It all begins up front. Ask any coach. Without good blockers, skill talent is diminished—and offenses flounder. The Big Ten has some potentially strong blocking units, which has hopes high in several precincts. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten offensive lines, starting with two of the conference’s biggest powerhouse programs. 1. Ohio State. Line coach Ed Warinner continues to work wonders, transforming this into one of the Big Ten’s top units. Four starters are back in 2013, with only Reid Fragel gone from right tackle. Junior left guard Andrew Norwell, who also started five games at tackle last season
This is interesting. From the JournalStar.com, here is the composite Big Ten 2012-13 standings, showing the average finish among each school’s men’s and women’s teams. A big year for Michigan, which is on a roll. The Wolverines took Big Ten titles in softball, men’s gymnastics, women’s cross country, women’s tennis and men’s swimming. Wait until the football team really gets it going. Here are the official composite standings (this only accounts for Big Ten standings, not NCAA performance): 1. Michigan 4.04 2. Minnesota 4.43 3. Ohio State 4.64 4. Penn State 4.92 5. Illinois 5.24 6. Nebraska 5.57 7. Wisconsin
When you think of Nebraska, you don’t typically think of receivers. You think ground-pounding offenses that play physical football behind big lines and star running backs. Well, this year’s edition of the Cornhuskers has some very good receivers. In fact, it’s the best collection in the Big Ten. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten receiving units. [ RELATED: View all of Dienhart’s 2013 unit rankings ] 1. Nebraska. This is arguably one of the top collections of pass-catchers the school ever has had. Junior Kenny Bell is back after leading the Huskers with 50 catches. He’s a blazer. Senior
The Big Ten lost its top two rushers in Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. And Nebraska standout Rex Burkhead also is gone. But most of the conference’s other top running backs are back. Here is how I rank the Big Ten running back units, and it’s my latest look at how the various football teams units stack up by position. Read the others right here. Agree? Disagree? Tell me in the comments below, email me about here, or track me down on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart). Let’s get to it. 1. Wisconsin. Montee Ball and his NCAA-record 83 touchdowns
Quarterback play hasn’t been at an elite level in the Big Ten in recent years. In fact, many feel that’s one reason for the conference’s struggles. But this year’s collection of passers teems with potential. I’ve been rolling out my Big Ten unit rankings here, and I’ve been looking forward to taking on the quarterbacks. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, the conference’s top Heisman contender, leads the charge. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten’s complete quarterback units. Agree or disagree? Who will rise up this season? And who might falter? Make your own points at the bottom of this post.
John Shoop long has admired Purdue’s offensive tradition from afar. Now, he gets a chance to add to that tradition by pushing the buttons on the Boilermakers’ attack under first-year coach Darrell Hazell. Shoop, 43, brings a strong background to West Lafayette. He began his career as a volunteer at Dartmouth in 1991 and then became a G.A. at Vanderbilt from 1992-94. Shoop then moved on to the NFL, where he was a quality control coach for the Carolina Panthers in 1995 and eventually became quarterbacks coach. He then went to the Chicago Bears in 1999 as quarterbacks coach before
First-year coach Darrell Hazell has his work cut out for him, playing arguably the toughest schedule in the Big Ten. There is no more challenging non-conference schedule in the conference, with a trip to Big East co-champ Cincinnati and home games vs. Notre Dame (BCS title game) and Northern Illinois (Orange Bowl). Getting one Big Ten road victory may be a difficult proposition, too. Bottom line: A 1-6 start isn’t out of the question. The back end of the schedule is a bit kinder. November home games vs. Iowa and Illinois are the closest things to sure wins for the
This time of year, it’s always fun to look at the rosters and try to pick out the conference’s breakout stars. A year ago, if you had your eye on, say, Venric Mark, Allen Robinson, Jake Ryan or Ryan Shazier, you hit it out of the park. It’s time to go out on a limb and offer my top five candidates for who will go from an under-the-radar player to a household name in 2013. 1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin – Perhaps a lame pick, because if the fleet-footed running back’s nine-carry, 219-yard effort in the Big Ten title game
The Detroit Free Press has a neat piece that chronicles the salaries of Big Ten assistant coaches. Look here and here. Some thoughts: No shocker to see Ohio State ($3.416 million) on top. But I am a bit surprised that Michigan’s staff is over $600,000 behind the Buckeyes’ staff at $2.805 million. The highest paid assistant at seven of the 12 schools is the defensive coordinator. Coordinators at Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois are paid the same. The biggest gap in salary between coordinators on a staff is at Nebraska, where OC Tim Beck makes $390,000 more than DC John Papuchis.
Newcomer Rutgers will take part in the first Big Ten game of 2014 when it plays host to Penn State on Sept. 13. That’s one of several interesting matchups in the schedule, which was announced today. The 2014 schedule will be the first season with Maryland and Rutgers in the conference. The 2014 season also will see the Big Ten split into new East and West Divisions. Teams will play eight conference games in 2014 and 2015, six vs. division foes and two vs. cross-division opponents. The Big Ten will move to a nine-game league slate in 2016. Here’s a