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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Big Ten bloggers’ roundtable, LTP edition

This week's Big Ten bloggers' roundtable was supposed to be hosted by my Boilermaker colleagues over at Boiled Sports, but J Money wussed out because of a little category 2 Hurricane that went through his hometown of Houston last week.

Pansy

Seriously though, it's great to see that J Money came through the storm safely. It's also perfectly understandable that he has more important things on his plate than some silly questions. As a result, Lake the Posts steps in as a pinch hitter with his week's questions.

1)The national media is using the Big Ten Conference as a punching bag in 2008 ranking us somewhere between the Big East and the MAC. Based on Ohio State's no-show, Purdue's "APPLE!!!" and Michigan's debacle, it is redemption week in Big Ten Country. However, several teams have very respectable, yet no name teams (ie. Troy, Central Michigan, Ball State). Tell us how the Big Ten will respond this week in the final week before conference play.

There are 8 games this week. In those, I think only Penn State (vs. Temple) and Ohio State (vs. Troy) are stone cold locks to win. Florida Atlantic has a pretty good quarterback and confidence that it beat Minnesota last season, so the Owls have a shot in Minneapolis. Indiana and Purdue are playing the two best teams in the MAC. Not only that, they have played them twice in the last two seasons before this one in essentially a home and home (I consider the Motor City Bowl a "home game for the Chips"). The MAC teams nearly pulled off upsets in the home games and they are very familiar with their opponents this weekend. I think IU is the bigger possibility, but both losing would surprise me.

If Ohio can almost win in the 'shoe they have a chance against Northwestern. Michigan State should beat Notre Dame, but if the Irish win be prepared for a flood of Return to Glory stuff. Iowa needs to win at Pittsburgh before I take them seriously. The Big Ten could go anywhere from a redemptive 8-0 to an embarrassing 2-6 this week. I'll go with a neutral 6-2 as Ball state upsets IU and Pittsburgh beats Iowa.

2)The conference standings look like someone took the 2007 results and flipped it upside down. Which of the undefeated teams are contenders and which are pretenders (another way of saying which teams have put lipstick on a pig)? Recalibrate your preseason rankings and tell us who the conference favorites are now.

Right now I think Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State are easily the best four teams in the conference. The other seven teams are mediocre to awful, with several of them being inflated by the schedule. Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota are all undefeated, but their best combined opponent is Iowa State. Northwestern is the best of those four teams in my mind because of Tyrell Sutton, followed by Iowa if Shonn Greene keeps playing well. Should both get hurt there is almost no running game whatsoever. Minnesota will struggle some with Duane Bennett out.

The old way of thinking that Indiana and Iowa can compete because they don't play Michigan or Ohio State isn't a factor this year. They won't beat the three of the top four they do play. I vasciliate from moment to moment on how good Purdue is. One moment I am encouraged by the fact we nearly took out Oregon, the next I am discouraged by the fact we should have blown them out. We do actually benefit from missing Wisconsin and Illinois, but opening the Big Ten season with Penn State and Ohio State sucks. If we upset one of them I can begin believing again.

As I said in my Big Ten wrap Monday, Illinois reminds me of our 2002 team in that we nearly upset alleged national champ Ohio State, but also nearly lost to Western Michigan in finishing 6-6. We lost 6 games by 22 points combined that year, needed a 4th and 8 40-yard TD pass from Kyle Orton at Michigan State (off the bench in the cold no less), and beat the Broncos by 3 at home. Illinois can beat anyone this year, but they also looks like they could lose to anyone. Of course, this was true last year when they beat Ohio State and lost to Iowa.

3)Javon Ringer has emerged as the early season best-bet Heisman hopeful from the Big Ten. Real deal or non-conference smoke screen? Does anyone from
the Big Ten have a prayer for the Heisman, or is it too late?

It depends. The Big Ten is weak enough this year outside of my perceived top 4 (Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) that the Spartans could potentially make a run and win the conference. If Ringer keeps putting up those numbers he has a shot. Beanie Wells probably can't win it now. Curtis Painter needed a much better game against Oregon to even have a chance. As it stands now, He would need to go off on the Big Ten and take us to the Rose Bowl to even get invited to New York. I like P.J. Hill's chances if Wisconsin stays undefeated and he keeps churning out yards. Anyone outside of those four would take a monumental performance.

4)After three weeks it is time to give your team a new slogan. What is it and why is it what it is?

Purdue football: It's 2002 all over again. We've only played two games, but this season looks eerily like that one. We began that year by blowing out a 1-AA team (in that case Illinois State) before doing everything in our power to lose to a BCS conference team on the rise at home we should probably have blown out. That year it was a 3-point loss to Wake Forest in which we had five turnovers and missed 3 fourth quarter field goals inside 35 yards. These were much easier kicks than Summers missed last Saturday, as wind wasn't even a factor. Next we have a MAC opponent from Michigan (Western then, Central now) we should beat, but I can see it being much closer than expected as it was then.

