Can Wisconsin Give the Big Ten Another National …

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The NCAA Tournament starts on Tuesday with Hampton playing Manhattan and the winner having the honor of facing the Kentucky Wildcats in round 2.

One of the No. 1 seeds in the tournament, the Wisconsin Badgers is the best hope of the Big Ten to end its drought of a national championship that goes back as far as 2000.

Wisconsin might have its best team since Bo Ryan their long time coach has been with the team. Frank Kaminsky leads the Badgers.

How far bettors should take Wisconsin in the tournament is a big question on the minds of many.

The Badgers should be a safe bet to reach the Sweet Sixteen by winning both of their games during the first weekend. Under coach Ryan, the Badgers are 11-2 in their opening games of NCAA Tournaments.

According to Bovada and topbet, Wisconsin is 17-7 over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament since 2002 and has reached the Sweet 16 three of the last four seasons. For those that play the spread, Wisconsin is 12-11-1 against the number over the two first rounds of the tournament under coach Ryan, including a record of 11-8-1 ATS as the favorite.

Wisconsin however, becomes vulnerable when they reach the Sweet 16. Under Ryan, Wisconsin has a record of 3-6 in the second weekend of the NCAA’s and beyond with two of the three wins coming last season when Wisconsin made it to the Final Four.

In the Sweet 16, Wisconsin is just 1-2 SU when a favorite, which includes straight up losses to Butler in 2011 and Davidson in 2008.

If Wisconsin catches a tough mid-major team during the round, they could be in trouble. Wisconsin against the spread is 5-0-1 when an underdog in the Sweet 16 and beyond. The push was a loss of 1 point to Kentucky in the Final Four game. If the Badgers reach the Final Four, they will be a good bet as an underdog to cover.

According to betonline and sportsbook.com, with seven participants in the Tournament, the Big Ten is a good bet to have one reach the Final Four. The conference has had one or more teams in the Final Four in five of the past six seasons.

Since 2000, six teams from the Big Ten have reached the championship game with the last one winning in 2000.

A question on the minds of fans and bettors supporting Wisconsin is how far they will go.

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Putting the Wraps on College Football With Three …

Patterson
Patterson

Gary Patterson and TCU have every right to be upset especially after the team that replaced won the title.

By now you know the Ohio State Buckeyes are the champions of college football. While many will tell you this is the first-ever undisputed championship, you won’t catch me saying that.

Let’s remember that this team got into the playoffs simply because the committee wanted to avoid choosing TCU ahead of Baylor. By taking the Buckeyes, that meant neither the Horned Frogs nor the Bears were going into the playoffs so a lot of controversy was avoided. TCU had been listed in the top four for several weeks and in the last poll before the final rankings were released.

Both TCU and Ohio State had one loss. The Frogs lost a high-scoring shootout to Baylor 61-58 in Waco while the Buckeyes lost to 6-6 Virginia Tech in the Horseshoe.

Then bowl season came around and we all wondered how TCU would respond in their match-up against Ole Miss. Would they still be hanging their heads wondering about what might have been or would they prove to the committee that they should have been in rather than Ohio State?

Ask the Rebels which TCU team showed up…

The point is this; The Buckeyes are a worthy champion having defeated Alabama and Oregon and I certainly can’t say TCU would have accomplished this. But the fact that the one team that wasn’t in the top four rankings until the very end won the title tells me the playoff must expand to an eight-team field.

Barrett

If J.T. Barrett recovers well, I expect him to get the nod at QB for the Buckeyes in 2015.

I believe it will eventually but probably not for several years at the earliest.

Five Questions Heading Into 2015

1. Can the Buckeyes make it two in a row? You bet they can. With Urban Meyer as head coach, a plethora of top new recruits and a lot of guys back from this past season’s team, there is no reason OSU can’t win back-to-back titles. The schedule is very favorable with the only troublesome road trips at Virginia Tech in the opener and at Michigan in the finale.

Obviously the biggest issue is at quarterback. It’s a good problem to have but Meyer is going to need to commit to Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller fairly soon. My gut feeling is that they go with Barrett as long as the leg heals properly.

