This weekend’s nice collection of Big Ten games is highlighted by Michigan State at Iowa in a pivotal Legends Division tilt while Nebraska’s first trip to Penn State as a member of the Big Ten is the headliner in the Leaders Division. But the dark clouds of a child sex-abuse scandal that has cost coach Joe Paterno and others their jobs casts a long, dark shadow over Senior Day at Penn State.
The repercussions of a sex-abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky will be felt for years at Penn State. The fallout among the school’s brass has been swift and stunning. Joe Paterno was unceremoniously fired yesterday. On the same day, school president Graham Spanier also was dumped. Athletic director Tim Curley has taken a leave of absence after being charged with perjury. Still, their fates pale compared to Sandusky’s victims.
What’s unfolding at Penn State is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of collegiate sports.
It doesn’t get any bigger than this. Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg knows that. He understands the magnitude of this Saturday’s visit from Michigan State. Each school still controls its destiny in the Legends Division. The winner will be in the driver’s seat to advance to the inaugural Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart talked to Vandenberg to get his thoughts on the big game vs. the No. 13 Spartans (7-2, 4-1) and his standout season.
Have a Big Ten football question you want answered? I’m Tom Dienhart and I want you to fire off an email to me. This is a great place for us to interact with each other, sharing our passion for all things Big Ten as the season prepares to hit the home stretch. This week, some questions focus on the chances of schools like Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State winning a division or league title. See what other queries were posed.
The Iowa running has surged to the top of my Big Ten player rankings. The star sophomore has rattled off four straight 100-yard, two-touchdown rushing games (121, 2 vs. Northwestern; 138, 2 vs. Indiana; 252, 2 vs. Minnesota; 132, 2 vs. Michigan). He literally carried Iowa to victory on Saturday over Michigan, pushing him to a Big Ten-leading 1,101 yards rushing (122.3 ypg). The 230-pound Marcus Coker just may carry the Hawkeyes all the way to the Legends Division title. See Tom’s full top 25 list in this post.
Lots of interesting storylines and angles to watch in Week 11, as the divisional chases firm up—at least a little. Two games will go a long way toward determining who wins each division: Michigan State at Iowa is a big Legends clash, while Nebraska at Penn State is a major Leaders encounter. But there also are other intriguing matchups this Saturday.
This week is highlighted by two huge games, one in each division. The top game is Michigan State’s visit to Iowa, which is 6-0 at home and playing well. A loss by the Spartans—the only team in the division with just one division defeat–would further scramble the Legends Division race. In the Leaders Division, all eyes will be on Nebraska’s visit to Penn State, the only team in the division that controls its destiny. Following is a sneak peek at this week’s games. Note: Indiana is off this week.
Eight teams—four from each division—are bowl eligible, filling all of the Big Ten’s bowl slots. For now, I just don’t see the Big Ten getting a second BCS bowl slot, but there’s still lots of football left.
The Big Ten Trophy Tracker is coming into sharper focus as the season hits the final stretch. With only three week left in the season, there’s a new player on top of Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year checklist. And it’s a big, physical running back from the Legends Division who just may carry his team to the Big Ten title game.
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart takes live questions each Monday at noon ET right here, and he’ll be joined by BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina, too. Dienhart is covering Big Ten football for BTN.com this season and will eventually move into men’s hoops, too. Dienhart posts Big Ten articles all week and can be found on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart) as well. You can also as a question by using #AskBTN on Twitter. Join the live chat now or at noon ET, then come back each Monday for the rest of the season. We’ll also post the text of his chat on BTN.com later today.
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart chats live every Monday at noon ET during the football season. Did you miss it? We took questions for about an hour and Dienhart touched on the past weekend and he upcoming one, too. He was joined by BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina. Look back at the conversation we had and come back next Monday at 10:30 a.m. ET for the next football chat with Dienhart. Next chat will be here!
