Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell

A mere 35 years ago Sunday, British synthpop duo Soft Cell released their debut album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret.  The album hit #5 on the British album charts and #22 on the Billboard album charts, but of course, the group is best known for their cover of Gloria Jones's "Tainted Love," which appeared on the album.  While not a hit for Jones, "Tainted Love" became an international hit for Soft Cell, who slowed the tempo down and changed it from a soul song to a brooding, synth-laden '80s classic.  "Tainted Love" topped the singles charts in six countries and hit the Top 10 in another nine countries, including #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The song ended up being the #1 song on the UK's year-end pop chart for 1981, and if you know of Soft Cell, it's likely because of this song.  There were a couple versions of the video, but here is the original.

Undefeated After Week 13

Once again, the only two undefeated teams won their games.  #1 Alabama beat arch rival #13 Auburn in the Iron Bowl, 30-12, while #21 Western Michigan won its eleventh game in a row by at least two touchdowns, topping Toledo 55-35.  Both teams play in their respective conference championship games this weekend.

Western Michigan's MAC Championship game takes on some added importance for getting a New Years Six bowl bid.  As I've previously noted, the non-Power-Five conference champion ranked highest in the College Football Playoff gets a berth in a New Years Six bowl, specifically the Cotton Bowl.  Western Michigan is ranked #17 in the new CFP rankings, while Navy is ranked #19.  This could end up being a huge deal because, if Navy beats Temple this weekend in the AAC Championship game and leapfrogs Western Michigan in the CFP rankings, the Cotton Bowl berth may have to wait until after Navy plays Army next weekend.  If Navy ends up ranked higher than Western Michigan in the final CFP rankings, the Midshipmen would go to the Cotton Bowl over the Broncos.  This scenario would basically end up causing a disastrous logjam in the bowl system because the non-New Years Six bowls, particularly those involving the MAC and the AAC, would have to wait an additional week before handing out bids, while they waited to see if Navy or Western Michigan earns the Cotton Bowl bid.  In my opinion, if Western Michigan wins this Saturday to go 13-0, they should get the Cotton Bowl berth regardless of what Navy does.  Then again, I'm not on the CFP Committee.  Yet.

The Top 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings had some slight changes, thanks to Ohio State's win over Michigan.  Here are the top four (along with each team's best win and worst loss, where applicable):
1.  Alabama (12-0)
Best win:  #11 USC (9/3; 52-6)
Worst loss:  N/A
2.  Ohio State (11-1)
Best win:  #5 Michigan (11/19; 30-27 (2OT))
Worst loss:  at #7 Penn State (10/22; 24-21)
3.  Clemson (11-1)
Best win:  at #12 Florida State (10/29; 37-34)
Worst loss:  #25 Pittsburgh (43-42; 11/12)
4.  Washington (11-1)
Best win:  #18 Stanford (9/30; 44-6)


Worst loss: #11 USC (11/12; 26-13)

Here is a breakdown of the undefeated teams and each team's remaining game (rankings are College Football Playoff Committee rankings):

#1 Alabama 12-0
Remaining game:
12/3 (3 p.m. ET; CBS) – SEC championship game (Atlanta) vs. #15 Florida (8-3) 

#17 Western Michigan 12-0
Remaining game:
12/2 (6 p.m. ET; ESPN2) – MAC championship game (Detroit) vs. Ohio (8-4)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Big Ten Bowl Outlook

Rivarly Weekend has come and gone without any major casualties, aside from maybe Michigan's College Football Playoff chances.  All three teams that needed to win to clinch bowl eligibility -- Indiana, Maryland, and Northwestern -- won their respective games, which means the Big Ten has ten bowl-eligible teams.

In a game they will be talking about for years to come, #2 Ohio State outlasted #3 Michigan in double overtime, 30-27, after the Buckeyes went for it on fourth down in the second OT, getting a first down on a controversial spot.  Why Urban Meyer didn't kick the field goal to send it to a third overtime is beyond me, but it worked, as the Buckeyes scored the winning touchdown a play later.  The loss likely relegates the Wolverines to a measly New Years Six bowl, rather than the College Football Playoffs, unless there are some upsets this weekend in other conference championship games.

As for the trophy games, on Friday, Iowa destroyed #16 Nebraska for the Heroes Trophy.  On Saturday, my beloved Hoosiers held off Purdue for a 26-24 win, keeping the Old Oaken Bucket for the fourth year in a row for the first time since the Truman Administration and clinching bowl eligiblity for the second year in a row.  Northwestern also clinched bowl eligibility by beating up on Illinois, 42-21, for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.  Maryland dropped Rutgers, 31-13, for no trophy, but a sixth win for the Terps.  #7 Penn State put an end to Michigan State's miserable season, winning 45-12 to claim the Land Grant Trophy.  Finally, #6 Wisconsin came back from a 17-7 deficit against Minnesota to win 31-17 and keep Paul Bunyan's Axe.

