As pointed out to us by intrepid Twitter user @Scoopwalsh, there is a new web site dedicated to the Cities of the Big Ten. A news release from a few days ago indicates the site is a partnership between “The Greater Columbus Sports Commission and The Ohio State University Department of Athletics.”
So this isn’t a fan site. This is official.
And it includes every school/city in the league except one: The University of Minnesota and the Twin Cities.
Even newbies Rutgers and Maryland get a nice paragraph about things to do in those areas. (Maryland, for instance, “is only a few miles away from our nation’s Capital and the historic City of Baltimore. Within a short drive along I-95 or quick train ride you can visit the birthplace of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Fort McHenry or enjoy a night on the town at National Harbor. Maryland is your ultimate sports destination – Here To Play!”)
We’re not entirely sure why Minnesota isn’t included, but we have to imagine it’s an oversight. That said, it seems like a pretty curious oversight — nobody along the way said, “Wait, I only see 13 schools. Something doesn’t seem right.”
Maybe Minnesota simply didn’t want to participate? Maybe Ohio State doesn’t recognize Minnesota as a fully-vested Big Ten school? Is this a coup?
We’ve reached out to two contacts listed on news releases about the site, so hopefully we’ll clear up this mystery!
For this (short) week, wreached out to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tyler Dunne for this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Here are five questions we asked the Packers beat writer about Thursday’s matchup between the Vikings and Packers.
1. Was Sunday’s performance against the Bears about as efficient as the offense has looked?
TD: That’s about as efficient as it’s been. They didn’t punt. The only time they didn’t score was a blocked kick. There’s definitely some problems with the team right now on both sides of the ball but the fact that [quarterback] Aaron Rodgers and the passing game starting clicking again and moved the ball well, I think that kind of cooled a lot of worries from fans. The fact that Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers.
2. Why is the Packers run game averaging just 73 yards a game with running back Eddie Lacy?
TD: I think it’s probably a little bit of both. The offensive line isn’t blameless itself, but Eddie Lacy just hasn’t been the same back. He seems like he’s hesitant. Lacy and the coaches kind of deny that, and Lacy says he’s not thinking about the two concussions he’s had in a 17-game span. Whatever it is, he’s not the same player four games into the season.
I think what surprised a lot of people is that James Starks is averaging two yards per carry more but just hasn’t been used more. [Mike] McCarthy kind of regretted it himself. He talked about it this week, and he really should’ve got James Starks the ball. He didn’t touch the ball at all against the Bears. They want to get the attempts up as a whole to 25-30 attempts in the run game. I think it could be even a 50-50 split with Lacy and Starks. They’re both going to be involved Thursday night.
3. Is the absence of defensive tackle B.J. Raji the main reason why the Packers have the worst run defense?
TD: It’s a big reason. They had a big philosophical change in the offseason that they wanted to move away from the wide bodies, the big boys up front. You think back to that Super Bowl team in 2010, and they had Ryan Pickett, Howard Green and B.J. Raji up front. The biggest front three in the NFL of all 3-4 defenses so that’s how they won then.
But trying to keep up with the trends and looking around at how teams utilize defensive lines by rotating guys in, they went to the athletic, taller, longer defensive linemen. Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, they’re going to disrupt. They’re going to create problems and wreck some havoc but against the run, it’s been a harder goal. They haven’t been able to stop the run. …I think we’ll probably see Mike Pennel more at nose tackle, an undrafted rookie out of Colorado State-Pueblo, and will start taking snaps away from Letroy Guion.
4. Despite the run defense, how has the Packers secondary fared?
TD: Their cornerback position is really deep. They resigned Sam Shields. Tramon Williams, at 31, is still in his prime. He plays 100 percent of the snaps whether outside or inside over slot receivers in nickel. Devon House comes on; he’s their physical corner they like to matchup with bigger wideouts. He covered [Brandon] Marshall at Chicago. And they’ve got Casey Hayward, who led the team in interceptions and pass breakups in 2012. …They feel really good about the cornerback position. That’s where they’ve really invested the money, the draft picks.
5. What do the Packers need to do to win on Thursday?
TD: They’re probably hoping to see Christian Ponder instead of Teddy Bridgewater, but they’ve got to stop the run. If they’re going to do anything long-term this season, if they want to be a Super Bowl team, at some point this run defense has to make a turnaround. They got gashed for 235 [rushing yards] against Chicago. The Vikings are going to come in with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, and they had 200-plus against the Falcons. It’s going to be a good test.
It’s funny, [linebackers] Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers couldn’t even say the names of the Vikings running backs. They didn’t know their names just that they’re good. I think if people know their names after Thursday night then the Vikings are probably going to be feeling good about themselves.
That might seem like the most obvious headline we’ve ever written, but sadly it is not because modern logic when it comes to sports is all messed up.
Here’s the deal with Teddy Bridgewater: If he’s healthy enough to play — not necessarily 100 percent because once you get into the season, few players remain 100 percent — he should play. It does not matter that sitting him tonight would give Bridgewater extra time to heal for next week. It does not matter that it’s supposed to rain. It does not matter that he is a rookie.
What matters is that, if healthy enough to play, he is the best option the Vikings have at quarterback. He could very well have a bright future ahead, and it is important not to unnecessarily expose him to a higher risk of re-injuring the ankle IF he is not healthy enough to play.
But the future vanishes into the present quickly every year. Right now, the Vikings are 2-2 in the NFC North. It’s a mediocre division that figures to be wide open until the end. Even if this started out as a rebuilding year, the present says this: a win tonight would put the Vikings at 3-2, one game ahead of their border rivals and with a road victory already in hand. Detroit might be 3-1 now, but the Packers are still this division’s biggest threat.
As such, a win would put the Vikings in a very nice position going forward. That doesn’t mean they should play Bridgewater at all costs. But it means that if he is healthy enough to play, he should because the only thing that really matters is that he gives the Vikings the best chance to win right now.
That sentiment gets lost sometimes on fans who give up on seasons when they are barely started, preferring instead to be seduced by the potential of the future. Might as well start tanking now! Get that high draft pick!
No. Win. Always try to win. Feel free to gaze off into the future every now and then, but on game day keep both eyes fixed on the present. That means Teddy if he’s healthy.
Teddy Bridgewater is officially listed as questionable for Thursday’s Vikings/Packers game, after doing some light work in practice today.
While we’d still be stunned if he doesn’t play — or at least we’re telling ourselves that so Sid won’t have ridiculous bragging rights and we won’t have to go to his house wearing a Ponder jersey — but questionable is questionable. It’s technically 50-50. So we’re left with this as a dueling best-case scenario:
1) Bridgewater is 90 percent or better and is able to suit up. The ankle hurts a little, but it’s manageable. He performs the same way he did last week, as does the offensive line and running game, while Mike Zimmer’s defense continues to give Aaron Rodgers problems. The Vikings win and Bridgewater is an instant legend — gutting out an injury on a short week to move the Vikings to 3-2, a game ahead of their division rivals, with a road win in hand.
2) Bridgewater can’t play, and Christian Ponder — somehow calmed and with an all-new “who cares, let’s just play” outlook — comes to the rescue. He isn’t as dynamic as Bridgewater was last week, but he makes enough plays with his arms and feet to put the Vikings in position to win — and this time, unlike last season, Minnesota is able to muster one final defensive stand to hold on for a victory.
Are we betting on either of those things? We’d bet harder on the first than the second, though we’d be on the underdog side in either case. But football is weird. It will be worth watching, regardless of which QB gets the nod.