The first Saturday in November was filled with a big surprise: Northwestern winning at Nebraska. That scrambled the Legends Division race, which may come down to a battle between Michigan State and Iowa. Here’s what else I learned on Saturday.
IOWA CITY, Iowa –- There goes Marcus Coker, rumbling right for 13 yards and a touchdown early the fourth quarter. That happened a lot on a gray November day in Eastern Iowa. But this rumble—and that’s what Coker does; he doesn’t run–was the fatal blow, pushing Iowa’s lead to 24-9 in what would be an impressive 24-16 triumph over No. 13 Michigan.
Following the action every Saturday, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart breaks down what every game, every result means for the teams involved and the Big Ten itself. Week 10 featured a quartet of close games that were in doubt into the fourth quarter, and you can find Tom’s analysis in this post.
November will serve as a de facto playoff of sorts for the conclusion to the Big Ten’s first season of 12-team, two-division football. Four teams remain in the hunt in the Legends, while three are in the mix in the Leaders (full Big Ten football standings here). Michigan’s trip to Iowa highlights the opening salvo of this important month. Here’s a look at my pick for that game and the others for this first Saturday of November.
With Saturday at our doorstep, many questions nag: Can Wisconsin get back on track after losing two in a row? Should Michigan State be worried about its offense? Can Iowa stop anyone from running the ball? Is Michigan’s defense for real? Following is a look at those topics and what else to watch for this Saturday.
Michigan’s trip to Iowa is without a doubt the biggest Big Ten clash of the weekend. It’s a key battle in a Legends Division race that is wide open and features four schools still in the thick of the hunt: Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa. Suffice it to say, neither the Wolverines nor the Hawkeyes can afford to lose. And the fact it’s a road game makes matters more difficult for Michigan, playing just its third game away from the Big House this season and in the midst of playing four road games in a five-game stretch.
It hasn’t taken Greg Mattison long to revive the Michigan defense. And that’s a major reason why the Wolverines are in the thick of the Legends Division race as they travel to Iowa for a big game Saturday (noon ET, BTN). Defense had been a dirty word in Ann Arbor under the Rich Rodriguez regime the past three seasons. In 2010, Michigan hit a nadir, ranking last in the Big Ten in total defense (450.8 ypg), scoring defense (35.2 ppg) and pass defense (261.9 ypg). One year later, those numbers are now: 340.6, 15.3 and 196.3.
Have a Big Ten football question you want answered? I’m Tom Dienhart and I want you to fire off an email to me. This is a great place for us to interact, sharing our passion for all things Big Ten as the season prepares to hit the home stretch. This week, there were many good questions—as usual—but there was a theme in many emails that I received, asking: What are the tiebreakers to determine division champs? I address that, as well as—get this—a BASKETBALL question. Really.
The Big Ten is loaded with many good running backs (see the stats). In fact, it may be the deepest position in the conference. So, it should be no surprise that Penn State’s Silas Redd has taken over the No. 1 spot in my weekly ranking of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten.
There’s a lot of talk going on about the Penn State football team. It seems, most of the nation thinks the Nittany Lions are overrated and that their 8-1 record, including a perfect 5-0 clip in the Big Ten, is the product of a soft schedule. At the same time, many Penn State backers think their team is being disrespected and is underrated. To settle the issue, BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina and BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart attacked the topic on e-mail. See the entire thread in this post.
The calendar turns to November, when the games that we all remember will be played. Many big contests loom down a home stretch that will go a long way toward determining who will meet in the inaugural Big Ten championship game. There’s Nebraska at Penn State; Penn State at Ohio State; Nebraska at Michigan; Penn State at Wisconsin; Ohio State at Michigan.
Indiana had already begun to move along without receiver Damarlo Belcher, who was dismissed from the squad Monday for violating team rules. Belcher had started six games this season, but he missed the Iowa and North Texas games due to injury and was suspended for last week’s game against Northwestern. He paced Indiana with 25 catches for 286 yards and a touchdown.