Tuesday, July 31, 2007

After Much Debate, An Alliance Is Formed

Kicking and screaming, I agreed.

Never before have I partnered with a Wisconsin Badger.

Well, there was that glorious evening during Halloween madness in Madison when a perky brunnette opened up her dorm room and her [CENSORED] for me during a drunken bout of love-making. I digress.

With this post, I begin my second consensual relationship with a Badger fan. Blasphemy you say? It gets worse. Other scoundrels are in the mix as well: Hawekeyes, Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, etc., etc.

I'm talking about, of course, the blogger consortium known as Big Ten Bloggers. For a period of months, fellow Big Ten bloggers and I sat in a room that resembled The War Room from Dr. Strangelove. Motions were made. Votes were taken.

In the end--after my attempt failed by the smallest of margins to introduce a PJS-authored Wonderlic-like test aimed to exclude the wretched Badgers--the Big Ten bloggers alliance was created. About this time I threatened to leave. Someone referenced the location of the door. I sat back down.

So it is then that I join bloggers like Black Show Diaries, Around the Oval, MGO blog, For The Glory Of Oldstate, Hawkeye State, our allies at Gopher Nation and our arch nemesis, among others to form a new entity.

What will we bring you? Virtual roundtables to start with. But meetings are being held at all hours of the night to come up with other collaborative ventures. The ideas are flowing.

So today, after that 100 percent accurate, long-winded intro, I bring you the first installment of the Big Ten bloggers roundtables. After I lost a third vote to exclude all things Badger, an alliance formed against me to allow Badgers Sports Fan to author the first roundtable. What follows are the questions posed to each blogger and my responses to them. At some point, the responses will be compiled and organzied neatly on one of our blogs.

Drum roll please.

1a. The press and the coaches will be predicting the Big Ten champ at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Wednesday. That's fine, but overdone. In lieu of boilerplate predictions of who will come out on top, which Big Ten team will be the most surprising? Remember, surprises can be good or bad; the underdog who comes out of nowhere to share the title is just as surprising as the favorite who winds up with five losses and no bowl bid.

I see two surprises. As much as it pains me to say it, I see the Wisconsin Badgers hoisting a championship at season's end. While that might not be a huge surprise, I also see Ohio State struggling to hold down the third spot in the conference behind Michigan. I also think it will be a surprise to people if Tim Brewster proves he can coach. There's a whole bunch off negativity flowing about his coaching track record--you know, that he's always coached tight ends. Glen Mason brought the Gophers a running game and mediocrity. Brewster has brought passion. I think it will surprise folks when he finishes .500 in his first season.

1b. Imagine it's December, and the consensus in the media is that your team's season was "surprising." Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? What would have to happen for you to consider your team's season surprising?

It's a good thing. The 'experts' are primarily predicting a fall from mediocrity to an 11th place finish. One upset victory and a perfect non conference record could turn the heads of some naysayers.

2. A preseason player of the year will also be dubbed in Chicago. For your team to succeed, which player or unit is going to have to put forth a "player of the year" performance? What's the one position that would take your team to the next level if it performs above expectations?

Tim Brewster's version of maroon and gold will feature the spread offense. It's fair to argue that to run said offense successfully, a stable of capable receivers is a must. If the Gophers have one outstanding weakness, it's at the wideout position. Ernie Wheelright has the opportunity to step up and play a leading role. And he has the talent to do so. But he'll need someone like sophomore Eric Decker to play a large role as well. The running game should be solid with Amir Pinnix. And there is an opening at quarterback with the departure of Bryan Cupito. But for any of the potential starting quarterbacks to have success, they'll need competence from the wide receiving corps.

3. Which Big Ten team's out-of-conference schedule would you most want to have this year? Why? Do you think your team will have out-of-conference losses this year?

Um, I'd take anybody's nonconference schedule. When your team faces North Dakota State, Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio) just about any schedule looks good. And out-of-conference losses? If Brewster loses any of these games, his honeymoon period will end quickly.

4. Here's a chance to look like a complete genius in a few months: pick the biggest in-conference upset that will happen this season. Justify your prediction!

Minnesota v. Wisconsin the last week of the year. A rabid Metrodome crowd. A Minnesota win. Something tells me this has happened before with a Rose Bowl bid on the line. Justification? Who needs it when fate is on your side?

5. Say something nice about the Big Ten school whose name precedes yours alphabetically. Say something mean about the one that comes after.

The Indiana Hoosiers no longer have a madman roaming the sidelines for the basketball program.

Michigan: Chris Webber is still a moron.

And, yes, I realize I didn't answer this question correctly. But I wanted to take a cheap shot at Chris Webber. I'm pleased Bobby Knight is gone and Northwestern, well, I like the 'Cats. We typically try to schedule you for our homecoming games, and you provide us a random road win during the hoops season. I'm glad the 'Cats are in the conference. And Michigan State? The sports anchor from one of your television stations, Hondo Carpenter, is trying to arrange some sort of joint venture with me after I bashed a previous post of his. I'm a little scared of Hondo. But I won't kiss any Spartan ass.

6. USC: great football program, or greatest football program? Also, how about that SEC? Damn, those guys are fast!

USC will be a perennial BCS contender until Pete Carroll moves on. I would have been incredibly excited if the Minnesota Vikings had hired him, our former coordinator, when we brought in Brad Childress. Carroll has the name cachet, a tradition-rich program and enough recent success to sustain as long as he wants, so long as he doesn't cheat.

And the SEC, I'll just say I'm glad I'm not an Ohio State fan, having to suffer two embarrassing losses to the SEC's best in consecutive national title games.