Friday, August 31, 2007

Morgan Burke: team player.

I thought this little nugget from a Lafayette J-C article on the BTN was interesting/frustrating:
The Big Ten Network makes its much-hyped debut tonight, but here's the burning question: How many people will be able to see it? Don't feel bad if you can't watch. Purdue University's athletic director, Morgan Burke, won't be able to sit at home and enjoy the opening night either.
Say what? Morgan Burke, highly compensated Purdue University employee, affluent former steel company executive, hasn't made the leap to DirecTV? It gets better:
Comcast, which will eventually service most of the Lafayette area after assuming control from Insight Communications in January, is the biggest cable company to resist the Big Ten Network. Comcast has 5.7 million subscribers in the eight-state Big Ten region.
Morgan Burke either is or soon will be a Comcast subscriber? After all this? How can this be? Does the cattle husbandry barn obstruct the Burke manor's view of the southern sky? If not, cut down a couple of trees and get with it!

More Indiana State pregame.

The Terre Haute Tribune Star isn't exactly going for saturation coverage of the hometown Sycamores: with the caveat that I may not be effectively navigating the website, an article from Wednesday, about kickers, is the most recent I can find.
IU has issued its standard game notes (.pdf). Some nice info in there, including the official depth chart. Here's the first team, with the eligibility year (rather than academic year) listed in parentheses. Nick Polk, recently converted from WR, will start at free safety. That's either really good or really bad news. Also, this team is still young. Only eight starters are in their last seasons of eligibility. Also, Michael Hines won the punting job over freshman Chris Hagerup. Anyway, the starters:
LT Rodger Saffold (So.)
LG Pete Saxon (So.)
C Ben Wyss (Sr.)
RG John Sandberg (Sr.)
RT Charlie Emerson (Sr.)
TE Nick Sexton (Sr.)
WR James Hardy (Jr.)
WR James Bailey (Jr.)
WR Andrew Means (So.)
RB Marcus Thigpen (Jr.)
QB Kellen Lewis (So.)
LE Jammie Kirlew (So.)
DT Joe Kremer (Sr.)
DT Greg Brown (Jr.)
RE Greg Middleton (So.)
WLB Will Patterson (So.)
MLB Adam McClurg (Sr.)
SLB Geno Johnson (Jr.)
CB Leslie Majors (Sr.)
SS Austin Thomas (So.)
FS Nick Polk (So.)
CB Tracy Porter (Sr.)
  • Other than Graeme McFarland's 48 yards passing, every bit of IU's 2006 offensive production returns;
  • James Hardy, with 20 touchdown catches in his first two seasons, is only 10 behind Jade Butcher for IU's career record;
  • Hardy needs only 911 yards to become IU's all-time receiving yardage leader;
  • Hardy, with 8 100-yard games, is only 2 behind Eddie Baety for the career record;
  • With 10 career interceptions, Tracy Porter seems unlikely to catch Tim Wilbur for the IU record (19), but with just two more INTs will be in second place

As for the Sycamores, as noted, sometime starting QB Reilly Murphy and leading rusher Tony West return. Let's hope that for the first time since the 2003 ISU game, the Hoosier can play a I-AA team without a dramatic fourth quarter. This whole start-of-the-season thing seems to have snuck up on the ISU SID. The team's website includes no news releases since July 24 and still provides the 2006 roster and media guide. As an IU football fan, I thought I knew what apathy looked like.

A roadblock for Eli Holman?

I've written before about freshman big man Eli Holman's circuitous route to Bloomington. Early in the summer, there was much speculation about Holman's eligibility or lack thereof. During this month's recruit barnstorming tour, Holman nonchalantly mentioned that he is eligible, echoing a report from early July from one of his high school coaches, Leonard Coleman. Now, nearly two months later, we learn that Holman has not accompanied the team to the Bahamas because he "has not been fully processed through the NCAA Eligibility Center." How can that be? To be clear, I am not criticizing IU or Holman. What I want to know is how this apparent staffing issue can happen to the rolling-in-cash NCAA, an organization with palatial downtown headquarters, an organization that somehow scrounges up enough cash to pay something approaching a million dollars a year to that charlatan ninny who used the most painful episode in IU's basketball history to advance his own career. How can they not find a way to let each NCAA student athlete know whether he or she is eligible before the fall semester starts? If, as all reports indicate, Holman has sufficient grades and test scores to be eligible, it is inexcusable that Holman will be denied this opportunity to develop his game. Even if he or some other person in his position is not eligible, shouldn't the athlete know that before he starts taking classes and the eligibility clock begins rolling? The NCAA is for the athletes, of course. So, how about it, Myles? Why is this acceptable?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lake the Posts's IU preview.

A fine Northwestern blog, "Lake the Posts," has published its preview of the week 11 matchup between the Wildcats and the Hoosiers. The game is a long way off, but LTP is worth a read. He predicts a 30-24 win for Northwestern.

BTB Roundtable, week 1.

Sean at Around the Oval, an Ohio State blog, has taken the lead on the first week of the Big Ten Bloggers Roundtable. This will be a weekly feature "hosted" by various Big Ten bloggers. Here are this week's questions and my answers:
1. Which player from your own team are you most looking forward to watching?
Kellen Lewis. As a fan of the "other" cellar-dwelling Big Ten football program from a school that begins with "I," allow me to vent:
Kellen Lewis: 190/346 (54.9%); 2221 yards; 14TD/7INT; 124/441 rushing (3.6); 5 rushing TDs; 20 sacks.
Juice Williams: 103/261 (39.5%); 1489 yards; 9TD/9INT; 154/576 (3.7); 2 rushing TDs; 25 sacks.
Yet, the Juice is expected to lead Illinois to the promised land this season, while Lewis mostly has slid under the radar. I understand, of course, that thanks to Zooker's inexplicable recruiting success, the Illinois supporting cast is part of the reason some are high on Juice, but Lewis does have James Hardy, Marcus Thigpen, and James Bailey at his disposal.
Lewis began last season as #3 on the Hoosiers' QB depth chart. Now, Lewis has spent nearly a year as a team leader and spent all of spring and fall practice working as the number one quarterback, continuing to build his relationship with his key receivers. Certainly, IU's defense will determine whether the Hoosiers play 13, but I am most curious to see where Kellen Lewis goes after a really promising freshman season.

2. Which player from another Big Ten team are you most looking forward to watching?
That's a tough one. I don't see a Charles Woodson/Troy Smith/Antwaan Randle El "must see" type player in the conference this season. PJ Hill will be fun to watch. Mike Hart is great, but Michigan routinely has an excellent tailback, so who cares? So, why not Todd Boeckman? In good ways and in bad ways, Ohio State fans are the most passionate in the conference on average. I'll be curious to see how the green guy operates in one of the most scrutinized positions in college football.

3. If your team was an action movie star, who would it be?
This is a tough one. Given IU's football history, my knee jerk response was that IU is like the stereotypical "Black Guy Who Gets Killed First," but I guess that's more of a horror movie convention. If IU were an action movie star, IU would be Matt Damon. Compared to stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Segal, and The Rock, Damon is undersized and not nearly as physically talented or imposing. Damon's character Jason Bourne is constantly kicked around by powerful institutions such as the US Government (analogous to Michigan and Ohio State). Bourne is unsure of his real identity. Given the Hoosiers' myriad uniform and logo changes over the years, not to mention a lack of success and the program's stepchild status among IU fans, the IU football program has struggled with its identity. Typically, the Bourne movies end with the suggestion that Bourne has finally escaped his former government keepers. Now that IU has escaped Michigan and OSU for two years, will the Hoosiers end their long bowl drought? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The season that was, games 9/10/11: Indiana 46, Michigan State 21; Minnesota 63, Indiana 26; Michigan 34, Indiana 3.

