It's the weekend and contained below is your Saturday Skull Session. Ohio State prepares for yet another make-or-break game tomorrow on the road at the Kohl Center, a house of horrors in which Thad Matta finally got his first win last season.
Meanwhile, there are other points worth belaboring for sake of a weekend discussion. The items below are eclectic, ranging from a look south for football and a discussion of B1G TEN shooty hoops.
IF YOU CAN'T SUE 'EM, SIT OUT A YEAR AND JOIN 'EM? Talking points around college football have been somewhat pleasantly few and far between. There is the issue of potential rule changes, of which the NCAA could (and should) prohibit Boise State from its all blue camouflage routine. If the Mountain West caved in its bargaining phase with Boise State, essentially making Boise State the Mountain West's Texas, then NCAA rules changes could at least deny them that perk.
There was also National Letter of Intent Day not too long ago, but that is well in the rearview mirror right now. As such, there are not many things to discuss.
With that in mind, Jadeveon Clowney continues to be a discussion topic this early into college football's offseason. The most explosive player in college football, Clowney at least passes the "look test" for a guy who could be preparing for the NFL Combine right now. An important knock on Clowney is that he can (and does) disappear from games. For example, the drive after Clowney's infamous sack and fumble recovery saw the Wolverines run right through Clowney and the Gamecocks for, then, a go-ahead touchdown.
Nonetheless, that's as true of a guy like William Gholston as it is Jadeveon Clowney, but the former is an early entrant into the NFL Draft. Clowney is just two years removed from high school and has to wait an additional year and play another year of college football, in which he could gather some serious Heisman buzz to compete with the likes of Braxton Miller and the reigning winner, Jonathan P. Football.
It at least appears Clowney will play another year of college football. What else is he to do for the interim? Play tiddlywinks and work out? One persistent, if prima facie silly, talking point over the past few weeks is that Jadeveon Clowney should sit out his junior season and devote all his energy into preparing for the 2014 NFL Draft.
This makes some sense. If Jadeveon Clowney can't lawyer up right now and successfully fight the NFL's early entrant stipulations, he at least has agency over what he can do before he is eligible. Should Clowney see little utility in playing another year for South Carolina and whatever accolades he and his team can acquire during the 2013 season, he can go pro right now and just train for a real salary. Under those conditions, another year of college football just jeopardizes a career-hindering injury like that suffered by his teammate, Marcus Lattimore.
For what it's worth, Clowney does not appear to be considering this option in earnest. Steve Spurrier says Clowney is committed to the 2013 season and Clowney's mother believes her son loves the game of football too much to choose to spend a year not playing the game he loves. Marcus Lattimore, the unfortunate story cited when discussing Clowney's option of forgoing a year of college football, believes he should and will play.
That said, Clowney is looking into acquiring a $5 million insurance policy to ensure he's at least compensated in the event of the unforeseen.
RAMMER JAMMER CAMPUS BAN HAMMER. The other big story is one I'm surprised is as big of a story as it is. A few days ago, four underclassmen football players for the two-time defending champion Crimson Tide mugged two students. One was left unconscious, but with his personal property on his person, suggesting a thrill mugging. The other was robbed.
The reaction from Nick Saban's staff was swift and justified. All four players involved were suspended indefinitely from the team. Three of the four were barred from campus. Whereas a few of the implicated players have already confessed to their deeds, it's unlikely that they will rejoin the Crimson Tide program.
The reaction from media outlets like ESPN, however, is a little surprising. College football is becoming one of ESPN's most important assets (after the NFL, of course). With little else happening, air time to kill, and blog posts for [INSERT PROGRAM NICKNAME HERE]Nation on ESPN.com to be written in the eleventh hour, this is getting a lot of attention. I'm not convinced this event is that exceptional to merit histrionic responses like that penned by AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky, both to the deed itself and to Auburn grad Charles Barkley's low-brow take on the matter.
