Posted by: marcmwm | June 10, 2009

Can’t argue with Iowa’s non-conference philosophy

ESPN.com’s Big Ten guy Adam Rittenberg writes today about Big Ten non-conference schedules. He ranks the Hawkeyes fifth in the conference with UNI, @ Iowa State, Arizona and Arkansas State. Iowa gets points for having two BCS conference teams on its schedule — ISU and Arizona.

Adam had Illinois No. 1 (Missouri, Illinois State, Cincinnati and Fresno State) and Penn State No. 11 (Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois).

Last season, I took an objective look at the non-conference schedules, giving points for BCS, even for a lower-level (mid-major) FBS and subtracting a point for FCS.

Let’s try that again:

Illinois — Missouri (plus), Illinois State (minus), Cincinnati (plus) and Fresno State (even).

The Illini are plus 1 but I’m giving them extra credit for Missouri, a game that’s going away unfortunately. I’ve always found this game very entertaining. I wish TV cash would be incentive enough to keep the series going, but apparently not. It ends in 2011. This is two BCS schools and Fresno State, a WAC team that is usually very good and a handful for BCS schools. This is a great non-conference schedule.

Indiana — Eastern Kentucky (minus), Western Michigan (even), @ Akron (even), @ Virginia (plus).

The Hoosiers grade at even. Do they get credit for going on the road for Akron and Virginia? How is Akron a road game? They must’ve gotten a 2-for-1 home-and-home out of that deal, as Iowa did with Miami (Ohio) in the early 2000’s. Is this the Big Ten’s only non-con with a team from the south, not counting Wisconsin and Wofford, of course?

Iowa — Northern Iowa (minus), @ ISU (plus), @ Arizona (plus), Arkansas State (even). 

The Hawkeyes rate a plus 1. The Hayden Fry-born philosophy of cupcake, Iowa State and BCS conference team has added, with the fourth non-conference game, a catch-is-as-catch-can category. Next season, that’s Eastern Illinois. Fans don’t want cupcakes and Iowa will have trouble filling Kinnick for weak non-conference games. Is Minnesota setting a trend here with its USC matchup? It’d be cool to think so, wouldn’t it? I know the UNI game is a minus in this exercise only. The Panthers are FCS elite. This will deliver two quality games every year. Face it, the Iowa State game is here to stay. This is no longer the Hayden Fry hoedown. The second BCS game will always be intriguing. But cupcake and catch-can will be a tough sell.

Michigan — Western Michigan (even), Notre Dame (plus), Eastern Michigan (even), Delaware State (minus).

Michigan rates an even. With home losses to Appalachia State and Toledo in recent years and with a new coaching staff, this has to be expected. How long will this be acceptable for Michigan fans? Probably not long. They see Minnesota-USC and they’re going to want Michigan-LSU or Michigan-Rutgers, something along those lines. Delaware State?

Michigan State — Montana State (minus), Central Michigan (even), @ Notre Dame (plus), Western Michigan (even).

Notre Dame saves this kinda boring collection and even that’s debatable. When did Western Michigan join the Big Ten? The Broncos have three Big Ten games this season. Of course, Iowa fans remember Western Michigan well (2001 and 2007 home losses).

Minnesota — @ Syracuse (plus), Air Force (even), California (plus), South Dakota State (minus).

This is a plus 1. Syracuse, even @ Syracuse, is a dubious plus. But Air Force is a defensible even (Mountain West, home of Sugar Bowl Champion Utah) and California could be a loss.

Northwestern — Towson (minus), Eastern Michigan (even), @ Syracuse (plus), Miami (Ohio) (even).

The ‘Cats rate an even. I don’t think Northwestern’s players’ parents will go to Towson. Here’s dubious Syracuse again. I’d pay to see Miami and that’s about it on this slate.

Ohio State — Navy (even), USC (plus), Toledo (even), New Mexico State (even).

