Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 31, 2012

This may be the last day of 2012, but it?s the first for Big Ten league hoop action. What a great place to begin my daily links!

QUESTIONS FOR THE HAWKEYES: Iowa plays host Indiana today, taking the lid of a much-anticipated Big Ten season. Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register takes a look at 12 questions facing Iowa entering Big Ten action.

No. Iowa doesn?t figure to win the Big Ten, but it has a great shot to play in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2005-06. Big picture, Brown says Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota are the front-runners. And, he?s right. I just don?t think Illinois and Ohio State have enough to contend with those three. Still, it promises to be a fun Big Ten race this winter.

WATCH OUT FOR THE GOPHERS: Ameila Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune takes a look at the Gophers and wonders if they are ready for Big Ten action.

I say ?yes.? This is a veteran team with a deep collection of guards and some nice interior options in Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe. Let?s all say it together: ?Sleeper Final Four team.?

HOOPS POWER RANKINGS: One last hoop item before looking at football: Check out the power ranks by Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star.

SITTING DOWN WITH TOM OSBORNE: You don?t have to be a Nebraska fan to appreciate this ?exit interview? that Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-News did with out-going Cornhusker A.D./icon/legend Tom Osborne.

The highlight: T.O. thoughts on the future structure of the sport, saying ?that we're going to see four or five 16-team conferences, that are major schools. There will be some type of modified playoff system. We may stay with a four-team format for a while, but there will always be pressure to go beyond that.?

ANALYZING THE ROSE BOWL: New Year?s Day will feature five bowls with Big Ten teams-Heart of Dallas Bowl (Purdue-Oklahoma State); Gator (Northwestern-Mississippi State; Outback (Michigan vs. South Carolina); Capital One (Nebraska vs. Georgia); and Rose (Wisconsin vs. Stanford). But none will be more fun to watch than the Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin State Journal writers Tom Mulhern, Tom Oates and Adam Mertz break down the game in this video.

READY FOR THE ROSES: There is no doubt, the Badgers are motivated finally to win a Rose Bowl after losing the last two to TCU and Oregon.

2013 HEISMAN CANDIDATES: The bowl season isn?t over, but why not look ahead to Heisman race of 2013? Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is.

Lesmerises has out his early favs-and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is on top. Others he likes: Oregon running back De?Anthony Thomas; Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd; Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater; Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. A nice list, but don?t be shocked if someone comes out of nowhere to win the Heisman, just like Manziel did. Heck, all three 2012 finalist (Manti Te?o and Collin Klein were the others) weren?t on anyone?s radar when 2012 began. I?m just sayin?.

DENARD'S FINAL GAME: We will have one last chance to soak in the glorious athletic wonder that is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.

As Kyle Meinke of so astutely points out, ?perhaps no Michigan player, at least in recent memory, has been as dichotomous as Shoelace — endearing himself to fans by carrying the Wolverines to great heights, but flawed enough to leave them wanting more.?

Personally, I never will forget my trip to Notre Dame in 2010, when I saw Robinson rip through the Irish defense for a school single-game record 502 yards (258 rushing; 244 passing) of offense.

NFL TEAMS LIKE O'BRIEN: Here we go again-the Bill O?Brien-to-the-NFL rumors are starting again with coaching changes taking place in the pros.

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that O?Brien would be a target of NFL teams.

And David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News says those reports are accurate. But he also notes that they are a negotiating ploy.

Jones thinks the objective for O'Brien and his agent Joe Linta is to free him of a paralyzing buyout that is in the $18.4-million range. So, the objective for O'Brien is money and future freedom. Unless the buyout clause is nullified in some way, no NFL club can reasonably be expected to shell out that kind of cash. So, exhale, Nittany Lions fans-at least for now.

WHAT ABOUT FERENTZ? Iowa?s Kirk Ferentz seemingly always has to deal with rumors that he may be off to the NFL. The hot one now has him connected to Kansas City, given his relationship with Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli. But it doesn?t make any sense, says Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Morehouse is correct. Heck, Pioli may not even be back as G.M, given the Chiefs? struggles. And I don?t think Ferentz wants to leave Iowa, especially not with the program in a downward trend that has seen the team go 8-5; 7-6 and 4-8 the last three seasons. I have to think he wants to get the Hawkeyes rolling again. And even then, he may be content to just finish his career in Iowa City.

DECISIONS LOOM FOR STARS: With their bowl game behind them, Michigan State juniors Le?Veon Bell, William Gholston and Dion Sims must decide if they want to turn pro.

[ VIDEO: Bell, Gholston talk to BTN about NFL, future ]

The deadline to enter the draft is Jan. 15. My guess? Bell and Gholston are gone. Sims is the most likely to return. Stay tuned. I hope they all are back.


My take: Brooks Bollinger is correct, of course. I think having Alvarez on the sideline will be an intangible that could push the Badgers over the top.

My take: Again, there?s that. I think Musselman has nailed it.

My take: This is why I love Steve Spurrier. And you should, too.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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