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RIP 06/11/2010

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The Cornhuskers join the Big Ten

Colorado is heading for the Pac 10. Nebraska is joining the Big Ten. It seems that the Big XII is coming apart at the seams.

The league, formed 14 years ago when the Big Eight was somehow absorbed by the Texas schools from the dying SWC conference. Usually, the schools leaving a defunct conference are absorbed by a larger group of existing affiliated schools, but the nearly 100 year affiliation of the Big 8 schools was no match for Texas. The Longhorns are the biggest bull in the yard, and immediately control of the new conference switched from Kansas City to Dallas. It was a travesty to end the annual Oklahoma-Nebraska football game, but that donnybrook was a sacrifice to Texas wishes. The last straw for Nebraska was the Texas, um, Big 12 ultimatum to swear they were committed to the conference by Friday. Forcing the Big 10’s hand has set realignment into motion. The Big 10 was content to wait a while for Notre Dame to decide about joining them. Had that happened, Nebraska would still be in the Big 12 North and the Big 12 would still be in tact. Texas was the driving force behind the SWC demise, and despite having ‘done everything we could to save the Big 12,’ it is the driving force behind the demise of the Big 12. The Longhorns will also join the Pac 10, along with Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, forming the first 16 team Superconference. Be careful what you wish for, Pac 10. The Big 8 thought it had caught lightning in a bottle, too. It is just 14 short years after Texas joined and Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State (along with Baylor) are left to fend for themselves. Colorado made the first move West because there was a movement afoot to include Baylor and freeze out the Buffs. (Watch out, OSU!) Most of those teams will probably end up in the Mountain West.

Nebraska will fit fine into the Big 10. They will probably be better off. Now the question is, what’s next? Various outlets report thea the Big 10 (now with 12

The changes have just begun. Conferences are up in the air. Who knows where they will land.

teams) and Notre Dame are still talking. ND has always been the Jewel that the Big 10 covets. So that means 2 or 4 more teams will likely end up joining the conference eventually. It may happen quickly, or it may happen in stages. The focus now shifts east as the Big 10 eyes teams currently in the Big East and ACC. Rumors say Rutgers is in play, along with Syracuse, Pitt and others. There is a shakeup coming out east, and another conference will probably bite the dust when it is all said and done.

What of the Pac 10? I find it interesting that at the same time they are adding 6 schools, one of those institutions, Colorado, is being sanctioned by the NCAA for failing to maintain academic standards and conference standard-bearer USC has been hit with a 2 year bowl ban and lost 30 scholarships for a lack of institutional control. The Pack 10 is a mess, and Texas has not even arrived yet!

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Last Lick 03/16/2010

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When I was attending the University of Iowa, Lute Olson was the head coach, and one of their tag lines was Iowa….the State of Basketball.

Officially, as of yesterday, the state of basketball at Iowa is a mess. Coach Todd Lickliter was let go after his third season at the University. The numbers

Lickliter will not return to the Iowa bench next season

were not pretty. Those 3 seasons were the worst 3 year span in Iowa history. Lickliter’s teams lost 20 more games than they won. They finished 6-12, 5-13 and 4-14 in the Big Ten conference during his time there. The 2009-10 season just concluded was the worst in Hawkeye history. Iowa reached the 20 loss mark for the first time in their 100 plus year basketball history, finishing 10-22. No less than nine scholarship players left the program with eligibility remaining during his tenure. Those are the bad facts. There was good, also. Because of all of the defections, Iowa fielded the youngest team in the Big Ten this season, starting 2 freshmen, 2 sophomores and a junior. There was only 1 senior on the squad. While there was no big man on the court this season, 6′ 9″ Juco transfer Devon Archie had red shirted because of a freak shoulder injury during pre season drills, and the incoming recruiting class includes a 6′ 9″ power forward. In fact, if the class remains in tact after the coaching change, Iowa had a top 30 recruiting class for next season. Additionally, there is some talent on the current squad. Sophomore Aaron Fuller has demonstrated that he can compete at the Big Ten level, as has fellow sophomore Matt Gatens. The Big Ten all freshman team this year included 2 Hawkeyes: point guard Cully Payne and forward Erik May. Payne ran Hawkeye point all season, and finished with a 25 point performance against Michigan in Iowa’s final game. May may be the best pure athlete on the team. Had Lickliter returned, things would have been better next season. Provided everyone else also came back.

