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Interesting thoughts while clearing out a holiday notebook

Here are some thoughts while clearing out my holiday notebook:

COVID-19 has recorded its first significant impact of the 2021-22 Big Ten men’s basketball season.

Michigan, probably the biggest disappointment in the league, called off games against arch rival Michigan State on Jan. 8 and preseason co-Big Ten favorite Purdue on Tuesday night because school officials declared the Wolverines fell below the Big Ten roster minimum of seven available scholarship players.

The Wolverines’ game at Illinois on Friday remained in doubt as of press time. The Big Ten correctly revised its forfeiture policy, no longer automatically declaring a loss for the school unable to field a team. However, the cynic in me wonders about the timing of this mass infection in Ann Arbor. Avoiding the Spartans, Boilermakers and possibly the Fighting Illini at this time could mean the difference from Michigan remaining in title contention to possibly being 1-5 in the league and out of the race.

The same cynicism also wonders if commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten schedule makers will give Michigan a favorable break in rescheduling those games at the expense of Michigan State, Purdue and possibly Illinois. The folks in Champaign, Ill., are still seething about last year’s decision to award the Big Ten title on the basis of winning percentage. Michigan (14-3), which didn’t make up three games lost to COVID, edged Illinois (16-4) – which played all 20 games scheduled – by .024 percentage points.

The Michigan postponement gave Purdue six days off following its victory at Penn State last Saturday to prepare for a terrible Nebraska team in Mackey Arena. …

At least two national college football writers were impressed enough with Purdue’s overtime victory against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl to include the Boilermakers in their first Top 25 rankings for 2022.

Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated ranks Purdue 24th, the lowest of six Big Ten teams in his Top 25. Ohio State is second behind Alabama. Michigan (7th), Michigan State (11th), Wisconsin (17th) and Iowa (22nd) also were ranked by Forde.

“We got a glimpse of what the Boilermakers will be without NFL talents David Bell and George Karlaftis in the Music City Bowl—and it was pretty good,” Forde wrote. “QB Aidan O’Connell (more than 5,700 career passing yards) is coming back, and Jeff Brohm never runs out of receivers. Losing defensive coordinator Brad Lambert is a blow, but Brohm has gotten more involved on that side of the ball and should maintain the same style of play defensively.”

Lambert returned to Wake Forest, where he was an assistant from 2001-10, to be defensive coordinator.

RJ Young of FoxSports.com has Purdue 22nd, the lowest of five Big Ten teams in his rankings. Like Forde, Young has Alabama and Ohio State 1-2. Michigan is ranked fifth, Michigan State 10th and Iowa 18th.

“Jeff Brohm has his quarterback, as former walk-on Aidan O’Connell, who threw for more than 500 yards in the Music City Bowl, will return in 2022,” Young wrote. “Now, if Brohm finds a replacement for NFL-bound wideout David Bell, the Boilermakers can start faster in 2022 and finish as strong as they did in 2021.” …

Assuming Forde and Young are correct, Purdue may not be passed over for a higher-ranked Big Ten-affiliated bowl game in 2022. The Boilermakers’ 48-45 overtime victory in the Music City Bowl was watched by 5.6 million viewers, according to Bill Shea of The Athletic.

That rating far surpassed regular season college football games on ESPN. Pretty strong for a game that was played on a Thursday afternoon in a less than optimal time slot (3 p.m.). Perhaps the rating was helped by the fact the game went well into the evening.

Ratings like Purdue’s and the 1.7 million viewers Ball State and Georgia State drew for the Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day is proof that college football fans could care less that 43 bowl games were originally set for the 2021 postseason.

Of the 37 bowls that were played, the Music City came in at No. 2 on the list of best games compiled by Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com.

Purdue and Tennessee’s back and forth offensive show was surpassed on Fornelli’s list only by the Cure Bowl, another shootout that saw Coastal Carolina outduel Northern Illinois 47-41.

“… The game was incredibly entertaining for all neutral observers,” Fornelli wrote. “The 1,293 yards of offense the teams combined for was the second-most overall in bowl history, behind only the 2011 Alamo Bowl (1,397 yards).” …

An interesting investigation into pay for the Big Ten Conference’s football coaches by Steve Rosen of HuskerOnline.com discovered that two of the league’s head coaches are taking pay cuts for the 2022 season.

One won’t surprise you. Following his fourth consecutive losing season at Nebraska, Scott Frost saw his pay slashed by $1 million by new athletic director Trev Alberts.

Don’t set up a GoFundMe for Frost, though. The cut leaves Frost making $4 million a year, ranking him 11th among the league’s coaches.

Indiana’s Tom Allen agreed to a $200,000 pay cut, Rosen reports, following the disastrous 2021 season that saw the Hoosiers finish 2-10 and winless in Big Ten play.

Rosen reports that part of that $200,000 will go toward the cost of Allen firing offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan. Even with the reduction in pay, Allen is still reportedly set to make $4.7 million in 2022.

If Nebraska and Indiana are fortunate, those schools will enjoy the same results as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh in 2022. Harbaugh, the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback, agreed to a $4 million pay cut a year ago that dropped him to just over $4 million. Harbaugh went from the highest-paid head football coach in the conference to ranking among the lowest paid. Perhaps that’s what inspired him to lead Michigan to a rare victory over Ohio State and his first Big Ten title in 2021.

Thanks to an incredible 10-year, fully guaranteed $95 million contract awarded him after Michigan State’s outstanding 2021 season, Mel Tucker is now the Big Ten’s highest paid coach.

Penn State coach James Franklin turned a 7-6 season into a guaranteed 10-year, $70 million deal. That puts him second in coaching pay ahead of Ohio State’s Ryan Day ($6.61 million).

Purdue’s Jeff Brohm is making $4.8 million a year, according to Rosen. That puts him sixth in the Big Ten behind Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald ($5.75 million) and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($5 million).

Allen is seventh, just ahead of Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck ($4.42 million) and Illinois’ Bret Bielema ($4.2 million) and Harbaugh ($4.03 million). Frost is 11th with Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst ($3.98 million), Rutgers’ Greg Schiano ($3.76 million) and Maryland’s Michael Locksley ($2.47 million) bringing up the well-paid rear. …

Purdue players comprise nearly one-eighth of the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 Watch List.

Sophomore center Zach Edey joins Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams, who were on the preseason Top 50 list. The Boilermakers are the lone school with three representatives on the watch list. Duke, Gonzaga and UCLA each have two representatives.

Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.