Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Futures: Nick Chubb & Sony Michel

The Georgia Bullddogs' dynamic duo should be on NFL rosters at some point in the next 72 hours. Which will be the better pro? That depends on what kind of running back you're looking for.

18 Dec 2009

7th Day Adventure: Bowl Spectacular I

by Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Rob Weintraub

Buckle up, everybody. The bowl season undercard is upon us. It’s time for the mid-majors to get their chance to shine on ESPN -- even in primetime. Can the Mountain West further assert itself as a big-time conference? Can Southern Miss win its fourth New Orleans Bowl in six seasons? Can the chip on Boston College's shoulder offset its disadvantages in the talent and geography departments? Can Ohio University exact five years of (ahem) deserved revenge on its former conference mate, Marshall? Can the 7th Day Adventure writers convince you to watch some games about which you previously didn't give a damn?

This Week's Games

(Teams are listed according to BCS rankings.)

New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State (-11.5) vs. Wyoming
(Saturday, December 19, 4:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)

Critics often complain about the ridiculous number of bowl games, saying that it dilutes the positive impact of making a bowl, that it rewards mediocrity, and that nobody watches. Well, ask Wyoming fans if they care. In its first season under former Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, Wyoming improved to 6-6, and the reward is a trip to beautiful Albuquerque (seriously, it's lovely) to face Fresno State, bruising back Ryan Mathews (1,664 rushing yards in a 220-pound package), and the balanced Bulldogs offense. Fresno will put points on the board -- will Wyoming? The 20,000-foot strategy is simple for Wyoming: score, win. The Cowboys are undefeated when scoring 11 points or more this season; the problem is that they've scored 10 points or fewer six times. This is Fresno's second straight trip to the New Mexico Bowl, and while it's possible that the Bulldogs will not rise to the occasion, they hold the talent and experience advantage in this battle.

The Picks -- Rob: Fresno St. | FEI: Fresno St. | S&P+: Wyoming

St. Petersburg Bowl Presented by Beef 'O' Brady's: Central Florida (+2.5) vs. Rutgers
(Saturday, December 19, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

The Big East has a pretty decent bowl record during the last few years, nabbing the silly "Bowl Challenge Cup" distinction with an undefeated 2006 and winning seven of 11 games in 2007 and 2008. But most of the victories have been of the ho-hum variety -- like this one for instance. Central Florida’s distinctions in 2009 include losing to Miami and Texas by a combined 62-10. Oh yes, and the (non-Scarlet) Knights were able to topple high-flying Houston back in November, certainly a better win than Rutgers was able to muster this season in posting a sub-.500 conference record. The Scarlet Knights did finish best in the nation in turnover margin (plus-20) contributing to its No. 2 ranking in field position advantage. Wideout Tim Brown will likely be the game’s biggest playmaker if Rutgers has time to throw -- Central Florida ranked seventh in the nation in sacks.

The Picks -- Rob: Rutgers | FEI: Rutgers | S&P+: UCF

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss (-3.5) vs. Middle Tennessee St.
(Sunday, December 20, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)

Sun Belt champ Troy is off to the GMAC Bowl, opening the door for the red-hot Middles, who have won six straight and finished a strong 9-3. The entertaining Blue Raiders feature the Tony Franklin version of the spread, which was booed out of Auburn but found a home in Murfreesboro, thanks to slick quarterback Dwight Dasher, a holiday name if there ever was one. Middle Tennessee had turnover issues this season -- a common theme among teams newly embracing a spread attack -- but compensated with a solid defense, which had enough takeaways to rank the team ninth nationally in turnover margin. The defense will be hard pressed to stop a balanced Southern Miss offense that features running back Damion Fletcher and wide receiver DeAndre Brown, who suffered a terrifying leg injury in last season’s NOB but rebounded to lead the team in receiving. Quarterback Martevious Young has been steady in replacing injured starter Austin Davis. This should be an entertaining and high-scoring affair.

The Picks -- Rob: Southern Miss | FEI: Southern Miss | S&P+: MTSU

Maaco Bowl Las Vegas: No. 18 Oregon State (-2.5) vs. No. 14 BYU
(Tuesday, December 22, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

The Las Vegas Bowl pits the fifth choice from the Pac-10 against the first choice from the Mountain West. The placement seems nice for BYU until you remember that Utah and now TCU have exceeded dreams of a Christmas in Vegas and reaped BCS rewards, leaving their Mormon rivals to "revel" in Sin City (as the joke goes, BYU fans travel with a copy of the Ten Commandments and a $100 bill, and don’t break either). The Cougars will have a tough enough time without coveting their neighbor’s BCS elevation, facing a powerhouse Oregon State attack led by the Brothers Touchdown, James and Jacquizz Rodgers, and outstanding quarterback Sean Canfield. Beavers coach Mike Riley is 5-0 in bowl games and is under orders from Howard Hughes and the Las Vegas city council to provide more excitement than last year’s 3-0 Ambien Bowl win over Pitt. BYU answers with superb senior quarterback Max Hall, who threw for 30 touchdowns and won his 31st game as a starter this season. It should be a show worthy of skipping the Blue Man Group for an evening.

The Picks -- Rob: Ore. St. | FEI: Ore. St. | S&P+: BYU (LOCK)

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: No. 23 Utah (+3) vs. California
(Wednesday, December 23, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

With TCU stuck facing the WAC champion in the Fiesta Bowl, next Tuesday and Wednesday represent the Mountain West's best opportunity to buy more "We deserve that BCS auto bid" ammo. After Tuesday's Commandments and Ambien comes Utah's Wednesday attempt to knock off a Cal team that has responded to the loss of Jahvid Best (perhaps for good) by, well, being every bit as inconsistent without him. How to do you make a prediction for a Golden Bears game? This is a team capable of winning at Stanford and getting smoked at Washington, of beating Arizona and laying down for the worst USC team in almost a decade. If Good Cal shows up, they could win by 21. But watch out for Bad Cal. Either way, you can almost guarantee that the Utes will play well -- they always do in bowls. Their last bowl loss? The 1996 Copper Bowl. They have won eight in a row, and their defense is more than capable of shutting down California if the Bears' Kevin Riley isn't dialed in.