2. Who bounces back for the SEC? Southeastern Conference expert Paul Feinbaum had a funny tweet yesterday and I’m paraphrasing a bit. “The Big Ten wins the National Championship in football, while the SEC has the top team in basketball. Something isn’t right.”

There’s no question the folks down South are hurting right now. While overall, their run of consecutive national titles still reigns supreme, but the fact they couldn’t even muster a team into the title game has left many feeling blue.

There isn’t a team in the SEC that doesn’t have question marks however. Both Alabama and Auburn will feature new quarterbacks and LSU is undergoing numerous changes on the defensive side. The SEC East should be better overall but whether they have a title contender is uncertain.

There’s no question the SEC will bounce back but there’s no clear cut evidence of who rises to the top just yet.

3. What is a “good outcome” in Harbaugh’s first year at Michigan? If you ask Wolverines’ fans they’ll tell you nothing short of a Big Ten title will suffice but that isn’t fair. Michigan will be better, there’s no way they won’t be with the staff Harbaugh has assembled and the attitude he’s already installing.

The defense last year in Ann Arbor was actually pretty darn good but the offense was the real problem. Harbaugh has to find a capable QB and a running game as well. I believe eight or nine wins is a very acceptable first year. Anything more is a bonus.

 

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Wisconsin Situation Should Serve as a Wake-Up to the Rest …

Alvarez
Alvarez

Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez finds himself looking for a coach for the second time in three years.

People change jobs for any number of reasons. Tops among those reasons is of course more money. There are very few among us who wouldn’t take a similar job to the one we currently have if it offered more money.

But there are other scenarios that factor into a person’s decision to take a job and I believe those are what caused Gary Andersen to leave Wisconsin.

Coaching changes at Florida, Michigan and even Nebraska were not surprises, but very few on the outside or the inside for that matter saw Andersen leaving the Badgers. His decision to leave for Oregon State has not only raised questions about the situation in Madison but in the entire Big Ten as well.

Andersen is believed to have left because he and his assistants didn’t care for Madison. They are mostly west coast guys who prefer living out there and that’s good enough for me. I get that… We also have heard Andersen was not pleased that he couldn’t bring many of the players he wanted into his program because of the academic standards.

This is where our problem begins…

No one denies that the most powerful football conference in America resides in the Southern and Eastern parts of this country. The past eight to ten years speak for themselves in terms of success on the football stage.

Andersen

Gary Andersen's surprising move to the West Coast may expose more about the Big Ten then anything just at Wisconsin.

For eight straight years a team from the Southeastern Conference has played for the college football championship. The Big Ten meanwhile, the conference that Andersen has left, has played for just two titles in that same span.

So why the sudden shift after so many years of sharing power? There was a long time where teams from the Big Ten, SEC, old Southwest conference and Pac-8 used to consistently vie for titles and bowl games.

Even with expansion, the SEC has continued to pull away from most of the other conferences and most obviously left in the dust has been the corn-fed folks in the Midwest.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has some powerful things to consider going forward and Andersen’s departure will hasten those issues.

If the Big Ten wants to compete on the national stage and gain the respect they once had, then something has to be done to allow lesser academic athletes into its’ institutions. This will not be an easy thing to accomplish and there is growing sentiment that it might never happen.

I say “never” only because I would have thought the cash would have convinced them to jump on board the collegiate football money train by now. No one in the SEC will argue their academic standards don’t match those in the Big Ten.

They are all quality schools but do any actually compete with a Michigan, Northwestern or Purdue when it comes to academics? The answer is “no” and you won’t hear anyone apologize for it either.

The argument I consistently hear is about Ohio State. The Buckeyes belong to the Big Ten yet seem to have athletes similar to those in the South. My take is that OSU has figured out how to get these kids into the University.

If you look at the majors by not just OSU but also schools in the South you’ll notice plenty majoring in “exploring” and “general studies.” Get it?

Andersen’s leaving also brought out the issue of Wisconsin not paying assistants very well and that’s a viable cause for leaving but it’s obvious to me the Big Ten needs to decide if it wants to compete for football glory or continue to be the red-headed step-child to the SEC and beyond.

