Big Ten Links: Plenty of news as season starts tonight

It’s finally here: The 2012 season, as Minnesota kicks off tonight at UNLV. What can we expect from the Golden Gophers? Watch and listen to Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer Phil Miller. And then let’s get into the rest of today’s Big Ten links.

If history holds true, according to Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Golden Gophers should be better, as Jerry Kill has proven to make great strides in his second season on the job wherever he has been. The big key will be defense. Will the unit be faster and more athletic? And can it at least slow down the run?

Wolverine outlook: Some feel the Wolverines could be better than they were last season, when they finished 11-2 with a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech. Still, Michigan’s record may not be better.

Why? The schedule is the biggest reason for a team dealing with issues on the defensive line and at receiver. But the schedule may be the toughest in the Big Ten, with Alabama, Air Force, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Notre Dame on the to-do list. Here is a game-by-game look at the Michigan schedule, with wins and losses predicted, by the Detroit News. Hard to disagree with what is here.

Happy days: Ohio State has endured some tough times in the last few years, what with the NCAA sanctions surrounding Jim Tressel, which ended his tenure in shame. But the arrival of Urban Meyer has energized a massive fan base, filling thousands with excitement and anticipation.

Now, brighter days appear to be ahead following this “glorious” marriage of super star coach and super star program. Can you feel the good vibrations? Sure you can.

Blackshirts are back: There is pressure on the Nebraska defense. Everyone knows it following a disappointing effort in 2011.

The key to the unit reclaiming its Blackshirt reputation is to perform better on third downs—which is the “money down,” in coachspeak. It has to be all about getting off the field and giving the ball back to what could be a prolific Nebraska offense. The Huskers ranked 64th in the nation is third-down defense last year; in 2010 they were 4th; in 2009 they were 15th.

Badger tunes: Danny O’Brien may have arrived from Maryland and won the quarterback job at Wisconsin, but he still hasn’t won the battle in his apartment when it comes to listening to the type of music he likes. The rap he tried to play received quick thumbs-down from his teammates/roomies.

While O’Brien’s music tastes can be debated, there is no debating that the six new assistants have benefited the Wisconsin program.

The arrival of offensive line coach Mike Markuson can’t be understated. The guy is a marvel at developing lines with his intense and passionate brand of coaching. He’s just what the Badgers need to keep their great O-line tradition going.

Catching on: The arrival of new offensive coordinator Greg Davis has brought some new ideas to the Hawkeye attack, including more multi-receiver sets and various personnel configurations. Among the players most impacted are receivers, who have had to learn a new language for the passing game.

It will be interesting to see the impact Davis has on the Iowa offense, which needed to be spruced up, so to speak. I expect to see a quicker tempo and a more sophisticated passing attack—as well as perhaps more passes.

Eyes on this Lion: There may not be a player I’m looking more forward to watching this year than Penn State tight end Garry Gilliam.

Injuries have been ruinous to his career thus far. But, it could all come together this fall. Gilliam, a man mountain, is healthy. And he’s playing in an offense that often features the tight end. The guy could be a star. Speaking of Penn State, I think the defense could be good, the front seven in particular. The linebacker corps is impressive, and linemen like Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley are strong. But the secondary? Questions loom for an overhauled unit with four new starters.

Getting real: Give Purdue coach Danny Hope credit for being creative. In an effort to increase his team’s discipline and focus, he throws penalty flags during practice. This from a coach who earlier in camp simulated a halftime in an effort to help his team get over intermission blues that plagued it last season.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: I am just happy a guy like Rex Burkhead is getting pushed for the Heisman. He deserves it.


My take: Urban Meyer is a great coach—and he’s technologically savvy. Wow!


My take: Being true to itself worked well for the Spartan defense last year, when it led the Big Ten. And nine starters from that unit are back.


My take: If ol’ No. 14 is correct, the Hawkeyes have themselves a heck of a running back. No pressure, Greg Garmon!!


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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