But that was not assured. The team seamed to have quit on the system or the coach at the end of the season. Their last 3 road games of the season

What went wrong at Iowa?

included an 18 point loss at Northwestern, a 27 point loss at Wisconsin and a 35 point loss at Minnesota. The argument has been made that the “Butler system” employed by Lickliter will not work in the Big Ten. But another former Butler coach, Thad Motta, is doing quite well at league rival Ohio State. By all accounts, Lickliter is an honerable man, posses the values that fit at an institution like Iowa, and perhaps deserved better than to be dismissed with 4 years left on his contract. But something was not working, and here we are.

The next hire by AD Gary Barta may just define his tenure at Iowa. Barta brought Lickliter to Iowa, and now, 3 short years later he is asking for a mulligan. One thing is for sure. The fan base had quit on the program. Attendance has been in a free fall for years, long before Lickliter arrived on the scene. The paid attendance fell below 10,000 per game for the first time in decades, and the actual per game average of people in the seats hovered around 6000 this season. This once proud program appeared in 16 NCAA tournaments in the 21 seasons from 1979 to 1999. Iowa played to packed houses during those years. But since the turn of the century, under coaches Steve Alford and Lickliter, The Hawkeyes have been included in the NCAA field only 3 times, have won just one game in those appearances and will miss the tournament for the 4th straight season.

Football is king at Iowa. That will not change. But basketball used to be played on the national stage. Iowa was a good coaching job. It can be again. The fans will come back if given a reason. While Iowa will not compete for a Big Ten crown every season, it is a place that, with the right coach, can compete in the field of 64. The first decade of the 21st century was a lost one for the Hawkeye hoopsters. The next hire in Iowa City will decide if that slide into basketball irrelevance continues.

Now or Never 12/15/2009

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There is a change on the horizon.  The NCAA BCS landscape is going to change.  The current BCS format is scheduled to end in 2015.  People want it to change.  Most want a

The Big Ten will expand within the next 24 months

 playoff system.  The non BCS conferences (MWC, WAC, C-USA, MAC, Sun Belt) feel left out.  Even Congress has weighed in.  (Let’s let them try health care first and see if they can actually manage to run something efficiently before allowing them to become involved in something REALLY important like college football!).  We don’t know what is going to happen, but something has to give.  With a shake out set to happen in ’15, the time has come for the Big Ten to expand from 11 to 12 teams.  Why now?  Because it takes several years to adapt schedules.  It took Penn State about 3 years to play a conference slate once it agreed to join the Big Ten. 

The league has been on the cutting edge for years.  It is one of only 2 conferences to have its own network (along with the Mountain West), and theirs is much more successful.  It has HUGE contracts with ABC and ESPN.  The cash flows in the Big Ten, and as the Big Ten Network grows, the cash will increase.  There are more TV sets in the Big Ten ‘footprint’ than in any other conference.  What this conference lacks at the moment is a football championship game.  For that, it needs a 12th team, 2 divisions and a licence to print money, because a Big Ten championship game will be a cash cow, and a TV ratings bonanza.  So who should be the 12th team?  That’s the question.

