Big Ten Links: What's possible for Penn State?

In today’s Big Ten Links, we’ve pulled together a number of stories, including a look at the possibilities for Penn State for the rest of the season. Penn State is 4-2. And few—if any—envisioned that. Now, with six games to go, it’s time to dream big in State College, Pa. Or, is it? Also, learn more about another player named Watt at Wisconsin, the youth movement at Minnesota, Ohio State tight ends, and running quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

You can listen to Penn State coach Bill O’Brien discuss this a little bit during his Tuesday session on the weekly Big Ten teleconference:

Penn State plans: After being off this week, the rough part of the slate starts: at Iowa; Ohio State; at Purdue; at Nebraska; Indiana; Wisconsin. On the subject of Penn State, Nate Mink of StateCollege.com evaluates the Nittany Lion offensive and defensive lines.

Mega-Watts: If the name sounds familiar, it should: Wisconsin’s Derek Watt is the younger brother of ex-Badger defensive end J.J., who is now a rising star with the Houston Texans. But, unlike J.J., Derek is a fullback. Like J.J., Derek is a bundle of intensity. His goal: Amp up a Wisconsin ground game that incredibly ranks 11th in the Big Ten (133.5 ypg).

Back in action: Iowa’s backfield will get a lift from the return from injury of Damon Bullock.

And his return couldn’t come at a better time, as the Hawkeyes have a big game at Michigan State this Saturday after being off last week. Now, Bullock will team with sensation Mark Weisman to give Iowa a nice tandem behind James Vandenberg. Iowa will need both against a Michigan State defense that is No. 1 in the Big Ten against  the run (86.0 ypg).

[RELATED: Enter for a chance to win a trip to the 2012 Big Ten Football Championship.]

Youth movement: Have you heard that Minnesota has a young team? I said, have you heard that Minnesota has a young team?

Jerry Kill has a made a point time and again to stress the youthfulness of this second Gopher team. Still, despite the inexperience, Minnesota is 4-1 with a huge game against Northwestern on Saturday at home. Win here, and the Gophers will remain in the thick of the Legends race.

Catching on: Let’s say “hello” to the tight end position at Ohio State, as Urban Meyer is delivering on his use of a position that thrived when he was coach at Florida.

Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman are coming off a big game against the Cornhuskers—and only figure to see their roles grow down the stretch after now establishing trust with Braxton Miller.

Freshman time: Has there been a more impressive true freshman in the Big Ten than Michigan tight end Devin Funchess? His one-handed catch last week in a win at Purdue that set up a touchdown was the latest example of Funchess’ prowess. The guy is special and he only figures to improve for a Wolverine squad that looks to be hitting its stride.

[RELATED: Read BTN.com's Tom Dienhart's latest answers to your football questions.]

Ground gains: The great Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune knows it: The Big Ten’s best quarterbacks prefer to run instead of pass.

Let us count the ways: There’s Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Northwestern’s Kain Colter, Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray. But, if I had to pick a quarterback to make a key pass, I’d go with Penn State’s Matt McGloin. The senior has proven to be the Big Ten’s top passing signal-caller this season. And he is an amazing story.

Hawkeye announcement: Iowa defensive back and team captain Micah Hyde was arrested over the weekend for interference with official acts and public intoxication. He will be punished, but Hyde—third on the team in tackles and tops in passes broken up–still will play Saturday at Michigan State. Should his punishment be more severe? Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz says hogwash.

Listen to Frenetz touch on that and more below during his weekly session on the Big Ten teleconference:

Ferentz says the chances to win are no factor in Hyde’s discipline issue. And, if you look at Ferentz’s track record, he’s right.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: An even bigger and better wish: Bo needs more players like Osborne had.


My take: This sounds about right.


My take: Indiana’s near win over Michigan State should help get the attention of Ohio State.


My take: Hmmm. I think Michigan should continue with this formula/ratio.


My take: I’m guessing if Gray can play, he will. The visit from Northwestern is a game the Gophers probably need to win if they want to go bowling.


My take: I guess that’s a compliment.


My take: Let’s not kid ourselves: This is a HUGE game for Purdue and Wisconsin. The winner will be the favorite in the Leaders Division.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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