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College Teams Mon Sep 30 2013

Evanston to L.A.? Pat Fitzgerald Rumored as Possible Candidate for USC Job

patfitzgerald.jpg The internets are abuzz after USC fires Lane Kiffin at 3:00am after returning home from Tempe after the Trojan's loss to Arizona State.

Rumored to be on the top list of candidates to replace Kiffin is Northwestern's own Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a Northwestern alum, and has supposedly turned down offers at places like Michigan to stay in Evanston, but ocean breezes sound a bit nicer than winds of Lake Michigan in November. Also the fact that USC has been an ongoing powerhouse, while Northwestern has plenty of .500 seasons, losses to Ron Zook, and non-BCS bowl game wins on their resume.

NU fans (do any of you alumni actually care about football?)-- What do you think? Will he stay or will he go?

Melinda McIntire / Comments (6)

Basketball Mon Sep 23 2013

Top Chicago 2015 Recruit Charles Matthews Gives Us His List

While college basketball fans are still waiting on word from many of the 2014 class to choose their schools (cough, cough, Cliff Alexander), the class of 2015 recruitment mania has began. Charles Matthews, guard at St. Rita High School and ESPN's #9 recruit for 2015 tweeted us his prospect list over the weekend.

As you can probably observe, Matthews tweets his list alphabetically, but since I'm (full disclosure) an Illini fan, I'm dreaming that Matthews will want to stay close to home and join Coach Groce in Champaign.

Matthews is 1 of 8 Chicago recruits from the 2015 class to start watching now as they begin their junior seasons.

Melinda McIntire

College Teams Wed Sep 18 2013

Will Chicago Native Ahmad Starks Play in 2013-14?

Ahmad Starks.jpg Chicago native and Whitney Young alum, Ahmad Starks, announced last May he was transferring to Illinois from Oregon State to be closer to his ailing grandmother here in Chicago.

Starks submitted a family hardship waiver to the NCAA for eligibility to play in the 2013-14 year. Without the family hardship waiver, he'll have to follow NCAA rules to sit out a year before donning an Illini uniform. We've been waiting almost four months to hear of Starks' fate, and the Champaign Room reports that Starks expects to hear something within the next 10 days.

Basketball season is creeping upon us and Tom Fornelli of the Champaign Room makes this point:

If Starks doesn't get the waiver and is forced to sit out this season, the Illini are oversigned for the 2014-15 season. Which means somebody will have to go -- and maybe two if Cliff Alexander makes dreams come true.

Let's pray the NCAA gods/judgement makers are on Starks' and the Illini's side.

Melinda McIntire

College Teams Fri Sep 13 2013

Chicago Forward Cliff Alexander to Visit Illinois

Just last night, top point guard Quentin Snider announced in a press conference he would be joining Coach Groce and the Illini in Champaign. This is a big gain for the Illini, and one of the top Chicago recruits, Cliff Alexander, may follow suit.

Alexander will be taking the trip down I-57 next month for Illinois Homecoming Weekend for his official Illini visit. This is big for Coach Groce's future team now including Quentin Snider and Leron Black. Cliff Alexander could definitely round out a serious 2015 team and put a Chicago Public League alum in Champaign, which is important for the future of the Illinois and CPL recruiting relationship.

Alexander is the #2 recruit in the nation, according the ESPN top 100. Alexander is from Curie High School in the Archer Heights neighborhood. He's made official visits at DePaul, Arizona, Kansas, and Memphis.

Come on Cliff! I-L-L!

Melinda McIntire

College Teams Thu Sep 12 2013

Soldier Field Features College Football on Saturday: Illinois v. Washington

This weekend you'll be able to catch some college football in Chicago as Soldier Field plays host to Illinois vs. Washington on Saturday at 5:00 PM. (As much as Northwestern likes to market that they are Chicago's Big 10 team, they actually play in Evanston.)

According to fightingillini.com, there are 220,000 Illini alumni and 1.4 million Illini fans in the Chicago area. The University has marketed the event as "Chicago Homecoming" in hopes of getting Soldier Field packed with orange and blue. Illinois has not played in Chicago since November 2010 when they beat Northwestern at Wrigley Field. Since Soldier Field will allow teams to run both ways, it should provide for some decently exciting football.

The Illini are so far 2-0 after trouncing Cincinnati 45-17 last week in Champaign, which gave us Illini fans some hope for the game at Solider Field and the rest of the season.

Tickets are still available for the game starting at $30. Illini Fest, a free tailgate, will be held prior to the game from 1-4:30 PM on the Southeast Lawn of Soldier Field. Oh, and they are selling beer I've heard.

If that doesn't convince you to come out, then here's a video that made me all orange and blue and Chicago gushy.


Melinda McIntire

Football Fri Sep 06 2013

Where to Watch the Fighting Illini this Season

illini.jpgI love the Illini and I bleed orange and blue. I'm a 3rd generation U of I graduate, and this has left me with the unfortunate fate of cheering on a less than stellar football team, but nonetheless, I stay with 'em. There are a multitude of Illinois grads in this city, but for some reason, it feels as there are more Michigan and Florida bars than Illini ones (cough, cough..bandwagon...cough). If you share my fate of being an Illini fan, since our team won't be headed to the Rose Bowl or probably even a winning season, you'll at least need to know the bar options where you can watch in frustration or misery with cheap drinks (but have hope!). Here's my list of Illini bar options:

Joe's on Weed, 940 W. Weed St., joesbar.com

Joe's is where the Chicago Illini Club used to host their game watches. After doing some research, it seems as though the official game watches may be abandoned (also, way to be supportive, Chicago Illini Club). I give Joe's an official "eh" in my ratings. The service is so-so, the food isn't that great, but the beer is cheap. They feature $8 Coors Light pitchers on Saturdays, which isn't the worst. There are tons of huge screens, so the view of watching the game is pretty snazzy. You do have to share your space with the rest of the NCAA fans, and hope that the Illini are featured on the sound. Upon further investigation, it seems as though Joe's has turned into an Indiana bar this year, a team that may be even more pathetic than we are.

