While Wisconsin has been slightly disappointing this year—losing to Penn State and Illinois—the Badgers still had the mental edge over Ohio State, having beaten them in their past three contests in Columbus.
I was nervous. I was afraid. I couldn’t get that sickening feeling out of my stomach. This was the game we might inevitably overlook as we prepared for Michigan.
I talk about this like I’m somehow personally involved in the affairs of the Ohio State Buckeyes from my dorm in St. Louis but I had to watch this game.
So I woke up and prepared to sit down for the big game early Saturday Afternoon. I had my chips, dip, drinks, and assorted Ohio State fan gear—complete with Ohio State-inspired Starbury shoes—all waiting in the wings.
And then I came to the horrifying revelation that no fan should ever experience.
I would not be watching the game today. Because of contractual requirements, the much-anticipated OSU-Wisconsin game would be featured on the Big Ten Network.
Simply hearing those three words in succession made me cringe. I cursed. I yelled. Then I cursed some more, but to no avail.
Upon discovering this revelation, here was the reaction from my fellow OSU fan Andy and some Wisconsin fan at my school:
Andy: You hear the OSU-Wisconsin game is on the Big Ten Network? That’s pretty s***ty, man.
Wisconsin fan: Yeah, man. About as s***ty as after eating five burritos.
The Big Ten Network—in its inaugural season as the cable provider of Big Ten athletic contests in football, basketball, as well as a myriad of other sports—has drawn the ire of several fans around Big Ten country.
The Big Ten Network offers regional coverage similar to broadcasting stations such as Lincoln-Financial Sports, Versus, and ESPNU. The problem with the BTN isn’t the second-rate sports broadcasting, or so I hear. The issue here is that it isn’t offered in most coverage areas as part of the basic cable package.
So if you want to see your favorite team play twice on the season, you can pay an extra fee for the right to see those two games, a mother load of matchups between teams like Minnesota and Indiana, and interviews with Jim Tressel telling us how he picks which sweater vest to wear each morning. Joe Paterno also probably has some interesting anecdotes and coaching stories from his Civil War days.
But if you, like me, don’t have the disposable income to afford to pay for such a station you are forced to either follow the game on ESPN GameCast or don’t follow it at all. And since following a game via GameCast is the bastard child’s 2nd cousin (twice removed) of watching it on TV, I chose the latter.
After being barred from watching the most important game of the year for Ohio State by the network-which-must-not-be-named, I switched gears and decided to watch the secondary Big Ten game of Iowa vs. Northwestern as I finished up reading Meat Market by Bruce Feldman.
In Meat Market, ESPN writer Bruce Feldman spends a year with the Ole Miss football coaching staff as he takes us through the intense, unpredictable beast that is college football recruiting. Even better than getting an insider’s take on the detailed process, Bruce Feldman also had the distinct opportunity to constantly be around Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron, who is truly a one of a kind human being.
This first paragraph in Meat Market convinced me enough that it would be worth the read as in encapsulates the aura that is Ed Orgeron:
“A grizzly sound surges through the hallways of the Indoor Practice Facility on the University of Mississippi campus. It’s as if someone were trying to start an old lawn mower. The noise grows louder as, rounding a corner about thirty paces away, a bear of a man with short black hair and the build of a refrigerator appears. He stalks his way toward you, a silver aluminum bat dangling from his hand. “A new day has come for da Ole Miss Re-bels, Bay-beh!” he huffs in a husky Cajun accent to no one in particular. “A new day!”
Meet Ed Orgeron, a 46-year old Cajun man with a domineering, Hulk-ish figure who possesses an overwhelming wealth of energy—perhaps fed by the two Red Bulls and two cups of coffee he has to start off each day. Orgeron is big, boisterous, and sometimes downright scary.
Orgeron—originally from South Lafourche, Louisiana—had evolved into one of the nation’s best defensive line coaches in college football. He had also been regarded as one of the most successful and influential recruiters in the country. Remember defensive studs Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy of the National Championship-winning Miami Hurricanes? That was Ed Orgeron’s work. Remember Reggie Bush, LenDale White, and Shaun Cody? That was Ed Orgeron, too. While he was satisfied with his current position as a defensive line coach and recruiter for the USC Trojans, Orgeron one day wanted to become the head coach of a major college football program.
He would get his chance sooner than he expected.
Explaining the firing of David Cutcliffe in 2004, the Ole Miss athletic department felt that they had state-of-the-art facilities—including an enclosed indoor practice facility—to compete with the best of the SEC, but they needed a guy who could bring in the talent. Though Orgeron was rather unqualified as a defensive line coach/recruiting specialist for USC, administrators felt that he had what it took to bring in top recruits to Ole Miss. So he was hired in December after the 2004 season and began to implement his new way of doing things.
