Today's links: Writers abuzz over big game

This weekend is all about No. 1 Michigan’s visit to No. 3 Indiana on Saturday night in this year’s first “Game of the Year.” And the hype and analysis already has begun—rightly so. It’s a battle for first place in the Big Ten and position atop the polls. Could this be a Final Four preview? Hmmm. Let’s begin this Harbaugh-free edition of daily links right there.

Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star marvels at some of the statistics of the teams, noting that Indiana leads the Big Ten in scoring. Michigan is second. IU leads the conference in scoring margin and Michigan is second. Michigan leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage and IU is second. On and on it goes, for two of the most talented teams in the nation.

While discussing Michigan, it seems Bill Frieder is happy to see the Wolverines rolling. If you recall, he’s the coach who built the roster that Steve Fisher coached to a national title in 1989. And Frieder will call the game in Bloomington over the radio. I trust he’ll have a towel slung over a shoulder.

Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com says one of the hardest parts about the program’s downfall, to Frieder, was watching Michigan State coach Tom Izzo basically claim the state in the 2000s. How dominant were the Spartans? MSU went 18-3 vs. Michigan from 1998-2010.

Big Ten Standings
Conference Overall
W-L W-L
Michigan 7-1 20-1
Indiana 7-1 19-2
Michigan State 7-2 18-4
Ohio State 6-2 16-4
Wisconsin 5-3 14-7
Minnesota 4-4 16-5
Purdue 4-4 11-10
Iowa 3-5 14-7
Northwestern 3-6 12-10
Illinois 2-6 15-7
Nebraska 2-7 11-11
Penn State 0-9 8-13
View Full Standings

“They kind of handed the state to Tom Izzo (in the late 90s and 2000s),” Frieder told Baumgardner. “I just didn’t like watching us get our butts beat by 100, but I’m proud of Tom Izzo, he’s done a great job. He’s been very good to me, he was very good to me (at times) when Michigan wasn’t.

“The job that he’s done has been incredible. … But my point is, Michigan should be as good as Michigan State. They should be doing the same types of things that Michigan State has done.”

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Iowa has work to do if it hopes to make the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2006—a lot of work to do. But, last night’s home win over Penn State was a step in the right direction. A trip to Minnesota looms on Sunday, followed by a visit to Wisconsin three days later. It would seem the Hawkeyes need to forge at least a split, right?

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Well, Illinois lost again, this time at Michigan State last night. But it was a noble effort in a hostile environment in which the Fighting Illini actually led by 10 at halftime. But, alas, Illinois swooned in the second half due to myriad defensive breakdowns, says the great Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette.

But, have no fear, Illini Nation. Marcus Jackson of the Champaign News-Gazette has five simple steps that can salvage the season for the Illini. Among them: better point guard play, pulling an upset and protecting the home court. Illinois’ NCAA clock is ticking. I can hear it.

The win over Illinois allowed Michigan State to remain in the thick of the Big Ten race. But Derrick Nix’s cavalier attitude toward his benching over academic issues concerns Graham Couch of the Lansing Journal.

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Purdue coach Matt Painter says his team “got exactly what we deserved” in an historic 37-point thrashing administered by Indiana on Wednesday.

Painter said his team’s poor transition defense and failure to block out were just two keys to IU’s domination. Well, yes, that’s a start. But the keys to the Boilermakers’ debacle went well beyond that. But, it’s time to move on, right? Next up: A trip to Northwestern on Saturday. It will be fascinating to see how Purdue responds. I can’t wait. Saturday’s result in Evanston will tell us all we need to know about this Boiler team.

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Attention, Ohio State fans: There’s a good chance the Buckeyes and Wolverines will play in the same division when conference realignment is announced sometime in 2013. And you also can likely expect more league games, with perhaps nine or 10. At least that’s what Ohio State A.D. Gene Smith thinks.

Oh, and ticket prices will go up in 2013. That much is a given. Ducats will bump from $70 to $79—and the Wisconsin game will be considered a “premium” contest and will cost even more: $110. Start saving your pennies, Brutus.

***

Michigan’s 2013 football schedule isn’t as daunting as the 2012 slate, says Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. And, that’s awesome news for Brady Hoke.

Michigan will have seven home games next year, compared to six in 2012. The road games also should be more manageable: At Connecticut, Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa. Michigan is just 5-8 away from Ann Arbor in two years under Hoke, including 2-5 last season. It’s 4-5 in true road games. It’s 13-0 at home under Hoke. So, there you go.

***

The great Bob Flounders of the Harrisburg Patriot-News examines Bill O’Brien’s recruiting approach.

O’Brien is on the precipice of inking a nice collection of talent led by tight end Adam Breneman and quarterback Christian Hackenberg. What’s the biggest difference between O’Brien’s recruiting approach and that of the previous staff? Flounders says O’Brien casts a wider net, looking more nationally for talent.

O’Brien’s class will be bolstered by what he calls “run ons,” which the rest of America calls “walk ons.” But, walking on won’t be cheap. In fact, the bill could come to as much as $210,000.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students at Penn State pay the highest tuition bill in the country among four-year public colleges. For 2010-11, the department’s College Affordability and Transparency Center reported PSU had the highest in-state tuition among four-year public institution in the U.S., at $15,200. So, you better REALLY like playing football to “run on” at Penn State.

***

If Iowa and Nebraska get their way, they will keep playing on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

As Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star notes, Nebraska has been doing this since 1990. It’s become tradition. And the game gives the schools a special niche on a big holiday weekend when a lot of TV-watching is going on. Translation: It’s great exposure for dads who don’t go to the mall on Black Friday.

Drake Martinez has committed to Nebraska. Yes, he is the younger brother of star Cornhusker quarterback Taylor. But Drake projects as a safety, running back or wideout—not a signal-caller.

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The Super Bowl is this weekend—as if you needed a reminder. Badgers fans may want to pay attention to the commercials, as you may recognize someone. Yes, that is ex-Wisconsin great Russell Wilson in that Am-Fam ad.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: You rarely see as much hand-wringing and coverage about the transfer of a third-string running back. Amazing.

My take: This is key, since I feel Appling is key to Michigan State’s success.

My take: Yes, injuries to Gary Harris and Travis Trice sting, as does a sloppy first half. But, a win is a win is a win.

My take: High praise for such a young player.

My take: Nice history lesson. And some heady company for Hammons.

About Tom Dienhart 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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