Bowls suggest Big Ten Legends Division has some substance

Iowa probably faces no higher than fifth in preseason Legends rankings this summer

Published: January 8 2013 | 4:30 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 9:46 am in

Not everything was business as usual (BAU) in college football this season.

Sure, the SEC claims the national-champion, and the Big Ten was 2-5 in bowl games. That’s BAU if ever BAU existed.

But Northwestern won a bowl. That was a different. And Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez lost a Rose Bowl. That was new, too. For him as a coach, not the Badgers as a team.

My impulse is to just leave it at that and talk about basketball. I’m not all that keen on looking toward the next football season when it’s still eight months away. Let’s take time to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, leaves back on the trees, the Fourth of July, catfish jumping, corn as high as an elephant’s eye, and most importantly, central air conditioning.

But 2013 could be an unusual off-season for Iowa. It may have its lowest preseason rankings in a dozen years.

When you watched the bowls that just ended, you saw everyone from the Big Ten’s Legends Division participating except Iowa. That wasn’t BAU, either.

Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern were kept busy in Florida on New Year’s. Michigan State took Iowa’s place in the Tempe game, now known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Even Minnesota went bowling, though it got splattered like bowling pins by the Hawkeyes in late September.

While the Legends squads were just 2-3 in bowls, none of the five participants played poorly. Northwestern beat Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, and Michigan State dropped TCU in the Wild Wings thing.

Michigan fell to South Carolina, 33-28, in the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks won on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left. It was one of the best of the 35 bowls.

Georgia defeated Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, 45-31, but it was 31-31 after three quarters. The Cornhuskers’ defense was once again shredded, but the Huskers at least battled with a Bulldogs club that finished the season with 12 wins and a share of the No. 5 spot in the final Associated Press poll.

And Minnesota, though a 13-point underdog, played Texas Tech fang-and-claw in the Meineke Car Care Bowl before giving up two scores in the final 1:10 for a 34-31 loss.

All five of those teams also got the 15 bowl practices coaches always seem to salivate over.

I expect this to be the slotting of Legends teams in preseason magazines: 1. Michigan, 2. Nebraska, 3. Northwestern, 4. Michigan State, 5. Iowa, 6. Minnesota.

That’s partly because reputations factor into this. Should Nebraska be ahead of Northwestern given the returning players both will have? Not necessarily. Northwestern has seven returning starters on both sides of the ball, while Nebraska loses eight defensive starters.

On the other hand, can Nebraska’s defense get worse than it was against Ohio State, Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, and Georgia? And on yet another hand, the Huskers have quarterback Taylor Martinez and a lot of other returning talent on offense.

Minnesota took a clear step forward in Jerry Kill’s second season as coach. But it may get short preseason shrift when compared to Michigan State and Iowa, though it won as many regular-season games as the Spartans in 2012, and two more than Iowa.

The Gophers probably feel more secure about their quarterback situation (sophomore-to-be Philip Nelson) than Iowa, and at least as secure as Michigan State. The Spartans are losing three really good juniors to the NFL in running back Le’Veon Bell, defensive end Will Gholston and tight end Dion Sims.

Iowa, of course, will worry only about Iowa from now until late August. For the second straight year, there will be a shakeup of the coaching staff. This time around, it isn’t caused by a retirement or coaches leaving for other opportunities.

Erik Campbell is out as the Hawkeyes’ wide receivers coach. That had been widely rumored, but an Iowa recruit said it was so last week, and it was. Campbell was on Michigan’s staff from 1995 to 2007, then came to Iowa.

“I’ve always said I would never hire a guy from a name-brand school,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said last February. “Take a guy from Michigan? What was I doing?

“But he did the hard work at Ball State, he was at Navy, he was at Syracuse as a young guy. He paid his dues, and he was also a 13-year veteran, I believe, at Michigan, so he wasn’t a vagabond guy knocking on every door and trying to get to the next bus stop.”

But now, an Iowa assistant apparently is departing without a golden parachute in hand. (Campbell has interviewed for a job at Missouri according to coachingsearch.com.) Off-seasons can get a little too interesting when a team has a “4-8” after its name.

By the way, many pegged Northwestern for fifth in the Legends before last season started. That worked out OK for the Wildcats.


 

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