Spartan Nation talked to various Coaches around the Big Ten earlier this week.Â Hereâ€™s some buzz from around the league to get you ready for the Conferenceâ€™s opening weekend of November play.
On how much of the Spartansâ€™ success in 2010 is a product of the programâ€™s attitude under Dantonio of never quitting, and really showing up to play in each game:
â€œEvery program grows, every program has set backs.Â Weâ€™ve certainly done both.Â Last year was a tough year for us, but I think through adversity, we all grow.Â I think adversity is one of the best teachers that we all haveâ€¦The program is in placeâ€¦weâ€™re pushing forward.Â Thereâ€™s great chemistry on this football team, thereâ€™s great leadership, and I think theyâ€™ll be a renewed sense of urgency this weekend.â€
On whether he expects anything to â€œcarry overâ€ from the Spartans run at the Big Ten title in 2008, since they are now playing into the seasonâ€™s final weeks with a chance to win the Big Ten title, for the second time in three years:
â€œI certainly hope so.Â I remember the run in â€™08â€¦had we won the final game, we would have been Co-Champsâ€¦When you havenâ€™t done something before, you donâ€™t have experience in how to deal with it.Â This football team, at least we have players that have experienced thatâ€¦that run at the end and that opportunity...
What we need to understand is that our focus all needs to be on Minnesota, because you canâ€™t get to step â€œCâ€ without going through step â€œA.â€Â Â Our focus will be totally on Minnesota.Â I felt, and I think our team felt like it was an embarrassing performance last week and we need to rectify that.â€
On Joe Paternoâ€™s attempt to win his 400th game at Penn St. this weekend:
â€œâ€¦Jim Tressel just got to 100â€¦in 10 years.Â So to get 400 in the amount of time that he was there...I think that pretty much puts it in perspective.
â€¦I had remarked to my wife, â€œdo we have 50 yet?â€Â Itâ€™s amazingâ€¦â€
On any potential parallels between Kirk Cousins (Rs.-Jr. QB) performance Saturday against Iowa, and Brian Hoyerâ€™s performance back in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl, in which both cases, the Quarterbacks took the loss hard and felt they didnâ€™t play well:
â€œThere might be someâ€¦You might be a little bit right there, Jonathan, but I never really recognized that fact.Â I think the Champs Bowl, we played a much more competitive football gameâ€¦we were not overmatched throughout the entire game, in all areas.
In this particular game, when you run the ball for 40 yardsâ€¦good things are not going to happen for you.Â Thereâ€™s going to be more pressure on the Quarterback...
What we needed to have happen was something good to happen to us early in the game to sort of continue to give us small doses of confidence as we were in that environment, and it went the other directionâ€¦Weâ€™ll be fine, that skyâ€™s not falling.â€
On Bennie Fowlerâ€™s (Rs.-Fr.) recent emergence, and what Spartan Nation might expect from him in the years to come:
â��œHeâ€™s a very explosive player, and heâ€™s big.Â Heâ€™s got great hands.Â I would expect him to be a Kick Returner, possible Punt Returner, and Wide Receiver.Â (We expect him to) do a lot of the things that Keshawn Martin can doâ€¦The more confidence he gets ,the better heâ€™s going to becomeâ€¦â€
On whether his coaches will do any preliminary work on each of the Buckeyes remaining opponents (Penn St., Iowa, Michigan) during their bye week:
â€œWe do more work on the fundamentals during this time, and a little bit of preparatory work on, in our case, Penn St. (Nov. 13 opponent)...You donâ€™t want to, in my mind, get too far out in your game plan thinking.â€
On what fans might look for to be the ultimate difference maker between now and the end of the month when another Big Ten Champion(s) is crowned:
â€œWe always say that Champions are usually determined by teams that go on the road and win those evenly matched gamesâ€¦I think if you look at many conference races over the years, youâ€™d find that there were some big victories on the road that made the difference.â€
On the impact of having Norm Parker back in the Coaching Box last Saturday versus Michigan State:
â€œFrom an inspiration standpoint, the week before might have been more pertinent, only because Norm came over to the hotel the Saturday prior and met with the Defense, and also was with us for the team mealâ€¦so everybody had a chance to shake his handâ€¦This (vs. MSU) was more or a sterile thing where Norm went right to the Press Box on Saturday, and actually left before the game was over to beat the crowd outâ€¦Our players knew he was there, and that certainly helpedâ€¦Itâ€™s just great to have Norm back and involved.â€