Michigan State
Date: 10/28/06
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Box score/stats

Historically, it’s rare for a Hoosier team to whip a non-Northwestern Big Ten opponent into submission, so I tried to savor last season’s MSU whipping as it transpired. The last time IU played a reeling, coach-killing MSU team was 2002, the game after Bob Williams resigned, and while the Spartans looked vulnerable then, they pistolwhipped IU. Not so in 2006. MSU managed a quick 10 play, 80 yard drive to start the game and then allowed 46 points in a row to the Hoosiers. Kellen Lewis threw five touchdown passes, including four to James Hardy. IU won the first down battle 26-8 and outgained the Spartans 446-215. MSU managed 79 yards in the fourth quarter, meaning that at the end of the third, MSU had only 136 yards of offense. Lewis was 15-22, an while it he throw an interception, it was inconsequential and came late in the fourth quarter when IU led by 32. Marcus Thigpen lead IU with 104 yards rushing on 20 carries and Lewis added 75 on 14 carries. I don’t expect this game to tell us much about this season. MSU was a really odd team. I hesitate to say that the Spartans had quit, because this game came only a week after MSU’s amazing comeback at Northwestern. Still, it’s a new day in East Lansing. IU rarely does this to a Big Ten opponent, so I choose to savor the memory of this game standing alone. Unfortunately, the MSU game was the Hoosiers’ last win of the season.

Date: 11/4/06
Location: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
Box Score/stats
Attendance: 44,610

After the MSU game, the Hoosiers were within a game of their first bowl game since 1993. The only home game remaining was against then second-ranked Michigan, so IU fans pinned their hopes on the road games against Minnesota and Purdue, two solid but uneven teams. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers performance at the Metrodome was a disaster. IU played as poorly as had the Spartans in Bloomington a week earlier. Minnesota led 35-0 less than halfway through the second quarter. IU never pulled closer than 21. Bryan Cupito embarrassed the IU defense, throwing four touchdowns and for 378 yards on 33 attempts. Kellen Lewis continued to accumulate some numbers (321 yards) but threw two interceptions and was relieved by Blake Powers late in the game. As was too often the case, Lewis was IU’s only viable rushing threat. This game was a bitter blow to IU fans and halted the momentum of the program. With Michigan upcoming, all eyes were on the Bucket game.
: 11/11/06
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Box score/stats
Attendance: 42,320
As with the OSU game, there’s not much to say about a whipping administered by a top five team that IU doesn’t play until 2009. IU’s 131 yard offensive output was the worst of the year. Ball State, by scoring some points late against Michigan a week earlier, erased any hope that the Hoosier might sneak up on the Wolverines.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blogpoll ballot, second preseason poll.

Uncle! I moved Georgia down a bit. I still think they will be good, but 5 was a bit high. I moved LSU up a notch and Tennessee down a few. I'm standing firm on Wisconsin.

1Southern Cal--
5Virginia Tech 1
6Oklahoma 2
7West Virginia 2
8Ohio State 2
9Georgia 4
10Louisville 1
11Tennessee 4
14LSU 1
15Penn State 1
17Florida State--
18South Carolina--
19Texas A&M--
21Miami (Florida)--
22Notre Dame--
24Boston College--

Dropped Out:

Bahamas trip this weekend.

It's easy to lose sight of this with football season beginning, but IU gets a head start on the basketball season this week with a trip to the Bahamas. (Let's face it, for most Hoosier fans, it's easy to lose sight of the football opener when there is basketball to be played). As I have noted before, a trip like this will particularly benefit this year's Hoosiers, a very talented team with a bunch of guys who have never played together before.
The first rule is wins and losses don't matter; working hard does and without the trip, NCAA rules would have prohibited Sampson from working in earnest with players until mid-October.So this will give him a sneak peek at what needs refining.
"I don't think there's a lot of value on these games," Sampson said. "What we'll do is let the kids play as equally as possible. We're going to see the new guys play as much as possible."
Here's a link to the official site's article, which includes player quotes from DJ White and Lance Stemler. No indication of whether the games will be available on TV anywhere (it's always possible that people with the big dish could find something like that) but I'll keep an eye out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Indiana State pregame.

Indiana State Sycamores
2006 record: 1-10
2006 Sagarin: 211
Conference: Gateway
Coach: Lou West (3rd season, 1-21)
Series: IU leads, 2-0.
As this blog enters its first football season, I really haven't decided how to structure game week entries. This week will not be a good test. First, I'm on the road for the next three days, and while I expect to have the opportunity to post, it won't be an ordinary week. Second, I am trying to finish up the 2006 season retrospectives. Obviously, I envisioned those posts as filling up the summer doldrums, not encroaching on the lead-up to the season. At this point, I am doing them for myself as much as anything. I'm refreshing my memory on last season and aggregating that information into a handy blog category. So, I hope you enjoy them, but if not, I'm going to finish them anyway.
In any event, the Hoosiers do have a game this week, against I-AA (nope, Myles, I'm not even going to consider using your stupid new labels) Indiana State of the Gateway conference. As the week goes on, I plan to find out and tell you more about today's ISU Sycamores. For now, here's some history. The Sycamores have been playing football since 1896, and like IU, have lost far more games than they have won (345-443, .440). (As always, much of my historical data comes from College Football Data Warehouse, the best site on the Internet. Here's the ISU page). Like the Hoosiers, the Sycamores haven't had a successful season in a while (last winning season: 1996). ISU's only championship of any sort was a co-championship of the Heartland Collegiate Conference in 1964. As best as I can tell, the Sycamores' only postseason appearances were in 1983 and 1984, when they reached the quarterfinals of the I-AA playoffs in consecutive seasons.
Because the NCAA now allows Division I-A programs to count wins against I-AA teams, ISU has begun playing teams from major conferences with more frequency. The Sycamores played at IU in 2003 and lost 33-3. The only other meeting between the schools was in 1925. IU won, 31-0. Here is how ISU as managed against current members of BCS conferences:
Florida: 0-2 (astoundingly, ISU lost 17-13 at Florida in 1983); (1983, 1988)
Georgia Tech: 0-1 (1987)
Indiana: 0-2 (1925, 2003)
Iowa St.: 0-2 (1986, 1999)
Kansas: 0-2 (1985, 1986)
Kansas St: 0-1 (1991, 1996, 1998) (but only lost by 1 in 1991)
Louisville: 3-5-1 (wins came in 1939, 1942, 1984)
Maryland: 0-1 (1982)
Minnesota: 0-1 (1989, 1993)
Mississippi: 0-1 (1995)
Oklahoma: 0-1 (1999)
Oklahoma St.: 0-1 (1992)
Purdue: 0-2 (1926, 1990, 2006)
Texas Tech: 0-1 (2005)
In sum, other than some wins against Lousville long before the UL became a significant football program, ISU has never defeated a member of a major conference. Given ISU's recent struggles, a loss to ISU would supplant Southern Illinois 2006 as the worst loss in school history. Other notes:
  • Indiana State lost 60-35 at Purdue last season. ISU scored more points only twice all season. Although Purdue ultimately won comfortably, it wasn't a walk: ISU trailed 26-21 at halftime and 33-28 late in the third quarter. The Sycamores managed 387 offensive yards against Purdue.
  • Astoundingly enough, ISU does not seem to have updated the roster on its official site, but the two heroes of the effort against Purdue, quarterback Reilly Murphy and running back Tony West, were juniors and will be back.
  • Tony West, a graduate of Penn High School near Mishawaka, is the son of ISU coach Lou West, who was an assistant at Notre Dame in 1999 and 2000.
  • The Terre Haute Tribune Star would seem to be the main source for hometoown coverage of the Sycamores.

The season that was, game 8: Ohio State 44, Indiana 3.

Date: 10/21/06
Location: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Attendance: 105,267
Perhaps we all had some delusions of respectability in this game after the Iowa upset, but top-ranked OSU ended that pretty early, although not immediately. OSU gained 540 yards to IU's 165. The Buckeyes allowed IU only 7 rushing yards. Still, this one was fun for most of the first quarter. IU received the opening kickoff, managed a decent 7 play, 23 yard drive, and then OSU was 3 and out. IU scored a field goal on its second possession and again forced the Buckeyes to punt quickly. OSU scored touchdowns on its next three possessions, and that was that. The Hoosiers and Buckeyes don't play until 2009, so there's not much point in saying much more.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The season that was, game 7: Indiana 31, Iowa 28

Date: 10/14/06
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Box score/stats
Attendance: 31,392

From the time that Ball State pulled ahead of the Hoosiers early in the second game, the 2006 season always seemed just about ready to spiral out of control. After IU righted the ship against Ball State, setbacks continued: Hep's absence, the tough home losses to SIU and Connecticut, the Wisconsin blowout, the early deficit against Illinois. Yet, after IU beat Iowa, the Hoosiers were somehow 4-3 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten, and seemingly in bowl contention. As in the Hoosiers' two previous wins, IU spotted the opponent an early lead (21-7 for Iowa). Iowa outgained the Hoosiers by about 50 yards and the turnover battle was even (two per team). The stories for the Hoosiers were the proficiency of the running game (13-84 for Demetrius McCray, 5-26 for Josiah Sears); and Kellen Lewis's finest game (19-25, 255 yards, 3TD, 0 INT); certainly, the IU defense played well enough to win. Two of the Hawkeyes' four second half possessions ended in turnovers, including Will Meyers's memorable interception of Drew Tate in the waning minutes, when the Hawkeyes were in field goal range. Also, this game marked the beginning of what we can hope is a long history of quality play by Lewis and James Hardy against quality opponents: Hardy caught 8 passes for 104 yards and all three of Lewis's TDs.

