Friday, September 30, 2011

Texas Comes Calling

This is not a misprint. The Texas Longhorns will look for payback Saturday night when they face Iowa State in Ames.

The Cyclones shocked Texas 28-21 last season in Austin. It was Iowa State’s first victory in the series and you know it received plenty of attention from Texas in the preparation for the 2011 affair.

The Longhorns are 3-0 and ranked No. 17. Iowa State is also 3-0 and has received votes in national polls but remain unranked. It should be an electric atmosphere with some 55,000 people in attendance.

Texas is trying to revive its program after a disastrous 5-7 mark in 2010. Iowa State, picked near the bottom of the Big 12 Conference in the preseason, wants to gain a signature win in the league opener.

I would like to see the Cyclones hang another defeat on Texas. This one will be difficult because of the above mentioned payback factor. Emotion is such a part of football and you figure the Longhorns have it on their side this year.

But if Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz can put together another strong performance, the Cyclones have a chance. Jantz is a dangerous runner and passer and impressed people in Iowa’s State first three wins.

So look for a hard-hitting game. Texas wants to prove that last year was a fluke, while Iowa State wants to prove it is no fluke this season.

It should be exciting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nebraska-Wisconsin Football Tickets

In case you have been caught in a college football vacuum the last two weeks, there is a huge football game Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin. The Nebraska Cornhuskers will play their first Big Ten Conference football game ever that night against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Nebraska is ranked No. 8 in the country and Wisconsin is No. 7. This game needs no build up.

Don’t have tickets for the sold-out, historical affair. You might consider staying home and watching it on ABC.

Just for fun, I have been tracking ticket prices on Stub Hub. A couple weeks ago, I found a few in the $1000-1500 range. Today, I could find only one four digit price at $1200.

But before you go out and celebrate the price drop, consider the overall range is still pricy. The cheapest ticket I could find is $199, but it’s in the upper deck. Translation to the non-buying ticket public: bring plenty of hankies because it’s in the nose-bleed section. Also, consider bringing an oxygen tank for breathing purposes.

If you want to sit closer to the field and actually see the game, be ready to surrender $400-500 per ticket. And simple math says a pair of tickets will cost you the price of a nice, new TV where you could watch several games after Saturday.

I know, I know. It’s the thrill of being there. But to pay prices for this game, you will need to experience a big-time thrill about the size of the states of Nebraska and Wisconsin combined.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Texas A&M Moves Forward

The Southeast Conference officially welcomed Texas A&M to its league over the weekend. The Aggies will compete in the SEC beginning next season.

Although some Big 12 Conference members were threatening to sue A&M for leaving their group, one knew this thing would eventually become settled. The football marriage had ended and the Aggies already claimed another lover.

But A&M now must survive its final year in the Big 12. The Aggies are officially the most marked team in the league. Few teams will have difficulty becoming inspired for their game with the Aggies. For a reference point, see Nebraska and Colorado (two other departed members) last year.

I will miss the Aggies in the Big 12. They compete well in the two sports (football and men’s basketball) people closely follow. And even if A&M won’t admit it, I’m sure they will miss the rivalries in the conference especially with the Texas schools.

But things in college sports are in a flux and it is going to become hard to hang on to the good ‘ole days. A&M believes it will move up in the college sports world. The real question begs whether the Aggies will meet the great challenge or wished they stayed with the status quo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Old School Comes to Iowa

The University of Louisiana-Monroe will play the Iowa Hawkeyes for the first time ever on the football field Saturday in Iowa City.

The Warhawks will collect a nice paycheck (over $1 million) and hopefully provide stout competition for Iowa. Louisiana-Monroe, 1-2, has already fallen at Florida State and TCU, so this will be its third high level opponent in the young season.

This game will have a special place in my heart because I was a graduate assistant in Monroe way back in 1980-81. The school was called Northeast Louisiana University and the nickname was the Indians. How things have changed.

