Big Ten could shake up football bowl lineup

If you are tired of the current lineup of Big Ten bowl games, fear not as change may be coming, according to Commissioner Jim Delany. The Big Ten will remain tethered to the Rose Bowl, Capital One and Outback Bowls. But, changes could ensue beyond that trio of games.

It all makes sense. Variety is the spice of life, right? Two possible new bowls could be the Holiday and Pinstripe Bowls. Stay tuned. This is the Big Ten’s final season with its current bowl lineup. The league may have something to announce by early June—if not sooner.

Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette writes:

“Delany said he’s actively talking with bowls and could have deals reached within a few weeks to early June. He’s also discussed joining with other conferences to alternate bowl bids to eliminate fatigue from fan bases and host cities.”

On that note, the great Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette offers his take on possible future Big Ten bowl scenarios.

I love the idea of adding the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, with the Big Ten playing a Pac-12 school, in addition to adding the Pinstripe and Holiday Bowls. Gotta love those locations, which should appeal to fans. The Holiday Bowl has a nice tradition, while the Pinstripe in New York would further enhance the Big Ten’s presence in the East.

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Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal notes that no matter how you try to slice it, Michigan State’s inclusion in the stacked East Division will hinder the football program’s climb and pursuit of its first Rose Bowl since the 1987 season.

Couch is correct. Yes, there is great opportunity in being in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan. The Spartans’ opportunity for exposure is good, as many of those matchups figure to be televised nationally. And that could benefit recruiting, too. But, Couch sums up the Spartans’ predicament beautifully with this: MSU finds itself as the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East circa 2003 — a sound and competitive program, but one in a fight with two juggernauts, historically, currently and definitely financially.

Here is more about Michigan State from Spartans A.D. Mark Hollis, who addresses playing in the East and conference expansion, among other topics.

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Bob Flounders of the Harrisburg Patriot-News has some key numbers for Penn State as it heads into the offseason.

Among them: 65. That’s the estimated number of scholarship players (by Bill O’Brien) that Penn State will be using in 2013, a ridiculously low number. The NCAA allows 85 but things are different for O’Brien and the Lions, who must be down to 65 by the start of the 2014 season as a result of NCAA sanctions. Bottom line: tough times likely are ahead.

Did you see where Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Big Ten expansion isn’t over? Here it is.

“I’m of the opinion that expansion is not over,” O’Brien told reporters prior to a Penn State Coaches Caravan stop in Baltimore. “I believe that the college landscape is going to continually change, maybe not year to year but every few years. I think the expansion of the Big Ten will continue.”

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Anyone who knows anything about Nebraska knows the defense has a lot to prove. And no unit on that much-maligned defense is under more scrutiny than the line. Bo Pelini needs some key youngsters to step up.

The great Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star says that Nebraska hopes — wait, prays — it has some treats on the way for the defensive line. The Huskers signed six scholarship defensive linemen this year after signing four in 2012. NU coaches make no bones about the possibility of using all of the 2013 D-line signees this season.

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No doubt, Jamel Harbison was turning heads in training camp as a freshman last August for Minnesota. Alas, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the first game. Now, he’s back. And he’s looking very good for a Golden Gophers’ attack that needs a more explosive passing game. KJ Maye is another promising youngster.

If the Minnesota receiving corps—the offense’s biggest question—can step up, the Gophers offense will be much improved. Projected starters Derek Engel Isaac Fruechte and Devin Crawford-Tufts need to do more, too.

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Here is an excellent breakdown of each Big Ten team’s NFL Draft choices and free-agent signings. It still amazes that Illinois had four players drafted and three sign free-agent deals—and went 0-8 in the Big Ten. Only Ohio State (nine total) and Michigan (eight) had more.

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Illinois coach John Groce has been a master at adding transfers. Sam McLaurin came from Coastal Carolina. Rayvonte Rice will be eligible next season after transferring from Drake. Aaron Cosby will sit out next season after leaving Seton Hall, while Jon Ekey will play a fifth season for Groce after bolting Illinois State. And, Groce apparently isn’t finished, as he’s apparently checking out guard Ahmad Starks of Oregon State and forward Darius Paul—Brandon Paul’s brother–of Western Michigan.

Is Groce becoming too reliant on transfers? Will chemistry be an issue? Can Groce find playing time for the transfers?

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Rick Brown of HawkCenteal.com offers his early predicted order of finish for the Big Ten hoop race. I like how Brown thinks, with Michigan State picked first. And he has Iowa fourth behind Ohio State and Michigan. This all looks perfect.

What does Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery think of his team’s chances to contend for the title?

“It will take each player playing to the best of his ability and continuing to get better,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told Brown. “If we play the right way and defend, share the ball, support one another, compete and don’t make a lot of mistakes, then we’re going to win games. And then we’ll be in serious contention for a championship. If we don’t, we won’t be. It’s pretty simple.”

FYI: Iowa hasn’t had a winning conference record since 2007. That should change in 2014, when Iowa’s NCAA drought (2006) also should end. I already am looking forward to next season.

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Is Indiana a Top 25 team next season?

Yes, the Hoosiers have lost four big talents in Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. But I would put Indiana somewhere between 20-25 in a preseason poll. Tom Crean welcomes a monster recruiting class led by Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson. Plus, Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey and Jeremy Hollowell return. Yes, IU will be young. But it won’t lack talent. And maybe a lack of big expectations will help this team.

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Save the date: Michigan State will play Kentucky on Nov. 12 in Chicago in a possible No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the State Farm Champions Classic in the United Center. Mike Griffith of MLive.com notes that Kentucky has brought in the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class, while the Spartans return four of five starters from a team that finished 27-9 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

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Interesting read here from AnnArbor.com, as Michigan A.D. David Brandon debunks myths about his school’s athletic department. You may be surprised by some of this. I was.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Every bit as big an accomplishment as what he did on the field. Congrats!

My take: No hashtags on the field? Really?

My take: (I am shaking my head, too.)

My take: This is good. Time to dump a few, too. I’m looking at you, Gator and Heart of Dallas Bowls.

My take: No need to slap yourself. It’s true.

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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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4 Comments

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Reality Check on 5/2/2013 @ 11:53am EDT Said:

Graham Couch is a fine young reporter and recognizes that MSU can no longer compete on the
Big stage. Nice article Graham, look forward to seeing you on the golf course this summer.
Graham Couch is correct in that MSU has seen the last division title in the next 20 years. Michigan and Ohio State will return the division to the Woody and BO era. There is no way that
MSU can compete with those teams financially or recruit wise. Eventually Penn State will become the # 3 team. So yes Doug will enjoy those fifth place bowl trips to the Kraft Hunger Bowl.

shookwriter27 on 5/2/2013 @ 1:16pm EDT Said:

John Groce is using these transfers to fill holes at Illinois. It is too early to say he’s relying on it too heavily. If Illinois is able to the NCAA Tournament and win games, then he’s definitely not over relying on it

Reality Check on 5/2/2013 @ 1:38pm EDT Said:

According to industry analyst SNL Kagan, BTN net revenue was $166M in 2008, $262M in 2012 and projected at $408M in 2017.

    BTN.com staff on 5/2/2013 @ 1:58pm EDT Said: