Caleb Swanigan is a rookie out of Purdue University. Swanigan is a 6-foot-10, 250-pound traditional big man. He is the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and yet still seems to be undervalued.
Swanigan has been dominating the less desired competition in the NBA Summer League. He is proving that he can adapt his game to the current NBA style.
As a traditional big, Swanigan has been working to extend his consistent range past the three-point line. As Swanigan continues to improve his game, the NBA will find out just how good the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year is.
NBA Summer League
Caleb Swanigan working in the post. Photo Courtesy of Lohud.com.
Obviously summer league statistics don’t tell too much of a story, but Caleb Swanigan has been dominating regardless. In his five games this summer, Swanigan is averaging 14.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. He has three double-doubles and is shooting 42.6 percent from the field.
Swanigan has grabbed the second-most rebounds of any player this summer and has complemented Zach Collins very well when Collins has been on the floor. Swanigan has proven that he can beat you in many different ways both this summer and in his two years at Purdue.
Since his freshman year of college, Swanigan has been trying to get himself more NBA ready. Swanigan shot just 29.2 percent from three on 72 attempts his freshman season at Purdue. In his sophomore season, he followed that by shooting 44.7 percent on 85 attempts from the 3-point line.
Showing how quickly and well he adapted to the talent in the Big Ten, Swanigan turned in some big time numbers in his sophomore season.
In a league where big men are shifting to being more versatile and perimeter oriented, Swanigan is showing just how much of an all-around threat he can be.
Portland Trail Blazers Tandem
Caleb Swanigan, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.
The Trail Blazers drafted two big men in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. Both big men have different games that work well together.
Swanigan is a primarily low post threat, with an ability to pick and pop and make a mid-range jumper. Collins is a good passer, also with the ability to step out and hit a mid-range jumper. Both can rebound the ball well and have high energy. Collins protects the rim very well with his size and long arms.
With the Trail Blazers’ guards as good as they are, having two big men develop could make them perennial playoff contenders. Swanigan has been improving and adapting nearly every year he has played basketball and with the NBA waiting for him, there is a lot of time to prove how good he really is.
Featured Image Courtesy of NBA.com.
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Don’t be fooled by Michigan State’s past season struggles. They’re not going anywhere.
The Spartans somewhat fell off the wagon this year after they went 20-15 in a rather shaky Big Ten. Not to say the Spartans had a bad season, but it just wasn’t the Michigan State we are used to seeing.
The Spartans finished 10-8 in the Big Ten with a loss in the second round of the Big Ten tournament to Minnesota. Many thought the Spartans might miss out on a trip to the big dance. However, the Spartans were rewarded with a nine seed and a matchup against eighth-seeded Miami.
Michigan State defeated Miami rather handily. However, in the round of 32, the Spartans were faced with the one seed and tournament favorite, Kansas. Despite keeping it close for much of the game, Michigan State lost 90-70.
After Tom Izzo’s young, injured and often overwhelmed team lost, he said the group “gave me everything they could give me.”
Bridges told fans he has “unfinished business” after declaring he would come back for his sophomore season (Photo/ Al Goldis)
The Spartans are looking forward, starting with returning star forward Miles Bridges.
Bridges, who was considered by many to be a lottery pick in next year’s upcoming NBA draft, officially decided to come back for his sophomore season a few days ago. He averaged 16.9 points per game, which are the highest points per game for a freshman at Michigan State since Magic Johnson. Bridges also averaged 8.3 rebounds, which is the most by a Michigan State freshmen since Greg Kelser in 1975-76.
“I got some unfinished business here,” Bridges said. “I want to stay.”
Even though Bridges could have left for the NBA and made millions of dollars, he decided to work on his game while enjoying the college life both on and off the court.
“I’d rather stay here and get better,” he said.
Many still had Michigan State as a highly ranked team going into next year even before Bridges decided to return. Much of that has to do with a core group of young guys, who showed towards the end of the season that they can be really good.
They have an elite low-post scorer with Nick Ward, a potential future quarterback of the offense with Cassius Winston and a dangerous off-ball wing with Joshua Langford. Those players, along with Bridges, were all freshmen and are all returning for their sophomore seasons.
There is a lot that this group has to improve upon, like reducing turnovers and improving on the glass. They will have to get a good contribution from additional players like Matt McQuaid and their incoming class. The new class consists of two really good top recruits.
Top recruit Jaren Jackson will join the Spartans next season in their hunt for another championship (Photo/ Mike Dinovo).
First, there is 6-foot-11, 225 pound forward Jaren Jackson, who was one of the top recruits in the country. The big man has not only been praised for being a big presence down low, but he can also step out and hit the mid or long range jumper, making him a matchup nightmare.