Orgeron’s tenure didn’t get off to the best of starts as his first team meeting turned into a tirade full of expletives. Among many other things, Coach O said, “I didn’t come to Ole Miss to have a goddamn losing season or even go to this bullshit Cotton Bowl and get goddamn thirteenth place. Thirteenth place is bullshit!” He wanted every piece of jewelry the athlete was wearing to be removed because he wasn’t going to have any “f***ing p**sy girls on his team.” Then he ordered every member in the room to take their shirts off and start chanting “Ole Miss!” and “Wild Boys!” Then he challenged everyone in the room to a fight, so the legend goes.
In his first meeting with a group of complete strangers, this was probably not the most ideal introduction to his players.
In addition to his much-publicized rant, Orgeron has been routinely discussed in Internet blogs and forums. People have poked fun at his hummer ad, mocked him in a South Park rendition, devoted a blog to his Cajun drawl, and even made a satirical ode to the Ole Miss Coach in the song entitled, “Colonel Reb is Crying,” which goes a little something like this:
Colonel Reb is crying in his confederate handkerchief,
Colonel Reb is crying he needs some real relief.
He asks coach Orgeron, can you save us from this dread?
Coach O rips his shirt off, and this is what he says:
Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaaaw Yaaaw Yaaaw Yaaaw ... FOOT-baw!
Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaaaw Yaaaw Yaaaw Yaaaw ... Brent SHAY-fuh!
Following a disappointing first couple of years, it was clear that Ed Orgeron was starting to feel the pressure that any SEC coach who suffered consecutive losing seasons would. Sure, he recruited blue chip recruits in defensive tackle Jerrell Powe (who still hasn’t become eligible), prototype offensive tackle Michael Oher, lineman Jon Jerry, linebacker Jonathan Cornell, and running back Cordera Eason. But the players were still young and developing and Orgeron needed wins badly.
So after going a combined 7-16 record in his first two seasons with wins against Memphis (twice), two Division I-AA schools (Northwestern State and The Citadel), and perennial SEC doormats Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky, Coach Orgeron figured that his team needed to make a significant improvement in the 2007 season or his head coaching tenure might be cut short. One major key to Orgeron’s goal would be through the recruiting process, which is where Feldman masterfully comes in.
From the tireless film sessions evaluating the players to the fierce competition between many schools to acquire the services of a blue chip prospect to devising the intricate plans to get borderline students admitted, Feldman acts as a fly on the wall of the “War Room” as the Ole Miss coaching staff devise and carry out a plan for the 2007 recruiting class. You see as surefire commits lose interest while at the same time some long shot or diamond in the rough emerges. You see how the phone calls and text messages flood the athletes with the most priority. You see how much it means to the recruits that the coaches give a damn about them personally. Most importantly, you see how Ed Orgeron woos his prospects with a kind of infectious positive energy, while still maintaining that intense authoritarian persona that makes him such an urban legend. Coach Orgeron on occasion literally wrestles with his prospects. On one tight end recruit he grappled with, Orgeron said, “S**t, that son-of-a-bitch was strong. After he pinched me under the arms, it was ON.”
For better or worse, these actions definitely make Coach Orgeron stand out amongst the crowd. A man who almost convinced the best recruit in the nation—USC running back Joe McKnight—to come play for a 4-8 downtrodden SEC program must be doing something right.
I bought Meat Market to read for a school research paper but I would’ve bought it anyway. I highly recommend this book to college football fans who take a keen interest in the recruiting process. The only bad thing about this book is that you don’t hear any wild recruiting stories from the players as this process is taken from the vantage point of a coach—who couldn’t ever fathom any of his recruits accepting alcohol, drugs or sex while being enticed to the program (sense the sarcasm here). You do learn, however, that a guy who was a senior in high school—and couldn’t read at the time—is in the process of possibly being admitted to the University of Mississippi. Granted, the kid has made great strides since his senior year but Feldman points out that football programs most certainly manipulate the system to their advantage.
When I was done reading my book, I checked out the score and saw my team had comfortably won, 38-17. This thrashing of Wisconsin in the 4th quarter proved that the game wasn’t a must-see. But what if Badgers had pulled out the upset? I might’ve gone Ed Orgeron-style on the TV station. The Big Ten Network—like Colonel Reb—would be crying.
-I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Darren McFadden’s otherworldly 300+ yard performance against South Carolina—or the fact that him and fellow running back Felix Jones dressed up as the Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble for Halloween. McFadden is clearly a man among boys. In my lifetime I haven’t seen anyone who has the combination of speed, power, agility, and arm strength that McFadden possesses. He’s almost like a faster version of Purple Jesus. Here’s one of the many McFadden highlight tapes on YouTube. The man-crush is growing.