The Picks -- Rob: California | FEI: California | S&P+: Utah

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Nevada (-15.5) vs. SMU
(Thursday, December 24, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

The Wolfpack can boast the biggest point spread of the 2009 bowl season, in large part thanks to a mid-season tear through a mostly pathetic WAC conference schedule and an extraordinarily explosive offense. After ripping off more than 51 points per game in eight straight victories in October and November, Nevada fell short in a regular season finale upset bid against Boise State. Led by dual-threat, loaded-pistol quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the Wolfpack had top-5 finishes in total offense and scoring offense. Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott join Kaepernick to form the first backfield in NCAA history with three 1,000-yard rushers. On the other sideline, witness a death penalty resurrection as SMU returns to a bowl for the first time in 25 years. Mustangs head coach June Jones should be comfortable in the islands, having coached Hawaii to six bowl berths in nine seasons -- including four wins out of five in bowl games in the Aloha state.

The Picks -- Rob: Nevada | FEI: SMU (LOCK) | S&P+: Nevada

Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl: Marshall (+2.5) vs. Ohio
(Saturday, December 26, 1:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

Time for a Brent Musberger impersonation. Kick up the dramatic music.

"For years, Ohio has waited, hoping their moment would finally come. Five seasons ago, the Bobcats missed a field goal in the waning seconds, losing a 16-13 heartbreaker to the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall then left for another conference before Ohio could exact revenge. Five years of agony, five years of faith that their day for revenge would soon come. Well, that day is now. In front of tens of thousands of fans at Ford Field in Detroit, Frank Solich and the Ohio Bobcats get a chance to re-write the history books. Is this a pie-in-the-sky dream? Will Marshall get their just desserts? It's the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl on ESPN!

"You're looking liiiiiiiive on Detroit, Michigan ..."

(Admit it, you are 60 percent more likely to watch this game after reading this ...)

The Picks -- Rob: Ohio | FEI: Ohio | S&P+: Marshall

Meineke Car Care Bowl: No. 17 Pittsburgh (-3) vs. North Carolina
(Saturday, December 26, 4:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)

The Panthers were on the doorstep of stealing the Big East BCS bowl berth from Cincinnati at the end of the year, but losses to the Bearcats and Mountaineers by four total points demotes Pittsburgh to the league’s No. 3 spot. Disappointing, yes, but the Panthers are especially youthful at the skill positions on offense, and even a less-prestigious bowl bid can be a springboard to a breakaway 2010 for sophomore receiver Jonathan Baldwin (seven 100-yard receiving games) and freshman running back Dion Lewis (nine 100-yard games and 16 touchdowns rushing). Lewis will be matched up against a very stingy Tar Heels run defense that surrendered only 2.8 yards per carry on the year. Their defensive line is anchored by Robert Quinn, ranked in the top 10 nationally in tackles for loss. North Carolina plays in its home-state bowl game for the second straight season -- the game featured the fourth-best attendance in bowl games in 2008.

The Picks -- Rob: Pitt | FEI: Pitt | S&P+: Pitt

Emerald Bowl: Boston College (+9.5) vs. USC
(Saturday, December 26, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

When the season kicked off in August, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone predicting a bowl game between the Trojans and Eagles. Heck, by mid-season such a matchup would have seemed preposterous -- through almost all of October, USC still had its eyes on a Pac-10 championship, and Boston College couldn’t move the ball or score away from home. Two teams with wildly different finishes and emotions? Put ‘em on the same sideline in the Emerald Nuts bowl! After navigating the bizarro AT&T Park set-up -- on top of the sideline quirk, the left field wall and first base dugout are virtually in the field of play -- this one will come down to which team is most focused. At their best, USC’s Matt Barkley and Joe McKnight played with purpose this year, and tight end Anthony McCoy and safety Taylor Mays are among the nation’s most treacherous threats. Boston College brings its own batch of star power in the form of an anonymous, efficient defense and a chip on the team’s shoulder.

The Picks -- Rob: USC (LOCK) | FEI: BC | S&P+: BC

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Kentucky (+7.5) vs. Clemson
(Sunday, December 27, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)

At first blush, you’d pick Clemson as the more successful program in a Nashville second. But in the postseason, it’s been the Wildcats who have outclawed the Tigers, winning three straight bowl games to Clemson’s three consecutive losses, including a 28-20 Kentucky over Clemson win in this very bowl back in 2006. Clemson running back C.J. Spiller’s stock has never been higher, even as his team has slid in damaging late-season losses that relegated them to this minor bowl slot. Assuming Spiller is healthy (which can seldom be assumed -- Spiller is as fragile as he is talented), he should put on a stellar swan song for the Orange faithful. The absence of Kentucky’s best defender, linebacker Sam Maxwell (shoulder surgery), can only help Spiller find room on the perimeter. Kentucky will rely on a potent ground game, regardless of whether quarterback Mike Hartline can make it back from injury in time for the game. Wide receiver Randall Cobb is Spiller-lite, an electrifying player who gets the ball in a variety of fashions, while running back Derrick Locke provides a more traditional slant to the rushing attack.

