Big Ten’s expansion further damages Rose Bowl’s status

big ten
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — Playing in the Rose Bowl was the pinnacle of a college football career for those who coached and played in the Big Ten for decades.

The Rose Bowl’s importance has been waning for years as college football’s postseason evolved. The latest expansion by the Big Ten puts the future of the Pac-12, the conference’s longtime Rose Bowl partner, in doubt and was another damaging blow to the Granddaddy of all the bowls.

“You have to adapt,” former Wisconsin coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez said Tuesday at Big Ten media days in Lucas Oil Stadium. “When I got into the league, every kid that played in this league, your vision was play the Rose Bowl and win the Rose Bowl.

“It’s not the same now. It’s the CFP. It’s get into the playoffs.”

The future of the Rose Bowl as a showcase game, mostly featuring teams from Big Ten and Pac-12 on New Year’s Day, was already murky as the College Football Playoff creeps toward what seems like an inevitable expansion from the current four-team format.

“The Rose Bowl will always be an important part of the Big Ten,” said Alvarez, who now works for the conference as a special advisor to Commissioner Kevin Warren.

Now that the Big Ten has poached Southern California and UCLA from the Pac-12, it remains to be seen if the West Coast’s Power Five conference will still be an important part of the Rose Bowl.

“I focus on the Big Ten,” Alvarez said. “When we went through expansion (in the early 2010s) I was really happy that we were able to add my alma mater, Nebraska, into our league. I knew Nebraska in the Big Eight. There is no Big Eight. So things change. You have to go with the flow.”

Warren said playoff talks with the other FBS commissioners will pick up again in September. Warren maintains he is a staunch advocate of expansion, but he was among a group of newer commissioners who stood in the way of early implementation of a 12-team format.

Alvarez said he is not sure what the best number should be for a playoff, but eight, 12 and 16 would all be intriguing, depending on the details of the format.

He also said the Big Ten should be open to considering expanding its own postseason when the league grows to 16 teams with USC and UCLA.

Maybe a four-team Big Ten tournament instead of just a championship game?

“That’s something you’re going to have to take a look at,” Alvarez said.

IOWA RAISES

After winning the Big Ten West last season, all of Iowa’s returning assistant coaches received raises.

The smallest increase went to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, head coach Kirk Ferentz‘s son. Brian Ferentz’s salary went from $860,000 to $900,000, according to The Athletic.

The elder Ferentz was asked if the offense’s lackluster performance – tied for 11th in the Big Ten in yards per play (4.67) — had anything to do with his son’s relatively small bump in pay.

“Not necessarily. I think he’s been compensated really well,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Bottom line … I feel like our staff, the numbers, there’s reasons for everything we do, and we have private conversations regarding that. I feel like the staff salaries reflect levels of experience, contributions to the program.

“As a head coach, it’s important to me that we’re able to keep guys, retain guys, and hopefully it’s an attractive place for them to work.”

MICHIGAN CHANGES

Jim Harbaugh‘s return to Michigan after leading the Wolverines to a playoff berth and their first Big Ten title since 2004 was no slam dunk.

Harbaugh interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings’ head coaching job after Michigan’s season and ultimately was not offered the job.

While the former Michigan quarterback is back for his eighth season as head coach, both coordinators from last year’s team have moved on.

Mike MacDonald returned to working for Harbaugh’s brother with the Baltimore Ravens as defensive coordinator, and Josh Gattis took a job with Miami as offensive coordinator.

Harbaugh looked to the Ravens for another defensive coordinator. Jesse Minter was defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt last season after spending four seasons with the Ravens. Harbaugh said when he hired Macdonald before last season he had also considered Minter, who will run the same system that the Wolverines succeeded in last year.

“So I went back and talked to Jesse Minter right when Mike left, and just felt it was the absolute best thing for our team,” Harbaugh said.

To replace Gattis, Harbaugh looked within and promoted offensive assistants Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss.

While the scheme could look a lot like last year, who is running the offense is the most intriguing question of the preseason for Michigan. Cade McNamara was QB1 last season with talented freshman J.J. McCarthy playing a complementary role off the bench.

There is no guarantee those roles will stay the same this season, Harbaugh said.

“Cade McNamara is going to be really tough to beat out for the starting quarterback job,” Harbaugh said. “J.J. McCarthy is going to be really tough to beat out for the starting quarterback job.”

RECOVERING RECEIVER

Maryland coach Mike Locksley said receiver Dontay Demus Jr. was ahead of schedule recovering from a knee injury that cost him more than half of last season.

Demus had 507 yards and three touchdowns in five games before getting hurt.

Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terps still managed to have one of the most prolific passing seasons in school history, but getting Demus back to team with Rakim Jarrett could give Maryland one of the best combos in the Big Ten.

“Really, really impressed with how he’s returned,” Locksley said of Demus. “We do expect him, barring any setbacks during training camp, which we’ll do a good job of trying to protect him and get him to that opening game, but there is the expectation we’ll see Dontay Demus playing in the first game.”

The Terps open the season at home against Buffalo on Sept. 3.

GOPHER REUNION

After helping Minnesota win nine games in 2019, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca left Minnesota for Penn State. He was fired after one season with the Nittany Lions.

Now, after spending last season at West Virginia, the 56-year-old has been reunited with the Golden Gophers – and much of the supporting cast he helped lead to nine wins in 2019.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan and running back Mohamed Ibrahim are both returning for their sixth season, and coach P.J. Fleck believes getting the band back together could lead to another big season in 2022.

Fleck isn’t alone.

“Kirk wanted to know how that would affect the kids, and I wanted to know how that would affect the kids,” Fleck said, calling the rehire an easy decision. “I said, of course you might have to answer some questions in your first team meeting, but that will be easy after the first five minutes, and he did. I know we’re excited to have him. Tanner’s really excited to have him.”

Morgan threw for 3,253 yards and 30 touchdowns, both career highs, and had just seven interceptions in 2019. Ibrahim rushed for a career-best 1,160 yards in 2018, also under Ciarrocca.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.