Dienhart: Tuesday's best Big Ten web links

The 2012 NFL Draft draft just completed Saturday night, and many of the experts are already looking ahead to the 2013 class. See links to early 2013 mock drafts and much more in BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart’s latest daily links.

READY FOR A BATTLE: Joel Stave looked good in Wisconsin’s spring game on Saturday, hitting 14-of-25 passes for 135 yards with a touchdown and interception. Now, he says he’s ready to take on Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien for the starting job when camp opens.

While this is all well and good, I still think O’Brien will be VERY difficult to beat for the top job. But, I’ve been wrong before. At least the competition appears to be strong, which will make all the quarterbacks better.

TROPHY TIME: The new Cy-Hawk Trophy is about to become official. What do you think, Herky?

SOMETHING TO PROVE: Five Penn State players with something to prove. WR Justin Brown … CB Curtis Drake … QB Paul Jones … LB Michael Mauti … RB Silas Redd … you have been identified as the quintet that needs to step up for the 2012 Nittany Lions.

Honestly, you probably could have tossed in an offensive and defensive lineman onto this list, as I think questions loom in the trenches for Bill O’Brien’s first team.

SOMETHING TO PONDER: Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald wonders: Does the transfer of running back Aaron Green signal a new era at Nebraska?

With a loaded backfield, Green’s chances for many carries seemed limited. Hence, he has opted to transfer—likely back to his home of Texas. But, as Shatel points out, perhaps the departure of the smallish Green (5-10, 190) is a signal that Nebraska prefers its backs bigger. After all, its two latest additions are each over 6-1 and 220 pounds. This is, after all, the Big Ten, a much more physical league than the Big 12, Nebraska’s former home.

Hmmmmm.

CHASING THE DEFENSE: If the Michigan State spring game from Saturday showed us one thing, it’s that the offense remains a work in progress.

Can the offense catch up to a defense that looks like it could be one of the best in the nation? That’s the key to Michigan State finally punching its ticket to the Rose Bowl—and maybe a whole lot more—for the first time since the 1987 season.
Among the issues: replacing quarterback Kirk Cousins; finding targets to take over for starting wideouts Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol and B.J. Cunningham; new tight end with Brian Linthicum and Garrett Celek gone; a new guard with Joel Foreman departed; a top backup running back with Edwin Baker gone a year early.

Yes, it’s a long to-do list; and the offense didn’t really impress on Saturday. But Mark Dantonio has this program teeming with talent, as it’s coming off consecutive 11-win seasons. I expect the Legends Division to come down to a race between Michigan and Michigan State. And, despite the questions on offense, I like the Spartans’ chances.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013: I know the ink isn’t even dry yet on the 2012 NFL draft, but some analyst already are pointing toward the 2013 draft. And, it looks like Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, according to Mel Kiper, Jr., could be a primo pick. Of course, Lewan will just be a junior this fall, but he could come out early. If so, Kiper wonders: Could Lewan be the next Jake Long?

Whoa! That’s a big comparison, as Long was the first overall selection of the 2008 draft.

Some other touted Big Ten players and where they could go in the next draft can be found here.

And here’s who the NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks has on his top 30 prospects for the 2013 draft.

COMING BACK STRONGER: Purdue quarterback Rob Henry is determined to be stronger and faster after suffering a knee injury last year.

Henry incurred the injury about a week before the season opener in 2011. Even worse: He was the No. 1 signal caller at the time coming off a promising 2010. Now, Henry is the midst of a crowded field of quarterbacks, with Caleb TerBush—last year’s starter—and Robert Marve—back for a sixth year of eligibility—ahead in the pecking order.
It’s a loaded situation at quarterback for Purdue, which also will welcome four—FOUR—quarterbacks in its 2012 recruiting class. How will this all sort out?

TWEET THAT MATTER

My take: An early, early look at Top 25s reveals that the Big Ten could be really good in basketball. Football? Hmmmm. Stay tuned.

My take: Yes, some are daring to say that Michigan State may be a national championship contender in 2012. Really. It’s true. Me? I’m not ready to take that plunge just yet. But, hey, it’s early.

My take: Stuff this factoid into your hippocampus and pull it out the next time you are with your buddies. I guarantee you will wow and amaze them with this drop of knowledge.

My take: America, let’s all thank Dan Wetzel. The man should take a bow for his unrelenting scrutiny and criticism of the BCS. It all had to play a role in the current playoff discussions. Now, Wetzel offers his perfect playoff scenario. I think he’s spot-on with his points, especially the notion of playing national semifinal games on the home fields of schools—instead of using bowls for the purpose.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, and all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart. Send questions to his weekly mailbag, subscribe to his RSS feed, and check out his video Q&A.

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