Let's hope we see lots of this:

BTN Stuff.

I'm a day late and a dollar short on the "announcement" that Comcast is almost certainly not going to make a deal with the BTN in time for the upcoming weekend. In other news:
  • I mentioned the "astroturfing" campaign below. Apparently Spartan Tailgate traced the posts from "Victory4MSU20" to Martin Waymire Advocacy Communications, a Lansing, Mich. PR firm working for Comcast. The party line from agency partner David Waymire:
    Posts in response flamed the Comcast effort as "Astroturf" (the term used for fake grass-roots opposition groups) and worse. David Waymire, partner in the advocacy firm, posted on SpartanTailgate within 24 hours of the criticism, apologizing for the post. He confirmed the post was from his offices but attributed them to an employee, "a legitimate Big Ten fan," who wasn't familiar with firm policies. Waymire told Multichannel News that his firm does post on blogs, "but in a transparent way," on behalf of clients. Anonymous posts "are against my agency's policy," he said. His agency was hired by Comcast to get its side of the issues known, he said, including channeling concerned fans to the Web site.
    I'm not so sure. If this firm believes in full disclosure, where is Comcast's name on the Putting Fans First website?
  • Brian Cook, finding time to blog about the BTN when he isn't (perhaps justifiably) pimp-slapping me for my ranking of Georgia and the accompanying rationale, discusses a breathtakingly dishonest press release from Dish Network, which describes the BTN's offerings as "a few nonconference games." Brian also notes:
    For all the football hissy-fitting going on right now, the Big Ten's trump card has always been dozens of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State basketball games -- virtually every game not televised nationally. Most of the football games on the BTN will feature the conference's have-nots and will probably not be must-sees for many fans; even if they are, few treks to the sports bar are not an unbearable trial. But basketball is a different animal, a religion across sections of Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan with a ton of games on days like Wednesday, when the bar is not necessarily appealing for folks looking to get up at 7AM.
    Very true. Bloomington is within the territory of Insight, a cable company that Comcast is purchasing. Set aside the rest of the state: can you imagine how many customers Insight/Comcast is going to lose in Bloomington?

The season that was, game 6: Indiana 34, Illinois 32.

Date: 10/7/06
Location: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
Box score/stats
Attendance: 43,006

I discussed this game in some detail when Hep died, and so I will quote myself:

When superficially reviewing IU's three Big Ten wins last season (not overwhelming, but IU's highest total since 2001), the two that jump out are the home wins over Iowa and Michigan State. But for the Illinois win, however, it's hard to say whether the two later wins ever would have happened. ...Despite the Illini's lackluster performance in recent decades, IU had not won at Illinois since 1979. Early in the second quarter, it appeared that yet another IU season was heading straight down the crapper. After an early 7-7 tie, Illinois pulled ahead 25-7 (it would have been 27-7 but for some Zookery regarding two point conversions).

Now, it helps to understand the psyche of the IU football fan. Those of us who invest emotionally in this program do so not because we are gluttons for punishment, but because we really believe that IU can achieve at least moderate success on the football field. Clearly, anyone who follows IU football closely cannot be described as a fair-weather fan, but we all have our moments. Every person has his limits. As I watched this game in my living room, when Illinois scored to make it 25-7, I was deep in the woe-is-me, this-is-supposed-to-be-fun-but-I-need-a-new-hobby-because-IU-football-is-taking-years-off-my-life mode. At that point, however, the TV cameras caught Terry Hoeppner dressing down every offensive,defensive and special teams player, coach, and waterboy. We've all seen coaches who lose control, but this wasn't that. Hep was simply insisting that the Hoosiers win this game. They stayed strong, came back, and eventually won the game on an Austin Starr field goal as time expired.

As with many of the Illini's games last season, Juice Williams was often spectacular but mostly ineffective. When Illinois took a 19-7 lead, Williams was 4-5. He was 6-9 when Illinois extended its lead to 25-7. Williams was 4-12 the rest of the way for 10-21 total. Whether the blame goes to the Illini offense or the credit goes to the Hoosier defense, Illinois's offense was completely ineffective after pulling ahead 25-7. Illinois began five possessions in the first quarter and scored on all five. After that, the Illini's only score was on a nifty trick play in the third quarter. Otherwise, Illinois's longest drive was 5 plays for 36 yards.

On the IU side, Kellen Lewis was 20-39, not great, but didn't throw an interception and rushed 11 times for 47 yards. Marcus Thigpen returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown. More significantly, Thigpen rushed for 91 yards on 13 carries. Finding a way to replicate that sort of performance is pretty damn important for the Hoosiers this season.

As noted above, it's hard to imagine what would have happened had IU lost this game to fall to 2-4. Well, actually, it's pretty easy to imagine. This win saved the season. IU even managed to avoid a classic "this is how IU loses football games" moment. Early in the fourth quarter, Austin Starr attempted a 33 yard field goal that for all the world seemed to be inside the uprights, but it was ruled no good, the rare disputed field goal call. Not only did IU survive what seemed a typically Hoosier moment, Starr redeemed himself by kicking the game winner as time expired. Finally, the Hoosiers exercised the demons of that other Memorial Stadium. IU and Illinois play every season, and it's nice to know that the "no wins in Champaign since 1979" statistic is dead.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The season that was, game 5: Wisconsin 52, Indiana 17.

Man, I've got to get through these. Game week starts in three days!
Date: 9/30/06
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Attendance: 32,142
This game marked the return of Terry Hoeppner after a two week absence following his second brain surgery. "Absence" is not terribly accurate. Hep watched both games that he missed from the press box and was actively consulting with the staff, watching game film, and the like. Compared to his workaholic tendencies after the surgery, Hep's absence from spring practice was a telltale sign that something was wrong.
Well, if I would rather prattle on about our late coach's medical issues than talk about the game, that probably says something. This one was over before it started. Wisconsin punted after a 4 play first drive, and then scored touchdowns on its next five possessions, and that was that. Wisconsin missed a field goal at the end of the first half, but then scored two TDs and a IU's scored all 17 of its points in the fourth quarter after UW had pulled ahead 52-0. John Stocco (the guy that the Badgers somehow aren't going to miss this year) was tremendously efficient: 15-17, 303 yards, 3 touchdowns. PJ Hill gained 129 yards on 23 carries. On the Hoosier side, Kellen Lewis struggled a bit in his first start: 13-29, 113 yards. The only bright spot for IU was a 9 carry, 100 yard day by Josiah Sears.
By any measure, the Badgers dominated: 539-280 in total yards, 7.8 to 4.4 in yards per play. It's worth noting that 171 of the Hoosiers' yards came on the two offensive scoring drives in the fourth quarter (IU also returned a fumble for a TD late). And the Badgers gained only 16 yards in the fourth quarter. That means that when Wisconsin called off the dogs, UW had outgained IU 523-109. This was as thorough a thrashing as you will ever see, and I will speak no more of it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Blogpoll roundtable: overrated/underrated.