To me, the perfect fit would be Notre Dame. The Irish play 3 to 4 Big Ten games a season anyway.  Join the conference and you can keep the traditional USC and Navy

The Big Ten is the best fit for Notre Dame

matchups, as well as your Michigan, MSU and Purdue Big Ten games.  Adding five more Big Ten conference games will still leave 2 more games to schedule.  Joining the Big Ten will allow ND to keep all of its traditional rivals.   Economics will force the Irish into a conference by 2015, the final year of ND’s current TV contract with NBC.  Notre Dame can not remain economically viable if it loses its TV contract, and the Big Ten can probably offer the Irish more cash than they will be able to get on their own anyway.  Hey, ND, want to go to a BCS game?  The Big Ten has more invites (21) than any other conference, including the max of 2 per season in each of the past 5 seasons and 7 of the last 8.  Where else are you going to go?  The Big East?  The ACC?  Please.  Those two conferences have only 12 appearances in the BCS each.  The odds are, ND, that this will be your last chance to join the Big Ten.  Expansion WILL happen, either with you or with some one else.  The are other options.  The Big Ten can go after an east coast team, or a Texas team and increase their TV market even more.  You left the Big Ten at the altar ten years ago, Irish.  In the years since then, the Big Ten has gotten bigger and better, I don’t think you can say the same. (The Big East in basketball, etc.?  Really?  What were you thinking?)  If the conference gives you another chance, JUMP!!  It is what is best for your future.  It is a natural fit.  Ten years ago, they need you more than you needed them.  The shoe is on the other foot this time. 

(To read an interesting article about Big Ten expansion, along with other potential teams, go here: http://www.hawkeyenation.com/football/time-for-big-ten-expansion )

Surviving Youth 10/18/2009

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Iowa spotted Wisconsin 10 points, then defeated the Badgers by a score of  20-10 in Wisconsin Saturday.  Iowa also received a gift in the form of Purdue’s upset of Ohio State to place

Defense leads the way for this Iowa squad, as exemplified here by this blocked pass

Defense leads the way for this Iowa squad, as exemplified here by this blocked pass

 the Hawkeyes solidly in the driver’s seat in the Big 10 race.  Iowa, at 7-0 and 3-0, is the only undefeated Big 10 team.

The Hawkeyes came into the contest ranked 11th in the nation in the AP poll.  Surely, they will find themselves in the top 8 this week.  They won this game in the same way they have won every game so far.  This team relies on its defense.  It relies on dominating the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively.  If an opponent is going to get to this team, they better do it early.  Wisconsin learned that Saturday.  The Badgers were able to move the ball early.  Their first 3 drives resulted in a punt, field goal and touchdown.  They amassed 164 yards of offense and a 10 point lead.  Midway through the second quarter, however, Iowa’s defensive line began to get consistent penetration, and the Badgers managed only 68 yards the rest of the way.  The pressure also resulted in 3 Hawkeye interceptions.  That ability of Iowa to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, usually with only a 4 man rush, has helped Iowa to lead the nation in interceptions with 15.  The Hawkeyes are also the 16th best scoring defense, allowing only 15 points per contest.   Offensively, the opposite happens.  Iowa’s first 3 possessions against the Badgers netted only 35 yards.  Then, as the o-line gained control of the line of scrimmage, Iowa went on to gain 250 yards and score 20 points.

The amazing thing about Iowa’s defense is not that they are good.  It is that they are young.  The 2 deep depth chart for this weeks game at Wisconsin included only 4 seniors, linebackers Pat Angerer and A. J. Edds, lineman Travis Meade and safety Joe Conklin.  Amazingly, there are 8 sophomores listed among the 22 players.  Defensive

