Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, August 21, 2012

After taking in Penn State practice Monday, we're headed back west. To East Lansing, Mich., to be exact. We have two stops remaining on our annual tour, and it will be great to see Michigan State and Michigan. You can find all of my tour previews and recaps over here. I?m also providing updates via Twitter. Don?t forget to check out my colleagues @BTNDaveRevsine, @GerryDiNardo, and @HowardGriffith, too. Now, let?s get to my Tuesday links.

HIGH HOPES FOR BOILERS: Purdue is finished with camp and brims with optimism. Some questions have been answered. Others still loom. Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal-Courier takes a look for what could be one of the Big Ten?s sleeper teams.

ABOUT THOSE RECEIVERS… When potential fatal flaws are discussed about Michigan, many point to a defensive line that has just one starter back. But what about the receiving corps?

The unit has some questions to answer. Roy Roundtree recently underwent knee surgery. He should be fine. But who else will step up? Jerald Robinson could be a guy. He may be a big, physical wideout that this offense needs to balance out what should be a strong rushing game.

IOWA'S RUNNING BACK CURSE: The always witty and whimsical Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette has a fun piece on the Curse of the Iowa Running Back.

The list of Hawkeyes backs who have come and gone prematurely because of various reasons is impressive. Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher, Jewel Hampton, Marcus Coker ? The latest is Barkley Hill, who was injured over the weekend. When will it stop?

BADGERS STILL MOTIVATED: Yes, Ohio State and Penn State aren?t eligible to win the Leaders Division. But that doesn?t mean Wisconsin lacks for motivation to win the banner for a second season in a row.

But, honestly, how much of a threat are Indiana, Illinois and Purdue in the Leaders? In 2011, they combined for a 6-18 Big Ten mark; 15-23 overall.

OLD BUDDIES: The ties between Penn State coach Bill O?Brien and defensive coordinator Ted Roof go way back.

Roof has his work cut out for him. I liked what I saw from his defense at the practice we watched yesterday. But Roof told me he has to ?practice his players wisely.? To wit, he has to do what he can to avoid injury, as this isn?t a deep team. The starters look good. They just have to stay healthy. If that happens, this defense could be stout.

TIME TO FILL TCF: Minnesota?s TCF Bank Stadium is a sparkling jewel, but fans have been slow to come to the place. Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse examines the subject.

No doubt, winning will fill the place. But I would think fans would just be thrilled to finally be out of the dreary Metrodome and back on-campus in a nice, new outdoor facility.

DRAWING COMPARISONS: The great Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette has made the connection that Illinois and Penn State are pretty similar.

I think he?s right. Each could have a solid defense. And each has offensive issues while playing for a new coach. The Leaders Division rivals also have a budding rivalry, as Penn State can?t be pleased with the fact Illinois recruited its players. But, Illinois was doing nothing wrong, as Tim Beckman was doing what he?s paid to do: Make the Illini better. The teams meet Sept. 29 in Illinois.

LOOK TO THE CHAMPS: Is Nebraska?s Bo Pelini trying to pattern his program after Nick Saban?s Alabama Crimson Tide?

Sure! Why not? Alabama is the nation?s ?it? program. This is who you should pattern things after. But, here is the rub: It only will work if Bo can get Alabama-level talent across the board.

FORDE'S TOP 25: Yahoo! Sports Pat Forde has come out a Top 25. What do y?all think?

Michigan at 6? Wisconsin 10? MSU 15? OSU 17?

BIG BOY, BIG SKILLS: Many around the Michigan State program have said tight end Dion Sims has been on fire in camp and could be poised for a big season.

He is an athletic freak who could be a great outlet for new quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who will need some reliable targets in his first season as a starter.

SI'S BIG TEN PRIMER: Yet, another Big Ten preview. This time by big fella Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated.

Staples has Wisconsin and Michigan State winning their divisions. Haven?t we seen this before? Sure we have. But Andy probably has it right.


My take: Have to agree. When I saw the redshirt freshman running back, he impressed. I know carries will be difficult to come by at Wisconsin. Still, Gordon is talented and may figure in some two-tailback sets.

My take: This is a nice list. For the non-Nebraska fans, left me fill in: QB Tommy Armstrong, LB David Santos; RB Imani Cross; DT Aaron Curry; DT Vincent Valentine. This is a nice set of newcomers. The Cross is a really nice looking prospect.

My take: Ohio State ketchup?

My take: Michigan Pop-Tarts?

My take: This is a testament to the power of Bill O?Brien and his staff. It?s a persuasive bunch that still has a lot to sell.

My take: No matter who wins this, count on both playing-a lot. Each is very good. I marvel at Decker?s advanced development for a true freshman. He?s special. senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at, and you can subscribe to it via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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