The Picks -- Rob: Kentucky | FEI: Clemson | S&P+: Clemson

Early Bowl Storyline

Rob Weintraub: On consecutive days next week, teams from the Pac-10 will tangle with Mountain West heavyweights. In the Las Vegas Bowl, BYU plays Oregon State. The following day, in the Poinsettia Bowl, Utah plays Cal. Frustrated fans in the Rockies, desiring a more equitable playing field for the MWC, have wanted Pac-10 expansion for years, with the Utah duo front and center. The Pac-10 has no desire to share the wealth or dilute what it sees as a strong mix of sporting and academic institutions. But with no playoff system on the horizon, something needs to be done to include the MWC heavyweights in the power conference greedfest called the BCS. A resounding double shot of wins by the Salt Lake State pair over strong Pac-10 teams would give the MWC’s cause another shot in the arm.

Brian Fremeau: I watched every minute of every bowl game last season -- an experiment I likely won’t repeat, and one I very cautiously recommend doing at least once. I certainly can’t say every game was memorable -- I know there was a Texas Bowl last year, but God help me if I can recall any details of it. On the other hand, I do remember a number of stand-out bowl game performances I might not have witnessed or appreciated had I not put myself and the DVR through such a marathon. I vividly remember a scrappy little guy named Gartrell Johnson rushing for 285 yards and catching 90 more (FBS bowl record for yards from scrimmage) in last year’s wildly entertaining New Mexico bowl. The same day, Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner threw a perfect 11-for-11 game in a victory over Navy, the first "perfect" game in bowl history. Neither game would have had my attention in any other year, and neither individual performance resonated on a national scale. But bowl games are perfectly suited for such exhibitions of modest distinction -- especially this first week. Enjoy, in moderation.

Bill Connelly: Thank you, Big Ten. In what is typically the single most boring week of the college football, the Big Ten filled the void with talks of expansion. (Of course, for the next year, they'll just be talking about whether to talk about expanding, but still.) Suddenly, the week was filled with speculation and buzz. Who would be the top candidates if the Big Ten were to add a team? Should they just stop at one? Should they go for a (ridiculous) home run attempt like Texas? The Big Ten stole the week with out playing in (and losing) a single bowl game.

For the record, here is the list of viable expansion candidates without a major hole in their candidacy:

1. Missouri
2. Pittsburgh
3. Rutgers

That's it. Cincinnati doesn't bring enough to the table academically and athletically. Syracuse might not bring enough to the table, plus it doesn't really make sense for them to move for any reason other than football. Louisville is ... too southern? I don't know -- it has just never felt Midwestern enough for me to take seriously. But the three teams above pass most tests (Rutgers is last because I simply do not believe the "They would bring the New York market into play" logic, and they don't offer a whole lot athletically), and I believe all three would accept an offer. (Yes, Missouri would accept. Unless you live in Big 12 country, you probably do not get a very good grasp on the underground disgruntlement teams not named Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M or Nebraska feel about being treated like second-class citizens. Plus, it would make sense from both a money and academics perspective.) Do any of those three teams offer enough to make expansion worthwhile? We shall see. But it made for an entertaining week of speculation, did it not?

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Bowl Team Spread Team Rob FEI S&P+
New Mexico Fresno State -11.5 Wyoming Fresno St. Fresno St. Wyoming
St. Petersburg Central Florida +2.5 Rutgers Rutgers Rutgers UCF
New Orleans Southern Miss -3.5 Middle Tenn. St. USM USM MTSU
Las Vegas Oregon State -2.5 BYU Ore. St. Ore. St. BYU*
Poinsettia Utah +3 California California California Utah
Hawaii Nevada -15.5 SMU Nevada SMU* Nevada
Little Caesars Marshall +2.5 Ohio Ohio Ohio Marshall
Meineke Car Care Pittsburgh -3 North Carolina Pitt Pitt Pittsburgh
Emerald Boston College +9.5 USC USC* BC BC
Music City Kentucky +7.5 Clemson Kentucky Clemson Clemson
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  2 Wks. Ago
Season Total
S&P+: 6-4 (1-0) 78-59-3 (8-6-0)
FEI: 6-4 (1-0) 65-72-3 (5-9-0)
Rob: 4-6 (0-1) 56-81-3 (1-13-0)

Remember to discuss games all weekend long on our new college football discussion board.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 18 Dec 2009

44 comments, Last at 26 Dec 2009, 9:50pm by Rocco


by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 2:58am

Rob is cruising to a title with a 3 game lead. Considering the number of games he and S&P disagree on this week, it's going to be close...

by Scott de B (not verified) :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 12:11pm

For the record, here is the list of viable expansion candidates without a major hole in their candidacy:

Not even a mention of Nebraska?

by Anger...rising (not verified) :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 12:52pm

12-team conferences are the pits. The scheduling inequities really can't be defended from a sporting perspective.

I like to imagine an alternate universe in which the Big East was receptive to Penn State's overtures, the Metro sponsored football, and a ten-team cap was placed on conferences.

ACC: Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest
Big 8: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M
Big East: Boston College, Connecticut, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
Big Ten: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big West: Boise State, Fresno State, Idaho, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Nevada, UNLV, Utah State
MAC: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan
Metro: Cincinnati, Florida State, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, South Florida, Southern Miss, Tulane, UAB
SEC: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
SWC: Arkansas, Baylor, Louisiana Tech, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech, Tulsa
WAC: Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Hawaii, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah, UTEP, Wyoming

by doktarr :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 3:08pm

If we take for granted that those are the three most likely candidates, then what are the likely 6-team divisions?

There are three trios that must be kept together to keep the every-year series going: OSU/UM/MSU, and MN/WI/IA. There are also two pairs that have to be kept together: Illinois/Northwestern and Indiana/Purdue.