The Spartans also signed 6-foot-9, 250 pound forward Xavier Tillman, who was voted first team all state in Michigan. They are also trying to land highly recruited high school seniors Brandon McCoy, a 7-foot center from California and Mark Smith, an elite point guard from Illinois.
Regardless of if they end up signing McCoy and Smith or not, the Spartans will have a high-powered team on both ends of the floor. They will be more experienced, formulated and ready to make a serious run late in March.
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It is no question that the Wisconsin basketball program has been one of the most successful programs in college basketball over the past decade. Their upset victory over the number one overall seed Villanova on Saturday has the Badgers looking for another long run into the NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin senior forward Nigel Hayes, makes a game-winning layup against Villanova on Saturday. (Photo/ M.P King, State Journal)
Wisconsin basketball is not one of the marquee programs when you mention the top college basketball programs, but it should be. The Badgers have by no means been as historically successful as the other top tier franchises like Duke and Kansas. However, they have been at the top of college basketball along with the rest since 2000.
They had only two NCAA tournament appearances before 1994 with one of those being a national championship in 1941. Since 2000 they have made every single tournament and have appeared in eleven sweet sixteen’s, four elite eights and three final fours. They were runner-up to Duke in 2015.
They have also won three Big Ten conference tournaments since 2000 and four regular season championships.
The Badgers finished second in the regular season this year in what was a rather strange season for the Big Ten. The Badgers then lost in the Big Ten tournament championship to a surging and emotional Michigan squad, which resulted in an eight seed in the NCAA tournament.
It was a rather controversial eight seed considering Wisconsin’s Big Ten foe Minnesota drew a five seed even though Wisconsin beat Minnesota twice during the season. The Badgers didn’t let it faze them after a solid ten-point first round victory over Virginia Tech. They definitely didn’t it let them faze them after a three-point win over tournament-favorite Villanova.
All four senior starters played a part in the 2015 runner-up experience. The Badgers are riding their experience into their sweet sixteen matchup against the Florida Gators. The Gators, who are coming off of dominating 65-39 victory over Virginia, look to make their eighth elite eight since 2000.
The Gators come in as a four seed. Many think they are the favorite against the Wisconsin team, who many thought would not be here. But Wisconsin is here, and they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Sophomore forward Ethan Happ looks for a shot in a game against Michigan in January. (Photo/ Amber Arnold)
Led by seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, the Badgers look to compete again this year for their first NCAA championship since 1941. With the help of key sophomore Ethan Happ, the Badgers have one of the most dangerous rosters in the NCAA.
The one and done era is evidently upon us, but Wisconsin is one of the few teams to be led with this much experience.
The bottom line is that this team knows how to win. In late game situations, they know what to do and they know how to do it without panicking. That’s a talent that you can’t teach. It’s talent that the Badgers have. It’s a talent that can win you a national championship.
Anyone who draws the Wisconsin Badgers in this upcoming tournament shouldn’t judge them by their seed, and consider themselves lucky because the Badgers are here to win.
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Big Ten basketball has undoubtedly been the most up and down conference this year in college basketball. With the bulk of the Big Ten tournament starting today, the potential for a March Madness like tournament is high.
The Big Ten has offered us constant entertainment. It has deceived us through the entire year and given us headline after headline.
Kansas guard Frank Mason III drives against Indiana Forward OG Anunoby during their game in Hawaii on November, 11. Indiana would go onto win 103-99, Image courtesy of Nick Krug.
Earlier in the year when Indiana knocked off Kansas, many picked the Hoosiers to win the Big Ten. Some even had them competing for a national championship. That obviously didn’t pan out. Unless the Hoosiers win the Big Ten tournament, it is unlikely they will make an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
The Michigan State Spartans and highly-recruited freshman Miles Bridges were also expected to compete for a Big Ten Championship. At this point in the season, the Spartan’s are now fighting for a chance to just play in the NCAA tournament. They will need to have a few good wins in the Big Ten tournament in order to make an impression on the selection committee.
Wisconsin was also a favorite to win the Big Ten regular season and tournament. They are still the favorite to win the tournament to some. After a 10-1 start in Big Ten play, the Wisconsin has fallen off the wagon a little bit, losing five out of its next six games.
All these struggles have opened up a path for the Purdue Boilermakers to take the regular season championship and grab the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
Purdue’s success hasn’t been surprising, but it hasn’t been expected. The team is lead by dominant sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan, who is probably the best forward in college basketball. The Boilermakers have put themselves in a position to win the Big Ten tournament and compete in the NCAA tournament.
Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh drives against Iowa forward Nicholas Baer (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
What stands out the most when looking at the Big Ten’s season is Northwestern. Northwestern has never made the NCAA tournament and is the only college in a power five conference to never do so. With a 21-10 regular season record, the Wildcats are looking like they are in no matter what happens in the Big Ten tournament. However, a few wins wouldn’t hurt in terms of seeding.