Continue reading this entry »

Melinda McIntire

Baseball Thu Aug 08 2013

Review: From Black Sox to Three-peats: A Century of Chicago's Best Sports-writing from the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Other Newspapers

SportsBook.jpg The Chicago sports landscape is a vast space, reaching as far as the Quad Cities to Nashville, with legions of fans who stick with their teams through thick and thin. And much like that landscape in the middle of February, it is often dark and cold for what seems like an eternity, with no hope in sight. But once every so often, a beam of light shines through, melting away the ice and once again restoring hope for athletics in the Second City.

With so much drama and so many teams in the country's third-largest market, it became necessary for news outlets to canvas the city's north, south and west sides with sports writers, just as they crammed the courts and morgues with beat writers as early as they dawn of the newspaper.

Not much has changed from the mid-1800s, outside of how we receive our news, and in Ron Rapoport's newest book, From Black Sox to Three-peats: A Century of Chicago's Best Sports-writing from the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Other Newspapers, he allows the reader to take a trip back in time when sports gambling ruled outcomes of games, Babe Ruth was sticking it to the Wrigley faithful and Michael Jordan holding us all in the palm of his hand.

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Crago

Basketball Tue May 21 2013

Champions Classic Pits Parker Against Wiggins in Chicago

phpnOBoYSPM.jpgJust seven months after putting on a show at the McDonald's All American Game, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins will return to the United Center floor. As before, it'll be head to head, but many more will watch Parker's Duke Blue Devils and Wiggins' Kansas Jayhawks headline the State Farm Champions Classic.

Parker's Duke Blue Devils were a sizable favorite against the Jayhawks before Wiggins surprised many with his low-key announcement that he'd play for Bill Self at Kansas. For Parker, a soon-to-be Simeon graduate and four-time Illinois state champion, it'll be another opportunity to knock off Wiggins, who single-handedly stopped the Parker Hype Machine the moment he re-classified as a member of the class of 2013.

Continue reading this entry »

Kevin Morris

College Teams Wed May 15 2013

Does DePaul Benefit from Reported Lakefront Arena?

php1IXwyNPM.jpgThough there are many criticisms to level at DePaul's basketball program, no one could accuse them of dreaming small. Whether it's their recruiting or their conference affiliation, DePaul behaves like an elite basketball program.

If reports of a $300 million 12,000-seat lakefront basketball arena at McCormick Place are accurate, DePaul - and the mayor's office - have got some wild ideas about the program's place in Chicago.

Setting aside the myriad issues with the planned arena's funding, it's worth asking if another cavernous off-campus arena in an inaccessible part of the city is the best thing for DePaul basketball. Does the proposed arena solve the main issue with Rosemont? That is, an arena far from campus that students don't have any incentive to visit.

Continue reading this entry »

Kevin Morris

Basketball Tue Mar 26 2013

Northwestern Basketball Coaching Search an Easy Call

phpDGiOq0AM.jpgMajor college basketball coaching searches often reveal a significant perception gap between fans and coaches in the industry. Fans think: Who wouldn't want to come coach my team to a national championship? Coaches think: Why should I quit my job and move my family to pick up the pieces of a broken program?

When the University of Illinois fired Bruce Weber last year, all eyes turned to the game's rising sideline stars, Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens. The thought being that, duh, who would turn down Illinois? A B1G basketball school in a state loaded with talent. Both declined and Illinois found itself a great consolation prize in John Groce.

But the media narrative dogged Illinois: Turns out coaches don't think much of that job. For Northwestern, a high-major program that has somehow never even played in the NCAA tournament, things will likely play out much better. Firing Bill Carmody was a not-that-difficult decision. He was given thirteen seasons to take the Northwestern program to the next level, and while there was plenty of progress, he didn't get the job done. To make matters easier on Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, the program's coach-in-waiting has been known for some time: Northbrook native and Duke associate head coach Chris Collins.

Collins has already interviewed (it went well!) for the job and could be introduced as head coach before the NCAA Final Four in early April. While there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Collins -- he has never been a head coach, his recruiting ability and connections in the actual city of Chicago aren't proven, and the Duke coaching tree is not a fine specimen -- there's no reason to believe anyone else can take the program to new heights. Northwestern is not an easy job. The Wildcats play in the best conference in America, their facilities are old, and they have never been able to recruit the Chicago Public League.

But a new staff can bring a new culture. If Collins becomes the NU head coach, surrounds himself with the right people, makes the right calls, and forges solid relationships with Tyrone Slaughter, Nick Irvin, and the top players on the AAU scene, he can take Northwestern to the desired level.

Photo by MCT

Kevin Morris

Basketball Fri Feb 01 2013

Big Ten Basketball Heating Up

BigTenLogo.jpg

You weren't seeing things as you looked at the weather forecast this morning. It really was five degrees as you walked out the door for your Friday-morning commute. And just when it seems that it possibly can't get any colder, just know that the Rite of Spring known as March Madness is right around the corner.

Chicago is a hub for Big Ten graduates. You can't swing a life-sized cutout of Calbert Cheaney, that once occupied your dorm freshman year, without hitting a college-themed bar in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Flags bearing the likeness of Sparty, Purdue Pete, or a Buckeye are proudly displayed out front of each watering hole, acting as a beacon of light to attract the most loyal of fan base.

According to the Big Ten's website , there's a "gapers block" jamming four teams at the top. They include (overall, conference record):

#1 Michigan (20-1, 7-1)
#3 Indiana (19-2, 7-1)
#13 Michigan State (18-4, 7-2)
#11 Ohio State (16-4, 6-2)

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Crago

Basketball Fri Jan 25 2013

University of Illinois to Honor Former Hoops Star

TalBrody.jpg

Tal Brody has come a long way since his time as a child in 1940s Trenton, NJ. Considered to be Israel's first modern-day sports hero, the former University of Illinois star point guard will have his jersey number (12) raised to the rafters at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 13, when the Fighting Illini host the Purdue Boilermakers. The game is set to tip off at 8pm (CST).

Brody will also be honored during the NBA's All-Star weekend in Houston, TX, as he will be inducted into the league's Hall of Fame for international play. Brody was selected 13th overall in the 1965 NBA draft (the old Baltimore Bullets, for those playing at home), but instead decided to stay at U of I to get his master's degree. Brody eventually flew overseas to play for Israel's Maccabi-Tel Aviv, which he led to a second place finish in the European Cup Basketball Championships.