So, geographically, it would make more sense to add Mizzou than to go east. That way, Penn State gets plugged into the eastern division with IN/PU/OSU/UM/MSU, and Mizzou joins the west with MN/WI/IA/UI/NU. Things get really odd with other choices... if you add Pitt then you really want to put them in the same division as Penn State, and then the best you can do is something sort of odd geographicaly, like Pitt/PSU/IN/PU/UI/NU in one, and OSU/UM/MSU/MN/WI/IA in the other. That also feels a bit unbalanced from a competitive standpoint. If you add Rutgers, then maybe you just plug Penn State into the western division as if they were Mizzou.

by Bill Connelly :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 6:25pm

East/West is cleanest, but since some are concerned about having OSU/UM/PSU in the same division, you could also either go North/South or non-geographical if you wanted. The Big Ten and its damn trinket games (oaken bucket, floyd of rosedale, etc.) make it hard to set up clean divisions, that's for sure.

by whitty (not verified) :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 3:13pm

Scott de B: Why would Nebraska want to leave? There's no second-class citizen effect with the Huskers.

BC: What's the major hole in Notre Dame's candidacy? Is probably not being seriously interested a major hole? Notre Dame has the best case from both an athletic standpoint and an academic standpoint, they're in the middle of the footprint, they're already in the same conference as some Big Televen schools in some sports (hockey). Even if ND opted to join on the condition that the Big Televen foot the bill for terminating the NBC contract, the conference would be crazy to let that stand in the way -- they'd make the money back through increased Big Ten network viewership pretty quickly.

by whitty (not verified) :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 3:16pm

Preemptively: I already know Notre Dame said it's not interested in joining. I'm interested in knowing whether that's the reason for the omission -- that they'd say no anyway.

by Bill Connelly :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 6:25pm

That's definitely the main reason. Membership is theirs if they want it, but they clearly don't want it, so I knocked them off the list.

by Thok :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 3:25pm

Is there an obvious reason why the Big Ten wouldn't be interested in Boston College? Is it just geography? They seem to have good academics and good performance in both football and basketball. I also don't know whether Boston College would accept or not, but they strike me as a more interesting fit than Pitt or Rutgers.

by Jeff Fogle :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 4:55pm

It didn't sound like the hopes for expansion were about making a big splash or widening the geography. Barry Alvarez was most adamant about wanting a 12th team so they could have a conference championship game. He was frustrated that the other major conferences were getting a lot of TV time once the Big Ten had finished for the year. Nobody was talking about the Big Ten when everyone else was having their championship games. Potential recruits may be lured away to other conferences getting that marquee attention.

So, if the goal is just to get to 12, some uglier possibilities have a shot. Particularly if schools are worried about increasing travel expenses by spreading out too far. Iowa State is a good fit geographically, and wouldn't cause much of a ripple from schools/AD's/coaches worried about inviting in "another loss" like they did with Penn State. They pair up with Iowa in terms of rivalry stuff...and easily set up either an East/West or North/South divisional split.

Not glamorous by any means. The Big 10 isn't talking about glamming up. They just want 12 teams to set up the divisional format/championship game outline. Travel expenses stay in check. Existing teams don't feel threatened about inviting a potential power.

Fairly easy realignment in other conferences if Iowa State did go to the Big 10, just sliding existing state rivalries over a bit.

*Colorado State joins Colorado in the Big 12 to replace Iowa State
*Nevada joins UNLV in the Mountain West to replace CSU
*Cal Davis or that type program can step up to join the WAC...or the WAC can live with 9 teams instead of 10.

Tough in a down economy (particularly in the Midwest, where Detroit has 50% unemployment for example) to increase travel expenses with somebody like Rutgers or BC. Missouri may ask for a pretty penny to make the move, and the Big 12 wouldn't stand idly by if a program with that kind of football/basketball pedigree was being wooed. The Big 12 might not fight as hard to keep Iowa State.

Would be one thing if Alvarez and the bigwigs were talking about having a bigger national presence in terms of conference scope. They're focused on a TV presence on Championship Weekend. They really don't need a Missouri/Rutgers/BC to earn ratings in their title tilt. They just need a 12th warm body...

by Bill Connelly :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 6:28pm

I think the main draws for Mizzou to move to the Big Ten would be a) academics, and b) they wouldn't have to "ask for a pretty penny" to move--simply moving would up their revenue. TV revenue is not shared equally in the Big 12, and not only is it equal in the Big Ten, but the Big Ten's TV revenue is simply better anyway. The biggest impediment to a Mizzou move would simply be the hundred-year rivalries with Nebraska, Iowa State, etc. They'd almost certainly play Kansas every year in every sport regardless, but they probably wouldn't play Nebraska anymore, and that would be a damn shame.

by Salvi's Headband (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:11pm

Ann Arbor, Columbus, and State College are all closer to Rutgers than Mizzou.

by Salvi's Headband (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:17pm

And Lansing is more or less equidistant...The Big 10 covers a huge geographic area and I don't see travel distance as a big factor.

by Jeff Fogle :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 7:44pm

Here's the current roster page for Missouri football:


By hand (so I could have miscounted a bit), I get
54 players from Missouri
30 players from Texas
8 players from states in the Big 10

Missouri's competitive on a national scale because Coach Pinkel has a Texas pipeline...He can let his kids know they'll get to play in Texas during their stay, and be on TV often in Texas. Chase Daniel played at South Lake. Danario Alexander is from Marlin. Pinkel runs an offense that is fairly common with Texas high schools. He can get kids who weren't quite good enough to get recruited to Texas or OU, and tell them they've got a chance to show those schools what they missed, in a schematic they already know...that celebrates skill position players and gets them the ball.

Missouri moves to the Big 10, and that pipeline is likely to dry up quick. Parents don't want their kids playing ALL of their games that far from home. The Big Ten is not seen as an elite football conference down here because their bowl games are televised and people have eyeballs (6-16 straight up the last 3 years in bowls for people who want a number, maybe they'll turn it around this year).

