It’s that time of week when I reach into my mailbag. It looks like my unit rankings are generating quite the interest, based on the amount of cards and letters I have received. I always enjoy hearing from Big Ten fans! So, please stay in touch. Let’s get started.
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How about a little hoops talk for the last day of May? Well, here you go. The great (and I mean GREAT) Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News and BTN has his early, early Top 25 for 2013-14 out. And, it’s right here. Yes, the Big Ten is well-represented.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It all begins up front. Ask any coach. Without good blockers, skill talent is diminished—and offenses flounder. The Big Ten has some potentially strong blocking units, which has hopes high in several precincts. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten offensive lines, starting with two of the conference’s biggest powerhouse programs.
Well, the Paterno family is suing the NCAA. We all knew this day was coming, right? As if you needed more evidence, the lawsuit illustrates the deep divide and chasm in Happy Valley—so says Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports.
This is interesting. From the JournalStar.com, here is the composite Big Ten 2012-13 standings, showing the average finish among each school’s men’s and women’s teams. A big year for Michigan, which is on a roll. The Wolverines took Big Ten titles in softball, men’s gymnastics, women’s cross country, women’s tennis and men’s swimming. Wait until the football team really gets it going.
Indiana continues to improve under Kevin Wilson, who debuted with a 1-11 mark in 2011 but improved to 4-8 last season. And, a big reason for that was the play of a prolific offense led by coordinator Seth Littrell. The Hoosiers had one of the Big Ten’s top offenses last season, ranking No. 2 in total offense (442.0 ypg); No. 1 in passing (311.2 ypg); No. 4 in scoring (30.8 ppg). But it wasn’t enough to carry the program to its first bowl since the 2007 season.
When you think of Nebraska, you don’t typically think of receivers. You think ground-pounding offenses that play physical football behind big lines and star running backs. Well, this year’s edition of the Cornhuskers has some very good receivers. In fact, it’s the best collection in the Big Ten. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten receiving units.
Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE
The Big Ten lost its top two rushers in Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. And Nebraska standout Rex Burkhead also is gone. But most of the conference’s other top running backs are back. Here is how I rank the Big Ten running back units, and it’s my latest look at how the various football teams units stack up by position. Read the others right here. Agree? Disagree? Tell me in the comments below, email me about here, or track me down on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart).
So far, so good for new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell. He’s still 0-0. Optimism bubbles. The honeymoon continues. Purdue A.D. Morgan Burke seems very pleased with his hire. In fact, he thinks Hazell has answered every key question up to this point. I’m not gonna argue with that. Hazell has impressed. He also has built a good staff and energized the players. This is my first link in today’s daily Big Ten headlines.
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
It’s time to reach into my weekly mailbag. Lots of interesting cards and letters this week. Brady Hoke? Penn State schedule predictions? Indiana football on the rise? Ohio State and the chip on its shoulder?
Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE
Quarterback play hasn’t been at an elite level in the Big Ten in recent years. In fact, many feel that’s one reason for the conference’s struggles. But this year’s collection of passers teems with potential.
First-year Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen has a schedule that’s built for success. The Badgers should start no worse than 3-1—maybe even 4-0—as they head to Ohio State on Sept. 28. After visiting the Horseshoe, the Badgers don’t have a lot of heavy lifting.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA conducted its draft lottery Tuesday night, setting the order of the 2013 draft which will be held June 27. And the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the second time in three years. Now, speculation has begun anew as to which teams will take what players now that we know the order.
Sandra Dukes-US PRESSWIRE
John Shoop long has admired Purdue’s offensive tradition from afar. Now, he gets a chance to add to that tradition by pushing the buttons on the Boilermakers’ attack under first-year coach Darrell Hazell.
The struggles of the Michigan State offense last season are well-documented. Points were difficult to come by for an attack that lost five games by a total of 13 points. All the while, quarterback play came under scrutiny. Michigan State quarterbacks coach Brad Salem says the competition between Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook is “pretty even.”
First-year coach Darrell Hazell has his work cut out for him, playing arguably the toughest schedule in the Big Ten. There is no more challenging non-conference schedule in the conference, with a trip to Big East co-champ Cincinnati and home games vs. Notre Dame (BCS title game) and Northern Illinois (Orange Bowl). Getting one Big Ten road victory may be a difficult proposition, too. Bottom line: A 1-6 start isn’t out of the question.
The biggest spring football star in the Big Ten may have been a 7-year-old. Jack Hoffman is a cancer patient who stole the hearts of America and the show at the Nebraska spring game, taking a handoff and racing 69 yards for a touchdown. Highlights of the run went viral, as little Jack’s story swept the nation.
The age-old question is being asked again: Should college football have two signing periods? One in, say, July or August, and the other in February. I’d love for there to be two signing periods. Let Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads tell you why he doesn’t think two signing periods will happen.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Bill O’Brien’s debut was a success, as Penn State finished 8-4 after opening 0-2 during a season wrapped in tumult. But the Nittany Lions may be in for a long season, as the effects of NCAA probation begin to sink in. Penn State will operate with just 67 scholarships, so any attrition could be devastating for a team that’s still ineligible for the postseason or to win the league championship.
The Detroit Free Press has a neat piece that chronicles the salaries of Big Ten assistant coaches. Look here and here.
Iowa is coming off a 4-8 season, the program’s worst since 2000—Kirk Ferentz’s second season in Iowa City. That has some fans antsy. Bryce Miller of the Des Moines Register sat down with the Hawkeyes boss to discuss a variety of topics for a program that has seen its win total fall from 11 to 8 to 7 to 4 each of the last four seasons.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Some think Ohio State is the best team not just in the Big Ten but perhaps the best team in the nation as it comes off a 12-0 debut under Urban Meyer. A wealth of talent is one reason for optimism, as the Buckeyes are NCAA probation-free and eligible to win the Big Ten and BCS crowns. A favorable schedule is another reason for optimism. Ohio State should be favored in every game but one in 2013: the season finale at Michigan on Nov. 30.
It’s the time of week when I reach into my mailbag. Another good batch of correspondence from BTN readers and viewers. I appreciate all of the cards and letters. Keep them coming.