Thursday links: Big Ten names on USA Today team

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday links: Big Ten names on USA Today team

USA Today has its All-American Team out. So, let’s start daily links there. Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard are the lone first-team choices from the Big Ten. Funny, wasn’t Wisconsin linebacker the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year? Borland was on the second team with Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien. Lewan? Really? He was one of the 10 best offensive linemen in America this season? Talk amongst yourself.


UConn apparently wanted Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. But he apparently didn’t want UConn. Can’t say I blame Narduzzi. Maybe something better will pop open. But know this: BCS head coaching jobs are very hard to get. Barry Alvarez once told me you have to take a bad job and make it into a good job.

“I was honored to be considered by Warde Manuel and the University of Connecticut for its head coaching position,” Narduzzi said in a statement released through MSU. “After consideration, I have withdrawn from the search, and I’m devoting my full attention to our players and team in preparation for our Rose Bowl game.”

*** has five things Ohio State can gain from playing in the Orange Bowl.

The biggest to me on the list is “not losing.” Doug Lesmerises notes that this isn’t the same as winning. Beating Clemson may not legitimize the Buckeyes, although it would be the highest-ranked opponent that Meyer has beaten at Ohio State. But losing to a good non-conference team would be another hurdle for the Buckeyes to overcome on the track of national perception next year and in years to come.


Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah is going to be evaluated for the NFL draft. Not a bad idea. But what’s the market for 5-9, 190-pound NFL running backs? And, if Nebraska lists Abdullah at 5-9, you know he’s shorter.

Abdullah said an ankle injury limited him the most during the second half of the season. He feels more healthy now, though. “I’m still getting better each day,” Abdullah said. “Right now, it’s much better than what it was.”

Heck, the guy still led the Big Ten in rushing. He’s a stud. But, he’s probably just a situational back in the NFL.


With Devin Gardner nursing turf foe, Shane Morris will get more reps during bowl prep for Michigan. And, that’s a good thing. Morris saw some brief action as a true freshman this season. Kid may have a bright future.

“This is a chance for him to hone his craft and his skills,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “And to continue to understand the offense.

“We have finals next week, and depending on finals schedules, he’ll probably have a little more time to help himself.”


New UConn coach Bob Diaco is a former Iowa linebacker. Yep.

Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette notes that Diaco joins former Hayden Fry Iowa players, assistant coaches and graduate assistants who are currently head coaches at Iowa (Kirk Ferentz), Kansas State (Bill Snyder), Oklahoma (Bob Stoops), Kentucky (Mark Stoops), Arkansas (Bret Bielema), North Texas (Dan McCarney) and Nebraska (Bo Pelini). Impressive, huh?


Here is a good video breakdown of the Outback Bowl between LSU and Iowa from the gang at

To me, this is one of the most intriguing Big Ten bowl games. Win this, and Iowa is chock-full of mojo for 2014, making 2012 seem like a distant memory.


Is Tim Banks going to remain the Illinois defensive coordinator? Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Time says yes … maybe. Given the youth Banks had to deal with, it would be nice to see him get another shot to fix the Fighting Illini defense.



My take: More good young linebackers for the Huskers.

My take: Nebraska will have its hands full with him.

My take: That is a lot of money to turn down.

My take: Can you say “hot ticket”?

My take: Yep.

My take: This is gonna be a great game on Friday night. Can’t wait.

My take: He could have a shot … maybe … ah, I don’t know.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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