What is also intriguing about the Big Ten is that they don’t hold a number of powerhouses like they normally do. The Big Ten did finish out the year with three teams in the AP top 25. Purdue finished at No. 13, and Wisconsin and Maryland rounded out the top 25 at No. 24 and 25. For the most part, they look to play spoiler in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Along with Northwestern, the Big Ten has had other teams take advantage of the lack of dominance at the top of the conference. Minnesota finished the season with an overall record of 23-8, with an 11-7 record in conference play. That was good for fourth best in the conference. With the NCAA tournament soon approaching, the Golden Gophers have many experts picking them as a potential dark horse.
Many would say this past season was a disappointing and underwhelming season for the Big Ten. In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket, he has the Big Ten’s highest ranking team, Purdue, at a four seed.
Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and almost every school down the line besides Northwestern and Minnesota didn’t have the season that they’re accustomed to having. Was it really a disappointing season for the Big Ten?
While the Big Ten doesn’t have the top 25 teams they normally have, the competition is still there. At any point in time, the team at the bottom of the conference can beat the team at the top of the conference. That is very rare, especially for a power five conference.
These are division I athletes, some of the best in the world. While the conference isn’t as strong this year as it has been in the past years, it is still one of the best basketball conferences in America. Anyone who draws a Big Ten team in the NCAA tournament should not take them lightly. Big Ten basketball teams know how to compete no matter what their record shows.
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The Northwestern Wildcats basketball team is attempting to relinquish one of the most infamous records in college basketball: Its record number of NCAA Tournament appearances. Standing at zero, they are the only power conference team to have never gone dancing.
The tournament consists of 68 teams and has included 64 since 1985. With the number of Division I teams fluctuating every year near 340, that means approximately 19% of teams make the tournament every year. An overwhelming number of bids go to the power conference teams. Some of the big conferences have eight, nine, or even ten teams punch tickets in a given year. The Big East put in 11 teams in 2011, which is the current record. The fact of the matter is that there is a huge advantage for teams in a big conference.
Yet, even with all of this in their favor, the Wildcats have never made the tournament. Not winning a World Series for a century is bad, but when only one team completes the feat every year it pales in comparison to this. The men in purple have been close a few times but never able to get that signature win or finish the fight toward the end of the season.
Chris Collins has the Wildcats moving in the right direction. (Photo courtesy of northwestern.edu)
Northwestern has not been ranked since the 2009-10 season and that was only a brief stint at the 25th spot. This year they are on the verge of entering the fray once again as they are receiving votes and continuing to win games.
Since Chris Collins took the helm in Evanston, the team has been trending upward. Last year the team finished with its best record since 2010-11 at 20-12. Their current record is 16-4 (5-2) after a close 74-72 win at Ohio State.
They are moving ever so much closer to solidifying a spot in the NCAA Tournament and also to the school record of 20 wins in a season.
With the Big Ten having a bit of a down year, there are not a lot of opportunities for Northwestern to get that statement win. Essentially, the rest of the year they will work to avoid a “fall from grace”. They are 38th in the RPI and have not lost any games to teams outside the top 50. They have a few more opportunities for good wins against teams like Maryland (21), twice against Purdue (27) and Wisconsin (24).
If the Wildcats take a must-win against Rutgers (130) and three others they will be guaranteed a .500 record in the Big 10. That should be enough to push them into the field, but another win or two would push them over the top. Obviously, winning the conference tournament would do the trick as well, but they have never accomplished this either.
An additional factor in their favor is that down the stretch they will not have to do a lot of traveling. Seven of their last 11 games are at home. This includes two of their best opportunities for key wins against Purdue and Maryland.
A lot of things are in the Wildcats favor. They are currently in the field for many bracketologists including The Game Haus’ Joe DiTullio. DiTullio has them at a nine seed in his most current edition. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi agrees with their current placement in the field.
Northwestern has very little standing in their way at this point. They just need to take care of business and finish the job. It is about time the program lift this weight from its shoulders.
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There must be an eight team playoff in college football. This college football season has been the best of any in recent history. There is constant rhetoric on who should have been in the playoffs and who shouldn’t. There is constant questions on who is capable of challenging the unbeatable Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama has clearly looked like the best team in the country, but games are not won on paper and anything can happen once the ball is kicked off. There are upsets every week and Week 11 showed it more than ever. For the first time since 1985, the second, third and fourth ranked teams all lost on the same day. It was madness and chaotic and we all loved it! College football still has a little guy, Western Michigan, that went undefeated and gets absolutely no love at all. Their schedule is blamed for their low rankings at the end and throughout the year. There is an issue with the current format of a four team playoff.
