark Traynowicz is at the 5:30 mark.
>> This is (probably) the last Mad Chatter until July 23. I have the next two weeks off. So thanks for reading. And as always, drop me a line with comments or suggestions for the blog. We need to make it better this fall.