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Dienhart: Ranking 2012's Big Ten LBs

The linebacking spot may be the most talented of any position on defense in the Big Ten in 2012. Wisconsin’s Chris Borland and Mike Taylor; Michigan State’s Denicos Allen; Illinois’ Jonathan Brown; Penn State’s Gerald Hodges all are back after earning either first- or second-team All-Big Ten accolades in 2011. The only linebackers who earned first- or second-team All-Big Ten honors who are gone are Nebraska’s Lavonte David and Ohio State’s Andrew Sweat. And of those two, only David was selected in the NFL draft (second round/Buccaneers). Penn State’s Nate Stupar also was picked (seventh round/Raiders), but he was just

Iowa's Keenan Davis

Look ahead to 2012 season: Best of Week 2

Each week of the college football season offers a variety of games for fans to watch. I’m taking a super-early look at each week of the Big Ten season as a way to preview the 2012 campaign. Find my Week 2 schedule analysis in this post. Here’s Week 1, if you missed it. What can you expect to find in this series? I’ll tackle the week’s top storylines, offer my Game of the Week, quarterback matchup to watch and coordinator matchup to watch, plus tell you who should be on upset alert. Storylines: Seven Big Ten teams take to the road

Look ahead to 2012 season: Best of Week 1

Each week of the college football season offers a variety of games for fans to watch. I’ll start taking an early look at each week of the Big Ten season as a way to preview the 2012 campaign. Find my Week 1 schedule analysis in this post. Storyline: There are 12 games, with three coming vs. FCS foes and four vs. the MAC. Hey, it’s the opening weekend of the season. But there are two games that will go a long way in shaping the Big Ten’s image in 2012. The first is Boise State’s visit to Michigan State on Friday,

Michigan State's William Gholston

Dienhart: My top 10 Big Ten defensive linemen

The Big Ten lost some good defensive linemen after last season. Four defensive tackles and three ends were selected in the NFL draft, highlighted by first-round pick Whitney Mercilus (Illinois). Also drafted were: Michigan State tackle Jerel Worthy (Packers), Penn State tackle Devon Still (Bengals), Michigan tackle Mike Martin (Titans), Nebraska tackle Jared Crick (Texans) and Iowa end Mike Daniels (Packers) and Penn State end Jack Crawford (Raiders). But lots of top talent returns for the conference up front, led by what may be the top end in the nation in Michigan State’s William Gholston. Here’s my ranking of the top 10

Dienhart: Instant 2015-16 schedule analysis

The Big Ten announced its 2015-16 conference football schedules on Monday morning. It’s difficult to know which teams will be good this far in advance, but it’s always fun to think about the future. senior writer Tom Dienhart breaks down the 2015-16 Big Ten schedules in this post. What are some of the top cross-division games? Which teams don’t play during the 2015-16 seasons? And which teams benefit the most from these schedules? BEST CROSS-DIVISION GAMES Leaders Ohio State: Michigan (home: Nov. 26, 2016; away: Nov. 28, 2015), Michigan State (home: Oct. 17, 2015; away: Oct. 15, 2016) Penn State: Iowa

Big Ten announces 2015-16 conference slates

( The Big Ten office announced the conference schedules for the 2015 and 2016 football seasons Monday, as approved by administrators during the Big Ten Joint Group Meetings last week in Chicago. Both the 2015 and 2016 schedules will feature all 12 teams in action the opening weekend and the last two Saturdays of Big Ten competition, while two teams will have byes during each of the other six weekends. Both seasons will conclude with the annual Big Ten Football Championship Game, with the winner earning the Big Ten Championship. The 2015 Big Ten season begins on Oct. 3 with

Dienhart: My Top 10 Big Ten Offensive Linemen

I’ve been using the offseason to rank a number of units, including running backs and tight ends. You can find all of my ranking posts over here. And now I turn my attention to ranking of the Top 10 Big Ten offensive linemen. There has been a big talent drain along the offensive line in the Big Ten. Gone are stalwarts like Iowa tackle Riley Reiff (first round/Lions), Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler (first round/Bengals), Illinois tackle Jeff Allen (second round/Chiefs), Wisconsin center Peter Konz (second round/Falcons), and Ohio State tackle Mike Adams (second round/Steelers). The later rounds of the draft

Hit the Links: Surfing Across Today's Big Ten News

Delivered my usual Big Ten news analysis and links this week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Now, it”s Friday. So before you try to cut out early to avoid this guy asking you to come to work over the weekend, check out these extra-super-terrific Big Ten grid links. Your life will be changed forever. The wrapping paper on a proposed four-team playoff hasn’t even been ripped off, but that hasn’t stopped the great Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal from proposing that an eight-team playoff should be the endgame. And, you know what? I think Oates is right.

Dienhart: My Top 10 Big Ten Tight Ends

The tight end spot continues to evolve into a more prominent position across the football landscape, as teams are featuring them more often as vertical passing threats. The Big Ten is no different, featuring some dynamic and athletic weapons that can work the middle of the field as “move” tight ends who line up in a variety of positions and often are in motion. And so, here my ranking of the top 10 Big Ten tight ends heading into the 2012 season. 1. Jacob Pedersen, 6-4, 242, Wisconsin, Jr. He’s the leading returning pass catcher among Big Ten tight ends,

Dienhart: Q&A with Nebraska's John Papuchis

Bet you didn’t know that Nebraska hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999. But, it’s true. If Nebraska is to break that dry spell in its second season in the Big Ten, it will need its defense to improve. The unit must replace lots of star power, headed by the likes of lineman Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte Davis and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. All were NFL draft picks. But more than anything, the Nebraska defense needs to get its confidence and swagger back. Even with that trio in 2011, the Cornhuskers ranked 91st in the nation in turnovers gained, 112th in