It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. It’s an all-college football plate, including Bob Devaney and Frank Solich, Johnny Manziel and Nick Saban. But first, the Big Ten lags behind again.
If I’m Jim Delany, the first thing I do when all 14 Big Ten teams gets their schedules sorted out is nail down a good conference matchup every week of the season.
Vanderbilt-Ole Miss is not Alabama-Georgia. Both are middle-of-the-road SEC teams, somewhere between 25th and 50th nationally. Yet I — along with most night owls — was riveted by the second-half theatrics. I probably wouldn’t watch Vandy-Ole Miss in October, even if it were on a Thursday night. But August? September? Count me in.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten’s best matchup Thursday night was Minnesota-UNLV! I know what you’re thinking. Wait for Saturday, Dirk, when Wisconsin goes toe-to-toe with Massachusetts and Ohio State tangles with Buffalo.
What should Delany do to get his league up into the lights? Give every prominent Big Ten school an early non-divisional game (and play at least one on Thursday). Imagine a schedule in about 2018 that looks like this:
Thursday, Aug. 29 — Michigan State-Wisconsin
Saturday, Sept. 7 — Penn State-Nebraska
Saturday, Sept. 14 — Ohio State-Northwestern
Saturday, Sept. 21 — Michigan-Iowa
That opens a late-season date for South Dakota State or Western Michigan or whatever cupcake you want to play. By that point in the season, the Big Ten will have 4-6 other conference games every week to occupy viewers.
The SEC has been so far out front when it comes to non-traditional scheduling. It really pays off on a night like Thursday.
>> We all know there aren’t nearly enough competitive football games in September. But several inter-conference skirmishes this weekend will give us a sneak peek at the conference pecking order.
We know the SEC is great. But Clemson-Georgia and Virginia Tech-Alabama will say something about the ACC. TCU-LSU and Oklahoma State-Mississippi State will give us an idea about the Big 12. And on the West Coast, Boise State-Washington and Northwestern-Cal are good matchups.
We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see what the Big Ten is made of.
>> What represents progress for Nebraska’s defense Saturday? Forget the secondary. Even with a few busts, it’ll be fine long-term. Focus on the front seven. If you don’t notice more depth and explosiveness, that’s a problem. I expect plenty of mistakes. I also expect plenty of “flashes,” as Bo likes to call them.
>> In writing Thursday about the 2003 Husker opener — today is the 10th anniversary — it struck me as ironic how the conservative Frank Solich made a splash hire in Bo Pelini, a complete stranger from the NFL. Yet when Bo needed to hire coordinators after 2010 (offense) and 2011 (defense), he looked at his inner circle.
That’s not to say Bo was wrong — I defended Tim Beck’s promotion while many criticized it. But you’d think the beneficiary of Frank’s bold decision — Bo — would see more value in an outside voice.
Four months from now, I’m guessing Beck makes a head coaching jump and Pelini will have to hire another offensive coordinator. It’ll be very interesting to see where he turns.
>> The Bob Devaney statue, unveiled this afternoon, is a fine idea and truly makes the east side the natural entrance to Memorial Stadium. (When NU gets around to renovating the south stadium, Nebraska’s home will look as good from the outside as any place in the country).
>> In case you missed Dan Wetzel’s column on Johnny Manziel, it’s brilliant for its simplicity.
>> Texas A&M fans are all behind Manziel, right? Not exactly, Gregg Doyel writes.
>> Why are coaches like Mike Gundy working Division III summer camps? Fascinating look at how OU and Okie State wiggle through an NCAA recruiting loophole.
>> You won’t read any college football story this week quite like this one. I promise.
>> I should’ve linked the GQ profile on Nick Saban earlier in the week. But it’s definitely worth a read. I especially got a kick out of this passage:
(Personal assistant Cedric) Burns is at the wheel of Saban’s black Mercedes S550, and because he knows Saban’s musical taste veers toward the Eagles, Al Green, and the Rolling Stones–no country–he’s got “Gimme Shelter” cued up on the stereo. Saban sits shotgun, and I climb in the back.
As Burns guides the sedan past columned fraternity houses on the arbored Alabama campus, Saban mentions he’s seen the Stones twice. In an attempt at levity, I tell him I’d recently tried to turn my four-year-old daughter on to the Stones but that she had responded by earnestly asking me, “Dad, how come the man in these songs can’t sing?”
Saban spins around from the front seat and shoots me (a glare).
“Mick Jagger can sing,” he says, before turning back to face the windshield. “Mick Jagger is a great entertainer.”
>> OK, we have room for one basketball nugget. The Husker hoops schedule dropped Wednesday (just as I was posting Mad Chatter). It’s silly that Nebraska plays its three closest foes — Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota — only once. But we already knew that.
What stood out to me Wednesday was the difficulty of the Huskers’ opening stretch — again.
at Iowa (likely an NCAA tournament team)
at Ohio State (Aaron Craft is back for his eighth season)
Michigan (Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas return)
at Purdue (always tough at home)
Ohio State (not again)
It’s conceivable that Tim Miles’ team could start 0-5 for the second straight year — Doc Sadler started 0-4 in 2011-12. I don’t know what Nebraska keeps doing to anger the Big Ten schedule makers, but it’d be nice to catch a break in the first year of a new arena.
>> Mark me down for Nebraska 48, Wyoming 21. Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.