Brian proposed the following straightforward Blogpoll roundtable.
Who is overrated?
I suppose at this point I should defend my ranking of LSU at #15. No other voter ranked the Tigers lower than #7, and a clear majority of voters placed LSU in the top 3. Frankly, I may move the Tigers up on my second preseason ballot next week, but still probably not as high as #7. Certainly, LSU has a bunch of talent. Saban and Miles have recruited successfully. Still, the Tigers are not the defending national champions. They lost two games last year. They lost nine starters, including an outstanding quarterback, his two top receivers, and 40 percent of the offensive line. Yes, the defense is loaded, but LSU was loaded last year. To veer a bit into the hated intangibles, I get something of a Bob Davie/Ron Zook vibe from Miles. Can he isolate his poor judgment re: public speaking from the split-second coaching decisions he must make? I realize, of course, that Miles is 22-4 at LSU, so he can't possibly be as bad as Davie or Zook, but since it's the preseason, my hunch is enough to discount LSU. Certainly, I have no doubt that LSU is capable of winning the championship, and I think to some degree my extremely low ranking of the Tigers is backlash against what I view as an extremely odd consensus that LSU is going to be amazing this year.
Although the Blogpoll isn't as out of line as the AP and coaches' polls (which both rank the Badgers #7), I still think that Wisconsin is overrated and will not be anywhere near the top 10. One of the Blogpoll directives is that schedule-based prognostication is discouraged. I may be breaking that rule, but I don't think so, because schedule (the absence of Ohio State, the absence of any meaningful nonconference competition) was such a significant part of Wisconsin's one-loss 2006 season. The Badgers lost two of their three most important offensive players, including an experienced quarterback and the best offensive lineman in the country, and now play each of the Big Three, including two on the road, and I'm supposed to believe that the Badgers, a school with only three one-loss seasons in the last half-century, are going to waltz into championship contention? I'm not seeing it. Certainly, as an Indiana fan, gearing up to watch the Hoosiers play a non-conference slate of Indiana State, Akron, Western Michigan, and Ball State, not to mention missing Michigan and Ohio State for the next two years, I'm in no position to criticize anyone's schedule, but I do think Wisconsin's 11-1 last season was a bit illusory.
Who is underrated?
Well, based on my ballot I suppose I have to say Georgia. To some degree, my rationale for ranking the Bulldogs #5 (as opposed to #14 in the Blogpoll at large) is inconsistent with above. UGa returns only 3 defensive starters. Consistent with my other logic, the Bulldogs do return QB Matthew Stafford, who should be better (of course, being worse would be almost impossible). In the SEC East, even compared to defending champion Florida, I trust Richt's track record at Georgia more than I trust the track record of any other coach/program. Last year was Georgia's worst season since Richt's first season, 2001. My hunch is that Georgia will rebound. That's good enough for the preseason, right?

Just what the BTN dispute needs: intervention by the Indiana General Assembly.

Representative David Crooks of Washington, Indiana, perhaps best known for attempting to keep Indiana in the 19th century and off Daylight Saving Time, has asked something called the "Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor" to get involved in the Big Ten Network negotiations.
Crooks said Macey recommended that mediators be hired in the dispute, but he doesn't believe that's adequate. He thinks legislators will get many impassioned calls from constituents once constituents find out that they might have to pay extra to watch IU and Purdue sports.
With all due respect to the honorable legislator, where has he been? Perhaps this anti-DST crusader has no technology more advanced than a windmill or sundial at his home.* Big Ten games, including those involving IU and Purdue, have been broadcast on ESPN and its related networks for, what, 20 years? At least in football, the games that will be broadcast on the BTN are the sort of games that wouldn't have been on TV at all until "Creative Sports," the predecessor to ESPN Regional/ESPN plus, began syndicating Big Ten football games in the mid 1990s. Since it was my sophomore year of college, I like to believe that 1993 wasn't that long ago. On November 6, 1993, IU, 7-1 and with some far-fetched but mathematically feasible Rose Bowl hopes, lost 38-31 to 5-2 Penn State in the Hoosiers' first-ever trip to State College. The game was not televised in Central Indiana. I listened to the game on the radio and watched the frequent highlights during updates on ESPN.
In basketball, of course, Hoosiers have long been accustomed to syndicated broadcasts of nearly all IU and Purdue games for decades, but for at least the last decade, ESPN and ESPN2 have broadcast many significant basketball games, games that Indiana residents without cable could not watch. Fortunately, Rep. Crooks's ability to meddle is limited because the General Assembly is not in session and will not be for some months, but I can't imagine anything good will come of this. The state can't compel the Big Ten and the major cable providers to make a deal. They can't do anything about the existence of the BTN. I'm no free market absolutist, but the vast majority of Hoosiers who care sufficiently about the games offered in the Big Ten Network could switch to DirecTV or AT&T U-Verse. Don't get me wrong. I love the current saturation TV coverage and hope that the BTN and cable providers come to their senses. But it's been at least 20 years since IU and Purdue fans could watch every single basketball game over the air, and it's never been the case for football. This situation does not cry out for government intervention.
But hey, Dave, no hard feelings, and put in a good word with Tyler Zeller, please.
*This is a little unfair. Crooks's district is in southwestern Indiana, near the line between the Eastern and Central time zones. His main desire is not necessarily to make us Hoosiers look like a bunch of luddites, but to drag all of Indiana into the Central Time Zone so that his constituents don't have to commute across a time zone line. As a desk jockey, I love me some 10 p.m. summer sunsets, and most particularly, usable after-work daylight in October. Returning to the old summer status quo with the added joy of 4 p.m. winter sunsets is unacceptable, and therefore I reserve the right to mock and exaggerate Rep. Crooks's position.

Hoosier basketball team breaks even?

Just a week short of football season, basketball dominated the news today in Hoosierland. First, the good news: Matt Roth, a shooting guard from Metamora, Illinois, committed to the Hoosiers today. Here's a link to the Rivals top 150 for the class of 2008. You won't find Roth's name on it, so he is by far the least decorated what is now a three-man recruiting class (including #13 Devin Ebanks and #35 Bud Mackey). Still, he seems to have held his own on the prestigious Indiana Elite AAU team. Doug Wilson of the Hoosier Scoop has a Q&A with Roth's AAU coach, Mark Adams, who describes Roth as the "best shooter in the class of ‘08." Also:

“A lot of people say he’s a role player,” Adams said. “I don’t think you can call him a role player because he led us in scoring a lot of the time.”Adams dismisses critics who say Roth lacks athleticism.“We played everybody in the country and against the best players in the country,” Adams said. “Matt always kept his man between him and the basket. It’s not like he was being left behind.”“He can jump up and dunk the ball behind his head. I hate to make comparisons, but you didn’t see Steve Alford doing that.”

It's his AAU coach, so that all comes with a grain of salt, but still, it's Indiana Elite, so it's not as if the coach needs Roth to cement his or his program's reputation. It sounds as if the worst case scenario is that we landed a serious student who can shoot, and may have ended up with a steal. Roth decided among IU, Bradley, and St. Louis, but his AAU coach reports late offers from Illinois and Notre Dame.
More on Roth: here's an article from two years ago, before his sophomore year of high school, describing Roth as having "NBA range" and comparing him to former Notre Dame three point specialist Colin Falls. Also, there has been speculation that Roth and IU target Tyler Zeller became good friends while playing for Indiana Elite. Zeller is #22 on the Rivals top 150 and seems to be IU's top recruiting priority at the moment.
The bad: it appears that Aussie big man Ben Allen will not return to IU. While Mike Pegram reports that the decision may not be final, Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne New Sentinel, a pretty reliable guy on IU issues who used to be with Inside Indiana, reports that Allen will transfer to St, Mary's in California. Pete, again, has covered IU from a long time, but I'm not entirely comfortable with his report. He says: "All signs point that Allen, a native of Australia, will not return and join the Hoosiers." Says who? A source close to Allen? A source close to IU? A close source to St. Mary's? Allen's girlfriend? It's an odd construction, and so I suppose we ought to hold off on any post-mortem of Allen's IU career.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

LA Times on the BTN.

This article doesn't contain much new information but does provide a nice overview. In other news:
  • Armstrong, a small cable operator that serves Youngstown, Ohio, doesn't expect to reach a deal with the BTN in time for the season. This article contains a significant error, describing DirecTV's Total Choice package as a "premium" package, when it's really just the equivalent of a cable company's "expanded basic," which generally is required to get ESPN, etc. That's what the dispute is all about, remember? The writer also mentions "band width" as if it's some exotic term made up by the Armtrong spokesperson. You see, if the BTN takes up too much space in the magic tubes, the hamsters can't run back and forth with the video tapes.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Columbus Dispatch reports an uptick in DirecTV installations in crazy Buckeye-land. Time Warner knows nothing about it.
  • I don't think I have mentioned this, but Brian Cook and others were all over the pathetic astroturfing stunt by Comcast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Season that Was, game 4: Connecticut 14, Indiana 7.

