Saturday morning I ate breakfast, got things done around the house, and nestled into my favorite seat for the biggest game of the year in the Big Ten.
Penn State was hosting undefeated Michigan. I might be able to hear the cheers over the mountain from Beaver Stadium where I live.
The Nittany Lions lost at Ohio State earlier in the year, but this would be a chance at redemption. They lit Maryland up for 51 points the previous week. James Franklin had finally learned his lesson. The offense would have to open up in order to win a big game.
The Wolverines to date had basically played 9 controlled scrimmages. Their opponents never stood a chance because, well, they were terrible teams. East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green, Rutgers, Nebraska, Michigan State, Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue isn’t exactly murderer’s row. Who knew the Runnin’ Rebels would be the best team on Michigan’s schedule? But, now, the Wolverines would be able to showcase their team. JJ McCarthy is on the fringe of a Heisman candidacy. A great performance would catapult him directly into the discussion.
This game would have all eyes on it.
This game would warn USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington just what they are getting into next season when they join this powerhouse conference.
The church bells in town struck 12. I was in position in my favorite seat. Gus Johnson was amped up.
Then 1975 showed up and ruined everything.
I know the Supreme Court has banned a few things in recent years, but I’m pretty sure the forward pass wasn’t one of them. Who is going to tell the Big Ten?
Michigan and Penn State combined for 134 yards passing.
The best throw of the day came from running back Kaytron Allen. Quarterback Drew Allar had as many catches as leading receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith.
JJ McCarthy only threw 8 passes. Forget a Heisman candidacy. Team player, I guess. Officially he didn’t throw a pass in the second half. And his team easily won the game.
I love old school football, but even the best old school football threw passes, stretched the field, mixed it up a little.
I grew up on student body left and student body right watching USC, but even Paul McDonald threw more than 8 times in a game.
This game epitomized the Big Ten in 2023.
Offensive ineptitude or great defense?
It is probably a combination of the two, but I am leaning towards the former.
The bottom 11 teams in the conference have offenses that range from below average to putrid. Iowa will win 10 games while always covering the under. Nebraska can’t score. Rutgers can’t score. Wisconsin can’t score. On and on and on.
But at least we have the Big Three.
Ohio State has the best player in the country at wide receiver. Marvin Harrison is always open. Yet, first year quarterback Kyle McCord hasn’t earned the trust of his coaches to let it rip. Against Penn State the offense was extremely conservative. Will it be that way in two weeks against Michigan?
Back to the game at hand.
Penn State looks like the Penn State we all saw from game one through game eight. A five-star quarterback who plays like a two-star quarterback. Receivers who don’t have the ability to get open. A coaching staff that refuses to even attempt opening up the offense. The results should not have been unexpected.
The Nittany Lions are an extremely flawed offensive team. No adjustments were made throughout the season. I tried to tell people in this column after the Ohio State game that James Franklin is a snake oil salesman. He is. Franklin talks the talk but never ever walks the walk.
Michigan, on the other hand, is supposed to be this juggernaut headed for the playoffs once again. Sure, they were without their head coach for this game. Sure acting head coach Sherrone Moore made a complete ass out of himself with a profanity laced, sob filled, Jim Harbaugh slurpfest of a post game interview.
Sherrone Moore dropping profanities all over the place post-game. https://t.co/46qDiuIcRs— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) November 11, 2023
Michigan is supposed to be a machine. Michigan is supposed to be one of the best teams in the country. Michigan is supposed to be a lock for a playoff spot.
I am sorry, but that didn’t look like a playoff team. The Wolverines only got away with that ridiculous all run game plan because of Penn State’s offensive ineptitude. So, as they head towards the matchup with Ohio State, I am still not sure what to make of the Wolverines. You could argue, because of Penn State’s impotent offense, that we still don’t know how good Michigan is.
It is simple. The Big Ten is bad this year. Even the top three teams aren’t helping the perception of the league.
Yes, Ohio State has a solid defense. We think.
Yes, Michigan has a solid defense. We think.
Neither team has played a team that has a competent offense. No, sit back down James.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, should be able to beat a good team without throwing a single pass in a half. That tells me they didn’t beat a good team. Penn State is a team with a good record because their schedule was abysmal.
The Big Ten will get a playoff spot. The winner of Ohio State and Michigan is in. They will push for both to make the playoffs. I sure hope that doesn’t happen. With the weakness of the Big Ten this season, having two teams in the playoffs would be a crime.
Granted, the ACC isn’t very good. Nor is the Big 12. The Pac-12 has come back to Earth, mainly because USC didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The SEC is top heavy, but at least the middle part of the conference isn’t bad like Minnesota/Indiana/Northwestern bad.
Barring upsets elsewhere, there is almost no way that both teams make the playoffs, and that would be justice.
Instead of Big Ten fans warning the incoming West Coast schools about the “rude awakening” they will get in the Big Ten, maybe the Big Ten fans should wonder how their teams will do against high functioning offenses. Offenses that, you know, throw the ball occasionally. Offenses that have some creativity. Offenses that won’t allow eight men in the box on every play.
