Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, January 19, 2016
How about those Iowa Hawkeyes? They now rank No. 9 in the nation, the program?s loftiest perch in 14 years.
Iowa?s previous high in Fran McCaffery?s six years at Iowa was a one-week stay at 10th in both the coaches? and AP polls of Jan. 20, 2014. But the Hawkeyes would eventually lose seven of their final eight games that season and finish unranked, HawkCentral.com notes. The Hawkeyes last were as high as No. 9 in both polls in the first week of January 2002. Steve Alford?s third team at Iowa, which was as high as No. 7 in November 2001, completely fell apart shortly thereafter, going 5-11 in Big Ten play. I think this year?s team will have some staying power.
A big reason for Iowa?s rise: The ascension of Peter Jok. Jok is truly healthy for the first time since a serious knee injury in the summer of 2010. And with every stroke of his sweet jump shot, his confidence seems to grow — if that?s possible for someone who says he never gets nervous.
?I don?t think about the last shot. I?m always thinking about the next shot,? the junior from West Des Moines Valley told HawkCentral.com. ?The next shot?s going in no matter what. When I miss, I know the next shot?s going in.?
Remember when Northwestern was rolling and dreaming of that elusive first NCAA bid? Now, the Wildcats have shaky confidence after a home loss to Penn State over the weekend.
Northwestern has now lost three of its last four games in Evanston and has shot 15-for-83 from three-point range in those games. In Saturday?s 71-62 loss, the Wildcats missed their first 17 before finishing 3-for-26 from deep. Luke Srodulski of 247Sports.com says confidence is an issue ? along with maturity and effort. It?s consistency, too. Poor shooting was just the most visible result of these larger mental issues. The Wildcats will lose games when they shouldn?t. That happens. But losing in the fashion they did on Saturday cannot be accepted.
First, James Franklin added former Minnesota OC/offensive line coach Matt Limegrover to his staff as offensive line coach. Now, Franklin has added former Illinois DC Tim Banks to his staff as co-DC and safeties coach. Interesting. Too nice pick-ups for Franklin. Banks had a so-so run in Champaign, but the Illinois defense made improvement last year when Mike Phair came aboard to help run the defense.
The great Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star says it?s comforting for Nebraska to have stud QB prospect Patrick O?Brien in school and prepping for spring drills. But the Huskers have more pressing issues than grooming a QB with Tommy Armstrong back.
Three come to mind, says Sipple:
1. Continue to establish and foster the new staff's culture. The offseason is a crucial period in this regard.
2. Put words into action when it comes to improving the run game. The process can begin now. A tough-running mindset must permeate the program, if there is indeed firm commitment.
3. Ramp up recruitment of linemen on both sides of the ball.
And I have another: The d-line needs a pass rusher and replacements for tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine.
Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com is taking a sneak peek at Jim Harbaugh?s Wolverines for 2016. And, know this: The secondary looks good with Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis back.
This is interesting: Baumgardner thinks Lewis was the best player on Michigan's roster last season. He went from a promising cover man to a true lockdown corner last season. He's still only 5-foot-10, but he's always in position, his makeup speed is outstanding and his ability to track the ball while it's in the air is superb. In fact, if Michigan ever wanted to give Lewis a shot on offense in some capacity, it would probably be happy with the results. A terrific athlete and return man (like Peppers), Lewis' tackling improved last season and he'll almost certainly leave Michigan as its all-time leader in pass breakups. If Lewis had Peppers? hype, we?d all be wearing his jersey.
Hey, it?s always a good time to look ahead to schedules. And, Michigan State?s 2016 gootball slate is a toughie. One website ranks it 14th most difficult in America, with games vs. Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and BYU, among others. Can MSU win four of those five with so many holes to fill?
This is interesting: Dan Duggan of NJ.com compares Rutgers new football staff with the old one. The average age of the 42-year-old Ash's staff is 39.8 years old. The average age of the 44-year-old Flood's staff was 44.9 years old. I am not shocked.
Great news for Indiana, as All-American guard Dan Feeney has opted to return for his senior season. The guy is a stud who was considered IU?s best blocker last year. He is a physical force who plays with the mentality of a defensive player.
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