College football is exciting and a four team playoff system was a great start, but we want, no, we need more. There needs to be an eight team college playoff. Part of the reason the college game went to a playoff system was because the BCS system didn’t allow the nation to see a true champion. There was rarely a year in which the third ranked team in the BCS didn’t have a case to be in the national championship. This year is no different. As mentioned previously, Western Michigan went undefeated and has to settle for playing in the Cotton Bowl. This isn’t the first time a small school had been disrespected by the polls.
The Little Guy
(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)
Why can’t the little guy get a chance to upset Goliath? There are plenty examples of teams who did not have a snowball’s chance in Hell to win against a college football giant, but somehow found a way. In 2006, Boise State won one of the greatest games in college football history.
The 2006 Boise State team was a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which is now extinct in football. It was a conference that was considered one of the worst in the country. Boise State had two big non-conference wins that season. The Broncos beat Oregon State 42-12 and they also won at Utah 36-3. Boise finished the season undefeated, but the BCS only ranked Boise at eighth. Boise State was never considered for the national championship because of their weak conference. They had to settle for playing number 10 ranked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl which became an instant classic.
To sum up the game, with a 1:02 left in a 28-28 tie, Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky threw an interception to Marcus Walker who ran the interception back 34 yards for a touchdown to give Oklahoma a 35-28 lead. Fast forward to Boise State’s next possession with 18 seconds remaining. It was fourth and 18. Boise State ran the famous hook and lateral that worked for a touchdown. The game was tied at 35 with just seven seconds remaining.
Oklahoma got the ball first in overtime and Adrian Peterson ran it in for a 25 yard touchdown to give Oklahoma a 42-35 lead. Boise was able to answer with a touchdown and head coach Chris Petersen decided to go for two. Boise State ran the statue of liberty in for the two-point conversion and the win, 43-42. The Broncos finished the season with a perfect 13-0 record and the only team left undefeated that season.
Continuing with the theme of small conference schools being snubbed, the next example is the 2008 Utah Utes who were in the Mountain West. Utah won at (24) Michigan, then beat (11) TCU and (14) BYU at home. They finished ranked sixth in the final BCS rankings and had to settle for playing in the Sugar Bowl against (4) Alabama. Utah easily won the Sugar Bowl 31-17 even though they were 10 point underdogs. They finished the year as the only undefeated team in the country, but were not the national champions.
(ESPN/The Associated Press)
That same year Boise State finished the regular season undefeated as well, and was ranked ninth in the BCS. The Broncos only had one impressive win that season in which they won at Oregon 37-32. It was the famous LeGarrette Blount punch game. That year Boise didn’t even get to play in a BCS Bowl game. They played TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl and lost 17-16.
2009 left the BCS in chaos at the end of the year as there were five undefeated teams: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State. The national championship game ended up being Alabama versus Texas. The other three undefeated teams were not given the chance to play for a national championship.
Texas had gone 3-0 against the top 25 with only one of those wins coming on the road. Cincinnati had gone 4-0 against the top 25 with three of those wins coming on the road. Texas was chosen because of their name. The small schools always get the short end of the stick when being listed with the best of the best.
The last example of small schools from small conferences comes from 2010 from TCU. TCU won at (24) Oregon State to open the season. The Horned Frogs only had one other ranked game which came on the road against (6) Utah. TCU demolished the Utes 47-7. In the end their wins weren’t impressive enough as they finished the season in the BCS ranked third. The two teams that finished ahead of them, Auburn and Oregon, were both undefeated as well. TCU ended up in the Rose Bowl against (4) Wisconsin and won 21-19 to finish the season undefeated.
There is a common theme with all these undefeated small schools. Utah, TCU and Boise State were almost always involved. Utah has had two undefeated seasons in the past 13 seasons and accomplished both of their undefeated seasons in the Mountain West Conference. The Utes ended up leaving for the Pac-12 because it is a power five conference. TCU finished with their only undefeated season in the Mountain West as well, but left for the Big 12, a power five conference. They left because of the disrespect year in and year out towards the Mountain West Conference. The last of these three teams, Boise State, has had three undefeated regular seasons in their last 11 seasons.
Typically a program this consistent would have played in a national championship, but Boise has yet to play for one. There is a bias against teams not in the power five and Western Michigan is the snub this season. The most common response from someone who argues that these teams don’t deserve the shot because of their small conferences has one of two responses.
The first is “let’s see if they do this again next year and next year if they are undefeated they should be in.” There are two problems with that reaction and the first is the team that is undefeated this year is a completely different team than they will be the next year. The second issue is that statement has proven to be false because Boise State had three undefeated regular seasons in four years and never got the chance.