Date: 9/23/06
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Box score/stats
Attendance: 27,256

Played on an ugly, rainy day, this was IU’s ugliest game of the year, and was the only game in which the offense failed to score a point (a late Marcus Thigpen kickoff return touchdown accounted for IU’s only score). This game was the last start for once and future quarterback Blake Powers.

The two teams produced an amazing show of offensive ineptitude. One has to imagine that weather is a big reason. IU managed 10 first downs to Uconn’s 9. The Hoosiers, on 27 rushing attempts, netted zero yards on the ground. IU did manage 192 yards in the air, but UConn outgained the Hoosiers (easily), 284-192, despite what typically would be considered a meager offensive output. The number of punts in the game (19) equaled the number of first downs.

While Kellen Lewis ultimately emerged as the starter after this game, no Hoosier stood out on offense. Lewis managed 7-13 for 64 yards but threw two interceptions. Blake Powers was 14-30 with one INT. In the first half, IU had ten possessions. IU sustained only one of those drives for more than three plays. IU’s longest drive of the half was 28 yards. Connecticut, despite the statistical bump from this game, was not a good defensive team. The Huskies allowed 358 yards per game last season, which placed them closer to the bottom of Division I-A than the top. On the other hand, IU’s defensive numbers were way better than normal, so the weather may have been the most significant factor in this game.

Although Powers started this game, the play-by-play does indicate that Lynch (presumably at Hoeppner’s behest) rotated the two quarterbacks in and out. That’s easy to second-guess at this point, but at the time, IU was faced with deciding between an exciting young guy and a solid QB who set the school TD pass record the season before. Contrary to how it seemed at the time, this game was not the end of the Hoosiers’ season. None of the hearty folks in the sub-30,000 crowd that day would have believed that IU would enter the Bucket game with a chance to secure a bowl bid.

Powers back to quarterback. (Andy Romey) and Hoosier Scoop (Doug Wilson) report that fifth year senior Blake Powers, the starting quarterback in 2005 (when he set a school record with 22 touchdown passes) and at the beginning of 2006, is now back on the quarterback depth chart. It's unclear whether Powers will be #2 or #3 on the depth chart (ahead or behind redshirt freshman Ben Chappell), but both he and Chappell took reps with the second unit during Saturday's open scrimmage, per Doug. It's difficult to say what led to this move, absent any more detailed commentary than the "good for the team" statement Lynch provided. Powers, the son of a former IU football player, is a Hoosier through and through. Many guys (such as Jay Rodgers, who transferred to Southwest Missouri State, if I recall correctly) might have considered transferring to a I-AA school to get one more year of playing time, and such a move would have been perfectly understandable. Powers decided to stay and try to earn some playing time at tight end. Tight end is not exactly a high profile position in the current regime's offense, at least for catching passes: IU completed 232 passes last season, but not one of those completions was caught by a tight end. Likely starter Nick Sexton played in 11 games last season and started two, yet did not catch a pass (he did, however, catch two passes in 2005, both for touchdowns, I'm guessing in short-yardage situations). The point, of course, is that if Blake isn't going to start at tight end, backing up Kellen Lewis is probably his best opportunity to get any meaningful playing time. Lewis does run quite a bit, which increases the possibility of injury, so it probably makes sense for IU to have its most experienced quarterback on the QB depth chart. Hopefully it doesn't say anything about the development of Chappell.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Blogpoll, Take 1.

Brian of mgoblog was kind enough to invite me to join the Blogpoll, a poll in which the members are not professional journalists or college head coaches (or student managers), but actually do watch more than one college football game a week. Per Blogpoll protocol, I am posting my initial draft of my first preseason Blogpoll ballot. My ballot must be finalized by Wednesday (10 a.m., I think), so any input before then is appreciated and will be considered.

1Southern Cal 25
2Texas 24
3Michigan 23
4Florida 22
5Georgia 21
6Virginia Tech 20
7Tennessee 19
8Oklahoma 18
9West Virginia 17
10Ohio State 16
11Louisville 15
12California 14
13Auburn 13
14Penn State 12
15LSU 11
16Nebraska 10
17Florida State 9
18South Carolina 8
19Texas A&M 7
20Wisconsin 6
21Miami (Florida) 5
22Notre Dame 4
23Missouri 3
24Boston College 2
25UCLA 1

Dropped Out:
A few thoughts on what I came up with here:
  • As someone who doesn't necessarily devour preseason football mags, my emphasis is on the known. My top three teams return experienced, high-quality quarterbacks. Teams 4 through 8 are led by coaches with long histories of success. Pretty conservative here.
  • I'm a Mack Brown apologist. If it's so easy to win at Texas, how come no UT coach between Darrell Royal and Brown managed to do so with any consistency? Now that Colt McCoy has played a full season, who can beat the Longhorns? Against all conventional wisdom, I may move the 'Horns up to #1.
  • I have LSU rated way low compared to most preseason polls. Les Miles just seems a bit erratic, a bit like Zooker and Johnelle, and they lost Jamarcus Russell. While I wouldn't be shocked to see LSU in the top 10 and in the SEC championship, I would be much more surprised to see the Tigers in the BCS title game that I would be to see them in 3rd or 4th place in the SEC West.
  • As I noted earlier, I don't quite get the fascination with Wisconsin. Yes, the Badgers lost only once last season, but they lost a productive, experienced quarterback and the league's best offensive lineman. UW will be fine, but I will be surprised if they don't lose three games in the regular season.
  • The last 5 of the poll are tough to pick, particularly with no actual games to consider. The hideous trend in non-conference scheduling may make it tough to make sense of things until mid-October.

Again, your thoughts are welcome and encouraged.

Kravitz on Lynch.

I was ready to launch into an anti-Kravitz tirade after my first read of this article, but on second review, it's pretty good. Why waste a good anti-Kravitz rant when the upcoming months will provide so many rich opportunities? My initial reaction was to this anecdote:

We were sitting at the training table, Indiana football coach Bill Lynch pointing a visitor toward the sandwich line, when about half a dozen athletic-looking young women approached the table. They wore Cheshire smiles, the kind of smiles daughters whip out whenever they want something from daddy. "We just wanted you to know that our volleyball team is all going to be supporting you guys against Indiana State,'' the unofficial team spokeswoman told Lynch. "And we were hoping your team could come out and support us (at home Oct. 17) against Purdue.''
Lynch eyed his sandwich, then looked at the young ladies."What day is that?" "A Wednesday," she answered.Lynch said, "Let me check our schedule and see if it's something we can do." He wasn't short with them, very nice and sociable and to the point. But that moment illustrated the fundamental difference between the Hoosiers' late coach, Terry Hoeppner, and the good man replacing him, Bill Lynch. If that had been Hoeppner, it would have turned into a pep rally. Hoeppner would have called his secretary to get a schedule. The young women would have joined us for lunch or
at least conversation. Before long, everybody would be singing the IU fight song before walking off, arm in arm, to Memorial Stadium to watch the Hoosiers football team play its public scrimmage on Saturday. Hoeppner was that rare sports personality who had IT, that charisma, that ability to walk into a room and make it seem smaller because of his oversized presence.
My initial reaction was that Kravitz was knocking the guy for being polite to his lunch guest--Kravitz. Upon further review, however, he was plenty fair to Lynch, and he's right. Lynch is never going to match Hoeppner's public charisma. Still, it's worth noting that Hoeppner's popularity was based in part on personality, but to some degree he did provide tangible results. Even in year one, with a 4-7 (1-7) record, Hoeppner broke a long losing streak against Kentucky. In year two, IU managed its best Big Ten record in five years, upset then #13 Iowa, and whipped MSU. My point about Hoeppner all along coincides with what Lynch says later in the article:

The Indiana people saw so much of the buzz and the salesman (Hoeppner was), but they never really got to see the great coach that he is. . . . If I'm going to put any stamp on this program, I want it to be for people to understand just how great a coach he was and what he's been building here the last two years.'' Year three is a restless time for rebuilding programs. Fans expect to see progress in year three.

Clearly, the illness and death of Hoeppner have nullified any standard program timeline, but as I have said before, salesmanship only goes so far. Although he is gone, Hoeppner increased interest in IU football and established a solid foundation within the program. Lynch isn't Hoeppner, and doesn't have to be. While Hoeppner may be best remembered for his persona, he was a good coach. Had he lived, and had he gone 4-20 in 2008 and 2009, he would have been under pressure.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Big Ten Network coverage.

