Saturday, July 11, 2015

The New Big Ten: East, West and eight B1G games ...

Next year, the Big Ten Conference will join the Pac 12 and Big 12 conferences with a nine game conference schedule. For now, year two of the B1G West and East divisions, each team will play an eight game conference schedule, with six division opponents and two cross-over games.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes (24-0 over last 3 years, reg. season)
  2. Michigan State Spartans (18-6)
  3. Wisconsin Badgers (17-7)
  4. Nebraska Cornhuskers (17-7)
  5. Michigan Wolverines (12-12)
  6. Penn State Nittany Lions (12-12)
  7. Maryland Terrapins (4-4, one year)
  8. Iowa Hawkeyes (11-13)
  9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-13)
  10. Rutgers Red Knights (3-5, one year)
  11. Northwestern Wildcats (9-15)
  12. Indiana Hoosiers (6-18)
  13. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-20)
  14. Purdue Boilermakers (4-20)

Penn State's QB Christian Hackenberg.
The Big Ten East is loaded with two preseason Top 10 programs: Ohio State and Michigan State for 2015. Further, Penn State is a program coming off probation, with renewed enthusiasm lead by a talented junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg back in 2015.
New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh
is back in Ann Arbor for 2015.

Michigan welcomes a new head coach, with former Wolverine quarterback Jim Harbaugh, back in college football, after four seasons in the NFL. The Wolverines are 12-12 over the past three seasons in Big Ten play. It has been 11 seasons, since the Wolverines last won a Big Ten football title.

But, the conference has a different feel today, with seven programs in the East and seven other programs in the West. The path to the title is far different today. Ohio State is the defending National Champion, winner of the first College Football Playoff.

The path to a Big Ten football title is no longer like 1981, 1985, 1990, 2002, 2004 and the one game short path in 2009, that the Iowa Hawkeyes nearly pulled off, falling in OT in Columbus. It comes down to a final game, between the two corresponding division winners. Something the Iowa Football program has not come close to obtaining over the past four seasons.

Since 2011, the Big Ten Championship Game has determined the sole football champion of the conference. The first three seasons, the winners of the Leaders vs. Legends battled for the title. Last year, the East vs. West unfolded with Ohio State winning for the first time, under head coach Urban Meyer.

  • 2011 - #15 Wisconsin 42, #11 Michigan State 39
  • 2012 - Unranked Wisconsin 70, #14 Nebraska 31
  • 2013 -  #10 Michigan State 34, #2 Ohio State 24
  • 2014 - #6 Ohio State 59, #11 Wisconsin 0

Who takes care of business in 2015 in the Big Ten West?

Mike Riley was 58-63 in the Pac 12
over his 14 seasons as head coach.
Paul Chryst (19-19, 3 years at Pitt)
returns to his alma mater and hometown.
Both Nebraska and Wisconsin welcome new head coaches for the 2015 season. Mike Riley arrives in Lincoln, after 14 seasons as head coach at Oregon State, under two stints, with a 4 year break in the NFL. Paul Chryst returns to his hometown of Madison, after three seasons as head coach at Pittsburgh.

October will be very interesting in Big Ten West play, as Wisconsin plays both Iowa, then at Nebraska to kickoff their 2015 Big Ten schedule. Nebraska travels to Illinois, before hosting the defending division champs in Lincoln. The 2015 contest will be the first meeting, since Wisconsin's 70-13 win in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.

The Iowa defense returns 7 starters
from last year's group, here against
Iowa is lead by the dean of Big Ten football coaches, as Kirk Ferentz enters his 17th season as head coach. Iowa has finished 7-6, 4-8, 8-5 and 7-6 over the past four seasons and has not won a bowl game, since 2010.

The Hawkeyes actually were in the division race heading into the final two games at Kinnick Stadium last year, but lost 26-24 to Wisconsin, then lost 37-34 in OT to Nebraska to finish 4-4 in the Big Ten West.

Defense is often the key to success in the Big Ten. The top programs generally rank high in defense. Defense often fuels programs like Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska, the four programs that have played in the Big Ten title game over the past four seasons.
Junior QB Mitch Leidner is back
leading the Golden Gophers in '15.