After his basketball career, which included a gold medal in the Maccabiah Games, and officially being named a citizen of Israel, Brody focused his attention on youth basketball programs, including his "Let's Play Basketball" clinic. Brody is also involved philanthropically with Spirit of Israel, which is geared at helping underprivileged children.

You can bet the 6-foot, 1-1/2-inch Brody will be standing even taller with pride on the night of the thirteenth in Champaign. He's still ranked 33rd on Illinois' all-time scoring list, and still lends a hand with outreach programs. Not a bad résumé.

Jim Crago

Football Thu Jan 17 2013

Bulls Beat the Raptor...OMG, Did You Guys Hear About Manti Te'o?

In what has to be the most unusual story in college sports, at least in my lifetime, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has found himself in the middle of a non-existent love story that would have producers at "General Hospital" drooling at the writers' table.

Yesterday afternoon, Deadspin's Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey asked what ESPN, CBS, and other sporting news outlets couldn't: who is Lennay Kekua, and why is there no certificate regarding her death?

Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick addressed the media yesterday evening, just after 7pm (CST), which was carried by UND.com, as well as ESPN News. (It should be noted that, according to multiple reports, ESPN sat on the Te'o story for 10 days. It wasn't until after Deadspin uncovered the story that ESPN began to report on it.)

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Crago / Comments (2)

Basketball Wed Dec 19 2012

The Weird State of Chicago College Basketball

phpeoiNWPPM.jpgHeading into conference play, the area's three best college basketball teams -- Northwestern, UIC, and DePaul -- are mediocre, and don't stand much of a chance of making the NCAA tournament in March. Though the three are a combined 25-8, they've played soft schedules. Owing to that, the three are all ranked 87 and 99 nationally in stat guru Ken Pomeroy's rankings. Still, there's plenty of intrigue surrounding each program.

Northwestern is off to an 8-3 start -- though their best win came against Illinois State. The Wildcats have never made the NCAA tournament and probably won't in 2012-2013 in a loaded Big Ten. Bill Carmody, in his 13th season in Evanston, might not keep his job. If Carmody were to go, what kind of coach could NU lure in? Craig Robinson, perhaps? Does proximity to Chicago's talent pool mean as much as one would think? Or will concerns about academic standards keep coaches away?

Continue reading this entry »

Kevin Morris

Chicago Wed Dec 12 2012

Chicago-Centric Bowl Season Picks

College Football Bowl Local Edition

Here is a list of upcoming bowl you should care about...or not:

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Sat., Dec. 22
UL Lafayette over East Carolina

UL Lafayette is Bears cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman's alma mater.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas Bowl Fri., Dec. 28
Texas Tech over Minnesota

The Golden Gophers defensive line coach, Jeff Phelps' dad and my dad were best friends up until death.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl Mon., Dec. 31
LSU over Clemson

Do you think Alderman "Proco" Joe Moreno will tune in to see the Chick-Fil-A Bowl game??

Continue reading this entry »

Evan F. Moore

Basketball Thu Nov 29 2012

DePaul Basketball's Relevance May Hinge on Arena Choice

dt-1.common.streams.StreamServer.cls.jpegFor some, DePaul men's basketball brings to mind a storied history -- legendary graduates like George Mikan and Mark Agguire, the notable father-and-son coaching duo of Ray and Joey Meyer, and a streak of success in the 1970s and 1980s. But for those born after 1985, the name DePaul is more synonymous with futility. Since 1991, the Blue Demons have just one NCAA tournament victory in only four appearances. Their mid-aught move to the Big East brought them all the notoriety afforded to major-conference doormats, and their coaching hires have been uninspired, unsuccessful, and uncreative. And though it's only year three of Oliver Purnell's tenure, things aren't exactly looking up.

Though on-court issues are certainly to blame for DePaul's continued failure, the program has recently been dogged by a major logistical issue: their home court. Rosemont's Allstate Arena has been the team's home since 1980, but the upcoming expiration of their lease (after 2015) has raised a fairly obvious question. Does it make sense for DePaul to play their games outside the city of Chicago, 25-30 minutes from their Lincoln Park campus? According to recent reports, it seems the school is anxious to move back into Chicago.

Continue reading this entry »

Kevin Morris

Basketball Tue Apr 03 2012

Blue Heaven

anthony davis sports illustrated.jpg

Last year, we watched Anthony Davis explode on the Chicago basketball scene, dominating opponents at Perspectives, a small charter school in the South Loop. Recently sprouted to 6 feet 10, he casually asserted his will, when the spirit moved him, against players much smaller and less skilled.

He was a hometown hero at the McDonald's All-American Game, then became the best player in college basketball.

Last night, Davis led the University of Kentucky to a national championship in his first and soon-to-be only college season, winning Most Outstanding Player honors. In three months, he'll be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

Just remember, we knew him when.

Jim Reedy

Random Thu Jan 12 2012

Threadless Goes to College

threadless_bigten.jpgCrowdsourced t-shirt company Threadless launched a collection of college-themed shirts today, including two Big Ten schools. Alumni and fans of University of Illinois will be pleased by the big orange I, whose profile reveals the outline of the state in blue. Meanwhile, the University of Iowa Hawkeye is revealed to be made up of a squadron of birds of prey.

Other teams include Alabama, Auburn, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, University of Colorado, University of Georgia, LSU and University of Miami. The shirts are $20 apiece; 10 percent of sales go to the school.

Andrew Huff

College Teams Thu Jan 05 2012

Big Ten Football: Is This It?

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGOn paper, it sure doesn't look pretty. The 2011-12 bowl season saw the Big Ten's qualifying teams finish a combined 4-6*, with losses to teams from four different conferences.

In a league run by human voters, one's national stock depends more on reputation than empirical data; and this slate of games looks much brighter (even if not altogether Rosier) once one compares the whats and the hows of the six losses.

Because if the SEC has taught us anything, it's that being the most dominant conference in college football requires no more than three perennial powerhouses backed up by a mere handful of worthy adversaries. A conference doesn't get measured based on the success of its seventh-best team, but rather how many crystal footballs get roped in by the highest tier.