Wisconsin and Penn State will meet in this Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game (8 p.m. ET on Fox).

With that, let's take a look at each of the Big Ten's bowl-eligible teams, with an eye towards where each team will likely end up bowling, based on the Big Ten's Bowl Determination Procedures.  The four College Football Playoff teams will be announced this Sunday at Noon Eastern on ESPN.  Once those four teams are figured out, the New Years Six Bowls will be announced, and then the remaining bowl bids will be handed out.  Here is where I see the Big Ten teams landing, going down the line from the College Football Playoff to the New Years Six Bowls and through the Big Ten bowl priority litany.

1.  Ohio State (11-1, 8-1)
With their thrilling win over Michigan, the Buckeyes have all but solidified a spot in the College Football Playoff, as this week's rankings have shown (Ohio State stayed at #2), even though they did not win their division.  Even if there is some upheaval in other conferences' championship games this weekend, Ohio State literally can't lose this weekend, so unless the CFP Committee has some huge change of heart between now and Sunday, Ohio State will end up in the playoff.
Most likely bowl:  College Football Playoff
Other possibilities:  Orange Bowl

2.  Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2)
Wisconsin is in the same boat as Penn State.  Sitting at #6 in the CFP rankings right now, the Badgers could creep into the playoffs if they beat #7 Penn State this weekend and Clemson and Washington both lose their respective conference title games.  Most likely, though, if the Badgers beat Penn State, they'll end up going to the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champ.  If they lose, like Penn State, I think they will still go to a New Years Six Bowl, which would either be the Cotton Bowl or possibly the Orange Bowl.

Most likely bowl:  Rose Bowl


Other possibilities:  College Football Playoff, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl

3.  Michigan (10-2, 7-2)
With Michigan's loss to Ohio State, the Wolverines are on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoffs at the moment, ranked #5 in the most recent rankings released tonight.  However, if #3 Clemson or #4 Washington lose their respective conference championship games this Saturday, then Michigan will have new life.  If Clemson and Washington win, though, Michigan would likely go to the Orange Bowl.  They can't go to the Rose Bowl because they aren't the Big Ten champion.  The Orange Bowl takes the highest-ranked team from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame.  The Irish finished 4-8 this year, and the highest-ranked SEC team behind #1 Alabama is #14 Auburn, who doesn't stand a chance of moving ahead of Michigan.  Same goes for #15 Florida, even if the Gators beat Alabama this Saturday in the SEC Championship game.
Most likely bowl:  Orange Bowl


Other possibilities:  College Football Playoff, Cotton Bowl

4.  Penn State (10-2, 8-1)
Penn State presents an interesting, if not annoying, situation for the CFP Committee.  If the Nittany Lions (currently ranked #7) beat #6 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, can you really leave them out of the playoffs?  Probably, but it would not be without controversy.  If that happens, the Nittany Lions would go to the Rose Bowl.  If they lose to Wisconsin, I think they will probably still get a New Years Six bid, and that would likely be the Cotton Bowl.  If they get blown out and there are some upsets in other conference championship games, there is an off chance Penn State would slip to the Outback Bowl.
Most likely bowl:  Cotton Bowl


Other possibilities:  College Football Playoff, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Outback Bowl

5.  Nebraska (9-3, 6-3)
After getting blown out by Iowa last weekend, Nebraska's chances of going to a New Years Six bowl evaporated.  That said, the Huskers still had a pretty damn good season, and should be a lock to go to the Outback Bowl, which is the Big Ten's best non-CFP/New Years Six bowl.  It's unlikely that the Holiday Bowl would choose Nebraska, since the Huskers have played in the Holiday Bowl three times in the last seven years.
Most likely bowlOutback Bowl
Other possibilities:  Holiday Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, Music City Bowl

6.  Iowa (8-4, 6-3)
The Hawkeyes had a pretty good season, and are in line to play in the Holiday Bowl.  There is an outside chance they would play in the Outback Bowl if the bowl for some reason didn't take Nebraska.
Most likely bowl:  Holiday Bowl
Other possibilities:  Outback Bowl, Music City Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl

7.  Indiana (6-6, 4-5)
It wasn't pretty, but the Hoosiers clinched their second bowl in a row for the first time since 1990-1991, back when Trent Green and Vaughn Dunbar were leading the team to glory.  IU went to the Pinstripe Bowl last year, so that's out of the mix.  That would likely put the Hoosiers in the Music City Bowl, since IU is the closest remaining Big Ten team to Nashville and would likely travel pretty well.  Selfishly, I'd want the Hoosiers to end up there or the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, as those are the bowls I'd be most likely able to attend.


