4 Down Territory: A Big Ten Christmas List, The Top Games This Weekend...
Coin Toss: We Elect to Receive--Our Christmas Wish List: The Big Ten has planned a December 19th weekend of East/West games pitting the teams seeded 1 through 7 against each other. Here is what that would look like right now.
Big Ten Championship: Ohio State versus Northwestern
2nd Seed Game: Indiana versus Iowa
3rd Seed Game: Maryland versus Wisconsin
4th Seed Game: Michigan State versus Minnesota
5th Seed Game: Michigan versus Purdue
6th Seed Game: Rutgers versus Illinois
7th Seed Game: Penn State versus Nebraska
My Christmas wish list is for the Big Ten to throw this out and think something fun and different. Given the lightning speed that some teams have added games this is completely possible and most of these games are regional enough that some of these teams could even travel by bus. So…..assuming Covid cooperates and allows all Big Ten teams to field teams for that date, and assuming availability of teams from other conferences and assuming Ohio State and Northwestern play in the Big Ten Title game here is a revamped Big Ten December 19th schedule.
Game 1: Wisconsin versus Minnesota: These two teams have played every year since 1907 so forget an East/West match-up. Keeping this streak alive is way more important.
Game 2: Michigan versus Iowa: Iowa State would be the Iowa opponent of choice, but they will likely be in the Big 12 Title game that day.
Game 3: Nebraska versus either Oklahoma or Colorado: These were long time season-ending games for the Huskers. If either team is available, let the Huskers play an old Big 12 rival, they seem to have wanted back in that league on more than a few occasions this year. If these teams are not available maybe let Nebraska play Chattanooga like they wanted to earlier this year.
Game 4: Penn State versus Pitt: Since fans aren’t allowed in the stands they could play at a neutral site like Altoona High School’s Mansion Park, or at Point Stadium in Johnstown where the Western PA High School Football movie “All The Right Moves” was filmed (starring Tom Cruise).
Game 5: Maryland versus Virginia: Long-time ACC rivals from bordering states play again.
Game 6: Rutgers versus Syracuse: Rutgers could play their former Big East opponent. A game at Syracuse in the Carrier Dome would ensure climate-controlled game conditions.
Game 7: Indiana versus Kentucky: This would be the first of a two-game border war set played in Louisville along with….
Game 8: Purdue versus Louisville: Call this one the Brohm Bowl as Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm returns to play his Alma Mater.
Game 9: Illinois versus Missouri: For a number of years these teams met in Saint Louis early in the season. Why not renew that border war in a city that is a vital recruiting area for both teams?
Game 10: Michigan State versus BYU: BYU has shown that they can just jump into a game on short notice. This would also be a great season-ending game for Michigan State.
Look at both slates of games and I think that 11 total games are better than 7 games..and my buffet of football is far more interesting. Given the less than stellar year of PR for the Big Ten office this would be a great save...or maybe I should write to Santa?
First Down: The Top 4: #1 Alabama at LSU: The Tide keeps rolling and the Tigers are sliding. The good news is that the LSU defense has made improvement. The bad news is that they’re going to need it. Alabama's offense has three players that on any other team would be the singular star & Heisman candidate for their team……..Syracuse at #2 Notre Dame: Stop flashing back to past Notre Dame playoff/ BCS title game showings. Notre Dame has a creative and effective QB, a good defense and an offensive line that shows it can control the game…#3 Clemson at Virginia Tech: QB Trevor Lawrence showed no rust last week after his absence due to Covid. That's bad news for Va Tech…..#4 Ohio State at Michigan State: And speaking of Covid, Ohio State needs to play (and win) this game. The Buckeyes should call in the CDC, The WHO and anyone else they can to make sure they play. They should also dispatch an infectious disease team to Ann Arbor to make sure the Wolverines can field a team next week. As for this game, with good wide receivers and a QB that has shown he can get the ball to them, Michigan State is a potential threat to the Buckeyes. The interim Head Coach for Ohio State this week will be Larry Johnson. He becomes the third Black head coach from a Joe Paterno Penn State staff joining Ron Dickerson (Temple) and Jim Caldwell (Wake Forest, Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions).
2nd Down: Top Ten Action: West Virginia at #9 Iowa State: Win and they’re in. The Cyclones are a win away from the Big 12 Title game. A loss creates a messy three-way tiebreaker if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State win out. All three teams would have 2 losses and hold identical 1-1 records against each other…..#5 Texas A&M at Auburn: A rainy downpour in College Station slowed the A&M offense last week. But that Aggie defense, led by an aggressive defensive line was strong once again. Look for that to continue this week. But Auburn has been a different team at home this year offensively….#6 Florida at Tennessee: Remember when Tennessee looked like they’d turned the corner last year? Now 5 straight losses later they face #6 Florida and #5 Texas A&M the last two weeks. But they have allies as fans of #7 Cincinnati are rooting for the Vols…….CANCELLED Vanderbilt at #8 Georgia: With a squib kickoff Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power-5 football game. This week everyone if hoping to see her attempt a field goal or an extra point. That may be a tall order simply because it will be tough for Vanderbilt to have much success against Georgia’s defense.
3rd Down: More Games to Watch: Washington State at #20 USC (Sunday): As California starts to close down more and more because of rising Covid cases the future schedules for the Trojans’ unbeaten season is murky at best. They are throwing the ball well and that should continue on Sunday ……..Stanford at #22 Washington: Speaking of California restrictions, Stanford will be on the road for two weeks. They will play at UW and then travel to Oregon to practice and prepare for next week’s game at Oregon State. Washington QB Dylan Morris showed some gritty resolve in overcoming three INTs to bring the Huskies back from a 21-0 deficit against Utah. He could be the best UW QB from Puyallup, WA not named Huard, but he’d better stay hot because there is another Huard QB committed to Washington…….#13 BYU at #18 Coastal Carolina: ESPN’s College Game Day is headed to Myrtle Beach for a December battle of unbeatens. For BYU this could be a play-in for a New Year’s Six bowl slot……Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan: The undefeated Broncos are scoring points in bunches and have staged two comeback wins—including two TDs in 45 seconds (sandwiching a successful onside kick) against Toledo. They should roll this week before a de-facto division championship game against Ball State next week.
4th Down: Big Fun: While two Big Ten games (Michigan vs Maryland and Northwestern vs Minnesota) have been cancelled there are others to watch…..#12 Indiana at #15 Wisconsin: Indiana QB Michael Penix is out for the season which is a major blow to their promising season. However, the Hoosiers still have a defense that thrives on forcing mistakes and have plenty of skilled receivers on offense. How good is Wisconsin? It is hard to say as they’ve played just three games all year. But the constant in all three games has been their defense. Look for that to continue as IU brings in a new QB…..Penn State at Rutgers: PSU feels pretty good about themselves after a win at Michigan. Any thought that this trip to Rutgers is a foregone conclusion may be a tad foolish. New/Old Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and his staff have gotten this program to fight every play and they are two plays from being 4-2. Potential problems for PSU will be the creative multiple sets the Scarlet Knights use on offense to get their playmakers in space. On defense watch for Rutgers to aggressively blitz early and often to disrupt the PSU offense. PSU went without a turnover last week for the first time all year and will have to be careful with the football again this week.