And like I say, the lower portion of the Big Ten certainly didn't have its best month and a half.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks / Comments (2)

College Teams Mon Dec 05 2011

Big Ten Football: Badgers Come Up Roses

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGWith less than two minutes left in Saturday's Big Ten championship game, we seemed destined for another Hail Mary.

Michigan State forced a Wisconsin three-and-out, and would have the ball for any late-game heroics that should erase the Badgers' three-point lead. It felt only natural that the team that dropped Wisconsin from the national title race with a miracle touchdown pass several weeks ago might now eliminate beat them in the conference title game in similar fashion.

But this time, the pendulum of fate swung to the Badgers.

The Spartans sent the house to try to block the punt, and instead got a roughing the kicker penalty. Wisconsin kept the ball with a new set of downs, and had no problem draining the clock for a 42-39 win with Michigan State out of timeouts.

It was not as if Michigan State did not enjoy their own level of fortune throughout the contest. They got two points on a fake extra-point play, converted an ill-advised lateral while falling out of bounds for a touchdown, and completed a fourth-down pass play to keep the Badgers at bay and hold onto the lead with four minutes left.

But it was the Badgers' own heroics that claimed this one.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks / Comments (2)

College Teams Mon Nov 28 2011

Big Ten Football: Hail Sparty, Bucky

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGAll in all, it's been hard to take Big Ten football seriously this year.

That's not to say it hasn't been entertaining; this season could affectionately be described as Everybody Beating Up On Everybody. But as thrilling as the mayhem has been, it's also left us scrambling for solid answers as we gear up for the first Big Ten championship game next weekend.

Here's what we know: Michigan State (10-2, 7-1) and Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2) are headed Indianapolis to square off in the most highly anticipated rematch this side of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. You may recall the last time the two met up, the Spartans won on a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass.

At that point, this rematch seemed a foregone conclusion: No team in the Big Ten was playing as well as these two teams. And the following week, both of them lost.

Since their humbling loss at Nebraska, the Spartans have won four straight, including a two-touchdown win on the road against Iowa and this weekend's 31-17 drubbing of 6-6 Northwestern. They'll likely be favored next weekend.

But despite two late-game missteps in October, the Badgers have their own momentum brewing. They beat No. 19 Penn State (9-3, 6-2) this weekend to earn a title-game berth, and they did so convincingly, responded after an early Nittany Lions touchdown with 45 unanswered points to win 45-7. Even though they share first place in the Leaders Division, there was no doubt Saturday about which team deserved to win the tiebreaker as the Badgers ran over, under and through the supposedly staunch Penn State defense.

But while Michigan State will have their hands full in Indianapolis, it's interesting to consider what the conference would look like had it not made the leap to a 12-team league with a championship game.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Nov 21 2011

Big Ten Football: Only the Strong Survive

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGRussell Wilson was supposed to be the savior of the Badgers' season.

Returning the lion's share of starters from 2010 season that ended in the Rose Bowl, the only pressing question mark was the lack of a clear leader under center. And with Wilson's transfer, they added not just a competent starter, but a proven star who turned Wisconsin from being a conference contender to a clear-cut favorite.

But the wind in Champaign on Saturday isolated the passing game (Wilson was 10-of-13 for 90 yards and a touchdown) and gave us a glimpse at what the Badgers (9-2, 5-2) might have been without him: a team that is really good at running the football.

Montee "Touchdown Machine" Ball ran for 224 yards and two touchdowns, adding a third touchdown via the air as Wisconsin rallied past Illinois (6-5, 2-5), 28-17.

It's silly to think about picking apart an otherwise commanding victory, but this was a game the Illinois Fumblerooskis were just too bad to win. Quarterbacks Nathan Scheelhaase and R. O'Toole combined to throw three interceptions, on top of a lost fumble that gave the Badgers all the breathing room they needed.

Despite a 10-point halftime deficit, the Badgers now are just one win away from being invited to the Big Ten championship game.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Fri Nov 18 2011

Big Ten Football: Ohio State Grooms New QB

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGWe all knew Ohio State wouldn't stay down for long. Even after their nail-biting near-loss to Toledo in Week 2, the Buckeyes had a trusted -- if not proven -- head coach in Luke Fickell, a nexus of senior players who would return from suspension in time for the games that were legitimately challenging, and a senior quarterback who had spent three years learning the offensive scheme behind Terrelle Pryor.

But while the head coach and nucleus of talent have proven their utility in climbing back up to a favorable position in the Leaders Division after their impressive win over Wisconsin on Oct. 29, the experience under center has not gone quite as planned.

After just three games, it was the 24-6 blowout loss to Miami in which Joe Bauserman completed a meager 14 percent of his passes that prompted Fickell to pull the trigger. And with his suspended upperclassmen nearing their return and the Big Ten schedule imminent, he handed the majority of the snaps over to talented freshman quarterback Braxton Miller.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Nov 14 2011

Big Ten Football: Contenders Come Full Circle

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGAnother week, another new set of front-runners in the Big Ten's two football divisions.

Just one week after taking control of their own destiny in the Legends Division, Iowa (6-4, 3-3) lost to No. 17 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) at home, 37-21, and conceded that control in the division to the Spartans. Following a slow showing the past two weeks, Michigan State came out firing in Iowa City, scoring 28 points in the first half. And despite Iowa's push in the third quarter, Michigan State held strong and wrestled away control of the division.

Nothing is certain yet, though. The Spartans will be favored in both of their remaining games against Northwestern (5-5, 2-4) and Indiana (1-9, 0-6), but if they do stumble they will be right back into a tie with whichever team wins between No. 19 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) and No. 24 Michigan (8-2, 4-2) next week. Nebraska holds the tiebreaker over Michigan State, though the Spartans own the tiebreaker over Michigan.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Nov 07 2011

Big Ten Football: Rebound Games

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGA week ago, Iowa was the Big Ten's ugly stepchild after losing to the football laugh factory known as Minnesota. Nebraska was the conference's new favorite after crushing Michigan State. Wisconsin was a crumpled mess that seemed unable to put together a full four quarters of football.

But what a difference a week can make.

Despite humbling losses to both Iowa State and Minnesota, the Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) now control their own destiny in the conference with just three games left after Saturday's 24-16 victory over Michigan.

