Potlucks and football -- that's what the Midwest DOES!
This being Thursday, it's time for a little segment we like to call the OTE Potluck. Like any good Midwest potluck, you have multiple courses (5 questions about the Big Ten Team of the Week), with each course being supplied by a different potluck attendee (your friendly OTE writers). Sometimes, multiple writers will answer one of the questions (i.e. those awesome potlucks where two people sign up for appetizers and you get deviled eggs AND pigs in a blanket), while other times one writer will suffice (i.e. there's never a need for multiple salads in any good Midwest potluck....unless you're talking about adding a jello salad to the mix. Never pass up a good jello salad, the salad that's frankly a dessert!).
This week's potluck is Hoosier-style, as everyone brings a dish to share in Bloomington....
Indiana's Adam Replogle tries to rush through an egregious hold and Nathan Scheelhaase to make his way to the delicious food at the OTE Potluck (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
1. Appetizer: If you could take one player from Indiana's roster and place him on your favorite team, who would you choose? Or, alternatively, who do you think is Indiana's most dangerous player?
- Ted Glover: I'll take WR Demarlo Belcher to answer both questions. He doesn't get a lot of press, but he could make the starting 11 on any B1G roster. He has a significant height advantage over any opposing CB in the conference, has the speed to go beat anyone deep, and save for a potential game winning drop against Iowa, has hands that catch just about anything thrown his way. Belcher is a big time player on an offense that has more questions than answers, and will be looked at to lead this offense throughout 2011.
- Chadnudj: Considering the fact that my team (Northwestern) needs defensive help, and that I've not yet seen a NU defensive end that can hold down the side opposite of Vince Browne to increase pressure on the QB, I'm stealing Indiana's Adam Replogle. Replogle recorded 32 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three quarterback hurries last season, and will be a junior in 2011, meaning I get him for my hypothetical NU team for (hopefully) two more seasons. Indiana's defensive staff moved him around between DT and DE last season (both areas of weakness on NU's defense), so if new defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler can deploy him where he's most effective, he could blossom into a Ryan Kerrigan-esque one-man wrecking crew for what has been a weak Indiana defense. Plus, he was an Academic All-Big Ten selection, so I figure he'd fit in well with the Fighting Fitzgeralds....
2. Salad: True or false -- Indiana made a huge mistake hiring Kevin Wilson, because their problems lie on the defensive side of the ball, and Wilson's offensive pedigree doesn't help them there at all. Discuss.
JDMill: Well, isn’t this the perfect potluck question? It’s tailor-made to allow a lot of good-natured banter about the topic, without requiring a definitive answer. Having said that, even though it doesn’t require a definitive answer, there is one, and that answer is False – Indiana did not make a huge mistake hiring Kevin Wilson.
To say they made a mistake hiring Wilson because he is an offensive mind and they need help on defense is like saying that I shouldn’t have filled my plate with desserts on my first walk through the potluck line: it’s very short-sighted. You see, I happen to know that I typically run a veritable train on the ham and potatoes early in the potluck, and eventually I end up getting too full for dessert. Taking dessert on my first plate is long-term planning that will allow me to maximize my potluck enjoyment by getting a sample of everyone’s goodies. (No fat jokes, please.)
Wilson was hired at Indiana to build a program, not transform one part of the team. He has some experience in this situation but from the other side of it, as he was hired to be the O-coordinator at Oklahoma under very defensive-minded Coach Bob Stoops. Both Wilson and his assistant coaches have the experience of being around successful programs that know how to win. Because of his offense-specific background, Wilson acknowledged very early on the need to hire a very strong defensive coordinator, and went as far as to hire two. Both Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler have solid defensive backgrounds (coaching and playing) at big time programs like LSU, Nebraska and Michigan.
3. Potato/rice dish: What comes first -- Tom Crean gets Indiana back into the NCAA Tournament, or Kevin Wilson gets Indiana to a bowl game?
Graham Filler: This is a spectacular question. Let's make a couple things clear:
1) It's easier to get into a bowl game than the NCAA Tourney because of the crap early season matchups that every BCS conference is afforded. Indiana will play South Carolina . . . State, North Texas, and Ball State in 2011. If Kevin Wilson puts together even a solid offseason, those turn into bunnies. Then you need to just post a 3-5 conference record (which would be easier if IU played Purdue more) and BOOM, Pizza Pizza Bowl.
2) Neither program is showing the kind of improvement needed for a post season appearance. Tom Crean is recruiting well, but developing players slowly. Indiana upgraded facilities and installed serviceable offensive minds/systems, but the athletic talent is still sooo low.
So . . . no clear answer, but a great question. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say IU Basketball makes a postseason appearance first. Couldn't you see them making a run to 18-12 with Cody Zeller and some senior leadership? I guess I have more faith in the venerated basketball program . . . than the always bottom barrel football program. And lest you argue that the law of averages says Indiana just has to get to 6 wins sometime, I leave you with a Caddyshack quote: "The world needs ditchdiggers too!"