Another common response is “Oh they would get blown out by Alabama and other big schools”. That statement is once again false as there are countless examples of smalls schools upsetting the goliath schools. Above there were examples listed, including Utah beating Alabama, and here are some more: In 2010 FCS member Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss 49-48, FCS James Madison won at (13) Virginia Tech 21-16 and perhaps the biggest upset of all time, 2007 Appalachian State beat (5) Michigan 34-32.
All these small schools pulled off what many believed to be impossible but the game is played on the field and not on paper, or by the amount of stars a recruiting class has. Western Michigan might be able to beat Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio State but everyone assumes they have no chance because of history. Yes, these programs have been national powers for decades but that doesn’t mean the little guy can’t hang, or win. An eight team playoff needs to be made with certain requirements similar to the ramifications in college basketball. These requirements are needed because of the mistakes made since the inception of the four team playoff.
The college football playoff started in 2014 and is only entering their third year. In 2014, college football fans were so happy to finally receive the playoff system that they had been so desperately asking for for almost a decade. Fans were so happy in fact, there was no chance it would be criticized in the first year, but they had set precedents in which would eventually make the committee look like hypocrites.
In 2014, heading into conference championship week the rankings were as follows: (1) Alabama 11-1, (2) Oregon 11-1, (3) TCU 11-1, (4) Florida State 12-0, (5) Ohio State 11-1, and (6) Baylor 11-1. All six teams had won their game on championship week by wide margins. The final college football rankings finished with TCU dropping to sixth and Ohio State finishing in fourth, thus knocking TCU out of the college football playoff. The reasoning given by the committee stated that TCU did not win their conference therefore Ohio State deserved to be in. TCU and Baylor were both 8-1 in conference play, but Baylor beat TCU head to head 61-58.
Fast forward to this year where the playoff committee selected Ohio State over Penn State. Ohio State had one loss on the year to Penn State. Penn State had two losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Two years earlier the playoff committee favored Ohio State because they won a conference championship and yet this year left Penn State out who won head to head versus Ohio State, won the division in the BIG 10 in which Ohio State is in, and won the BIG 10 Championship. The college football committee that said conference championships matter two years earlier ignored that Ohio State didn’t win their conference.
Essentially the committee is saying head to head wins mean nothing, nor do conference titles after this year’s playoff selection. Subliminally they are saying whoever can bring in the most revenue will make the playoffs if they have a good year. If revenue matters that much then push it to an eight team playoff to create even more dollars.
In the first year, the college football playoff paid out 500 billion dollars to schools which was the largest payout ever, which improved in areas of 200 million from the final BCS season. In total there was a 63 percent increase in postseason revenue. Doubling the amount of teams in the playoff could essentially double the amount of money to be made with extra games of importance.
What Should an 8 Team Playoff Look Like?
If and when college football goes to an eight team playoff, there needs to be a few rules on who can make the playoffs. In the current system a conference championship means nothing and part of what has made college football great for the past 100 years is the thrill of winning the conference. In basketball, winning your conference give you an automatic bid to the tournament. Football should follow that model to an extent. There are 10 conferences plus four independent schools so with a six team playoff not everyone can automatically get a bid. Here is how college football should handle the eight team playoff that would make everyone happy.
If you win the conference championship of a power five conference (BIG 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, ACC) you are guaranteed a spot in the eight team playoff. To accommodate for small schools and give them the chance they have earned, the sixth spot goes to the highest ranked team from the group of five conferences (AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, Sun-Belt, Mountain West). There would be two spots remaining and those spots should be At-Large bids given to the best two teams remaining in the country. This is what this year’s eight team playoff would look like in this format:
(1) SEC Champion: Alabama vs. (8) Group of 5: Western Michigan
(2) ACC Champion: Clemson vs. (7) Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
(3) At-Large Bid: Ohio State vs. (6) At-Large Bid: Michigan
(4) Pac-12 Champion: Washington vs. (5) BIG 10 Champion: Penn State
(David Dermer / Associated Press)
This college football playoff would have the perfect amount of teams. Aside from the two At-Large bids, nobody can argue the selection of the other six teams. There will always be that argument of bubble teams and who is the most deserving bubble team. In this format some people would be mad that USC isn’t in because of how hot they were towards the end of the year. The simple solution is to tell USC, if you win your conference and you’ll be in.
This format doesn’t require a team to go undefeated. An early loss in the season would allow you a second chance to bounce back and win the conference. That can’t be said now. Penn State and Oklahoma won their conference and don’t get a shot to be the national champion. Western Michigan is told good job on going undefeated but your conference is weak, and so is you’re schedule so just take this Cotton Bowl bid. The four team format was a great start, but this eight team format would be the perfect way to crown a champion.