Iowa's D celebrates one of 3 interceptions against Wisconsin Saturday

Iowa's D celebrates one of 3 interceptions against Wisconsin Saturday

mainstays Tyler Sash (tied for the national lead with 5 interceptions) and end Broderick Binns ( a mainstay on the line with 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks) are included in that group.  Binns also is credited with one of the two blocked kicks that saved the UNI game. There are also 9 freshmen or sophomores listed in the offensive 2 deep this week.  This is a good young team.  I point to the youth of this team because there are some heady things being bandied about in Iowa City.  There is a lot of talk about a Rose Bowl or even a National Championship Game birth for the Hawkeyes.  It is important that this young team remain focused, because there is a lot of work ahead for the Hawkeyes.  Road games at Michigan State Saturday, and at Ohio State in November will not be easy.  In addition, the Hawkeyes still must host Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota in Iowa City.  Iowa must remain undefeated to have a shot at the Championship game.  They can probably survive a loss and still be the Big Ten champion.  It is hard enough for a veteran team to remain focused on the task at hand.  It is that much more difficult to keep a youthful team from looking ahead.  The margin for error is miniscule.  You want this team to play in the championship game or Rose Bowl Hawkeye fans?  Then do them a favor and quit talking about it.  Allow them to focus on the Spartans.  Then on the Hoosiers, Wildcats, Buckeyes and Gophers in turn.  It is way too early to be looking to Bowl season. 

If this team remains focused and takes care of business each week, the rewards will be there at the end.

Nittany Nightmare 09/26/2009

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109,000 Screaming Fans.  Almost all of them dressed in white.  A driving rainstorm with the temp in the mid 50’s.  The 5th ranked team in the nation.  That’s what Iowa faced Saturday night as they visited  Penn State.  All that going against then,  then they got punched squarely in the mouth.

Iowa took the opening kickoff and quickly went 3 and out.  On the first play following the punt, Penn St went for the early knock out blow, and it

109 thousand, white clad, screaming fans packed Beaver Stadiun Saturday

109 thousand, white clad, screaming fans packed Beaver Stadiun Saturday

 connected.  Penn St quarterback Darryl Clark had his worst game of the season last year in a loss to Iowa.  He wanted revenge, and he got it on the Nittany Lions first offensive play.  Clark faked a handoff, the play action drawing Iowa up to stop the run.  He then dropped back and hit wide out Chaz Powell perfectly in stride.  The play covered 79 yards, and the Lions had a 7-0 lead.  It was a right cross to the jaw.  The Hawkeyes were staggered.  Could they respond? 

The Hawkeyes second possession ended with an interception at the Penn State 21.  The Lions went on a 20 play, 68 yard drive that ended in a field goal.  That field goal, however, marked a turning of the tide.  Iowa’s defensive front became dominant, forced the kick, then allowed Penn State a total of -16 yards for their last 4 possessions of the half, including a safety that got Iowa on the board in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 10-2. Iowa added a field goal with about 4:40 left in the half and the two teams went to the locker rooms at the half with PSU leading 10-5.

The second half belonged to Iowa, especially their defense.  There was no scoring in the third quarter, and It was the Iowa defense that delivered

Iowa's defense pressured Penn State QB Clark all night

Iowa's defense pressured Penn State QB Clark all night

the knock out blow with just under 12 and 1/2 minutes left in the game.  Penn State was punting on the fateful 4th down play when Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn broke through the line, blocked the punt, picked the ball up on the bounce and out ran the stunned Lions for a 53 yard touchdown.  That gave Iowa the lead 11-10.  Iowa’s Adam Robinson scored on a 13 yard run on Iowa’s next possession, following another Iowa interception of Clark, to stretch the lead to 18-10.  A field goal with 8 seconds left made the final 21-10 Iowa.  Iowa’s offensive line took control in the second half, but the game belonged to the Hawkeye defense.  Penn States possessions in the second half ended in an interception, missed field goal, blocked punt, interception, fumble recovery, and interception.  Make no mistake about it, this is a special defense.

It was a gutsy, solid performance by the Hawkeyes.  Perhaps it was not pretty, but the Hawkeyes dominated the 5th ranked team in their house.  Iowa came in a double didget underdog.  They left with a doubble didget win.  Penn State managed 307 total yards, but were only able to cash in on that first big play.  The Lions gained 109 rushing yards, but Iowa answered with 163 of their own, most after halftime when their O-line took over the line of scrimage.  And Iowa’s defense forced four turn overs, had a safety and returned a blocked kick for six.  There are tough games ahead, but this team sent a message to the rest of the conference.  This team has a shot at the Big Ten title.

