Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011 Pac-12 and Big Ten Football Changes

While we football fans were waiting for the NFL to get cranked up since ratifying a new CBA agreement and prepare for the upcoming 2011 season, on July 1 the moves of Boise State to the Mountain West Conference, Colorado and Utah to the Pacific 12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten conferences became official.

That means in this 2011 college football season we're going to see old faces in new conference places for the first time since the last major conference reshufflings in the 1990s.  TCU's move to the Big East will take effect in 2012    But this post is going to focus on the Pac-12 and Big Ten, and I'll talk about the other permutations in the college football landscape later.   

With the moves of Colorado, Utah and Nebraska to their new respective conferences, it also means the Pacific-12 and the Big Ten have the required 12 teams in order to host conference championship game at the end of the season.

Starting with the Pacific-12 Conference, they went to a north-south divisional setup for football.  In the Pac-12 North the teams competing in it will be defending champ Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Cal and Stanford.   The Pac-12 South will have the conference newbies Colorado and Utah, Arizona, Arizona St, UCLA and USC.  

The California schools will continue to play their traditional rivalry games against each other with the winner of the Pac-12 North facing off against the winner of the Pac-12 South in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  

That new Pac-12 title game will be hosted by the division champion team with the best record.

The Big Ten not only got a new logo with the entry of Nebraska into the league but also went to a divisional setup for football as well with the divisions being named the Leaders and the Legends Divisions. 

The names of the divisions have gotten some heavy criticism from Big Ten fans and others (I don't like them either) so the Big Ten powers that be may consider new names for them in the future. 

The divisional lineup memberships were also set up with an eye not only on geography and competitive balance, but making sure the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry game and other traditional rivalries weren't diminished to being a battle for just a division title.   The Wolverines were placed in the Legends Division with Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan State and newcomer Nebraska.  Ohio State was placed in the Leaders Division with Indiana, Penn State, Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin    

Division winners will square off in the Big Ten Conference Football Championship game, which will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis through 2015.

I'm interested in seeing how the newbies do in their brand new conferences this fall and how the brave new world of Pac-12 and Big Ten football plays out.   In any case, should be fun to watch, including those new conference championship games on December 3.  

More NAACP Trans Free Panel Video

More video from the July 25 trans free LG(bt) panel.    Wanda Sykes talking about the church and the effects of the anti-gay doctrine on her.

China Building A 'Heavenly' Space Station

As the US space program ended thirty years of shuttle flights with the successful completion of the STS-135 mission and is moving away from low earth orbit operations to other goals, the Chinese are going full speed ahead with preparations for the launch of the first module of their Tiangong space station.

Tiangong means 'Heavenly Palace', and the first steps toward building it were undertaken during the three man Shenzhou-7 mission in September 2008 when Zhai Zhigang became the first Chinese taikonaut to conduct a spacewalk. 

The first TG-1 module for it is being prepped for a September launch. After it achieves earth orbit an unmanned Shenzhou-8 mission will be launched to commence several weeks of testing of the rendezvous and docking capabilities of the TG-1 module.  

If those tests of the Tiangong-1 module are successful, then manned Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 missions will be sent aloft next year.   The station will be comprised of the core TG-1 module with two experiment modules and docking ports for cargo craft.   The first of the two experiment laboratory modules is planned for a 2016 launch with the completion date for the 60 ton station set for 2020.

In November China will also take its first steps toward its goal of a manned mission to Mars by launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in conjunction with the Russian space program the YG-1 Yingho Mars probe.

The YG-1 was scheduled to be launched in October 2009 but preparation delays with the Russian probe pushed back the launch timetable.  After it takes the year in transit to get to the vicinity of the Red Planet the two probes will separate and orbit the planet independently.

China is also interested in participating in the International Space Station.  The docking rings on the Tiangong 1 are supposed to be compatible with the ISS ones, but I haven't been able to confirm that for certain yet. 

The 60 ton Tiangong 1 is scheduled for completion by 2020, but they'll need to have the first critical step of that process, the launch and successful insertion into orbit of the TG-1 module be executed  successfully in a few weeks .