Change. It is a simply spelt and pronounced word, but becomes complex when people start to deal with change. People run away from change out of fear. People usually grimace at the thought of change. Change is often looked at as a bad thing, but change can also be viewed as a great thing. Change is needed for growth and knowledge. Society finds it hard to change things that are long standing traditions, even if they do not work, are outdated, or completely wrong.
(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)
Take a look at the national anthem controversy for instance. Rather than admit its flaws, people are back-lashing against Colin Kaepernick. Why can’t we admit our faults as people or as a society? Because people hate change, whether it’s for the betterment of society or not. It is so much easier to go with the flow rather than to adapt.
It is time for a change in college football by eliminating any and all conferences. They are unnecessary in this day and age. They serve no purpose other than to please tradition. This is a highly unpopular opinion but hear me out before you grab your pitchforks.
(Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY)
The best teams need to play each other weekly regardless of their region or conference. Week one was one of the greatest weeks of college football ever. People are still glamorizing it because it was that epic. We saw great games all over such as (15) Houston defeating (3) Oklahoma. We saw Wisconsin upset (5) LSU. We saw unranked Texas A&M upset (16) UCLA. (18) Georgia beat (22) North Carolina. (2) Clemson had to sneak by unranked Auburn by six points. Fans saw Texas upset (10) Notre Dame in an overtime classic. On a Monday night game, (4) Florida State beat (11) Ole Miss.
Week two also saw some great programs matching up for exciting games. Arkansas was unranked and upset (15) TCU. (17) Tennessee beat Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in the most attended game in college football history with 156,990 in attendance.
Since the first two weeks there still have been great non-conference games even as teams have gotten into conference scheduling. In week six, Navy upset (6) Houston 46-40 in one of the most exciting back and forth games of the year. Most recently in week 12, the same Houston team that was upset by Navy, and was unranked, ended (5) Louisville’s shot at making the playoffs. They upset the Cardinals 36-10.
All these non conference match-ups with top programs facing off gave us excitement. Fans of football rejoiced over how fun it was to watch these teams play their hearts off to win these big time games. These games mean so much more with the rather new playoff system that determines a true champion in college football. Eliminating conferences would not eliminate rivalries because schools would be able to schedule 10-12 games completely how they want. The only thing each school would have to do is make sure they schedule their rival schools annually.
These huge games are what the fans want to see. It doesn’t have to be just about the fans either. The college football playoff committee highly values a team’s strength of schedule. Nobody wants to see Alabama playing teams like Chattanooga or Kent State, teams in which they manhandled this year. Ohio State shouldn’t be playing teams like Rutgers, who happens to be in their conference, or Tulsa. Clemson games are boring when they play teams like South Carolina State or Syracuse. Imagine Clemson scheduling Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. If a team goes undefeated with a non-conference schedule as tough as this, there would be no question they deserve to be in the playoffs.
One of the biggest problems with the state of college football now is that great teams still get snubbed from making the playoffs. We need the best four teams in the country making the playoffs as long as it is a four team format. Maybe one day it will be a six or eight team format to eliminate more doubt, because there will always be a team or two on the bubble.
Currently the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Big 12 are known as the power five conferences. Most people can agree these are the top five conferences in the country, with each taking turns on where they rank within the power five.
In the current playoff system, one of the power five conferences will not be represented. A champion from one of these conferences will not have the chance to play in the playoffs and prove they are the best team in the country. This doesn’t account for a team without a conference, such as Notre Dame, who could go undefeated and cause two power five conferences to be left out of the playoffs. It also doesn’t account for a year like this one in which Ohio State and Michigan both look like teams capable of winning a national championship.
The first ever college football playoff left out TCU and/or Baylor in favor of Ohio State. The debate raged on about which of these teams should have gotten in. Ohio State then went on to win the National Championship as a four seed to quiet the debate, but how do we know, without a doubt, that TCU or Baylor would not have done the same? How do we know TCU or Baylor would’t have beat Ohio State? This is the problem with conferences. The Big Ten was assumed to be the better conference which is why the playoff committee chose to take Ohio State over one of the Big 12 teams. It was all because the Big 12 conference doesn’t have a conference championship game.
There is another issue at hand when it comes to conferences and the entire playoff format. There is always a talk of two teams getting into the playoffs from the same conference. If that were to happen, two conference champions from a power five conference would be left out. This was the problem with the BCS system that the playoffs were suppose to fix. The question that should be asked is how can you be a champion of the nation if you weren’t a champion of your conference? Essentially that is what happens if two SEC or two Big Ten teams get into a four team playoff. Eliminating conferences erases all the doubt. It makes teams schedule harder competition and creates more exciting games. If a school didn’t do it, they wouldn’t get into the playoffs.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Conferences started mostly due to how difficult it was to travel when teams were still taking buses. Colleges can afford to fly their teams in today’s sports and traveling is not as hard as it use to be. What is the need for conferences then? The idea of no conferences at all is highly appealing in my eyes, but will not be popular to most. It would be revolutionary to eliminate conferences. The most remarkable changes in the world once were thought to be outlandish. Conferences are a tired idea that is outdated and the sport can become more exciting by eliminating them.