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What We Know and What We Don’t Through Three Weeks …

SEC
SEC

The SEC has remained in its' dominant place at the top so far in college football.

We are now through three full weeks of college football and typically by this time we have a small glimpse of who the top teams might be. I would accept arguments right now on any number of teams but I still haven’t seen one team that makes me sit up and take notice. Consider the following games from this past weekend.

Georgia was the darling of the college football world after their huge win over Clemson in their opener. Paired with South Carolina’s devastating loss to Texas A&M, many CFB experts we suddenly changing their picks for the winner of the SEC East Division. The Gamecocks barely escaped East Carolina (more on them later) in week two so naturally, we thought Georgia would go into Columbia and win right?

Georgia battled hard by fell 38-35 to the Gamecocks. The loss opens things back up for South Carolina and also makes each team’s game with Florida that much bigger now.

As far as those Pirates of ECU are concerned, all they did was go into Blacksburg and knock off unbeaten Virginia Tech 28-21. This was a Hokies team that upset Ohio State in Columbus just a week before. Suddenly we were all thinking that maybe the ACC wasn’t easy street for Florida State. Well, maybe it is after all.

Hundley

The Bruins proved they can win without Hundley, but their wins have been ugly.

One of the sexier picks to make the Championship Playoff this season was UCLA led by Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley. The good news is the Bruins are still unbeaten at 3-0, but their wins have been struggles. They defeated Virginia on the road with defense, barely survived Memphis in the Rose Bowl by seven and then Saturday they managed to get by Texas 20-17 with Hundley out with an elbow injury.

Back-up Jerry Neuheisel led the Bruins to the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes to go in the fourth. Let’s be clear; the name of the game in college football is winning and UCLA is winning but I have a hard time seeing this get through the Pac-12 schedule unscathed right now.

What We Know

What is blatantly obvious to all of us is that the Big Ten is not going to go anywhere near the playoff with several miracles. A week ago the conference suffered losses at the top with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State going down and losses at the bottom with Northwestern and Purdue losing to MAC schools.

This past weekend, Michigan was taken deep into the second half by Miami, OH before pulling away in the fourth. Indiana lost to Bowling Green and Iowa lost at home to rival Iowa State by three. This is a Cyclones’ team that was throttled at home in the opener by North Dakota State too.

As bad as the Big Ten has been, the SEC has been quite the opposite.

The best football conference in the country is proving worthy of their title as they now have seven teams in the Top 25. Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss are in the top ten and each is unbeaten. Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri are also listed. The tragic irony of this dominant situation is that the SEC could very well knock itself around too much.

Florida plays at Alabama this coming Saturday and then in two weeks, things get really interesting. LSU will play at Auburn and Alabama will travel to Ole Miss. While it’s doubtful anyone comes out without some scratches, the SEC can’t beat itself up too much or it could cost itself the two spots we’ve all given it in the final four.

As usual, there’s a lot that can happen.

 

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The Big Ten Continues to Struggle Against the SEC, Power …

Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald

Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats are 8-2 against power conferences but none of those games were against ranked teams.

For many years in old system of college football, the Big Ten Champion would travel westward to play the Pac-8, then 10 and now 12 in the Rose Bowl. For many decades there was dominance by the Big Ten and then in the 1970′s and 1980′s the pendulum swung drastically in favor of the kids from the West Coast.

In the 1990′s, the Big Ten won six of the 10 games leading up to the birth of the BCS and with that slight edge, some thought the Big Ten had turned a corner and was ready to return as the best or second best conference in America.

The Big Ten, which is now actually made up of 14 teams, is no longer compared to the Pac-12 the way it once was. The standard today is the SEC who had won seven straight national titles until last season. This isn’t to say the Big Ten isn’t still compared to the Pac-12 because it is any time they face each other but the SEC is the cream of the crop right now.

Of the five major conferences in college football right now, one could argue that the Big Ten has slipped not to number two but perhaps as far as fourth or fifth. The ACC has the reigning champion in college football and was better overall last season in terms of depth. The Big 12, which has ten teams, had two BCS bowl bids last season.

UM/PSU

Michigan and Penn State need to rack up some wins against the SEC in order to gain any respect for the conference.

