Ooooh: dateline. Tim's not quite set up to post as Tim yet, but this is Tim from Chicago.
CHICAGO, IL - If "OMG who didn't vote for Tebow?" was the annoying meme at the SEC Media Days last week, the theme for the Big Ten's edition is "What the hell is wrong with your conference, and what are you going to do to fix it?" Every head coach was bombarded with some version of that question, and there were three general ways it was asked:
- Illinois and Wisconsin are scheduling games after the traditional end of the conference season. Do you see this as a positive for the perception of the conference as a whole?
- What other ways of toughening up the schedule (such as playing tough teams OOC, such as USC and Texas, or by extending the conference schedule to a full round robin) are you in favor of?
- Why do you suck so much more than the SEC?
Ron Zook thinks that not only is the ability of the Illini to stay on TV later in the year a positive thing, but also the bye weeks that they open up during the season will help the team stay healthier overall, and stronger down the stretch.
Rich Rodriguez, though he didn't play in a bowl last year with the Wolverines, thought that West Virginia's season extending to December helped his team when bowl season rolled around, because the execution and rhythm of the team aren't interrupted. Still, Rodriguez (along with a couple other coaches), thinks that it will only take big wins in one or two big non-conference/bowl games for the Big Ten to be back in the media's good graces. Michigan returning to power can only help that change. The only thing that really matters is winning, and that will come as long as Big Ten teams are as good as their opponents.
Tim Brewster thinks that playing the toughest competition can only help the team improve overall, and he looks forward to the day when the Big Ten conference adds a 12th team, and can play in a conference championship game.
Pat Fitzgerald, before his thoughts wandered to Rose Bowl dreams, talked about how he doesn't want to expand the conference schedule, because the Big Ten is pretty tough as it is. Like everyone else, though, he wants to change the perception of the league in a positive manner.
Jim Tressel said any time you challenge your team, not only do you find out where you stack up, but also that you grow as a team, and improve. As far as altering scheduling, he doesn't think that the difference between 40-some days off of football before the bowl season isn't significant to a team's performance, despite how the Buckeyes have looked in the past few BCS bowl games. The conference is concerned about its image, and even rival coaches cheer for each others' teams in the non-conference schedule.
Bill Lynch, who probably has the least vested interest in the topic, thinks it's a positive if teams can have a bye week, even if it means extending the season slightly. It allows for mental and physical rejuvenation.
Mark Dantonio thinks the difference between conferences is negligible, and the only way to determine who is the best is by a theoretical game between the all-conference teams of various conferences.
As for other (somewhat) interesting things paraphrased from the mouth of Rich Rodriguez:
The Big East and Big Ten are somewhat similar conferences, and though he spent a lot of time in the Big East, he thinks that the Big Ten has a bit more quality depth among its teams. Though the Big Ten might not have the most pristine reputation right now, once the teams are able to play and win in big games against important opponents, the perception of the league will improve.
The idea that a scheme is unique or unbeatable is a little overrated. Schemes are what they are. Michigan isn't going to win games just because of "the spread." It's plays and players that win games. Defenses may have caught up with the spread because it's not foreign to them anymore, but what you do from the spread is what's important. Defensively, Greg Robinson did bring in some slightly different schemes, though most defensive coordinators have a bunch of the same X-and-O stuff, and it's how you utilize them that's important. The bigger contribution by GERG has been the chemistry he's helped develop among the coaching staff and the players on the defensive side of the ball. Though the team lost some players from 2008, the new staff and players are communicating well, and that should help.
In other terms of improvement from year one to year two, there's the matter of experience. Not only were most of Michigan's players inexperienced, the experience that they did have was in a completely different system, so having a year of not only college football, but also the Rich Rodriguez system, will help the team a lot. Especially along the offensive line, the players will now know how to react when a new situation is thrown at them in live action. Once the players are familiar with game experience—and the coaches are familiar with the players—there are more available answers to problems.
Tomorrow, I'll have the chance to talk to the players, and hopefully there'll be some news to report from that.