Thanks to a non-functional Internet connection in a hotel room, I've been off the grid. Nevertheless, here are some quick hits on the Big Ten Network.
  • Teddy Greenstein has a Q&A article that's pretty good, as is his proposed solution on page 2.
  • Mark Alesia authoritatively states that the chances of a deal between the BTN and any central Indiana cable provider are "terrible." His basis for this flat assertion? Unclear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Media day coverage.

Not much time today, but here are a few articles of note:
  • This isn't media day content, but is a nice column from Rick Bozich of the Louisville C-J about Bill Lynch.
  • Injury update from the Hoosier Scoop: none of the three injuries reported yesterday are serious. Hardy will miss a couple of weeks; Sexton has migraines but hopes to be back today; Greg Brown will be out for a week or so.
  • Kellen Lewis article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
    “It’s kind of weird. Last year I went from third string to starter to even when I was the starter, I was the youngest guy in the (quarterback) meetings. Now I’m the oldest guy, and I’m only 20,” the sophomore said Monday. “Any time we start to get down (or) can’t get something going on, I’ve got to pump (my teammates) up.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007-08 basketball schedule: idiocy in evidence.

IU announced the 2007-08 basketball schedule. Unfortunately, it isn't yet available in list form, but here is the article. On the positive side, season ticketholders can look forward to quite a home schedule. Thanks to the 18 game home schedule, IU plays every Big Ten team at home except Michigan. Home games against Connecticut, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech (Big Ten/ACC) highlight the nonconference schedule.
On the downside, despite the expanded conference schedule, IU and Purdue play only once in conference play for the next two years. This year's game is in Bloomington and next year's will be at Mackey. I'm not sure how to explain the Big Ten's idiocy on this issue. Why aren't there protected rivalries in basketball as there are in football? Indiana-Purdue is one of the most intense rivalries in college basketball, and while both programs declined for much of the last decade, in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s it was a nationally prominent rivalry. From 1972 (Knight's first year) to 2000 (Knight's last year and the end of Keady's best years) IU and Purdue combined for 18 Big Ten titles (8 outright and 3 shared for IU; 4 outright and 3 shared for Purdue). From 1972-1996, no more than two seasons ever passed without one of the schools winning a share of the title, and that only happened twice (77-78; 85-86).
As I said, this rivalry has declined in recent years, in part because of the departure of two larger-than-life coaches but mostly because of the quality of play. Since Purdue's "three-Pete" (gag) from 1994-1996, IU's 1/5th share of the Big Ten title in 2002 is the only conference title won by either school. The era of decline seems to be coming to an end. Kelvin Sampson has re-energized the IU program, enrolled a top 10 recruiting class, and IU seems to be a consensus top 10 pick for the upcoming season. Matt Painter has recruited very well (four top 100 kids, all from Indiana, enrolling in a couple of weeks) and made the NCAA in only his second year leading what had been a terrible program for most of the decade. Also, these coaches don't like each other. Painter is a protege of Keady protege Bruce Weber, and other than Weber himself, no coach has been more publicly critical of Sampson for recruiting Eric Gordon than has Painter. Painter worked himself into a self-righteous fury over some trash-talk by former Hoosier Earl Calloway during last year's game.
If the Big Ten office understands anything, it's TV revenue. IU-Purdue could re-emerge as one of the nation's top rivalries. Yet, they have done nothing to protect this rivalry. Can you imagine the ACC acting this way?

Injuries galore at practice.

Doug Wilson's ever-helpful Hoosier Scoop blog reports three injuries:
  • James Hardy broke his finger and will miss two weeks. Unfortunate, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. James is entering his third year as a starter and should have a few days to get used to catching the ball before the September 2 opener.
  • More troubling is the injury to Greg Brown, a redshirt junior who started all 12 games at defensive tackle last year. According to Doug, Brown was injured yesterday morning and returned wearing a sling to watch the afternoon practice. Brown is IU's leading tackler among returning defensive lineman, and improvement in all aspects of defensive play is crucial to IU's fortunes this year.
  • Nick Sexton, expected to start at tight end, is out with an unspecified injury.

Doug reports that today is media day, so there should be some good coverage tonight and tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Big Ten Week at SMQ.

The astonishingly comprehensive Sunday Morning Quarterback broke down the Big Ten last week (Hat tip: There is no Name on my Jersey). Not much Hoosier content outside the predictions, in which he predicts the Hoosiers will finish 9th. In a nutshell, lots of returning offensive skill position guys, but a defense that was so awful last year that it would still qualify as "bad" even with moderate improvement. For those who haven't read SMQ, take a look. I would love to read all of this blog every day, but I would have to quit my job. It's a tremendous resource, and at the very least, the Big Ten Week content is worth a look for any fan of the conference.

Also, SMQ gathered a bunch of Youtube links to various Big Ten games. Unfortunately, the only IU game he found was the 1993 Independence Bowl. Watch the first video until you see Thomas Lewis streak down the sideline for a long TD reception. After that...well, if you weren't following the Hoosiers in 1993, take a look at the highlights from the last minute of the first half so that you will know exactly when the Mallory era ended, even if it did nominally continue through 1996. If you were following the Hoosiers in 1993, don't bother: if you are like me, that horrific sequence is irrevocably etched in your mind.

As SMQ said, where are the Anthony Thompson videos? I know there are some of you out there with tapes of the 1987 Michigan win (Bo burned his copy)...

...or the "darkest day in Ohio State History" (IU's 31-10 win at the Horseshoe that cost Earle Bruce his job) out there somewhere. How about some Youtube?

The Season that Was, game 3: Southern Illinois, Indiana 28.

Date: 9/9/2006.
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
Box score/stats.
Attendance: 31,156.

While IU's MAC winning streak continued, IU followed the Ball State comeback with one of the worst losses in school history. Certainly, the Hoosiers faced trying circumstances. Terry Hoeppner, although he watched from the press box, was out for brain surgery, so this game marked the first of two games that Bill Lynch directed as interim coach. Fairly or not, the outcome of Lynch's two interim games leads to quite a bit of skepticism about whether he should be IU's coach after 2007. Nevertheless, the 2007 season will decide that, so let's look at what happened.

IU dominated the early minutes of this game. SIU's first six possessions were unproductive, while IU scored touchdowns on each of its first two possessions. The IU offense flagged after that: after taking the lead 14-0 with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter, IU ran only 13 plays for the rest of the half and managed only two first downs. SIU managed a late touchdown drive, and what looked like it would be a walk for IU led to what then seemed to be a disappointment: only up 14-7 at halftime against the I-AA Salukis. After the teams traded punts to begin the half, IU took advantage of a shanked SIU punt with a 40 yard touchdown drive, and it appeared that the Hoosiers were restoring order at 21-7. Instead, SIU went 78 yards in 10 plays to narrow the margin to 21-14. After the first IU touchdown of the second half, SIU outgained IU 238 to 151 and outscored the Hoosiers 28-7.
How? Why? Unlike Nicholls State, which nearly upset Indiana with a service academy-style misdirection-based running game in 2005, SIU seems to have been a bit more traditional. SIU gained 244 yards on the ground, an average of 4.9 yards per carry, but also managed 138 yards on 10-19 passing. SIU's ran a rush-heavy offense, but not to NSU absurdity. More disheartening is that SIU's defense made things difficult for Kellen Lewis in his first start. Lewis was 20-40 with a touchdown, and interception, and a fumble. He gained 32 yards on ten carries--but lost 31, for a net of 1 rushing yard. In any event, the Hoosiers led 21-7 and could have controlled the game with some offensive production. It's also worth noting that James Hardy missed this game and the UConn game for disciplinary reasons. Marcus Thigpen (7-32) and Demetrius McCray (10-49) had some success running, but after IU's 21-7 lead, the two combined for only four more rushes. Whether it was the OC, Lynch, or Lewis, someone called Kellen Lewis's number a lot that day. Would a more traditional rushing attack against what should have been an overmatched I-AA oppoent have made a difference? That's second guessing, but again, whether IU can maintain any sort of "traditional" (i.e., non-Kellen Lewis) rushing attack remains an issue for the 2007 Hoosiers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Season that Was, game 2: Indiana 24, Ball State 23.