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This weekend’s games didn’t have all of the greatest match-ups as previous weeks, but there was still a lot of good football. Four weeks into the season we have learned a lot of things about plenty of teams, but here are some takeaways from the week:
1. The Big Ten is for real.
A lot of people have been debating whether the Big Ten is the best conference in college football this week, but one thing isn’t in doubt after this weekend: The Big Ten has a few elite teams. Ohio State was off this weekend, but remains number two in both the Coaches’ and AP Polls. Michigan got another blowout win this week, this time demolishing Penn State in the Big House, and remain in the top five of both polls. Michigan State lost to a very good Wisconsin team, but both teams should be pretty good the rest of the way. Wisconsin worked their way up to eight in the polls with the win and Michigan State dropped to a respectable number seventeen in the Coaches’ Poll. Nebraska followed up their win over Oregon this week by beating Northwestern this weekend, while moving up to fifteen in both polls. Polls can be misleading because of schedules and how they were formatted to start the season, but Ohio State went on the road to beat Oklahoma, Michigan got a win over a Colorado team that went on to beat Oregon, Nebraska squeaked by that same Oregon team, Wisconsin surprised an LSU team that at the very least has a lot of talent and Michigan State beat an under-performing Notre Dame team on the road. The Big Ten has challenged itself and has earned the right to be called the best conference in the country.
2. It is really hard to lead a nationally prominent team for a long time.
Les Miles has been fired from LSU after losing to Auburn this weekend. Defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, will take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis. He previously was an interim coach at USC, after the firing of Lane Kiffin. Miles had a very successful run for the Tigers, winning a national championship and countless other big games. LSU had some of the best recruits in the country every year under Miles, which is something they will wish to continue under their new leadership. In the end though, Miles was fired because he refused to change and was too predictable on offense. Handing the ball to outstanding running back Leonard Fournette every down may sound like a great idea, but teams simply stacked the box because LSU couldn’t find anyone to consistently complete passes. Miles also refused to change the offensive system to open things up for the quarterbacks. He hasn’t had much success against Alabama, which has been frustrating for LSU fans. Now that it is all said and done, Miles had a successful stint as LSU’s head coach, but if you aren’t winning national championships regularly, it is hard to keep people happy.
3. Baylor is the Big 12’s last hope at the College Football Playoff.
The Bears got a big win over Oklahoma State this weekend, which has made them the team to beat in the Big 12. Oklahoma has two losses and is a long-shot to make the playoff. Oklahoma State lost to a MAC team two weeks ago. Texas lost to Cal to weeks ago and has a shaky defense at best. TCU lost to Arkansas in a close match-up, but hasn’t looked good otherwise either. Baylor never plays anyone of note in the non-conference schedule, but they may not need to if every other contender in the conference continues to lose. Even with a lousy schedule, the College Football Playoff Committee will select the Bears if they run the table or, if the circumstances are right, finish with one loss.
Saquon Barkley hurdles Illinois defender V’angelo Bentley in a game in 2015. From CBS Sports.
Two Big Ten 1,200 yard rushers (Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard) have forgone their final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. Two more runners of at least 950 yards, Jordan Canzeri and Brandon Ross, have exhausted their eligibility in addition.
But for the reason of these eight rushers, 2016 will be the year of the running back in the Big Ten conference. Why eight you ask? Well, because it’s my second favorite number. No other significance. If you don’t like it you can shove it, because this is my article.
Joking aside, here are the eight backs in the Big Ten poised for a great season, in order of who I think will be the most productive.
Markell Jones, Purdue Sophomore
Markell Jones in a game against Virginia Tech. Courtesy of Getty Images.
This home-town product for the Boilermakers came in his freshman year and earned the role of primary runner for Purdue by his second game against Illinois, when he picked up 84 yards on just 14 carries. Averaging a high total per attempt turned out to be a theme for Jones in fact, as he gained 5.2 yards per carry in his true freshman season to finish with a total of 875 yards with ten scores on the ground.
Hindering Jones’ efforts, however, may be a historically ineffective Purdue attack. The Boilermakers do have over 30 started games on their front line returning, but what good are starts for a squad that ranked 109th last season in rushing offense with only 131.3 yards per game, and 95th in total offense with 368.6 yards a game? There was a reason the Boilers went 2-10 last year and haven’t won more than three games in a season since 2012.