Pinkel loses the pipeline, then has to build new pipelines in an area where he barely recruits right now. What makes sense on paper is not necessarily a great idea in actual practice if you want to maintain football stability at a nationally known program.

by Bill Connelly :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 8:54pm

Here's the deal, though:

1) Missouri basically plays four regular season games every six years in the state of Texas, and one of those is in Lubbock, which is not exactly close to most Texans. If the Big Ten's TV contract is better than the Big 12's (and it is), then their viewability (if that were a word) would be just about the same in the Big Ten as the Big 12. Sure the Big 12 has more Texas bowls, and that would be an issue, but I'm not too worried about that.

2) Even if it did shut off some Texas pipelines, the money and academics still make this something Mizzou would almost certainly do.

by Jeff Fogle :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 10:16pm

Not sure about "almost certainly." My guess is they'll use an offer (or the hint of an offer) as a negotiating ploy to earn more favorable money distribution for themselves within the Big 12. If that's not in the offing, then I could see them leaving. Pinkel knows he'll lose that pipeline...and that pipeline is how Missouri developed a respected team. His voice will be heard.

The Big 12 has planned to create its own TV network ala the Big 10. Missouri as a power in the Big 12 North (thanks to Pinkel's pipeline) is in position to earn more money in the future than they do now...and that network will be widely watched in Texas where Pinkel likes to recruit. (The Big 10 network is available down here in Austin, but not widely watched).

In terms of academics, found the online rankings from US News and World Report:


Missouri is at 102nd right now. All 11 Big 10 schools are at 71st or better. Of the other nominees:

Pitt 56th
Syracuse 58th
Rutgers 66th
Iowa State 88th (my quiet nominee, maybe nobody else's lol).

Hook-em, Texas is at 47th, tied with Penn State.

There may be debate internally within the Big 10 about inviting somebody that far out of the academic mix into the group. If Missouri was truly focused on academics they'd rank better than 102nd right now.

Best guess from me:
*Pinkel doesn't want to lose his pipeline, but the school does feel hosed with the current pay structure with Big 12 TV money, they use the threat of leaving to negotiate a better deal.

*Pressure from the governor, academic types overrules Pinkel, and the squad becomes the lowest ranked academic institution in the Big 10 and tries to get better, while their football coach tries to counteract his talent pipeline drying up.

After reading your thoughts and googling some stuff, I guess I agree that Missouri is likely to go if their Big 12 situation won't improve...no matter what Pinkel says behind the scenes. I do think the talk will lead to their Big 12 situation improving though. The new Big 12 network needs St. Louis and Kansas City. I don't think the Big 10 wants to get into a bidding war (the pretty penny Missouri might ask for after a counter-offer from the Big 12) and possibly lose face again after being turned down by the 102nd ranked academic institution.

The Big 12 won't fight for Iowa State in the same way...and Iowa State doesn't have much leverage to negotiate because they don't deliver too many eyeballs to the new Big 12 TV network. Iowa State's 88th academic ranking gives the Big 10 an out...saying "we didn't want to invite somebody who wasn't in the top 100 academically." Great fit geographically for divisional alignment...existing Big 10 coaches are happy to have a team they'll probably beat. Big 10 gets its 12 teams and championship game, (without having the threat of non-original members Missouri facing Penn State in the first year for the title!). And unheralded Iowa State sneaks through the scrum as the unexpected invitee...

Not impossible. Can't say it's the favorite (lol). Would be surprised if the Big 12 sat idly by...

by Bill Connelly :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 10:45pm

Here's the problem: any concession the Big 12 makes for Mizzou would be a decision that would in some way negatively impact Texas (at least slightly). That doesn't happen. No way would they agree to any concession like equal TV revenue sharing or something like that...

by Jeff Fogle :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 11:12pm

It's possible to agree to a concession that only slightly hurts them...or doesn't hurt much at all if the Big 12 network creates a bigger pie for everyone to divide up. There's elbow room between what Missouri gets now...and "equal' TV revenue sharing.

St. Louis and Kansas City are both top 30 markets I think depending on which listings you use and how long ago they were updated. A "concession" that keeps those TV markets in the Big 12 Network probably isn't something Texas would be opposed to given the importance in their mind of establishing a TV network with significant reach.

Should be interesting however it works out. I don't think the participants are currently in the "almost certainly," "that doesn't happen" mode at this point. Missouri sees its leverage. The Big 12 Power brokers know those cities are important for the network they're in the process of building. Pinkel knows he got his team into the rankings thanks to the impact of Texas based athletes.

Looking forward to see how it plays out either way. Thanks for the discussion. Good luck with your bowl picks...

by TomKelso :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 1:03pm

I'm sorry -- but Texas and A&M do not give concessions -- they give orders. The whole sorry end of the original Southwest Conference comes from those two insisting on their prerogatives -- and the Big 8 being willing to accommodate them. Dallas and Houston are far larger and more important that St. Louis and Kansas City (especially since KC is as much KU as MU). Texas Tech and Houston were to be brought along for the ride for numbers' sake.

Yep, Houston. It was changed to Baylor to get the support of then-governor Ann Richards, a Baylor alum. Legislative approval was needed for some hurdles to be cleared, and that was Richards' price for support. The Cougars have been lost in the wilderness ever since.

by DoubleB :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 2:46pm

Just want to echo these posts as an alum of an old SWC school. It's all about Texas and to a lesser extent A&M. One year in the late 80s they were openly talking about not giving a Cotton Bowl bid (awarded to the SWC champ at the time) to TCU (who had a good start to the conference season) simply because they were TCU.

As an aside, I think you can make a legitimate argument that the Texas football program has historically underperformed based on all the resources at their disposal.

by Jeff Fogle :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 2:58pm

If Texas and the Big 12 power brokers want the St. Louis and Missouri TV markets in the mix for their Big 12 Network...because they don't want to be another version of Fox-TX-Okla but are shooting for bigger scope...then any attempts to keep Missouri in the fold wouldn't be seen in their minds as "concessions," but as investments that are the cost of doing business.