The Big Ten stinks. It stinks really bad.
Actually, it is worse than just stinking.
The Big Ten is stuck in 1975.
Two Cent Takes
~The hot seat is smoldering for Jimbo Fisher. Ha. What does he care? When Texas A&M decided to fire the most overrated coach in football Sunday, the buyout for having Fisher leave will pay him 77 million dollars. This has to change. Coaches who fail at their job should not collect the remainder of their over bloated contracts. Give them a severance package similar to that of any other university employee.
~Hey Penn State fans, James Franklin isn’t getting fired. Franklin fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. That will appease fans for a minute, but anyone paying attention knows Yurcich is the scapegoat. I’m not saying he was good at his job, but he is the sixth OC at Penn State since Franklin got there. Something tells me there is a higher level problem in Happy Valley. Those that cover the team agree.
His body of work at #PSU doesn’t build strong case for Mike Yurcich, but if change is made for 2024, it will be sixth OC in CJF’s 11 years. And only one (Joe Moorhead) did a great job. Are these guys all bad?— Neil Rudel (@NeilRudel) November 12, 2023
Or (more likely) is offensive philosophy/overmeddling coming from top?
Even if some in power are sick of Franklin losing every big game he coaches, the buyout is too big especially with a high priced renovation of Beaver Stadium coming up. It would appear the fans have seen enough.
Penn State fans had some words for James Franklin, and OL Vega Ioane had enough. pic.twitter.com/bNK12JLNO0— Joe Smeltzer (@joesmeltzer775) November 11, 2023
-The media is starting to push back when Franklin gives unacceptable answers.
James Franklin: "I answered your question."— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 11, 2023
Reporter: "I don't think you did." pic.twitter.com/ZTlhp1sVa5
~Hey USC fans, Lincoln Riley isn’t getting fired either. Riley fired his buddy, Alex Grinch. USC’s defense was minimally better Saturday night. Riley is 40 and will have to drop his ego and grow as a head coach. Hiring a competent DC will be a start. Riley is being paid 10 million dollars per year. He certainly will get far more than two years to turn around the Clay Helton disaster.
~The ACC is challenging the Pac-12 for most incompetent officials. First there was this non call Thursday night in favor of Louisville.
Then there was the no replay on this play which favored North Carolina. It may have been a catch, but to not review it seems egregious.
This was ruled a CATCH by North Carolina and not an interception by Duke…— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) November 12, 2023
What do you guys think?pic.twitter.com/wElBOKU7Qm
It is almost like they want either Louisville or North Carolina to have the best record possible to make Florida State look better when they beat them in the ACC Championship. Hmm. Nah, they wouldn't, would they?
~Two Cent Top Ten:
- Georgia- At this point everyone should stop arguing this fact.
- Florida State- Not,overly impressive, but it was a rivalry game win for the Noles.
- Ohio State- Looked like. McCord threw downs field more often Saturday.
- Washington- Again, not very impressive. Defense has to play better.
- Michigan- I refuse to rank a team that didn’t throw a pass for a half higher.
- Alabama- The Crimson Tide are coming, so look out.
- Oregon- Not super impressive against USC Saturday night.
- Texas- Begging to lose again. Every game is close.
- Louisville- I see a theme. Cards were less than impressive last Thursday night.
- Oregon St- The Beavs finish with Washington and Oregon. They will win one of these games.
~The Steelers were outgained by an opponent again. Kenny Pickett was lousy again. A linebacker was lost for the rest of the season again. The Steelers won again. They are 6-3, and it isn’t worth the effort to try and explain it. Mainly because I can't explain it. Next week against archrival Cleveland, the Steelers will need some extra divine intervention or Cleveland doing Cleveland things.
~Kenny Pickett will be the Steelers quarterback for the foreseeable future, so get used to winning ugly.
~So, I guess we should start to pay attention to Houston. They are attempting to pull the old outhouse to penthouse routine. CJ Stroud is a shoo-in for rookie of the year, and the Texans have a very manageable schedule.
~That loss took the steam out of a red hot Bengals team, proving the NFL really is a week to week proposition.
~Colts 10 Patriots 6 in Germany. Geez, I thought we were friends with Germany these days.
~Bad news for Dallas. They don’t play anymore LA or “New” teams, so they will have to expand their resume.
~I’m pretty sure the Giants would be better with Danny Devito at quarterback. He would at least be able to hide behind the offensive line.
~Apparently the Niners are a sensitive bunch and didn’t care for my criticism. They beat the snot out of Jacksonville, who I thought was a sure pick this week. Vegas always knows.
~Josh Dobbs is going to lead the Vikings to the playoffs isn’t he? Would be a fantastic story for a great guy.
~Man, are the Lions fun to watch. Jared Goff looks like a pro bowler. Amon Ra St. Brown is fantastic. The offensive line is great. The defense could be their downfall. I can’t wait to watch a meaningful game on Thanksgiving Day.
~The Chargers will always be a day late and a dollar short with Brandon Staley in charge. What a waste of Justin Herbert’s fantastic talent.
