Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Chryst not headed to Purdue

The State Journal is reporting that Paul Chryst has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Purdue job, as many insiders have speculated. Is it because he doesn't like recruiting? Was there not a spot on the Purdue staff for him to bide his time as Tiller-successor-in-waiting?

Don't know, don't care. I'm just glad that after a week of turmoil that some semblance of stability has returned to the program. To recap:

-Bob Palcic left for UCLA. Not altogether surprising or disturbing - he wanted to work with Rick Neuheisel, a close friend. This kind of thing happens in coaching. I'm confident we'll find a solid replacement.

-Bret Bielema fired co-defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. This was a little surprising and a little disturbing. Is BB throwing Hank under the bus for an underachieving defense? Remember, in 2005 BB followed up a super defense by coordinating the worst unit in team history, and it's unlikely he would toss the coordinator after one subpar year. That would indicate lack of a conscience. My guess, based on pure speculation, is that it was a personality clash issue. When Palcic and Hankwitz were named as part of Bielema's first staff, it surprised me, but his attempt to balance youth and experience seemed sound. As has been pointed out, maybe he's now looking for climbers and not lifers for assistants. Let's hope Dave Doeren is up for the defensive coordinator by himself.

-Even though many things pointed toward it, I actually didn't think Ike would leave for the NFL just yet. My hunch was that he would be left feeling unsatisfied after his inconsistent season. But you know what? He's got to look out for his best interests, and if he's a top three round projection, that money can set him up for life. Obviously very concerned about the cornerback position without him, with Henry and Langford coming off knee injuries. We'll really need a better pass rush next year to give these guys some help.

-Let's not forget about the loss of Wes Kemp to Missouri. Probably not a bad move for him, staying close to home and playing for a pass-happy program that's riding high right now. Yes, we have some nice receivers right now, but not enough that we can just lose talented 6-4 guys without having a replacement. On paper, this is shaping up to be a mediocre recruiting class, which we all know means nothing, but I'd rather have a ton of four- and five-star guys.

My friends and I engaged in a nice back-and-forth yesterday about what all this means, and they made some good points. Here's the one that was the most interesting: what if our record gets worse the next two years? As my buddy pointed out, it's entirely possible, with the recent defections and a difficult schedule, to project 12-1 and 9-4 continuing on to 7-6 and 5-7 after graduation guts the 2008 team.

Look at next year's schedule. The game at Fresno State seems like a trap. We open the Big Ten season at Michigan, home against Ohio State and Penn State, at Iowa, and home against Illinois. That's a rocky road, folks.

If that happens, then what? It's not like the start of Barry Alvarez's tenure, when the program was in shambles and he slowly built from 1-10 to 5-6 and 5-6 before busting through. There aren't many places for Bielema to go but down after starting 12-1. How patient will Barry be if that downward swing dips below .500?

My thought on that was that just about every Big Ten program not named Ohio State and Michigan goes through something like this from time to time. Ours did in 1995 and 2001. In both cases we rebounded and built toward another pinnacle. How will we handle adversity when it inevitably comes?

The nice thing is, there's still a lot to like about this team heading into 2008, and the season may end up being special, like a 1998 or 2006. The last eight days have kind of made it hard to feel that way.


NewEnglandBadger said...

By the way, great website.

However, while Fresno State may be the toughest road non-conference game have had in a while, its not exactly like going to visit an SEC power. Our non-conference schedule is a joke and hurts us not only in the polls but in preparing for the Big Ten season. While I don't want us playing 3 Top ten teams on the road, we should at least schedule a couple games each year (now that we have 4) against quality (i.e., bowl eligible) opponents. Our basketball team plays some quality non-conference games (Duke, Texas, Marquette, Georgia, etc.), don't see why the football team can't.

mjschwal said...

NE Badger -
While all fans would like to see better non-con match-ups, the scheduling is not as simple as calling another BCS school and penciling it in. Basketball plays a lot more games and who you play matters a lot more for postseason implications.

Take a look at some of the top programs heading into this year (thanks to BIOV):

Oklahoma: North Texas, Miami, Utah State, Tulsa

Texas: Arkansas State, TCU, UCF, Rice

WVU: W. Michigan, Marshall, Maryland, E. Carolina, Miss. State

Penn State: Florida International,
Notre Dame, Buffalo, Temple

Alabama: W. Carolina, Florida State, Houston, La-Monroe

Florida: W. Kentucky, Troy, Florida Atlantic, Florida State
eorgia: Ok. State, W. Carolina, Georgia Tech, Troy

LSU: Va. Tech, Middle Tenn., Tulane, La Tech

Tennessee: Cal, S. Miss., Ark. State, La-Lafayette

VA Tech: E. Carolina, LSU, Ohio, Wm&Mary

Ohio State: Washington, Akron, YSU, Kent State

Kind of interesting, huh? I think it is a myth that a "poor" non-con schedule hurts you, whether for the voters or to prepare for your conference season. There is way too much risk than reward in playing another top-flight program, especially for a program like Wisconsin that has to traditionally scratch and claw it's way into higher rankings.

Scott Tappa said...

The thing about non-conference football schedules is that the games are booked so far ahead of time that programs fluctuate in quality. For instance, back in 2002-03, we played West Virginia and North Carolina. UNC had been good and regressed, and hasn't snapped out of it. WVU was sluggish at the time, but really blossomed under Rodriguez. This year we played Washington State, and they weren't very good, but they went to the Rose Bowl five years ago.

Look at what we've got coming up:

2009 - Central Florida, Fresno State, at Hawaii - a BCS team this year that will probably regress
2010 - UNLV, San Diego State, Arizona State - a nice opponent
2011 - UNLC, Oregon State, North Illinois - OSU played in a BCS game recently
2012 - San Diego State, Arizona State
2013 - Oregon State

There aren't as many non-con opportunities in football as in basketball, and we can't afford to play too many road games (which would be needed against any other major BCS team) for financial reasons.

Good point, though. I loved those Texas-Ohio State games recently, and this year LSU played Virginia Tech. That Oklahoma-Miami game would have been dynamite four years ago.

Will said...

Not too concerned about the schedule. The only thing I don't like is scheduling games against I-AA teams. Never looks quite right and is the ultimate no-win situation.

Would love to see a series with Nebraska at some point. Or a team like Cal. Basically, one that is at UW level's in that school's conference. But like Tappa said, it's a crapshoot....

What I would really love more than anything is a quiet football offseason until signing day.

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