Big Ten Football: A Holiday Gift for Each Big Ten Team
Big Ten football sure could use a little holiday cheer.
Welcoming Rutgers and Maryland to the conference is not what we had in mind, either. Instead, we thought treating the football programs already in the Big Ten to an early Christmas gift would be a better idea.
Whether it be a new head coach, stadium renovation or even a roster upgrade—we're going big.
Why not? 'Tis the season for giving, and many of the Big Ten's football programs have found themselves falling on hard times as of late. A little boost for each couldn't hurt.
Pigskin Santa Claus has arrived, and it's time to dole out some presents. The following slides will present one holiday gift to each Big Ten team.
Illinois: A Clone of A.J. Jenkins
Before landing in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, former Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins posted numbers that earned him first-team all-Big Ten honors. He finished with 90 catches for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior and caught 56 passes for 746 yards in 2010.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase just hasn't been the same without him.
Jenkins hauled in 15 of Scheelhaase's 30 touchdowns during the signal-caller's freshman and sophomore seasons. The junior threw just four TD passes in 2012 despite playing in all or at least part of nine games.
Illinois went from 7-6 to 2-10 in one season. The Illini went 0-8 in Big Ten play. Their average of 16.2 points per game bested only Massachusetts and Idaho among all FBS schools.
Scheelhaase will be a senior in 2013, and he can't wait for an incoming recruit to help the Illini passing game. So, Pigskin Santa grants you one A.J. Jenkins clone, Nathan. Enjoy.
Indiana: Gift of Choice
Indiana finished the 2012 season 4-8 and saw several of its losses go down to the wire.
For the Hoosiers' football program, that's one heck of a season.
Honestly, this is more of a cop-out, as Pigskin Santa couldn't think of a single gift to provide Indiana's football program. The Hoosiers already have an impressive incoming recruiting class, a talented quarterback-wide receiver combo and a head coach that seems to be turning the program around.
The Hoosiers could use a defense. Indiana finished 107th in the nation in points against, allowing 35.3 per game. But that's an awful lot to ask, considering Illinois won half as many games and only gets one player.
So go ahead, Indiana. Pick your own gift. Just don't get greedy. There's enough greed going around as it is.
Iowa: A Guiding Hand to Show Kirk Ferentz the Way Out
Sometimes change just needs to be made, and usually that means a head coach has to be fired. The Iowa Hawkeyes are in desperate need of some changes.
We're looking at you, Kirk Ferentz.
Of course, the Hawkeyes' head coach since 1999 isn't going to fire himself. Hell, he's making nearly $4 million a year and is under contract until 2020. Iowa won't want to fire him because that's a ton of money to eat.
That said, Hawkeyes fans deserve better.
Losing 32-31 to Central Michigan this season was an embarrassing moment. One that this proud program shouldn't have endured. After a 4-8 season, a new leader is a must.
Pigskin Santa won't be bringing in a new coach. The only hiring he'll be doing is bringing help to drag Mr. Ferentz out the door.
Michigan: An Extra Year of Eligibility for Devin Gardner
Junior Devin Gardner started the 2012 season at wide receiver for the Wolverines, but ended it at QB.
After scoring 15 total TDs in four games under center replacing an injured Denard Robinson (who is a senior), there's a good shot Gardner will be starting at QB in 2013. Pending his application for a medical redshirt stemming from his freshman season, he could be around for 2014, too.
Well, Pigskin Santa has decided to overrule any decision the NCAA makes and grant Gardner an extra year of eligibility. Really, it's the least he could do.
Michigan has a highly touted incoming recruit named Shane Morris that looks to be the Wolverines' QB of the future. But Gardner certainly made his case for holding the job for as long as he's donning the Maize and Blue.
An extra year of eligibility won't make that a guarantee. Only a possibility.
Michigan State: A JUGS Machine for Every Receiver
Boy, did the Michigan State Spartans miss B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin this season.
The two receivers moved on to the NFL after stellar campaigns in 2011, combining to catch 145 passes for 2,083 yards and 16 TDs.
No Spartan receiver totaled more than 524 yards in 2012, and dropped passes were a theme throughout State's forgettable campaign. Junior QB Andrew Maxwell struggled in an attempt to replace Kirk Cousins, but his targets made his statistics appear worse than they should've been.
Sparty finished 6-6 this season and 3-5 in the Big Ten. All five conference losses came by four points or fewer, and each featured numerous dropped passes. Bennie Fowler, Keith Mumphery, Dion Sims, Tony Lippett and Aaron Burbridge: all guilty.
To eliminate this problem heading into next season, Pigskin Santa will provide each of the aforementioned pass-catchers with a brand new JUGS machine to call their own.
Unfortunately, it's up to them to use it. My money says they've seen one before, but that hasn't appeared to be the case.
Minnesota: A Chance at a Fresh Start
Minnesota's holiday gift is a move to a conference of its choosing.
