at least it's not just us?
Florida DB Dallas Crawford told me today that he will most likely take his official visit sometime in September. Don't be surprised if it spills over into October for one of the bigger games.
He also said that Michigan is in his top three with Wake Forest and Miami.
Try to do this yourselves. When I do it, I can only find one configuration that works for me at all:
- "East" -- PSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern
- "West" -- Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska
I really think this is what the powers that be have in mind. Think about it -- if you separate OSU from Michigan then you pretty much have to keep Wisconsin in the division. Nebraska has to stay with Iowa, so it's done. The divisions are in fact geographically contiguous. All major rivalries are preserved within the divisions except one, or maybe two if you count MSU-PSU.
One problem with this is the reality that the winner of OSU-PSU will almost always play for the conference championship. How often will one of the others break that stranglehold? Twice a decade? Less? You're taking the two programs from the largest and richest football recruiting states in the Big Ten, both without in-state conference rivals, and isolating them in a division by themselves. Yeah, that will work!
What are they thinking?
I'm going to guess that they are thinking that this will create a competitive championship game every year. They are right -- the champions of the West are likely to be a very good team. But they will almost always have more losses than the East champion, due to more parity within their division.
While it's fun, the point of the game is not to knock OSU out of the national championship every once in a while. That is so 1969. The point is to beat them and not just go to the Rose Bowl, but go onto the national championship ourselves. These divisions work against that ultimate goal. Indeed, any Big Ten divisional alignment that separates Michigan and Ohio State has this same fatal flaw.
I guess Dave Brandon would argue that the primary goal of conference play is to win the Big Ten championship, no matter how the Wolverines get there. That's true. But to play for the BCS championship, most years Michigan will have to win three games against OSU/PSU. Strength of schedule might allow us one conference loss along the way if the SEC champion isn't in the same predicament. That's likely to be the new reality, folks. Get used to it.
Almost every discussion of this year's team leaves out one important factor that may greatly change the fortunes of the team. I am talking about the change in leadership and cohesion. Comparing the 2009 OL to the 2010 OL or the 2009 DBs to the 2010 DBs is interesting and important, but it is hardly a full analysis.
ASIDE from the change in the personnel in those units.... and ASIDE from the team understanding schemes/terminology better.... the difference in leadership should be mentioned in season previews.
I think Michigan had talent last year, but things fell apart after a couple tough losses. There were some leaders on the team, but not enough to lead all the young guys and the train came off the tracks.
We all know college football is an emotional game played by very young adults. I think leadership and cohesion are a HUGE factor and the reason why there are so many upsets in recent years. (Plus, look at teams like Iowa with 2-star players who can have great Ds. Teams like Stanford who can beat USC. 5-star talent laden teams like ND with a widely-regarded failure as a motivator/leader (Weis) wasting huge talent.)
Heart is just as important as talent.
Here are the reasons to be excited about this team's leadership/cohesion:
1. Unwavering and repeated references to the outstanding commitment of the small group of seniors over the summer.
2. The seniors stepping up to RR and asking for permanent leaders (capitans) to be named this year.
3. Reports of Denard taking control of the offense.
4. Press favorite QB and returning starter Tate accepting a humbling symbol everyday in front of his peers, and rising above it.
5. The hard work mention about the defense. They seem motivated.
6. Purging of those not willing to give it their all (although that happens most years).
7. The team possibly finding motivation in the hard work done by Brock Mealer.
There is a difference in the tone of these comments from this year compared to the first 2 under RR. It has not been his standard practice to repeatedly mention these things, but now he does so without prompting. (Gone are the days of "well, we're not going to forfeit games.") And, we did not see this level of leadership on the field last year.
The leadership and cohesion that seems to have developed on this team may be the biggest difference between being 6-6 (which a pure unit by unti analysis might predict) and 9-3.
