Change. It’s a coming. To college football. You’ll will see it nearby (Memorial Stadium) and far away (Rose Bowl). You’ll see it in the way the game is played and who plays who (or is it whom?). Here are college football beat writer Bob Asmussen’s expected changes for the game he loves:
1. Illinois catching up in scoreboard wars.
The new “toy” is on the way. Andrew Young can’t wait.
“Absolutely thrilled to have this,” Young said. “It’s been several years getting to this point. We’ve known since 2009 the board we had was having some fatal issues. You didn’t know if it was going to work from day to day because of its age.”
Young is the athletic department’s Director of Video. He’s the Oz behind the scoreboard curtain.
Later this month, he’ll cheer as demolition begins on the aging scoreboard at Memorial Stadium.
“It was at the end of its lifespan,” Young said.
In the Big Ten, most schools have newer models. Complete with all the modern-day bells and whistles.
“We have definitely been passed by by all the other schools just in terms of size and what they have,” Young said.
In the spring and summer, Daktronics will install a new videoboard that is four times the size of the current model. And there’s more. Three ribbon boards are being put in, along with a new sound system and two auxiliary videoboards.
“To say we’re excited about it, that would probably be a severe understatement,” Young said.
“No matter where you are sitting in the stadium, you will be able to see down, distance and score.”
The increased size of the scoreboard is obvious. Young said fans will also notice a major change in the sound quality at Memorial Stadium. Announcements will actually be heard in all corners of the building.
Size-wise, the new scoreboard will rank among the 20 largest in the country. There’s a whole lot more room for signage, out-of-town scores, statistics, social media, you name it.
“You want to give your fans as many amenities as possible,” Young said.
Young expects the scoreboard to be up and running during the summer. He doesn’t want to be figuring it out in the final few days before the home opener.
Two Rose Bowls for the Big Ten
Technically, at least. They aren’t going to let the Big Ten play the Big Ten in the traditional game. But the assumption here is that one Big Ten school (Ohio State) will qualify for the final BCS title game, which is being played in, ta-da, the Rose Bowl. The game is set for Jan. 6, 2014 in Pasadena.
The assumption here is that a second Big Ten school (Michigan, perhaps) will put together a good enough season to earn one of the spots in the traditional Rose Bowl, opposite a Pac-12 school (Oregon, Southern Cal).
While putting together the new playoff system, organizers have gone out of their way to preserve the traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 Rose Bowl matchup. Even in years when one of the leagues provides one of the playoff participants, taking a second conference school in the Rose Bowl will be the preference. And that’s what will happen here. For the first time. The Big Ten failed to qualify a team for the national title in past years when the Rose Bowl hosted.
Illinois finally plays in Lincoln
As in Nebraska. As in the home of Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers. Illinois isn’t the last team to play at the new Big Ten school, but it’s close. Already, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin have visited the other Memorial Stadium. That leaves Illinois, Indiana and Purdue left to see the place.
Some advice for your Oct. 5 trip: Get your tickets before you go. The building has been sold out for more than 50 years (seriously) and there aren’t a whole lot of scalpers near the stadium with bargains. If you can get your seats from the Illinois ticket office that is a good plan.
Don’t plan on parking near the stadium. Champaign-Urbana is unique in the Big Ten for convenient parking. In Lincoln, find a garage downtown and make the 7-8 block walk. The closer you get to the stadium, the worse your postgame traffic jam nightmare.
Soldier Field hosts more than the Bears
The beaten-down field welcomed Northern Illinois-Iowa in 2012. That was the third appearance by the Huskies, who also played Wisconsin in 2011 and Iowa in 2007. And Notre Dame played Miami in 2012, the renewal of their rivalry after a 25-year regular season break.
In 2013, Illinois hosts Washington. It’s the first Soldier Field appearance for the Illini since a 1994 game against Washington State (must like playing teams from the Apple State in Chicago).
Northern Illinois will return to Soldier Field in 2016 for a game against Nebraska.
Defense takes the trophy
Specifically, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. Specifically, the Heisman Trophy.
