I like Penn State’s decision to wear a blue ribbon to support all victims of child abuse, all as a result of the heinous Jerry Sandusky scandal that has brought the football program to its knees with crippling NCAA sanctions.
Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa staff was famous for its stability since he took over in 1999. But that all changed after last season. The key changes were new coordinators on both sides of the ball for the first time under Ferentz. Offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe left to coach with the Miami Dolphins, while defensive coordinator Norm Parker retired.
Wisconsin is the hottest team in the Big Ten. It’s true. This is a new world Big Ten, where traditional heavyweights like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska all are looking up at Wisconsin. This is the Badgers’ world … and everyone else is just living in it. The Badgers are coming off back-to-back Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances, going an aggregate 22-5 overall the last two seasons (13-3 Big Ten).
Purdue is coming off a 7-6, the program’s first winning mark since 2007. That has some people in West Lafayette thinking big, as the program aims for back-to-back bowls for the first time since 2006-07 when Joe Tiller still was the coach.
You have questions, and I have answers in this week’s football-heavy mailbag. I said the mailbag was football-heavy, but I did receive one great question about the chances of the Minnesota men’s basketball team making a Final Four run this year. Got to love Big Ten hoop fans! Read my answers to all of your queries in this post. And remember, if you have a question, send it to me in the comment section at the bottom of this post.
Penn State is entering a difficult era of NCAA probation and sanctions that figure to cripple the program for years. But first-year coach Bill O’Brien is moving forward undaunted and undeterred. The Nittany Lions can’t go to a bowl or win the Big Ten title, so O’Brien and Company must focus on regular-season success in the dawn of the post-Joe Paterno era that began in 1966. Penn State will have a chance to impact who wins the conference crown with games vs. the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska, as it aims to begin the healing process in pursuit of the best record possible.
Mick McCall’s offense is ticking at Northwestern. The Wildcat offensive coordinator, who is in his fifth season on the job, has developed one of the more consistently potent offenses in the Big Ten under Pat Fitzgerald. Last season, the attack ranked second overall in the Big Ten (420.9).
I love lists. And I bet you do, too. With that, did you see Athlon’s ranking of the Top 50 Big Ten players? No shock to see Wisconsin running back Montee Ball No. 1 and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson No. 2. But, honestly, that’s too obvious.
At Ohio State, it’s about turning the page. A new era has begun—and the possibilities seem limitless. Last season was difficult, as the Buckeyes endured the program’s first losing season (6-7) since 1988, which was John Cooper’s first campaign. The program also was shackled with NCAA probation stemming from the Jim Tressel era.
The USAToday preseason poll is out. And, stop me if you have heard this before: LSU is No. 1 followed by Alabama—the teams that played for the BCS title after last season. Please, football gods, don’t give us a rematch. Interestingly, Bama had more first-place votes (20) than LSU (18).
In case you were wondering, here is the official NCAA document that spells out the ifs, ands, buts and whatnots about Penn State players transferring to other schools. You may want to print this, cut it out and put it in your wallet—assuming you are a crazy college football fan. (If you are reading this, you are one.)
Nebraska’s maiden voyage in the Big Ten has to be considered a success on many fronts. The Cornhuskers finished 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten. But along the way, Nebraska found out it needs to get bigger and more physical on defense to better deal with Big Ten offenses. And the Husker offense must improve its passing game to give the attack better balance.
After Don Treadwell left to be head coach of Miami (Ohio) after the 2010 season, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio turned to offensive line coach Dan Roushar to be offensive coordinator. And that has proven to be a good move. Last season, the Spartan attack ranked fourth in the Big Ten, averaging 390.4 yards during an 11-3 season that included a Legends Division crown and triple-overtime Outback Bowl victory over Georgia.