Keady likes what he sees in Lickliter

October 30, 2008

Former Purdue men’s basketball coach Gene Keady seems impressed with the steps Todd Lickliter has taken with the Iowa basketball program.

“He’s always going to have teams that play hard, so I always enjoy that,” Keady said Sunday at Big Ten Media Day. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for him when he was the coach at Butler.”

Keady, who coached Purdue from 1980 through 2005, squared off against Lickliter once. Lickliter’s Butler team beat Purdue 74-68 in 2001, Lickliter’s first season as head coach. Lickliter finished his Butler career 2-0 against Purdue.

“I made some comments last year about I think he should smile more,” Keady said. “And (he said), ‘You got your nerve to tell people I should smile more the way (you) used to frown. So we had some laughs over that.

“I really enjoy watching him coach. He’s going to be OK.”


Bowl projection report, part deux

October 27, 2008

The bowl picture still is completely fuzzy with about a month left to the regular season. However, conference assessments are more clear at this time.

BIG 12 — The league boasts five of the best 15 teams in the country. But can any of those teams survive bowl season with worse defenses than the Maginot Line?

BIG TEN — The league isn’t as bad as the world/ESPN thinks. As long as Minnesota doesn’t get into the Rose Bowl or Capital One Bowl, it will be competitive against everyone in the bowls.

SEC — Nobody dismisses the league’s overall richness, but outside of Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia, it’s not nearly as good as it was last year. The SEC might get brought to Earth in early January (outside of those four).

PAC 10— Outside of USC, this league has a reputation of solid teams (see Arizona State, Oregon, California last year) nosediving at the end.

BIG EAST — Maybe this league isn’t so bad after all. Or it could be worse.

ACC— The most unpredictable league of them all. One week it’s Wake Forest. The next it’s Florida State. Who knows who’s going to be there in December.

Four of the remaining conferences have at least one solid team. Ball State (MAC), Tulsa (C-USA) and Boise State (WAC) all could run the table. The Mountain West has three teams (Utah, TCU and BYU) who could play in the BCS. For the sake of good bowling, why don’t these teams have a mini-playoff with their champions and the winner gets a BCS bowl berth? At least get the Mountain West and WAC champs together for a bowl game in, say, Denver?

Here’s a look at the next round of bowl projections, starting with the BCS:


BCS Championship: Penn State vs. Texas. If Texas can beat Texas Tech this weekend, write it in ink. Penn State still has a pair of tough games at Iowa and at home against Michigan State.

Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC. Could Ohio State make this one closer than in September?

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Boise State. Nothing in this world is certain quite like death, taxes and Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Will there be any more proposals?

Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. West Virginia. Hmmm … on paper a mismatch, but West Virginia has derailed Georgia and Oklahoma in big bowls in recent years.

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Alabama. You wonder what kind of homecoming would await Alabama Coach Nick Saban in Miami.


Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia. It could change this weekend if Georgia beats Florida and Wisconsin upsets Michigan State. Both are possible.

Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina. If Iowa beats Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota, this is a likely bet (if Minnesota loses one of its other three games).

Cotton Bowl: Texas Tech vs. LSU. Makes sense to have the last Southwest Conference champion play in the final Cotton Bowl at the Cotton Bowl.

Gator Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame. Wouldn’t it be a great ending if a smallish walk-on enters the game on defense and gets a sack on the game’s final play? Hasn’t that happened before involving these teams?

Liberty Bowl: Tulsa vs. Ole Miss. I remember when this bowl mattered, like when Bear Bryant won his coaching finale against Illinois.


Alamo Bowl: Minnesota vs. Nebraska. If the Gophers beat Iowa, the Hawkeyes could return here. Otherwise, couldn’t the Gophers and Huskers meet in the middle, say Ames? I don’t think there will be any football practice going on there in late December.

Champs Bowl: Illinois vs. Miami. Could be a strong recruiting bowl for Illinois. There’s no place like Florida for the Juice.