In addition, I'm not sure that the issue of barring these players from campus merits an emotionally-driven response like that offered by ESPN.com's TideNation (ugh). TideNation (ugh...) reporter Alex Scarborough bemoaned how the university and the program's decision to distance themselves from these four players was too swift. He suggests that the ill-informed and knee-jerk decision for these players to mug these students was requited by an ill-informed and knee-jerk decision to cut ties with the players involved. In the aggregate, no one is being helped by decisions made in haste.
My reaction is that even these reactions from Crimson Tide beat reporters like Scarbinsky and Scarborough are themselves made in haste. These reactions are nice soapbox soliloquies if one simply felt the need to get on the soapbox and exhale some hot air to pad time or get pageviews. What these four players are accused of doing is atrocious. I'm not sure it's that atrocious in the broad scheme of things.
Remember when four Auburn players orchestrated an armed robbery shortly after its own national championship season? That was bad, and one of the players recently got a 15-year prison sentence for it. I don't recall this level of interest in that case as there appears to be for this case. This isn't even Crimson Tide apologism, if you know this Skull Session author's bona fides. I just can't figure out why this is so important and the Auburn case wasn't as important.
Then again, the Auburn case was before ESPN started doing [INSERT PROGRAM NICKNAME HERE]Nation sites for the biggest programs in college football.
HOW DOES THE B1G TEN SEASON FINISH? What looked like a potential five-team race for the coveted B1G TEN shooty hoops regular season championship has become a two-team competition. Indiana's big road win at Ohio State and Michigan State's demolition of the Wolverines, coupled with Wisconsin's recent overtime loss at Minnesota, has put a two-game cushion between the Hoosiers, Spartans, and the rest of the pack.
So how does this unfold? Our interest is in the Buckeye perspective. Ohio State is two games behind the Hoosiers and Spartans, in the new logjam for the third place spot in the B1G TEN Tournament. Ohio State will host Michigan State next week, and play at Indiana in its final road game of the season. Ohio State very well could win one of those games, but winning both, including at Indiana, seems far-fetched.
Further, it will not do us a lot of good. We would need to win both those games, basically win out as well, and to have both the Hoosiers and Spartans lose another game on top of that.
The Hoosiers look like the more talented of the two teams sitting atop the B1G TEN, but their schedule gets a lot tougher at the finish line. After today's Purdue game, the Hoosiers travel to Michigan State for a rematch. I fully expect Michigan State to hit them with their best shot, much like they did John Beilein's Wolverines. A week after that, Indiana travels to Minnesota, but gets a reprieve with a home game against Iowa. Senior Day will be the game against the Buckeyes, but its final game of the season will be at the Crisler Center.
The Wolverines' schedule is a bit lighter, arguably the lightest of any team left contending for the B1G TEN crown. The schedule includes two games against hapless Penn State, and a road trip to Purdue. That could be a trap, but it seems unlikely. Their schedule includes Illinois, Michigan State, and Indiana, but Beilein will have the luxury of hosting all three.
The same can be said for Michigan State, and maybe Wisconsin. Michigan State still has Indiana, Ohio State, and Wisconsin left to play, but only the Ohio State game is a road contest. After Wisconsin hosts Ohio State, it plays at Northwestern, hosts Nebrasky and Purdue, and finishes with two road games at Michigan State and Penn State.
Looking into the crystal ball, it seems most likely that the Wolverines can leap from the third place logjam and snatch at least a share of the regular season championship. Ohio State needs some help, and will have to hope the Hoosiers and/or the Wolvereenies wang it down the stretch if the Buckeyes are to avoid the 4/5 game in the tournament in Chicago. That game is never a gimme, and the #1 seed is usually waiting for that game's winner.
MISCELLANY. That's no Russian meteorite... Chip Kelly got a nice, and familiar, second-string quarterback for the Eagles... Braxton Miller received his silver football on Thursday night... A nice *.gif of Slam Thompson's 360 dunk, via The O-Zone... It's been quite the offseason for Jonathan P. Football... Save Olympic Wrestling.