~Arizona is going to screw up their tanking plan.
~How excited do all these complainers want Al Michaels to be announcing these crappy Thursday night games with a college football announcer at his side?
~Arizona waltzed into Cameron Indoor Stadium and dealt the Dukies their first loss. That is two of my Final Four picks that have already lost. Heads up to Arkansas and Kansas.
~Louisville must part ways with Kenny Payne. After an embarrassing loss to UT Chattanooga, where they were down 20 points in the second half, it is clear Payne has no idea how to be a head coach. Makes you wonder what the sideline was like at Kentucky, where Payne was an assistant for many years.
~Best ending of the week: James Madison at Kent St. Hard to believe the Flash could lose this one.
Insane!!! And then JMU wins in OT! https://t.co/mehgFz6Pwe— TOM JAMES! (@TomJamesLive) November 10, 2023
~Tyrese Maxey went off for 50 points Sunday against the Pacers. The Sixers have won 8 games in a row, and they may have a new star on their hands. The 1-2 punch of Maxey and Embiid —37 points on Sunday— seems to be the magic elixir Philly hoops fans needed to forget the James Harden fiasco.
~If that doesn’t work, check out the standings. The Clippers are 0-4 since Harden arrived in LA.
The Clippers a week after the James Harden trade pic.twitter.com/8ylQA5NBxJ— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) November 12, 2023
The Weekly Shiny Penny
Speaking of James Harden, someone finally pulled a Howard Cosell. Listen as Brian Dameris, broadcaster for the Dallas Mavericks tells it like it is about Da Beard.
The last 3 years of James Harden’s career summarized in 2 minutes— omo mustard (@yungmustard23) November 11, 2023
COOK HIM. pic.twitter.com/WiH2g0ZLDj
A Penny For My Final Thought…
Jim Harbaugh is an idiot.
Okay, that’s harsh.
Jim Harbaugh is strange and unlikable.
There, that's better.
I root against the Harbaughs in almost every situation. I would pull for the kids at McDonald's to screw up their orders. I can’t stand the guy or his brother.
Having said all of that...
This whole cheating scandal and how it has been handled by the Big Ten has witch hunt written all over it.
Sure, there is mounting evidence that rules were violated.
Obviously I have a hard time believing Harbaugh knew nothing about the signal stealing. As a matter of fact, I believe Harbaugh most likely orchestrated the whole thing. It is such a Harbaugh thing to do.
Rushing to judgement the way Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti did makes it feel like a witch hunt. It feels like some other teams, whose coaches no doubt hate Harbaugh, complained and Petitti succumb to their whining. I would suspect the loudest whiner resides in Columbus, OH.
There was little to no due process. Petitti made sure to word it as such that this was a school punishment for breaking the league conduct code.
Then why suspend Harbaugh?
Why not hammer the school with a financial punishment? Why not limit recruiting visits and things of that nature?
No, this seems like a witch hunt to punish an outspoken, unlikable coach. A coach that, while successful, often pushes the limits.
Again, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Still, the league probably opened a can of worms it need not have opened. Now any time a school remotely pushes the boundaries of fair play, some other league school will want the violator dealt with. Will Petitti jump through the same hoops each time?
The question is whether this will throw Michigan out of whack.
I doubt it. It seemed to cause the team to grow closer, circle the wagons, and come out swinging with the “us against the world” mentality.
It is only going to act as extra motivation for a team that probably had a bunch to begin with. Ohio State must travel to Ann Arbor in two weeks. If Harbaugh is still out, Ryan Day better have his squad on point or it could get ugly. Michigan will be motivated to lay it on the Buckeyes. After all, Michigan, more than likely, suspects Ohio State is behind this whole escapade.
Michigan threatened to leave the Big Ten. It won’t happen, but the Wolverines would survive that parting far better than the conference would.
The NCAA slow foots all of its investigations, unless Pete Carroll is involved. Now we have a conference commissioner disregarding any due process to appease certain members of said conference. Is there never any middle ground?
It would be nice if teams and coaches didn’t do shady things. Some do. Some always will. However, it would also be nice to know innocent players aren’t going to suffer because of a rush to judgment.
Suspending a coach after he was already in the air on the team plane for a huge game the next day seemed ill advised. The fact that it was a federal holiday, which meant the courts were unavailable to hear an appeal is an extra kick in the crotch from Petitti.
Needless to say, I think this could have been handled better.
I have little doubt in my mind that Harbaugh was behind this whole situation. Are you telling me you can’t see him staying up all night drawing out the blueprints and schedules for spying on all future opponents? C’mon. It is in the Harbaugh DNA.
All I am saying is let due process play out the way it should for anybody accused of wrongdoing. When accusations become proof, then drop the hammer.
College football fans would unite in their joy of watching Jim Harbaugh squirm.
They would look on with glee as Harbaugh’s employers have to deal with the punishments as well.
The only person that wouldn’t care about it then is Jim Harbaugh. By then he will be devising a game plan for the Chicago Bears and their new quarterback Caleb Williams.