Date: 9/9/2006.
Location: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, Ind.
Box score/stats.
Attendance: 23,813.

Even the hideous first-half stats don't do justice to just how thoroughly Ball State dominated the early minutes of this game. IU's generation-long winning streak against the MAC looked to be over. Hopefully in the near future this game will be viewed as a turning point in IU's football history. Because Blake Powers was injured, redshirt senior Graeme McFarland started the game, and started ineffectively, standing at 1-4 for -2 yards after two three-and-out drives. Meanwhile, Ball State manhandled the IU defense. Ball State took a 7-0 lead on a 10 play, 80 yard drive, and after IU's first three-and-out, Ball State scored again on a 4 play, 52 yard drive. IU again gave the ball back quickly, and Ball State was again threatening when Tracy Porter intercepted Joey Lynch. Lewis came, in, ran for 10 yards, 11 yards, and completed a 32 yard pass, and that was that. IU's drive stalled near the goal line and Austin Starr missed a short field goal, but IU had its quarterback. IU's offense didn't score in the first half, although Marcus Thigpen returned a Ball State kickoff for a touchdown, but IU trailed 23-7 at halftime.
Ball State didn't score in the second half, while IU managed two touchdowns and a field goal to edge the Cardinals and to avoid a humiliating defeat. Kellen Lewis performed admirably in his debut. Lewis managed 15-28, 228 yards, and a touchdown. He ran 12 times for 91 yards. Unfortunately, no other Hoosier managed to rush with any effectiveness (a problem that continued throughout the season). The Hoosier defense also tuned up, as IU allowed only 101 yards in the second half. Still, it probably told us something about the future that IU's defense was absolutely torched by a middle-of-the-pack MAC team for a half.
No one knew it at the time, but the next week, Terry Hoeppner would be re-admitted to the hospital for his second brain surgery. Certainly, Hep's quick decision to bring in Lewis (who had begun the season opener the week before as the third stringer) won the game. Other than the receivers who caught his passes, no offensive player did anything. I try to avoid "intangibles" posts, which can quickly lapse into idiocy, but Hoeppner's decisiveness saved the day and avoided an embarrasing loss to an in-state MAC team.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New Colts blog.

I have joined the Colts Fan Blog as a contributor. I don't intend to scale back here at all. The Hoosier Report will remain my primary blog. The CFB has a wide array of contributors and therefore it will be a place to provide some occasional thoughts about the Colts rather than boring you with them here. I'm not familiar with the work of all of the contributors, but Jason and Bryan are good writers and it should be a worthwhile read.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Big Ten Network: Fair and Balanced.

Jumping ahead of the question of whether any customer of a large cable company will get this channel, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer discusses the actual content, what we will see on the air. Dave Revsine, eager to make clear that he isn't Jim Delany's Baghdad Bob, says:

"Welcome to the inaugural broadcast of Big Ten Tonight. Allah's Holy warriors, the scholar-athletes of the Western Conference, shall use their intellectual firepower to impose a reign of terror over the grit-eating devils of the Southeast. I spit on their 'southern speed' and their tie-wearing frat boys!"

Actually, he said:

Would he and his fellow broadcasters be allowed to cover the conference fully, from good to bad, from its championships to its scandals? "It would have been a deal-breaker had I gotten the wrong answer," the face of the Big Ten Network said Wednesday. "We feel like we have a responsibility to cover the big story, and obviously our hope is that the primary component of that will be the stuff on the field and the positive stories that come out of athletic competition. "But let's be honest. Part of college athletics is that some stories aren't quite as positive. We need to cover that stuff just like anyone else would cover it."

Not holding my breath. Still, it should be a fun product, even if distribution is limited.

Noblesville recruit game; Football day 3

I thought about making the trek to Noblesville for the closest recruit game to Indianapolis, but ultimately the game was a bit of a letdown for those in attendance: for academic reasons (edit: just to avoid any mass hysteria, the "academic reasons" were summer class obligations, not any sort of eligibility issue), the two biggest stars of the incoming class, Eric Gordon and Jamarcus Ellis, did not play. That's a valid reason, of course, but I would have been a bit disappointed if I made the trip.
As for the football Hoosiers, Doug Wilson was there, as usual. Doug reports that Kellen Lewis, James Bailey, and Brandon Walker-Roby all looked impressive on the offensive end. I recall hearing specualtion that Walker-Roby was not going to be back this year for whatever reason, but obviously he is, and hopefully he can follow in his brother's footsteps.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Day two of football practice; other notes.

  • Doug Wilson has a nice report on the second day of fall practice. As he notes, the media access so far is the opposite of what happened during the spring. The good: James Bailey may be emerging as Reggie Wayne to James Hardy's Marvin Harrison; construction is progressing on the HEP Center. The bad: lots of shanks from the two punters, true freshman Chris Hagerup and redshirt senior Michael Hines. When I wrote my season preview for Hawkeye State, I said that Chris Hagerup was the only punter listed on the roster, that was technically true (Hines is listed as a K), but apparently not really accurate. In four years on campus, Hines has played in only one game (a solitary punt at Michigan in 2005), but with Tyson Beattie holding down the job for four years, it's not surprising that Hines hasn't played much. I'm not sure if he is a walk-on or scholarship player.
  • IU's recruit barnstorming tour makes its only Indy-area stop tonight, 7 p.m. at Noblesville High School.
  • The Big Ten Network added Roger Twibell, Mark Neely, Jim Kelly, Ron Thulin, Scott Graham, Mike Tomczak, Derrick Walker, Butler By'not'e (Ohio State running back) and Richard Baldinger to its on-air roster for football coverage. This means we now have a reason to say and write "Butler By'not'e, " which is one of the great names in Big Ten history.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tyler Zeller narrows his list, but you probably knew that.

This is old news for anyone who follows recruiting religiously, and even old news for me, but highly coveted big man Tyler Zeller of Washington, Indiana (brother of Notre Dame's Luke Zeller) has decided that he will choose his college from a final four of Indiana, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Purdue. As I have said, ultimately I root for whoever ends up on the team and don't have the patience or interest to follow the fortunes of 50 different kids as they narrow their lists, but certain high profile recruits draw my attention. Landing Zeller would serve a variety of purposes. Foremost, he's a skilled big man. Second, according to conventional wisdom, IU has come from way, way behind in this race. My impression from those more in the know than I is that a month ago, it seemed impossible that IU would make Zeller's list of finalists. Gaining a commitment from Zeller would be a victory over one of the country's best recruiters and most prominent programs (UNC), and a victory over Purdue, of course, where Matt Painter landed four top 100 Indiana kids last year.
IU should go wherever necessary to get top shelf talent. I would rather win the NCAA tournament with 12 kids from other states than finish second with 12 kids from Indiana. Nevertheless, when Indiana produces top-tier talent IU should make it a priority. Sampson's ability to make up ground in the Zeller recruitment is yet another reason for optimism.

Delany and Silverman are going to AA.

No, not that AA, although they may need those services eventually if Comcast and Time Warner don't budge. Commissioner Delany and BTN president Mark Silverman are going to Ann Arbor. The two will meet the public at the Junge Family Champions Center in Michigan Stadium on Wednesday. Hopefully an Ann Arbor-based Michigan blogger can provide an update.

Fall practice begins.

As I said in April, I hate spring practice. It's a big tease. Fall practice is another story. Here's the official site's wrap-up, which includes a photo gallery. The Indy Star discusses Nick Polk's switch to safety from wide receiver after a promising freshman year (32 catches, 326 yards, 1 touchdown). It's good to see that the staff isn't standing pat after last year's defensive performance.

Counterpoint: Comcast's Bill Connors.