-Four Virginia Tech Hokies players, including starting quarterback Sean Glennon fell into an interesting predicament as they arrived to Bobby Dodd Stadium to play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on a Thursday night prime-time game; their jerseys had mysteriously vanished. So with limited time and no spare jerseys, Virginia Tech decided the next best thing was to borrow Georgia Tech away jerseys and write their names on the back with a Sharpie pen. Interestingly enough, Sean Glennon played like a starting quarterback for the first time all season. He’d been so used to throwing interceptions to the other team that donning a Georgia Tech jersey actually made it easier to make throws to his teammates.
-Oregon added to its already impressive resume by dispatching the previously undefeated Arizona State Sun Devils. Ducks head coach Mike Bellotti should be a candidate for Coach of the Year, but no such acclaim should be handed out to his cheating, drunk, expletive-driven (all rumors, of course) ex-wife. In fact, in response to an article written about her son arrested for DUI, Mrs. Bellotti launched a verbal attack on The Oregonian writer John Canzano during the USC-Oregon game in the press box.
-Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald recently learned the repercussions of fraternizing with the enemy after receiving a paternity suit from a former Oakland Raiders cheerleader who said Fitzgerald got her pregnant. I guess Larry didn’t remember that there is absolutely No Sex in the Champaign Room.
-Here’s a promotional video of Arizona State’s football team. There’s clearly a desert theme in this video clip. At one point in the video, a Sun Devils player decides to pass-block a cactus, which had to have bloodied up his hands a little bit (I know this is fake, but bare with me here). That’s probably why Arizona State lost. Too busy messin’ around with cacti in the desert and watching The Hills. The West Coast is so chill.
-In case you haven’t jumped on the Mark Mangino bandwagon yet—and trust me, there’s enough room for all of us—there’s still time to purchase your very own “Our Coach Can Eat Your Coach” blue Kansas t-shirt. I mean why do you think he didn’t bust out his Velour jumpsuit again against Nebraska? You all are probably thinking the same thing. He must’ve eaten it.
-Bill Callahan has got to be feeling pretty uneasy after the vaunted Nebraska Blackshirt defense allowed a whopping 76 points to Kansas—the former doormat team of the Big 12. With the athletic director already gone, and the Nebraskan legend Tom Osborne literally lurking over his shoulder, things don’t bode well for the “offensive genius.” But you know what? At least he’s doing better than Charlie Weis.
-Some fans at Kentucky games feel the need to perform some extracurricular activities [Warning: NSFW] in the stands to keep the “excitement” going.
-After their shocking upset at the hands of mighty Stanford University as well as their loss to Oregon last weekend, Every Day Should Be Saturday has a graphic that pretty much typifies USC’s season.
-Ohio State’s blowout victory over Penn State wasn’t just dedicated to the coach, family, or the fans. Senior captain Kirk Barton did it for his boys in the marching band. Even with insidious, slanderous yet funny Penn State signs such as “Tressel Killed Barbaro,” OSU is just Toogood for Penn State.
-Speaking of OSU, the sweater vest was probably a pretty popular Halloween costume in Columbus.
-LSU backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and backup linebacker Derrick Odom were involved in some sort of altercation in a club, which ultimately caused them to be suspended from the LSU-Alabama football game. Well maybe Mr. Odom should’ve kept his Facebook comments about the incident to himself.
-Speaking of LSU, Don’t you want me Saban?
-The article isn’t really important, but basically star Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett missed the game at Nebraska because he was injured and wanted to go shopping instead of watch his football team play.
-A Bud Light Real Men of Genius salute to Mr. Over-Conservative Egotistical Football Coach, Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt.
-Georgia has been owned by the Florida Gators for the past 20-some odd years in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, but that doesn’t stop them from putting out the song: “Do the Jorts Fit Better With a Bulldog’s Foot in Your Ass?”
-Uh, I don’t know about you, but I think this guy is Tim Tebow’s number one fan. Anyone who tattoos “T-Bone” and Tebow’s face on their left bicep has some serious problems. But I guess we can expect this kind of behavior from a Florida fan with mullet hair down to his lower back who may or may not be wearing jean shorts.
-Just for your comedic enjoyment, cheerleading is dangerous.
-Auburn fans, this is your quarterback. Welcome once again to the Brandon Cox Experience.
-After Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna was healed by God in a game against the Minnesota Vikings, he discovered a little sense of humor. Here’s the background story. Lions assistant head coach Joe Cullen got busted back in August for driving drunk and naked through a Wendy’s drive-thru line. Well, for a Halloween party Kitna and his wife dressed up as the naked Cullen and a Wendy’s girl, respectively.
-Michigan Wolverines blog the M Zone has a new weapon at its arsenal with its prophetic baby Nostradamus that has the power to cure cancer, feed the hungry, and predict the outcome of football games. I am horrified of the MZone baby. Buckeyes fans must come together and destroy this thing before it’s too late…
Next Week: Sunday Afternoon Quarterback will embark on a trip to Evanston, Illinois to visit Northwestern University for its Big Ten matchup with the bowl-eligible Indiana Hoosiers.
I expect to see a lot of Purple People. And nerds. Well, mostly nerds.