Insight Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma State. Annually one good team falls from New Year’s Day possibility to a bowl beneath their season. Oklahoma State could be this year’s victim. Wisconsin’s fans were getting tired of Florida anyway.

Motor City Bowl: Northwestern vs. Ball State. Injuries will cripple Northwestern in November. Ball State’s Brady Hoke might have another job by this game.

Chick-fil-A (I still call it the Peach) Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina. Good regional matchup in the Deep South.

Sun Bowl: Kansas vs. California. A lot of offense in the revolving sponsorship Sun Bowl.

Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Oregon. There might be better QB play in this game than there’s been by several visitors (Oakland, Kansas City) in that stadium this year. Wouldn’t a BYU-Missouri matchup be much better?

Las Vegas Bowl:TCU vs. Arizona. I wonder how many casinos have tried to sponsor this bowl in the past?

Independence Bowl: Kansas State vs. Kentucky. This could be a Sun Belt team if K-State can’t win two more games this year.

Texas Bowl: Colorado vs. Rice. Rice gets to play a home game at the big stadium. Colorado is just happy to be here.

Music City Bowl: Virginia vs. Auburn. Virginia is the epitome of unpredictability. Auburn has become an SEC also-ran.


Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. Marshall. Great name for a bowl game, especially if you’re Air Force.

Humanitarian Bowl: San Jose State vs. Virginia Tech. There’s nothing humanitarian about playing in Boise in December except the swag.

Meineke Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh. Will this be the year that someone makes Jim Grobe an offer he can’t refuse?

Emerald Bowl: Boston College vs. Stanford. Two of the great college moments of the 1980s involved these teams. Bring out the band and Doug Flutie.

Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. South Florida. It’s kind of unfair these warm-weather teams get to play in Hawaii when there’s plenty of hard-working teams with plenty of fans from the Midwest interested in going bowling here.

Papa John’s: Louisville vs. Troy. My guess is that there’s pizza in the press box after the game.

Poinsettia: BYU vs. Oregon State: BYU had some great moments in this stadium before. Tell me why they can’t go to the Holiday Bowl again?

International Bowl: Connecticut vs. Western Michigan. Nobody will raise the roof during this game.

GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Memphis. Maybe it was Memphis, maybe it was a Southern summer night. Maybe it was you, maybe it was me, but it sure felt right.

New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Houston. The real question is whether the Red Wolves will stay in the Red Roof Inn.

New Mexico Bowl: Utah vs. Fresno State. Utah could go from the BCS to New Mexico with one loss. Actually an intriguing matchup.

Congressional Bowl: Maryland vs. Navy. Loser must rescue unelected politicians in the Potomac River via raft.

St. Petersburg Bowl: Cincinnati vs. East Carolina. Will B.J. Upton conduct the coin flip?

Raiders coach: Gallery is likely Pro Bowler

October 24, 2008

Everyone in Iowa saw Robert Gallery as the nation’s best offensive lineman. Some might have called him the greatest Hawkeye of them all.

Gallery didn’t allow a sack in his final 36 games. He was a consensus All-American at tackle and earned every award possible for a collegiate offensive lineman. He graded a perfect 9.0 entering the 2004 NFL draft and was selected by the Oakland Raiders second overall.

But Gallery never caught much traction in Oakland. Three coaches in three years with three different systems caused him nothing short of missed blocks and multiple penalties. He was labeled by most as a bust and his name often brought laughter around NFL draft time. Last year, under new offensive line coach Tom Cable, Gallery played well at left guard. Gallery still had too many penalties (17) but was among the top half in his position in the league.

This year, Gallery is playing at a Pro Bowl level and some consider him dominant. Cable replaced Lane Kiffin as the Raiders’ head coach and bestowed high praise upon the former East Buchanan product.

“Once he … goes to the Pro Bowl, people will evaluate him for who he is, what he has become,” Cable told the Contra Costa Times.

