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Maryland-Big 10: What Happened to Consensus? A Nebraska Perspective

Can this guy jump higher?

Can this guy jump higher?

When I first heard about the Big 10 adding Maryland and Rutgers, I didn’t pay much attention. (In my defense, it was a football Saturday.) I didn’t honestly think the Big 10 was that serious about expanding, not after they added Nebraska based largely on fit, a high-profile football program, and an icon at the helm of the athletic department. It took a couple of tweet from reporters Saturday night to figure out the Big 10 really was serious about expansion. A move by Notre Dame makes, and suddenly the careful Big 10 is jumping.

The Big 10 is paying its price for passing on Missouri before the Tigers opted to the SEC last fall. I knew then, and affirm now, that the Big 10 had to add Mizzou, as the number of quality schools available was going down. Other than the Irish, Missouri was the last complete culture fit for the Big 10. Notre Dame’s partial membership to the ACC, combined with the Irish emphasizing the importance of keeping series with USC, Stanford, and Navy (not Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue), finally made Jim Delany realize that he can’t add his white whale without leverage, in the form of pecking at the Irish’s new haven conference

Unlike a number of conference realignment moves, this one doesn’t involve fear of being left behind in the arms race or direct disgust over another school’s politicking or TV network. (Although Maryland has had healthy disagreements with the Carolinas.) This move is solely about a school in debt and a league gaining leverage and TV markets. Which begs the question, whatever happened to the Big 10’s quest to build consensus among its members and not moving too fast? Right now, Maryland’s leadership, its president and AD, aren’t Maryland lifers, and see this as a business move. What happens when the Terrapins big-shots who opposed the move (a poll on the Washington Post website showed 70% of fans don’t like it), get control of the program, which they will eventually will, chanting, “We’ll bring back the Maryland fans have always love!”

I don’t this is going to turn into a political mess, the way Texas broke off Oklahoma from the rest of the former Big 8 programs. I’m not looking for a fight here, but Maryland is bringing internal issues into the Big 10. Maryland is east coast urban, unlike the Big 10, which is mostly rural. More likely, the result will be something like Arkansas in the SEC: the Razorbacks have warmed to SEC, even though the rivalries aren’t as great as they were in the SWAC (although that could change with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri). Razorback fans would have loved to see Arkansas move to the Big 12, but it’s never going to happen. Of course, they forget they were outliers in the SWAC, the lone non-Texas school in that conference. Maryland seems to be on the same path: stranger in its old conference, outlier-to-be in its new one.

As a Nebraska fan, it doesn’t make that much difference to me personally who the conference adds. I’ve been two the campus of Maryland twice when I was in middle school. It has an early American, classic feel, but it’s much more urban than Penn State, Michigan, or Ohio State. Byrd Stadium has a gothic, dug-into-the-ground feeling that’s a little like Jack Trice Stadium. It could be rocking joint if they could fill it. Whoever came into the Big 10, it would probably be an eastern school (not Kansas or any other Big 12 school), and at least Maryland’s campus is easy to get to for traveling Nebraska fans. (Lots of airport options, lots of mass transit.) Given the state of Maryland’s cash-strapped athletic department, it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility that the Terps could be selling a few home games to the Huskers. Or the Buckeyes. Or the Wolverines.

Different red headed for these stands.

Let me say this to you, Maryland. I don’t expect you to be excited when you see cornfields in the cut-ins ABC shows of Nebraska games. Culturally, you’re not like Husker fans, Hawkeye fans, or even Nittany Lion fans. We’re farmers and mechanics, and you live faster, more urban life, and that is what it is. But your basketball program, which is your pride and gem, is going to be the rock tour in the Big 10. When Maryland basketball comes to Champagne, West Lafayette, or Lincoln, it will sell out the arenas and be the show.

