Thursday's Links: Will Hoosiers Grow Into Success?

Hungry for some Big Ten football knowledge? Scroll down to satisfy your craving, including a look at Indiana’s experience, Michigan’s defense, a key vote at Minnesota, and some dancing Big Ten mascots.

Young guns: The buzzword around Indiana? Youth.

Check out this factoid from LaMond Pope at The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: The Hoosiers played 16 true freshmen last season, which tied for the third-most in the nation. On top of that, 16 redshirt freshman saw action in 2011. That’s 32 freshman or redshirt freshmen. Knowing that, it’s no wonder Indiana went 1-11 in Kevin Wilson’s debut season, right?

Now, it’s time for those youngsters to begin to grow up. And they better do it in a hurry if Indiana wants to end a bowl drought that stands at four seasons.

Old question: The Twitter rants from Nebraska defensive end Eric Martin were coming fast and furious. His point: He needed and wanted his financial aid checks ASAP.

This, of course, raises that age-old question: Should players be paid?

It all sounds good in theory. Among others, Nebraska A.D. Tom Osborne likes the idea. What player couldn’t use another one or two thousands bucks of “laundry money”?

But if the football and basketball players get paid, don’t the volleyball players, swimmers and cross country runners also have to get paid?

And, is there enough loot for already cash-strapped athletic departments to dole out all of that cash?

Big D: Was there a bigger surprise in the nation in 2011 than the Michigan defense? Of course not. For most of Rich Rodriguez’s three seasons in Ann Arbor, the defense was—ahem—bad. But Brady Hoke changed all of that in an instant, thanks largely to the hiring of coordinator Greg Mattison.

From 2010 to 2011, Mattison trimmed the points per game allowed in half, yielded 1,672 fewer yards, recovered 13 more fumbles, tacked on seven more sacks and allowed 30 fewer touchdowns.

Simply amazing!

That remarkable defensive improvement played a huge role in the Wolverines’ 11-2 season that was capped by a Sugar Bowl triumph over Virginia Tech.

But how good will the Michigan defense be this season? Nick Baumgardner from AnnArbor.com explore this nicely.

The unit looks strong in the back seven but suffered some big losses up front on a line that must replace three starters. Because of that, I have some pause if the Wolverine defense can match its 2011 efforts.

Noted: A recently released letter that Joe Paterno apparently wrote to former players shortly before his death said some interesting things. Among them: “Penn State is not a football factory.”

Dance, dance! Looking for a bit of levity? Check out this video of the Big Ten mascots singing “Call Me Maybe.”

Who has the best voice? Can you tell? Forget it. Just enjoy.

Vote passes: Well, it’s now official: Alcohol sales will be allowed at Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

This only makes me wonder: Will any other Big Ten schools follow suit? I hope not.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Revelations in the Freeh Report are stunning. The sad, tragic story continues.

My take: A 31-21 Alabama victory over Michigan? I guess if Phil Steele thinks so, it must be so.

My take: Nice to see Denard Robinson get the honor of delivering the keynote talk at Big Ten media days. He is following a tough act in Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, who did a boffo job last summer in Chicago.

My take: This, ladies and gentlemen, is why USC is USC.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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