Hawkeye Clayborne's blocked punt changed the game

Hawkeye Clayborne's blocked punt changed the game

Running Short 09/02/2009

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The 22nd ranked University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team opens their 2009 campaign Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.  They host the University of Northern Iowa

Paki O'Meara will start in the backfield for Iowa this weekend.

Paki O'Mearawill start in the backfield for Iowa this weekend.

Panthers (ranked 3rd in the NCAA  Division 1 Championship Subdivision).    The Hawkeyes (12-1 all time vs UNI) are currently 24 point favorites.  Iowa won the last meeting in 2005 45-21.

Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz announced Tuesday that Jewel Hampton, running back, would undergo knee surgery this week, ending his season.  Hampton, the only returning back with significant game experience, was expected to be to replace Shonne Greene, now with the New York Jets, as the Hawkeyes starting tail back.   That leaves Junior Paki O’Meara and red shirt freshman Adam Robinson listed as one – two on the pregame depth chart.  O’Meara carried the ball 21 times for 62 yards and 2 td’s last season for the Hawks.  Robinson gained 2,200 yards with 21 touchdowns in 2 seasons for Des Moines Lincoln High School.  Both O’Meara (a walk on from Cedar Rapids) and Robinson considered attending UNI before deciding on Iowa.  Red shirt freshman Jeff Brinson, who just returned to practice this week after missing time with injuries and true freshman Brandon Wegher, who also has injury issues, should also get carries in the running back by committee approach.  With an experienced quarterback in Ricky Stanzi, and an experienced offensive line returning, Iowa should still win the game, but look for it to be closer than 24 points.

Iowa is also honoring legendary coach Hayden Fry this week.  Fry, Ferentz’s predecessor,

Hayden and Herky

Hayden and Herky

became Iowa’s head coach 30 years ago.  He took over a program that had not had a winning season since 1959 and turned it into a factor within the Big Ten, with 3 titles, and nationally, becoming a perennial top 25 team.  Fry led the Hawkeyes to 14 bowl games in his 20 seasons in Iowa City.  Fry was 143-89-6 at Iowa.  (Check out this 6 minute tribute to Fry:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xa9paw_iowa–football-with-hayden-f_sport ).   I first met coach Fry in the days following his introduction as the Iowa coach,  was honored to be associated with his program for 3 years, andwent to the Rose Bowl as a fifth year senior in January, 1982, Iowa’s first bowl apperance since the ’59 Rose Bowl.  When I had the privlage of introducing him at an I-Club pre game breakfast during the ’80 season, coach Fry called me the “embodiement of Hawkeye spirit” in front of the 600 plus attendees. He brought a new look (the Tigerhawk logo) and a new attitude to the Hawkeyes.  While Iowa’s colors were always black and gold, he wrote the Pittsburgh Steelers to copy their uniforms.  He said he wanted to model the Hawks after a winner.  They sent him full game uniforms of Terry Bradshaw to pattern after.  Under Fry, Iowa ” scratched where it itches,” had been “shot at and hit,”  and were always ready for a “high porch picnic.”  The psychology major even had the visitor locker room painted pink to soothe Iowa’s opponents.  When the economy turned sour and farmers were loosing their land to foreclosure, Fry had an ANF (America Needs Farmers) sticker added to the Iowa helmet to bring attention to their plight.  This weekend is a great chance to look back, see how far the Hawkeyes have come, and thank the man who made it all possible.

Former Iowa coach Hayden Fry

Former Iowa coach Hayden Fry

Monday mish mash 08/03/2009

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A little bit about a lot of things.  Today is update day, revisiting several topics we have discussed in the past few weeks.