Manti Te’o laid the groundwork for a defense-only player to earn the most prestigious trophy in sports. You need to have a bunch of big games on national TV and make spectacular plays. Clowney started his candidacy in the Outback Bowl with a vicious, fumble-producing hit against Michigan. Every time he is mentioned, you will get to see the play.
Clowney plays in the right league (SEC) with the right coach (Steve Spurrier). All he needs is a couple of big games against the Floridas and LSUs of the world and he’s on his way to New York.
Last year showed the Heisman voters are itching to pick a defensive player. But Johnny Manziel’s overwhelming season put a stop to it. Manziel is a target now and won’t likely produce the same numbers as in 2012. So, the door is open for Clowney.
Chart needed to keep track of the Big East
Boise State was in. Now it’s out. San Diego State is thinking about staying in the Mountain West, too.
Louisville and Rutgers remain. For now. But the Cardinals are on their way to the ACC and the Scarlet Knights are joining the Big Ten. You can’t make this stuff up.
New to the Big East: Central Florida, Houston, SMU and Memphis. And maybe San Diego State. And the additions might not end there. Reportedly, the league has contacted Fresno State and UNLV about joining for football.
Despite the wholesale changes, the Big East will have an automatic BCS berth in 2013. For the last time. After that, the league will be in the same predicament as the Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt.
Pitt and Syracuse join ACC
The Orange is playing in the Atlantic Division and the Panthers are part of the Coastal. If you think it makes no sense, consider that landbound Georgia Tech is also part of the Coastal.
Pitt and Syracuse will play each year as cross-division rivals, preserving a bit of the Big East feel. And in a year, they will welcome another former Big East school (Louisville), which replaces departing Maryland.
Pitt and Syracuse are solid football programs, though the Orange just lost coach Doug Marrone to the Buffalo Bills. But they are far removed from their successful pasts and don’t have the same football impact as Nebraska in the Big Ten or Texas A&M in the SEC.
Ron Turner named Coach of the Year
In Conference USA, which Florida International joins after leaving the Sun Belt. Turner takes over a team just a year removed from a bowl bid.
Somehow, coach Mario Cristobal was fired a year after threatening to leave for Rutgers. The school was supposed to hire Butch Davis but couldn’t work out the details. In steps Turner, who has been itching to be a head coach again after working for three NFL teams.
The former Illini coach has a talented team returning and the knowledge to win early. The Panthers will get tested in the nonconference, opening at improved Maryland and visiting Big East favorite Louisville in the fourth week. Throw a scare at either of those two and Turner’s award candidacy gets off to a good start.
The new-look Conference USA isn’t as challenging as in the past, with North Texas, UTSA and Louisiana Tech joining the remnants.
Record ratings for Notre Dame on NBC
Brian Kelly or no Brian Kelly, the Irish are again a national story. And that puts giant smiles on the faces of NBC execs.
The schedule has a couple of big draws visiting South Bend: Oklahoma and Southern Cal. But it doesn’t really matter now. With a restored profile, even games against Temple, Navy and BYU will rock the Nielsens.
Notre Dame also means good business for its road opponents. Purdue, Michigan, Stanford, Air Force and Pitt can all expect ratings bumps when the Irish come to town.
Penalties catch up to Penn State
Bill O’Brien was able to pull off some sort of coaching miracle his first season with the Nittany Lions, winning eight games despite the loss of key plays.
The scholarship numbers continue to drop for the school, part of harsh penalties imposed by the NCAA after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. O’Brien knows it is going to get worse before it gets better, which might explain why his name was tossed out as a possible NFL coaching candidate.
Penn State lost 15 players to transfer after the penalties were announced. A big hit.
The nonconference schedule isn’t overwhelming, with ACC schools Virginia and Syracuse the biggest challenges. But a year ago, Penn State lost to the Cavaliers and Ohio before turning the season with a 6-2 record in the Big Ten. That number is going to be difficult to reach again. Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska remain on the schedule. And Wisconsin will be eager for revenge after a 2012 loss at State College.
The seniors kept Penn State together in O’Brien’s first season. They had a rallying cry and most of the team played along. But they are gone and the resolve won’t likely be the same as players face a second consecutive year without a bowl bid as a possibility.