Projecting football fortunes of this year’s Final Four

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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.

Penn State K Joey Julius no longer with the team

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Joey Julius was everyone’s favorite kickoff specialist last season. Sadly, he won’t be your favorite kickoff specialist in 2017.

At Big Ten media days on Monday, the Nittany Lions unveiled their 2017 roster and Julius was not on it.

Listed at 5-foot-10, 258 pounds, Julius announced in May he would seek treatment for an eating disorder.

“I have been struggling over the last couple months with my eating disorder,” he announced at the time. “It got to the point where I had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum place. Recovery is a wonderful and beautiful thing that I am working on returning too.”

Julius handled 93 kickoffs for the 2016 Big Ten champions, averaging 62.1 yards per kick with 45 touchbacks. His kickoff average ranked 47th nationally, and his 48.4 touchback percentage was 40th in FBS. Julius made 10-of-12 field goals and 20-of-24 extra points in 2015 before ceding the job to Tyler Davis last season.

 

Urban Meyer on College Football Playoff loss to Clemson: That ship has sailed, it’s gone

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Ohio State may have won the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship, but its most recent trip to the postseason tournament was not nearly as much fun. The Buckeyes were blanked by eventual national champion Clemson, 31-0. Asked whether or not that plays into the mental approach to the upcoming 2017 season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer suggested that loss is no longer thought about.

“That ship has sailed. It’s gone,” Meyer said. “Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense, and we’re moving forward.”

Ohio State has added former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator, with Meyer noting that Wilson is the first offensive coordinator to be brought into Meyer’s program as a head coach (all others have been promoted from within). Meyer acknowledged that more of the offensive management has been put in the hands of Wilson, which supports the thought that things have changed with the offense in 2017.

Ohio State is a heavy favorite among media members covering the Big Ten to win the conference this season, and the Buckeyes will likely be viewed as a playoff contender. Regardless, how last season ended has to leave an empty feeling that needs to be fulfilled this fall, whether Meyer wants to use it as fuel or not.

“It’s the back of everyone’s mind,” Meyer said. “Whether I use that in training camp or not is to be determined.”

Jim Delany announces Big Ten’s new six-year deal with ESPN and FOX; BTN heading to Hulu and YouTube

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As the Big Ten opened up its media day event in Chicago, commissioner Jim Delany brought with him an announcement regarding the future of the conference’s television package. Delany announced the Big Ten has reached a deal on a restructured television package with broadcast partners ESPN, FOX and CBS Sports (for basketball) and an extended deal with Big Ten Network that runs through 2032. And he had more to share a swell.

The exact terms of this new deal have not been disclosed at this time, but it would stand to reason the Big Ten will continue to turn a nice profit through their deals with both ESPN and FOX (and CBS Sports for basketball).

But Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman had some other news to share as well.

In addition to a new six-year contract with ESPN and FOX for regular season coverage of football (and FOX with the Big Ten Championship Game), Delany also announced the Big Ten Network will be heading to Hulu and YouTube TV, making the network more accessible to those consumers who continue to cut the cord on their TV providers. While there are still plenty of cable subscribers available to reach and the majority of TV viewers are still using cable to watch their TV, the trends are more and more leaning toward the cord-cutting methods.

Big Ten Network will be adding a handful of former Big Ten stars to its football coverage; James Laurinaitis, Braylon Edwards, and Corey Wootton. Big Ten Network, now in its 10th year of operation since launching as the first conference-branded network, will also be creating content for regional sports outlets, like an Ohio State show on SportsTime Ohio. The BTN will also work with ESPN to air a special series following new Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck and BTN’s Big Ten Elite program will chronicle the 2016 Big Ten champions, Penn State.

Report: Wisconsin and Notre Dame discussing Soldier Field series

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Notre Dame and Wisconsin have not met on the football field since 1964, but that drought in the series could come to an end in the somewhat near future. The Chicago Tribune reports the two schools are discussing plans for a potential football series that would be played in Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Why Soldier Field? Why not?

Notre Dame last played in Soldier Field in 2012 when they played Miami as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series of games traveling around the country. The Shamrock Series has also made stops in San Antonio, New York, Arlington, Indianapolis, and Boston. There is no Shamrock Series game in 2017, but it is expected to return in 2018 (playing Navy in San Diego). Notre Dame has never lost a game in Soldier Field. Wisconsin has also played in Soldier Field. In 2011, the Badgers dominated Northern Illinois.

Of course, the contrarian view here wonders why two programs with fantastic football environment s would want to abandon their locales in Madison and South Bend to play a game in Chicago. The obvious answers here are that it is easier to schedule one game on a neutral field and it tends to be more financially motivated to do so. Until an agreement is announced, it is just speculation to suggest both Notre Dame and Wisconsin will receive a nice paycheck out of playing in Soldier Field once or twice (or more).

Ideally, having Wisconsin and Notre Dame agree to a home-and-home deal would be the way to go, or a three-year deal with a home-and-home series and a neutral site game in Chicago. But we’ll just have to wait and see

Soldier Field hosted a 2015 Big Ten game between Northwestern and Illinois and the Illini are going to be hosting USF in Soldier Field in 2018.

From a Big Ten scheduling standpoint, a game against Notre Dame would satisfy Wisconsin’s non-conference scheduling requirement to include a game against another power conference program in whatever season or seasons the Irish appear on the schedule. Wisconsin currently satisfies that scheduling requirement in 2018 and 2020-2025. The non-conference schedule is full in 2019, meaning the Badgers need a road game against USF or a home game against Central Michigan or North Texas to be given approval from the Big Ten (or work out a deal to slide Notre Dame into that schedule. Notre Dame currently has a schedule vacancy on September 7, 2019, which is when Wisconsin is scheduled to play Central Michigan, but the Irish have a full 12-game schedule in place for the 2019 season.

The bottom line is whenever this scheduling arrangement is announced, it may not be happening until 2020 at the earliest.