We are within the 20-day window of opening day for college football. I can hear the marching bands right now. Most of them, anyway. Let’s the start the week with an abridged look around the Big 1o.
As somebody who is somewhat interested in taking Purdue, plus the hefty 11 points, in their opener against Notre Dame, I dont know what to make out of the reports from a recent impromptu scrimmage, where the running game is progressing faster than the passing attack. On one hand, its great to hear reports that Al Terek-McBurse might be stepping up as a playmaker at tailback. The Boilers are replacing Ralph Bolden after an ACL injury and nobody on the roster remaining has 10 career carries. And Boiled Sports observes that Terek-McBurse is running more physically, blocked better and finished his runs well. But its cold water hearing that Robert Marve and the offense are taking steps back now that live competition is underway. We were told he was ready to make the grade as a college quarterback, but the first days in pads have apparently not gone well. Purdue looks as wildcardy as ever as the the first week of camp comes to an end. I’m still leaning towards taking the Boilers and all those points on opening day when it rolls around. The Irish are always a play against at home in big situation pending further notice. Notre Dame is 5-15 ATS in their last 20 games laying points at home to BCS schools. I dont forsee a lot of picks in week one, but taking a flier with this head start might be one of them. While I think the Boilers can play this game closer, does anyone think 34-23 is that outlandish an outcome? From a recruited talent objective do the Irish really have what it takes to be in the BCS hunt? I dont know about that. They didnt seem just a year away on defense a season ago.
Some Big 10 teams dealt with personnel issues during the first days of camp last week. Now its Northwestern’s turn, where the injury bug is playing a role during its camp in Kenosha. Among those dinged up, the most serious could be losing safety David Arnold indefinetly to a foot injury. He’s already been ruled out for the Vanderbilt game in 18 days, so this doesnt appear to be a minor ding. Despite not declaring a permanent position yet, Arnold has played quite a bit his first two seasons after his redshirt year. In 2008, he played in several games at safety. A year ago, he played linebacker, making five starts and collecting 34 tackles and 2.5 sacks and tackles for loss. Now he’s returning to the defensive backfield, competing for playing time at safety. While he wasnt guaranted a starting spot, it was hard not envisioning him playing a big role in the Cats defense this year. His status and recovery the rest of camp is worth keeping an eye as the Cat rework a secondary that lost CB Sherrrick McManis and S Brad Phillips from a year ago. The corners arent expected to be an upgrade from a last year without McManis. Jordan Maybin stepping up to be the #1 corner after a big of a sophomore slump might the key to everything on the defense. Unrelated note: After getting into a discussion last week at mgo about Northwestern’s offensive line being in the top half of the league, I enjoyed this read on the Cats front five being a team strength.
One of the major question marks surrounding Penn State what who was going to replace the steady playmaking of Daryl Clark at QB. The auditioning players included Kevin Newsome, the likely favorite, a 4-star recruit from 2009 who saw limited time a year ago, redshirt sophomore and former walk on Matt McGloin and incoming freshmen Paul Jones, another 4-star recruit, who enrolled early and looked better than Newsome at times during the spring. Do we know anymore after the first scrimmage of August camp? We know that Chuck Norris wears Jack Crawford pajamas. But we knew that before the weekend’s scrimmage. So what do we know now? All the prime QB candidates lack a wow factor as the first week of camp ends. Insider reports detail enough flaws ($$) with the ‘experienced’ trio that incoming freshmen Robert Bolden is making his own strong case to be in this mix. Indeed, the best play of the day was Bolden hitting Shawney Kersey in step down the field for a 50-yard scoring bomb. He was running the first offense at the time going up against the first defense. The Rivals 4-star prospect was right behind that scouting services Devin Gardner in their top overall dual threat QB in the nation and overall prospects in Michigan. Bolden had other offers within Big 10 country in Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Nebraska and Northwestern, in addition to West Virginia and Oregon. Penn State bloggers were already predicting that Newsome will begin as the starter, but wont end the season at that position. The sudden surge in Bolden’s candidacy probably makes that prediction more likely to happen.
A year ago at this time, I would have put money on Curt Phillips winning the Wisconsin starting QB job. A year later, he’s battling back after tearing out his knee in spring ball, so it was good to read that Philips not only is taking his recovering in stride but may also actually end up on the depth chart before its all said and done this year. Elsewhere on the offense, its not hard to make a case the Badgers have the best line in the Big 10, but the starting five is motivating itself through memories of their two failures a year ago.
If Rich Rodriguez mentions Drew Dileo’s play one more time in a press conference, then we’re going to have to take the freshman’s total numbers of kick returns off the board and readjust the line. We’re within three weeks of the opener, so its time to ask the question that’s been burning all summer. Who is the more talented team, Michigan or UConn?
Hoosier playmakers Tandon Doss and Darius Willis have been sitting out of practice nursing groin injuries. That would have the IU faithful worried except their hearts are way to aflutter with a big hoops verbal comittment for the Class of 2012 to even take notice.
In Iowa City, the Brandon Wegher Rumor Watch has just wrapped up its sixth day. Some of the first official words on the subject from Kirk Ferentz and Wegher’s teammates have begun to trickle out in the last couple of days. Sounds like the sophomore is going through some personal issues, is expected to return, nobody knows when, but the expectation seems to be he might be gone for awhile. That pretty much clears it up, right?
And lastly: A possible Ohio State weakness was thought to be its kicking game since they’re replacing the specialists and the spring game results from the expected replacements gave off a meh feel. A lot of those fears were eased after the results of the weekend’s kicking scrimmage revealed strong frontrunners at place kicker and punter.