Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yes, Pat, The Big Ten Does Suck

Readers of this blog will remember with fondness when I tore Pat Forde to shreds the year that Illinois went to the Rose Bowl, which seems like eons ago. ESPN still has him on the payroll, it seems, and this latest piece of blather is worth discussing a bit.

As an aside, Pat Forde is hated by a lot of people, as a casual troll of the tubes will show you. I think that is maybe why he is retained by ESPN to put out these 10k word essays that don't really say much.

The latest brain fart by Forde is a long, long winded explanation of why he feels the Big Ten sucks, while sucking up to the Ohio State University. How about this analysis from the article:
Michigan had its 3-9 train wreck last year, finishing 95th. Wisconsin threw in a 7-6 clunker last season against a soft schedule to finish 61st. Iowa was 79th in 2007. Penn State was 71st in 2003 and 63rd in '04. Purdue slid in its final years under Joe Tiller, finishing 62nd in 2006 and 78th last year. Michigan State had a couple of rough seasons under John L. Smith, ranking 66th in 2004 and 80th in '06. Minnesota cratered in 2007, winning one game and finishing 123rd. Northwestern is justifiably proud of earning three Big Ten titles since 1995, but it was No. 93 in the Sagarin ratings in 2006 and No. 86 in '07. Illinois has been higher than 68th only once in the past six years. And Indiana -- where they're now selling league home games to the highest bidder -- has failed to crack the top 70.

Oh give me a stinking break Pat, no need to hyperventilate. Anyone who knows just a little about college football knows that the Big Ten is on the outside looking in right now. That could change in the future, but it isn't too likely.

The interesting thing about the Big Ten is that it is sort of like the Cubs. People will still go to the games. If you look at last years attendance figures (pdf) you will see. The rank is for the entire Division One and the attendance figure is average attendance per game.
  • 1. Michigan, 108,571
  • 2. Penn State, 108,254
  • 3. Ohio State, 104,976
  • 15. Wisconsin, 81,088
  • 20. Michigan State, 74,858
  • 22. Iowa, 70,169
  • 30. Illinois, 61,707
  • 35. Purdue, 56,702
  • 45. Minnesota, 48,958
  • 72. Indiana, 31,782
  • 79. Northwestern, 28,590

Look for Minnesota's attendance to skyrocket this year with their new stadium (very nice looking by the way) on campus instead of that dreary Metrodome with nothing to do around it.

That is a lot of fans who have been enjoying the mediocrity over the past several years. On top of that you should look at most of the Big Ten home games that are not conference games. They are literally ridiculous. I have ripped Wisconsin here before about their non conference schedule, but all the others are just as guilty. Illinois has at least a couple of decent teams in their non conference schedule this year, and we always have the game against Mizzou in there, and that has been a pretty good team over the past half decade or so.

From top to bottom I would rank the Big Ten as fourth or fifth best in the nation. Clearly the SEC, Big 12 and Pac 10 are superior in talent and perhaps the Mountain West or WAC in certain years. The key is that the Big Ten schools are absolutely enormous and will have fans for the product no matter what. I can't even imagine how many alumni a gigantic school like Wisconsin has all over the country.

But why can't the Big Ten put good football on the field like the SEC? Here is the short answer for Pat Forde. WINTER.

No kid playing football in Texas, Florida, or the deep south or west coast wants to make the commitment to come to the FROZEN Midwest and play football. I sure wouldn't.

Also, the talent pool is MUCH deeper than is used to be. The elite recruits all go to to the SEC and Texas and Oklahoma, but many great players are shunning Big Ten schools now to get assured playing time at MAC or other schools - and these schools are routinely beating Big Ten teams or losing close, controversial games. Just a few years ago up here Northern Illinois should have beaten Wisconsin at Camp Randall stadium, but due to a few (cough) bad calls lost the game right at the end.

Also, the fiasco of the Big Ten Network was most certainly used by other conferences' coaches in recruiting. There was a time when many Big Ten games were seen by hardly anyone. The BTN has ironed some of that out but they still have a lot of work to do on it. The damage to recruiting was immense, and the head coaches must have had a lot of nights drowning their sorrows in a river of booze over it. Speaking of head coaches, there are very few marquee names in the Big Ten.

There used to be a time when the Big Ten teams coming to town were feared and respected. Those days are long gone. Those days could come again, but the trend is certainly down for the forseeable future. Not saying that the Big Ten won't make money, as witnessed by the attendance figures above. But come bowl season, look for a repeat of last years dismal 1-6 performance, or close to it.


Carl from Chicago said...

Perhaps when you are retired on your farm you can be a full time college football commentator. Certainly would be much better than Mr. Forde.

I can't quantify it and don't know as much about football as you do but I would say that there isn't too much innovation at the Big Ten; I don't see new ideas or trends coming out of there. I don't know if it is the coaches or the fans or the history but they seem to stick to what they know, even when it clearly isn't working in the out-of-conference games.

The Big Ten also suffers from being too close to Notre Dame and the never ending wind of hype that team has. We compare ourselves against Notre Dame and de-facto treat them as a member of the conference rather than looking across the nation at actual football teams, such as those in Florida.

Some day you should do some posts on those Florida colleges that spring from literally a sweltering blacktop parking lot and then jump into the Top 20... it is insane how much talent is down there.

Dan from Madison said...

That Florida comment is so true, look at the University of South Florida or the University of Central Florida as recent examples.

The coaching talent in the Big Ten is pretty low outside of a few guys.

Not so sure that we suffer against ND as far as recruiting goes. Much of the luster of the Golden Dome has worn off with the Weiss years.

Here is a great example - the Illinois starting receiver Jarred Fayson is a transfer from Florida, where he played 24 games. This is an article and what is the first thing he says? It is COLD.

If everything goes right he will dominate with Benn and show how really bad Big Ten DB's are when they have to play SEC type receivers. As long as Juice can get him the ball.

Gerry from Valpo said...

"it is insane how much talent is down there."

Between the 40's and 70's black athletes living in the south could not attend most southern universities let alone gain a scholarship to play football at one. The Big11Ten had something to offer back then.

There will be anomalies at times but the southern gravy train for Big11Ten recruiting has left the station and it ain't coming back. Except, maybe, for attracting a somewhat decent castoff SEC coach like Zook.

Since Big11Ten schools have nothing special to offer that would attract top talent nationwide it appears their football glory days are over.

Just sayin.

Carl from Chicago said...

For Notre Dame I wasn't implying as much as we were losing talent to them as they are a big distraction because they always claim to be national title candidates but in reality aren't even close.

As far as the Big Ten, though, it really is like the Cubs more of a social event and a chance to tailgate and drink all day. As long as the Big Ten teams mainly play other Big Ten teams the disparity in talent with the SEC won't impact the party.

Until bowl season.

Dan from Madison said...

Another classic case of the Big Ten being mismatched was the Rose Bowl when Ilinois got smashed by USC. It was great that we got selected, but the talent disparity was clearly enormous. Then USC smashed Penn State WORSE than us last year in the Rose Bowl. And we don't want to get into tOSU being embarassed over and over in the national championship game. They did win it all in '03 but like Gerry has said, the train has left the station. USC destroyed OSU in the regular season last year 35-3.