If you want to see Texas or the power brokers as an evil empire...doing what it takes to keep Missouri is the same thing as the Yankees doing what it takes to keep talent from going elsewhere. From Reggie Jackson through AROD, management wasn't thinking "We're not giving concessions, we give orders." They were thinking "what pieces do we need to build our empire? Once it's built we'll REALLY be rich."

Texas isn't an outfielder worried they might have to take a pay cut so someone else can have the money. Texas is a Steinbrenner. Texas wants a Big 12 network to succeed because it makes them richer down the road. Texas wants the St. Louis and Kansas City markets fully in the fold.

It's true that Dallas and Houston are much bigger markets. Texas already owns those markets. I attended Texas/Houston games in the SWC days where the crowds were 70% orange in Houston. The goal is scope, building a bigger pie through the power of a new TV network with geographic range.

Maybe they're dreaming too big. And, maybe Missouri doesn't want to live in that world. The current Missouri football coach does. What will the financial landscape be in 5 years? 10 years? Is Big 10 football trending up or down? What about Big 12 football? What about the economies of the regions? Where do you want to be in 2014 or 2019 based on population/economic/"where the high school football game breakers are" demographics?

by DoubleB :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 3:53pm

Do they want a Big XII network? Or do they want a "Texas" network?

And if I'm Texas--if Missouri doesn't want to play ball--then I'll grab another team like Utah (speaking of growth demographics) or BYU (very unique fan base that extends beyond Utah) and go from there. Or I'll jump to another conference that will "pay" for what I bring to the table (Pac-10 maybe). Texas still holds the cards in the grand scheme of things, not Missouri.

by Harris :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 11:27pm

Critics often complain about the ridiculous number of bowl games, saying that it dilutes the positive impact of making a bowl, that it rewards mediocrity, and that nobody watches. Well, ask Wyoming fans if they care.

I despise this argument. Who cares how Wyoming feels about going to a bowl? Washington State would like to go to a bowl too. This isn't the goddamn Special Olympics; you don't get to go a bowl game just for showing up.

Hail Hydra!

by mm (not verified) :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 8:56pm

As DoubleB said, Texas doesn't want a Big XII network; they already support the rest of the conference (with some help from A&M and OU). They're looking at starting their own network. Of course, they might join a more successful conference's network.

The whole sorry end of the original Southwest Conference comes from those two insisting on their prerogatives -- and the Big 8 being willing to accommodate them.

You're missing a major part of the story there. UT and A&M did not want to go to Big 8, but they were in a bad spot after, 1) the Pac 10 and Big 10 either refused or delayed accepting Texas 2) the SEC told A&M they wouldn't be accepted without Texas (Texas didn't want to join) and, most importantly 3) the Texas legislature told them they had to take care of some of the small Texas schools. I don't think anyone in the Big XII have ever been thrilled with the results (well, maybe Baylor).

Schools like Missouri haven't been happy with the Big 12, but the big Texas schools aren't any happier. They provide most of the TV markets and recruiting ground for the entire conference, and their TV revenue is less than any Big 10 school.

But its a different environment now. TCU's success hurts the argument that the small schools need to be in Texas' conference to succeed, so a movement now would likely succeed. If the Big 10 is serious about looking at the whole country, they might ask Texas and there's a not insignificant chance Texas would say yes (if they wanted to be the Big 14, then Missouri might travel with its antagonists Texas and A&M into the new mega conference).

Even if the Big 10 doesn't ask a current Big 12 member to join, there's a chance that any movement reduces the conference. If the Pac 10 decides to match the Big 10 in going to 12, it would make a lot of sense to take Texas with either Colorado or A&M.

by Jeff Fogle :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 10:46pm

Texas current very strong financial situation (#1 nationally in revenue of all college sports programs):


Comments from ESPN's Tim Griffin on Big 10 considering moving to 14 or even 16 teams posted December 17th:

"News has seeped out that college athletics' 800-pound gorilla could want more than merely one bunch of bananas.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Big Ten is considering contingency plans that could add up to five schools with eventual plans to expand to 14 or 16 schools.

If that was to come, there would be no doubt that some of the Big 12's schools would likely be targets -- and top ones at that.

Early speculation has the Big Ten looking east at Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse as its primary targets. Those schools match the academic and athletic profile the Big Ten would like to have to match its current 11 members.

I still think that Jim Delany's first call about expansion would go to Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to gauge his school's interest in joining the Big 12. I think the Big Ten will be thoroughly convinced that Notre Dame is not interested before it stops pursuing the Irish.

But Missouri, Iowa State and Nebraska also have been mentioned as potential candidates.

And another huge target in the Big 12 has been speculated about. Some have theorized that Texas perhaps might be the school that best fits the Big Ten's profile for an additional team.

I still think it's extremely far-fetched to think that Texas would join the Big Ten. Travel costs alone would be staggering, but Texas generates more money with its athletic department than any other college.

And while Longhorn fans might salivate about regular conference games against schools like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa it would be hard for me to see happen for one main reason.

The Longhorns' current deal with the Big 12 gives them a favorable cut of half of the television money from the conference's basketball and football television packages. Because schools like Texas and Oklahoma appear more often, they receive more money than schools like Iowa State and Kansas State.

In the Big Ten, a model of revenue sharing has been in place for many years. Smaller schools like Northwestern share as much of the television money for the Big Ten's packages as prime producers like Ohio State and Penn State.

It would be hard for me to ever see Texas giving up that advantage. In a sense, they have it too good where they are at now to give that up for more money in the Big Ten.