The Wolverines (7-2, 3-2) had a good chance to take the game back, driving to the 3-yard line for a first-and-goal on their last possession. But Denard Robinson missed on four straight throws, and the Hawkeyes survived to remain in a three-way tie for second place in the Legends Division. Their remaining games include home matchups with both Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) and Michigan State (7-2, 4-1), giving them the opportunity to win out and seal any potential tiebreakers in the Legends Division.

And boy, you have to expect there will be tiebreakers.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Oct 31 2011

Big Ten Football: Home Sweet Home

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGEntering Week 9, nobody in the Big Ten was flying quite as high as No. 11 Michigan State (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten). The Spartans were coming off consecutive wins against Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and carried the momentum of a Hail Mary touchdown with them into Lincoln, Neb., for an opportunity to assert their reign atop the conference.

But No. 14 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) had other plans, and they swiftly dismantled a listless Spartans squad, 24-3.

State quarterback Kirk Cousins looked lost against a prolific Cornhuskers secondary, completing 11 of 27 throws for just 86 and an interception. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez didn't fair much better, compiling 80 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 7-of-13 passing.

The difference statistically was Huskers back Rex Burkhead, who racked up 130 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but the patterns emerging in the Big Ten suggest there may be something bigger going on.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Oct 24 2011

Big Ten Football: Divine Intervention

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPG

There were four seconds left when the final play began, but anyone who watched knows the ball hung in the air for much longer than that. With the score tied and Wisconsin and Michigan State scrambling to avoid collapse, quarterback Kirk Cousins heaved a last-second touchdown pass 44 yards to give the Spartans a 36-31 win.

They call it a Hail Mary for a reason.

Cousins' desperation pass to a group of anxious players from both sides encapsulated the prior three hours of physical blows, but the action between No. 16 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) and No. 6 Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) started nearly a week earlier.

Spartans safety Isaiah Lewis threw the first punch, telling the media his defense was going to inflict physical harm on the Badgers' star quarterback, Russell Wilson. But it was Badgers running back Montee Ball who countered on their first play from scrimmage. Ball ran off the left tackle and introduced his shoulder to Lewis' tumbling frame.

Lewis would return to the game later and nab one of Wilson's two interceptions -- twice as many as he'd thrown to that point all season. And perhaps the game's most compelling storyline was Wilson's hot start, fall and phoenix-like rise. The former Heisman hopeful made positive contributions even while he struggled, making a near-perfect form tackle on State's Trenton Robinson after the safety had swung back from Nick Toon to record the game's second turnover.

But the times got tough, and Wilson gave the Spartans their first points after he was called for intentional grounding from his own end zone. With less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter he marched the Badgers back from a 14-point deficit by running for one touchdown and throwing for another.

Cousins had a less dramatic showing. He threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns with systematic decision-making. He was a model of efficiency and a symbol of reliability.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Oct 17 2011

Big Ten Football: All Falls Down

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGTwo more Big Ten undefeateds went down this week. Both Michigan and Illinois had their house-of-cards offenses blown over, leaving just three teams with undefeated conference resumes.

The Badgers are ranked the highest of them, and will play both of the other two before the season is over. Those other two, Penn State and Michigan State, would not play each other unless they meet in the Big Ten championship game.

But with the level of parity as it is in the Big Ten, you have to figure it's far too early for that kind of guesswork. After a rough showing in big non-conference contests, the big losers have become winners against the allegedly superior teams. As a result, the Big Ten's stock is especially low, and no team controls its own destiny in the race to the BCS championship.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Fri Oct 14 2011

Big Ten Football: Wisconsin's New Star QB

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGLast season, only two college quarterbacks had at least 25 passing touchdowns and nine rushing touchdowns. One of those was Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. The other was relatively unheralded North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson. This season, as Newton is wowing the NFL, Russell Wilson is starring at Wisconsin, asserting himself as a national star.

After receiving his degree in communications at N.C. State and spending a spring with the Colorado Rockies' Asheville, N.C., affiliate, Wilson arrived at Wisconsin this spring to plug the one glaring hole in an offense that tore through the 2010 season en route to the Rose Bowl. And despite having just a few short months to learn an entire new offensive scheme and its nuances, Wilson has hit the ground running -- both figuratively and sometimes literally -- in leading the Badgers to an impressive 5-0 start.

Unlike Newton, who entered the NFL draft with myriad questions about his accuracy competency, Wilson's quarterback pedigree is outstanding. He throws accurately, completes passes outside of the pocket, has a strong arm, a quick release, and boasts a terrific football IQ and work ethic.

In fact, Wilson's biggest flaw might be the one thing that is completely outside of his control: his height. At just 5'11", Wilson is far shorter than any NFL offensive line he'd be playing behind. But the Badgers do him a big favor in this regard in that their offense is more than just pro-style; it's also pro-sized.

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Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Oct 10 2011

Big Ten Football: Holding Pattern

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGThe horse race to the Big Ten championship is shaping up more like a race of jalopies. Whether battling injuries, suspensions, unrealistic expectations or just outright incompetency, every team in action this week looked vulnerable.

Nearly all of them were faced with some degree of adversity, while they attempted to patch up holes and survive for another round of national rankings. At least this week, none of the conference's frontrunners had their wheels fall off. Just another week of the status quo for the Big Ten.

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Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Oct 03 2011

Big Ten Football: Judgment Cometh

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGThe Big Ten season is upon us, and already parity is starting to manifest itself as something more like parody. The whole "College Gameday" crew and some 30,000 Nebraska fans were duped into thinking Saturday night's game at Camp Randall would be a marquee event worth the trip to Wisconsin, while Michigan State and Ohio State squared off in what everyone thought would be competitive, but not for the fact that neither team could score effectively.

Meanwhile, the weekend's best game came from Champaign, where two conference has-beens (or, never-weres) continued their hot starts in a barnburner. Michigan did likewise in a rout, but there's only one team that has asserted its dominance on an irrefutable level. That doesn't bode well for the conference writ large and its collective bowl-game aspirations.

And so now the conference is put in a position where each team is gunning after the golden pig. But with the Big Ten intent on staying put during the recent conference realignment hullabaloo, that pig might also be the conference's only shot at retaining national legitimacy while the lower-tiered squads go on spinning their wheels in rebuilding mode.

