Northwestern Football Practice at Wrigley Field

Illini-N’western Wrigley game to feature one usable end zone

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Seriously.  One — and only one — end zone will be used.

For those who were/are unaware, Illinois and Northwestern will play this weekend at the home of the Chicago Cubs, historic Wrigley Field.  And, as you can tell by the photo at the right — as well as other photos of the same end zone — it took a good deal of cramming to get a football field to fit inside the ivy-covered confines.

Of course, along with said cramming came concerns over player safety.  Specifically, players running/being ran headfirst into the outfield wall that sits just a couple of feet outside the east end zone.

As a result of the safety issues, the Big Ten has announced some major changes to Saturday’s game.  And have officially made a mockery of the game and turned it into one akin to something we all used to play in the backyard.  Or out in the street.  In traffic.

According to a press release issued by the conference, the following rule changes were determined to be the best of all options and will be in effect for this game only based on the unique layout of the field:

1)    All offensive plays will head toward the West end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.
2)    All kickoffs will be kicked toward the East end zone.
3)    After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the West end zone.
4)    As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the West team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the West team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods.

Other rules under consideration include the fire hydrant at the corner of Elm & Main is out of bounds; each school will be responsible for bringing extra footballs because if one goes into Old Man Johnson’s garden you cannot go after it because he’ll tell your parents you trampled his tomato plants whether you did or not; all kickoffs will be thrown; five-Mississippi pass rushes on first and second down; if any player’s mom hollers for him during the course of the game, he will be permitted to re-enter the game after he’s finished cleaning his room; and oncoming traffic has the right of way and play will stop, except on fourth down when you’re on your own.

This game has been in the works for over a year and a half, but the league claims they didn’t realize they had a “situation” with the configuration of the playing field until the playing field was configured right in front of them.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany in a statement. “Both Illinois and Northwestern did significant due diligence over the past 18 months, but after seeing the actual layout of the field, all parties felt that it was appropriate to adjust the rules to further enhance the safety of our student-athletes. Wrigley Field is one of the most historic venues in the country, and playing the Illinois-Northwestern game at this facility will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.”

Suffice to say, and short of finding an alternative way of shoehorning a football field into this particular baseball park, this might be the last time in a long, long, long time you’ll see a football game contested at Wrigley.  Hell, it’ll take a solid 4-5 years before the Big Ten is able to get the last little bit of egg wiped off their face after this debacle, so a next game at that place will likely be the last thing on their minds.

Ex-LSU AD repeats claim Les Miles turned down Michigan, more money in 2011

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers leads the team on to the field at Tiger Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest open secrets in all of college football has been confirmed (?) by a person who purportedly had a front-row seat to the spectacle.

Shortly after Rich Rodriguez was fired following the 2010 season, Michigan put on the full-court press to land Les Miles as his replacement.  It was known at the time that then-UM athletic director David Brandon and other school officials flew down to Baton Rouge to meet with Miles, who played his football for the Wolverines in the mid-seventies and was an assistant at his alma mater a decade later.

The open secret many still swear by?  That on that trip south Brandon had offered the job, along with a significant raise to what he was making at LSU, to Miles, who ultimately decided to turn it down and stay with the Tigers.

During a radio interview Wednesday, Skip Bertman, LSU athletic director from 2001-2008, confirmed that version of events

“Les Miles turned that job down for more money at Michigan. He turned it down,” Bertman told the ESPN Radio affiliate in Baton Rouge. “He would never say that because he’s a very humble guy. But I was there; he turned it down.”

Renowned Michigan historian John Bacon, however, disputes not only the 2011 claim, but the 2007 claim by Kirk Herbstreit and one made in 2014 as well.

The football program hired Rodriguez in 2007 and Brady Hoke in 2011, then stuck with Hoke through a rough 2014 season that had Miles-to-Ann Arbor speculation flying yet again. Ultimately, though, the university finally landed its Michigan Man in Jim Harbaugh.  I’m thinking that’s working out just fine for the program, regardless of how exactly things transpired with Miles in the past.

Big Ten to use commemorative coin to honor Sam Foltz, Mike Sandler

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Tributes to Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler have seemingly been a weekly occurrence across college football the first four weeks of the season, and the players’ conference will get on board in Week 5.

A commemorative coin will be used to honor both Foltz and Sadler at all seven Big Ten games this weekend, the league announced Wednesday.  As this is the first full weekend of conference action, the coins, with Foltz on one side and Sadler on the other, will be used for the coin flip prior to each league matchup.

The Cornhuskers have decided to use the coins for the remainder of the season.

Folks and Sadler were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.

Below are the coins that will be used, courtesy of the Big Ten:

sam-foltz

mike-sadler

Nick Saban would ‘love’ for Blake Barnett to stay at Alabama

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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At least from Alabama’s side of it, the door’s not completely shut on Blake Barnett‘s future being in Tuscaloosa.

Earlier Wednesday, a report surfaced that Barnett had decided to leave the football program and transfer out.  In meeting with the media a short time later, Nick Saban confirmed that Barnett had “expressed some concern about his future” at a meeting earlier in the day.

The head coach said he “didn’t know” when asked if Barnett, who lost the starting quarterback job to true freshman Jalen Hurts earlier this year, was still a part of the team, although he made it clear that the redshirt freshman was still welcome in the locker room if he changes his mind.

“Blake is a fine young man,” Saban said. “He’s done a great job with his program, and we’d love to see him be a part of the program in the future, but we also want him to do what’s best for him.”

Barnett, who started the opener against USC but held on to the job for just tw series, was a five-star 2015 recruit who 247Sports.com rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country.  The California high school product originally committed to Notre Dame in November of 2013 before decommitting from the Irish in June of the following year.

SEC overturns Florida WR Brandon Powell’s half-game suspension for phantom punch

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 03: Brandon Powell #4 of the Florida Gators scores on a 77 yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels on October 3, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Fortunately for both Brandon Powell and Florida, common sense in the league office prevailed.

In the fourth quarter of UF’s loss to Tennessee, Powell was flagged for an unsportsmanlike call and ejected from the game for seemingly throwing a punch at a Vols player.  Because of SEC rules, Powell was also set to be suspended from the first half of this Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.

The conference, however, overturned the suspension upon review, no doubt determining that Vols safety Rashaan Gaulden performed a flop of such magnitude that it would’ve made an international soccer star stand up and cheer, then bow down and claim they’re not worthy.

We’ve received word that he’ll go,” head coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday. “Nothing from there, so he was full go from Monday afternoon on.”

Powell is currently second on the team with 15 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.