ULM is a member of the Sun Belt Conference and has a student population of about 10,000. The school is located in a city area of approximately 100,000 (Monroe-West Monroe). It’s the largest area in northeast Louisiana and about 100 miles east of Shreveport.

I give you the ULM report because often fans in the Midwest have never heard of this smaller Division I institution.

The Warhawks feature a rarity in college football—a left-handed quarterback in Kolton Browning. ULM has solid but young returning starters.

This should be an entertaining game with plenty of offense. ULM hopes the third time is the charm in playing the big boys this season.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Big 12 Conference Soap Opera

What a 24-hours in the Big 12 Conference.

Yesterday, it was all doom and gloom for the league. Rumors had Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech all going to the Pac-12 Conference.

Oklahoma was apparently making demands of the Big 12 while waiting the word from the Pac-12. The Sooners said the Big 12 needed major reforms including firing its commissioner before they would ever choose to stay in the league.

Well, the Pac-12 discarded all the realignment talk for at least a few hours in this unstable environment when it said “Thanks, but no thanks” to the four Big 12 schools.

We are now left with only gloom and some serious egg on Oklahoma’s face.

The Big 12 is still in major trouble because there are now two schools wanting to play by its own rules. In recent days, Oklahoma’s behavior has shown the “me first” attitude. Texas has always been the league’s kingpin.

Where this struggle ends up, nobody knows, but you must feel sorry for schools like Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas. Without real recourse, these conference members have been wondering if they would be forced to scramble for some other affiliation. If I were those schools, I would still keep the eyes open in the back of the head.

Texas needs to quit acting like a spoiled child. It can no longer eat four deserts and leave the other family members with crumbs. Oklahoma needs to patch up their grievances with Texas and become a good family member. The Sooners must look out for other conference members and promote their benefit as well.

I know this novel concept of sharing seems outdated in this world, but it’s the only way the Big 12 will even have a chance to survive.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Listen to Texas' Mack Brown

Texas football coach Mack Brown said yesterday he wants to remain in the Big 12 Conference. He also said Texas wants to stay in the league.

If those statements are true, then the next step is simple. Texas needs to come out publicly and declare it will definitely stay in the Big 12.

Texas could place a huge roadblock on this realignment chaos with that simple statement. But can Texas be trusted? The Longhorns seem to enjoy flirting with suitors just like other schools.

Would Texas find happiness in the Pac-12 or ACC? How about as an independent? The Longhorns are viewed as a Big 12 bully. They have basically taken advantage of flavored status in the old Southwest Conference and the Big 12. In a way, you cannot blame them. But if you (Texas) drive away the competition, what do you have left? A king without subjects is not a kingdom.

I doubt whether the Pac-12 or the ACC is viewing Texas as the ultimate gold piece. If the Longhorns want to join one of those leagues, they will actually find themselves in a sharing position. They will no longer be the top dog in a conference.

I sense Texas is a lonely institution in these changeable times. The Longhorns want to become loved. The problem for Texas, if it joins another conference, is someone else will make the rules. And following is a whole different story than having followers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Wacky World of College Football

The Iowa-Pittsburgh football game Saturday was a prime example of the improbable.

Surprisingly, the Panthers racked up a 24-3 lead. More surprisingly, the Hawkeyes stormed back in the fourth quarter and stunned Pittsburgh with a 31-27 setback.

It was the largest deficient Iowa has overcome in school history.

Iowa likes to pride itself with old school football. Establish the run and mix in the pass. Well, the Hawks signature running game was pretty much non-existent for the second straight week. Instead, it was the hurry-up offense and a flood of completed passes that proved the difference.

Watching the game Saturday, I reasoned Iowa wasn’t a very good football team. The Hawks simply proved sometimes it is “better to be lucky than good.”

It appeared for the longest time Iowa was heading toward a 1-2 record. The reversal of those numbers made a shocked Hawk fan base down right happy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

North Carolina's Roy Williams Left at the Altar

It isn’t often that North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams finishes second in anything. But this week it happened.

