Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Time to reach into my Big Ten mail bag. With spring football winding down, gridiron is on the minds of many of you. So, let’s get started. Oh, and thanks for all of the terrific virtual cards and letters. Great stuff!
Wisconsin begins a new era after Gary Andersen was hired from Utah State as the Badgers program’s third coach since 1990. Andersen inherited a full cupboard after Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas, so the new coach’s task is a bit easier as he pursues the program’s fourth Big Ten title in a row. But issues must be settled, beginning with the quarterback and secondary. Some work was accomplished this spring, but more remains.
Any way you slice it, the 2012 season was a disappointment for Michigan State. The Spartans were coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons—with a trip to the Big Ten title game in 2011—and were thinking big entering last season. Alas, MSU flopped to a 7-6 mark that saw the Spartans lose five home games (0-4 in Big Ten) and come up short in myriad close games. In fact, MSU lost five games by a combined 13 points. An erratic offense was at the root of the Spartans’ woes. As a result, Mark Dantonio shook up his staff.
Gary Harris announced today that he was returning for his sophomore season at Michigan State. And he did it without a press conference, too. At 6-4, Harris would be a short off-guard by NBA standards and his ability to create his own shot also remains a work in progress.
By just about every measuring stick, the 2012 Penn State season was a success—and that’s saying a lot, considering the tumult and unknowns with which the program began the season. But perhaps the scariest moment occurred after the air had been taken out of the football when rumors swirled that Bill O’Brien may bolt to the NFL. It all proved to be unfounded and O’Brien pledged his allegiance to Penn State, and that’s good because the next few seasons could be very challenging for the program as it begins to deal with the throes of severe NCAA sanctions that have trimmed scholarships from 85 to 65.