One program that will likely build success off their defense in 2015 is the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Coach Jerry Kill enters his fifth season at Minnesota, coming off his first winning Big Ten
season at 5-3. However, the Golden Gophers have not beat Wisconsin, since 2003, falling 34-24 in Madison, last season.

The 2015 College Football
TSN preview considers
Minnesota the Big Ten's
"underrated" program, while
Northwestern's receives the
"overrated" program tag.
The Golden Gophers offense must replace six starters, including their top rusher and four of five top receivers. The mix of ball control, defense and special teams will be the formula for the 2015 Gophers.

The Golden Gophers open the 2015 season on Thursday night in TCF Bank Stadium against a Top 4 team, with the TCU Horned Frogs coming to town. The Big Ten schedule will be a taxing as well, with a Big Ten game back to back on the road at Northwestern and Purdue, followed up with a Big Ten home opener vs. Nebraska. The out of division games are at home with Michigan, followed up with a game at Ohio State. The Golden Gophers travel to Iowa City, then finish of the Big Ten campaign with Illinois and Wisconsin at home.

Sophomore RB Justin Jackson
is back to build on his 1k season.
Northwestern has fallen on tough times with back to back to back 5-7 seasons under Pat Fitzgerald, who is entering his 10th season as head coach in Evanston. This was after a 10-3 season in 2012, with a 34-20 Gator Bowl win over Mississippi State.

Six starters are back on offense in 2015, including their leading rusher on the ground. But, the Wildcats are the only Big Ten West program, who have a question on who the #1 quarterback will be in 2015?

The offensive line has two new starters and was not highly regarded in 2014. The defense returns eight starters, but special teams are not highly regarded and the leader of the linebacker unit, Chi Chi Ariguzo has departed, leading questions in this unit for 2015.

The Wildcats open the 2015 season with Stanford coming to Ryan Field on Saturday of Week 1. Northwestern also travels to Duke in Week 3 of the 2015 College Football season.

Illinois is coming off their first bowl season, along with a win over Northwestern, under fourth year coach Mike Beckman. The Fighting Illini return junior QB Wes Lunt, along with seven other offensive starters. The offensive line will have to do a good job protecting their quarterback.
Junior QB Wes Lunt needs to remain
healthy, after missing five games, due
to injury in 2014.

Senior RB Josh Ferguson is one of eight
returning Illini offensive starters back.
Injuries are always a part of the game, and the Illini lost sophomore WR Mike Dudak to a knee injury during spring drills. Others will need to step up now in 2015.

The Fighting Illini return seven starters on the defensive side and have brought in a new co-DC Mike Phair, from the NFL.

Special teams should be decent heading into 2015, as well. The Fighting Illini face a challenging Big Ten schedule with a trip to Penn State and a date again with Ohio State. The Illini have a road trip to Tobacco Road and a date with North Carolina in the non-conference.

Lunt is the only letter-winner back at quarterback in 2015. So, durability will be very important for the former Oklahoma State quarterback, who has yet to complete a full season.  First year players back up the talented quarterback for the Illini.

Purdue enters their third season under coach Darrell Hazell. The Boilermakers are 1-15, with a 38-27 road win over Illinois last season. Otherwise, there continues to be a lot of work for the Boilermakers.

Eight starters return on offense, with seven starters back on defense. Special teams should be experienced, as well, for Hazell's third season.

The Boilermakers open the 2015 season on the road at Marshall on Sunday of the opening weekend. In Week 3, Virginia Tech comes to West Lafayette for another non-conference game. Indiana State and Bowling Green are the other two non-conference games in '15.

The Big Ten season opens with a road trip at Michigan State, then Minnesota comes to West Lafayette, followed by a road trip to Wisconsin. The Boilermakers will be battle tested in the first half of 2015.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The 2015 Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon is approaching in Chicago ...

Iowa will bring three seniors to Media Days, along with the dean of the Big Ten Conference with head coach Kirk Ferentz, in his 17th season ...

Embedded image permalink

Nebraska is bringing three juniors compared to their neighbors to the East, along with first year head coach Mike Riley ...