Most likely bowl:  Music City Bowl


Other possibilities:  Foster Farms Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl

8.  Minnesota (8-4, 5-4)
Minnesota had Wisconsin in its grasp, but ultimately the Badgers proved to be too much.  That would have been a huge win for the Gophers, but nonetheless, an 8-win season is a very solid one.  Assuming Iowa goes to the Holiday Bowl, Minnesota will probably end up in the Pinstripe Bowl or Music City Bowl.  Because Indiana went to the Pinstripe Bowl last year, that likely means that Minnesota will go to Yankee Stadium this year.
Most likely bowl:  Pinstripe Bowl


Other possibilities:  Holiday Bowl, Music City Bowl, Foster Farms Bowl

9.  Northwestern (6-6, 5-4)
After a disastrous pre-conference slate that included home losses to Western Michigan (which doesn't look quite as bad now that the Broncos are undefeated and ranked #17) and FCS opponent Illinois State, the Wildcats righted the ship, winning five conference games to clinch the seventh bowl in Pat Fitzgerald's tenure as head coach.  My guess is that Northwestern ends up win the Foster Farms Bowl.
Most likely bowl:  Foster Farms Bowl


Other possibilities:  Music City Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl



10.  Maryland (6-6, 3-6)
The Terps did what they needed to do by beating Rutgers to clinch a bowl.  I am guessing that they will be the last Big Ten team left once all of the other bowls have given out their bids, leaving the Quick Lane Bowl as the last remaining Big Ten bowl.  There is always the possibility that the Pinstripe Bowl takes Maryland, though, due to its closer proximity to NYC.
Most likely bowl:  Quick Lane Bowl


Other possibilities:  Foster Farms Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Big Ten Bowl Hopefuls After Week 12

There was almost major upheaval in the Big Ten this weekend.  First, #2 Ohio State barely beat Michigan State, 17-16, after the Spartans went for the win by going for two instead of kicking the game-tying extra point.  I respected the decision, given that Michigan State is out of bowl eligibility.  And then IU gave #3 Michigan a solid scare in Ann Arbor.  The Hoosiers led 7-3 at halftime, but then ceded some points in the second half and couldn't get their offense going in the snow, losing 20-10.  Regardless, it's just nice to know that IU will likely have the outright best record of any D-1 football team in the State of Indiana for the first time since 1967.

With that, "The Game" this weekend in Columbus is, for all intents and purposes, a College Football Playoff elimination game.  Meanwhile, three other Big Ten teams -- Indiana, Maryland, and Northwestern -- are sitting at 5-6 and looking to clinch bowl eligiblity this weekend against rivals.

Here are this past Saturday's results, as well as this coming week's slate of games (rankings are CFP):

Week 12 results:
#2 Ohio State 17 Michigan State 16
Iowa 28 Illinois 0
#18 Nebraska 28 Maryland 7
#7 Wisconsin 49 Purdue 20
#3 Michigan 20 Indiana 10
Minnesota 29 Northwestern 12
#8 Penn State 39 Rutgers 0



Week 13 schedule (times listed are Eastern)
Friday 11/25
#16 Nebraska at Iowa (3:30 p.m.; ABC)
Saturday 11/26
Rutgers at Maryland (12 p.m.; ESPNews)
#3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State (12 p.m.; ABC)
Indiana at Purdue (12 p.m.; ESPNU)
Illinois at Northwestern (12 p.m.; BTN)
Michigan State at #7 Penn State (3:30 p.m.; ESPN)
Minnesota at #6 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m.; BTN)

With only one game left, there are still five teams left that have a shot at going to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on December 5.  In the East, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State still have a shot.  In the West, Wisconsin and Nebraska are the only two teams that are mathematically still in the hunt.  Taking into account the Big Ten's divisional tiebreaking rules, here is each team's path to Indianapolis:

East Division
Michigan (7-1) will win the East if they beat Ohio State.
Penn State (7-1) will win the East if they beat Michigan State and Ohio State beats Michigan.
Ohio State (7-1) will win the East if they beat Michigan and Penn State loses to Michigan State.

West Division
Wisconsin (6-2) will win the West if:  (1) they beat Minnesota; or (2) they lose to Minnesota and Iowa beats Nebraska.
Nebraska (6-2) will win the West if they beat Iowa and Wisconsin loses to Minnesota.

Let's take a look at the bowl chances of each Big Ten team.  I'll list each team's current record (overall and conference), and then I'll break down each team's (1) remaining game and whether it is a likely win, loss, or toss-up, (2) probable regular season win total (this will not include the Big Ten Championship game or any postseason games), (3) analysis of the team, (4) how many more games they need to win to become bowl-eligible, where applicable, and (5) for those teams that have clinched a bowl, the realistic best and worst case bowl scenarios.  The schools that have lost at least 7 games and, therefore, are not eligible to go to a bowl, are separated and listed after those schools that still have hope.  For sake of ease, I'm just going to go in alphabetical order.