In 2002 we followed that with the most frustrating loss in Purdue history, a game in which we held Notre Dame to 3 points offensively in South Bend AND returned a punt for a TD, but gave up 21 points on turnovers in a 24-17 loss. In 2008 our last non-conference game is a trip to South Bend to face a Notre Dame team I know we can beat, but won't believe it until it happens because of that 2002 game.

2002 had a 2-point loss to Michigan at home, a 3 point loss at Iowa thanks to a blocked FG returned for a touchdown and a late 4th down TD pass to Dallas Clark, the Holy Buckeye game, and an 38-31 OT loss at Illinois where we fell behind 24-0. In Champaign we fought back and took a 31-24 lead. Illinois then tied it with 8 seconds left on a fourth down TD that was questionable. Then we had a Hail Mary pass that should have been a touchdown because John Standeford broke the plane, but was ruled down at the 1 on the last play of regulation.

My point is that this season feels awfully similar. We were good enough that year to be agonizingly close against some pretty good teams (remember, Iowa went undefeated in the Big Ten that year and went to the Orange Bowl). Now, instead of getting blown out by ranked teams we may be back to losing winnable games against them in agonizing fashion.

5)By now, you've likely adopted a favorite non Big Ten team to watch. Flex your football worldliness by convincing your fellow Big Ten kool-aid drinkers to watch your "other" team.

It's no secret, but because of my wife I am now a pretty big Miami Hurricane fan. This year they really look like a team that is incredibly talented, but will lose some games because of its youth. In a year or two they will be phenomenal again. Watching all that talent grow is reason enough to watch.

Mini-Boilermakings:

  • I wanted to take advantage of the extra space here to mention a few things non-football related as a mini-Boilermakings.
  • The women's volleyball team continues to have an impressive start to the season. They are ranked 20th in the latest poll and have an 8-1 record through 9 games. In that, they won the Mortar Board Premier Tournament in West Lafayette, the Active Ankle Challenge in Muncie, and the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City. The only loss was a shocking one to previously winless Utah State in five sets in Salt Lake City. Purdue will play in the Dayton Invitational this weekend before opening Big Ten play at #1 ranked Penn State.
  • The women's soccer team won the Boilermaker challenge cup last weekend, but lost me some marital bragging rights by dropping a 2-0 game at Miami last Wednesday. They will begin defense of their Big Ten title this week.
  • The women's cross country team began the season by winning the Great American Legends race in West Lafayette and hope to have its experienced squad qualify for the NCAA championships with a high Big Ten finish later this year.
  • In a very interesting note I found here, Purdue will begin its 2009 baseball season in the Tampa area as part of the first ever Big Ten/Big East baseball challenge. This is interesting because of the 6 BCS conferences, the Big Ten and Big East are far behind the other four in terms of college baseball. As the sport gains in popularity though, both conferences want a piece of that lucrative pie. The ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Pac 10 already have established traditions, but the Big Ten and Big East either have dormant tradition, or are relatively new to the scene. This event should help not only Purdue, but Big Ten baseball as a whole since the Big East is probably ahead of the conference thanks to teams like Louisville and Notre Dame.
  • I took a bit of a hit last week in the Big Ten bloggers' pick 'em contest, but the results have been pretty easy to pick this early. In 31 possible games I have missed only four, but those have all been in the past week. Here are the updated standings.
  • Thanks to the internet, we all know the earth still exists. As Tim Bedore said on Bob and Tom this morning, they had better not turn that thing on before the Cubs win the World Series.
Two final notes:

First, if anyone needs an extra ticket to Saturday's game please e-mail me at tamiller@excite.com. My college roommate has an extra seat available for this game as well as likely the other four remaining home games.

Second, if there is a student that reads this blog and is interested in helping me out, please e-mail me as well. I am interested in taking advantage of the University Bookstore deal on Mondays, but can't make it to West Lafayette on Mondays. With a plethora of touchdowns likely coming Saturday, I'd like to work out a deal where someone can pickup a new, deeply discounted jersey next Monday and I can meet them at the next home game to pick it up and pay them.

1 comment:

DonPardo said...

Take a deep breath.. Now step back from the ledge..

It is never as good or bad as it seems, especially with Purdue (insert sport here).

We gave a good team all they could handle. In the long run for this team, a close hard fault loss is going to be a lot better come BigTen season then a 30 point win over North West State Tech.

Now if we lose to the Chippes, I will be right up on that ledge with you.

Go Boilers!