Minnesota is bringing their junior starting quarterback and two seniors, along with head coach Jerry Kill, entering his fifth season ...

Wisconsin will bring their junior running back and two seniors, along with new head coach Paul Chryst ...

Rosemont, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference announced today the 42 players scheduled to attend the 2015 Big Ten Football Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon presented by Allstate and BMW, held Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31, at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago.

For a complete list of players, link to the complete story ...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Dog Days of Summer are arriving soon in Iowa ...

The heat will soon arrive, with the coming of the Summer of 2015 ...

Iowa Football has been out of sync, since the Big Ten added divisions with Nebraska, then Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference.

Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes were 0-3 in the Legends/Leaders ...

Year one of the B1G West was a disappointing #4 finish last season, with a completely void trophy case.

The 2015 season is clearly one where opportunity knocks for Iowa. 

The Hawkeyes will depend on a strong group of seniors and key players stepping into new roles as starters on both offense and defense ...

Quarterback play is always important for a Big Ten offense ...
Junior QB C.J. Beathard will lead the Iowa offense in 2015,
 with the transfer of Jake Rudock to Michigan.

  • WR 4 Tevaun Smith is one of the senior leaders for Iowa in 2015. A player to watch!
  • LT 52 Boone Myers replaces Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff at left tackle
  • LG 56 Eric Simmons, one of three seniors who could anchor the Iowa interior line?
  • C 63 Austin Blythe is the senior anchor in the Iowa offensive line in 2015
  • RG 65 Adam Walsh is a senior returning for his final season as a starter in the offensive line
  • RT 75 Ike Boettger, like Myers, is a sophomore tackle who will flank the outside in '15!
  • TE 80 Henry Kreiger Coble is a senior TE, who showed skills early as a frosh vs. Michigan
  • QB 16 C.J. Beathard replaces two-year starter Jake Rudock. Higher risk-reward factor in '15!
  • WR 89 Matt VandeBerg is a junior, who has hit the field running, since Day 1 in Iowa City ...
  • FB 42 Macon Plewa or 38 Adam Cox should provide a solid 1-2 blocking punch at fullback!
  • RB 33 Jordan Canzeri, senior, and 29 LeShan Daniels, junior, are back, and now healthy at RB

Iowa has some other factors on offense in 2015.
  • Senior TE 87 Jake Duzey is expected back mid-season from off-season knee surgery. Duzey is the top returning TE in the Big Ten for '15! As a sophomore, scored an 85 yard TD at Ohio State ...
  • Junior TE 46 George Kittle is another of the Iowa TEs to keep your eye on in 2015!
  • Returning starter LG 79 Sean Welsh, a sophomore, is back, after a spring leave of absence
  • 78 James Daniels, a true freshman lineman from Ohio, could emerge among the top Big Ten offensive line freshmen class Kirk Ferentz assembled in the off season for the Hawkeyes
  • Two sophomore running backs may make noise in the 2015 running game, with 25 Akrum Wadley, only RB to run for 100 yards during the regular season; along with converted WR 32 Derrick Mitchell, Jr., looking to be in the mix in the ground game!
  • Sophomore 10 Jonathan Parker was used in the slot last season. He has been moved from RB to WR, as fourth year OC Greg Davis does need others to step up at wide receiver in '15!
  • Senior WR 17 Jacob Hillyer is the third most experienced wide-out back for the Hawkeyes

The Defense for the Hawkeyes ...

Junior DT Jaleel Johnson will be counted on to lead the new
interior defense for the Hawkeyes, with two vacancies from 2014.