1.  Indiana
Record:  5-6 (3-5)
Remaining game:  Purdue (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  6
Analysis:  The Hoosiers had another close loss to a Top 10 team, losing 20-10 at #3 Michigan after leading at halftime.  With the Old Oaken Bucket game this Saturday against Purdue, IU should beat its fetid, slack-jawed rivals to clinch bowl eligiblity for the second year in a row.  That may not seem like a big deal to you, but bear in mind that, if that happens, this will be the first time in 25 years that the Hoosiers have gone to bowl games in consecutive years.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1

2.  Iowa
Record:  7-4 (5-3)
Remaining game:  Nebraska (11/25) (toss up)
Probable win total:  7-8
Analysis:  The Hawkeyes beat up on Illinois, 28-0, last Saturday.  Now, they face #16 Nebraska this Friday in Iowa City for the Heroes Trophy.  Iowa is a one-point favorite at the moment, and it should be a good game.
Best case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Heart of Dallas Bowl

3.  Maryland
2016 record:  5-6 (2-6)
Remaining game:  Rutgers (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  6
Analysis:  So the Terrapins have finally finished their murderers' row of games.  After starting 4-0, they went 1-6 over their last seven games.  However, they play Rutgers this Saturday, and that's just what the doctor ordered.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1

4.  Michigan
2016 record:  10-1 (7-1)
Remaining game:  at Ohio State (11/26) (toss up)
Probable win total:  10-11
Analysis:  The Wolverines didn't look all that convincing this past weekend in their 20-10 win over IU, with backup QB John O'Korn at the helm.  That said, they still control their own destiny in the Big Ten East, and a win over Ohio State this weekend would be triply satisfying for Michigan fans, as it would not only be a win over their arch-rival, but also it would clinch the Big Ten East for Michigan and effectively eliminate Ohio State from the College Football Playoffs.
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Outback Bowl

5.  Minnesota
2016 record:  8-3 (5-3)
Remaining game:  at Wisconsin (11/26) (likely loss)
Probable win total:  8
Analysis:  The Gophers beat Northwestern 29-12 last Saturday, and now face #6 Wisconsin in Camp Randall.  Even if they lose, it's their third 8-win season in the last four years, which hasn't happened since they reeled off six 9+-win seasons in a row from 1900 to 1905.  Furthermore, they're going to a bowl for the fifth consecutive year, which is the second time in school history that has happened (2002-2006).
Best case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Foster Farms Bowl

6.  Nebraska
2016 record:  9-2 (6-2)
Remaining game:  at Iowa (11/25) (toss up)
Probable win total:  9-10
Analysis:  Nebraska beat Maryland 28-7, and now travels to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes, needing a win if the Huskers have any hope of winning the Big Ten West.
Best case bowl scenario: Outback Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Music City Bowl

7.  Northwestern
2016 record:  5-6 (3-4)
Remaining game:  Illinois (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  6
Analysis:  While the Wildcats lost to Minnesota this past weekend, they face a hapless Illinois team this Saturday in Evanston.  That should mean that they clinch their seventh bowl of the Pat Fitzgerald era.  With a win, Fitzgerald will have taken the Wildcats to more bowls than all other coaches in Northwestern history combined.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1

8.  Ohio State
2016 record:  10-1 (10-1)
Remaining game:  Michigan (11/26) (toss up)
Probable win total:  10-11
Analysis:  The Buckeyes were one two-point conversion away from having their College Football Playoff hopes dashed.  Unfortunately, Michigan State's two-point attempt failed, and Ohio State escaped East Lansing with a 17-16 win.  Now, they face a wounded Michigan team in Columbus, but I think it's safe to say that Michigan's defense is better than any defense the Buckeyes have faced thus far.  It should be a good one.  
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Citrus Bowl

9.  Penn State
2016 record:  9-2 (7-1)
Remaining game:  Michigan State (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  10
Analysis:  The Nittany Lions murdered Rutgers, and now have a very winnable home game against Penn State for the Land Grant Trophy.  A win puts Penn State in the Big Ten championship game, if Ohio State beats Michigan.  
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl

10.  Wisconsin
2016 record:  9-2 (6-2)
Remaining game:  Minnesota (11/26) (likely win)
Probable win total:  10
Analysis:  The Badgers did what they needed to do against Purdue, winning 49-20, and they now face Minnesota for Paul Bunyan's Axe and a chance to clinch the Big Ten West.  As I said last week, with a win in the Big Ten Title game, Wisconsin could go get into the College Football Playoffs, depending on how other things shake out.
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Citrus Bowl

Teams who are ineligible for bowls:  Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Undefeated After Week 12

The only two undefeated teams remained as such, as #1 Alabama toppled FCS opponent Chattanooga 31-3, while #21 Western Michigan blew out Buffalo 38-0.  Both teams now have tough regular season finales, with Alabama getting a visit from #13 Auburn for the Iron Bowl on Saturday, while the second-best team in the MAC, Toledo (9-2, 6-1), will make the trip to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan on Friday.

As you may know, the non-Power-Five conference team ranked highest in the College Football Playoff rankings that also wins its conference gets a berth in a New Years Six bowl.  That is relevant here because right now Western Michigan is ranked #21 in the CFP rankings, while Boise State is ranked #19.  However, if Wyoming beats New Mexico this weekend, Wyoming would clinch the Mountain West's Mountain division, meaning that Boise State could not win the Mountain West.  As long as Western Michigan wins the MAC, they should get the nod for a New Years Six bowl.  Frankly, if they go undefeated and somehow end up ranked lower than another non-Power-Five conference team, that's bullshit.

