6 Football Questions for a Monday.
1. At what point is the money not enough?
I recognize this opinion could be considered hypocritical coming from a Nebraskan; it was NU that benefited from the last round of Big Ten expansion. But that move made cultural sense for the Big Ten. It was wildly popular among Big Ten traditionalists. How could anyone argue with one of the five best programs in college football history?
Well, you’re hearing a very different reaction to Maryland and Rutgers. When Nebraska joined the league in 2010, you heard Delany talk about “fit.” Maryland and Rutgers don’t fit at all. I have no doubt every school in the league will make more money. But look at what they lose.
Delany has to tell Michigan fans that they’re trading games against Wisconsin and Michigan State for games against Rutgers and Maryland. For what? An extra million? More TVs in the football complex? An extra row of skyboxes?
This is supposed to be a league that represents tradition. This is supposed to be the most sensible commissioner in college athletics. Yet Delany is selling the soul of the Big Ten for a spot on New Yorkers’ cable package.
That’s not leadership, that’s hubris and greed.
2. What should the Big Ten do about divisions?
Maryland and Rutgers may not be the end of conference shuffling. In fact, I’m guessing Delany has his eye on some combination of North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech.
But if we’re at 14 for the foreseeable future, what does it mean for scheduling and divisions? The Big Ten should move to a geographic East/West split. Take the six schools west of Chicago (Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois), then move Indiana or Purdue to the West.
The four top football programs over the next decade are likely to be Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin (in some order). That would split them — and also divide Iowa and Michigan State.
That’s my proposal. But my guess is the eastern schools won’t go for it. They’ll say it’s lopsided (because they still think of Penn State as a powerhouse). Delany won’t go for it, either, because he likes the potential of a Michigan-Ohio State Big Ten title game.
No matter what happens with divisions, the Big Ten should go to nine conference games. You can’t have league schools playing only once or twice per decade.
3. Is this Bo Pelini’s best team?
Late Sunday night, I posed that question on Twitter, asking followers to rank Pelini’s five teams.
In almost every poll, the 2008 and ’11 teams filled the last two spots. That left 1-2-3 for 2009, ’10 and ’12. Here’s how the first-place votes broke down:
Here’s my take: While 2009 had the nation’s best defense at the end of the season, it’s hard to put it No. 1 considering the abysmal offense. That was the worst Nebraska offense since the 1960s.
The 2012 Huskers clearly have the most maturity — their performances under pressure are light years ahead of earlier Pelini teams — but they haven’t beaten anybody of substance.
So that leaves 2010. I know, I know, that team unraveled at the end of the season. But it had the highest ceiling of any Pelini team. The defense was outstanding — not quite at the ’09 level, but significantly better than ’12. The offense was explosive — at least until Taylor Martinez got hurt. And the competition was better than in the Big Ten. That’s my pick for now.
What would it take for 2012 to jump to No. 1 on my list? I’m not sure a Big Ten title (with Ohio State out of the picture) would do it. These Huskers might have to win the Rose Bowl.
4. Who could Nebraska face in the Rose Bowl?
Let’s say NU wins the Big Ten championship. (I know, don’t count your chickens.) Who would it face on Jan. 1? Let’s look at Pac-12 championship scenarios:
– If Stanford beats UCLA; Oregon State beats Oregon:
Stanford hosts UCLA in the Pac-12 title game.
– If Stanford beats UCLA; Oregon beats Oregon State:
Stanford hosts UCLA.
– If UCLA beats Stanford; Oregon beats Oregon State:
Oregon hosts UCLA.
– If UCLA beats Stanford; Oregon State beats Oregon:
All three North schools would be 7-2 in the Pac-12.
The worst of the three in the BCS standings (likely Stanford, with three losses) would be eliminated. The Beavers win the tiebreaker. Correction: Stanford wins the tiebreaker because it’s 2-0 against the Oregon schools.
UCLA hosts Stanford.
Is there any chance a Pac-12 team doesn’t end up in the Rose Bowl, opening the door to the SEC, Big 12 or Notre Dame? Yes. Notre Dame would need to lose to USC. Stanford would need to lose to UCLA. Oregon would need to win out. That would give the Ducks a shot.
5. What does SEC myopia look like?
Clay Travis is a Nashville-based author and media personality. I love the guy’s work. I read his blog — Outkick the Coverage — all the time. I often link his pieces in the Chatter — here’s his take on the future of realignment. But he’s an SEC homer. Sunday night, he tweeted these messages:
– “Notre Dame has played one team in the top 50 of FBS offenses all season. One! Just a complete fraud of a team.”
Guess how many top-50 offenses Alabama has faced in 2012? Two. Tennessee and Texas A&M. So the Crimson Tide, the next best thing to the NFL, is 1-1 against top-50 offenses.
– “If, by chance, Bama choked against Georgia, Georgia would also spank Notre Dame. Just to be clear.”
Can you name Georgia’s second-best win (after Florida) in 2012? The answer is Vanderbilt. I’m not kidding. And let’s not forget the Bulldogs’ 35-7 loss at South Carolina. If anybody in the top-10 is overrated, it’s Georgia.
This kind of commentary is why people like me will be rooting for Notre Dame in the BCS championship game.
6. Will college football Saturdays in November be as exciting during the playoff era?
Saturday night was unbelievable entertainment. Football fans in every corner of the country were glued to Oregon-Stanford and Kansas State-Baylor.
Joe Posnanski supports a playoff, but thinks we’re giving up something. I agree. But consider that 4-5 teams still have a chance to get to the BCS title game. If a playoff were in the works, there would be about 10 teams.
Why is that a good thing? Because are we certain that Alabama/Georgia is better than Florida State or Oregon? The answer is no. Schools shouldn’t get an edge just because of reputation.
We’ll close with a few small bites.
>> Last week, in an interview with Micah Kreikemeier, he pointed out a target for the Husker senior class. No team had won all its home games since 2001. And no team had won its last six regular-season games since 1997. The Huskers checked off one goal last week. This week they can take care of another. I don’t anticipate Iowa putting up much of a fight.
>> Which means Kirk Ferentz will make just shy of $1 million per win this season.
>> Stewart Mandel with a really smart take on how SEC scheduling (cupcakes in mid-November) give them an edge in the BCS shuffle.
>> Minnesota receiver A.J. Barker quit the team, then blasted coach Jerry Kill. Yet another thing coaches didn’t have to worry about before the Internet.
>> Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm blocking on an extra point when the Patriots were leading by 34 points. That’s karma for Bill Belichick routinely playing his starters deep into the fourth quarter of blowouts.
>> Derek Dooley was total disaster at Tennessee. But the man provided some hilarious press-conference moments. It almost makes me feel sorry for him.
>> Thanks for reading. Drop me your thoughts on Big Ten expansion. I’ll post them in Wednesday’s Chatter.