Williams was trying to land another top-notch Iowa high school player in Sioux City East’s Adam Woodbury. The 7-foot center was drawing interest from many suitors. Williams has had plenty of success in ‘stealing’ stellar Iowa players from the likes of Iowa State and Iowa. I figure o’Roy has plenty of possibilities on the east coast and doesn’t need to venture into little Iowa.

Well, Woodbury announced this week he will play basketball for coach Fran McCaffery at Iowa. Reportedly, Williams was in Woodbury’s home earlier this week. The sales pitch wasn’t enough.

Williams and North Carolina will be fine. The rich will land somebody else. Hopefully, this is the beginning of locked doors at the Iowa borders for out-of-state coaches who want to randomly come in and take the best Iowa high school basketball players.

Now, it’s time for Iowa State to land an elite Iowa player that spurns the big boys. That would also convince players that Iowa is a destination place not a departure place.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Must-See College Football This Weekend

If you can only watch one football game this weekend, don’t miss Oklahoma-Florida State.

Congratulations to these two programs for the guts to schedule a game between two top rating programs. In this age of let’s schedule guaranteed wins for the non conference season, it’s refreshing. The big risk of this game is the loser will fade from the national title picture.

The No. 1 Sooners travel to a hostile place to oppose a tough fifth-ranked team. Jimbo Fisher has replaced Florida State legend Bobby Bowden in fine style. The Seminoles have left the mediocrity of the late Bowden years and have returned to the national stage. Florida State is again Florida State.

Oklahoma has plenty of weapons to survive the Seminoles including quarterback Landry Jones.

The Sooners have big news off the field. They are the latest team to become dissatisfied with the Big 12 Conference and apparently are flirting with the Pac-12. And I thought we could receive a break from this realignment talk once the season started.

But thankful the football talk will return to the field Saturday. This matchup is definitely worth the hype.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

College Football Uniforms

I don’t consider myself the fashion police but what are some of those teams in college football thinking?

Tuning briefly into the Notre Dame-Michigan game last Saturday night, the team’s uniforms caught me attention. Was this some sort of throwback attire or was it a tribute to 9-11? Both teams uniforms looked similar and frankly, gaudy. Okay, it wasn’t like putting plaid and stripes together, but it was far from classy. You had Notre Dame greener than St. Patrick’s Day, while you couldn’t miss Michigan’s large print. I guess it was a sight-challenged person’s dream.

And what’s up at the University of Maryland? Those black, red and white uniforms look like something out of a sci-fi movie. Are they supposed to make the opponents dizzy? Those things are just plain scary looking. As they say, “Don’t adjust your TV set at home.”

I have mentioned Phil Knight’s Oregon uniforms before in this space. Knight and Nike will do what they want to with the Ducks’ apparel. But are these other teams trying to keep with the Jones or do they just do it to have people like me make a big deal over it?
I don’t want college uniforms to go the direction of plain vanilla Penn State, but I think we could still have some class in uniform selection.

What do you think?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Steele Jantz

Steele Jantz was the most talked about person in the state of Iowa over the weekend.

If the Iowa State quarterback continues to perform like he did against Iowa Saturday, Jantz can probably run for mayor of Ames too.

The California junior college transfer completed 25 of 37 passes for 279 yards and he threw for four touchdowns. He added 42 yards rushing on 16 carries. Jantz was the main reason the Cyclones defeated the Hawkeyes 44-41 in three overtimes.

Iowa struggles against multi-gifted quarterbacks and Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz admitted Iowa “had no answer” for Jantz. Iowa was running after Jantz most of the afternoon and the junior made plays—sometimes out of nothing.

Jantz’s success somewhat overshadowed a game that was a heavyweight fight especially in overtime. Both teams traded touchdowns in the first two overtimes, but Iowa settled for a field goal in the third one. Iowa State didn’t settle. James White’s running touchdown from about eight yards triggered the Cyclone celebration.

