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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Mailbag: Travel allowances, B1G on upswing & more

Here is how it works, America: You have questions … you email them to me … I answer them. Well, I answer the good ones! Here’s another batch from you. Thanks for reading. And keep writing and pressing the “send” button. Oh, and don’t forget to bookmark my diary for updates from every stop on the BTN football tour. Get Tom’s latest football tour coverage: Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio brought this up, but do you think leagues or perhaps the NCAA are at least thinking about supplementing or helping families travel to league championship games and/or bowls? With the

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to kickoff: West breakout player?

Kickoff is fast approaching. To help count down the days to Aug. 28, the BTN.com team is discussing one topic every day. Think of it as our countdown to kickoff. Today’s topic: West breakout player? See Tom Dienhart, Sean Merriman and Brent Yarina’s picks in this post. See our other 2014 predictions: Tom Dienhart: Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska. Bo Pelini has compared him to former LSU great Glenn Dorsey, who he coached in Baton Rouge. Collins got his feet wet last year as a true freshman (12 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack) and flashed athletic ability and strength.

Photos: Big Ten football Jell-O molds

What does every Big Ten football tailgate need? A school-themed Jell-O mold, of course. The people over at Jell-O have added 16 schools to their “University Mold Kits” line, which includes Big Ten members Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. This is sports marketing at its finest and it makes for a great treat for your Saturday tailgate. [ MORE: Amazon.com: Buy your Big Ten JELL-O molds! ] Check out our other Gone Viral posts: Here is a look at the available Big Ten molds and their flavors. Team allegiance aside, which flavor sounds the best? Now, we

Steve Spurrier makes jab at Big Ten's depth

From the can’t-the-season-just-start-already file, Steve Spurrier made headlines Sunday by making a jab at the Big Ten. Spurrier, in reference to Nick Saban’s idea for the “Power Five” conferences to only play one another, knocked the Big Ten’s depth. See the quote in this post. Check out our other Gone Viral posts: Spurrier on scheduling, "playing East Carolina is probably tougher than playing one of those bottom tier Big Ten Teams," — William Gunter (@WillGunter560) August 3, 2014 Really, I’m not so sure this is so much a knock on the Big Ten as it is a compliment to East

Pat Fitzgerald

Countdown to kickoff: West surprise team?

Kickoff is fast approaching. To help count down the days to Aug. 28, the BTN.com team is discussing one topic every day. Think of it as our countdown to kickoff. First up: West surprise team? See Tom Dienhart, Sean Merriman and Brent Yarina’s picks in this post. See our other 2014 predictions: Tom Dienhart: Northwestern. Motivation won’t be lacking for the Wildcats, who saw a run of five bowls in a row end as a result of last season’s 5-7 season. Northwestern welcomes back lots of veteran talent. If the line play improves and the Cats learn how to win

Big Ten Top Players

19 Big Ten players land on ESPN's CFB Top 100

ESPN.com recently finalized a list of the top 100 players in college football this season. A total of 19 Big Ten standouts appear on the list, led by Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun, who comes in at No. 4. Here is a look at where all 19 Big Ten players appear and a short blurb from ESPN on each player near the top of the list. Check out our stat leader predictions: 4. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State Ranking: 8.94/10 “An explosive pass-rusher and the anchor up front for another fearsome-looking group of MSU defenders, Calhoun wasted no time

Urban Meyer

Tour preview: What I'll watch, and where I'll eat

The sparkly BTN tour bus chugs away from our glistening headquarters on 600 West Chicago Ave., on Monday, as a near-three-week journey that will span from Lincoln, Neb., to New Brunswick, N.J., begins. I can’t wait to see driver Kevin, drink Red Bull, shop for mesh hats at remote truck stops and see if Gerry DiNardo is still the last human on the planet who carries a handkerchief. The mission: Watch all 14 Big Ten teams practice to get a peek at each school before the 2014 season starts. The first stop: Indiana. Our show BTN Live is announcing each

Purdue Pete rallies, wins Chicago Tribune mascot poll

As we posted Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune conducted a poll on the Big Ten’s best mascot. At the time, Herky and Brutus were well ahead of the competition and involved in a two-mascot race. Then, something crazy happened. Let’s just say, Purdue fans hijacked the poll, to the point that it went from last to the runaway winner, finishing with 5,422,716 votes (74 percent). Like mascots? Get our latest mascot coverage! Regardless of what happened (bot), the poll is proof Big Ten fans are as passionate as any fan base. Check out this stat: The typical Chicago Sports poll generates

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten has embarrassment of riches at RB

There’s Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford and Minnesota’s David Cobb. Do you want me to go on? OK. There’s also Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Iowa’s Mark Weisman, Northwestern’s Venric Mark, Illinois’ Josh Ferguson, Rutgers’ Paul James and Penn State’s Zach Zwinak. Get the picture? The Big Ten has an embarrassment of riches in the backfield, a loaded contingent of running backs that is perhaps the best collection in the nation. Read more of Tom Dienhart’s latest posts: “The Big Ten always has had good backs and a physical running game,” said Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Our biggest surprises in first Coaches Poll

The 2014 preseason Coaches Poll came out Thursday morning, and while four Big Ten teams appear in the top-25 rankings, there are several surprises that stand out. Where is Michigan on the list, or how about Iowa? Which Big Ten teams are ranked too high, or too low? Our BTN.com panelists sounded off on the biggest surprises from the preseason polls. Check out Tom Dienhart’s latest posts: Tom Dienhart: Iowa being unranked: I was a bit miffed that Iowa wasn’t ranked in the Coaches Poll. Conversely, division rivals Wisconsin (14) and Nebraska (22) both were ranked. In my mind, the