The Top 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings didn't change this week.  Here they are (along with each team's best win and worst loss, where applicable):
1.  Alabama (10-0)
Best win:  #12 USC (9/3; 52-6)
Worst loss:  N/A
2.  Ohio State (9-1)
Best win:  at #6 Wisconsin (10/15; 30-23 (OT))
Worst loss:  at #7 Penn State (10/22; 24-21)
3.  Michigan (9-1)
Best win:  #6 Wisconsin (10/1; 14-7)
Worst loss: at Iowa (11/12; 14-13)
4.  Clemson (9-1)
Best win:  at #11 Louisville (10/1; 42-36)
Worst loss:  Pittsburgh (43-42; 11/12)

Here is a breakdown of the undefeated teams and each team's remaining games (rankings are College Football Playoff Committee rankings):

#1 Alabama 9-0
11/26 – #13 Auburn (8-3)
12/3 – SEC championship game (Atlanta) - #15 Florida (8-2)

Remaining opponents' combined record:  16-5 (.762)
Best win:  #12 USC (9/3; 52-6)

#21 Western Michigan 10-0
11/25 – Toledo (9-2)
12/2 – MAC championship game (Detroit) - Ohio (8-4)

Remaining opponents' combined record:  17-6 (.739)
Best win:  at Northwestern (9/3; 22-21)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Big Ten Football Rivalry Trophies

This is the most revered and precious weekend in college football:  Rivalry Weekend.  All across the country, students, alumni, and fans will be gathering to watch their favorite university's team try to obliterate their least-favorite university's team.

As you should be keenly aware of by now, I went to Indiana and, therefore, I despise Purdue.  Those shit stains from West Lafayette make the trek down to Heaven on Earth (Bloomington) this Saturday.  While Purdue has played itself out of bowl eligibility for the 4th straight year, IU is 5-6 and, with a win, will clinch its second consecutive bowl berth for the first time since 1991.  More importantly, a Hoosier victory would be the fourth in a row over the Boilermakers, which means the Old Oaken Bucket's stay in Bloomington would match its longest stay ever (1944-1947).  Here's a shot of several IU players carrying the Bucket after last year's 54-36 win over Purdue at Ross-Aid Stadium.
The Old Oaken Bucket is one of 15 in-conference rivalry trophies in the Big Ten.  Many of those trophies are iconic, while some are too new or too ugly to be worthy of recognition in the greater college football landscape.  With that, fair reader, I set out to rank my ten favorite Big Ten football rivalry trophies.  Please remember that these are only in-conference trophies (sorry Crab Bowl Trophy lovers).

Here are the trophies that didn't make the cut:  Heartland Trophy (Iowa/Wisconsin); Heroes Trophy (Iowa/Nebraska); The Land Grant Trophy (Michigan State/Penn State); Governor's Bell Trophy (Minnesota/Penn State); Freedom Trophy (Nebraska/Wisconsin)


10.  Purdue Cannon (Illinois/Purdue)

It was hard for me to include a trophy between my least favorite two Big Ten teams on this list, but given the other options, it's hard to pass up an adorable toy cannon for a bell or whatever the fuck the Land Grant Trophy is.

9.  Paul Bunyan Trophy (Michigan/Michigan State)
This is a massive trophy -- a four foot wooden statue of Paul Bunyan that sits on a five-foot base -- that Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams presented in 1953 to commemorate Michigan State joining the Big Ten.  The funny thing is that neither school really seemed to want it for the first few years, but they eventually warmed up to it.

8.  $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy (Minnesota/Nebraska)
This makes the list solely because it is likely the first college football rivalry trophy that came about because of a Twitter wager and crowdsourcing.  The Twitter account for Minnesota's mascot, Goldy Gopher, and the account Faux Pellini (a fake account for Bo Pellini, Nebraska's now-former coach) exchanged some friendly banter, and decided to wager on the game, when Faux Pellini suggested that, if Nebraska won, Goldy would give Faux Pellini $5, and if Minnesota won, Faux Pellini would get to smash a wooden chair over Goldy's back.  It seemed like a bad bet for Goldy, yet someone made a trophy to commemorate the wager, and the trophy was actually given to the winner of the 2014 and 2015 games, but then it disappeared this year.  Both schools then said it was never really an official trophy anyway, so there are no plans to bring it back.

7.  The Old Brass Spittoon (Indiana/Michigan State)

This is a strange trophy, given that spittoons are fucking disgusting and are not particularly associated with Indiana or Michigan.  Nonetheless, since 1950, IU and MSU have played for a brass spittoon, and an old one at that.