We also remember how the Texas Legislature played a big part in the formative stages of the Big 12. It would be hard for Texas to be able to escape the conference from which it helped create less than two decades ago, considering all of the politicians who are graduates of other schools who can throw roadblocks along the way.

Expansion of a massive national athletic power like Texas, North Carolina or Florida might sound far-fetched for geographic reasons. But be assured that Delany is thinking about some out-of-the-box scenarios that would result in his conference taking a national foothold in college sports and helping immediately improve the distribution of the fledgling Big Ten Network. I'm sure his expansion plans go well past Rutgers, Missouri or Notre Dame.

Huge growing markets in Texas and Florida would be the best places to try to get the Big Ten's fledgling network established.

It's fun to think about such scenarios. I know I've been bombarded by comments and e-mails in the last several days.

I don't think we'll see the Big 12 raided by the Big Ten in their expansion plans.

But I do expect that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is working on getting a contingency plan ready."

by Jeff Fogle :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 10:59pm

Posted by Tim Griffin back in July on ESPN's website, under the headline "Beebe hopes to expand Big 12 TV"

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trying to earn more television money while maximizing exposure for his schools is taking much of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's attention these days.

Beebe called working on settling that television question as the "major issue" that currently is facing him in his role as the conference's chief executive officer.

"I think that's fair to say because it was such a strong proponent of what put us together in the conference in the first place," Beebe said. "The origins of this conference was to get together to find a more valuable spot in the marketplace. We need all the platforms we can get for the quality of play that all of our student-athletes provide."

The Big 12 was formed in a marriage between the old Big Eight Conference and four schools from the old Southwest Conference because of vanishing spots in the market for those conferences in the mid-1990s.

A similar concern could be facing the Big 12 in the immediate future as it lags behind the megabuck contracts recently earned by the Southeastern and the Big Ten conferences that have helped propel those conferences to preeminent spots in college athletics.

"We can't deny it," Beebe said. "I give them a lot of credit for what they have been able to achieve. It's up to us to try to compete with that. It certainly concerns me there's going to be so much exposure of SEC product and Big Ten Network in this part of the country. And part of my charge will be how we will be able to compete with that in the future."

Several reports indicate there has been discussion among the Big 12, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences to provide a new television network with programming from two or perhaps three of the conferences in a consortium. Beebe said that the Big 12 must be creative in looking for ways to remain viable in the changing economic marketplace.

"I think we have to look at strategic partnerships with whomever, whether it's on the media side or the content owners (conferences) to find out what would be best for us," Beebe said. "I don't discount any scenario in that regard. Looking at a partnership with other conferences is something we'll have to take a close look at. Maybe there's something there that would work out for all of us."

by Jeff Fogle :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 11:10pm

Whether it's a Longhorns Network trying to get clearance from cable companies in Big 12 viewing areas (because the Horns are playing teams from those areas), or a Big 12 Network playing catch up with the Big 10's network, or a Big 12/ACC/Pac 10 triple platform, Texas will be a power broker and the St.Louis/Kansas City markets will be of interest.

Would disagree that Texas would think about joining the Big 10 now. We're at the height of our arrogance. This is not an area that currently respects Big 10 football, or wants to pay for tickets to see home-and-home's with anyone outside of Penn State or OSU. The region pops for conference games, and the rivalry showdown with OU up in Dallas. It's not a long trip to see road games at Waco or College Station either. I'd have to say there's virtually no "local" sentiment for joining the Big Ten. At the height of local arrogance, that would be seen as a step down, a big step down by many. AND the legislature would go nuts (lol). Texas is its own country remember!

by dnw (not verified) :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 11:53pm

I completely agree... Texas will not join the Big Ten. If anything, they would use any Big Ten interest to squeeze the "lesser" Big 12 schools for more money.

If I had to make my guesses...

Pitt or BC would be my bet...

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:57am

Kind of like that idea of shooting for 14 or more from the Big 10's perspective. That's beyond what Alvarez had been talking about. Pitt, Rutgers, and Syracuse all fit academically (top 70), and extend the network in the direction of ESPN headquarters. Missouri's still far down academically (not top 100), but allows the sprawl to spread westward too. Good time to do something bold. Will the existing schools allow for the pie to be divvied up THAT much?

Underdogs 2-1 straight up in bowls so far, totals 3-0 to the Over...

by Salvi's Headband (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:42am

Pitt is not really an option...why expand into a market that's already yours?

It is pretty much been acknowledged that the only viable candidates for expansion are Rutgers and Syracuse, in that order, with Missouri as a dark horse.

I don't particularly understand Missouri's motivation for accepting an offer in any case. the Big 12 is a great conference in which they have historic rivalries with Kansas and to a lesser extent Nebraska. I guess Iowa would replace Kansas as their big rivals..? What exactly would they gain from the move? Not a bigger stage, that I can see. Maybe a better chance at a conference title!

Anyhow, I have a feeling it will end up being Rutgers. The growth potential there truly is monstrous. 10 years ago you couldn't find RU merch outside of New Brunswick, now it's everywhere in the tri-state area. If you have teams like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, coming to the NY market on a regular basis, it WILL be a big deal, trust me. It's something the Tri-State area has never experienced before.

As for divisions, a pure east/west geographic split doesn't really work, because you'd wind up with Mich, OSU, and PSU all in one division, which would be a disaster for the western division. I can see a quasi North/South split, something like..

Michigan State

Penn State
Ohio State

Pretty good balance of talent there, and the geography more or less works (no one in the south is as far north as anyone in the north).

by Bill Connelly :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:11am

Here's the motivation for Mizzou leaving the Big 12: http://www.tigerextra.com/news/2009/dec/20/frustration-and-temptation/?s...

"So we stayed the course and continued the same direction we were, and what we found is we found today that the SEC contract is worth $205 million per year, the Big Ten contract is worth $190 million per year — and both of those leagues share equally — and the Big 12 Conference contract is worth $80 million per year and we don’t share equally. That is a significant gap."