If we look at the breakdown of Big Ten teams vs the ‘Power Five’ conferences (this doesn’t include Rutgers or Maryland), only Northwestern (8-2) and Ohio State (5-3) have winning records against schools from those conferences since 2010. Overall, the Big Ten is 35-48 over that time span.

Before we anoint Northwestern the kings of the block, consider that they are 0-0 against ranked Power Five conferences. That means they are thriving on the bottom-dwellers of those conferences. Only the Buckeyes have a winning record against ranked Power Five conferences and that’s a rather meager 2-1 record.

The overall Big Ten record against ranked Power Five conference teams is just 8-25.

Lastly is the record of Big Ten teams against SEC teams dating back to 2010. Not surprisingly it is well below .500 at 7-15 with Northwestern once again “leading” the way with a 3-1 record. The three wins were against Vanderbilt (2) and Mississippi State and the loss was to Texas A&M when they were still in the Big 12.

The Wildcats are the only team with a winning record against the SEC. Ohio State and Michigan State are 1-1 while Michigan and Penn State are both 0-3.

So what does the Big Ten do to regain a place among the top two conferences in college football? Unfortunately not much in the short-term because the bottom of the conference is just horrendous and yes I’m looking at you Purdue and Illinois.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier said this week his team gets more out of a game against East Carolina then they would against the bottom half of the Big Ten. Here’s the thing; Spurrier is absolutely right. Top Big Ten teams usually have starters and first line depth to compete with anyone but once you get into the middle and bottom of the Big Ten the starters of those teams aren’t much better if at all then a school like East Carolina.

The Big Ten for many years has ‘sampled’ the talent in places like Texas and Florida but still can’t compete with Nick Saban and Les Miles coming into a kid’s living room. With Rutgers and Maryland coming in, the hope is that the Big Ten’s recruiting base will now open up places like New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. That will help but until the Big Ten can consistently go into the deep south they will continue to struggle.

Lowering their academic standards might help too.

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Odds to Win the 2014 Big Ten West Division

Gordon
Gordon

Melvin Gordon and the Badgers are my pick to win the Big Ten West Division.

On Tuesday, I started looking at college football conference odds by opening up with the Big Ten’s East Division. Today I turn the car towards the sunset and head to West Division where it appears there is a two-horse race between Nebraska and Wisconsin. Don’t tell that to a few other teams in the Division because they aren’t going to just step aside in the race to represent the division in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Illinois 33/1 – Illini Head Coach Tim Beckman enters year three with a 6-18 record and his job can only be saved with a bowl bid in my opinion. The non-conference schedule should provide three wins against lesser opponents while a trip to Washington probably won’t go well. The conference schedule features road games at Nebraska, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State and at Northwestern. That leaves Beckman little room for error because those are all losses in my mind. They will not threaten for the division title.

Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes could play spoiler in the Big Ten West Division.

Iowa 5/1 – The Hawkeyes enter 2014 with high hopes under Kirk Ferentz who enters his 19th season in Iowa City. The offense has nice tools to work with in both the running and passing game and the schedule could not set up better. The non-conference slate features rival Iowa State at home and a trip to Pitt with two winnable home games as well. The conference schedule is where the Hawkeyes can make waves. They have both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home in the final two games of the season and they also get Northwestern at home as well. If you are looking for that one team to knock off the Badgers and Huskers then here it is.

Minnesota 10/1 – The Golden Gophers’ biggest question is actually about the guy on the sidelines and that’s Head Coach Jerry Kill. Despite the university giving him a raise, concerns over his health have to be hanging over this team. Twice last season Kill was unable to travel with the team and that’s never good. Throw in the fact their top quarterback Phillip Nelson transferred to Rutgers and you have the makings of a decline in Minnesota this year. The Gophers have a brutal schedule that includes road games at TCU, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraksa. They also have Ohio State at home. I see a step back this season.

Nebraska 3/2 – Bo Pelini was thought to be gone following a blowout loss to Iowa in the season finale last year but the school gave him a contract extension. I do believe that a down season will put him right back on the hot seat in Lincoln and the schedule will be nothing easy to navigate. They have Miami,Fl at home and a trip to Fresno State in non-conference action and conference trips to Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa. Despite the return of running back Ameer Abdullah, receiver Kenny Bell and QB Tommy Armstrong, the defense has only three starters back. I think the Huskers finish third in the West.