6.  The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk (Illinois/Northwestern)

It's a tomahawk, so that's awesome.  However, in 2008 -- in the wake of the NCAA's mandate that anything that might be deemed offensive to Native Americans be banned -- it was replaced by the Land of Lincoln Trophy -- a stovepipe hat that hides and protects hair and scalps, quite the opposite of a tomahawk.

5.  The Little Brown Jug (Michigan/Minnesota)

Believed to be the oldest trophy in college football, the Little Brown Jug was purchased as a water jug by a Michigan student manager in 1903 at the behest of Wolverines head coach Fielding Yost, who was afraid Minnesota would tamper with Michigan's water supply.  Yost left the jug behind after the game, and a Minnesota custodian found it and kept it.  The teams decided that the jug would go to the winner of their football games starting in 1909.

4.  The Illibuck Trophy (Illinois/Ohio State)

The Illibuck is a wooden turtle, which might seem odd, since one doesn't think of turtles when thinking about Illinois or Ohio.  Apparently, the teams initially exchanged a live turtle, as a symbol of longevity, but realized at some point that the rivalry would outlive your garden variety Midwestern turtle.  The scores of each game are written on the back of the turtle, and there have been ten turtles total, since people apparently can't write small enough.

3.  Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa/Minnesota)

It's a bronze pig.  Does it get more Midwestern than that?

2.  Paul Bunyan's Axe (Minnesota/Wisconsin)

After the previous trophy -- I kid you not, called the Slab of Bacon -- disappeared, Wisconsin's letterwinners' association came up with Paul Bunyan's Axe, a six-foot-tall axe, which has been the trophy since 1948. The score of each game is written on the handle, and the original axe was retired in 2003.  No matter which team wins, it's always fun watching players sprint to sideline, grab the axe, and run around the field with it.  They used to have a tradition of "chopping down" the loser's goalpost with the axe, but they stopped that a few years ago when Minnesota's players circled their goalpost and wouldn't let Wisconsin players chop it down.  They still had an axe, so I'm pretty sure they could have chopped it down if they wanted to.

1.  The Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana/Purdue)

Obviously, I'm quite biased, but the Old Oaken Bucket is my favorite college football trophy.  In 1925, the Indiana and Purdue alumni association chapters in Chicago decided, rightfully so, that the winner of the annual football game between the two schools should get a trophy.  They decided that it should be an "old oaken bucket" from a well in Indiana, and a chain would be created to show each year's winner, with the date of the game and the score engraved on each link.  When IU wins, a brass "I" is added to the chain, when Purdue wins, a brass "P" is added, and back when there were ties, a brass "IP" was added.  The Old Oaken Bucket was found on a farm in Southern Indiana, and it dates back to the 1840s, making it the oldest trophy in college football.  And as a result of all of those brass letters, the Bucket is heavy as hell.  I've had the pleasure of touching it, holding it, caressing it a few times.  Last week, I took this picture at an alumni event in Chicago, and you can see the extent of the massive chain that the Bucket holds.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Two male co-workers walk down office hallway talking to each other, when one says: "And, you know, he was just happy to see two dicks at the same time."
--Chicago
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

Early twenties female on train, to friends:  "Have you ever been holding a baby and just wanted to throw it?"
--Chicago, Red Line train
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 11/18/16

1.  "Wind Me Up" by Mr. Big


2.  "Back in Black" by AC/DC


3.  "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison


4.  "Hear About It Later" by Van Halen


5.  "Diary of a Madman" by Ozzy Osbourne


6.  "Cummin' Atcha Live" by Tesla


7.  "Interlude/Everywhere I Go" by Nelson


8.  "Homebound Train" by Bon Jovi


9.  "Revolution Calling" by Queensr├┐che


10.  "Without The Night" by Winger

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New Book: X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Ray Davies

A week or two ago, I finished reading Night Shift by Stephen King, which was King's first collection of short stories, published in 1978.  I have read a bunch of King's novels, but this was the first short story collection I have read.  It was generally excellent.  King truly is the King of Horror, and has been for over 40 years.  Night Shift featured a variety of stories, including traditional horror (vampires, monsters, sadistic ghosts, killers, etc.), possessed machines, suspense, creepy children, and the like.  My favorite stories were "The Ledge," "Quitters, Inc.," "Sometimes They Come Back," "Strawberry Spring," and "The Man Who Loved Flowers."  As I mentioned before, there are at least six major motion pictures based on short stories in Night Shift -- 1984's Children of the Corn (based on "Children of the Corn"), 1985's Cat's Eye (featuring adaptations of "The Ledge" and "Quitters, Inc." -- I'll have to check that out), 1986's Maximum Overdrive (based on "Trucks"), 1990's Graveyard Shift (based on "Graveyard Shift"), 1992's The Lawnmower Man (loosely based on "The Lawnmower Man"), and 1995's The Mangler (based on "The Mangler") -- along with four made-for-TV movies, including 1991's Sometimes They Come Back, which was great.  If you like reading horror, I definitely recommend Night Shift.

