Good morning. It’s Tuesday, and it’s time for the best daily links from across the Big Ten.
B1G’S TOP RIVALRY: What’s the hottest rivalry in the Big Ten? It’s not Michigan-Ohio State or Michigan-Michigan State. And forget about Iowa-Nebraska or Wisconsin-Ohio State. Nope. The top rivalry at this very moment in time is Michigan State-Wisconsin.
The teams have the best records in the league over the past two seasons (MSU 22-5 overall and 14-2 Big Ten); Wisconsin 22-5, 13-3). And the schools are coming off two great games from last season, one of which was a thrilling 42-39 Badger victory in the inaugural Big Ten title game. Earlier in what was the Big Ten’s “game of the season,” Michigan State completed a last-second Hail Mary to stun Wisconsin, 37-31.
But close games between these combatants is nothing new. Since 2007, only one meeting has been decided by more than one score, and that game–a 34-24 win by Michigan State in 2010–was tight into the final minutes.
The schools meet this year on October 27 in Madison.
ILLINI HIGH: Count the great Loren Tate among those who are drinking the Illinois Kool-Aid. That’s right, Tate thinks first-year coach Tim Beckman has a team that teems with potential. And I think Tate is correct.
The defense returns the majority of a unit that allowed less than 20 points per game last season. The offense seems to have a perfect triggerman for the new spread attack in quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Special teams? Ok, this area is a concern. Still, don’t sleep on the Fighting lllini.
THINGS TO IMPROVE: To improve in Year Two under Jerry Kill, Minnesota must do a lot of things better. Among them: improve on offense.
[BTN.com: Minnesota: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012]
Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press has a nice Q&A with Minnesota offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, who reveals that he consulted with Baylor—among other schools—on ways to utilize the ample skills of quarterback MarQueis Gray.
BIG HOLES TO FILL: Much has been made of Michigan’s need to revamp its defensive line with three starters gone. And the key guy to replace is tackle Mike Martin, the leader of last year’s surprisingly strong Wolverine defense. Will Campbell is being counted on to replace Martin, no small task. And that likely makes Campbell the most important player on the Michigan defense.
As Kyle Meinke of AnnArbor.com points out, Campbell has been praised in the past … only to not deliver on his vast promise. But this year will be different—or at least that’s the hope.
Campbell is in shape, motivated and ready to make amends for what largely has been an underachieving career. Now a senior, this is his last chance. And I like his chances to be a stud on the interior.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE: Those preseason predictions? Nebraska is ignoring them.
Why not? The Cornhuskers aren’t the pick to win the Legends Division. That distinction has gone to Michigan or Michigan State. Nebraska? It has some questions to answer, especially on defense for a program that hasn’t won a conference championship since—Are you ready for this?—1999.
LOOKING STRONG: Speaking of the Legends Division, Michigan State looks strong. Really strong. And I personally like the Spartans’ chances to repeat as division champs. Why? Because of a defense that returns nine starters.
Couple that defense with a strong offensive line, stud tailback and still-hungry program that hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since the 1987 season and, well, you have the makings of a strong team.
STRAIGHT WISCONSIN: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Wisconsin looks a lot like … Wisconsin.
And, hey, that’s a good thing. Is this the most underrated program in America? Hmmmm. Think about it.
TWEETS THAT MATTER
My take: It will be a major upset if he doesn’t win this award. He already has my vote. And I don’t even have my ballot yet!
My take: Difficult to argue with any of these, right?
My take: And it sounds like that may happen, if you believe reports.
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.
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.