Here’s the entire article that appeared in Thursday’s edition:

’98 Vikings’ woes leave viewers stunned

October 15, 2008
Former Minnesota Vikings kicker Gary Anderson reacts to his first miss of the 1998 football season in the 1999 NFL Championship Game. The miss prevented Minnesota from clinching a Super Bowl berth.

Former Minnesota Vikings kicker Gary Anderson reacts to his first miss of the 1998 football season in the 1999 NFC Championship Game. The miss prevented Minnesota from clinching a Super Bowl berth.

The final episode of “America’s Game: Missing Rings” spotlights the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, which finished the regular season 15-1 only to lose the NFC title to Atlanta in overtime.

This series perhaps is stronger than its predecessor “America’s Game,” in that it explores the valleys of failure along with the joy of victory. This episode (which debuts 9 p.m. Thursday on NFL Network) joins the series’ other four — the 1990 Buffalo Bills, the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals, 1969 Vikings and the 1981 San Diego Chargers — in that formula. In the other episodes, you always had the feeling those teams were very good, memorable but not the best. This one feels different.

Interviews with wide receiver Cris Carter, Coach Dennis Green (a former Iowa football player) and defensive tackle John Randle show a depth of pain previously unseen in this series. Maybe it’s because none of them have gotten over the loss to Atlanta. It appears they all have unresolved issues with the conclusion.

“Walking off that field and losing like that … I didn’t know if I wanted to play football anymore,” Carter said. “I felt like I’d never win after that.”

“I think if we would have beaten Atlanta and if we would have gone on and beaten the Denver Broncos that we would have called the greatest team in the National Football League the last 25 years,” Green said.

The Vikings set an NFL record (since exceeded by the 2007 New England Patriots) by scoring 556 points, an average of nearly 35 points a game. The Vikings’ only regular-season loss was by three points at Tampa Bay. The offense featured the future Hall of Famer Carter making his usual circus catches for touchdowns. It had a solid offensive line, a talented running back in Robert Smith and a reinvigorated Randall Cunningham. But rookie wide receiver Randy Moss set the Vikings apart.

Moss caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns that season. He was named first-team All-Pro and shocked everyone with his athletic ability.

“I told Dennis Green that (Moss) is the most unbelievable athlete I have ever seen,” Carter said.

I covered the Kansas City Chiefs for five years and saw Moss compete against the Chiefs annually in training camp. I asked former Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield if he looked forward to a two-day scrimmage against the Vikings. “Yeah, right,” was about all he said and then rolled his eyes. The next few days I understood why. Moss combines speed and athletic ability better than any other player ever. He’s deceptively strong, taller than most defenders and faster than all of them. He routinely beat Chiefs defenders in everything from drills to live contact.

“They call me The Freak … ’cause I’m a freak of nature,” Moss said in the episode.

The episode’s final segment is the only football parallel I can find with the Chicago Cubs’ Bartman incident in 2003. The Vikings led 27-20 with only a few minutes left. A 38-yard field goal by Gary Anderson would have virtually iced the win. Anderson hadn’t missed all season … until that kick. Teams with fragile egos often feel the elements while the players try to collect their breath. That’s what happened in both cases.

“It was like somebody punched me in my stomach,” Randle said about the kick. “Oh, my goodness … oh, my God.”

The Falcons scored a touchdown to send the game into overtime. Falcons kicker Morten Andersen sent the ’98 Vikings into also-ran status with a 38-yard field goal.

Of the five “Missing Rings” episodes about teams who didn’t win the Super Bowl, this Vikings’ version was clearly the best team. Outside of last year’s 16-0 Patriots that lost the Super Bowl, the 1998 Vikings were the best team not to win the Super Bowl. The Vikings’ loss robbed the public of perhaps the best matchup in Super Bowl history of the Vikings facing against 14-2 Denver. The Broncos won their first 13 games that season en route to a second straight championship. Denver nearly missed the Super Bowl because of the Vikings. Denver Coach Mike Shanahan and the rest of the Broncos were in shock of the Vikings’ loss that they nearly were upset by the New York Jets. That incident is recalled in “America’s Game: 1998 Denver Broncos.”