  • DE 34 Nate Meier, senior, heads into second season as a full-time starter, after arriving as LB
  • DT 67 Jaleel Johnson, junior, was top backup at DT last season, as he steps up full-time in '15
  • DT 98 Nathan Bazata, sophomore, he saw more action late in '14 as a redshirt freshman
  • DE 95 Drew Ott is the anchor of the Iowa defensive line, now as a senior. 10.5 career sacks
  • Iowa has five players to watch at starting linebacker, including two seniors with 39 Travis Perry and 38 Cole Fisher ... this unit dropped in 2014, after the departure of three strong seniors in 2013, with James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey departed ...
  • WLB 41 Bo Bower, sophomore, who will move inside, after starting outside last year.
  • MLB 43 Josey Jewell, sophomore, will move into the middle, after Quinton Alston's departure
  • OLB 44 Ben Niemann, sophomore, solid special teams as a true freshman last year steps up
  • CB 14 Desmond King, junior, is entering his third season as a full-time starter for the Hawks! 
  • CB 13 Greg Mabin and 28 Maurice Fleming, both juniors, are King's two sidekicks for 2015!
  • SS 19 Miles Taylor, sophomore, like Niemann, played special teams as a true frosh in '14
  • FS 27 Jordan Lomax, senior, is back lead the secondary in his senior season, after making the move to safety from CB in 2014. Junior 12 Anthony Gair is a very capable back up for Lomax.
Other defensive players to watch in 2015 for Iowa:
  • Senior DT 97 Darian Cooper is seeking a come back from a major knee injury that cost him the 2014 season. The jury is still out, but he one of 13 seniors on the Football Leadership Group for 2015. Iowa has tweaked the leadership group, heading into Ferentz's 17th season as dean the Big Ten football coaches.
  • Two juniors 55 Faith Ekakitie and 61 Kyle Terlowe look to provide depth inside for Iowa
  • Two youngsters 98 Matt Nelson and 40 Parker Hesse, both redshirt freshmen, will back up at DE for the Hawkeyes. Nelson is a bright young player, while Hesse is a converted LB.
  • Two young linebackers 31 Aaron Mends and 20 Jameer Outsey, both redshirt freshmen, are expected to help in special teams.
  • Redshirt freshman 37 Brandon Snyder will push newcomer Miles Taylor at strong safety. Sophomore 26 Kevin Ward looks to gain some time at safety, as well.
  • Iowa will like have some young players step up to help in special teams, as well as on the defensive side of the football in 2015.

Special teams are supposed to be special, if Iowa is going to raise bar ...

Senior placekicker Marshall Koehn returns for the Hawkeyes,
after a 2014 unit that was young compared to this season.
  • PK 1 Marshall Koehn, senior, could be among the strong placekickers back in '15 in Big Ten
  • PT 16 Dillon Kidd, senior, became the new punter during the second half of the Big Ten season, last year. His father was a good one at Northwestern and Kidd needs to step up in '15!
  • KR 10 Jonathan Parker, sophomore, was benched in 2014, but showed some good stats, before the mental lapses.
  • PR 89 Matt VandeBerg, junior, role is the snag, catch and field the kick; then move forward for 10+ ... he is very capable and a player to watch in special teams, and as a wide receiver in '15!
The Big Ten West is far more open, unlike the East, where
Ohio State and Michigan State should dominate for #1.

The Big Ten West is open in 2015, with no real clear cut favorite? 

Senior C Austin Blythe will lead the Iowa offensive line in 2015

Unlike the 2015 Big Ten East race or the Big 12, any of the seven Big Ten West teams could come up and surprise in 2015. 

McIllece Sports gives every team in the Big Ten West a shot for the division title. Only Wisconsin and Nebraska have won a division, among the seven West teams. The Badgers and Cornhuskers each welcome a new head coach and new staff members in 2015, so neither coach has won a division either in the Big Ten. It is clearly fair to say "opportunity knocks" for the Hawkeyes and everyone in the B1G West in 2015 ...

Senior DE Drew Ott is the leader of the Iowa defense in '15.

Phil Steele sees six strong players leading Iowa, as they head into 2015. The annual Phil Steele preview magazine hits news stands on June 27th.

Fish or cut bait for Hawkeye fans in 2015?

Head Coach Kirk Ferentz won his first Big Ten title in his fourth season.
Iowa DC Phil Parker and OC Greg Davis, enter their fourth seasons,
as coordinators in 2015 for Ferentz, his 17th as head coach.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have a very favorable schedule, like the 2007 edition. Over the years, Iowa Football has stepped up and has fallen flat on their face, as well.

This appears to be a season, where opportunity knocks apply, given the many questions with the other six Big Ten West programs.

Last year was the 125th season of Iowa Football. They finished a disappointing 7-6. 