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Kyle Sparks

College Teams Thu Sep 29 2011

Big Ten Football: Badgers & Huskers Square Off

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGOnly in journalism are you taught to put the climax of a story first. It's impossible to sustain interest that way. Unless you're a journalist whose primary goal is fitting as much news into as tight of a space as possible, you're ensuring that the majority of your audience remains uninterested for the bulk of your work.

But that's exactly what the Big Ten has done in scheduling the contest between Wisconsin and Nebraska in the very first week of conference play.

With no disrespect to the other storied programs of the Big Ten, the Badgers and Cornhuskers enter conference play with more hype than anyone else. And it's easy to see why.

Sure, Ohio State will get their suspended players back and eventually play good football again; Michigan State probably won't turn the ball over as many times as they did against Notre Dame again all season; and Michigan hasn't run out of steam quite yet.

But Wisconsin and Nebraska are the only two teams ranked near the top 10, and conventional wisdom says this weekend's matchup is just a precursor for when the two meet up later this year in Indianapolis to decide who gets the Big Ten's automatic bid for the BCS. And if we're to lend the other conference contenders the benefit of the doubt for future improvement, Wisconsin and Nebraska deserve the same.

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Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Sep 26 2011

Big Ten Football: Everything In Its Right Place

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGThis isn't 'Nam, dude, there are rules. But then, I've no idea how to account for the NCAA, where harmony is a forgotten treasure and dissonance rules the universe. Think about it: After major conference shake-ups last season that saw the Big 12 drop to 10 teams and the Big 10 rise up to 12, this year has somehow become more anarchic. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are fleeing the Big East for the ACC, the Big 12 are having frantic meetings to try to avoid absolving while the SEC is taking more of their schools, and the Pac 12 is thinking about adopting enough new teams to become a new super-conference. Oh, and the NCAA is in no real position to stop any of them.

The one corner from which you don't hear much grumbling is the Big Ten. After introducing Nebraska into the fold last season, they've remained extremely quiet over the last few months, as if they're an exclusive club that refuses to tangle with anyone else.

And with good enough reason. In a recent article on FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver made the Big Ten seem like the trophy pig. They have the three biggest fanbases in the country in Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Their fourth-best market is currently ranked the nation's seventh-best team (Wisconsin), and they regularly have at least six of their teams finish the season in the top 25. So they're doing just fine, thanks.

But don't be misled. Despite their overall success and enormous fanbase, the Big Ten has only ever won one BCS Championship. The SEC has six.

You can put a price on television ratings, but you can't put a price on prestige. And the way the Big Ten teams have looked in their "preseasons" of non-conference games, they have some serious work to do. Only four teams have escaped their relatively meager non-conference slate unscathed, and none of them have any flagship victories. And come December, that futility weighs down on the whole group. It's hard time stack up quality wins when one of your toughest opponents barely eked out a win against lowly Toledo.

We've reached a fork in the road, and this writer thinks the Big Ten should stop pretending they're more elite than they are.

Continue reading this entry »

Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Sep 19 2011

Big Ten Football: Success is a Mirage

Thumbnail image for big ten divisions vertical.JPGIf we stare long enough, we can trick ourselves into thinking we can see it. The seeds of the Big Ten's season, "green" in only the most premature connotations of the term, are slowly digging their roots into the unforgiving sod of competition.

Ever so slowly, they're peeling back their shells just far enough to forfeit the tiny drops of potential required to survive, and then recoiling immediately before the score gets out of control or someone gets injured. Now you see it, now you don't.

Yet sometimes it takes a whole game for a petal or a leaf to open up and make a play so that a team finds a way to come out on top. Sometimes, it takes longer.

In these formative weeks of a football season, most teams try to strike a precarious balance between getting their pieces ready for more competitive action while still trying not to divulge enough of their schemes so as to help better opponents prepare to exploit them.

This was a tough week for the Big Ten in trying to survive that balance. Despite boasting far superior pedigrees than their opponents, Nebraska was forced into tough situations at home, Iowa and Penn State were in unexpected dogfights after losses last week, and Michigan State, Ohio State, and Northwestern all burst at the seams. And still we're only seeing fragments of potential that should give us a more clear idea of what the season's foliage will look like.

Actual Big Ten competition cannot come soon enough, because right now the field is looking awfully sparse. In Week 3, only four teams looked like they might be playing with seeds that could legitimately bloom into something resembling a Rose Bowl.

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Kyle Sparks / Comments (3)

College Teams Mon Sep 12 2011

Big Ten Football: They Are Who We Thought They Were

big ten divisions vertical.JPGThe inherent dilemmas soon become apparent.

After the haze of uncertainty going into college football's first week of action, Week 2 provides the smaller teams with two major advantages: motivation and scouting reports.

Because while many teams approach Week 2 like a preseason matchup, there are others that reject that notion. Teams like Fresno State and Toledo view Week 2 in much the opposite way: for them, the stakes never get higher. Their conference schedules are riddled with teams whose demise does not register on the national scale. So while the Nebraskas, the Wisconsins and the Ohio States are just stretching their legs out for the long Big Ten title run, their opponents are immersing themselves in their own personal Super Bowls.

Moreover, the underdogs in Week 2 are able to formulate game plans against their superior opponents like those in Week 1 could not. They have video of actual players running actual plays to watch and devise schemes to attack weaknesses and exploit matchups. Where Week 1 is defined by strong teams preying on the weak through sheer force, Week 2 allows the Davids to pick through film studies and find their rock to fling toward Goliath.

Sometimes, they hit. Most of the time, though, the Goliaths walk away with just a scratch, and an enduring blemish for them to self-consciously try to conceal as the season progresses.

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Kyle Sparks

College Teams Thu Sep 08 2011

Big Ten Keeps Quarterbacks on the Move

big ten divisions vertical.JPGMichigan's Rich Rodriguez experiment was even shorter than we expected. The since-fired head coach who brought his up-tempo option attack from the Big East seemed to be on the cusp of realizing his vision last season when quarterback Denard Robinson was leading Heisman talks and running up 300-400 yards of offense against whatever defense felt like strapping up that day.

