Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Bill O’Brien surprised many by debuting with an 8-4 record. In fact, he went 8-2 over the last 10 games after an 0-2 start. The Nittany Lions still are dealing with severe scholarship sanctions because of NCAA probation, which will threaten to compromise the team’s thin depth. Still, the front-line talent is top-notch; and if it stays healthy, this could be another successful season in State College.
Expectations are big in Lincoln for a program looking for a big breakthrough under Bo Pelini, who is in his sixth season. Led by QB Taylor Martinez, the offense should be among the best in the Big Ten. The defense? It will determine the season after looking awful in three big games last year: at UCLA; at Ohio State; vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Is the rebuilt front seven up to the task?
Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports
Well, it looks like former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema just can’t get the Big Ten out of his system, even though he’s transplanted to Arkansas. Check out this recent dig at Ohio State that Bielema dished out via Twitter recently.
The smoke has cleared—Big Ten media days are over. The last word has been uttered, at least for now. Teams have begun to report to camp, and the season is just around the corner. And it’s a big one for the conference, as it chases the SEC and its seven national championships in a row. In fact, the Big Ten is entering a no-excuse season. At least that’s what Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal thinks.
It’s that time of week where I reach into my latest mailbag. And, to no surprise, it’s stuffed with cards and letters about the new penalty for targeting a defenseless player. It’s not all about player safety, though, as there are questions regarding Indiana and Wisconsin. So, let’s get started.
If there was a darling at Big Ten media days, it was Northwestern. Expectations are at an all-time high in Evanston, where talk of winning the Big Ten is legit for a program that has eight starters back on offense and seven on defense from a 10-win squad that won the program’s first bowl game since the 1948 season.
This is a pivotal season for Iowa, which is coming off its worst year since 2000 as the Hawkeyes missed the postseason for the first time since 2007. Iowa hasn’t missed a bowl two seasons in a row since a three-year drought from 1998-2000. Kirk Ferentz made more coaching changes in the offseason, as he searches to steady a listing ship.
With media days complete, there is a long list of stories to check out. Here is a nice run down to get you caught up on each team from the goings-on in Chicago the last two days. By the way: The season begins Aug. 29, with Indiana State playing at Indiana.
Iowa fans are aching for a good season. Who can blame them? The Hawkeyes have seen their win total drop each of the last four seasons, from 11 wins to eight, to seven to four.
The spread offense is all the rage. Just look around. More and more schools are using the scheme—and playing at an up-tempo. Oregon is the standard. But not at Michigan. Nope. It officially is dumping the spread now that Denard Robinson is gone. Truthfully, the Wolverines began a transition to a more pro-style attack in 2012 when Robinson got hurt and Devin Gardner took over for a program whose trademark for years before Rich Rodriguez was hired in 2008 was a conventional scheme.
Kevin Wilson is making progress at Indiana. He debuted with a 1-11 mark in 2011 and improved to 4-8 last season. This season, Wilson’s Hoosiers are a trendy pick to be a Cinderella team in the Big Ten. It’s true. Indiana, a team that hasn’t been to a bowl since the 2007 season, is viewed by many as a team on the rising.
One of the biggest early-season stories in 2013 will be the new penalty for targeting a defenseless player. Last year, the penalty was a 15-yard infraction. This year, the penalty is ejection from the game. It’s all about player safety. But Nebraska’s Bo Pelini has some concerns.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman said he won’t let negativity infiltrate his program. That’s a good thing—because there is a lot of it surround the Fighting Illini program.
Who will play quarterback at Purdue? It’s a key issue that must be answered for new Boilermakers coach Darrell Hazell, who has energized a struggling program in a few scant months.
Big Ten media days kick off Wednesday at the Hilton Chicago. There will be no shortage of questions, but not all of them will be posed or answered. I have a long list of questions—101, to be exact–as we await the 2013 season.
The debut of the Tim Beckman era was, well, disappointing. The Fighting Illini went 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the Big Ten, pushing the school’s league losing skid to 14 games. The arrival of new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has increased optimism for what was a moribund attack.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Big Ten media days kick off on Wednesday in Chicago. Myriad queries will be asked by reporters, but not all of them will be posed or answered. Me? I have a long list of questions—101, to be exact–as we sit on the precipice of the 2013 season.
Previous reports of Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde being dismissed from the team were proven inaccurate when Urban Meyer announced Monday afternoon that the senior running back has been suspended from all team activities pending the outcome of the student code of conduct and criminal investigations.
The Badgers have become the bellwether for the Big Ten, advancing to the last three Rose Bowls. Their quest to make it four in a row is complicated by Leaders Division rival Ohio State being eligible to win the Big Ten and play in a bowl after being on probation last season.
David Banks-US PRESSWIRE
Expectations. Every team deals with them. And, of course, they differ from team to team. Right now, in late July, the possibilities seem endless for each Big Ten team. That’s where I come in with a bucket full of confetti—and one full of cold water. I will begin to take a look at my best-case and worst-case scenarios for each team this season.
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
One of the Michigan players I am most intrigued about is sophomore tight end Devin Funchess. The guy is an athletic freak who showed flashes of big things last season as a true freshman and could end up being one of the best in the Big Ten at his position in 2013.