Hilary Lee: I thought about this question, and then realized that I couldn't answer it. So, I went to experts. Or, at least, two people who pay lots of attention to Indiana sports. My friends Morgan and Mike (hi guys!) were nice enough to help me figure out the answer to this question. Of course, they too were split down the middle.
Mike cautioned me that I should never over-estimate the quality of the Indiana football team, because often they are really, really bad. But Indiana basketball has had success (even if the last few years have been rebuilding) so they are more likely to eventually return to that high. Plus, have you heard of this dude named Cody Zeller? I mean, whoa, seriously, whoa.
Morgan put the odds at either happening at just about even. While it looks like the basketball team will be better talent-wise this year (and definitelyin the 2012-2013 season) that the football team, we were able to count at least five wins for football: Ball State, South Carolina State, North Texas, Purdue, and probably Illinois. The question is -- can the Hoosiers pull out that surprise sixth win to get to the Pizza! Pizza! Bowl?
I am nothing if not an optimist, so I'm just going to say . . . I think both happen in the same year. I don't know if it's 2011 or 2012, but they will occur together. Like peanut butter and chocolate. Or mashed potatoes and gravy. [EDITOR'S QUESTION: Or like bacon and waffles, Hilary?].
4. Hot dish/Meat:Indiana has historically been the Big Ten's worst program (they even have a losing record all-time to Northwestern). Why is that? Is it recruiting? Bad coaching? An institutional focus on basketball over football? Give us your best theory.
Bama Hawkeye: You can try those three theories. There is truth to all of them. I'll give you a better one. A Ham Baked in a Numbers Glaze.
Let's start by looking at some data from 1960. Why 1960? Two reasons: First, it was the midpoint of the twenty-year period with the greatest parity in Big Ten history. Every Big Ten team won a Big Ten title in the decade before or after 1960 (well, except for Northwestern, but they are the outlier to everything). Second, and most importantly, it was a twenty-year period in which college football began to blossom as a televised sport - increased interest from the general population. Here's the population of the Big Ten states in 1960 (and yes, I'm including Pennsylvania and Nebraska):
Pennsylvania: 11.3 Million
Illinois: 10.1 Million
Ohio: 9.7 Million
Michigan: 7.8 Million
Indiana: 4.6 Million
Wisconsin: 3.9 Million
Minnesota: 3.4 Million
Iowa: 2.7 Million
Nebraska: 1.4 Million
Now as you look at those lists, realize what schools are drawing upon that population for allegiance, donations, attendance, and most importantly, recruits. Yes, Indiana has a larger population than Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. But each of those states share an important aspect: they only have one Division 1 caliber program within their borders (disrespect of Iowa State fully realized, intended, and justified). Indiana has three. Even if the population was evenly distributed, that would leave only 1.53 million people as Hoosiers. But, it's not divided evenly, is it? Notre Dame is the national school of the state. If a 16 year old in 1960s Indiana showed a talent for football, it meant more to play at Notre Dame than it did to go to Indiana or Purdue. It still does. Add in the Catholic identity of the school (in a state that has a larger Catholic population than national average) and Indiana is fighting for a distant second place.
Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska have succeeded because they have (for the most part) kept the in-state recruits that they wanted at home, gathered some gems from more fertile recruiting areas, and hired good coaches. But let's be clear. If those three schools had two other D-1 programs splitting their in-state recruits and resources with them, they would not have been as successful. Put Notre Dame in one of those states, and that Big Ten school's history is much different, and much less celebrated. Yes, all of those schools had better coaches than anyone that Indiana has hired. But, if you put Devaney, Osborne, Fry, Evashevski, or Alvarez at Indiana, they wouldn't have won multiple conference championships there. Maybe they would have caught lightning in a bottle like John Pont did in 1967 and like Bill Mallory was so tantalizingly close to doing in 1987. But they would not have been able to fend off Notre Dame (not to mention the poachers from Columbus and Ann Arbor) and establish Indiana as a good program. There is a reason that no coach in the last sixty years has left Indiana with a winning record. History has shown that the numbers just don't add up.
5. Dessert: Share your favorite memory involving Indiana football. Bonus points if it does not involve Bill Lynch throwing his chewing gum.
Ted Glover: In 2007, the Hoosiers took a body blow when coach Terry Hoeppner passed away from a brain tumor, but they rallied behind his mantra to "Play 13." To ensure their first bowl appearance since 1993 they needed to beat Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket game, at home, in front of their first sellout crowd of the season.
In a wild, back-and-forth game, Indiana kicker Austin Starr lined up from the right has, 49 yards away, in a 24-24 game with 30 seconds to play. With Hoeppner's widow Jane watching from the sidelines, Starr's kick went 49 yards and six inches, barely clearing the crossbar.
Jane Hoepnner looked to Heaven for thanks, a pandemonium grenade went off on the Indiana sideline, and it was an emotional moment that makes me love college football in a way that can't be matched by any other sport.
THURSDAY | OTE Potluck
FRIDAY | Keeping the Enemy Close - Rival Blogger Interview