The TV revenue issue is too big to ignore, and while it is quite possible that Mizzou can leverage flirtation into a better TV deal, the current contracts don't expire for another four years, and as we've been discussing, restructuring the current arrangement would require cooperation from Texas, who has shown no inclination for cooperating in the past.

by DoubleB :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:26pm

"If you have teams like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, coming to the NY market on a regular basis, it WILL be a big deal, trust me. It's something the Tri-State area has never experienced before."

To go back a ways, they have experienced it before--65 years ago with Army and Notre Dame. Things have changed a little bit since then.

As someone who's lived in NYC recently, I haven't heard or seen a groundswell of support for Rutgers athletics. I have worked all over the city and not once have I had a discussion about Rutgers athletics, even with Rutgers graduates. People just don't care. It's a pro sports town first and foremost and basketball is the more popular collegiate sport (which is way down the list, particularly with St. John's recent fortunes).

by Salvi's Headband (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:06pm

I didn't say it was a big deal in NY, I said it was a much bigger deal in the Tri State area than it has been, particularly North Jersey, which makes up a huge pecentage of the sports market there.

But you're missing the big picture...

The Big 10 gains by picking Rutgers even if they don't have a single person in the Tri State area watch a Rutgers Big 10 game, just by getting the Big 10 Network on the cable carriers there.

And trust me, the boost in interest in RU athletics in North Jersey particularly will be massive the second the team accepts the Big 10 invite.

Missouri really does crap for the Big 10. They are looking to expand east and have a travel buddy for PSU, not get another team out in Cow Country.

by DoubleB :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:38pm

There's an enormous difference between a North Jersey market and the Tri-State area. I don't think the Big Ten is going into Rutgers thinking they hope they can attract the roughly 3 million people of North Jersey as opposed to the 16 million or so people in the NYC metropolitan area.

By this thinking the only thing Rutgers offers is location. Why not attract UConn (which has a bigger following) or even West Point to get those households to carry the Big Ten Network?

"And trust me, the boost in interest in RU athletics in North Jersey particularly will be massive the second the team accepts the Big 10 invite." What is this "trust" based on? Being in the best basketball conference in the nation hasn't done squat for Rutgers.

by Salvis Headband (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 2:47pm

Probably because Rutgers has routinely lost almost all of its Big East basketball games by a an average of 20 points every season since the conference expansion...? Do you really think they would be similarly outlcassed in Football in the Big 10? Not a chance. They would be competitive in the conference from the get go. (and btw, when Rutgers was knocking off Top 25 teams at the RAC during the late 90s and early aughts it was much different).

As for the comparison with UConn, it's certainly worth mentioning them but there really is no comparison to make in terms of the teams' relative identity in the NY-Metro area. Rutgers games are currently aired on NYC television and radio stations (SNY on TV, 710 AM on Radio). It's a NYC market team. Rutgers is the ONLY Division 1-A, BCS conference NY Metro market team. UConn games do not air on TV South of Greenwich. You don't get UConn games on the radio in NYC. UConn does not get the Empire State Building lit in red when it plays for conference or national championships. UConn isn't discussed on WFAN except as a national program during NCAA tournament time.

There might be merit to taking UConn or even Boston College, but in my opinion neither offers the growth potential that Rutgers does. You are absolutely right that Rutgers does not have much cache in the NY Sports scene right now, but they ARE certainly PART of the NY Sports scene, that much I am sure of. Games against Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State would be full segment topics of discussion on WAN, especially if the team is good. If the team stinks, nobody will care, just like nobody...NOBODY...gives a rat's ass about St. John's right now.

by Salvi's Headband (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 10:23am

Also, UConn would never ever in a million years leave the Big East because of basketball. I would think the BE would be thrilled to lose Rutgers, as they could replace them with Mepmhis in half a second. The Providence mafia tha runs the BE doesn't give two wet farts about football, and never really has. If they did, UCF and ECU would already have invites.

the Big East is such a schizophrenic conference. In basketball it is partially powered by a bunch of little catholic schools that don't play football ('Nova, Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall) and that have way more say than they deserve as one sport participants.

It should really split into two conferences.

Big East (Football and Basketball)
West Virginia

The Lacrima Christi Conference (bball only)
St. John's
Seton Hall
Notre Dame
and maybe add a St. Joseph's or La Salle

by Salvi's Headband (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:51am

And I know, you can't split up UM and OSU...but why not? They can still end the season against each other every year...and you get the chance of that marquee title game.

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:21pm

If they're going to be in separate divisions, you'll want to move the game earlier in the year. The national media won't be interested in seeing the same matchup with no buildup time inbetween. Also, you'll have occasions where both teams have already clinched, or one has clinched and the other may still win its division. In these cases a team that's clinched will likely hold back it's game plan for that particular opponent until the championship game.

by Brian Fremeau :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 12:07am

Some of these upcoming bowls are missing some important pieces. Nevada will be without both of their 1,000-yard backs, and USC's McCoy won't play against BC.

by Brian Fremeau :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 11:08pm

The wind in the OrSt/BYU game is crazy. In the second quarter, there were three punts:
Oregon State: 6 yards, no return
BYU: 60 yards, no return
Oregon State: 6 yards, no return

Oregon State also went for it on 4th-and-9 from the 22-yard line because a field goal attempt was a hopeless proposition.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Wed, 12/23/2009 - 12:47am

Those punts were hilarious. As was the beatdown the "midmajor" put on the "bcs aq conference" superior team....

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 8:28pm

MtnW: 2, Pathetic10: 0 ....

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 5:57pm

LMAO @ that post-TD shin punt, UNC

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by Rocco :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 9:50pm

I guess the refs want to make sure the Pac-10 doesn't lose again.