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Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as league MVP last year as a sophomore. Now, he has improved and could be better than ever—and a legit Heisman contender. “If Braxton was a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 when we got here, he finished (last) season around a four,” Buckeye offensive coordinator Tom Herman told Ozone.net. “By the end of spring ball he was around a six, but the cool thing with him is he could be about a 12.”
The announcement of the new divisions created a buzz across the Big Ten landscape. Leaders and Legends are gone. East and West are in. And a nine-game Big Ten schedule is coming in 2016. Here are 13 observations about the new arrangements.
It was a busy weekend in the Big Ten. A REALLY busy weekend, with the NFL Draft as well as the big announcement of a new divisional alignment and a nine-game schedule for the venerable Big Ten. So much to cover in daily links. Let’s start with a view on the conference’s new configuration from a few Big Ten ports-of-call.
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The Big Ten had just 22 players picked in the 2013 draft, but many others recently signed free-agent deals. And there are some good players. Here is an All-Undrafted Big Ten football team, with the team that each player signed with in brackets.
Iowa had a lot of work to do in spring drills coming off a 4-8 season that was the program’s worst since 2000. The offense, which struggled mightily last season and had just seven touchdown passes, may have turned a corner this spring under second-year coordinator Greg Davis. No doubt, the offense looked good in the spring game. The defense also may have found a playmaker up front.
It’s official: Adreian Payne is returning to Michigan State for his senior year, stamping the Spartans as the Big Ten favorite and top national title contender next season. Payne struggled with the decision, waiting until the final day (April 28) to render a choice. He was projected by many to be a first-round draft choice. Payne will return to a roster that welcomes back all of its key components, save for departed senior big man Derrick Nix.
The Big Ten had just seven players selected through the first three rounds of the NFL draft. The league almost equaled that total with five picks in the fourth round. And so it went on the final day of the draft, when rounds four through seven were conducted on what was a big day for the Big Ten with 15 picks. The headline pick was Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who went with the second pick of the fifth round (135th overall). Four other Big Ten players were selected before him today, but Robinson was the big name many had been waiting to hear.
Minnesota officially is pointed toward Year Three under Jerry Kill, putting a cap on spring drills with a game today. The team showed improvement from its first year under Kill to last season. The 2013 season could be the best yet, as it looks to pass better and make more big plays on offense, while tightening up the run defense.
The second and third rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft were more kind to the Big Ten than the first round when only Wisconsin center Travis Frederick was chosen No. 31 overall by the Dallas Cowboys. On Friday night, six Big Ten players were picked – and there are plenty of good players left for Saturday’s final day of the draft.
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There is still so much to talk about, with spring football winding down and the NFL draft in full swing. Can Illinois win? What’s up with expansion? What’s the deal with football ticket prices? Time for me to reach into my mailbag.
Two years into the Jerry Kill era, and progress at Minnesota is tangible. The Golden Gophers went from 3-9 in 2011 to 6-7, earning a bowl bid. The next step: move out of the basement of the Legends Division and win a postseason game for the first time since 2004. Year Three has been a charm for Kill at his last two stops, going 10-3 at Northern Illinois and 10-2 at Southern Illinois. To continue that trend in Dinkytown, big keys will be developing some big-play ability on offense and tightening the defense vs. the run. And the special teams need lots of improvement. This is an underrated coaching staff that’s capable of doing it all.
Apparently, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner and wideout Jeremy Gallon have some good chemistry and mojo. Check out this video posted by Gardner on his Twitter account of him hitting Gallon with a pass—with his eyes closed.
Pretty neat deal here: A U.S. Senator honored Jack Hoffman with a resolution that was adopted by unanimous consent that notes pediatric brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among children. Of course, little Jack gained fame for his brilliant 69-yard touchdown run in the Nebraska spring game earlier this month.
There is a sense of urgency in Iowa City, as the Hawkeyes look to rebound from the school’s worst season since 2000. There has been plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball, but the offense has the most heavy lifting. Except for running back and line, Iowa has questions on offense. The defense? A search for playmakers up front is on. That has made this an interesting spring for the Hawkeyes, as Kirk Ferentz begins his 15th season on campus.
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The NFL draft is here. Hallelujah! But, Thursday night’s opening round may not be a joyous occasion for the Big Ten. In fact, the league may not have a first-round choice for the first time since—are you sitting down?–1953. Gulp. Yes, that’s 60 years.
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It was a surprise to see news that Steven Bench is transferring from Penn State. He appeared to be in the thick of the quarterback chase to replace Matt McGloin, competing with JC transfer Tyler Ferguson along with walk-ons D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple this spring.
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BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart spends a big portion of his days on Twitter. While reading all the latest Big Ten tweets, Dienhart enjoys offering his opinion and thoughts on some of his favorite ones. See today’s collection of tweets in this post.
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The NFL draft starts on Thursday night, with the highly anticipated first round, and more than 20 Big Ten players figure to be selected by the time the draft comes to an end Sunday.
That recent grant of rights agreement inked by ACC schools apparently has stuck a fork in expansion, Big Ten commish Jim Delany said at an on-going gathering of college commissioners.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is the king of the measured statement sprinkled with a heavy-dose of “we just have to improve” coachspeak.
Everyone associated with the Iowa football program would love to forget the 2012 season. It was a struggle all around, in pretty much every facet, as the Hawkeyes finished 4-8 and missed out on a bowl game for the first time since 2007. Can this year’s new-look team get back to the postseason? BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina offer their thoughts in this post.
Iowa has produced some great offensive linemen under Kirk Ferentz. In fact, since 2003, 13 Hawkeye offensive linemen have been drafted—guys like Robert Gallery, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff, among others. Who is the next great one? Check out tackle Brandon Scherff. In fact, I wonder if Scherff may be Iowa’s most talented player on offense. Think about it.
News that the ACC announced a grant of rights agreement may put the kibosh on conference realignment, including any future plans the Big Ten may have had. The grant of rights agreement pledges a school’s media rights to a conference for a set number of years. If a school leaves a conference under those terms, it would forfeit those rights to the former conference.