That is, until Robinson got injured and then tried running through a slate of actual Big Ten opponents. It didn't take too long for Michigan higher-ups to connect the dots on Rodriguez's scheme: A mobile quarterback just can't hack it with the Big Ten's elite anymore.

That lesson might seem counterintuitive at first, because the most common (and the most apt) knock against the Big Ten's style of ball is that it's seemingly stuck in 1906, struggling to adapt to the forward pass and the offensive agility that goes with it.

That's a disingenuous critique of this situation, though, and it's mostly false. Because it's true that Big Ten offenses tend to have oversimplified passing schemes and frequently appear incompetent when executing even those.

But what we can learn from Rodriguez's mistakes is that the difference between which of these offensive schemes will be successful comes down to the difference between a "dual-threat" quarterback and just a "mobile" one.

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Kyle Sparks

College Teams Mon Sep 05 2011

Big Ten Football: No One Knows Anything Yet

big ten divisions vertical.JPGThis time of year, it's impossible to know what we're really seeing each weekend in college football. Without any empirical evidence gleaned from actual play, an upset is only defined by our own expectations. And you probably don't need me to point out how ludicrous it is to invest in any projections of unrealized potential in a bunch of kids who likely spend half the year downing jagerbombs at various campus sororities.

The only person who does know exactly what's going on in college football right now is omniscient God Himself. But despite his best efforts to assuage us viewers and stymie the USF Bulls with multiple thunderstorm delays Saturday evening, Notre Dame still lost 23-20, and now we can all be fairly confident that the Fighting Irish will once again be awful this year.

So instead, let's focus our opening week analysis on some football that's worth paying attention to: the Big Ten.

Due to the endemic uncertainty, I'm being lenient and giving the benefit of the doubt to teams straddling the line between Contender and Pretender. As the fall progresses, you'll see the latter receive a glut of wannabes from the former. But it's the first week of the season and I'm in no rush to make enemies, so let's be generous.

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Kyle Sparks

College Teams Tue May 31 2011

On the BTN

Continuing the Big Ten's recent trend of odd rebranding decisions, Big Ten Network has rebranded itself BTN, with a new logo that changes to fit the colors of your favorite Legends and Leaders.

big ten network new logo

The logo makes its TV debut in July with the network's coverage of Big Ten Football Media Days. The network also gets a new URL, btn.com -- it's live, but currently just forwards to bigtennetwork.com.

Perhaps it's just me, but all I can think of when I see the BTN acronym is "button."

BTN logo

Andrew Huff

Basketball Mon Apr 04 2011

Butler Does the Hoosier State Proud

butler flag.jpg

Flickr photos: Brad J. Ward

Succeeding where fellow Indiana schools Notre Dame and Purdue failed miserably, Brad Stevens (below) and the Butler men's basketball team are back in the NCAA championship game, playing UConn tonight for all the Tostitos.

brad stevens crop.PNGThe David v. Goliath storyline doesn't work as well as you might think. Butler, the national runner-up last year, ceded the Cinderella role to VCU this time, and UConn wasn't much of a contender before winning the Big East tournament with five wins in five nights.

But you can still have fun tonight jeering at the old money Huskies and their lawless coach. Butler fans -- they've got more than 2,000 alumni in the Chicago area -- will be at Brownstone Tavern & Grill (3937 N. Lincoln), their home base throughout the NCAA tournament. Showtime is 8 CT, but you'll definitely have to get there early to get a seat.

UConn fans were at Joe's Bar (940 W. Weed) for Saturday's semifinal game against Kentucky; check there for them tonight as well.

UPDATE: UConn's Chicago alumni group now says Piece Brewery & Pizza (1927 W. North) near Six Corners is the official spot tonight for Huskies fans.

Jim Reedy

Basketball Thu Mar 17 2011

March Madness at the United Center

nd basketball.jpg

Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough (right) drives against DePaul's Moses Morgan / Tribune photo: Chris Sweda

With four games in the books from the opening round or first round or whatever marketing term they're using this year, the NCAA men's basketball tournament begins in earnest today with a glorious smorgasbord of 16 games.

Tomorrow, Chicago gets in on the action, with four games at the United Center (and another two on Sunday). You'll have to check the secondary market for tickets -- or if you just want a taste, stop by the UC today to see the teams practice for free.

Each team gets 40 minutes on the court, starting with Akron at noon. They're followed, in order, by Florida State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Purdue, Georgetown, St. Peter's and VCU, which is scheduled to wrap things up at 7:20 p.m.

Here's the full schedule.

Jim Reedy

Football Fri Jan 07 2011

Big Ten Goes Bowling: Winners & Losers

Thumbnail image for b10logo.jpg
An 0-5 record on New Year's Day ensured this bowl season would be remembered as a massive disappointment for the Big Ten, but there was some good mixed with the bad. Herewith, we say goodbye to college football -- with apologies to the four games yet to come -- with a rundown of the winners and losers from the eight Big Ten bowl games.

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Jim Reedy

College Teams Mon Dec 13 2010

Big Ten Goes Mod With Odd New Logo

big10new.jpgWith college football season finished except for the bowl games, the Big Ten on Monday unveiled a new logo and names for its two new football divisions. Nebraska will become the conference's 12th school next year, so the old logo, with "11" represented in negative space, had to go.

And yes, that is what they came up with. See, it's clever because the "I-G" looks like "1-0."

It's turquoise because ... well, I have no idea why.

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Jim Reedy / Comments (4)

Football Mon Dec 06 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Bowls Are Upon Us

b10logo.jpgWith one final game in the books -- Illinois' 25-23 loss Friday at Fresno State -- we turn officially to bowl season in the Big Ten. Which means nearly everyone gets a bowl bid. Because nearly every Big Ten school churns out 3 million alumni each year who want to get stupid drunk and spend big money on hotels and restaurants and souvenir tchotchkes at the bowl destination of their choice.

It's all about the Chamber of Commerce, which is why Michigan State had no chance at a BCS bowl bid despite sharing the conference championship with Wisconsin and Ohio State. Instead, the Badgers end up in the Rose Bowl, with the BCS standings used as a tiebreaker over the Buckeyes, who will head to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.

