Kentucky Wildcats' Lamb goes to the basket past Connecticut Huskies' Lamb during their NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston

Projecting football fortunes of this year’s Final Four

Leave a comment

Even as the preeminent sport in collegiate athletics continues to trudge ever so carefully toward a possible playoff, another is nearing the end of its annual month of madness.  College basketball, of course, is what we’re speaking of and, as you no doubt know courtesy of your busted brackets, its Final Four participants were decided over the weekend — Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State.

The first three have long been known as basketball schools rich in hoops history, although the Buckeyes have its own roundball tradition that’s not to be scoffed at, especially since the arrival of Thad “I’d Sweat Profusely in the Arctic” Matta.  This, of course, is a college football blog — for all of your “amateur” hoops needs, check out CollegeBasketballTalk.com — which means we need to weave the upcoming events in New Orleans into something that relates to our area of focus.

In other words, does a school’s success in one sport portend anything for another?  Of course not.  One literally has nothing to do with the other.  In fact, just one Div. 1 institution — Florida, 2007 — has won a national championship in football and men’s basketball in the same year, much to the chagrin of one of the schools participating in this year’s Final Four it should be noted.

Still, “we” thought it’d be a nifty and/or keen endeavor to take a look at the Final Four participants and see if the respective schools’ hardwood success this year will somehow give way to similar results on the gridiron in 2012.

(Here’s a hint: probably not.)

So, in order of projected success, here are thumbnail looks at how these basketball schools may fair in the “other” sport this coming season.

1. LOUISVILLE
Last Final Four appearance: 2005
Football record the following season: 9-3, No. 19 in final AP poll

If the first two seasons under Charlie Strong are any indication, the Cardinals are in this football thing for the long haul.  Despite “just” a 7-6 record overall in 2011, the Cardinals took home a share of the Big East title in Strong’s second year.  With somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 returning starters — including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who possesses most of the tools to be something very special at this level — as well as West Virginia’s departure for the Big 12, the Cardinals should be one of the — if not the — preseason favorites for what would be a run at a second straight conference crown.

2. KENTUCKY
Last Final Four appearance: 2011
Football record the following season: 5-7, 2-6 in SEC play

Even as the Wildcats took a step — or two — back from a first season under Joker Phillips in which UK won six games and qualified for a bowl, the program’s first win over Tennessee in more than a quarter of a century helped salve some of the wounds created by the five-win regression in 2011.  The biggest problem for UK in 2012, or any other year for that matter?  The conference in which it resides, one which you may or may not know has made its mark playing a high-level of football on an annual basis.  It’s highly possible that Phillips is a good, solid head football coach; in the SEC, however, “good, solid” simply won’t get it done, in 2012 or any other year.

3. KANSAS
Last Final Four appearance: 2008
Football record the following season: 8-5, Insight Bowl win

Two wins to start the 2011 season — over Div. 1-A McNeese State and the MAC’s Northern Illinois — gave way to 10 consecutive losses, including six by at least 28 points and four by at least 42 points.  Not so surprisingly, Turner Gill gave way to Charlie Weis at season’s end.  The former Notre Dame head coach inherited a mess, and he’s gone about cleaning it up in part by bringing in a handful of transfers that should be able to contribute immediately to the talent-deficient Jayhawks.  Still, it will be an uphill climb just to get back to respectability for Weis & Company, let alone make any type of Mark Mangino-level imprint on the Big 12 and grow up and spare me the weight jokes people.

4. OHIO STATE
Last Final Four appearance: 2007
Football record the following season: 11-2, loss to LSU in BcS title game

Were it not for NCAA issues, the Buckeyes would sit atop this mini-list.  Alas, sanctions have rendered OSU ineligible for the postseason in 2012, including the Big Ten’s second annual conference championship game.  All is not lost for the university in the state of Ohio, however, as the hiring of two-time BcS champion head coach Urban Meyer has reinvigorated a program tainted by scandal over last year and a half.  2012 for Meyer and his new coaching staff will be all about “the process”, particularly on the offensive side of the ball with the implementation of Meyer’s brand of the spread.  There may be no chance for any type of title for the football Buckeyes in 2012, but there is hope that 2013 and beyond will bring the type of gridiron success for which this football-first school is most known.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

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)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants changes to Big Ten scheduling

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Acting head coach Barry Alvarez of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the bench before the start of the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on January 1, 2015 during  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.

Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.

Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.

“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”

The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.

“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”

The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.

Pick problems lead Bowling Green to make a change at QB

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3:  James Knapke #3 of the Bowling Green Falcons is sacked by Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter on September 3, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Bowling Green 77-10. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4.  Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.

In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan.  Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.

Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.

After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions.  A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.

Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.

Wisconsin loses kicker Rafael Gaglianone to season-ending surgery

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Rafael Gaglianone #27 of the Wisconsin Badgers makes a field goal during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As far as kickers go, this is a rather significant development.

Last week, Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone did not make the trip to East Lansing for the Michigan State game because of a back issue.  Not only will the placekicker miss this Saturday’s game against No. 4 Michigan, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season after undergoing back surgery.

According to the school, Gaglianone’s condition improved Sunday but subsequently worsened.  It was then decided that the junior would undergo the medical procedure.

A similar back injury, the school said, led Gaglianone to miss spring practice last year.

“You’re disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he’s put in and how well he was playing,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “From a football perspective, I’ve appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.”

This season, Gaglianone has connected on seven of eight field goal attempts and all 10 extra points.  Included in that total was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in the opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.

Including this season, Gaglianone, who will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, has been good on 44-57 field goals in his career and all but two of his 111 point afters.

With Gaglianone sidelined, the Badgers will turn to Andrew Endicott.  The senior, who hadn’t previously attempted a field goal or extra point at the collegiate level, made 1-1 of the former and 3-4 of the latter in replacing Gaglianone against MSU.