The Denver Broncos have begun training camp, and the saga continues with disgruntled wide out Brandon Marshall.  Marshall left practice during the morning session on Sunday.  He missed the afternoon session, and the morning

Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton (8), the Broncos new head coach and quarterback.

Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton (8), the Broncos new head coach and quarterback.

 session today.  As I write this, there has been no definitive word from Denver as to the nature or severity of the injury.  Marshall limped off of the practice field, and some speculate it is either a hamstring or hip issue.  Marshall, who has demanded to be traded,  is recovering from off season hip surgery, and had, from all reports, looked good during the early camp sessions.  As you will recall, it was a tumultuous off season for the Broncos and new head coach Josh McDaniels.  He was the subject of a segment of ESPNs Outside the lines.  It is an interesting piece.  Watch it here: http://sports.espn.go.com/videohub/video/video?id=4369078

University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz stated last week that running back Jewel Hampton is expected to be fine and at 100%

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi returns to lead the Hawkeyes in 2009

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi returns to lead the Hawkeyes in 2009

for the Hawkeyes training camp.  That is good news for Iowa, but still watch for significant contributions from red shirt freshman Jeff Brinson and perhaps even true freshman Brandon Wegher at the position.  During the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, the Hawkeyes were picked to finish forth in the Big Ten this season.  The Hawkeyes face a brutal away schedule within the conference.  The Hawkeyes face Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, all on the road.  My thoughts are that the Hawks will be better than the Media experts predict.  On defense,  they have a solid linebacking corps, lead by seniors A. J. Edds and Pat Angerer, solid defensive backs including returning starters Tyler Sash and Amari Spivey, and there is experience up front.  Offensively, the Hawks have a returning starter at quarterback in Ricki Stanzi.  Besides the before mentioned running backs, Stanzi has experienced wide outs led by Darrell Johnson-Koulianos and Trey Stross, and tight end Tony Moeaki.  Place kicker Daniel Murray, who hit the last second, game winning field goal against Penn State last season, also returns.  Look for a 9-3 or 10-2 regular season, and another January bowl for the Hawkeyes this season.

In Baseball, the Cubs remain within 1/2 game of the Cardinals in the NL Central, and the Rockies have pulled within 7 games of the Dodgers in the NL West  and are tied with San Francisco for the wild card lead.  Chicago visits Colorado for a 4 game set beginning Friday.  Look for both the Cubs and Rockies to be in the post season.

The Rockies and Cubs meet again this weekend for 4 games in Denver

The Rockies and Cubs meet again this weekend for 4 games in Denver

History Lesson 07/06/2009

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It seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same…..

Summer 2008, Iowa City, Iowa.  There is concern among U of Iowa fans about the running game.  The most

Jewel Hampton was the clear choice to be the Hawkeyes starting running back

Jewel Hampton was the clear choice to be the Hawkeyes starting running back

experienced player vying for the position is Paki O’Meara.  The main competition will come from a junior named Shonne Greene who spent last year working for a moving company while attending junior college attempting to become academically eligible and two freshmen, Jewel Hampton and Jeff Brinson.  Not much experience there.   Fast forward through the season, and the rest is history.  Apparently this former mover was pretty good.  He was the only rusher in the nation to top the 100 yard rushing mark in all 13 games his team played (including the Outback Bowl victory over South Carolina).  Greene set the single season Hawkeye rushing record, won the Doak Walker award as the nations best running back, and will be playing in the green and white of the New York Jets this season.  That worked out well for all concerned.   Jewel Hampton emerged as a capable back up, rushing for almost 500 yards and seven touchdowns himself during the season.

Why rehash this now?  Because Hawkeye fans are beside themselves with worry.  Word out of Iowa City (though not official as of yet) is that Jewel Hampton has suffered a knee injury and speculation is that he may miss most or all of the upcoming season.  Rumor has it that Hampton is having a MRI today.  There has been no word from Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. 