I’m not going to blame you for wanting to play the best in the ACC, but it’s unlikely you would every be the face and center of that conference or pass Duke and UNC. For the record, you’re not as big national brand in basketball as you think you are: you’re more like Auburn football than Florida football. A good program, a recent national title, but your success isn’t as grand stacked up against great contemporary programs.

There are talented people who leave the best companies to be the face of a growing, solid organization (Doug Gottlieb comes to mind.) You’re not going to SEC where basketball is an afterthought. There’s only two traditional powers in the Big 10: Indiana is very rural, and Michigan State has such problems recruiting Tom Izzo thought seriously about taking the Cavaliers job when Lebron was there. You can be the best here, if your commitment to basketball stays the same, and I’m guessing you like the sound of that.

Irregardless of that, this is going to be a real test of Jim Delany’s leadership. His new school has a different background than his other schools, and it’s going to take a lot of work to get them on the same page.

(Why Terp fans failed to get on Friedgen)

Betting thoughts on North Carolina-Virginia Tech

Quick thoughts on North Carolina(+10 at last check)-Virginia Tech: I don’t have a strong pull on this game. The argument for Virginia Tech covering is that this a revenge game from the last time UNC came into Lane Stadium and upset the VATech two years ago. Virginia Tech should have high motivation, given that a win could clinch the a birth for them in the ACC Title Game with a loss by rival Virginia on Saturday. It is senior night and Virginia Tech relishes in playing in the spotlight.
But here’s why Virginia Tech won’t cover. Virginia Tech is 3-7 against the spread, one of those against an FCS team, one against Wake Forest after the Demon Deacon were coming off a huge win against Florida State, and another was in a pick’em game at Georgia Tech, with extra time to prepare, everyone either beats or covers against Georgia Tech. The four worst teams in the AQ conference at covering the spread are Virginia Tech, Penn State, Nebraska, and Texas A&M. A&M can never handle expectation, and the three other programs all have the same common denominator: influence from an older head coach who is run-oriented and doesn’t believe in running up the score in an age where everyone does. (Athletic director Tom Osborne in Nebraska’s case.) Virginia Tech is built around their running the ball, both with running back David Wilson and quarterback Logan Thomas (428 running plays compared to 275 pass plays). But Thomas leaves much to be desired as a passer, which why Virginia Tech doesn’t cover often.
So let’s look at North Carolina. Going into their game against North Carolina State, I thought that the Tar Heels were a good bet at -4. I went this way because UNC hadn’t been blown out in any of their games this year, except the Clemson game were two of their turnovers lead directly to points and North Carolina State had been blown out three times. The line had gone down, and I figured there was value on UNC. I was wrong, and NCSU won 13-0. Now, UNC has had time to prepare and should be motivated given that this is their first and only shot on the national stage this year (and they disappointed in their last opportunity on a national stage in last season’s opener against LSU in the Georgia Dome.) UNC isn’t a size mismatch against Virginia Tech, and still has the NFL bodies which Butch Davis recruited. UNC quarterback Bryn Renner grew up in a Hokie family, so he will be max motivated. It would seem to be a reasonable play to follow the trend and take a Virginia Tech opponent to cover.
But there are some reservations about North Carolina. First Interim Head Coach Everett Withers probably has no chance now to get the job on a permanent basis and with his team already achieving bowl eligibility, likely they won’t be giving maximum effort. Everyone know a new hand is coming in and they could be playing for themselves. Outside of Duke, UNC has been 5-8 in November the past four year and this years (the Davis years), possibly because because basketball is back and football again is taking a back seat. If UNC mails it in, it won’t matter how Virginia Tech plays.
The line opened around -13 but is now down to -10. While logic dictates that the Virginia Tech opponent would be an automatic play, I do think there are some concerns about UNC’s motivation. Personally, I would wait up until game time and see if the line dropped any further. If it ended up around 9 or 9.5, I would consider playing Virginia Tech, but I have no problem passing on it. There will be better games this weekend.

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