Even if you support another franchise, such as the Bears or Packers, you can understand the regret and loss Carter, Randle and Green still feel to this day. This five-episode series is the best NFL Films has created in its illustrious history. There are plenty more stories to share out there, and I hope the company decides to continue down this path.

A first look at the bowl picture

October 12, 2008

The bowl picture is always fluid, and college football is more unpredictable than ever before. It’s also more difficult to project which teams will qualify for what bowl.

But projections are fun and here’s an early look at the bowl picture if the college football season ended today (Oct. 12):


BCS Championship: Penn State vs. Florida. If Penn State goes unbeaten, count on the Nittany Lions making it. Florida, despite the upset to Ole Miss, is the SEC’s best team.

Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC. This one would be much closer than the first meeting in September.

Fiesta Bowl: Missouri vs. Brigham Young. Missouri will rebound to win the Big 12 title. BYU will finish the Mountain West season unbeaten.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Texas. The Crimson Tide could make the BCS title game if they can win the SEC title. Texas would go here based on a Big 12 title game loss.

Orange Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh. It’s a shame the Big East is an automatic qualifier; Boise State (or 15 other teams) is a better fit. Wake Forest is an amazing program.


Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia. Michigan State might have the nation’s best player. Georgia could make the BCS if it beats Florida.

Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina. If Iowa finishes the season 4-1, count on a New Year’s Day Bowl (if it beats Minnesota). South Carolina is one of many decent — but not great — SEC teams. SEC teams get great bowl games.

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. LSU. Could be THE marquee bowl match-up.

Gator Bowl: Florida State vs. Notre Dame. Neither program deserves this bowl, but people will watch. Notre Dame claims the Big East’s second spot based on reputation. Expect an uproar.

Liberty Bowl: Tulsa vs. Ole Miss. Yes, this one moved into Jan. 2. This bowl has tradition, unlike the teams competing in it — at least for the last 35 years.


Alamo Bowl: Minnesota vs. Kansas. The Gophers could move up to New Year’s Day bowl territory with a strong finish and a win over Iowa. Kansas is the victim of too many strong Big 12 teams.

Champs Bowl: Northwestern vs. Virginia Tech. Northwestern is a decent team that took advantage of Iowa’s turnovers. Virginia Tech is a solid ACC team.

Insight Bowl: Illinois vs. Nebraska. Illinois can’t figure out if it’s a good or marginal Big Ten team. Ditto for the rebuilding Cornhuskers. (Note: If Iowa loses to Illinois, count on this match-up for the Hawkeyes)

Motor City Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Ball State. Wisconsin’s players get watches and iPods. Ball State might not have its coach by this game.

Chick-fil-A (I still call it the Peach) Bowl: Auburn vs. Georgia Tech. After the first couple of SEC teams, the rest are fairly mediocre, like Auburn. It’s basically a home game for Georgia Tech.

Sun Bowl: Texas Tech vs. California. This could be a real, real good game. Hopefully the smog from Ciudad Juarez subsides for an afternoon.

Holiday Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State. No bowl game per capita has wilder finishes than this one.

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Arizona. Utah is better than Pittsburgh, too. Arizona plays in Iowa City next year.

Independence Bowl: Kansas State vs. Kentucky. Nobody really wants to go here; they just end up here.

Texas Bowl: Colorado vs. TCU. Colorado is back on the right track. I wonder if TCU ever gets tired of playing in this game.

Music City Bowl: Clemson vs. Vanderbilt. Clemson again underachieves. Vanderbilt overachieves. Classic match-up.


Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. UTEP. It makes sense for a military academy to play a Texas-based school in a Texas bowl game.

Humanitarian Bowl: Boise State vs. Duke. If this game was played in the summer, it would be a destination. In December, it’s a detour. (By the way, Boise State is better than Pittsburgh)

Meineke Bowl: North Carolina vs. West Virginia. Hmmm, actually worth watching.

Emerald Bowl: Boston College vs. Stanford. Good to keep a Bay Area team in a Bay Area bowl.

