The Big Ten recently unveiled what its 2014 men’s basketball tourney bracket will look like going forward now that the conference has 14 teams. The format will feature a double-bye for the top four seeds.
I have to say: I was a bit shocked to see this report that Tanner McEvoy has beaten out Joel Stave for the starting quarterback job at Wisconsin. This decision surprises, unlike the other quarterback competitions this fall that saw Danny Etling win the job at Purdue, Gary Nova prevail at Rutgers and Wes Lunt emerge at Illinois.
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I’ve spent months (seems like years, some days) analyzing the coming 2014 season. I’ve talked to head coaches. assistant coaches and players. I even asked the greeter at my local Walmart who he likes to win the Big Ten. Hey, he’s a big Ohio State fan. I wanted to at least humor the guy, ya know?
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With the 2014 BTN bus tour in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look back at my team-by-team player on the rise. These are the players who have a bright future. They might not be a star or consistent regular this fall, but you should learn their names and get to like their games.
The BTN bus traveled almost 4,000 miles, beginning in Bloomington, Ind., on Aug. 4 and ending in Champaign, Ill., on Aug. 20. We have kicked the tires on all 14 teams one last time—watching practice, talking to players, talking to coaches–before the season kicks off next week. Deep breath!
Illinois is looking to continue progress in Year Three under Tim Beckman. Seven starters are back on offense; nine on defense. The offense remains ahead of the defense. In fact, this could become an upper-level Big Ten attack with freshly-minted starting quarterback Wes Lunt at the controls.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman announced Wednesday on BTN Live that Wes Lunt will be the starting quarterback for the Fighting Illini.
Tim Beckman made improvement from Year One to Year Two, going from 2-10 (0-8) to 4-8 (1-7). Can he build on that?
IOWA CITY, Iowa – We watched a physical and intense Iowa practice in blazing heat Tuesday. Quick tempo, a lot accomplished.
News that senior Braxton Miller is out for the season is a shock and has caused massive speculation on many fronts as to how Ohio State’s season and the Big Ten race will be impacted.
This looks like a potentially special Iowa team, a squad good enough to win the Big Ten West. The Hawkeyes are coming off a strong 8-5 season with six starters back on offense and five on defense in what will be Kirk Ferentz’s 16th season on the job.
LINCOLN, Neb. – Could this be the year Nebraska finally wins the program’s first league championship since 1999? It may happen if the offense develops balance and the defense delivers on big expectations.
The BTN bus tour is almost over, but keep those cards and letters coming. This is a great time of year. Optimism is high on each campus and the possibilities seem limitless at some places. Let’s answer some of your letters.
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is trying something new this year on our annual football tour. At each of the 14 practices across Big Ten country, Dienhart will pen a quick diary post. From Indiana, the first stop, to Illinois, the 14th and final stop, our expert will provide plenty of fun behind-the-scenes updates.
Expectations are trending up for Nebraska after it closed last season with a Gator Bowl victory over Georgia. This is a club that welcomes back five starters on offense and seven on defense. There is plenty of skill on offense. And the defense could be Bo Pelini’s best since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. Could this team win the new Big Ten West? Perhaps.
MINNEAPOLIS – There is some mojo to Minnesota as it enters its fourth season under the steady hand of Jerry Kill. This team opened 2013 with an 8-2 mark, running off four Big Ten victories in a row for the first time since 1973.
The Badgers have the ingredients for a strong team, but there will be much unproven talent coming back from a 9-4 team.
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Minnesota is a program on the rise as it enters its fourth season under Jerry Kill. The Golden Gophers have seven starters back on offense and six on defense. At one point last year, Minnesota was 8-2, ripping off four Big Ten wins in a row before losing its last three games. Kill has seen his win total go from three to six to eight in each of this three seasons in Dinkytown. Can he improve it for a fourth season in succession?
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I have time on the bus to wade through your cards and letters. Keep them coming. I enjoy hearing from you. Now, onto the correspondence. Have a question for me? Use the submission box at the bottom of the post. Also, don’t forget to follow all of our football tour coverage.
The debut of the Gary Andersen regime was a successful one. Wisconsin started 9-2 and had some hopes of a BCS bowl before losing to Penn State in the season finale at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers also lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl. For Act Two, challenges loom for a program that is the pick of many to win the Big Ten West.
KENOSHA, Wis. – It was a great day for practice, almost chilly. It was brief, as players worked in helmets and shoulder pads. It also was notable for who didn’t partake: WR Miles Shuler; DE Ifeadi Odenigbo; DE Sean McEvilly; OL Shane Merz; OL Ian Park; OT Jack Konopka; WR Tony Jones; RB Warren Long; S Traveon Henry; WR Cameron Dickerson were the most prominent.
Northwestern was primed for a big 2013. It didn’t happen, as the Wildcats missed the postseason for the first time since 2007, ending a five-year run. Pat Fitzgerald’s crew welcomes back lots of veteran talent from a team that started 4-0 but finished 5-7, enduring a seven-game losing skid before ending the season with a victory over rival Illinois.
RENSSELAER, Ind. – It’s all about improving for Purdue, which is coming off a rough 1-11 season that saw the team struggle in just about every phase of the game.