De’Veon Smith, Michigan Senior
De’Veon Smith stiff-arms a defender. Courtesy of touch-the-banner.com
In his second year in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines revamped and poised for another 10+ win season. It would be the first time they have had back-to-back double digits in the win column since 2002 and 2003.
A big reason for the position they sit in is their returning rushing leader, De’Veon Smith. The fit of a downhill and through-contact runner like Smith in Harbaugh’s pro-style offense is glove-like, and while his production as a junior was gaining just 4.2 yards a carry to total 753 yards, he’s got the work ethic to break free this final season.
Mlive.com quoted Jim Harbaugh as saying, “De’Veon Smith is the clearcut starting tailback. But he’s the first one in there no matter what drill we’re doing. If it’s a live drill, he doesn’t shy away. If we’re tackling, he’s in there.”
Devine Redding, Indiana Junior
Devine Redding tightropes a sideline against Ohio State. Provided by zimbio.com.
Indiana has had 1,200-yard rushers in back-to-back seasons now, a rare bright spot in the otherwise gloomy combined 12-15 past two years there. Devine Redding will look to continue that trend, coming off a season of over 1,000 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. The only thing that could subtract from Redding’s numbers is fellow junior Camion Patrick, who was described as the best player on the team by Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson. But after sitting in the shadow of Tevin Coleman and then Jordan Howard, I look for Redding to win the starting role for the Hoosiers and make it three straight years for Indiana with a 1,200 yard back.
L.J. Scott, Michigan State Sophomore
lansingstatejournal.com’s photo of Scott breaking free on a run last season.
As a talented freshman from Ohio, L.J. Scott was a rare first-year contributor in a back-by-committee system last year for the Spartans that also included fellow freshman Madre London and sophomore Gerald Holmes. Those other two also return for 2016, but L.J. has the talent and heart to excel above to the featured back role on a team coming off three straight eleven win seasons and Big Ten titles in both 2013 and 2015. It’s not for nothing that Ohio State and Alabama also offered him coming out of high school.
I would not be surprised at all to see L.J. double the 699 yards he gained last year. From the things I’ve read, he’s that good.
Corey Clement, Wisconsin Senior
Picture from badgerofhonor.com shows Clement hitting a whip following a touchdown.
Wisconsin is known for big offensive lines and top running backs in recent history; backs like Melvin Gordon III, Montee Ball and John Clay.
This year is no exception on the big offensive line part, as the average projected Badger in the trenches is 305 pounds, including two big men over 315. Clement, who ran for over 900 yards behind Melvin Gordon in 2014, was poised last year to take on the role as the next great Wisconsin running back. But an injury in 2015 left him only four games played, and Wisconsin’s converted cornerback Dare Ogunbowale would have to take over.
Now back from surgery to repair a sports hernia, Clement is ready to enjoy the success he was supposed to have last year when he was a preseason Heisman trophy candidate.
Justin Jackson, Northwestern Junior
Justin Jackson comes into 2016 off back-to-back 1,100 yard seasons. Photo from Big Ten Network.
Justin Jackson is the most productive Big Ten back returning from last year, with 1,418 yards
It’s not often that Northwestern reels in a four-star recruit. That’s probably why Jackson was a day one starter in 2014. Now in 2016, he will again be the featured back for a team that quietly went 10-3 and finished 23rd in the AP poll last year.
Of course, it took him 312 carries to get the yards he got (4.5 yards a carry) and with only five touchdowns, he wasn’t racking up many points. However, he’s a quick-footed runner who will look to improve on his totals from last year, which would mean 1,500 yards.
Mike Weber, Ohio State Freshman (RS)
Mike Weber is poised for a break-out season. Courtesy of elevenwarriors.com.
This prediction is a little more bold, but I think the running back rumored to be Carlos Hyde 2.0 down in Columbus could bust out a huge season this year. He’s got a line composed of almost entirely former four stars in front of him, and the buckeyes have been a top 11 rushing offense each of Urban Meyer’s four years coaching.
Weber received rave reviews coming out of fall camp last year. In fact, the only thing that kept him from being Ezekiel Elliott’s back-up as a true freshman was a torn meniscus, and after the time he missed the coaching staff decided to redshirt him.
Saquon Barkley, Penn State Sophomore
One hurdle already featured at the top of the page, here is another. Source: onwardstate.com.
Barkley defines the phrase “freak of nature.” Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell said he was better than Derrick Henry, and Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin said of him that “He’s pretty rare, pretty special. I haven’t been around too many guys like him.”
Coming off a season where he made the freshman All-american team with 1,076 yards rushing, Barkley will go as far this year as his offensive line will take him. An offensive line that has had problems staying healthy the past couple of seasons. New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead will look to revamp the scheme and try to improve play up front, and a new detail-focused approach to a unit that allowed 3.0 sacks per game last year — tied for 111th worst in the country.