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Oregon. Decent match-up, but I’ve never figured out why this bowl couldn’t pit the WAC champ vs. the MWC champ. Who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii in December?

Papa John’s: South Florida vs. Troy. Troy replaces an SEC team. Nothing else to write about here.

Poinsettia: San Jose State vs. Colorado State: San Jose State replaces a Pac-10 team. OK, let’s move on.

International Bowl: Connecticut vs. Western Michigan. A good match-up, but not worth blowing points with the wife after you’ve watched 15 other bowls.

GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan vs. East Carolina. Remember when East Carolina was going to a BCS bowl? Me neither.

New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Houston. Arkansas State plays in Iowa City next year.

New Mexico Bowl: UNLV vs. New Mexico State. We might as well have an Alaska Bowl.

Congressional Bowl: Maryland vs. Navy. Good local match-up. Does a bailout come separately?

St. Petersburg Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Marshall. I hope the players enjoy their gifts.

Future Hawk hoopers make great prep QBs

October 7, 2008

With the recent wave of Iowa football fans bashing the Hawks’ current quarterback, take a look at two future Iowa men’s basketball players and what they do on the football field.

Current Dubuque Wahlert senior quarterback Eric May (6-4, 215) threw for 280 yards and a touchdown last week in a loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier. May, who hit the amazing half-court shot to win the Class 3A state basketball title last March, will join Iowa in 2009.

Chase Creekmur, a 2010 recruit from Marshalltown, threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns last week to help the Bobcats beat Newton 40-34. It was Marshalltown’s second win over Newton in the last 33 games. Creekmur is 6-6 and weighs 180 pounds.

May, who likely will play forward, joins Sioux City Heelan center Brennan Cougill (6-9, 265) as 2009 recruits. Creekmur and Cody Larson (6-9, 225 from Sioux Falls Roosevelt) as forwards in the 2010 Iowa class.

It will be interesting to see if football fans clamor for May and Creekmur to become two-sport stars when they arrive on campus.

Big Ten should expand bowl ties

October 5, 2008

With a 6-6 record every Bowl Championship Subdivision school has a chance to participate in the postseason. But a 6-6 record doesn’t guarantee a team will play in a bowl game.

The league has seven tie-ins with bowls: Rose, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Insight, Champs and Motor City. The last two years the league has earned a second BCS berth, which gives eight Big Ten teams a chance to go bowling. Last year eight Big Ten teams played in bowl games, while Iowa and Northwestern — both 6-6 — missed the bowl party.

But the SEC and ACC each have nine bowl tie-ins, not counting the possibility of a second BCS bid. NCAA rules allow 6-6 teams (like Iowa in 2006) to automatically qualify for a bowl within league agreements. If a league cannot fills its bowl slots, then the at-large spot must go to a team with a winning record first. That allowed Middle Tennessee State to earn a Motor City Bowl berth over 6-6 Kansas in 2006 after the Big Ten couldn’t fill its allotment.

So far, Big Ten officials have rebuffed questions about expanding league bowl tie-ins, saying only that they’re happy with the current arrangement. But bowl expansion has rendered the college football’s postseason as worthless as some of the sponsored bowl names are long. If that’s the case, the Big Ten should set up arrangements with new or very low bowls to give its programs even more exposure. I’m sure the Congressional Bowl would like to bail out a mediocre Big Ten team if given a chance.

There’s a rumor that St. Louis wants to develop a lower-tier bowl involving the Big Ten and Big 12. That would make sense for both leagues. St. Louis is a prime recruiting area, and the game is in a dome. It’s accessible for fans who want to make a weekend drive. That would be a good choice.

If Conference USA has six bowl tie-ins, the Big Ten should have more than seven. It’s ridiculous to consider that a 6-6 Conference USA team could go bowling but an average Big Ten team will not. The time to take moral stands on bowl games ended 20 years ago. The Big Ten should belly up at the postseason indulgence bar and order every bowl on the menu.