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Jim Reedy

Football Mon Nov 29 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgAfter weeks of buildup, the Big Ten championship race just kind of ended without much of a conclusion. All the best teams kept winning, so they finished with identical 7-1 conference records. A three-way tie. Oh joy.

The big prize, a Rose Bowl bid, seems all but guaranteed for Wisconsin, thanks to the jury-rigged, intentionally illogical BCS computer rankings.

But while the Badgers, Buckeyes and Spartans took care of business Saturday to claim one-third of the conference title, two of their weakest rivals celebrated smaller victories.

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Jim Reedy

Football Mon Nov 22 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgWhile Chicagoans watched Mikel Leshoure and the Fighting Illini pummel Northwestern at Wrigley Field, the best teams in the Big Ten stayed alive in the championship race, sending us into the season's final week with a three-way tie for first place.

We've got all the details on big wins by Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State as we review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football.

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Jim Reedy

Football Sun Nov 21 2010

Football at Wrigley: Northwestern vs. Illinois

Thumbnail image for wrigley classic.jpgAfter all the hype, all the last-minute changes and excuse-making -- seriously, these dullards didn't confirm the field would actually fit on the field? -- Saturday's historic college football game at Wrigley Field worked about exactly as you might expect.

Before the game, it was the usual Wrigleyville beer and hot dogs scene, which is already equivalent to a football tailgate party, with a few extra street festivities added to give Northwestern and Illinois fans something of a bowl game experience close to home.

During the game, it was your basic college football game, a decisive 48-27 win for the Illini and their outnumbered but feisty fan base.

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Jim Reedy

Football Mon Nov 15 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgOhio State roared to life, Minnesota got off the schneid and Northwestern dealt fading Iowa a potentially devastating loss -- while absorbing one of its own.

Oh yes, friends, it's time to look back at The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football, now as always a Cam Newton-free zone.

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Jim Reedy

Football Tue Nov 09 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgPenn State got Joe Paterno his 400th win in style, Michigan and Illinois made a mockery of the record book and some title contenders fared better than others.

It's never too late for The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football.

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Jim Reedy

Football Wed Nov 03 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpg
We don't care what day it is. We're talking about The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football -- about Iowa's roaring win against previously unbeaten Michigan State; and Penn State's unencumbered run through the woeful Michigan defense; and the delightful new quarterback at Illinois.

But not about Notre Dame, because they're awful on and off the field.

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Jim Reedy

Football Mon Oct 25 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgWisconsin won another big one, Ohio State regained dominant form and Michigan State rallied to keep its record perfect.

Come along as I rant about Kirk Ferentz's inability to grasp basic end-game strategy and review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football (plus Notre Dame, I guess, though they're barely worth talking about this season).

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Jim Reedy

Football Tue Oct 19 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgIt's Big Ten Monday, unless it's possibly Tuesday already, but there's still time to sink our brain teeth into Wisconsin's big win against Ohio State and the continuing excellence of Michigan State and Iowa.

Come along as we review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football (plus Notre Dame, because they own this town).

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Jim Reedy / Comments (1)

Football Mon Oct 11 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgMichigan State and Ohio State continued to prove themselves as title contenders, Purdue showed a lot of heart on the road and Illinois earned a big win against the spiraling Nittany Lions.

Come along as I generously decline to kick Denard Robinson while he's down and review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football (plus Notre Dame, because they own this town).

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Reedy

Football Mon Oct 04 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgThe Iowa Hawkeyes maintained their excellent Steel Curtain impression, Michigan State closed the door on Wisconsin and I continued my blood feud with Denard Robinson, everyone's favorite new college football superstar.

Better late than even later, we review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football (plus Notre Dame, because they own this town).

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Jim Reedy / Comments (22)

Football Mon Sep 27 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgHide the women and children, because the Big Ten schedule this weekend consisted largely of vicious beatings applied to hapless cupcake opponents paid handsomely to be destroyed for sport.

Sound cheery? Come along as we review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football (plus Notre Dame, because they own this town).

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Jim Reedy

Football Mon Sep 20 2010

Big Ten Football Monday: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgMichigan State won a wild one against Notre Dame, Wisconsin survived a visit from Arizona State and an anthropomorphic mascot was the only man capable of slowing the Buckeyes.

Come along as we review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football (plus Notre Dame).

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Reedy

Football Mon Sep 13 2010

Big Ten Football: The Weekend That Was

b10logo.jpgOhio State hounded Miami into madness, Penn State folded at Alabama and the nation saw the birth of a new college football star in Denard Robinson, whose historic day at Notre Dame Stadium nonetheless left me curiously unmoved.

Come along as we review The Weekend That Was in Big Ten football (plus Notre Dame because those bastards own half of Chicago).

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Jim Reedy / Comments (2)

College Teams Wed Jul 28 2010

Big Ten Bars: Illinois

Durkins.JPG

It's time to get ready for football season. But, rather than rattle off a long list of predictions based on third-string defensive linemen and what the offensive coordinator has been eating for lunch this summer, we decided to provide fans with some information you can actually use.

For the next five weeks we will be highlighting some of the best places in Chicago to watch your favorite Big Ten team do battle if you can't make it to the stadium. We start with the Fightin' Illini and Durkin's Tavern.

Durkin's, located at 810 W. Diversey, is just an option-pitch away from the Brown and Purples lines. Formerly a haven for Purdue fans, the bar shifted its allegiance to Illinois simply because that's what the customers wanted. General manager Joe Magoonaugh said he isn't sure why Illini fans started flocking to the bar, but the majority of the bar's staff members are now U of I alums as well.

Joe Magoonaugh.jpg

Durkin's is equipped with enough flat screens to watch every Big Ten game, but priority goes to Illinois as long as they are playing. Magoonaugh said the bar generally fills to capacity to take advantage of the all-you-can-drink deal for $20 during the game. Bartenders also give away t-shirts and have fully-loaded confetti cannons for the rare occasion when the Illini scratch out a victory.

Some other hot spots for Illinois fans to celebrate, or down their sorrows, are the School Yard, 3258 N. Southport, and Rebel Bar & Grill, 3462 N. Clark. If we missed any of your favorite U of I watering holes, let us know.

Dan Murphy / Comments (1)

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