On how the Hawkeyes captured momentum early against Michigan State and whether they changed their approach as the momentum continued to build, in hopes of putting them away for good early:
â€œItâ€™s just one of those days where we played well in all three areas, and we havenâ€™t done that yet this year, I donâ€™t think, in any game...Itâ€™s just one of those days where things clicked.â€
On the imposing Illini Defense, especially up front:
â€œExtremely athletic, very productiveâ€¦they have one of the most athletic teams in the league, and one of the best Defensive Lineman, I think, in the country, the way heâ€™s playing, in Corey Liuget.Â Itâ€™s going to be a handful for us.â€
On whether the enormous struggles of the Michigan Defense are more on experience, or talent based:
â€œI think experience is probably the biggest issue with that.Â If we do our job in developing, which I feel very confident inâ€¦their talent will show more and more as we get through the process of development.Â But the advantage of experience has sometimes â€œgotâ€ us because we donâ€™t have a lot of experience at certain positions.â€
On what promising and optimistic signs he can point to for the Michigan Defense:
â€œThe young guys are certainly getting experience, but I think they are learning a little bit.Â There are times when we go back and try to correct things, they know immediately what they did wrong.Â Thatâ€™s the thing.Â Early you tell them what they did wrong, and theyâ€™re still learning.Â Now at least they know, immediately, the issues they have to try to get corrected. The positive thing is, nobodyâ€™s hanging their heads.
I want those guys to get more excited, more enthusiastic, and I think weâ€™ve got to make more plays in order for that to happen. But I also feel good they come back to work, the next day, 48 hours later when we start practicing again, theyâ€™re ready to get back to work and get corrected again and see if they can get better.â€
On whether he can quantify how close the Michigan Defense is to making plays on a consistent basis, and not being such blatant liability:
â€œThatâ€™s the frustrating part.Â Itâ€™s hard to say that if youâ€™re giving up a lot of points and a lot of yards, and you say, â€œgee whiz, you think theyâ€™re close?â€ When you see them making two or three plays in a row and not just getting it done on third down, they are getting closer.Â Youâ€™ve got to play all the downs certainly, and the end result is:Â win or lose, and whether you stop them or you donâ€™t.Â Thatâ€™s how youâ€™re graded on, and we understand that. But thereâ€™s glimpses of not only individually getting better, but the group getting better at times.â€
P.A.T. (Perhaps Another Thoughtâ€¦)
The BCS standings should have nothing to do with deciding who goes to the Rose Bowl.Â Weâ€™ve been reminded for years now that the BCS is designed for one purpose: to identify the top two teams to play in the manufactured BCS Championship game.Â Thatâ€™s it.Â It was not designed to decide conference title tie breakers, or who should play in a conference title game.
It was a horrendous idea in the first place, and could become a nightmare in reality for a certain Big Ten school.Â How in the world could the Big Ten athletic directors agree to use that as a potential tie breaker, even for one season, after the debacle of the Big 12 a couple years ago?Â To invite that kind of mess to play itself out in the best conference in the history of College Athletics was beyond a bad idea at the time, and now stands a pretty decent bet that it could ruin someoneâ€™s 2011 New Yearâ€™s celebration.Â Â Â Now that deserves an honorary thud, Jud.
Minnesota should hire a Head Coach to run the â€œOption Offense.â€Â Youâ€™re Minnesota, know your limitations.Â At best, youâ€™re going to pull a â€œtop halfâ€ recruiting class in the Big Ten.Â Usually, it will be quite average, which opens the door to play a unique â€œsystem.â€Â Youâ€™re not going to out Ohio State, Ohio State.Â So play smart, and play to your strengths.Â Donâ€™t compete where you cannot succeed.
Donâ€™t try the â€œSpreadâ€ up there again, itâ€™s bound to fail.Â But bring in the â€œOption,â€ and watch how quickly youâ€™ll cause problems for other Big Ten teams.Â Watch how soon youâ€™ll be back to Bowl Games.Â And watch as you might even be able to compete for the Big Ten title on an occasional basis, all the way into November, when your Non-Weis â€œschematic advantageâ€ would truly then shine through.Â But youâ€™re not going to get the best â€œOption Coach,â€ Georgia Techâ€™s Paul Johnson, but you could score one of his top disciples, or another competent â€œOptionâ€ leader.Â Think about it, Goldy.Â And then send me a big check for the consultation when it works.
* Interact with Jonathan on Twitter @JPSpartan or inside the Phalanx Forum