Last month, Mike Pegram published a detailed interview with BTN president Mark Silverman. Peegs just posted an in-depth interview with Bill Connors, the president of Comcast's midwest division (hat tip to a reader who shares a name with a former world leader). As usual, Peegs's prior experience in the corporate world shows. Read the whole thing. He knew what to ask. And Connors made some good points, particularly the minuscule ratings for the C list games that used to be on ESPN plus and now will be on the BTN.
I will take an example---a Wisconsin-Indiana game that will on average over the last few years when that game is on broadcast medium and remember that broadcast
signals are available to cable homes, satellite homes and to non-cable, non-satellite homes. A 100% footprint. That game has had an average rating of 0.6, not 6.0 but 0.6. That is the product that they are saying is analogous to and I will just use yesterday, the rating for Comcast Sports Chicago in a major market like Chicago or in Indiana where it is distributed, has a rating of between six and seven points. Also think that is a product that has the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox, the Black Hawks and the Bulls. It would take the Big Ten multiple years of aggregate viewing to equal the amount of people that watch Comcast Sports Network over just a few months.
Also, my previous theory about a mere price negotiation may not be accurate, or at least Connors doesn't want us to think that is accurate:
Q - So from your standpoint to get this done, either the BTN backs off the $1.10 number or agrees to digital tier in the midwest?
From our standpoint it is just the forced expanded basic coverage. I can't speak for other companies, we can only decipher when other companies are spoken to about this but that appears to be the single issue with all the other companies.
Again, I'm not sure what to make of it. Perhaps this was a huge miscalculation, not just by the Jim Delany and the presidents but also by the industry professionals who are working with the Big Ten on this project. On the other hand, cherry-picking a random Wisconsin-Indiana football (I presume) game might make things look a bit rosier. Sure, IU football doesn't have a great following and sometimes ends up on TV opposite Notre Dame, Purdue, the SEC game of the week, or all of the above. Still, I have a hard time believing that a .6 rating is the typical output. What market? What game? Was that the rating for that game in Wisconsin? It's hard to square what Connors says about ratings with this, as discussed a few weeks ago:
Klatt showed that in recent years, more than half the TV sets in the Des Moines area are tuned to Iowa football when it is on TV, and about a quarter watch Iowa men's basketball when they play.
My point, I guess, is that this still may be a game of chicken. If the cable companies blink and acknowledge that it's a price negotiation, then the Big Ten has the cable companies right where it wants them. The smaller companies that have signed up aren't stupid, right? They must have determined that it was potentially damaging for their business if they didn't have the BTN. Larger companies with a national base of customers can more easily sustain an exodus of customers. So yeah, I guess I have talked myself into sticking with my old position.
If I have one tiny criticism, it would be that Peegs didn't ask about all of the channels--religious stations, ten different shopping networks, half a dozen Discovery channels, foreign language channels--that everyone has (and pays for) but no one wants. Still, a fine effort by Peegs at educating us on where the most vocal of the cable operators stands.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Texans downplay Big Ten talk.

Chip Brown of some Texas television station discounts the idea of Texas or Nebraska moving from the Big XII to the Big Ten. Chip makes some good points:
Foremost, Texas is one of the haves in a league that operates with unequal revenue sharing. If Texas is on national TV for football, it gets an appearance fee from the Big 12 that it doesn't have to share with havenots such as Iowa State and Baylor.
It will take a super majority of nine votes in the league to change that formula. Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas A&M stand to reap the most benefit and thus have no reason to change things.
Second, countless trips to West Lafayette, Ind., and Ann Arbor, Mich., from Austin are great if you're getting frequent flyer miles. But those trips, sometimes twice in the same week, would result in more missed class time and more costs for charters and jet fuel than any school outside of the WAC.
It's easy to lose sight of everything but football and basketball when considering conference expansion. Joining the Big Ten would be a nightmare for Texas's non-revenue sports. Not that such sports matter, but most university presidents feel obligated to pretend that they do. Chip doesn't dismiss the idea that Missouri might join, however, and even speculates that Arkansas might be interested in filling the Tigers' spot.
Of course, there also are political concerns that make it unlikely that Texas would join even if the UT administration so desired. Here's a fascinating article about the political machinations behind how Baylor ended up in the Big XII as opposed to TCU or any other former SWC team. The popular myth has always been that then-governor Ann Richards, a Baylor grad, engineering the Bears' place in the conference. The linked article suggests that it was then-lieutenant governor Bob Bullock who greased the skids. The point? However powerful UT alumni might be, my uneducated guess is that there are enough A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor grads with power in Texas to prevent the Longhorns from ever going their own way. I'm not sure that I agree with mgoblog that Texas joining would be bigger than Notre Dame, but Texas would be an even bigger long shot.

Hunter to Ball State?

ESPN's Andy Katz reports that Ron Hunter, IUPUI's coach since 1994 and the only Division I coach the Jaguars have had, likely will be Ball State's next coach. Hunter's long history of recruiting Indiana and his ties to the MAC (he played with Ron Harper at Miami in the 1980s, per the linked bio) make this a sound choice for Ball State. Hunter probably is best known for his flamboyant attire and his unrestrained celebration when IUPUI advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2003. Hunter adds quite a bit of substance to that style, however. When he took the job in 1994, the notion of IUPUI (then a faceless Division II program known as the "Metros," not yet the "Jaguars") playing in the Division I NCAA Tournament would have been absurd, yet it happened in Hunter's ninth season.
Other than IU's administration of the IUPUI campus, this story is relevant to the Hoosiers because several coaches with IU ties have been mentioned as candidates, including current IU assistant and former BSU head coach Ray McCallum, IU director of basketball operations and former BGSU coach Dan Dakich, and former Hoosier and current IPFW coach Dane Fife.
For what it's worth, Greg Fallon, subbing for Doug Zaleski on his blog, reports that one of his sources says that seven men remain under consideration: Ray McCallum, Brad Soderberg, Ron Hunter, Dan Hipsher, Joe Cravens, Robert McCullum and Dane Fife. I find it implausible, nearly a month later, that McCallum is interested. As the Cards' former head coach and a known quantity in Muncie, it' hard to imagine that BSU would need that long to decide to hire him or that McCallum would submit to a protracted set of interviews.

It all starts tomorrow.

The freshmen reported on Saturday, and fall practice begins tomorrow. During spring practice, IU significantly curtailed media access to practice. Was that a new policy, a way to protect the team from Hep-related speculation, or a way to protect the team's competitive fortunes from people who write about IU on the Internet? I suppose we will find out this week. Certainly, I have no problem with closed practices if the staff believes that is in the best interest of the team. If that is the case, most information will come from the official site.
Bryan Payton's blog, which soon will be simulcast on IU's official site, has an in-depth preview of the offense and some encouraging comments about sophomore Ray Fisher.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Recruit barnstorming; Holman eligible

Jody Demling of the Louisville Courier Journal has been all over the recruiting world, including this article about the IU recruits' game in New Albany. Gordon scored 38 points, but the most encouraging nugget was buried in the article:
Eli Holman, a 6-10 forward from Richmond, Calif., played better than his billing. Holman, who said he just heard from the NCAA Clearinghouse that he is eligible, hit his first 11 shots. Holman finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Holman is eligible, and played well. Good news.
Inside the Hall has some great coverage as well, including a live blog of Thursday's game in New Albany. Terry Hutchens also has a wrap-up, include an indication that there may be an Indy-area game at Noblesville or Center Grove.

The season that was, Game 1: Indiana 39, Western Michigan 20.

Date: 9/2/2006.

Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.

Attendance: 30,733.

The Hoosiers managed a comfortable yet not overly impressive win over Western Michigan in last year's opener. IU defeated a MAC opponent for the 16th consecutive time, dating back to a loss to Miami in 1978. There was no evidence that Kellen Lewis would emerge as a promising freshman quarterback. Blake Powers, now a tight end, started and played respectably (16-28, 1 TD, 1 INT). The now-departed Graeme McFarland played late, but Lewis did not play at all.
The overall numbers were not great for the defense, with the exception of two interceptions. The defense allowed 20 first downs and allowed WMU's quarterbacks to complete nearly 75 percent of their passes (25-34). Both running games were equally hapless: IU rushed for 71 yards at 2.5 per carry, WMU for 72 yards at 2.2 per. Ultimately, the Hoosiers only moderately out-gained the Broncos in total offense (323 to 289) but benefited from two return touchdowns: a 66 yard interception return by Chris Phillips and a 86 yard punt return by Tracy Porter. Ultimately, the Hoosiers averaged 2.08 points per "true" offensive possession. Overall, it's tough to draw much statistical evidence from what ultimately was a blowout. IU led 29-6 late in the third quarter before WMU scored most of its points. WMU scored 14 points and gained 110 yards after the game was essentially over.
Not much to glean from this one, frankly. IU didn't really show the serious defensive problems exhibited against more talented opponents and this offense, while productive, looked nothing like the Lewis-led unit that finished the season.
IU plays WMU on the road this season, so I'm sure I will revisit this one during game week.