Iowa fans are probably still scratching their heads over their team’s conservative playing calling. Tied with about one minute left in the game and two timeouts, the Hawkeyes chose to run the clock out rather than try for a score. Then in the third overtime, they elected to attempt the field goal instead of trying for a first down with only one yard to go.

But back to Jantz. The guy is simply magical. Two weeks in a row (the first against Northern Iowa) he directs came-from-behind victories. The guy can play quarterback. He makes you think Iowa State has a chance in every game it plays.

Jantz is made of steele and Iowa State supports a 2-0 record to prove it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Big Game in Iowa Saturday

It’s time for the annual Iowa State-Iowa football game Saturday. This contest provides the opportunity to show the world that Iowa is more than cornfields and wide open spaces. Yes, we do have institutions of higher learning that play competitive football.

Like most sports rivalries, this affair divides husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins. During Iowa State-Iowa week, you rarely find anyone (sports fan or not) in the state that doesn’t have a favorite in the game. Both teams feature gold as part of their color scheme, but you bleed cardinal for Iowa State or black for Iowa.

Generally, there is so much hype during Iowa State-Iowa week that I cannot wait for the actual game. But this year the talk is somewhat subdued. I think the Labor Day holiday was one factor. The other cause is the uncertainty of the Big 12 Conference where Iowa State calls home. Fans are concerned the conference might die and Iowa State will then need a new home.

Hopefully, the game will be competitive. As an Iowa State fan, I believe the Cyclones will require a much better effort than their one-point escape against Northern Iowa last week. The Hawkeyes had no problems with Tennessee Tech so their touchdown favorite status (even at Iowa State) is certainly fair.

I am also hoping Fox Sports will focus its attention on the game and leave the pictures of cornfields for another day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Big 12 Conference Soap Opera Never Ends

I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears over the Labor Day weekend when I learned Oklahoma is exploring departure from the Big 12 Conference.

But in retrospect, why was I really surprised? The conference is in a terrible mess and its days are obviously numbered.

At last count, we had Nebraska and Colorado taking up residence in the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences respectively. Texas A&M wants to bolt and desires a membership offer from the Southeastern Conference. And now Oklahoma says it has received numerous interest from other conferences. Plus, there is no truth to the rumors that Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor will leave and form the Big 3 Conference (for my foreign readers this is my poor attempt of making a joke).

Simply, many members (or former members) of the Big 12 exhibit the strong characteristics of the Me-First Generation. Whatever happened to one-for-all and all-for-one? You cannot have a successful partnership if some schools are always looking for a better deal. The Big 12 acts like one big dysfunctional family. The emotions of anger and sadness are both in play here.

Trust is gone in the conference. Everyone is looking over their shoulder. Teams either want something to happen or waiting for the worst to happen and you cannot run a league with those attitudes.

The Big 12 is a poster child for greed in college athletics.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Russell Wilson Proves Anew He is a Winner

I must admit it was pretty hard seeing Russell Wilson in the motion “W” helmet last night representing the Wisconsin football team.

I followed the guy for three years at North Carolina State. But as they stay, “Life goes on.”

Wilson is an impact player and I knew he would perform extremely well at Wisconsin. He gave Badger fans a taste last night. Wilson threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another (46 yards) in Wisconsin’s destruction of UNLV. Wilson went 10-for-13 passing and totaled 62 yards on two carries. It was a typical Wilson performance really.

The laughable part was reading Internet message boards later. Some people think Wilson needs to prove his ability against a proven team. They weren’t impressed with Wilson against an outmanned opponent.

Believe me folks Wilson will perform against the big boys. He’s a former All-ACC quarterback and won’t become fazed facing the likes of Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State.

Badger fans were giddy over the summer when they learned Wilson was coming to their team. Last night, the rest of the teams on Wisconsin’s schedule realized why they weren’t so giddy.