I just started reading X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Ray Davies.  Davies, of course, was the lead singer and songwriter for The Kinks.  The title alone shows you that Davies has a sense of humor (or humour, as it were).  Released in 1995, it's a faux biography written from the perspective of a fake biographer, a college student who is given the task of tracking down the reclusive Davies for a research paper.  I don't know nearly as much about The Kinks as I should, so perhaps this will enlighten me.

Books read in 2016:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Big Ten Bowl Hopefuls After Week 11

This past Saturday, the Hoosiers put up a hell of a fight against #10 Penn State, but lost 45-31, after blowing a ten-point third quarter lead and then giving up a fumble return for a touchdown in the last minute of what would have undoubtedly been the game-tying drive.  Such is the life of the Indiana Hoosiers football team.  More importantly, #3 Michigan lost its first game of the year, a 14-13 heartbreaker at Iowa, which clinched bowl eligibility with the upset.  #5 Ohio State won its second game in a row by the score of 62-3, this time topping Maryland.  #19 Nebraska broke its two-game losing streak by beating Minnesota 24-17.  The Big Ten now has four teams in the top 8 of the CFP rankings (#2 Ohio State, #3 Michigan, #7 Wisconsin, and #8 Penn State).

Two more teams lost their 7th game, making them ineligible for bowl berths, as Purdue got stomped by Northwestern, 45-17, and Illinois got stomped even worse by Wisconsin, 48-3.  However, there is still the distinct possibility that ten Big Ten teams will go to bowls.

Here are this past Saturday's results, as well as this coming week's slate of games (rankings are CFP):

Week 11 results:
#10 Penn State 45 Indiana 31
Michigan State 49 Rutgers 0
Northwestern 45 Purdue 17
#7 Wisconsin 48 Illinois 3
#5 Ohio State 62 Maryland 3
#19 Nebraska 24 Minnesota 17
Iowa 14 #3 Michigan 13

Week 12 schedule (all games are November 12; times listed are Eastern)
#2 Ohio State at Michigan State (12 p.m.; ESPN)
Iowa at Illinois (12 p.m.; BTN)
Maryland at #18 Nebraska (12 p.m.; ESPNews)
#7 Wisconsin at Purdue (12 p.m.; ABC)
Indiana at #3 Michigan (3:30 p.m.; ESPN)
Northwestern at Minnesota (3:30 p.m.; BTN)
#8 Penn State at Rutgers (8 p.m.; BTN)



With only two games left, there are still eight teams left that have a shot at going to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on December 5.  In the East, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State still have a shot.  In the West, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Northwestern all still have a shot.  I was going to try to figure out all the possible scenarios for each team to make it to the championship game, taking into account the Big Ten's divisional tiebreaking rules, but it turns out that would take much more time than I'm willing to commit at this point in the evening.  

That said, in the East, both Michigan and Penn State control their own destinies.  If either team wins its remaining two games, it will go to the Big Ten Championship game.  Ohio State, on the other hand, needs to win both of its games and hope that Penn State loses one of its remaining games.  Otherwise, the Buckeyes will be on the outside looking in on the Big Ten Championship game.

In the West, Wisconsin and Nebraska are both 5-2, while Minnesota, Iowa, and Northwestern are 4-3.  Wisconsin controls its own destiny and will win the Big Ten West if it wins its last two games.  Nebraska needs to win its last two games and hope that Wisconsin loses one of its final two games.  Minnesota, Iowa, and Northwestern need miracles.

Let's take a look at the bowl chances of each Big Ten team.  I'll list each team's current record (overall and conference), and then I'll break down each team's (1) remaining games by likely wins, likely losses, and toss-ups, (2) toughest remaining game, (3) probable regular season win total, with a range of wins (this will not include the Big Ten Championship game or any postseason games), (4) analysis of the team, (5) how many more games they need to win to become bowl-eligible, (6) what it will take to make a bowl, and (7) for those teams that have clinched a bowl, the realistic best and worst case bowl scenarios.  The schools that have lost at least 7 games and, therefore, are not eligible to go to a bowl, are separated and listed after those schools that still have hope.  For sake of ease, I'm just going to go in alphabetical order.

1.  Indiana
Record:  5-5 (3-4)
Remaining likely wins:  Purdue (11/26)
Remaining likely losses:  at Michigan (11/19)
Remaining toss-ups:  none
Toughest remaining game:  at Michigan (11/19)
Probable win total:  6-7
Analysis:  The Hoosiers follow up a tough home loss to #10 Penn State by taking a trip to Ann Arbor to meet #3 Michigan in the Big House.  IU and Michigan went to two overtimes last year in Bloomington, before the Wolverines pulled out a 48-41 win.  I'd like the Hoosiers to shock the world Saturday.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1
Will make a bowl if:  they beat Purdue, or they take advantage of a still-hurting Michigan team, to win in Ann Arbor for the first time since 1967.