The Golden Gophers haven't finished .500 in Big Ten play since 2005. It may sound harsh, but they simply don't belong. Even the Hoosiers did a better job of competing than Minnesota this season.
That said, where would you like to go? The SEC? Just kidding.
Why not replace Maryland or Rutgers in the ACC? The Gophers could surely rack up some wins over programs like Duke, Wake Forest and Virginia year after year. It's not like it'll take long for the Big Ten to find a replacement anyway.
Maybe the Big East sounds more appetizing. Either way, you're free to leave. There will be no pending approval, no paperwork. Pigskin Santa has it all taken care of.
Nebraska: A Guaranteed Trip to the Rose Bowl
Nebraska doesn't need help reaching the Rose Bowl, but Pigskin Santa is providing it anyway.
Because, believe me, nobody wants to see a five-loss team in a BCS bowl. And that's exactly what will happen if Wisconsin upsets the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Championship Game this weekend.
We just can't allow that to happen.
At 10-2, Nebraska is hands-down the conference's best team eligible for postseason play. If the Big Ten wishes not to get laughed out of Pasadena on New Year's day, they won't get in Pigskin Santa's way.
Trust us, it's for the best.
Northwestern: More Fans
The Northwestern Wildcats finished the regular season 9-3 and are in the running for a New Year's Day bowl game. It will be the team's fifth bowl game in as many years.
So, where's the support?
Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois has a capacity of 47,130, but rarely does it ever fill up on game day. A good portion of the spectators that visit the stadium aren't even cheering the Purple and White.
Of course, Northwestern's stadium isn't one of the most attractive or convenient venues to attend. Lack of parking is a common complaint. Built in 1926, Ryan Field has undergone multiple renovations, but they haven't exactly made it any easier on the eyes.
But if you want a new stadium, you first must fill the one you have.
To do that, we'll have to round up another, oh, 20,000 fans or so. How is that possible? After a 2-10 season, it wasn't difficult persuading a good amount of Fighting Illini fans to make the switch.
Ohio State: An All-Expenses-Paid Vacation
You didn't think Pigskin Santa would grant the Buckeyes postseason eligibility, did you?
It's hard to say they didn't earn it. But do you know what kind of a mess that would make? Too big of one, that's for sure.
Instead, how does an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii sound? Seriously. Players, coaches, even fans. Why not anyone in Ohio? The first 1,000 to sign up can celebrate the Buckeyes' perfect 12-0 regular season together for an entire week.
How's that sound?
It doesn't even have to be Hawaii. Cancun, the Bahamas, Myrtle Beach, who cares. Just take your men and go somewhere warm, Urban. It's well deserved.
Oh, just an FYI: Pasadena, Calif. and Miami Gardens, Fla. are off limits.
Purdue: The Return of Joe Tiller
Purdue already did what Iowa needs to do and fired its head coach. Danny Hope, dismissed Sunday (via PurdueSports.com), finished his four years leading the Boilermakers with a paltry 22-27 overall record.
So, West Lafayette, we bring you Joe Tiller, fresh out of retirement.
The former Purdue head coach of 12 seasons left the program to Hope following his decision to retire in 2008, but Hope was unable to replicate the amount of success that the school enjoyed throughout the majority of Tiller's years roaming the sidelines.
Tiller is now 69 years old and hasn't agreed to anything (yet). But how could he say no? It's the holiday season. And the Boilermakers need him.
Plus, Pigskin Santa doesn't ask twice.
Tiller finished with an overall record of 87-62 coaching Purdue from 1997 to 2008. Come on back, Joe.
Penn State: The Gift of Leadership
For everything Penn State went through this summer, finishing this season 8-4 was almost unthinkable. Senior QB Matt McGloin was spectacular, as was LB Michael Mauti.
After an 0-2 start, it could've been much, much worse.
But Bill O'Brien's men pulled through, and the coach will be back again in 2013. The problem is the amount of leadership that won't be returning. McGloin, Mauti and other important seniors like Gerald Hodges and Sean Stanley will be moving on.
This may be an unconventional gift, but it is what it is. Instead of waiting to see if new leaders emerge in 2013, we'll grant the Nittany Lions with an unlimited amount of leadership, prepared to carry the program until all sanctions are eventually lifted.
If you've got something better, let us know in the comments below.
Wisconsin: A New Ball
That's right. If Illinois gets an A.J. Jenkins clone, Wisconsin is getting a brand new Montee Ball.
The senior running back rushed for 18 touchdowns in the regular season, giving him an FBS-record 73 for his collegiate career. The year isn't even complete, but the new Montee Ball will need some time on the sidelines to see the old Montee Ball in action.
Next season, the backfield will be all his.
Wisconsin fans surely won't mind. Not a single person in Madison, outside of the Badgers' reserve running backs, will be disappointed with this gift.
A 7-5 regular season is a major disappointment for Wisconsin football. Not even a Big Ten championship will erase that. But a new Montee Ball is a start.