Northwestern 20/1 – The Wildcats suffered a disappointing season after a strong start in 2013 and didn’t go to a bowl. They’ll get back to a bowl in 2014 and the schedule should help that.  They get Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan at home. If they stay healthy, they could be a sleeper in the West.

Purdue 100/1 – Darrell Hazell went 1-11 in his first year and a repeat of that will cost him his job. The schedule could help that with Wisconsin and Michigan State coming to Ross-Ade Stadium. Still, the talent just isn’t there. Three wins might be a successful season in 2014.

Wisconsin 6/5 – The Badgers open in Houston, Texas against LSU. If they can get past the Tigers then I believe they have the opportunity for a run at the four-team playoff. The tough road trips are at Iowa and at Northwestern. Outside of that, I think the Badgers can make a serious run at national honors. I expect them to play Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

 

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Odds to Win the 2014 Big Ten East Division

Hoke
Hoke

Brady Hoke has every reason to be concerned. He needs a big season to keep his job.

2014 brings more realignment to college football and in this particular case it’s the Big Ten. Rutgers and Maryland join the numerically challenged conference to bring the total now to 14. Also changed are the division names which go from the controversial ‘Leaders’ and ‘Legends’ Divisions to the much more geographically correct ‘East’ and ‘West.’

Today, I’m looking at the odds on who will represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship Game. As of today, this looks like a two-horse race.

Indiana 33/1 – The Hoosiers started well last season and were competitive in several games before losing. They eventually finished 5-7. The schedule presents some tough road games against SEC East Champ Missouri, MAC Champ Bowling Green and Big Ten Division Champ Ohio State. There’s a chance for the Hoosiers to get six wins but there is no room for error.

Maryland 50/1 – The Terrapins start their inaugural Big Ten Season coming off a 7-6 season in which they went just 3-5 in their division. Their first season features trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State but they do get division heavyweights Michigan State and Ohio State at home. I don’t see the Terps getting to .500 this year.

Michigan 5/1 – Hard to believe that Brady Hoke is on the hot seat but he is. The Wolverines have struggled against the two teams they cannot afford to struggle against; Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan is expected to vie for titles every season and they haven’t. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has come aboard to straighten out this offense. The Wolverines have trips to both of their rivals in East Lansing and Columbus and host Appalachian State in the opener and we all know what happened last time they came to the Big House. I see another struggle for Michigan in 2014. Eight wins would be welcome.

Dantonio

Look for Dantonio's Spartans to repeat as division champions in 2014.

Michigan State 13/5 – The Spartans are in prime position for not just another Big Ten Title run but perhaps a shot at the four-team playoff as well. QB Connor Cook is back and as confident as ever and although they have a few guys to replace defensively, I expect that unit to be very good again. The schedule has one daunting road game at that’s a long trip to Oregon. The only other road game that poses a threat is at Penn State in the finale. The great news is that Sparty gets Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska in Spartan Stadium. The game with the Buckeyes will decide the East Division title.

Ohio State 5/2 – The Buckeyes’ schedule is almost as favorable as Michigan State’s with daunting road games at MSU and Penn State. Outside of that, Urban Meyer’s charges will get Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Michigan at home. OSU was 12-0 last season before Meyer suffered his first defeat as their head coach in the Big Ten Title Game. Braxton Miller is back, but the offense does have Carlos Hyde to replace. Because of Meyer’s recruiting they will be a national contender again and that trip to East Lansing could decide their fate on several levels.

Penn State NL – The Nittany Lions are still ineligible to win the Big Ten East Division title. I expect an above .500 season from new head coach James Franklin.

Rutgers 100/1 – After a road trip to Washington State in the opener, the Scarlet Knights have four of the next five at home. Among them are Michigan and Penn State. Rutgers received no favors from the scheduling department as they drew the top two teams from the West in Wisconsin who they get at home and Nebraska where must travel. With other away games at Navy and at Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights will be lucky to get to .500 this season.

 

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