The BTN bus tour has entered the final stretch, with three stops remaining. Today, we’re at Penn State to get our first look at the Nittany Lions under Bill O’Brien. You can find all of my tour previews and recaps over here. I’m also providing updates via Twitter. Don’t forget to check out my colleagues @BTNDaveRevsine, @GerryDiNardo, and @HowardGriffith, too. Now, let’s get to my Monday links.
NO BIG SURPRISE: The fact Wisconsin named Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien the starting quarterback isn’t a shock.
When I watched Badger practice last week, O’Brien looked the best of the three competitors with Joel Stave and Curt Phillips being the others.
IOWA BACKS CAN’T BUY BREAK: Ho-hum: Another season, another injury to an Iowa running back.
This time, true freshman Barkley Hill was hurt in a scrimmage over the weekend. Iowa still has Damon Bullock and true freshman Greg Garmon. Michael Malloy is another freshman who could help. Bottom line: The running back situation looks as shaky at Iowa as it did in 2004, when fifth-string walk-on Sam Brownlee took over.
QUESTIONS ON THE LINE: The recent injury to defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins cast more doubt on a Michigan defensive line that already had some concerns.
The Wolverines already are replacing Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger from last season’s front. Returning starting end Craig Roh is a nice building block, but the other slots are developing. Will Campbell? Jibreel Black? Richard Ash? Quinton Washington? Can they do they job?
OTHER MICHIGAN QUESTIONS: The questions on that defensive front—and at receiver—make me wonder if Michigan should be ranked so high in the AP poll.
But, honestly, in the end: Does it really matter?
STOUT DEFENSIVE FRONT: Is there a better defensive line in American than Ohio State’s? I’m not sure. I saw the front Saturday, and it is good.
End John Simon was limited, but big Johnathan Hankins looked good. There also is Garrett Goebel and Michael Bennett. I also was impressed with the fab four freshmen: Se’Von Pittman, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt and Noah Spence, who may be the best of all. And it was impossible to not be wowed by enormous Chris Carter. If end Nathan Williams is over a knee injury from 2011, this group will be even better.
BATTLE AT KICKER: Many fans may not pay heed to competition at kicker. But Wisconsin fans should. This is a key spot for the Badgers to fill, as it seems every team that wins a championship of any sort usually needs to make one or two big kicks along the way.
For Wisconsin, sophomore Kyle French and true freshman Jack Russell are battling to replace Philip Welch.
SITTING DOWN WITH REX: Jeff Sheldon of the Omaha World-News has a nice Q&A with Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead.
The university also is all-in with a Heisman campaign for Burkhead. And that is out of the norm for this school, which typically has done little stumping. But I am glad Nebraska is getting behind Burkhead. He is worthy in many ways and often gets overlooked.
STAFFORD A BIG KEY: Speaking of the Cornhuskers, they need safety Daimion Stafford to be a playmaker for a defense that needs some star power.
RUNNING FOR THE GOPHERS: Entering camp, the Minnesota running back job looked to be up for grabs. But it appears that veteran Donnell Kirkwood has claimed it.
But whoever is No. 1 likely will have to share the job. And, that’s OK, as the Gophers look to have nice depth at the spot with JC transfer James Gillum and sophomores David Cobb and Devon Wright also in the mix. And freshmen K.J. Maye and Rodrick Williams also are in the hunt.
MICHIGAN NO. 1 ? Michigan should be good this season. But, are the Wolverines REALLY the No. 1 team in the nation? Champaign News-Gazette writer Bob Asmussen thinks so, as he had Michigan atop his preseason A.P. ballot. Please, explain yourself, Bob.
FITTING IN WELL: Talent is one thing. But “fit” also is important when discussing the likelihood of success for players. And Nathan Scheelhaase appears to be a good “fit” for the new Illinois spread scheme.
In the practices BTN watched, Scheelhaase moved well in the pocket and executed quick decisions. It is vital that he completes a high percentage of his passes in this offense, while also showing patience to let plays develop. So far, so good.
PREVIEWING THE BIG TEN: In case you missed this, my man Mike Huguenin of Yahoo! Sports has a boffo Big Ten preview. You should read it. Really.
TAKING IT TO THE TRENCHES: If you love football like I love football, than you will love to watch these clips of Iowa’s offensive and defensive lines in practice. Yes, I know: I am sick.
TWEETS THAT MATTER
My take: Shhhhh. Don’t let the secret out, Kevin.
My take: I guess this sorta reaffirms everything we have heard about the type of person that Simon is.
My take: I still haven’t stopped laughing after reading this!!
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