This is a plus 1, with a very, very strong plus. You put USC on your schedule, you have major cojones. The Toledo game is at Cleveland. New Mexico State? I don’t understand the rest of the Buckeyes’ schedule, but they could trot out mannequins and the Horseshoe would sell out.

Penn State — Akron (even), Syracuse  (plus), Temple (even), Eastern Illinois (minus).

This is an even, a very shaky and unimpressive even. I know there has been lots o’ talk about Big Ten expansion. I vote against Syracuse, which appears to be on a trial run this season. This is atrocious and Penn State knows it. Adding to the negatives, they’re all home games. This is a Bill Snyder/K-State 1990’s schedule — built for a run in the conference. Can’t fault that logic, but it’s simply not entertaining.

Purdue — Toledo (even), @ Oregon (plus), Northern Illinois (even), Notre Dame (plus).

This is a admirable plus 2. It might be four losses on the Boilers’ schedule, but it’s a legit non-conference schedule.

Wisconsin — Northern Illinois (even), Fresno State (even), Wofford (minus), @ Hawaii (even).

Given this scoring system, this minus 1 is the Big Ten’s worst non-conference schedule — non-BCS’s and Wofford. Just let that roll off the tongue. OK, Hawaii @ Hawaii usually turns out to be a fight to the bitter end. Visitors get on the island and just seem to lose focus. I’m not sure Badgers fans buy this.

Pittsburgh defensive lineman Tony Tucker, right, sacks Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen, causing a fumble that Pittsburgh recovered with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. The play was reviewed and the call of a fumble was upheld. Pitt held on to win 21-20.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Pittsburgh defensive lineman Tony Tucker, right, sacks Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen, causing a fumble that Pittsburgh recovered with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. The play was reviewed and the call of a fumble was upheld. Pitt held on to win 21-20.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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Responses

  1. I do not foresee teams changing non-conference opponents anytime in the near future whether there is a BCS or not. College football has become a business to the point that a non-conference loss early on in the season can result in huge financial ramifications later in the season.

    With that said, I love watching quality non-conference match-ups. Like every other college football fanatic, I am pretty excited about watching the USC-OSU re-match this fall as well as ‘Bama/VA Tech to kick off the season. Any other non-conference match-ups that spark your interest?

    Go Hawks!

  2. I’ll give you five:

    Oregon @ Boise State
    Nebraska @ Va Tech
    Georgia @ Okie State
    Florida State @ BYU
    Oklahoma @ Miami (Fla.)

  3. Losses in September don’t hurt you nearly as much as losses in November.

  4. Rest up for the big game Friday!

  5. Nice picture of Jake’s final real play as a hawkeye.

  6. The romantic side of me says Iowa should play UNI and ISU every year, to get the state’s blood boiling, and two intersectional monsters (ND, Miami, USC, Nebraska, Texas). That’s the way it was in the old, old days (less ISU and UNI).

    I think people (not just fans, but voters) are wise to this bakery fetish scheduling thing, and will reward the best 8-4 team in the country with a superior bowl game. This is also consistent with our position as your basic, we’re running what you know we’re running, and watch us punch you in the face, culture. I think one pretty boy superteam per year should come to Kinnick and stand 5 feet from the bleachers while the walk-ons from Marcus or Parkersburg or wherever control the line of scrimmage. The loss of revenue (the two supergames will be split home and away) will be made up with TV money.

    PSU’s schedule this year does more to diminish Big Ten prestige than pictures of Ron Zook waterskiing.

    Reality bites, and it will never happen, of course.

    It’s also a lot of games for 19 year-olds to play against first rate competition. Football is also a game of attrition. But I wonder if you’re more likely to get hurt playing down than playing up. Haven’t done that analysis.

    Incidentally, Arkansas St. beat an NFL coach last year. That’s not a gimme.

  7. I think the attrition factors heavily. I think the stage programs are in weighs heavily. That’s harder to define. But when Missouri dropped Iowa, Missouri was in no position to deal with Iowa. That was 2002 Iowa vs. stink Mizzou teams.