Back in 1989, Iowa's 100th season of college football, the Hawkeyes finished 5-6 under coach Hayden Fry, after eight straight bowl seasons, under the legendary coach at Iowa.

The following season, Iowa rebounded and won the Big Ten, after a five year drought. It was the last of three Big Ten titles under Coach Fry.

Could this be another rebound season for Iowa? The Hawkeyes have not won a division title before. This is season number five.

Welcome to the dog days of summer here in Iowa ...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Iowa survives 11 inning affair to advance to play Missouri State again

Embedded image permalink

Springfield, MO -- The Iowa Hawkeyes and Oregon Ducks took 11 innings to finish, with Iowa advancing in the loser's bracket with a 2-1 win. Up next, the winner's bracket champion, Missouri State, who beat Iowa on Saturday 5-3.

Missouri State took an early 1-0 lead after the first inning in the 7:00 first pitch in Springfield.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Iowa Baseball Team wins first NCAA Tournament game in 43 years

Embedded image permalink

Hawkeyes advance in winners bracket on Saturday

Springfield, MO -- #2 seed Iowa defeated #3 seed Oregon 3-1 to advance in winner's bracket of the double elimination Springfield Region. It was Iowa's first win in 43 years, since the 1972 trip to the College World Series in Omaha.

Tonight's game between #1 seed Missouri State and #4 seed has been postponed due to weather. Iowa will face the winner tomorrow night at 8:05 p.m. in Springfield. Weather impacted the Iowa-Oregon game, as well. But, they were able to get the game completed.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

NCAA Baseball Regional for Iowa: Hawkeyes face Oregon on Friday in Springfield, MO


How 'bout those Hawkeyes?               

Iowa City, IA - The Iowa Hawkeyes are headed to Springfield, MO for the NCAA Regional baseball play, as a number two seed. The Hawkeyes will open on Friday, in the second season, under Iowa's new baseball coach.

Iowa Hawkeyes (39-16)
NCAA tourneys: 4 (last one in 1990)
CWS appearances: 1 (1972)
Region: Springfield, MO
Opponents: 1. Missouri State; 3. Oregon; 4. Canisus
NCAA opener: 2 p.m. ET Friday vs. Oregon
Factoid: The Hawkeyes are in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1990.
Twitter: @UIBaseball - Source: Big Ten Network

The Hawkeyes will face third-seeded Oregon at 1 p.m. (CT) at Hammons Field. Missouri State is the top-seeded team in the regional and the No. 8 national seed. The Bears will face No. 4 seed Canisius -- the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion -- at 6 p.m.

Iowa is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1990 and the fourth regional appearance in school history. The Hawkeyes boast a No. 29 RPI and finished runner-up in the Big Ten with a 19-5 record. Iowa is 39-16 overall -- the most wins for the program since 1985.

Iowa head coach Rick Heller is taking the Hawkeyes to his
first NCAA Tournament, in his second season at the helm.
Iowa head coach Rick Heller will be taking his third Division I team to NCAA Regional play (Northern Iowa, 2001; Indiana State, 2012). He is one of five active coaches to bring three different Division I schools to NCAA Regional play and one of eight all-time.

Oregon used a late season surge to earn an at-large berth, as the Ducks won their final five series in Pac-12 play and nine of their last 10 games overall. Oregon closed out the regular season with a key series win, taking 2-of-3 games at home against Pac-12 champion UCLA -- the top overall national seed.

Sophomore Cole Irvin is the Ducks' Friday night starter, going 2-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 74 innings. The southpaw has allowed 40 runs (33 earned) on 73 hits and has 42 strikeouts to 22 walks.
Offensively, Oregon has a .254 team batting average with just one player hitting above .300. Mitchell Tolman leads the team with a .329 average with team-highs in hits (72), runs (42), and RBIs (40). He is slugging .475 and reaching base at a .462 clip.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl 49 New England vs. Seattle

Phoenix - - The game has kicked off on NBC, as the Seattle Seahawks seek to repeat, with a win over the New England Patriots tonight.

We shall see, as two Big Ten quarterbacks lead each team. Iowa's Tony Moeaki is a TE for Seattle.