 Assuming the rumors are true, the most experienced player at the position is Paki O’Meara.  The main competition

Hawkeye redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson

Hawkeye redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson

will be from redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson and true freshman Brandon Wegher.  Not much experience there.  While I am not suggesting that anyone will have the same type of year that Greene had last season, I would think that Hawkeye fans would know that there is no reason for despair.  First and foremost, there is plenty experience returning along the offensive line, experience at all 5 positions.  Next, there is a returning quarterback,  Ricky Stanzi, who won the job early last season and improved as the season progressed.  O’Meara rushed the ball for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns last season.  Just as in 2008, he will not be the starter when the season begins.  The probable starter will be redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson.  Brinson was redshirted last season after suffering an off season leg injury, but is healthy now and already had many speculating that he would split time with Hampton.  While he has no collegiate experience, remember that he rushed for 4,925 yards and 67 touchdowns while a prep star in St Petersburg, Florida.  He received scholarship offers from Florida, Kansas and Michigan State before deciding on Iowa. I doubt he forgot how to run the ball during his redshirt year.  Pushing Brinson for playing time will be true Freshman Weiger.

Weiger last season led  Sioux City, Iowa,  Bishop Heelan High School to a class 3a state championship.  He had crazy numbers as a senior,

Incoming freshman Brandon Wegher

Incoming freshman Brandon Wegher

 carrying the ball 362 times for 3,238 yards, a whopping 8.3 yards per carry average, and 51 touchdowns.  His career rushing total at Heelan was 6614 yards! Granted, he did not play in the top division of schools in Iowa, but those numbers are wicked good for any level of play.  With an experienced line and experienced leadership at quarterback, these two runners provide as good a chance, if not a better chance, than the Hawkeyes had  for a quality running game going into last season.    If the worst happens, and Hampton is out for the season, do not jump off the nearest tall building or grain silo Hawakeye fans!  Search your memory all the way back to last year, and remember how that turned out.  Yes, Virginia, the Hawkeyes will have a running game.

Paki O'Meara carries the ball against Mane last season

Paki O'Meara carries the ball against Mane last season

Sleepless in Omaha 03/13/2009

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2009 NCAA Basketball 

There have been many sleepless nights in Omaha this week.  No, we are not talking the Warren Buffett household.  True, he has lost $15 Billion in net worth in the last year, but he is still #2 in the world behind that Microsoft guy.  We are talking another set of numbers.  73-49.  That was the loss Creighton suffered in the MVC semi-finals.  There was much dispare in Bluejay land after that.  But fear not.  The other numbers will prove out.

jays-b-ball2The good news is that Creighton has an RPI of 41, is the MVC regular season co-champion, and was riding an 11 game winning streak going into that semi-final against Illinois State.  They finished the season at 26-7, and have a 10-4 record in games played outside of Omaha.  They are in.  They have been in all week, no matter what you read at ESPN.com and CBSsportsline.com.  And even these sites are beginning to put them in the field.

The Big Ten will not get 8 teams into the dance.  Wisconsin is 18-12 with a 4-9 record against RPI top 50 teams.  They must beat Ohio State today to keep hope alive.   Minnesota has lost 6 of their last 10 and play Michigan State today. And Michigan may need a win against Illinois today to be secure.  One of those 3 teams will not make it in.

The Mountain West with 4 teams in?  I don’t think so.  New Mexico’s 3 losses to teams outside the top 100 and their own RPI of 58 means that they must win the MWC tourney to grab the automatic bid.  Coach Alford has a track record of such runs, having done it twice in the Big Ten while head coach at Iowa, so it may happen.  If they do, say goodbye to San Diego State of the MWC.  This conference will get at most 3 bids.

It has been a crazy week of conference tournaments, but so far suprisingly few teams have snatched automatic bids that would not have been at large teams anyway.  This should be a wide open March Madness field.  And the Bluejays will be dancing.