    Now, why the hell aren’t they playing? Why isn’t Iowa playing Nebraska? Why is Penn State playing Eastern Illinois? That prepares PSU for what exactly? A fire drill?

    We know Tim Brewster is “out there,” but I hope the USC sparks something, ie Iowa-Nebraska or Iowa-Mizzou. (I know the Iowa-Mizzou has been toyed with. Bowlsby is gone and he was mega-PO’d over their bailing out. Maybe time has healed, but that’s wishful thinking.)

    Arkansas State beat . . . former Packers coach Mike Sherman and Texas A&M. That is a big win, regardless of Mike Sherman.

    You invoked the Zook waterskiing image in exactly the way it should be. That made my day.

  8. On attrition, I think some intern should do an analysis for the gazette showing injuries v. a) cupcakes v. b) good teams. I bet there is little difference and in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if playing sloppy football against inferior opponents is more dangerous.

  9. The Vernon Rollins example rings out.

    What was it, 65-10 against ISU?

  10. Marc, I’d like to Second the idea of Iowa picking up Missouri. There are some good prospects down there, and recruiting is changing, I’m not sure whether we’re going to be able to get the talent in the future with all the NY press the Big East and ACC are getting. This is why I don’t like Paterno’s idea about adding an Eastern team to the Big 10.

    If you look at Penn St. and Ohio St schedules, its no wonder the Big 10 is loosing respect. ‘cuse ain’t what they used to be. OSU has SC at home, and only has 5 real road games, and only 1 road game against a Big 10 team with a record over .500 last year. How in the world can a team be a co-Big 10 champ one year, and only have 2 Plus .500 Big 10 teams on their schedule the next year?!?! That would never happen in the NFL.

    Finally, I just want to tell you, you’ve done a tremendous job of keeping the blog interesting during the off season. Thanks!

  11. I just wanted to point out that Syracuse is playing three big 10 teams………Have they joined the conference surreptitiously? Interesting.

  12. why would iowa ever consider scheduling Missouri after the way they pulled out of the series last time leaving Iowa in a lurch to which we sched some FCS school that the internet bobleheads then complained about Iowa’s weak scheduling.
    Maybe a two and one with the first two at Iowa to rebuild trust.

  13. I think the plus/even/minus ratings are pretty arbitrary and don’t give credit for playing quality non-BCS teams (e.g. Fresno State) while giving credit for playing lousy teams that happen to be in a BCS conference (ISU). What about giving a plus for playing a team that played in a bowl game last year and an even to an FBS team that did not play in a bowl game?

  14. Pete — It looks like ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg agrees with you. Thanks for the kind words. I probably should start some sort of countdown but that’s too easy.

    Jebus — What is up with that? It’s not like Syracuse recruits the midwest. Maybe a play to be considered for No. 12? Doubt it, but it does strike me as odd.

    Jeff — That’s exactly how I’d play it if I were Iowa. Mizzou would have to cough up something. I’m at state girls soccer so I can’t look up the stories, but Mizzou pulled the plug on that for a check, I think $250,000, maybe less. I believe Iowa just crawled out of that scheduling hole.

    MF — Arbitrary, silly, just plain dumb, I can’t argue with you. I wanted to make it purely objective. But you’re right. This gives Western Kentucky and Fresno the same score. Objective but we know it’s incorrect. Maybe I’ll try it again. How many days ’til camp?

  15. I find it a little troubling to have common thoughts with Rittenberg. He’s a gossip who pays too much attention to national sports writers, and I question whether he ever played the game. He lost me last year when he was fanning the flames of how KF was under serious fire. He clearly is clueless about the Hawks and our fans. I read him for what its worth, but I’ll put my trust in you and the guys who write on your blog any day. I loved the one about he might make a swing around the Big 10 and evaluate the weight training facilities. LOL! Why not send Sean Keeler, another bed wetter. He could bring donuts! Credibility is earned.