2.  Iowa
Record:  6-4 (4-3)
Remaining likely wins:  at Illinois (11/19), 
Remaining likely losses:  none
Remaining toss-ups:  Nebraska (11/25)
Toughest remaining game:  Nebraska (11/25)
Probable win total:  7-8
Analysis:  The Hawkeyes clinched bowl eligibility by pulling off one of the more shocking upsets of the year, topping #3 Michigan 14-13 on a last-second field goal.  The rushing of the field was warranted.
Best case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Heart of Dallas Bowl

3.  Maryland
2016 record:  5-5 (2-5)
Remaining likely wins:  Rutgers (11/26)
Remaining likely losses:  at Nebraska (11/19)
Remaining toss-ups:  none
Toughest remaining game:  at Nebraska (11/19)
Probable win total:  5-6
Analysis:  The Terps got the living shit kicked out of them for the second week in a row, losing 62-3 to Ohio State.  Maryland has now lost their last two games by a combined score of 123-6.  Their reward is a trip to Lincoln to face #18 Nebraska.  But let's not forget that the Terps still play Rutgers on November 26.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1
Will make a bowl if:  they beat Rutgers.

4.  Michigan
2016 record:  9-1 (6-1)
Remaining likely wins:  Indiana (11/19)
Remaining likely losses:  none
Remaining toss-ups:  at Ohio State (11/26)
Toughest remaining game:  at Ohio State (11/26)
Probable win total:  10-11
Analysis:  The Wolverines tripped up, losing to Iowa, but they still control their own destiny in the Big Ten East -- until they lose to IU this Saturday, that is.
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Outback Bowl

5.  Minnesota
2016 record:  7-3 (4-3)
Remaining likely wins:  none
Remaining likely losses:  at Wisconsin (11/26)
Remaining toss-ups:  Northwestern (11/19)
Toughest remaining game:  at Wisconsin (11/26)
Probable win total:  7-8
Analysis:  The Gophers played tough against Nebraska, but fell short, 24-17.  They still have an outside shot at winning the Big Ten West, but that would involve winning their last two games, including beating Wisconsin in Madison in their final game.
Best case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Foster Farms Bowl

6.  Nebraska
2016 record:  8-2 (5-2)
Remaining likely wins:  Maryland (11/19)
Remaining likely losses:  none
Remaining toss-ups:  at Iowa (11/25)
Toughest remaining game:  at Iowa (11/25)
Probable win total:  9-10
Analysis:  The Huskers came back from a 7-point halftime deficit against Minnesota, shutting the Gophers out in the second half and winning 24-17.  They still have a chance to win the Big Ten West, which they would need to do to have a chance at a New Years Six bowl.
Best case bowl scenario: Outback Bowl
Worst case bowl scenario:  Music City Bowl

7.  Northwestern
2016 record:  5-5 (3-3)
Remaining likely wins:  Illinois (11/26)
Remaining likely losses:  none
Remaining toss-ups:  at Minnesota (11/19)
Toughest remaining game:  at Minnesota (11/19)
Probable win total:  6-7
Analysis:  The Wildcats beat up on Purdue to get within one win of bowl eligibility.  I haven't totally written off Northwestern's chances of beating Minnesota this weekend in Minneapolis, but even if that doesn't happen, a favorable last game against Illinois at Ryan Field should do the trick.
Number of wins still needed to become bowl-eligible:  1
Will make a bowl if:  they beat Illinois.

8.  Ohio State
2016 record:  9-1 (9-1)
Remaining likely wins:  at Michigan State (11/19)
Remaining likely losses:  none
Remaining toss-ups:  Michigan (11/26)
Toughest remaining game:  Michigan (11/26)
Probable win total:  10-11
Analysis:  The Buckeyes jumped up to #2 in the CFP rankings after drubbing Maryland.  They can't look past their trip to East Lansing this weekend just because the Spartans are 3-7.  
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Citrus Bowl

9.  Penn State
2016 record:  8-2 (6-1)
Remaining likely wins:  at Rutgers (11/19), Michigan State (11/26)
Remaining likely losses:  none
Remaining toss-ups:  none
Toughest remaining game:  Michigan State (11/26)
Probable win total:  10
Analysis:  The Nittany Lions topped IU, 45-31, and with Michigan's loss, Penn State controls its own destiny in the Big Ten East.  With two very winnable games left, it's looking like Penn State will be playing for the Big Ten championship in Indy.
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Holiday Bowl

10.  Wisconsin
2016 record:  8-2 (5-2)
Remaining likely wins:  at Purdue (11/19), Minnesota (11/26)
Remaining likely losses:  none
Remaining toss-ups:  none
Toughest remaining game:  Minnesota (11/26)
Probable win total:  10
Analysis:  With Purdue and Minnesota left, the Badgers should win the Big Ten West.  With a win in the Big Ten Title game, Wisconsin could go get into the College Football Playoffs, depending on how other things shake out.
Best case bowl scenario:  College Football Playoff
Worst case bowl scenario:  Citrus Bowl

Teams who are ineligible for bowls:  Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers