Thursday's links: Only 3 Big Ten stars make SN top 25 list

The great Matty Hayes of Sporting News has come out with his annual list of the Top 25 players in college football.

Braxton Miller is the first Big Ten player ranked, checking in at No. 7. Michigan OT Taylor Lewan is No. 11; Ohio State CB Bradley Roby is No. 25. That’s it.

STARTING TO RANK ALL THE TEAMS: Who doesn’t like a good countdown ranking of all 125 college football teams? I know I do. Here’s the Orlando Sentinel’s stab at doing what essentially is the impossible. But, what the heck. Stories like this are pure gold in the dog days of summer.

The countdown is up to No. 68, so you’ll have to keep checking back if you don’t see your Big Ten team yet. So far, we have seen Illinois at No. 86; Iowa at No. 81; Purdue at No. 78; Indiana at No. 75. Let’s see, I wonder which Big Ten team will be next? I’m guessing it’ll be … Minnesota.

From the “that’s interesting” department: I have learned that Bill O’Brien, head coach of Penn State, has terminated any relationship he may have had with Joe Linta a number of months ago. O’Brien recently retained Neil Cornrich with NC Sports to manage his career going forward.

In late April, Big Ten A.D.s reached an internal agreement to stop scheduling FCS tomato cans starting in 2016. Thank God. Now, Minnesota A.D. Norwood Teague tells us why: TV. I know.

“It is primarily television pressuring and wanting the Big Ten to provide games that are (Football Bowl Subdivision) versus FBS teams,” Teague said Tuesday at the Gopher Road Trip’s Moorhead stop at the Courtyard by Marriot. “That’s understandable. They pay us a lot of money, and it’s just the desire of television that they want us to do that. That was their message to the Big Ten.”

NU FITS CHAMPIONSHIP MOLD: Phil Steele—yes, THAT Phil Steele—says Northwestern fits the “national championship mold.” Yes, I really did just type that. Don’t believe me? Click this link. But sit down first.

COUSINS WEIGHS IN ON QB BATTLE: For what it’s worth, former Michigan State great Kirk Cousins thinks Andrew Maxwell will win the quarterback job.

“From my own personal observation of the competition, I think Andrew has the inside track at starting the season, and it would be his job to lose, if you will,” Cousins said. “I fully expect him, as I’ve said before, to go out, have a great senior year and really not make it a competition in the sense that he’ll play well enough to where people want him out there, and coaches are excited about having him out there, and the whole term ‘competition’ starts to die down would be my prediction.”

MORE MSU QBS: Speaking of MSU quarterbacks, Mark Dantonio wants his backup quarterbacks to get work early in camp and games.

That could mean a great opportunity for sophomore Connor Cook or redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor. And the MSU head coach said he would consider playing incoming true freshman Damien Terry immediately instead of granting him a redshirt season. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out in East Lansing.

THIS BULLOUGH IS A RB: Well, it looks like Michigan State’s Riley Bullough is now a running back.

It has been quite a rise for Bullough, who was a linebacker when he redshirted last season but now is listed as the starting running back. Think Jehu Caulcrick. The fallback options at running back are freshmen, something Dantonio has dealt with before at skill positions, including in 2010 when Bell logged significant time.

“They have to be ready for their opportunity, and when their opportunity comes, they have to seize it and not be afraid of it,” Dantonio told the Detroit Free-Press. “That’s the biggest thing.”

TALKING ILLINOIS: Marcus Jackson of the Champaign News-Gazette had a nice chat recently. Check out the transcript here.

A hot topic: When will John Groce land his first big recruit? That big catch could be Cliff Alexander. Stay tuned. Groce will deliver some blue chippers in time, as Jackson points out. Be patient, chief.

I love anniversaries. So do the good folks at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who look at a less ballyhooed one: the 1973 Golden Gophers football team.

Check out his factoid:

The Gophers in 1973 finished 7-4 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten. Minnesota has not equaled that conference mark in any season since then. They have gone 5-3 numerous times, most recently 2003 under Glen Mason, but they have not gone 6-2 since that season 40 years ago.

The paper also recently looked back at the 1988-89 Gophers hoop team.

Willie Burton and Melvin Newbern were the stars of this Sweet 16 team. I remember it well. (Sigh.) My fav Gopher on that team? Jim Shikenjanski. I just love to say, “Shikenjanski.” Try it. It’s fun!

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: This isn’t ideal for many people.

My take: It was a great run for IU baseball—and Big Ten baseball. Now, can the Hoosiers and league build on this?

My take: Please tell me I’m not the only one on the planet who isn’t excited about this. Yes, Wazzu is a FBS school, but … it’s … usually … awful.

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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