  16. Pete, for the record, I did play high school football. I’m missing the cartilage to prove it. Not to mention the consciousness.

    I like Adams’s work. He’s helped me with some topic ideas. I know football is inching ever so close, but topics this time of year are a tough find.

    When I played (’85 Dubuque Wahlert), I was a DE/LB/TE type. Now, my body type would put me at SS and maybe FB. Kids got big. Luckily, my 9-year-old son benches 245 already. 🙂

  17. Plus, I really appreciate when Adam links to this space. That kind of linking helps keep this space alive. It’s much appreciated. It also validates, to a certain extent, what I do here, as does your participation.

    I enjoy my relationships with all. I say it all the time, but I really, really enjoy the blog. I love the feedback. I love the immediacy. I hope to keep it going from here on out.

  18. I like Rittenberg. He has given Iowa their due on many occasions when others have not.
    In regards to fanning flames; I don’t think there is an iota of doubt that Kirk was taking a lot of heat last fall and I don’t think Adam fanned the flames nearly as much as in-state writers did.

  19. Marc, sorry, I wasn’t thinkin’ about the big picture. I wrecked a knee playing LB back in the ’60’s, but God, I love the game, and I get a little testy when a guy beats an opinion to death without appreciating how hard the players and coaches are trying. For me, great sports journalism is when a guy picks up a phone and calls Jeff Brinson’s H.S. coach to find out what a great kid he is.

    Marc, maybe I’ve missed it, but when will Iowa have a camp for high school kids?

  20. Glad to hear you plan to keep the blog going for a long time to come. I live in Australia and greatly appreciate the content here, as it allows me to stay in touch with Hawkeye sports. Now if I could just find a way to stream games on the internet, I would be set. Australians only watch their ‘footy’: Aussie Rules (yuck), Rugby League (low-brow footy), and Rugby Union (high-brow, played in private schools and internationally). Hardly any coverage of American ‘gridiron’ as they like to call it, outside of the obligatory airing of the Super Bowl every year. They think gridiron is for pussies. Would love to hear others’ response to that!

  21. Pete, I’ll look that up when I’m back in the office tomorrow.

    I’d like to know about camp, too.

  22. Jebus, I never bit on the “hot seat” thing. It was never reality in my mind. The off-field stuff crescendo’d, but I was never buying that it threatened KF’s job.

  23. I did write a story about the Hillcrest dorm, which was out-of-control, but I talked to UI officials on that. I’ll link it tomorrow. I know it’s here somewhere.

  24. Pete, I have a few more ideas along those lines.

    Iowa is counting on a few guys next year that I don’t know much about. Mike Daniels, for one.

  25. Hey Brad, thanks for posting. Glad you enjoy.

    Personally, I think U.S. football players are the best athletes in the world. NBA athletes are tremendous, too, but they’re rarified. They’re born and can’t be made. The work football players HAVE to put in their bodies sets the sport a part in my mind. Basketball players can enhance, but they need certain accidental and essential genetics — height, flex, spring. Football players do, too, but to a lesser degree.

  26. Over hockey players? Really?

  27. I play hockey. If I can do it . . .

    I think hockey players might have an edge in cardio, but strength, speed, size — all the cool stuff — edges toward football players.

    An argument can be made for balance. Skating is the walking/running of hockey. If you can’t skate, you can’t run. You need incredible balance to be a really, really good skater. But balance is a part of it. You need to know how to skate and you need to do it regularly starting at about the embryonic stage.

  28. I think balance is critical. I see hockey players (elite level, not beer leaguers) take as much physical punishment as football players while staying on two thin pieces of steel. No way a football player can do that. Add in the speed at which the game is played and the hand-eye coordination and I think the scale tips to hockey.

  29. I think I resemble the beer leaguer comment (my nickname on a Blackhawks’ messageboard, BTW).

    It’s an interesting debate. I just think FB players need to develop everything an athlete needs. Not all do, but the best have balance, power, speed, strength and stamina.


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