Granted I'm looking through some rosy Maize glasses, but I have seen a lot of 7-5 at best predictions of late, and I wanted to defend why we are setting our upper win limit too low when we look at our actual games this year. So a break down of each game and why its winnable;
1. UConn- UConn has been broken down by other MGoBloggers. They appear to be a solid team that will rely on the run game significantly, since they have to break in a whole new recieving group with just an ok passer. Our run defense is the strongest portion of our defense, and a previous diary showed that UConn did not perform well defensively against spread offenses. Our offense should be very potent this year, and add on the fact that it is at home, and we go from a winnable game, to a possible blow out.
2. Notre Dame- This game scares me, mainly because of Christ, Floyd, and Kelly and really not knowing what to expect. The good news, our offense will be even better, they don't have Golden, and we won last year. No reason to believe we can't win this game.
3/4. BG/ UMass- Hopefully no explanation needed
5. Indiana - Should be an entertaining game, with two potent offenses, but again, we won last year, and by all accounts, should be better. No reason we shouldn't expect a good chance to win this game
6. MSU - Probably the most critical game of the year, this could shape the rest of the year. MSU mirror's our team a lot since we both have potent offenses and suspect secondaries. Why we can win; Our offensive line is better than there's, and our defensive line is better than there's. No matter how much the game changes, games our won in the trenches, and we have the better stats going in. Add in the 6 point swing in homefield advantage, and we win a classic shootout.
7. Iowa- With Iowa, there has been lots of hype coming into the season, however, there are weaknesses that are there. 1. We showed that as good a defense as they have, we can move the ball on them. D-Rob drove the length of the field running 3 plays. With a healthy O-line and improved QB play, expect us to score, which will force them out of there conservative game plan. Take away Moeki, a couple new line man, and Stanzi throwing the rock, and I like our odds. Again, add in the 6 point home field advantage and the closeness of last years game, there's no reason to think we can't win here as well.
8. PSU - Happy Valley will be our second toughest environment of the year. The crowd will be loud and the team will be ramped up. Lucky for us, they are using a freshman QB or a first time shaky starter, playing behind a rebuilt line, that wasn't very good last year. Our offense won't be able to score as easily on this defense, but their offense might not require us too. Should be a great and winnable game in a great atmosphere.
9. Illinois - By all accounts, they should be a horrible team this year. So besides maybe being a trap game after the MSU-PSU stretch, walking away from this game without a W will be very telling ;)
10. Purdue - Similar to MSU as another team that mirror's us pretty well. Should be a shootout, but with two close losses in a row, I'm counting on our team to be hungry (especially RR to shut that pie hole on Danny "give mustaches a bad name" Hope)
11. Wisconsin - Not much to say here. Wisconsin will be a real challenge and by all accounts should be a loss. My only possible response is 2008? But not going to rely on that type of breakdown by Wisconsin.
12. The Game - To this I only reiterate the Epic Tale of the 1969 team that beat possibly the best OSU team ever. Anything can happen in The Game. Winning breads winning, and if we have won like we can to this point, strap in for one hell of a game.
So there you have it. This is why I'm optomistic. Does a lot have to go our way to win this season? sure. Are the odds in our favor? hell no! But we're starting the season off undefeated, and as a famous Corellian once stated "Never tell me the odds."
So, apparently (based on RR statements) all 3 QBs will go into the UConn game without playing "LIVE" since last year? (I don't think they were "live" in the spring either.)
If it was a typical cupcake for the first game, I would not be concerned. But, with UConn this spells a potential problem with turnovers.
I know they are doing drills for ball protection. I don't think that is enough. Even in the NFL with multimillion dollar QBs they still play in the preseason for about an entire game (spread over the enitre preseason).
Especially with 3 QBs, why not go "live" for at least a some practices?
Not sure if he ever got that UM offer (or would have received one in the future anyway), however, he was one of the TE/WR on UM's radar for the TE spot some of us (me) are hoping to fill in the 2011 class. Hopefully Fulse, McEvoy, or Tabb pan out.