Analysis: If you listen to early commentary on this Iowa team, you would know that Ferentz was being attacked for being too conservative on offense (true) and too indecisive with the quarterback situation (really true). Once the quarterback situation was set, Iowa began playing above its talent level with Shonn Greene leading the way and QB Ricky Stanzi being used correctly on rollouts. Sure they aren't flashy, but this is a young team and Ferentz has created a nice base of star offensive lineman and strong defenders.
I have warring emotions on how to grade KF. I want to downgrade him (and Ken O'Keefe) for stupid conservative playcalling in close games; apparently the coaching staff sometimes forgets how effective the play action/rollout is when you have Shonn Greene. Plus, something in the back of my mind keeps whispering: "You pay your coach three mill per year, you have the coaching blueprint to winning ('02,'04), how can you accept constant mediocrity like the last three years?" But I will give credit to Ferentz for bringing the team back into Warm Weather Bowl contention and eliciting a Pontiac Game Changing Performance from his troops against Penn State.
3/4's Season Grade: B- (with 8-4 finish) C- (with 6-6 finish)
Outlook for Rest of Season, Postseason: Right now our Bowl Specialist predicts a presumably 8-4 Iowa team in the Outback Bowl.
Analysis: JoePa is a figurehead for this program and its operations - I know he isn't running the show or making in-game changes. But as I will repeat again and again, one of the best attributes of a college football coach is longevity, which JoePa has in batches. And as long as he is head coach, Penn State will be relevant.
This year, JoePa trusted his assistants enough to let them implement an unproven offense. It obviously paid off and JoePa almost rode the new O to the BCS title game. The Nittany Lions were completely prepared for every game, which speaks volumes about the coaching staff. Strategy wise, Penn State didn't have many close games to prove its mettle, simply overrunning opponents with perfect playcalling and mistake free football. The offensive line blocked well on both run and pass plays and the coaches ditched a revolving QB system when Daryll Clark proved to be ready for Big 10 football. Against OSU in the Shoe, the defense hit hard and was never intimidated by the prime time settings.
3/4's Season Grade: A
Outlook for Rest of Season, Postseason: Penn State will probably end up in the Rose Bowl and thanks to this success, people will stop talking about JoePa "having" to retire during the offseason. Or at least they will talk less about it. A******s.
Analysis: My colleague Jon said this of Brewster's first year:
"Suffice it to say Tim Brewster enjoyed the kind of honeymoon traditionally reserved for people with chronic motion sickness who forget to pack Dramamine on a three-month cruise around Cape Horn."
For Timmy B to rebound so well after last year's debacle, The Rivalry tips their collective caps. Brewster and DCO Tedd Roof used a ballhawking secondary and a hard working line to make vast improvements on the defensive side of the ball. But Minnesota's season has been blessed by an easy schedule; they have feasted on the bottom of the Big 10 and played a weak non-conference schedule. Minnesota doesn't even play Michigan State or Penn State. So what do we really know about Minnesota's head coach? Well, for starters, Tim isn't afraid of the Big 10. He attacked teams with an efficient offense and the decision to let Adam Weber take his lumps last year has paid off. This is a team on the rise, even if things couldn't get any worse from last year.
3/4's Season Grade: B+
Outlook for Rest of Season, Postseason: Minnesota's late season swoon and Eric Decker's injury will hamstring the once lofty bowl expectations, but the Gophers have a new stadium and a solid 2009 recruiting class to build on. Coach B will have to beat Ohio State or Penn State before he can claim contender status, but at least he's pulled them out of the Big 10 cellar.
Analysis: You know it. He knows it. Every cheesehead with season tickets in Madison knows it. Bielema is getting the worst grade in The Rivalry's Head Coaching Grades. Believe me, we didn't see it coming. Jon even picked them to go 11-1 in the regular season. But FIVE in-conference losses quickly submarined the Badgers once hopeful season. How did Bielema go from challenging OSU for conference supremacy to a possible losing record? The bottom line is that the 2008 version of Wisconsin football team has run into the perfect storm of bad coaching, quarterback problems, and endgame defensive breakdowns.
The Michigan State game caused many Wisconsin fans to get slightly bent out of shape over Bielema. After outplaying MSU for three quarters, the Badgers spent the entire 4th quarter blowing its lead by committing a whopping 51 yards of penalties, including the now infamous 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Coach B. On the game-winning Spartan drive, the Wisconsin coaching staff placed the defense in the same prevent scheme that failed to prevent Terrelle Pryor from leading OSU to a game winning drive earlier in the year. And after Brian Hoyer predictably led the Spartans into range for a game winning boot, the kicker was rushed out for a 44 yard field goal attempt because Michigan State was out of timeouts, and all was chaos......until Bielema inexplicably bailed the Spartans out by calling timeout. The announcers went nuts, my jaw dropped, and Brett Swenson nailed the game winner.
Maybe the media expected too much out of this Wisconsin team, rating it 8th in the country. Or maybe Bielema's struggle to get his Badgers prepared for a weak conference schedule should be a signal that he spends too much time at the Dry Bean and too little time working on fundamentals.
3/4's Season Grade: D
Outlook for Rest of Season, Postseason: A nice Alamo Bowl berth is possible, but it won't ease the pain of a sub .500 Big 10 record.
Analysis: The Big 10 network followed Zook around the entire year, showing his trademark intensity and the team bonding that he cultivates. What the Network couldn't show was the incredibly hard chore of turning around the Big 10's most volatile program. This is the same Illinois program that went from winless in '97 to conference champs in ‘01 and back to a one win team in '03.
There haven't been any coaching meltdowns or mind blowing penalties, plus the Zookie Monster has obviously improved the mechanics of Juice Williams. Zook's impact is also quite palatable on the recruiting trail. So why didn't the Illini repeat their successes of last year? The newly installed high risk passing game has led to feast or famine results. While Illinois leads the Big 10 in YPG, the offensive line has allowed the 2nd most sacks in the Big 10 and Williams leads the conference in interceptions. The team has also broken down at the end of games: witness the piss poor offensive line blocking against Minnesota that led to a defensive touchdown and the late INTs against Wisky.
3/4's Season Grade: C
Outlook for Rest of Season, Postseason: Rose Bowl to possibly no Bowl? Not a good sign. However, Zook has been given much support in Champaign-Urbana and 63,000 came to the Iowa game two weeks ago. Let's also not forget that Zook took a two win team to national legitimacy. He has plenty of leeway before being squarely placed on the hot seat.
Analysis: If anyone was going to build this program back to the power of the Anthony Thompson days, it was Terry Hoeppner. The passion that he lived with and the respect he demanded was obvious, both at Miami and IU. His untimely passing and the emotion that the 2007 Hoosiers played with set Lynch up for an especially challenging 2008 year. Could Lynch make the team his or would the glow of 2007 wear off?
It says a lot that last year's 7 win team was feted like a 10 win team; this program is the Big 10's weakest. 2008 showed that Indiana cannot reload like other Big 10 teams. Even the most casual fan could see the Hoosiers were overmatched on defense for many of its blowout losses. It wasn't a formation issue, just a talent mismatch. And Lynch's wild switching of the quarterbacks didn't help. When Ben Chappell was healthy, why are you subbing in the ineffective Kellen Lewis? Build for the future...
3/4's Season Grade: C-
Outlook for Rest of Season, Postseason: There will be no Bowl for the Hoosiers and last years recruiting class didn't produce any stars. How will Lynch, to quote an overused term, "change the culture" of the Indiana program?